One of the things that has become very apparent to me since I started ‘dating’ again is that I am now at 32 years old learning what ‘normal’ is all over again.
After spending 8 years living in such a stressful and crazy abusive environment, I didn’t even realize all of the ways that my life was anything but normal. I no longer realized all of the ways that I was over compensating, correcting myself, over analyzing, worrying, stressing, just to get through day-to-day activities and decisions. I didn’t realize the full extent of the crazy until I started to experience something normal and it felt like I just landed on Mars.
On the bright side of this bizarre-o, re-acquainting-myself-to-normal experience is the fact that I genuinely and full-heartedly appreciate all of these little, ‘normal,’ often taken for granted things that I am now experiencing… and that feels really, really good.
So, here are some of my thoughts and observations on discovering normal again…
- I started stressing out and wondering if I am in fact a selfish person. I could vividly hear The Narcissist’s voice playing through my head over and over telling me that I am selfish, I only think of myself, I don’t put others first, etc. etc. What started to spark this downward spiral is that I had a pretty intense trigger around doing nice things for another person that I am romantically involved with. This was startling for me because I have always been a very giving person, and I generally give without much reservation when it comes to my friends, family, co-workers etc. Yet the idea of going out of my way to do nice things for another person in a romantic setting made me actually feel physically sick and extremely vulnerable. Before I realized that I was experiencing a trigger, my self-doubt and extreme criticism of myself kicked in. Luckily, I was able to work through this situation by stopping my crazy train of thought, re-centering myself, and thinking about what it was that I really wanted in my heart, in my gut, in my intuition. I decided that what I really wanted was to let this person know that I was thinking about them and that I appreciated them… I wanted them to feel good. I realized that this was a different experience for me because the nice things were not about avoiding bad behavior, or trying to feel ‘good enough’ for the person… it was all genuine and good. So I pushed through the uncomfortable feelings and I did the nice things I wanted to do… and in the end it felt so extremely rewarding because the person APPRECIATED it. They didn’t judge me for it, they didn’t question my intentions, they didn’t criticize the way I did it… they were happy and they appreciated it… and that in itself was healing! (The next week I shared this with my therapist and we discussed that it was in fact a trigger for me, and that trigger is there because I used to exhaust myself daily trying to do things for The Narcissist that were never acknowledged or appreciated… so the idea of doing it now was scary.)
- No Eggshells! I have noticed on multiple occasions they easiness I feel in my heart, the simple pleasure and enjoyment that I get out of not walking on eggshells at every single moment. My old ‘normal’ was one of being hyper aware and overly sensitive to every little signal I could pick up from The Narcissist. Was that a sigh? Did I sense sarcasm? Does his energy feel negative? Did I just do something that upset him? Did he move his hand from mine because of what I said? He’s asking me a question, how do I respond? Is he looking at me because he hates my outfit? Does he think I look fat? I could go on and on for days here. Genuinely being in an environment where I am not being judged, criticized, shamed, and made to feel inferior is something so great.
- Getting to be Myself. I had been trained and even brainwashed over those 8 years to a point where my being ‘normal’ was to not actually being me. My ‘normal’ was to be a super-polished idealized version of myself… a version of me that thought in advanced of everything that The Narcissist would want, would think, would criticize. I lived in a wacky reality where I couldn’t ever relax and just be. I had to be “on” at all times. The very little and seemingly insignificant things like being able to say exactly what is on my mind without filtering it, picking out something to wear that feels comfortable for me, having whatever freaking cheese I prefer, and every other little thing. Feeling like I can express myself openly, honestly and without fear of criticism is such an amazing feeling.
- Talking about the past. The Narcissist was always a freaking whack job about anything that had to do with my past. He frequently said with his words that he cared so much about the truth and that he wanted to know every single detail of my past… yet whenever I gave him the truth he responded with anger, with violence, with silent treatment, and by making me feel like a horrible worthless person. So I did what any self-preserving person would do it that scenario… and I lied. I told big lies and little lies and I avoided the truth and I told him what I thought he could handle without hitting me for it, and in the end I just told him exactly what he wanted to hear because I couldn’t take it anymore. Imagine my shock and awe when I started having totally sane and rational conversations with a person about both of our pasts?!? It was this weird reassuring and empowering thing to be able to say out loud… this is the person I’ve been, this is the stuff that I’ve been through… and every bit of it had brought me exactly to where I am standing today. On the flip side, hearing about someone else’s past gives you so much insight into who they are as a person and why they feel the ways that they do. This is a basic, normal, thing that I think people in normal relationships do all the time and I have never experienced this like this.
- Steady Levels. In an abusive relationship you have so many highs and lows on a daily basis that effect you right down to the chemical level. You actually get addicted to the process of being built up and then being smashed down… your brain craves the crazy chemical levels and doesn’t recognize what ‘normal’ should feel like any more. After I moved out of the house I experienced some pretty severe lows as a result of the depression and the chemicals being all out of whack. It took me a while to build myself back up to a normal level and really feel happy again. I’ve realized lately that having a steady dose of good is so freaking nice. I mean I get to feel happy without having the rug pulled out from under my feet! I get to be happy without worrying about all of the ways that this happiness will be used against me. I get to go days and weeks without crying or sobbing or yelling or feeling desperate or depressed! Oh yeah, this is what normal is supposed to be like!!
When I decided that I was ready to enter the dating world again I was really scared. I was scared because somewhere in my subconscious I was worried that all of the ugly lies The Narcissist had planted in my head were true… that no one would ever love me the way he did, that I was unlovable, and that there is no one else as special and as great as he is out there in the universe. I was scared that I wouldn’t feel good without the all-encompassing intensity that is an abusive relationship. I was scared that I would get to that point and realize that I really would never feel the same about anyone else.
The amazing news is that I will never feel the same about anyone else, and no one else will ever ‘love’ me the way that The Narcissist did… and I am so freaking glad!!! I’m remembering what ‘normal’ should be and it has been so long since I have been here! I feel alive again in a way that I haven’t felt in 8 years. I am so glad that I finally worked up the courage to leave and chose me… because I am so much happier standing here than I ever was even at my happiest moments with The Narcissist.
My advice to all of you is to embrace it. Embrace the fear, embrace the unknown, embrace the un-comfortableness and uncertainty that you feel. Start taking the steps, no matter how small they are to get back to your own version of normal. ❤