Why Do I Feel So Crazy? Recovering From a Narcissistic Relationship

Narcissus Courtesy of Wikipedia

Narcissus Courtesy of Wikipedia

“Am I crazy?”  Is a burning question for the partner of a narcissist.  Many victims suffer from symptoms of Post Traumatic Narcissism Syndrome (PTNS).  PTNS is a condition in which the affected person’s memory, emotional, and physical systems have been traumatized.  PTNS is an experience not a diagnosis.  For sufferers, certain flashbacks of the abuse turn up repeatedly with endless variations.  Victims tend to remain in large part controlled by the abuser, their mind and emotions in bondage.  This elicits a terrible and terrifying combination of helplessness and rage; unbearable feelings that had to be suppressed for the victim to stay in the relationship.  Following are symptoms of PTNS.

Symptoms of Post Traumatic Narcissism Syndrome:

● Flashbacks of the cruel behavior and trauma

Hyperarousal (i.e., extreme fear of personal safety)

Hypervigilance (i.e., scanning your environs for constant threats, stalking, violence)

● Irritability

● Depression & Guilt

● Multiple physical complaints

● Numbing

● Impaired concentration and memory

● Disturbed sleep & distressing dreams

What is a narcissist? A narcissist is a person who deprives their partners of the ability to feel joy and love as a separate person in relationships.  They deliberately attempt to destroy or compromise the separate identity of another.  The longer the relationship continues, the narcissist not only becomes less considerate, but actively cruel.  Many victims end up feeling hollow because the narcissist squeezes them empty.  The emotional deprivation, physical and mental torture can result in a type of soul murder.  Brainwashing their partners into believing they are the problem keeps the emotional bondage going.  This leaves survivors not knowing what they want and what they feel, or what they have done and what has been done to them.

A victim might question whether abuse really did happen.  Acknowledging victimization is crucially important to the person’s ability to control obsessive thoughts of the past and recover. The survivor can then begin to separate and achieve independence from the narcissist. It is important that you do not turn this new awareness against yourself.  For example, “I may be angry at him, but I’m even angrier at myself for putting up with it.”  Using self-compassion, the trauma can contribute to the strengths and talents of the injured as they reclaim self-confidence.  Be alert to self-blaming and change the negative thoughts when you hear them.  You might say, Stop! Get out of my head.

One of the steps in recovering from the abuse is recognizing that you are angry and admitting it.  It is essential to uncover your feelings, so you can begin the process of healing. Know where anger is coming from inside you.  Emotions repressed are harmful and keep you trapped and powerless to face the situation or feel happiness.  Acknowledging anger, usually disguised as depression, allows you to decide what to do about it and deal with it.  Another step is to understand why you are so angry.  Are you angry because you have been hurt, physically, emotionally, financially, etc.?  Are you furious because of the way you have been treated and the emotional impoverishment you lived with?  Are you resentful because you are the only who can change?  Are you angry at being labled Bipolar?  The mood swings from the stress of living in a war zone while dodging the narcissist’s land mines can look like a mental health disorder.

Once your anger is out in the open it is less likely to cause problems for you.  It is necessary for you to change because you are the one who has been made sick by the existing situation. The ability to enjoy what you are doing, your daily living, and your recovery from PTNS are constantly influenced by emotions.  Nurturing yourself when you are hurting is imperative.  Devote time each day to doing things that make you feel good. Establishing a daily routine is essential to your mental health.  Get professional help if needed.  Invest in your well-being so that you can create what you need, deserve, and want in a relationship with yourself. Below are the criteria for the diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

According to the DSM-IV-TR, a patient must exhibit five or more of the following traits to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

● Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

● Grandiose sense of self-importance

● Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

● Belief that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

● Need for excessive admiration

● Sense of entitlement

● Takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

● Lacks empathy

● Often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

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Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

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21 thoughts on “Why Do I Feel So Crazy? Recovering From a Narcissistic Relationship

  1. I am getting away – escaping – trying to resist the sense that I made it all up while the narc’ is still trying to invade places where I had felt safe from him – I am filled with anger that is leaking in ways that have tried to get me into trouble – he has been good at separating me from my former peers – this is the bit I don’t understand so well – his wider ability to influence others – but there are limits to how much one can try to understand – so to help I have enjoyed long walks – taken beautiful photographs – spent time with a beautiful woman who cares for me – I will be ok – it will only take time and a little patience on my part – that person is irrelevant now…

  2. About six months ago my wife told me that everyone knew I was Bipolar (just as happened to AnnieC above). I thought to myself that’s crazy, what a ridiculous thing to say. About three months after that she called me a Narcissist. I thought that’s crazy, I don’t love myself, I’m not self-centred. So almost immediately, I got on the internet and did some research. What I read astounded me. First I read about Passive Aggressive Disorder which was an accurate description of the abuse I’d been suffering at the hands of my wife since we got together some fifteen years ago but, I’d never been able to put a name to it. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The cold shoulder and the disapproving looks being her favoured methods much of the time. I quickly learned about Gaslighting and Blindsiding, two more of her regularly used strategies. A few weeks passed and she told me in a text message that, I should look up narcissism, I’m a classic case! Needless to say we’re now divorcing, unfortunately my two daughters aged fourteen and eleven years have decided that they wish to live with her. Of course they rarely see the abuse or become victims of it themselves. I’m sure that’ll change, I’ll just have to be there for them when it does. Looking back at my late in-law’s relationship and to conversations I’d had with them individually, I’m as good as certain that my mother in-law was a narcissist – rejected by her own mother soon after birth and brought-up by aunts, she never knew her mother. She once told me (at the age of eighty) that she had always resented my father-in-law for having been brought-up by his biological parents. Anyway, I thought I’d share with you, a little of my experience of narcissistic abuse. I could write a book about it, now I know would I’ve been subjected to! I’m doing the only thing you can do when faced with a narcissistic abuser, I’m getting out, I just wish my girls would come too. Unfortunately, I can see narcissistic traits beginning in my fourteen year old.
    I hope you find my post helpful.
    Wishing you strength and wisdom
    Rob

  3. How wonderful to finally have this articulated. It took me 12 long years to fully recover from a 7 year relationship to someone who I now realise had npd. Most damaging were what he convinced other people do on his behalf. While he wouldn’t allow me to seek independent counselling and flew into a rage when he did, he kept lining up friend after friend of his to talk with me because it was me that was so troubled. Miserable and alone, I tried to separate many times and in the end, as another commentator states above, it was only when I made a conscious decision to stop feeding his needs that he eventually
    left me, making ridiculous claims about me ruining his life on the way out. My sister stepped in and told me some additional ugly truths she had been keeping for when the day finally came and I succeeded in locking him and every one of his sympathisers out of my life. I built a new world and have finally let real love in. Thank you. This blog has helped me let a little more go. I hope my story helps others move on.

  4. I am in the middle of divorce. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what happened–it all started out so great–as I read more about narcissism, I see that is common. Long story short, I am getting out after a 3 year marriage and was well loved by my husband’s family. It upsets me that he is probably telling them untrue stories about me and why I wanted a divorce. Narcissists are smooth talkers and very popular and appealing. No one would believe me if I told them about LIVING with him. Is there any way I can alert his family or should I leave it alone? It bothers me so much. I am a good person, a teacher and community participant. I don’t want bad things said about me. Ideas?

    • I am the person who wrote the above comments. Of the listed items, my husband definitely has 6 characteristics. Until this relationship, I had never even knew what a narcissist was. I still can’t believe it.

    • Sharon,
      I’m sorry for what you are going through. Congratulations for finding the courage to leave. Please surround yourself with an understanding support system and invest in learning about narcissism and codependency. Many victims of narcissistic abuse keep it secret from loved ones. You are right. It is likely your husband’s family will not understand and may doubt your honesty about what he has been doing. You cannot control what he says about you and you have no control over what others think. Tell yourself often what they think about who you are does not change your worth. Begin acting in your best interests. Understand that your choices will not please everyone around you. It is important to find a therapist who can help you to recover your self-worth, work through your feelings, and set boundaries. I hope you have an attorney familiar with narcissistic personality disorder. I am sending you positive energy to stay strong and heal through these hard times.
      Roberta

  5. I worked with a person for many many years. I was their right hand go to person. As I am writing this I am not even mentioning man or woman because I am still afraid of them knowing I now know this about them. I left recently and finding this information has been like getting the “key” to the locked door of figuring out what had been happening all this time. I was very subtle in the beginning. I kept thinking I must do better, not be as sensitive, be more supportive, get more done…….. For some reason, I just figured out that in order to satisfy this person, I would have to change EVERYTHING I was and what I do and become a drone. I knew I must simply do what I was told, always agree with their ideas, and never point out the gaps in the new and improved plans that were always being dreamed up. In my heart, I wanted to add to the business and make is better. I did not want to steal the limelight, but I was getting recognition from clients and other workers because I was so committed to make this business work. I did EXACTLY what was asked of me by making sure this person could come and go. Their importance was with the behind the scene planning and directing of the company (so they always told me). I was clearly asked to be the face of the business, the figure head and I know I did it VERY well. When it was clear I was good in this role, things changed. I had to micro report the most miniscule happenings to them daily. If I left out a minor detail and they found out, there was hell to pay. If I was called out on something and it was something I had no part in, I was still blamed and berated….I was told It was my job to know EVERYTHING and make sure they did too….. I could not win no matter what I did. One comment I will never foget was “I should not have to even ASK for what I need!” I loved what I did except for who I did it for… I stayed way to long and got caught up in the ever changing rules and requirements and felt bad, lazy or inconsiderate for not keeping up, not doing it perfectly and questioning the “WHY?” A lot of my time was simply, “Am I doing what they want?” and “What are they going to get mad at me today for?” I just made no sense. I am gone from there and I am recovering. My self esteem and self worth are battered but not destroyed. I DID figure out that none of this had anything to do with me, my work, my essence of what makes me unique, it was something that was destroying THEM but it would eventually dissolve the person that I am. I am so proud of myself for getting out, but I am feeling the effects of leaving a job I loved, and my financial security is not as secure right now. The fact that I had do give these things up for this messed up person is making me feel angry, want revenge (which I feel guilty about) but I know that is not what I need to focus on, I need to focus on what is going to give me the most satisfaction in my life right now…..

    • Singed But Not Burned,
      Thank you for writing to me. I am hoping you have a support system as you recover from the trauma. It is time to allow joy and acceptance to fill your life. I do know how difficult it is to recover from the abuse. More power to you for leaving purgatory. If you want revenge, make it your own success. I am wishing you the best life and love have to offer.
      Roberta

  6. I love your article. In my situation the narcissist is my mother, so I had a really hard time finding out who I actually am since I have been manipulated from birth. The good news is, it is possible to get out of a narcissitic mother-daughter relationship! But I have to say it is really hard and I needed a lot of professional help! Also sites like this help to remind me that I am on the right track! The nightmare is finally over. Thanks.

    • Thea,
      Having a mentally ill parent is a heartbreaker and letting go of responsibility for their destructive behavior takes courage. You are not responsible for making your mother happy. Please keep the door open to finding healthy substitute parental role models. You do not have to feel guilty about taking care of yourself or finding a life that works. I am wishing you the best.
      Roberta

  7. I just wanted to say thank you so much for this article!!! I think I have read every book/article on Narcissism and I am currently divorcing one as we speak. The marriage wasn’t terribly long, but towards the end when I stopped feeding into his needs for self gratification (at the suggestion of a girlfriend who also dealt with a NPD husband, she was like “Get him to leave you!!!”). When I stopped doing what he wanted, he suggested that I go get treated for Bipolar disorder as the last straw. I have been searching for an answer as to why the heck he would have done this but I seem to understand it a little more clearly now. Thanks for the insight!

    I still don’t know what to do with all my anger. I feel so cheated and manipulated. I feel just awful for all the stuff that I allowed myself to put up with. But I suppose with proper processing and the dear gift of time things will get better. Now, the fear of what is coming next from his lawyer in my inbox is another story, but at least I had money stashed away secretly to afford the best lawyer in the state :) I think he is a bigger jerk than my husband. God bless him….

    • Anne,
      Thank you for your comments. It’s important to your well-being to let your partner of the hook for not being able to love you. If you do this you are free from allowing your husband to control your happiness and the painful memories will eventually stop. This is a process of accepting the lessons about love you learned by marrying him without developing a victim mentality. Don’t let his cruelty continue to destroy your joy by rationalizing that you are guilty or responsible for his behavior. The best way to deal with his rage is to ignore him and let your attorney handle all communication. The best way to handle your own anger is to use it to create boundaries and to emotionally separate from your husband. By staying trapped in angry thoughts and depression he wins. Leave behind the crisis and chaos and choose self-forgiveness. Be kind to yourself. I am sending you positive vibes. I suspect you are a strong woman.
      Best Regards,
      Roberta

  8. Thank you for posting this. I never knew this disorder existed until recently. I can say I hope to never run into it again and am taking steps to learn as much as I can to avoid this type of person in the future. Much to learn.

    • joykeepin,
      Thank you for your comments. Facing your hurt and anger is hard. I trust that you are learning how to take care of yourself, be true to yourself, and getting on with your life. These actions will remove you as a victim and you won’t have to participate in relationship abuse again. Some experts in the field of personality disorders say that 1 out of 5 people you meet suffer from narcissistic personality disorder. Accepting your relationship lesson will advance you to higher levels of living and loving. More power to you!
      Roberta

      • Thank you Roberta for confirming things i had suspected….I can quite believe that 1 in 5 have this disorder….I nearly said ”suffer from this disorder” but of course its everybody else that suffers.However it is important to remember that it IS a disorder and not the norm…

        • Ezme,
          You are welcome, I believe our culture is producing narcissist more than ever before. Narcissistic personality disorder develops from abusive environments in childhood. As children, the developing narcissist suffers from a fractured identity filled with profound self-hatred. The self-hatred fuels the sadistic actions and their inability to love anything. This makes them less than human and evil in their abuse. This does not excuse the cruel behavior. Many of us experience less than nurturing upbringings and don’t inflict pain on others for power or pleasure. Raising public awareness about the narcissistic personality is key in preventing more victims. Thank you for writing to me.
          Roberta

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