This post deals with abuse and might be triggering for some readers.
The aftermath of narcissistic abuse doesn’t end when someone finally is able to walk away from their abuser. No, instead it can go on for months or even years after the victim has walked away.
Years ago, I dated an abusive man who had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The manipulation, gaslighting, projecting, blaming, and shaming was something that I had never experienced in a relationship. When I was finally able to walk away from him, my outlook on relationships had completely changed.
It took years for me to come to terms with what had happened and the aftermath of the trauma is still sometimes I have to work through.
Watch: Women and Violence. The hidden numbers. Post continues below.
Based on many of my clients who have experienced this, and from personal experience as well, here is what you may experience after breaking things off with the narcissistic abuser in your life.
You may have lost your sense of self.
From the moment that you begin your relationship with a narcissist, they begin chipping away at your self-esteem.
It’s a gradual process that you won’t even notice. An insult here, a snack "suggestion" there, until one day you wake up and realise that the confident and happy person you were at the beginning of the relationship... has disappeared.
I thought I would walk away from my ex and instantly get back to the happy (and somewhat naïve) loving woman that I had been.
Instead, when things were finally done between us I felt absolutely nothing. I didn’t know what I wanted anymore; I didn’t know who I was, and I felt like someone had walked into my life, sucked my soul out of my body and kicked me to the curb.
You may still feel uneasy.
After spending months, years, or decades on edge, you may feel like you are still walking on eggshells.
When I was in the situation, it felt like every interaction had the potential of being a ticking time bomb.
I carried this fear with me into my next relationship.
Because I had been with someone who blamed me for everything in their life and would explode at the smallest thing, I thought my new partner was a ticking time bomb.
Even though it was healthy and a safer place, I realised I was waiting for the shoe to drop and it took me much longer to open up to someone new.
You may have to relearn how to trust.
Someone was constantly gaslighting you to alter with your state of reality. Because of this extremely harmful form of emotional abuse, you will struggle to trust your own memory or to believe yourself long after you have left the relationship.
Manipulation was at play as well. Someone you loved was pulling your strings like a puppet for so long that you haven’t been in control.