This is a painful and devastating experience. I know, because I’ve been through it and recovered and I’ve supported many women and a few men through this same experience. The first stages of recovery go something like this:
It’s never about them and it’s always about you
Yes, it’s common to feel devastated and like the other party is evil and destroyed you, I can promise you they haven’t or you wouldn’t be here looking to understand what has happened to you. In fact that you survived at all and made it to here and now shows you are more resilient than you feel.
The first stage of recovery is realizing that there is something in you that already felt broken (long before you ever met the narc), otherwise they could never have wrought their havoc on you. This is ALWAYS family of origin stuff and goes back to childhood. (Even if you were loved and had three square meals a day), you wouldn’t be in this position otherwise.
Yes part of grieving is running those thoughts through your head over and over again, replaying scenarios, reeling in disbelief at the things you allowed and you honestly don’t know whether to hate you (for allowing it) or them for doing it to you more. I get it, I’ve been there too. It’s a horrible conundrum to be in.
Resetting your nervous system
The first thing you need is relief. I’d advise yoga or pranayama to start to tap into the different parts of your nervous system and give them some ease. This allows healing, a sense of comfort, it changes your biology and puts you in charge.
You also need some emotional support with someone who is trauma informed and who can help you safely explore your experience and make sense of it, who can validate your suffering, attune to you with loving presence and allow you to express your pain and begin to address the issues of starting over.
Going no contact
This is non negotiable. If there are shared children, then let the courts, psychologists and lawyers deal with it. The system has dealt with many cases as bad or even worse than yours many times before now and yours will get dealt with too. Yes, there is often a long and frustrating wait and sense of being stuck in a holding pattern and not yet free to resume your steps into your new life.
The thought of doing so when still legally tied to that person can be sickening, and yet you can and will do it. Many women before you have done the same thing and gone on to thrive, you can too. The good thing about this, is it gives you time to consider your options and work on yourself so that when the other stuff is ready to be dealt with, you can do it from a good space and with support and having become a lot wiser and more healed than you are right now.
This is a hard one and when we feel utterly devastated, it can be the hardest thing in the world. We are so upset with ourselves for what we’ve endured and we are majorly confused and hurting and we may be in and out of thinking the whole thing is our fault. We may be obsessed over something we should have or could have said or done differently that would have avoided the last round of abuse we endured.
I’ve been there and it does get better. Stick with those who have your back, lean on them and allow your self all the time in the world to be messy, grieving, to feel broken and cry and rage it out if you need to. And, try to eat sensibly, rest, be around safe people and be as gentle as you can. I recommend gentle movement, cardio (when you can manage it) and having body work wherever possible. Definitely seeing your GP, seeking medication if it’s a contribution and having a coach and therapist can be beneficial.
Boundaries and safety
Unfortunately, just after they leave a sociopath, psychopath or toxic narcissist, most women are the most at risk. Take whatever legal and other measures you need to protect your name and reputation and your safety and identity. Your typical narc will stop at nothing to torment you, hook you into coming back or destroying you to get what they want. It’s not that they never loved you, they just feel entitled to behave as they are. They tell themselves you deserve it.
They are probably biologically incapable of showing up any other way. It’s not personal, even though it is extremely so (of course). It’s just what they need to do to survive in the world (as horrific and inexplicable as that seems to an empath or any normal human).
It’s critical to protect your email account, your social media and to be absolutely ruthless (ironic I know) in weeding out flying monkey’s, fake friends, shared friends with the narc, their family members and others that the narc will manipulate against you. You are fighting for your life here and although trying to think like the narc in order to protect yourself is terrifying, it’s vital to your peace of mind and to the quality of your recovery. The last thing you need is new pain pouring on top of the wounds you are already carrying, so if in doubt, remove and you can always add someone back later on. Real friends will understand.