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Narcissistic Abuse and Anxiety

The world we live in is full of stressors.

Finances, relationships, kids, jobs, school, rush hour traffic. It can all be a little too much to handle at times. For everyone.

Handling all of it with the internal voice of your narcissistic mother telling you you’re a fake, a nobody, a whore, and the reason for everyone’s problems, simply by being alive and speaking your truth is another kind of stress altogether.

It kind of feels like you just won’t be able to get anything right.

It’s a hopeless and helpless feeling.

Anyone raised by a narcissistic mother could be struggling with confidence, anxiety, decision-making, over-thinking, unreasonable expectations, self-doubt, dissociation, hypersensitivity, and depression. In some ways, the relationship with the narcissist was what anchored us to the earth during crucial stages of our development. We knew the rules of engagement in that world. Now, we go forth certain that the narcissist was bad for us, yet uncertain about what is good for us. Adapting to a narcissistic mother’s world strips a person bare of her sense of self. With no sense of self there is no solid ground and the world feels like a very scary place.

I feel it today. And it sucks. It’s like my skin is fighting to hold in the boundless energy of my heart and head. It’s exhausting. I feel alert and ready to bound while being held down by an unseen force. I’m too awake to just sleep it off, and too fatigued to do everything on my To Do list. I feel trapped.

For the thirty years I was in my mother’s home, sleep was my only escape. Drifting off into a dreamless oblivion was truly my only respite from being falsely accused or bulldozed. I was trapped within a toxic system that prevented me from moving freely on this earth. I was paralyzed by fear. Of rejection. Of abandonment. Of hellfire. Making one wrong move could do my life and my very soul in. My sleeping body was never at risk of screwing up. Sleep was my safe place.

It’s easy to see why I feel like lying down and closing my eyes whenever I feel panicked. But the source of my panic is only an echo of my past. It only takes a situation or individual to remind me of my mother, and I feel threatened. It’s been over four years since I’ve seen my mother, but my fear of her is ever-present. The anxiety and fatigue sometimes hit me out of the blue, and it’s not as simple as changing my outlook or putting my mind to something. It’s about learning new ways to process the old pain that feels so present.

When you or I feel like we are trudging through the muck and mire, we can choose to do these simple things in our exhaustion and grief.

Pause for a Moment

Just stop. Wherever you are take a moment to pause what you’re doing, close your eyes and just breathe. Feel your body and focus on your breath. One thing I like to do is imagine I’m a tree; sitting tall, deeply rooted. As I breathe in, I imagine my head and hair reaching for the sky like branches, and as I breathe out, I breathe down through my spine and legs which are rooted deep in the ground.

Let’s do it for three breaths…

We’re still alive. The world didn’t implode. We have all we need to keep going in this moment. We’ve done well.

Accept Yourself

As you pause from your breathing, consider yourself. Accept who you are, today. Right now. It’s tempting to want to zone out or crawl back into bed and pretend this day never happened. But, that feeds the old lie that there is something wrong with you and how you feel right now. There isn’t. So, embrace it. Tell yourself, “This is my mind and body’s way of healing, and I am getting better every day.”

Don’t check out of your life today in the hope that tomorrow will be better, because you will miss out on all today has to offer. You will postpone the important work your body is doing to help you heal. Focus on the feelings you feel. Pushing them away will only cause your inner voice to talk negatively to yourself, about yourself. That will not serve you. It will harm you. Be kind to yourself. It’s perfectly okay you feel this way.

Find a safe place to land and just be.

If you’re curled up in bed, hug yourself and give yourself permission to feel all the exhaustion, all the fear, all the sadness, all the uncertainty. Call each one by name. Look each one in the face. They aren’t so big and scary as they seem when your eyes are clamped shut as you try to mentally escape them.

If you are moving through your day at work disconnected and panicked, look at your feelings. Accept them as part of your healing process and welcome them into your day. You don’t have to push them aside. You don’t have to pretend they aren’t with you. They are there for a reason, and you can approach them differently than you have in the past.

Be Patient with Yourself

Don’t judge yourself on your progress. This is not a race. This is not a contest. You don’t need to be any further along in your healing process than you are right this minute. Don’t rush your process. It was designed for you, by you. Your mind and your body are the same mind and body that helped you survive narcissistic abuse. It knows just what to do as you continue to heal from it as well.

Be compassionate toward yourself and allow yourself to be present in your work as you feel anxious or sad or confused. When a genuine soul asks you if you’re okay, tell them what you are struggling with. Saying it outloud can sometimes take its power away. Having emotional support from someone who cares can be extremely beneficial for you and them.

This is not a setback You are exactly where you need to be.

Be Proud of your Progress

Look back to a year ago. In what ways has your life changed for the better?

Look back over the last seven years. Have you taken steps and made strides you never imagined you could?

I daresay, a lot of things have changed and you have grown a lot as a person.

Be proud of what you have accomplished today. Even if it’s one small thing. Whether you made tea, did ten minutes of yoga, or walked the dog, you’ve accomplished something that you were pretty sure you couldn’t today. Enjoy your tea, breathe deeply, and look into your pup’s soulful eyes. A little ritual done with mindfulness can make a huge difference. If that is all you do today, that is enough. You are enough. Live in it. Observe it. Be proud of it.

Tomorrow will be here before you know it, don’t let today disappear without purpose. Don’t dismiss it. Mark this day as progress in your healing. Cry during old movies with abandon, take that long walk without guilt, text a friend that you need their emotional support without shame, be present in your duties at work without feeling like you need to be fake. You are doing great.

Anxiety is Normal

Anxiety and depression after narcissistic abuse is very normal and very common. It can manifest itself in different ways as we break away from toxic relationships. It can look more like the symptoms of PTSD and be completely foreign to us at the onset. Anxiety, rage, and depression are our bodies’ ways of telling us to pay attention, to ‘look here’, to be curious. This is how we learn. This is how we grow. This is how we heal.

I’m feeling better, now, after facing down my demons. I’m proud of myself for doing yoga and meditating and getting some writing done. It’s not everything I had on my list, but it’s more than I would have imagined I could do. I paused, I breathed, I imagined, I exercised, I made coffee, and I’m writing to remind us all we can bound freely over the craigy mountainsides of healing from narcissistic abuse.

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