How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse Using Your Inner Knowing and The Middle Lane

I get a lot of questions via the inbox feature on my book page on FB related to healing from narcissistic abuse. Some are thinking of getting on the road to recovery and wonder where to start. Others were on the road but, out of fear, manipulation, or guilt, by the abuser, pulled to the side, and some even circled back for more of the same. Some are further down the road than others. And some have exited right and are going in another direction all together because they are done with the initial stages of learning.

Make no mistake about it— they are only out the other side of that layer of healing. We all come back to each issue time and again for further understanding and healing until that issue no longer repeats, no longer gives us an arousal jag, and we no longer have any response whatsoever to that event. You know what they call that? Wisdom. And it’s glorious!

After a lifetime of abuse and actively working on healing, and only having a name for what was happening to me in just the past seven years ‘narcissistic abuse;’ with therapy and copious amounts of reading, I can tell you, we will always be in the process of healing something—so the more you take your foot off the gas pedal, the more you stall your own progress. We need to shift gears; upshift (out of our head) as we heal up and out of one trauma, and downshift, as we need to slow down (into our bodies) and further investigate other traumas. It’s a mind/body connection healing.

You already know that narcissistic abuse is on a spectrum. On one end are victims and the other end are perpetrators. And what nobody who teaches about this will ever tell you, all of us have narcissistic traits from time to time. If you haven’t yet realized that you yourself have had some not-so healthy tendencies as you learn about this spectrum, you’re not far enough along yet. You’re still in the finger-pointing stage.

Healthy narcissism is how we get our needs met. It’s how we don’t die as children. But, no one who learns about this is completely innocent of not causing harm to another person. Reactionary abuse. It’s a thing. Learn about it. Forgive yourself. Make amends and move on.

It’s when bad behavior becomes a pattern and causes other people pain and trauma that we slide into the danger zone of unhealthy narcissism and the psychopathy that lies near the end. Two far either way is not healthy. If we’re not careful, this spectrum becomes a circle that like a two-headed snake can bite us in the ass. To avoid this, try to learn about yourself daily. Learn about your triggers and your limitations and stay in the middle lane called, “Survivors and Thrivers.” My favorite motto in life is: “Do No Harm, But Take No Shit.” Something I’ve lived my life by.

Processing our lives at the deepest level is not for wimps. I started my journey as a young runaway on a much more superficial level than where I am today. I learned early to tune into my inner knowing. To observe. To sit and listen and just know. As we get older, learn more, and have more time, we go deeper. If you’re in your twenties and thirties now, you’re busy working, some of you are creating your own families. You’ll come around to the choices you’re making now, much later in life. Try to make good decisions. Because if you don’t, they will be more in your mind in your fifties and sixties, than what you had for dinner yesterday. And please understand, if we’re using our life as a learning tool to learn better and do better, we are never done growing and learning as a person.

I’m always willing to stop and reach back to help and encourage those who are where I used be because I’ve had my own teachers that have helped me, BUT, (and here’s where it gets difficult) no one but YOU can do your work for you. This may sound harsh, but we can’t do it in learned helplessness and excuses that the world seems to be so in love with now. There is no excuse. You have to read, seek help, integrate the learning you do and incorporate it into your life. You’re on the internet already, do research. Read books. Be a seeker. Find your problem and then find the solution. Can’t afford books? Go to the library and check out books. Everything starts with a choice and a decision to end this crazy-making cycle of abuse we have called our life. I made the decision young, you may be making it now. It doesn’t matter as long as you make it.

It starts with accepting what is, like it or not. Don’t like that step? I don’t either. Like you, I know it should be at the end of something, not the beginning, right? Not in this case. We have to accept people where they are. And sometimes we need to leave them there.

So cry, vent, throw yourself a big pity party, rage on paper about how unfair this stupid fucking life is, take up kick boxing, take a nap, a bath, go to bed early, then get up and try again tomorrow. Wake up knowing you showed up for yourself. You did some deep work. You processed. Be proud about that. It’s not easy.

Understand that no matter what anybody has done or said to you, that you have value and worth as you are. We do not have to be perfect to have value. Then learn boundaries even if the only one you know is: a hard line in the sand. Then, you have to get out of your head, stop making excuses, and get into your body and listen to it. Trusting your intuition is of the utmost importance here.

When you feel physically sick around someone because they treat you like shit, I don’t care who it is— your aging parent, your own adult child, your boss, neighbor, etc… you need to limit contact, go no contact, quit your job, move, etc. Just be willing to prepare for and do the next right step for you. AND know that sometimes we also have to feel things deeply and not make a move right now. We can’t always make big changes just because we feel hurt and offended. Don’t get into the lane of extreme everything and immediate gratification too easily. Don’t quit your job because your boss is a douche canoe if you’re a single parent. Be smart about things. Learn to be an AND person.

Know that respect is a two-way street and forgiveness is not necessary to move on, have a good life, or be a good person. Although forgiveness is the one F-word I don’t use, I tend to do enough work surrounding the hurtful issue that forgiveness no longer feels necessary because there’s nothing to forgive.

Forget your diagnoses. Let go of their labels. And categories (and subcategories) that humans do with absolutely everything. Toxic is toxic. Focus on you, and your healing. And yes, you can do that even if you can’t make a bold move right now.

Don’t hope they call, or apologize, don’t fantasize about telling your boss to go screw himself, it will keep your wheels stuck in the mud. Change you. Taking all the blame creates a victim. Not taking any blame creates a narcissist. Stay in your lane. Take whatever blame is yours and shove the rest back into your perpetrators lap and be done with it. They don’t have to know what you’re doing. Get out of your head and stop ruminating. Stop believing your feelings as facts. They are not. Stop with all-or-nothing thinking and catastrophizing. Just stop.

When we say that we can’t stop this abuse because this person is so significant in our lives, or we don’t know where to start, we are saying that we are not significant enough to fight for, or smart enough to figure it out. Not true. You’re stronger and smarter than you know. Acquire some strong, healthy coping skills, and use them even when you find it to feel foreign and uncomfortable. Follow your heart, but take your head with you. Instead of drinking away your problems Friday after work, take a bath, and go to bed early. Sure, it may feel weird at first, until you fall in love with loving yourself and realize you’re the one you’ve waited for all this time!

And get into therapy. Seriously. There’s no excuse not to. I’ve been in therapy throughout my lifetime; from a teen at a runaway shelter, to a single-mother on welfare and food stamps, to a single-mother working as a nurse, to now; a menopausal woman in her mid fifties. Therapy is more assessable now, than ever before. There’s no excuse that should keep you from getting help. There is no shame in needing guidance on what to do next, getting some feedback, or needing a sounding board. Therapists will arm you with the language, coping skills, and validation you need to continue on your journey of healing. And, if you’re still going to say you can’t do therapy because of whatever reason, get a notebook and a pen. The best therapy you can do is to talk it out in the page. I have tons of filled up notebooks! Your intuition knows the answers you need. We are our own best counselor if we just stop with excuses.

When we’re focused on what people think or we’re worried if they judge us for leaving, staying, standing up, or getting therapy, we’re taking our eyes off the road and distracting ourselves with shit that does not matter. People don’t know your life. Let them think what they think. Not everybody needs a response and we don’t have to have an opinion about everything. You will get your energy back when you’re no longer in fight or flight mode and responding to every barking dog along the road.

Focus on yourself. Not what they did. It’s okay to tell your story, it’s okay to out the abuser, but then decide to get over it and use that situation to make yourself better. Flip the script. Learn from it. Why do you think this specific thing is happening? Your intuition knows the answer!

Know this: People who abuse are making a choice to do so. Just like we make the choice not to abuse. Contrary to popular belief, this is not something caused in childhood, and to continue to perpetuate that falsehood is to keep many survivors in danger and in projected empathy that can get them killed, create dis-ease, or cause them to harm themselves. This is a choice.

Also, contrary to popular belief, narcissists do not love themselves. Sounds sad, and this sounds uncaring and crass, but it’s not your problem. No self-respecting person would treat another person the way they do. They have their own work to do and are trying to offload pain and using you as a whipping post. They also need to find other ways to cope. Untie yourself from that post and walk away. What they do and how they act has nothing to do with you. Wish them well and go about living your life.

I know it looks like some are better at healing from this than others. Not true. Some are just further along in learning about this cycle and have integrated what they’ve learned and we are reporting back what’s up ahead. My education in this has been super expensive, not just financially, but it’s taken a toll on my health, my marriage, my looks, my weight, my family, my connection to spirit and community, and my sense of inner peace.

I beg you to stand up when it’s safe to do so and when it won’t cause you further distress or harm. This cycle of abuse that is so prevalent in families and society can kill us unless and until we learn to advocate for ourselves say, “NO MORE!”

If you are reading this, and you’re struggling; wondering how in the world you get off this twisting, winding, bumpy dirt road, with no overhead lighting, know that if you just keep going, a little at a time, you’ll snatch your power back. You just have to make the choice to do so. I know you can do it.

Sit with your notebook and pen, and ask, “What’s the next best step I can take?” Our inner guidance system knows the answer.

Pull off the road
Take a deep breath
Compose yourself
Put your blinker on
Press the gas pedal down
And steer your car back into the middle lane.
Keep your eyes on the road, two hands on the wheel, and keep going. You’ve got this. 💪🏻💥🥊🚀

If you’d like to connect on my book page for Steel Town Girl, go here.

If you’d like to read my first memoir Steel Town Girl about my childhood with two narcissistic parents, you can buy it here

I’m currently writing my second memoir, which for now, still remains unnamed.

Use Your Pain for Fuel

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When I sought counseling after being discarded by my mom, the counselor asked what my goals were for my sessions with her. I said,

“Help me grieve the death of my parents — who are still living.”

It’s been sixteen years since I was discarded by my dad and brother, and three and a half years since being discarded by my mom. All of these discards caused tremendous damage, but being discarded at age forty-six by my mom, dredged up everything for me. Absolutely everything. Things I thought I was completely over, now sent me reeling into the abyss.

This is an article about how the death of a parent impacts the adult child psychologically and physically. The pain and torment of narcissistic discard is no joke.

Even as a nurse; someone well aware that the grieving process isn’t a linear, chronological undertaking, and is something that looks different for everyone, I think I still naively hoped for a process that would be something I could just breeze through like steps one through five, check, check, check, check, and check. Like homework.

I was in so much pain from being discarded by my mom, that some days I thought I might die from the sheer weight of the pain I carried within my chest. Other days, I wanted to die just to be done with it all. I couldn’t get my head from spiraling, “What did I ever do to deserve this?” — As all this was happening, I also had a few long-term friendships that were falling into disrepair, marital problems, and ‘other’ family issues I’ll get around to discussing with you all some other time.

I thought the counselor could give me some tool to help me get through the pain I was grappling with so I begged her for reading material and homework on anything she thought would help me. I needed answers.

I told her one day as I arrived with my homework in hand that I wanted to stop writing my memoir and focus solely on the grieving process and heal this shit once and for all. She smiled and let me tell her what I thought I needed as she sat quietly with her hands folded in her lap.

Oh, how funny that is to me now.

And I did stop writing my memoir. For a while. I had to. I was advised to stop when I started to stutter in counseling as I did in childhood as I sat and talked about what had hurt me. I was reeling with emotions I had buried for four decades. I had to get out of the tailspin I was in and regroup and refuel.

So, with some time and a few months worth of sessions under our belts, my counselor led me to the conclusion that within the rubble of my despair I wanted to put aside, lay the rubies and diamonds I needed for the long haul. I needed to put “that” together with “this” and tether it together somehow into a meaningful life. I had to integrate what I was learning there, with where I had been, and where I saw myself going. I had to stop compartmentalizing. I had to stop disassociating. Wounded child by night. Extra Super Do-Gooder by day. She reminded me that letting the dream of writing my book go in order to process yet another discard would only hurt me and stop any progress I had made in my self-discovery and recovery of my strength. So, with her encouragement, I decided to use the pain of my mother’s discard as fuel for my journey to write Steel Town Girl. 

Grieving the death of parents and a sibling while they’re still alive is a hell I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It’s confusing grief. Even this far out. Even with writing a childhood memoir about it, it’s still a muddy pit of despair I have to dig through alone, sometimes daily, in order to survive.

I find myself asking, “What is this I’ve found? Why does it feel this way? Is this mine, or does it belong to someone else?” I’ve definitely found some jewels to keep, but I’ve found a lot of rocks I had to throw back in.

It hurts to be rejected by the very people who made us. How do we trust others in a world like that? How do we learn to love others with role models like that? How do we believe in a god after being handed this lot in life to carry? 

The answer is, “I don’t know?” My question is: “What else can we do?”

With the tools I was given in counseling, I now know that healing this abuse pattern is a lifelong journey, not something we do once and we’re done. Just knowing that provides a sort of acceptance I didn’t have before. We will grieve now, and grieve again at the time of our parents ‘actual’ death and at various points in between. There’s no way around it, really.

Another tool I was given that has proven to be invaluable in feeling your way through the convoluted mess that is the narcissistic abuse cycle of idealization, devaluation, and discard is trusting yourself and your intuition regardless of what others tell you. If you feel abused, you are. If someone tells you otherwise, ask yourself if they could, in fact, be one of your abusers. 

Turns out, that once you know about this spectrum, you see it everywhere; some people in your life will be high on the spectrum and will be unreachable, while others will only have traits. But, you’ll be delighted when you’re able to go back and see old behaviors and people with new eyes. You’ll see why those old friendships crumbled and people left your life. Hint: You’re growing, they are not.

Somedays I think I’m closer to healing than ever before. I’ll feel like a snake that’s shed its old skin and I’m ready to take on the world. Other days I can barely breathe from the black pit of sorrow that still lurks in my chest. 

I am not the same person I was when I started this memoir writing journey. And, if writing my memoir has taught me anything about myself it’s this: 

I’ve done a lot of grieving in my lifetime. And I’ve done most of it alone. And I’m still sifting through. A day at a time.

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Looking for rubies and diamonds