Narcissistic Abuse = Prison Camp Effect

By Kim Saeed | Maintaining No Contact

Nov 06
narcissistic abuse prison camp

Don’t judge yourself by what others did to you.”
~ C. Kennedy, Omorphi

Dear Kim:

I’ve been struggling in the aftermath of Narcissistic abuse.  I’m still stuck in depression, low self-esteem, and an overall feeling of hopelessness.  I’ve been reading self-help books and they help some, but I always go back to feelings of lowliness.  I’ve also been following your blog, which is very helpful in understanding what happened, but emotionally, I can’t seem to move forward.  How long until my life is normal again?

~Angelina

Dear Angelina,

The feelings you are having are quite common.  From what you’ve shared with me via email, you were controlled, manipulated, and forced to gain your partner’s permission for everything that you did.  Even small things like how you wore your makeup, how you dressed, whether or not you could have friends, whether you could work outside the home, what you and your children ate for dinner, even which thoughts you were allowed to have…you had to do everything his way or there were consequences.

Free from the past

Free from the Past

Subconsciously, you feel as if he still holds the power and that you need his permission to move on.  Without it, you feel stuck.  That’s exactly how he wants you to feel.  Narcissists know what they are doing.  They know that in the event the relationship ends, you will still look to them for validation for EVERYTHING.  Since he’s no longer around, you wander the earth like the Walking Dead. Although your friends and family keep telling you that you are smart, successful, attractive, yet you didn’t believe any of it because you didn’t hear it from your abuser.  That’s a sign you’ve been emotionally manipulated.

I often refer to the psychological tactics of the Narcissist being similar to those of prison guards.  It’s not an analogy.  Narcissists DO use the same mental brainwashing as prison guards.  If you were to research the long-term effects of prisoners who were subjected to this type of abuse, you would find that they lost hope, too.  Sadly, many prisoners went into a corner and died from the sheer lack of hope.  They gave up.  Even the ones who were freed felt like they were still in a prison.  That’s what has happened to you.

Only YOU Can Set Yourself Free

You have forgotten that YOU are the one that holds the key.  You no longer need his permission for anything.  You don’t need to wait around for it anymore.  You need to give yourself permission to move on.

Key to Freedom

Key to Freedom

Surviving narcissistic abuse is a process.  It feels as if your abuser stripped away all of your confidence, self-esteem, joy, hope, and trust in other people.  During my own recovery, my therapist told me that those things weren’t really taken away.  They were buried underneath the mental abuse. Those positive feelings we once had about ourselves are like diamonds buried deep within the earth’s mantle, waiting to be unearthed again.  She was right.  We don’t have to start from square one and relearn love, trust, hope, etc.  We have to uncover them.

With all of that being said, you will need to process your grief.  These steps include:

  • Finding a good therapist who specializes in emotional abuse and/or trauma.  If you don’t have insurance, contact your local Domestic Violence center.  They offer fabulous resources such as reduced or free therapy and support groups.
  • Making sure you vent to people who have been through the same ordeal because they are the only ones who can understand and provide the proper support.  One of the worst mistakes one can make in recovery is assuming that everyone will understand, and then being met with damaging responses such as, “If he was so bad, why did you stay with him so long?”, “Just get over it”, and the like.  Quite frankly people who haven’t been abused won’t be able to help.  Save your energy for people who will.
  • Educating yourself about your disordered ex-partner.  This helps you understand that the way they behaved has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.  It also helps you discover that the hurtful, evil things they said weren’t true, but a product of projection and emotional manipulation.  However, be careful not to spend too much time on forums.  Doing so can cause you to feel worse, if not moderated.
  • Understanding that there will likely be a period where you will be angry with yourself for not spotting their deception sooner.  This is normal.

The Path Back to You

Back to Self

Road Back to Self

There comes a time in the recovery process where we have to let go of what they did to us.  That doesn’t mean forget it as though it never happened.  Letting go means acknowledging that you were abused, but taking the steps to move past it.  Again, it’s realizing that you hold the key to your future, not your abusive Ex.  Many people get stuck at this point because they fail to establish No Contact effectively.  The truth is, as long as we keep exposing ourselves to our toxic abuser, we will not heal.  There is absolutely no way around it.  If you are leaving a crack open for your Narcissistic Ex, you will not have a normal life, and you will continue to be miserable.

Starting the Journey Back to Self is also a process.  It’s best to take baby steps.  This is where you go on “adventures” to reclaim the person you were before you met your prison guard.  It will be different for everyone, but also the same in many ways.  Here are some examples:

  • If your abuser didn’t “allow” you to wear makeup or dress nicely, then fix yourself up and go out to the local library or bookstore.  Don’t go overboard or you will feel out of place.  Do what feels comfortable to you and makes you feel good about yourself.
  • If your abuser refused to let you hang out with your friends, call one of them and set a lunch date.
  • If you weren’t allowed to work outside the home, start looking for a job that you can ease into, perhaps starting part-time.  If you don’t have any skills, take some classes at your local community college.  Some community organizations offer classes for free.

These things will feel foreign to you at first.  But, once you perform them a few times, you will feel your old self coming back, little by little.  More importantly, you will realize that you DO hold the key to your future and happiness.

Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”
~ Jim Morrison

© Kim Saeed and Let Me Reach, 2014


Do you have a burning question about your partner’s dubious behaviors?  Submit them to support@letmereach.com and your question will be entered into our database and possibly included in a future publication. 

Want to heal from the effects of Narcissistic abuse?  Check out the The Essential No Contact Bootcamp.

*Originally posted Dec 31, 2013  Narcissistic Abuse = Prison Camp Effect.

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(21) comments

Kay April 17, 2015

Thanks for your blog, just found you and need as much help as I can grab right now. Something I’m struggling with that keeps me in the lowliness, is the fact that I have to go out and find a whole new set of friends because he’s so convincing..
I don’t just grieve the loss of dreams built with him (or so I thought) and the loss of him (or the lies he fed me until I realized they were lies) but it’s a whole new world for me..
This isn’t like loosing a job,, you don’t loose your friends too, at a job. They usually follow you through ups and downs.. But each time I was wiggling towards the door, he’d find a way to smear campaign the poo outta me, leaving me in my confusion while sitting in the realization that I’d lost another of my support.. And too often it was done behind my back so I had no clue (a couple friends had been gone for several years before I even found out the truth)..
Betrayal is traumatic.. It affects so much more than just self-esteem and finances.. It shakes us to our very core because betrayal is all about doing things behind another’s back.. where we have absolutely no fail safe or damage control..
And the worst thing is, that I introduced him to all those friends and gave him a recommendation by being with him and then he exploits it.. Lowliness.. boo hiss

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earlymorningroses November 14, 2014

Hi Kim,
I can not imagine you having the time to read and reflect on all those who have written what their experience and ordeal has been or still going through. This web page at the very least helps to me to understand how deep seated and plagued the society is. That a disordered self that is so destructive, abusive and manipulative that can become so dangerous – is anything but ‘normal’, but widely accepted as such and therefore the general blindness and acceptance, tolerance to an actual insanity. I miss my true self and the true selves of others that I once was more innocently involved with. Innocent in that we were together for true and real reasons like; I like you, you are my friend, I trust you, I love you, I enjoy being with you, I appreciate you, you are kind to me, you are respectful to me. I turned a corner back in the 1980’s going from myself, where survival was extremely difficult and just one disappointing let down and loss after the other. I think that led me to a madness, I felt I could not survive and that insanity was the only option and gave some thing of myself to it. I did not realize what I had done, but in that choice I had offered, sacrificed part of myself for just such a realm of madness and for whatever unknown thrived in that darkness – I was soon to find out. It was not so difficult to surrender to insanity – it has been a long journey out, to find a way back to myself. It has been a very long route and detour. When a person is alone in the world without support it just makes loss, disappointment and despair that much more of a struggle to handle on one’s own. I regret the choice of insanity, it was no security at all. The pain of a death in the loss of a relationship or a dream that seems to collapse – is very painful and a cavernous depth of sorrow and despair leads to a multiplicity of complex layered hurtful and further self wounding actions, perhaps even a physical death, numerous and countless individuals have fallen way and so have I. It seems all too common a circumstance in western culture and the Indigenous culture that has become surrounded by it. Perhaps it is in that dark place where the path then narrows to two choices – the abnormal self destruction, or the normal narcissistic abuser. It is difficult to see in opaque light that many more choices are available. It is a devastating thing to go through – recovering from it seems a lifelong process. It doesn’t seem so very different from cancer; the ticking time bomb inside the body, the cell in character and personality. It is kind and necessary for humanity to be secure from it and protected from such a cruel and disparate reality. So much is said about recovery – but I can sense the problem is widespread, amazingly so. Recovery, seems better a pronoun like – I am a Recoverist or I belong to the Recoverist committee. Individually it is but one small step, the hope for self and for the world to be human and humane. It alone does not change much but collectively, the more and more individuals who are taking that one giant little step – it helps to propel the collective energy toward a true life and reality and fulfillment of whole self. I feel confident that it must be one day, lest there be no world that has life, and contemplating that is an unthinkable tragedy that intelligence could not conceive. The worst of it begins in childhood – cut off and severed from self and human beings. What a sorrow for child dreams that could not fly, for the magnificent and perfect prism reflecting beautiful light that was smashed for dreaming mind and world because of the plethora of excuses from absurd adult world who wanted the best of both or at least what was taken or lost for them but to take it from their own child or another, and impoverishing them. It is the beginning and the end. The tragedy is a world that has no place for children but adult games of monopoly – who moves where and when, who wins, who is suppose to win – played out on society is insanity and made into history was, is, shamefulness and ignorance on humanity. I can not offer doubt, just means I really do not know. For child. for life, for earth, for love itself, come a time when the disease slough away for lack of a living host. I think that it is all the collective push and breath for the mother to bare down as the mind is opened up for the delivery of humanity into a world complete. Then will we truly be. I could not wish to have the opportunity again to step into human being shoes or being, it was so difficult and painful, and lonely. I wish to sparkle up in the sky one day like the billions of other stars, to not look upon the earth in horror or disgrace but to shine brilliantly for an amazingly beautiful life in all the life, brave, courageous, loving and true: human being you are exquisite and divine and I adore your light along with all the beings in the universe – a part of the whole; miraculous magnificence.

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Natalie Monroe November 13, 2014

ahhh. Now at least I don’t think I’m going crazy. Although my narc has left, he still calls me everyday. I feel stuck. I don’t want him back now, but I can’t seem to let him go. My greatest fear is that he’ll come up empty on his end and show up at my door again.

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    Kim Saeed November 13, 2014

    That’s exactly how they keep us enmeshed for years and why it’s critical that you go No Contact. If he shows up at your door, don’t answer it. If he won’t go away, call the cops. We’re talking about a life sentence here. If you don’t cut him out of your life, you will spend the rest of it in misery and shame.

    Reply
      RecoveringSiri November 13, 2014

      Hi Kim. I just want to first say that I am so glad and grateful that I came across this. It’s kind of like a self – help group for me. It gives me insight and hope to get better. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one on this recovery journey from am ex Narc. Anyway, my husband and I are still legally married, but we are now separated. He moved to Florida because his on and off again g/f (she is actually a Narc herself…She is more of a Non – Vulnerable Narc) took their new born child (which he has doubt is his, but won’t get a DNA test done and accepts the child as his, disregarding any doubt he has) away and up and moved to Florida. There was a time period where he said he stopped being intimate with her and cut off communication with her and was trying to make things work with me and he said he had realized that is what he needed to do because he felt she was not good for him nor his life at all and that he suspected that she wasn’t being “loyal” because he found some questionable messages in her Facebook inbox when she accidentally left her Facebook page open on his laptop. So he was trying to get away from her because he felt “betrayed” but all of a sudden she popped up like a month or 2 later saying she was pregnant and it was his. And like I said before, he had doubt it is his child, but decided not to do a DNA test and accepts his daughter as his. But back to what I was saying, He soon followed the girl about 3 months later after she up and left and took their daughter. He kept saying that he didn’t want to be out of his child’s life as his daughter grows up. And he said he knows too well how it feels to not have your biological father around, considering his was never around and when he finally tried to reach out to his dad, his dad basically disregarded him. So my husband has always felt that his dad doesn’t love him because of this. He has always felt that his dad only loves and is more concerned about his family that he has now. My husband and his mother were close until he reached about 13, his adolescent years, when she got married to her now husband. My husband said his step dad was great to him when he was dating his mom, but completely changed and was demanding and rude and controlling toward him and his mom once he married her. His mom obeys everything his step dad basically requests or asks (probably in fear of losing him and being alone) and she basically put aside her own relationship with her son (my husband) and mainly focused on her career and her husband’s needs. So he basically doesn’t want his daughter to ever have to experience any of what he went through as a child when he grew up. So he finally left me and followed where his Narc. Baby mama went (Florida) to try to make things work with her so that their child can have what he never had…A united and loving family unit. His Narc. Baby mama also had a horrible upbringing, much worse than his. She was a foster child that was basically passed from family to family because they either sexually or violently abused her or they just couldn’t handle her always getting into trouble in High School (which she didn’t complete…She had to get her GED because she dropped out). She is addicted to alcohol and weed. The has a hot and quick temper, especially when she doesn’t get her way. She always places blame on everyone else. She swears up and down that people are jealous of her, even though I don’t know what we’d be jealous of. Her life is constantly a moving wreck. She can never keep a job. She doesn’t even really want one. She thinks that “normal jobs” are below her. She would rather make quick money. She wants to be a musician (rapper). She has a grand, larger than life ego, like she is just the best thing ever made. But I know that she is extremely insecure. She doesn’t like other races of people. She doesn’t like Hispanic or Caucasian people. She doesn’t like the law at all. She has been in tons of trouble and uses different aliases to try to protect her real identify whenever she gets in trouble. So let’s fast forward to today… She is still super controlling and she uses everything to her advantage and even uses the child as a tool to get what she wants from my husband or to keep him on a tight leash. He allows her to go through his phone and email. So when I used to try to contact him, she’d just pick up the phone and answer or reply to my texts and was always rude and always reminding me that he chose her over me and that she’s “better” than me. Okay….Here are my questions to you Ms. Kim, 1. When my husband and I were together it seemed like he was more of a Non – Vulnerable Narc. But now that he is with her, it seems like he is a Vulnerable Narc. Because he basically hands her over control, but wouldn’t give me any (and no, I wasn’t demanding or extreme like the other girl is…I’m more of a Codependent Borderline) so is it possible that a Narc can switch like that? 2. My husband seems like he us moving on…I’m mean, he moved to another state and is trying to make things work with the other girl and they now have a child so he definitely wants to make it work with her now and he’s basically completely ignoring me and making no effort to contact me (and the other girl is definitely making sure of that), but he won’t file for divorce or even talk to me about divorce. When we used to talk, I would even try to talk about divorce with him and he’d always try to avoid the subject and say we’d talk about it another time and it would never get seriously talked about. Then finally he’d say “If you want a divorce, then get it. It’s all up to you. You have to do what you feel you need to do.” And that made me upset because it didn’t help with making a mutual decision and he knew a divorce is not what I ever wanted so him saying this just made me upset. So why won’t he file or at least discuss a divorce when he is the one that has basically moved on? 3. Do you think that he will ever try to reach out to me? I know I shouldn’t, but I miss him and would like to hear from him. I haven’t been able to speak to him in 7 months. Last time I talked to him, I texted him and I didn’t think he would respond, but he did. He actually called me instead of texting. He didn’t say he missed me, but it seemed like he did. He didn’t want to get off of the phone with me. When I needed to do something and told him is would call him back in 10 minutes, he’d ask me what it was I had to do and didn’t want to get off of the phone. But when I kept promising him I’d call back in 10 minutes, he would finally agree to hang up. After 10 minutes would pass, he’d call me when it reached like 12 minutes. We literally talked all day that day and he even let me speak to his little daughter. She was only about 5 months old at the time (she is 11 months now) He told me that the girl was in the Psych Ward (which this is like the 4th time that she’s been in there that I know of) again. I didn’t ask why she was in there a d he didn’t tell me why. Seemed like he was embarrassed, kinda like he was ashamed to tell me she was in there because it would be admitting that he chose the wrong person and that she still hasn’t changed at all, even after becoming a mom. He said she thought she’d change now that she is a mom, but she hasn’t. He said he wanted to make sure him and his daughter have a healthy and stable environment so he was not going to allow her to live with him, just Co-Parent separately. But next day I tried to contact him, but he was ignoring me. Then finally, the girl picked up. So she was back.I haven’t spoken to him since. Guess I wonder if he’ll ever miss me and contact me?

      Reply
      Natalie November 15, 2014

      I just came across your post about codependency. First thing in the morning, I plan to learn more. I think this is my problem. I thought maybe borderline, which is a self=esteem disorder. Are they related?

      Reply
        Kim Saeed July 17, 2015

        Natalie, before you diagnose yourself as being borderline, just know that narcissistic abuse can cause people to behave in ways that mimic borderline traits.

        Reply
cuckquean kitten November 11, 2014

Permission to move on….
Was exactly what i needed. Thankfully i’m finding that inside me now. FINALLY! Its been a long hard struggle!

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RecoveringSiri November 9, 2014

Hi. I have been married to a Narcissist husband for about 6 years now and we’ve known each other 7 years. We married very young. I was 19 and he was 18 at the time. I am now 25 and he is now 24. Thus far at this very moment, He has now completely move on (at least that’s what it seems like) with his new family. He now has a 11 month year old daughter with a woman who is actually an extreme Narcissist/Histrionic person, herself. Her disorder is way more extreme than my husband’s. In fact, it seems as though my husband still has some narcissistic ways about him, but now that he is with her, he seems to have taken on the role of the more codependent one in their relationship. Before being with her, he never had a woman like her, or maybe I should say, like himself. The woman, herself, actually has traits of codependency, as well, but only mainly when he tries or threatens to leave her. That is when her codependency/histrionic side comes out. She becomes irrational, violent against him or even herself, etc. She just becomes very verbally, emotionally, and physically drastic until she reels him back in and then she returns to her narcissistic and controlling ways….once it seems he has gone back to his codependent ways. It’s so crazy, because I always wondered why he wanted her so badly or just couldn’t seem to give her up or get her out of his system, but now that I have taken time to really research and study all of these behaviors and disorders, it all makes perfect since, even though sometimes a little complex at times. As bad as I feel for myself (a codependent when I was with him), I feel much more empathy for the innocent child. But my husband absolutely loves and adores his daughter and works 2 jobs to make sure she has whatever it is she needs and loves spending time with his daughter and loves being a father, in general. It’s the mother I’m concerned about. She tends to use the baby as a “tool,” especially when there is any disagreements between her and my husband or if he tries or threatens to leave her. She then becomes verbally, emotionally, and physically drastic and abusive to either my husband or herself or both, even going so far as to convincing him that their child will suffer if they don’t make things work as a family. And considering that he has always wanted to be a good father and have a close nit family because that is what he has never had before, that is something he definitely doesn’t want to happen. So he stays to try to make things work. She always promises that she will try to change, but that she needs him to stay and not give up on her. And I guess he has it stuck in his head that he can save her because that is where his now codependent traits start to chime in. It’s so crazy how he was a complete narcissist with me in our marriage, but more if a codependent in theirs because she has more of the role as a narcissist. Okay, now that you have a background view of where I am coming from or the type of person I have dealt with, I want to know why won’t my husband divorce me if he clearly has moved on and has his own family and situation going on with her? They live together and he has absolutely no communication with me at all. And of course, she makes sure of it. He allows her to constantly go through his phone and email and anything else she wants to go through to constantly remind her that she is in control and that he isn’t going to abandon his family. Why won’t he file for divorce? As a codependent person, it is difficult to get the nerve to file for a divorce myself so I guess as much as it would hurt, I’d rather him file for a divorce. I guess I feel like maybe I’d feel more reliever if he did it. If that makes any sense at all. But so far, there aren’t any signs of him filing any time soon. I used to ask him “what do you think we should do?” OR “What do you think I should do?” Should I file for a divorce because maybe you don’t feel there is any hope for us or should I stick it out a bit longer because maybe you feel we have a chance down the line?” And he would tell me “I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. That has to be solely up to you. You have to do whatever you think is right for you.” In my mind I was like “Wtf?!? That is a cowardly comeback or statement to make. You danced around an honest and direct answer that I deserve to help seek a resolution.” I honestly wish that instead of asking the question I asked, I would have asked “WHY WON’T YOU FILE FOR A DIVORCE AND DIVORCE ME?” But now that we don’t talk anymore, I guess I’ll never get to ask that and even if I got the chance, probably wouldn’t get an honest answer. SMH. So I guess that’s why I’m here asking you.

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GemGirl November 7, 2014

So much wisdom and especially this point from you, Kim: “The truth is, as long as we keep exposing ourselves to our toxic abuser, we will not heal. There is absolutely no way around it. If you are leaving a crack open for your Narcissistic Ex, you will not have a normal life, and you will continue to be miserable.”

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gabi November 7, 2014

can you expand this about being raised by a narcistic emotional vampire parent? and there is no “before” to tap into? ( i am referring to a sentence in this article about before the marriage one had some semblance of self – not your words, but that is how i interpreted it – if that is ok?)

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    Kim Saeed November 13, 2014

    Gabi, if you Google “Adult Child of Narcissist”, you can find lots of pages and resources about Narcissistic parents. My experience and expertise lies in romantic relationships, and I don’t want to give you inaccurate information. Best of luck as you research. I hope you find some resources that resonate with you and will prove helpful.

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alienorajt November 7, 2014

Thank you for posting this today, Kim; it was exactly what I needed to read – and your point about trust in others being covered but not gone makes me want to cry from combined grief and that tiny ghost of potential reassurance/healing. xxx

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secretangel November 6, 2014

Powerful. “Letting go means acknowledging that you were abused, but taking the steps to move past it.” Amen!! Thanks for sharing.

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This is great and exactly what I needed to hear!

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jess November 6, 2014

You’ll never find someone who will put up with your crazy. I want to have kids, but not with you because I refuse to have a 300 lb wife. I think about killing myself all the time because you don’t do enough for me…

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barb sprigings November 6, 2014

ugh, I can’t read some of this stuff..! Was S on this extreme end?

Sent from my iPad

>

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Surayya November 6, 2014

Same here, My ex N focused on my physical self too. From me being gorgeous attractive looking, by him, to all of sudden he changed his opinions and found flaws in every part of my physical body. My make up was never enough for him, I had to cake myself up. Kim, you stated do what makes you comfortable and what makes me feel good. I do, I go out with absolute no make up. I want to look naturally beautiful, but than I get remarks from outsiders ” are you not well today?” ” seems like you did not sleep well last night!” but I continue to not apply make up only on certain occasions I do. These men are horrible human beings, mine was down right not good looking at all, he thought he was !. I did not go for looks, I went for humbleness ( he was at the beginning ), soft spoken ( little did I know i was being charmed into his web of lies and deceit ). Yes I too have my days where I can’t forgive myself for ever being involved with such low life man. I wish I had just been strong and firm and not loved.

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Joyce M. Short November 6, 2014

Angelina-

Kim’s advice is spot on!

I’d like to make one more suggestion that I find helpful in getting back on the path to self esteem. There is nothing that makes us feel better about ourselves than helping others. I find that doing volunteer work gives people a leg up and out of their self-focus. Finding a soup-kitchen or hospital or school where kids need learning assistance can go a long way to making us feel empowered and in-control once again.

Another helpful behavior is getting endorphin-pumping physical exercise. Especially when your self-esteem is down in the dumps. Force yourself out the door for a rigorous walk around the block! Put on your favorite record and dance up a storm in your living room! Don’t sit and think….. you’ve gotta get yourself moving!

Yes, those ruminations will come back when you stop, but pretty soon, you’ll be able to tap back into those good feelings and guide yourself back to the activities that will make you feel better.

You’re going through a process of grieving your losses. If you lost a loved one, you’d be bereft. Guess what…. no matter how badly you were injured, you lost a loved one. Give yourself the space to grieve your losses and the behaviors that will put your self-esteem back on track.

Wishing a speedy recovery!

Joyce

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    Kim Saeed November 13, 2014

    Thanks, Joyce! Very uplifting and accurate advice. I hope many others will see your input 🙂

    Reply
1smiles November 6, 2014

My exNarc focused his emotional abuse toward my physical self. His comments caused me to feel unattractive, unworthy and lower than pond scum. (For the record, pond scum is teaming with new life!) And so am I!

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