Narcissistic abuse is an intricate net of lies, manipulation and invalidation. It can be so masterfully subtle that you might not even realise that your sense of self is being gradually shattered.
Neither healing from such abuse nor realising what is actually happening to you is easy.
What you can notice more easily is that you are gradually losing your mind. You don’t know anymore what is true and what is a lie. You are stressed and anxious. You are more and more withdrawn and isolated from society.
Until one day something changes. Maybe the voice of your intuition leads you to a thought that maybe, just maybe, you are not crazy after all. Maybe you have fallen victim to very sophisticated abuse (if you are not sure how you can identify if you are dealing with a narcissist, feel free to read my blog post on this topic).
Searching for answers, perhaps you google “emotional abuse” and you start reading and finally some things start to make sense.
Your whole perspective changes, and as it changes there is a commitment in you that never again will you allow anyone to abuse you like this.
Commitment to yourself is the beginning of your healing journey – a journey towards regaining a sense of self, rediscovering who you truly are and what you want to do with your life.
Once you start taking steps on this path towards healing, some days will be better, some will be worse. The path of healing is certainly not a straightforward one. You will have days when you feel that you can conquer the world and you will have days when taking a shower will be a challenge.
Allow yourself to go through each day with kindness and compassion. You are going through a recovery from serious psychological abuse. It takes courage, patience and time.
Since the path of healing means that sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back, how do you actually know that you make any progress whatsoever?
Here are 12 signs that will tell you that you are healing from narcissistic abuse.
1. You accepted the reality as it is
The first sign of healing is your acceptance that the abuse happened. You are ready to let go of any illusions that you created about the narcissist in your life.
You no longer look for excuses to explain their behaviour. You see the abuse for what it is.
Truth is sometimes painful to look at. In case of abuse, it is extremely painful to be honest with yourself and admit that the person you loved hurt you so much.
When you feel that you fully accepted the situation and took responsibility for your healing, that is a clear sign your healing journey is truly in progress.
2. You allow yourself to grieve
You are no longer attached to the illusions that used to keep you safe. Once you let go of illusions, your grieving process starts.
Allow yourself to go through all the stages of grief. All of them are necessary: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Feel them all. Let the emotions flow. Express them however they need to be expressed. Trapped emotions will leave you in a state of trauma. You don’t’ want that, you want to heal.
Grieve the loss of your illusions. Grieve the loss of that relationship. Even if the relationship was not a good one, it is still a loss. Allow yourself to grieve that a part of you allowed the abuse to happen.
Let yourself go through all the emotions connected to grief as it will bring you one step closer to regaining happiness and peace in your life.
3. You allow yourself to feel your emotions
When you experience complex trauma (and narcissistic abuse is such trauma) you block your emotions to detach from the painful reality of your experience.
In a moment, it is a useful strategy. Sometimes it literally saves your life. But blocking your emotions means disconnecting from yourself. In the long run, it is a very unhealthy thing to do.
In order to heal, you need to reconnect with your emotions. Let them be as they come to you. You can manage them by breathing deeply. Your breath will help you stay calm even when emotions like anger or anxiety will flood you.
Remember that your emotions cannot hurt you. They are NOT you. It is blocking them that, at some point in your life, might turn out to be damaging. Emotions that get stuck in our bodies very often come to the surface in the form of an illness.
When you allow yourself to feel, that is a true sign that you are embracing your healing journey.
4. You feel lighter
Although all the processes that I’m mentioning here are not easy, once you go no contact or minimise the contact with the narcissist in your life, you will immediately feel lighter inside.
Making a decision that your contact will be a bare minimum (or that there will be no contact) brings immediate relief. If you didn’t realise how much negative energy this individual brings into your life, you will certainly realise it now.
You breathe more freely, you slowly stop being in a constant state of stress. Your sleep improves. Your body might even lose a few extra kilos so you might end up feeling lighter, even literally.
5. Your self-care becomes your priority
Another clear sign of healing is when you notice that you start to choose yourself more and more often. You focus your thoughts and energy on thinking about yourself and what is good for you instead of wondering what the narcissist thinks or does.
Your self-care becomes your priority whether it means picking up a hobby you neglected or finding time for meditation or perhaps going to the gym more often.
You feel free to make a choice that suits you best and you do just that.
6. Unexplained physical symptoms disappear
Abuse often triggers anxiety that leads to physical symptoms such as chronic headaches, muscle pain, digestion problems, insomnia, and fatigue.
Once you embark on the journey of self-healing from narcissistic abuse, these symptoms might start to alleviate sooner than later.
7. You start to question the voice of self-criticism
Narcissistic abuse leaves you feeling inadequate and worthless. Once the abuser is gone from your life, you will start to notice all the negative messages that have been planted in your mind.
Not only will you notice them but you’ll also start to question them. Reprogramming your subconscious mind takes some time but the first step is becoming aware of the negative messages that have been planted there.
Once you realise what these messages are, you will be able to change them. How can you change them? For example, you can look for pieces of evidence from your life that prove them wrong.
The fact that you start to question your inner critic is a clear sign that healing is in progress.
8. You forgive yourself and the abuser
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you pretend that nothing happened. It also doesn’t mean that you welcome the abuser back to your life. Forgiveness is about setting YOURSELF free from the prison of resentment and anger.
Once you feel ready to consciously practise forgiveness, that is another clear sign that you are taking the next steps on the paths of your healing. Check out my Ho’oponopono forgiveness meditation that might help you forgive and let go.
9. You make your decisions with confidence
Narcissists love using various manipulation techniques to invalidate and make you question your own sanity.
Once you start your recovery process, you will gradually set yourself free from their abusive spell. As you go through the healing process, you will notice that gradually you start to question your inner critic. As the voice of your inner critic becomes quieter and quieter, you will feel more confident in your decisions and that is another sign that you are regaining your sense of self after the abuse.
10. You are more assertive
Another sign that your recovery is really in progress is when you notice that you become more assertive and clear about setting your boundaries.
Being able to set your boundaries is always extremely important. It is even more important when you are healing from narcissistic abuse. Narcissists aim at gaining full control over you and your life. The concept of boundaries doesn’t exist when you become their victim.
Regaining control over your life means that you become more conscious about staying in charge of who you are and how you want certain relationships to look like. You might notice that some relationships are not worth continuing and that is perfectly fine.
Setting healthy boundaries is a critical part of moving forward with your recovery.
11. You become more social again
Narcissistic abuse very often leads to isolation. You become socially awkward and withdrawn.
You start having problems trusting other people. Since narcissists love questioning your sanity through different manipulative techniques like gaslighting, you also stop trusting yourself.
Once you overcome this programming, you become more open and sociable. Going out, spending time with your friends, doing things that you love says a lot about your healing progress.
12. You become indifferent
When you stop checking on the narcissist on social media, when you stop going through your photos together, when you stop browsing the text messages they sent you, it is a clear sign that your healing process is in full swing.
Becoming indifferent is wonderful proof that you have successfully set yourself free from the narcissist’s spell.
Not caring about them is the best thing you can do. They certainly never truly cared about you.
Healing from narcissistic abuse is not an easy process. It might take weeks, months or even years to fully regain control over your mental health and your life in general.
I hope the above list will help you notice how far you have come on your healing journey. Please bear in mind that the points I put together are not in any specific order. All these changes might be happening at relatively the same time. Some of them might take a long time, others might become easier, and you will be ready to embrace them faster.
One part of you might feel very ready to take the next step on your healing journey, whereas another part of you might be still looking behind its shoulder to take a peek at your old life. Let yourself go through these various stages at your own pace. Sustainable healing takes time, patience and self-compassion. I wish you all the best. And if you feel like you’re getting stuck, message me.