Don’t feel abandoned – know that you’ve grown.
It was an unpleasant experience, and not one you expect at 54.
She had been a close friend for decades although an ocean had always divided our views and lifestyles. But somehow we rumbled along, helped by the geographic distance that meant our visits were infrequent.
Nonetheless, fortnightly telephone calls kept us in touch and she was one of the very few with an intimate knowledge of the life events that had crushed me in the previous 7 years. Events from which I was still recovering when Covid came along to completely obliterate the progress made.
But I’d picked up on some unpleasant, half whispered comments in my direction, which I excused as her just having a bad day.
The comments increased in frequency and their egregious nature, defying reasonable explanation, and culminated in her final attempt to publicly embarrass me and bring stress into my life. Quite deliberately and knowingly.
The reason (I think) was almost as surreal as her reaction.
After being repeatedly prodded in the chest for an opinion about a bloke that she’d had a few dates with, I couldn’t body swerve it any longer. But when the opinion was finally offered it wasn’t the one that she wanted.
A narcissist strikes again!
I pride myself on being able to spot a narcissist from a mile off these days. I have hard learned experience, as the reason my life had imploded was due to the one I married having a whole other London life with a child on the way, while I was keeping his bed warm in Wales.
This episode with a friend was simply a nip on the arm compared to the full blown assault of body and mind that my husband’s narcissism had dealt me. But still, it left me unsettled, and in the main because I didn’t see it coming.
But was that really the case?
Just like my husband, the signs had been there all along but I chose to silence the voice telling me so, due to loyalty. The loyalty of a wife to a husband she loves, and the loyalty that you extend to a friend of thirty years.
As I had looked from a distance at the fire that burned within them both, I could feel the threatening heat. But only when my hand was thrust into the searing flames did I truly appreciate how the skin blisters.
For a narcissist to prosper they must have a victim, and I was that victim. A victim being someone whose own boundaries are permeable, and who trusts, tries to be approachable and easy going.
But while the victim of the narcissist is hurt by their flaws, these days I better understand why the narcissist behaves the way that they do. That certainly doesn’t make it right, and nor does it lessen the pain that they inflict on others, but whereas I would once be blindsided by it, now I get it. And now I know that the narcissist is struggling with their own identity and sadness in life.
But their behaviour merely serves to perpetuate their sadness.
Living in an insatiable mode of competition. Funneling energy into plotting and scheming, determined to be triumphant and have the last say. Seeking out any little perceived hurt and being hellbent on revenge. It’s exhausting!
Existing in this state of relentless hyper vigilance is the polar opposite to relaxing into your authentic self, which in turn means that you can’t experience real love and friendship. And for most humans that really is what life is all about.
And hyper vigilance becomes addictive. Living in an adrenaline – fueled body is highly damaging to you physically, but it also energizes which can make you oblivious to that damage.
I lived with hyper vigilance for two years because of the breakdown of my marriage. It didn’t manifest itself in me lashing out at others, not even the woman who knowingly got involved with my husband nor the man himself. But that might have been because my deep distress channeled the adrenalin in a more benign direction, rather than a conscious decision on my part.
Shredding shirts or cleaning the dog’s teeth with his brush required way too much calculation than my traumatized and foggy brain could have handled then.
But hyper vigilance meant that I was constantly looking out for the next freight train with my name on it. And that stole so much of my emotional supply that I wasn’t aware of the little pieces of potential joy and happiness that presented themselves.
And even then, at the lowest time of my life, they were there. Not in huge abundance, but nonetheless the darkness was studded with a few jewels of joy that would have accelerated my healing had I have spent more time focusing on them, as opposed to that freight train that I was sure was in the distance.
So, the narcissist is living life the tough way and they need support and education to understand that. But from my experience, their refusal to accept this truth just furthers the pain and the hurt and that’s when there is a decision to be made.
I’ve learned never to expect sorry from a narcissist. It requires a degree of vulnerability that they cannot show up with. And neither is there any point in initiating a rational conversation about how the relationship has ended up where it has. That just results in ramped up aggression and more attack.
All that is left is to walk away. Which is what I have done.
In the case of my marriage (and great love), the distress and devastation that it caused took years to come to terms with. In the case of my friend, it’s a source of sadness that a long friendship should end like this. But I know that I can’t control how somebody else behaves, only how I react to it.
Whether another narcissist will come into my life again, who knows. The only sure way of preventing it is to live in hyper vigilance and mistrust everyone, and I prefer to give a person a chance.
But at least if they do, then the knowledge I’ve gleaned will protect me from the long lasting damage that I was once susceptible to.
And that’s when you know that you haven’t lost anything. When you can side-step the damage and use it for personal growth.