We all want to be as healthy as we can be. We all know that feeling our best, is best. It’s not always easy to make it happen, and especially so when recovering from narcissistic abuse. There are many psychological, even physical reactions that can take time to heal. Looking after your mental health during narcissistic abuse recovery helps speed up getting to that place of feeling your best once more.
You’ll already be aware of many of the practices that lead to feeling your best. You’ll know that you need to eat well and exercise and take the best possible care of your body as you can.
In the midst of narcissistic abuse, these things are often set aside as you try to just get through each day.
The toll on the body is huge, with physical illnesses often resulting from not only neglecting to take care of ourselves, but also from the sustained periods of stress that no body is designed to handle for such extended periods.
Of course, you’ll know that it isn’t just the body that suffers. The mind and spirit do too. These can feel so confused and crushed from narcissistic abuse. Anxiety, panic attacks and depression are just some of the results of narcissistic abuse that survivors work through.
Acknowledging and treating these are so important. Reach out for help from appropriately qualified professionals, and surround yourself with trusted people you can talk to.
At the same time, you can take active steps so that you are looking after your mental health during narcissistic abuse recovery.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that you can do to encourage a healthier mind and spirit.
The very first thing that you can do for your mental health, is to minimize stress as much as you can.
If you’re dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, being in triggering and stressful environments (or surrounded by toxic people) is not going to be a good thing. Instead, you need to make sure that you’re staying as calm as you can to give you space to start that healing process by stabilizing some of those internal states that have been on high alert for too long.
Easy enough to say, but how do you do it?
By making conscious decisions to eliminate or minimize the things you know cause you stress. It’s a no brainer that the narcissist is one of those stressors. Going gray rock, or No Contact are ways that other survivors have attacked this – what can you do to proactively help yourself with what causes you stress?
To complement that, the next thing you need to do here, is to make sure that you’re relaxing as much as you possibly can. Now, everybody will benefit from having a relaxing life – we all know that! Another no brainer.
Suffering narcissistic abuse allows stress to take hold of your life. This is not a good thing. When you’re able to switch off and rest as much as you can, you start to feel clearer, calmer, which leads to making better choices and a happier in life.
What are the things that make you feel at peace with the world? Write a list, and schedule these in.
Balance & slowing down
Finding balance in your life is so important. If you know that you’re stressed out because of the demands of the narcissist and you’ve got too much going on, then you’re trying to do ‘it all’.
Doing it all isn’t how real-life works. On that front, what the narcissist expects of you isn’t real-life either.
Try slowing down, it’s important to bring in that relaxation, to keep you calm and to get a more balanced perspective on your life.
Making gentle space for yourself helps you get in touch with what really matters for you.
Think about some of the things you don’t want or need to be doing, and start practicing saying ‘no’ to what isn’t healing for you right now.
Sometimes all of this, just isn’t enough.
Let’s face it. If these things are just way too much to contemplate right now, it could be that speaking to someone might help to get you over this initial hump.
This could be your doctor initially to chat through what’s going on, but it could be that talking to an appropriate professional therapist or specialist, who has experience with narcissistic abuse, can really help you to work through this.
Looking for a professional that you feel comfortable to open up with is important. There are many ways of doing this these days, with support available over the phone, face to face and even online.
If you’re not sure where to start, Google your local Domestic Violence hotline and ask for some referrals.
As a step on from that, you may also want to consider different treatment options. This could be in the form of something like deep TMS therapy or acupuncture. This could be explored as a supplement to seeking support, to really take care of your whole mind, body and soul.
Talking to your doctor to work out what the best approach for you is a great way to get started.
Aiming to lead a healthier lifestyle overall can work wonders for your mental health. There are links between a healthier diet and better levels of mental health. So if you really do want to help yourself, you need to look at what you’re putting into your body.
If you want to explore this more fully, you could also seek professional advice on dietary adjustments that will maximise the serotonin levels in your brain as a drug-free anti-depressant!
Keep in mind that alcohol and many narcotics are also depressants. Minimizing use of these helps you recover faster.
Think of what you can cut out of your diet starting today. Also have a think about foods that make you feel really nourished and nurtured, and that you know are good for you. Make a shopping list of what you’ll grab to begin replenishing your body and mind.
It’s easy to believe that exercise is just something that you do for your body. To keep fit or look good. But it’s not. It’s more than that. There are so many mental health benefits of exercise.
You feel more energized, lighter, calmer – you can even sleep better. So it’s essential that you’re able to find some kind of exercise you like, whether it’s running, yoga, a team sport, or even an exercise class. It’s going to really help your mind.
Start small if you need to, start with doing some walks. What other exercise do you enjoy, or have enjoyed in the past?
Schedule some time today to do something that moves your body, and start increasing time dedicated to doing this.
It’s just all too easy to be in your head in this day and age. And when you are, your thoughts are racing, and never more so than when you are ruminating about the narcissist.
But when you’re mindful, you learn to be more present. You observe and control your thoughts. You’re aware of them, but you’re more in the moment. And bringing yourself into the present will always allow you to be happier.
Let’s be real. It’s going to take a bit of practice before those thoughts start to slow, so don’t give in if it feels like a challenge when you start up. Like exercise, schedule in an activity like meditation for just a few minutes today, and start building it up. In time the difference you feel will surprise you.
You also need to make sure that you are making time for your interests and hobbies. If you’re stuck in a bad cycle, you need to find your way out. Passions can help you.
Whatever you’re interested in, throw yourself into that. A distraction can then allow you to find much more happiness.
You could even look at joining local clubs or Meet Up groups that do the thing you love, so that you are enjoying your passion with like minded people.
Start writing up a list of all the things you know you love doing. If you can’t think of anything, brainstorm things you’ve always thought looked like fun and you wanted to try, or things you want to know more about. Then pick at least one thing to try and schedule it in.
Finally, you will then want to make sure that you’re looking for as much happiness as possible in life.
This can be something that is often hard for you to do when you’re not feeling in the best of shape, but it helps.
Practising gratitude and focusing on all of the things that you’re grateful for can make you feel lighter and calmer. When you focus on the things that make you happy, and bring happiness to your life, it can really turn things around for you.
This gets easier as you remove the toxicity and the stressors, as you notice that what’s left are the things that are good for you and make you happy.
All of these sound easy and simple. In reality, they are. They can seem overwhelmingly difficult when you are trying to pull out of the harmful effects of narcissistic abuse. The thing to do is to take small steps, and build on them. The more you do, the easier they get, and the healthier your mind and body become!
Questions abound from victims, survivors, those who care, bystanders, the curious, and indeed from narcissists themselves, as to who is the abuser & who is the abused in relationships where one of the parties is pathologically narcissistic*.
Recognising who is the abuser & who is the abused in a narcissistic relationship is critically important.
At a time when those who have been shattered by abuse are fighting to reclaim their lives, it is beyond shattering finding the courage to ask for help, only to not be believed.
Psychologically, doubting the reality of the abused amplifies the narcissist’s campaign of invalidation in effect causing abuse-by-proxy (see Narc Wise Glossary for term refreshers). Whether intentional or not, this exacerbates the damage caused.
For those who have blessedly not experienced narcissistic abuse, it is difficult to imagine how very disabling the abuse is.
Whilst how it feels on the inside cannot be fully understood from the outside, I urge you to read Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence to appreciate the seriousness of the danger faced by victims**.
This article is for those who have not directly experienced narcissistic abuse, and who know of two people who claim to have been abused by a narcissist, with each pointing the finger at the other.
You’ll learn about the inevitability of this scenario being just one more of the predictable outcomes arising from pathological narcissism. And of course, how to spot the differences between who is the abused & who is the abuser.
More importantly, it gives you the opportunity to be there for a fellow human being in very deep need.
By being informed, you can make the choice to be that person who says: ‘I see you. I hear you. I believe you’.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder 101
The full definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as per the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM-V) can be found in the Glossary.
Key points are:
Individuals with a personality disorder display persistent & pervasive behavioural patterns that reflect their thinking processes & how they perceive themselves & others.
Fundamental markers of NPD are self-importance, belief in their own uniqueness, superiority & omnipotence.
A natural consequence of these views are a high sense of entitlement & lack of accountability, since superlative beings are owed their whims; and for the flawless there is no basis for valid criticism.
This set of traits & beliefs, the narcissist’s ‘false-self’, is a fragile protective mechanism to stem the knowledge of their ‘true-self’ which includes opposing traits e.g.: being weak, flawed, ordinary (in other words…human just like the rest of us).
To keep the ‘true-self’ at bay, the pathological narcissist requires constant attention & reinforcement that confirms the factual nature of the ‘false-self’. This is known as supply and is integral to the psychological survival of the NPD’d.
In other words, the pathological narcissist has subsisted throughout life perfecting the art of manipulation to get their needs met. All actions, behaviours & choices are constructed to affirm their power, control and superiority…that they are ‘more than’ others…thereby securing supply from whomever they are playing. Whether this be the target. Or you, dear reader.
Why recognising who is the abuser & who is the abused can superficially appear tricky
The primary reason why superficially it may seem difficult to pick the true villain in the piece is hearing both parties make the same claims.
Samples of what muddies the waters may include: ‘they abused me’ ‘they are crazy’ ‘I’m frightened of what they might do’ ‘they lie all the time’ ‘they can’t be trusted’ ‘they are incredibly manipulative’ etc.
With both making these statements – who to believe?
It’s a he said/she said kinda deal, right?
No, dear reader. It isn’t.
The reasons why the abused makes these claims, is because it is true.
It is part of their story. Part of their experience. What they have endured & survived. And therefore, have every right to voice as part of their healing after being silenced by the narcissist for so long.
The reasons why the abuser maintains the same, are below.
Why you can expect the narcissist to falsely cry foul
Their psychological survival depends on being ‘more than’
Let’s return to the concept of supply. To recap these are the external reinforcements that back-up the narcissist’s beliefs in their own superiority, perfection, power etc.
One way of securing supply is to manipulate others into feeling ‘less than’, so that they can feel ‘more than’.
In this way, when the narcissist succeeds in controlling circumstances so that the target feels inferior, they in turn, feel superior.
This is evidenced through a multitude of behaviours. Some examples are gaslighting where the reality of the abused is denied (e.g.: ‘that never happened’); relentless competition (e.g.: ‘my work is so much more demanding, how could their day have been hard?’); and the target must always be wrong (e.g.: ‘I know them better than they know themselves…that isn’t how they really feel’).
The thing is, this compulsion doesn’t end when the relationship does. The narcissist will do everything in their power to ensure they do not risk exposure. At all costs, they must hide from their true-selves.
To not do so would mean entertaining accountability for their actions & behaviours. That they are flawed, indeed, that they are the ‘baddie’. That they are ‘less than’. Ergo, to maintain their precarious belief system, they must flip the roles: they are the abused, and the victim is the abuser.
In this way, to the mind of the pathological narcissist, they can continue to perceive themselves as ‘more than’.
They need you to believe they are ‘more than’
The tricky thing for the pathological narcissist is that on some level, they are aware they are constantly hiding from their true-selves – else there would not be such desperate measures to keep the truth at bay.
After all, one does not run, from what one doesn’t fear.
As a result, it isn’t sufficient for them to cling to being ‘more than’, nor to bully the abused into considering they are ‘less than’.
ALL possible risks of exposure must be mitigated. Strategies are consequently deployed for damage control purposes.
Enter the smear campaign: the intentional dissemination of false information to discredit and undermine the abused, and garner support for the abuser.
The ‘go to’ line of attack is to paint the abused as the disordered, cruel mind, and the narcissist as the long-suffering victim.
The pathological narcissist will stop at nothing to have others believe they are the abused. No avenue or relationship is out of bounds – both personal (including the victim’s family members & friends) & professional relationships are exploited.
Planting the seeds of rumours, stretching of truths shared in false intimacies, and outright lies are all nurtured.
This tactic bolsters the ‘more than/less than’ dichotomy, minimising the possibilities of being held to account by you or by others. For what they have done to the current victim, and what they have every intention of continuing to do with new victims (for more on this read Narcissists and smear campaigns: Why they do it).
Who is the abuser & who is the abused? Identifying the narcissist
To the guts of the matter…
You are now informed about how on the surface a blurring of lines may be apparent when reflecting similarities on claims made.
Let’s check out now how to spot differences between who is the abuser & who is the abused.
On starting again
More often than not, the abused must start again from ground zero.
When I say building from ground zero, we’re talking finding shelter, clothes, food, income, support/personal/professional networks. Often, relocating geographically is also needed….and sometimes, it goes so far as having to relinquish one’s own name.
All of this in the name of safety.
Whether the break occurs from being discarded or the victim leaves through choice, this is the reality they face.
Remember the narcissist’s need for control?
Isolating the victim and withholding of physical & financial resources are tactics used for this very purpose. Because embedding knowledge within the victim that they are dependent on the narcissist for basic survival needs increases compliance to hand over supply.
Let’s contemplate leaving by choice for a moment.
By virtue of these strategies (of which the abused is all too well aware), and threats of smear campaigns – this is the choice confronting the victim:
stay in order to sustain shelter & food, and connections with family members, friends & other networks, knowing the abuse will continue & escalate; or
leave in order to survive knowing they must gamble everything & possibly the loss of many people in their life.
Think about that for a moment, dear reader. Really think about it, and what this entails.
Can you imagine being in position where you are forced to choose between continuing to accept a life of abuse & unendurable pain, versus loss beyond measure?
Let me assure you. There is no hyperbole here.
The decision the victim faces is: ‘if my only potential avenue to ceasing this pain I can no longer survive means losing all I hold dear, then that is the choice I must make’.
Can you imagine the desperation that must drive one to make this choice?
Obviously, the disempowerment of the abused means the inverse for the narc. They are empowered in terms of resources. In externally visible ways, the abuser has ‘more than’.
Having said all this, a different type of ‘fresh start’ will take place.
That necessity for supply is ever present. As is the ongoing hunt for providers of said supply.
Sure as anything, a new source of supply, for example, a replacement love interest will surface STAT.
And ‘this new one’, will be lauded to the moon & back – oh how the narcissist will lax lyrical about the replacement (for a time anyway…til the whole thing cycles back through again)!
Sensemaking, the human need to find meaning in our existence & experiences, is never more acute than in the face of trauma.
When the relationship ends, the suffering & cognitive dissonance felt by the abuser is quite simply indescribable.
This drives a powerful hunger to find explanations for what has been endured. This can, for a time be all-consuming.
The need could be to understand the abuse alone. Or because the abused still deeply loves the abuser…or a combination of both hence the cognitive dissonance.
In any case, part of recovery includes trying to rationalise contradictory views. The abused is beset with a manic-like urgency to find causality & logic for the behaviour of the abuser to re-establish equilibrium.
Because, no order can be found within the disordered behaviour of the pathological narcissist, it is not until this is recognised & accepted this that the sensemaking can be let go.
Until this point is reached, the search can be described as somewhat frenzied.
I do not know of one victim of narcissistic abuse who has not confronted this stepping stone to freedom.
Conversely, the pathological narcissist experiences no drive to answer the question ‘why’.
Simply because, to the mind of the narcissist, they know the answer to all questions: they are ‘more than’.
In holding the belief of being superior to others, and especially so to the ditched source of supply, there is no further need to entertain past events or that person again (caveat – unless they are still offering supply).
Not so sure?
Heard of ghosting? The final phase of the cycle of narcissistic abuse: discard?
Once supply is exhausted that person who once provided it becomes irrelevant to the narcissist. No healing is needed.
The severity of the effects of abuse on the target’s health are undeniably grave.
The types of abuse sustained include physical, mental, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, legal etc.
Irrespective of the nature of the abuse, psychological damage is caused.
And this dear reader, is less easily hidden from the observant witness.
Signs that you can detect include (but are not limited to): hypervigilance, anxiety, depression, paranoia, insomnia, panic attacks, perfectionism, weight loss or weight gain, fear, rage, mistrust, confusion, restlessness, social isolation. Potentially harder to identify is self-harm & suicidal ideation**.
The abused themselves frequently develop disorders in response to the abuse from the Narcissistic Personality Disordered individual. PTSD, C-PTSD, generalised anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, major depressive disorder, are some examples.
In contrast, not one of these devastating & disabling outcomes affect the abuser.
True to their Machiavellian ways, words to emulate these symptoms may be spoken.
If so, don’t be fooled. You are being played. Not sure?
Has professional help been sought? At all?
Of course, it hasn’t.
Because of the very same reason cited above: they are ‘more than’.
For those who genuinely want to know who is the abused & who is the abuser, this, right here, is your biggest defining contrast.
You have the power to support the victim on their healing journey by recognising their truth.
By accepting this, and in turn, the abused, you flick the switch on the narcissist’s invalidation & contribute to their healing.
Don’t turn from them. Please do not turn from them.
Be the catalyst for their faith & trust in humanity to start rebuilding instead.
For more tools & knowledge building pieces on the issues in this article read:
Generalised anxiety, panic attacks, even PTSD or C-PTSD are common responses to narcissistic abuse. Whether you are still suffering from narcissistic abuse, or have set yourself free, you just might need some tools to handle anxiety when it hits. In this article you will find some grounding techniques that have helped me in my recovery journey.
What are Grounding Techniques?
Grounding techniques are ways to bring you back into the present moment and can be useful when you are experiencing general anxiety or a panic attack. If you’re like me, you possibly experience rushing or spiralling thoughts during periods of high anxiety, and grounding techniques can be a great way to get you out of your head and back into the present and physical moment.
This is so important when recovering from narcissistic abuse to give you the head space you need to heal.
Many grounding exercises focus on the senses as a way to ground yourself, but there is no right or wrong way to practice grounding techniques.
As with everything, you should always make sure to choose the grounding technique appropriate for you and your particular circumstances.
Below are some suggested grounding techniques for panic attacks when recovering from narcissistic abuse:
Focus on your Breath
The first thing I usually do when experiencing high anxiety, is focus on my breath. During periods of anxiety, your breath tends to be shallow and short, increasing your anxiety.
If you can focus on making your breath steady, deep and measured, this should calm you down as well as give you something physical to focus on in the present moment.
You could try breathing in ten times; or focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
As long as it deepens and steadies your breath, this technique should slow your body and mind down.
Hold Something Physical
You can also try holding onto something physical to ground yourself. Take something in your hand and focus on that. Only that.
It could be an eraser, a medallion, or a coin you have in your wallet. It could be something specific that you reach for every time you need it, or whatever you have on hand at the time.
Whatever it is, hold onto it, focus on it, and think about it. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it sound like if you tap it against a surface?
Focus only on the object in your hand and be in the present moment.
Repeat a Mantra
Do you have a helpful mantra? When experiencing an anxiety attack, I sometimes find it helpful to repeat my mantra to myself. You could repeat over and over again to yourself: ‘I am safe’, or ‘This feeling will pass’, or ‘Thoughts are just thoughts’, or ‘I’ve got this’.
If you can, saying a helpful mantra out loud to yourself can help to ground you in the present. Repeating your mantra internally also works.
The 5,4,3,2,1 Exercise
This exercise is designed to bring your thoughts onto something other than the anxiety you are feeling. The exercise involves you naming the following things:
5 things you can see
4 things you can feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 good thing about yourself
You can do this exercise in your head wherever you are, or you might like to take out a pen and paper and write them down.
Do Something Physical
This will help to ground yourself in the space you are in, and there are any number of things you could do. You could go to the bathroom and run your hands under the water. Focus on the feeling of the cool water trickling over your hands.
You could rub moisturiser into your hands and arms, feeling the soothing sensation of lotion on your skin.
You could even make a cup of tea, taking special care to notice the sound of the boiling water as you fill the cup, and focusing on stirring in the right amount of sugar or milk.
The options are nearly endless; just choose something that involves your body, which will help to get you out of your head and into the present moment.
These have worked for me in slowing down my thoughts, breath and a racing heart allowing me to centre myself.
The more I practised these, the more I built confidence in knowing I could beat anxiety when it surfaced which ultimately helped me to leave the narcissist in my life behind. Do try these techniques, who knows just how much they might free you too.
I can honestly say that the experiences with the narcissist were shocking and horrible. They shook me to the core. But they also shook me awake.
I learned that all the stuff the narcissist said to me didn’t describe me at all. She was describing herself.
I saw through the lies and I saw her patterns. I questioned her and that is why and when chaos was piled upon chaos.
I was grieving the loss of my mum, and this person who claimed to love me, to be my friend, who I was giving my everything to, didn’t even ask if I was ok.
She never gave me the support, sympathy or comfort that I needed. Just constant criticism and name calling.
Until one day, it hit me.
I could see exactly who and what she was. And I nearly lost it, almost felt violent, but then I remembered who I am. Remembered that the rage isn’t me. It is her.
I remembered all my great qualities. I decided she couldn’t take away all these great qualities away from me. They are what define me. They are what make me who I am.
Rather than going crazy as she was hoping I would, I remained kind, patient, respectful and compassionate…and it drove her crazy instead.
For a time, once I had called her bluff and said ‘no more’, things got pretty low.
Things get hard before they get better
There were days when I didn’t want to go to work. This was about not wanting to be around her as we had worked together, and it was also about the company that did nothing about the bullying they supported by enabling her behaviour. I couldn’t accept either.
I stayed until I just could not be there anymore. So, eventually, I left.
Things were hard.
I was swinging from victim to drama queen. ‘I’m ok’ to ‘I want revenge’.
I was confused. At one point I wrote a letter to the narcissist saying I forgive her and hope she gets well soon.
I was upside down and inside out.
And then one day I thought…What now?
After all the pain, grief and anger started to subside, I saw where I needed to heal.
I also realised my own pattern in the relationship. I had been, yet again, putting someone else’s needs before my own and giving away what I needed.
I decided this is the time I start giving me what I need.
So, I asked myself what do I want? Deep down inside, what do I want from my life?
Looking within & taking action
The first answer was, I want to learn Maths and English. This was something I wanted from way back.
I had been thrown out of 2 schools without exams of any kind. I also needed these for my CV as they are needed here in England.
I tackled Maths and passed, and then started English in an adult learning centre.
This was the turning point. This was the start of things looking up.
Not only did I enrol in an English course. I also enrolled in counselling skills, mindfulness, meditation and a self-awareness course. They were all calling me somehow. They all tied in.
Starting these classes was a massive step. I was feeling so depleted and wary.
Not for one second have I regretted my decision to start answering that question ‘What do I want’.
Life changing moments
Doors have opened for me in areas I never would have dreamt of before.
First, I was invited to be a volunteer in classes, then I was trained for a program called ‘Talk English’, and now I teach 2 classes of my own learners.
Then, I was invited to speak about learner journeys, addressing rooms full of people sharing my story. I’ve been humbled by those that have told me that I inspire them to start their own journeys.
Sharing my story has also been healing for me.
I have also met very supportive people including classmates and tutors who have enriched my life.
When back in that dark place of hurting from the narcissist, I would never have thought any of this would be my path.
It’s true what they say, leap and the net will appear.
This is how leaving narcissistic abuse behind changed my life. And I know this is just the beginning.
Yours can too. You can create the life you want. Trust in yourself and your own judgements. Ask yourself ‘what do I want’?
And share your story if you can. Your stories whether of the abuse or your recoveries will help others.
Please come forward and tell them. By looking out for others in sharing your wisdom, knowledge and experiences you raise awareness and help others. And when the time is right, you heal yourself even further.
There is life after narcissist abuse. It isn’t an overnight cure, it is often painful and tiring. But you are worth getting through the darkness.
Leaving narcissistic abuse behind changed my life.
Who knows what things are waiting for you around that corner? Leap and the net will appear. Leaving narcissistic abuse behind will change your life too.
We need to talk about the workplace narcissist more and the effect bullying has on the lives of those who are targeted. It isn’t OK.
I worked with an employer for 5 years, and the emergence of workplace bullying was subtle at first. A minor gripe here and there, snide comments that I managed to shrug off. But then things changed.
Processes taught to be correct, were now wrong. Goal posts shifted constantly. All my choices and decisions were second-guessed. My emails monitored.
When anything went wrong, all the blame was on me. I was criticised, and put down constantly. I was facing the classic workplace narcissist bully.
It got so bad that mid-2018, I broke down at a dinner with my family, and told them I was too scared to leave because I didn’t think I was good enough to work anywhere else. My confidence and self-belief were shattered.
I felt trapped, and for a long time I couldn’t find a way out. Instead, I found ways to cope, and in doing so, I found my courage to leave. You too can make this happen.
So here are 5 ways to overcome the workplace narcissist bully. These are the coping mechanisms that got me through 5 years of hell.
1. Discover your value
Even when I wasn’t at work, I was consumed by it. I judged my value on my work accomplishments. I couldn’t stop thinking about the relentless criticisms that came my way, and that according to the workplace narcissist, I couldn’t get things right.
It took me making the decision to quit to finally get myself out of this cycle. I knew that I couldn’t jump from one workplace to another carrying all this damage with me, I needed to start healing.
When you are in a workplace that makes you feel like you have no value, you’ve got to find your value elsewhere.
For me this was volunteering for a local not-for-profit. I no longer relied on my job to make me feel valid. I found it in other workplaces that recognised my value and that made all the difference when it came time to leave. I remembered, I am valid. I am valued.
2. Talk about it
About a month before I handed in my resignation letter, I started seeing a counsellor. She was everything I wasn’t because of the impact of the workplace bullying. She was tough, blunt, assertive, confident in herself.
In our first session, I was dubious, how can someone so different from me understand what I am going through? When I explained it, her only response was, “Crap hun, you’ve gotta get the hell outta there!”
Her immediate recognition of how dangerous and wrong the situation was, also validated how I was feeling and that something had to change. Overcoming the workplace narcissist’s gaslighting that it was all me started to loosen its grip at this point.
It felt good to talk to someone who didn’t know me. It was good to talk to someone outside the story and who could give an objective view. It was good to be heard.
Find someone who will listen. They don’t even have to give advice. It could even be your dog. Talk it out. Use your voice.
3. Self-care is key
Sunday nights became the worst night of the week for me. You’ll know what I mean if you’re also experiencing workplace bullying, knowing that the next morning you’re going into a toxic workplace. Paralysing dread takes place.
To de-stress, every Sunday night for about 6 months, I always had a bath. It was my time. I closed the bathroom door and refused to let any of the bad stuff enter that room.
Self-care made me feel like myself again, and less like the worthless human the workplace narcissist had made me feel. By taking time out for self-care I committed to stop overthinking, which halted my anxiety and helped me find clarity.
I know everyone is on the self-care bandwagon right now, but there is a reason for this. Don’t neglect yourself because you feel too busy or you feel selfish. If you don’t take some time for yourself, you’ll burn out and work will be 100% harder.
Give yourself the chance to reflect on what you need. Figure out what fills you up with energy and good vibes, and make that thing part of your routine.
4. It’s not you
For a long time, I believed that I was getting yelled at, criticised, and put down due to my own shortcomings. Despite all my hard work and what I was contributing to this company.
I started reminding myself that it wasn’t me. Instead of rushing to action once my boss screamed about something. I took a breath, paused to assess the problem, and looked into why it had occurred. 95% of the time I had no input or role in the situation.
I decided to stop letting their crazy burden me. I decided to stop taking it on. By reminding myself regularly ‘It’s not me’ I started to detach from the bullying which meant my internal reactions were that much easier to cope with.
Handing in my letter of resignation was one of the most amazing feelings I have ever experienced. I imagined it in my head many times before doing it. The reality was much less exciting but damn, it felt good.
You can’t expect change in a toxic environment with bullying. The framework is already there to support it and that won’t change anytime soon. You have to quit.
I know it’s scary. But trust me there are amazing workplaces out there that will support you, love you and grow you. Go out and find them.
On average, you will spend 13 years of your life at work, so find a job that makes you happy. It will change your life.
In the meantime, I promise that it’s not you. You are amazing. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.