Fear Created by Narcissistic Abuse
~ My Life Story in a Nutshell ~
When I was 5 years old, I discovered cookies.
I started eating a lot of them to calm my fears (it didn’t work).
When I was 13, I discovered alcohol.
I used whiskey and beer in place of sugar to calm my fears (those didn’t work either).
What were my fears I wanted to quiet?
I was afraid of getting into trouble with my parents, bullies, not being able to sleep…I’d become fearful of people in general.
Where did this fear come from?
For me it was because, from an early age, I did not get my emotional needs met.
I learned I was supposed to behave perfectly and not show any negative emotion. Ever. When I showed negative emotion, I displeased others.
Being an empath and sensitive to others’ energy and needs, I also quickly discovered that certain people did not like when I behaved true to my Inner Being. One person in particular, and I needed that person’s love.
So, I became an overgiving people pleaser. And I started behaving less and less true to myself.
I was bullied by peers, physically and emotionally, for years. Back then, I wondered why the bullies chose me to terrorize.
Now I know those bullies spotted me immediately – I had a ton of compassion for everyone (including every animal and insect!) but yet had low self-esteem. I was plagued by self-doubt and almost never stood up for myself.
All of my experiences made me a perfect target for narcissistic abuse.
Shame Kept Me Silent
I did not ask for help with the bullying except once in first grade.
I was ashamed of being bullied and my shame kept me silent in my suffering.
On some level, I thought if I shared what kids were doing to me, everyone would know that I was a horrible person. Because I had come to believe there was something profoundly wrong with me since I was being treated that way.
I didn’t have clarity back then like I do now. I knew things weren’t right, but it was all so murky; I felt lost and alone. By the time I was five, I’d already learned to “power on through.”
Fear became a constant companion.
I learned how to get through a lot of experiences by just doing them (not a necessarily bad skill to have). Growing up, I was never searching for a permanent solution; I was simply trying to endure.
So I drank more alcohol and went further inside myself with my secret of shame for who I was.
The hard times stand out for me but I also was leading a double life: My mom wanted me to do well in school and find a rewarding hobby, so I got straight A’s, I was a cheerleader, and I was in a professional ballet company in high school.
I did team sports (hated all of them) and took every athletic class my mom signed me up for (she wanted to cure my “shyness”).
I had several good friends. I graduated from UCLA, then got my Master’s degree.
But I was still drinking every chance I got – and as much as I could – because it was the only way I’d learned to cope. I was a high functioning alcoholic. I mostly dated narcissistic guys who viewed me only as an afterthought. And I was falling deeper into depression.
In my early 20’s, I started therapy because I knew there was something off in my life. I was getting tired of hiding my misery. I suspected I could have a better, more fulfilling life.
The Universe Shook Me Awake
Then it happened: When I was 26, the Universe woke me up.
The best way I can explain it is that the teacher appeared when the student was ready. One night, I hit my bottom with alcohol, coupled with my (non-narcissistic) boyfriend finally being done with my negativity.
My blinders were suddenly removed: I saw for the first time that I’d completely lost myself in fear. I’d let my lack of emotional validation as a child convince me that the world was a scary place, people aren’t to be trusted, and I didn’t deserve much.
When you let your life be run by fear, there’s no way you can get the courage you need to be the fulfilled, contented person deep down that you dream of being.
After I woke up, I didn’t want to be a fraud anymore, I didn’t want to go on pretending I had my life together, I no longer wanted to live a double life.
I wanted to achieve my real dreams.
I wanted to be whole.
I wanted to discover my true self.
I wanted to find like-minded people.
I decided then and there that fear was no longer going to rule my life.
No Overnight Success with Fear
Of course, success over my fears didn’t happen immediately. Nor has some of the gains I’ve achieved been permanent. When you’ve been taught to fear the world, managing it, at least for me, has been a daily journey, not an overnight success.
After I woke up, I found a highly-skilled therapist, devoted myself to 12-step groups, read massive amounts of self-help books, took every free course on the planet, and followed what anyone who had the life I wanted suggested I do.
I returned to school for my doctorate in psychology. I eventually learned how to help people who struggled like I did. I became the person for them that I needed way back when. Because I knew what it was like to struggle.
Success for me included:
:: getting and staying sober
:: finding and being my true self
:: developing social skills (I had no idea how to even make small talk)
:: learning how to be in healthy relationships
:: discovering my intuition and trusting it
:: learning how to find more good people to have in my life
:: learning how to treat my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self with love (I had to start with ‘like’ before ‘love’)
:: learning how to speak up for myself and let go of the guilt that sometimes followed my assertiveness
Each one of these was a lifetime journey that I’m still on.
A good place to start
This was just a general rendition of my life; I only touched the surface of narcissistic abuse here. If you’ve experienced covert narcissistic abuse and feel unclear on where to start, here are a few suggestions:
:: learn your boundaries – decide what you no longer want to tolerate
:: learn how to be assertive and say ‘no’
:: start a regular routine of self-care in the morning and evening
Healing from narcissistic abuse is not a one and done. Narcissistic abuse creates enormous amounts of fear. The more you work on yourself and connect with a higher power and people on your same path, the more your fears will dissolve.
The roller coaster ride of recovering from the trauma of narcissistic abuse – the tears, the fears, the joy, the victories – starts to level out, and you’ll look back on each passing year and be amazed at and grateful for your progress.
Delving into working on yourself, committing to your success (however you define it), learning how to find a healthy partner, going after your dreams – you can do all of this.
I was once at that place where I was taking my first step into healing the fears created by narcissistic abuse. Now, I’m at the place where I’ve taken 1000’s of steps.
You’ll also be at that place of having taken 1000’s of steps on your healing journey, as long as you take the first step: choose yourself today and decide what that first step looks like for you.
And know that your healing journey will just keep getting better and better.
Are you ready to heal and thrive after covert narcissistic abuse?