What Now!? Life After Narcissistic Abuse
There’s one “good” thing that can be said for narcissists: they sure keep life interesting! They provide lots of mental fodder to keep “the little gray cells,” as Hercules Poirot called them, fed, watered and grinding away. I’m not saying it’s good fodder that uplifts us or makes us happy. No! But mental fodder is mental fodder. The brain isn’t picky; it just needs something to “chew” on. Misery works just as well as anything else — sometimes better!
For the first year or two after we escaped our narcissists, the bliss of Normal Life (I think that deserves to be capitalized!) provided a new type of mental stimulation. We immersed ourselves in all the discovery, creativity and “hedonistic” enjoyments we missed in the parched desert of Narcissist Land.
But after awhile, this normalcy becomes, well, normal. It takes looking back at narcissistic abuse (and who wants to do that!?) to again fully appreciate our lives now as we did when first we felt freedom.
Now we have a new mental foe: Sameness. Repetition. Wash-rinse-repeat. Dare I whisper the word “boredom”? Without narcissists around raging about this, fuming about that, playing the victim, throwing tantrums, faking heart attacks and generally making life interesting, the little gray cells may struggle to find fodder.
During our time with them, our hope of A Better World kept us going. We dreamed for so long of how good life could be. What happens now that those dreams have been realized?
It’s rather like winning an Oscar at a very young age. It was, I believe, actress Dame Wendy Hiller who said it was “the most extraordinary bad luck” to have her first Oscar nomination at the age of just twenty-six for her role as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion. Why? Was she being ungrateful. Not at all! She simply meant that at a very young age, she’d already reached the pinnacle of her career, the best possible role. It didn’t get any better than that. She had nowhere to go but down.
You may find that after all your fondest hopes, cherished dreams and lifelong goals are realized, like Wendy Hiller, you’re left with…what!?!
We’re not used to not having any future goals because they’ve all come true. We lived for them. They kept us going. We’re also not accustomed to needing to overtly put forth an effort to feed our little gray cells. With our narcissists forbidding this, denying that and kick up dramas, they kept us both hopeful and mentally stimulated. We were so busy and wrung-out just trying to keep going and semi-recover from the pain-we-don’t-understand, boredom had no place in our lives! In fact, we welcomed it because we so badly needed peace.
This is the curve-ball we discover about normalcy. It’s very repetitive, even boring if we don’t focus on keeping life interesting for ourselves. We may even feel shame or guilt for feeling this way. After all, isn’t this what we wanted!?! Peace! Serenity. Sameness.
Every day, you wake (or are awakened) in the same way at the same time. For me, my wakeup is at 7 a.m. when two cats decide to promenade, back and forth, across my slumbering corpse and then pause majestically, tails happily raised, with their bums exactly 2 mm from my horrified face! So you slide out of bed, rinse with the same mouthwash, brush the snarls out of the same hair and stumble, scratching and yawning, into the same kitchen. You drink the same coffee and eat the same breakfast. Let out the same dogs. Scold the same cats (now promenading along the curtain rods). Climb into the shower to wash the same face, same pits and same bits, make-up (or shave) the same face, comb your hair in the same style and pull on the same clothes.
Morning ablutions completed, you slide into the same car, drive the same route to the same job where you have the same meetings with the same people where you “circle back to it” or “put a pin in it” or whatever the current business clichés are. After work, you shop at the same grocery store and buy the same food.
Back at the same house, you make the same supper, watch the same TV, wash the same dishes and throw in a load of the same old laundry. You flick away the same dust you flicked off the furniture last week (and last decade!). Vacuum up the same dog fur and cat dander you vacuumed up last week. Wipe the same nose-and-paw prints off the same windowpanes and decide against mopping the same kitchen floor (because we all know that mopping a floor is a magic charm that will ensure a horrible mess is spilled on that same flour within the next 72 hours). Exhausted, you brush the same teeth and climb back into the same bed littered with the same dogs, cats, squeaky toys and sodden chewbones.
The next day, you’ll do exactly the same things in exactly the same ways. Wash-rinse-repeat. Every day/every week/month in/month out.
Is it a blessed life? Yes! Is it the life of freedom you so badly wanted? Absolutely.
Personally, I never realized just how repetitive normal life is until this year, six years after leaving narcissism behind. For the first few years, the little gray cells were occupied with all the confusion, anger, denial and detective work of trying to unwind and understand the tangled skein of false personas vs my narcissists’ true selves. Oh yes, you know what I’m talking about. For the first few years after discovering narcissism, it becomes your hobby, your obsession, your mistress. You take it to bed with you at night and wake up with it every morning. It is all-engrossing.
But when you’re finally able to put narcissism to one side to embrace normal life, a simple drama-free life, you may discover as I did just how repetitive life is. Frankly, it threw me for a loop. Apparently, I’d missed the memo.
When narcissism is no longer your hobby, you need to find something else to keep the little gray cells fed. It’s a big responsibility most people don’t talk about. I suppose that’s what television is for but I want more out of life than just to be entertained into a hypnotized, docile state. I want to drink deep at the font of Life. Of course, the perfect quote to copy -> paste here is by Henry David Thoreau:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”
What he doesn’t mention is that a Spartan-like life driven into a corner, reduced to it’s lowest common denominator is all fine and good…for awhile. But you need to add in some fluff to make it interesting. At some point, you’ve sucked out all the marrow and need to add in some meat.
My best advice?
- Set new goals.
- Develop new hopes.
- Dream new dreams.
- Discover your passions (they’re probably the same ones you had before narcissists scoffed at them and shamed you into giving them up!).
- Invest in and immerse yourself in your passions.
- Travel when you can afford it.
- Create experiences for yourself.
- Never, ever, ever stop learning!
Photo by ohsarahrose
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