I love the metamorphic dance of the butterfly. From slow, awkward, unattractive, caterpillar to elegant, graceful, beautiful, butterfly. This dance is symbolic, illustrating our deep desire to shed the things that hold us back, spread our wings and take flight. It’s our collective hope, that we can start from where we are, and transform into our true potential. It can also represent a type of awakening, after a long slumber, or even a rebirth.
Many people walk through life asleep, never questioning what is, never aspiring to be more, or to grow. These people go through the motions and just accept what is. They are the walking dead. I know they exist, because I was one of them.
My deep slumber was the time that I had abandoned myself, when my life became all about someone else. I had forgotten about the little joys in life, the things that gave me pleasure and I had completely forgotten about all of the things my soul craved for its own growth and happiness. Those were dark times, when I lived in a fog, almost like something else had taken over my body. It felt foreign and unnatural, but little by little it was who I became.
I remember feeling invisible and it became normal to feel that way, because the I, who used to exist, no longer did. My Narcissist was visible, so visible, he was all I saw, all anyone saw, of the couple that was us. We did what he wanted to do, went where he wanted to go, our friends were his friends. He was the one that stood out. He had talent, he was beautiful, special, he was the star. I was just the driver of his fan club bus. I became numb to who I was, polishing his star became my normal. I never once stopped to wonder who I would be, if I was no longer HIS girl. So I remained invisible.
The uniqueness that was once me, that he pretended to love, was now an agreeable, broken, shell, who always had to bend and keep the peace to keep him happy. Neither of us knew how to communicate, but it was implied that everything would always be about him. It was just easier that way. And I accepted those terms fully and completely and after a while and for whatever reason, the us that had existed for so long, no longer pleased him and he was gone. There was no discussion, no fixing, and no working things out. Once he made the decision that he was moving on, he did.
I will never forget the smug look on his face as I cried. He got off on my begging and pleading and the state he left me in. He gloated and drank his fill of my hurt, he wore it like a shawl that comforted him and kept him warm.
I however was naked and crawling around in the dark, paralyzed with a crushing pain in my chest and an overwhelming fear. I didn’t have anywhere to go, no one to turn to, not even myself, because he had eroded my belief that I could care for myself long ago. He called me helpless and weak and I believed him.
Soon my fear turned to anger and my anger drove me forward. It was the most powerful force I have ever encountered in my life. It wasn’t negative. It was a strange kind of energy source. It was all mine and it fueled me. It was the catalyst that would hurl me further, than I ever dreamed I was capable of going.
But taking those first steps was terrifying. I felt like a newborn colt on shaky legs. It felt as though the universe had picked up my life and shook it like a snow globe and everything was chaos. I knew what I had to do. I had to rediscover who I was, I had to reconnect with me, but there was no how-to manual, so I inched and clawed my way forward. I remember making a phone call to a friend. I had been lying in bed for days. I asked him, “What do I do?” He replied, “Just do the little things.”
Just Do The Little Things
Doing the little things for me, was getting out of bed, brushing my teeth, eating, cleaning my house. Those were the first steps. The next ones were harder.
I met my Narcissists when we were 21 and all this time later, after the break-up, I felt like I was 21 again. I remembered 21 year old me, she was bold, confident, ambitious and smart. She liked sports, the big city, going to clubs and dancing with her girls. She had lots of friends, she was popular, fun, adventurous and the life of the party. But I wasn’t her anymore. So, who was I?
There were so many things that I had given up and let go of, all in the name of love, but now I was free to do whatever I wanted. I felt like a puppy that had been let outside for the first time. The world was so new, with endless possibilities. I could like what I wanted to like, do what I wanted to do and spend time with whomever I wanted to.
I went crazy for a little while, I blew through a lot of money, trying to figure out what made me happy and maybe even trying to buy my way out of sorrow. I don’t recommend shopping and spending, but I was figuring things out as I went. All I knew was that pampering myself felt good, so I kept doing it.
I bought new, expensive, high thread count bed sheets. It sounds so funny, but sliding into my warm cozy, soft bed made me feel good, so it prompted me to do more. I bought all sorts of smelly candles, beautiful wine glasses, a water fountain, throw pillows, whatever I wanted.
I liked to spend time with my friend Isabelle, so we hang out at the local coffee bar and talked and talked for hours. I bought books and more books and I read outside in the sun, on patios, I read in the bathtub. I read whenever I wanted to. I liked flowers and I filled my space with them – they looked and smelled so beautiful. I ran along the beach. Not only was I getting the natural endorphins from running, but I got to soak in all the eye candy of the natural landscape. It was like I had never seen it before, like I had been blind, but now I saw everything with new eyes.
The more little things I did that made me happy the more I wanted to do. The need to be happy seemed to gain momentum. Soon I was going out with friends all the time, I took classes for fun, I babied myself at the spa, got mani-pedi’s, bought soooo many new clothes and shoes, so many I had to buy two giant shoe racks from floor to ceiling just to hold them all.
At times I felt like an infant learning to walk, but once I got the hang of it, I took off and didn’t look back. The pain was ebbing and I was free. This new freedom felt so incredible. It felt like a gift. And I kept coming back to the question of, why did I ever allow myself to be involved with someone that made me so unhappy. I vowed that I would never again abandon myself.
The rest of my life was going to be about me, about nurturing my soul, and enveloping myself in things that made me feel good.
When you have experienced deprivation, the act of allowing is pure bliss. It’s euphoric. It involves a huge emotional learning curve. It completely adjusts your attitude, because what you had previously taken for granted, is now garnered with sanctity. You never again look at it the same way – you build an appreciation and a respect and it is here, where your resolve is born, where you grow as a being and come to an understanding of what is good and healthy and what is right – and what isn’t.
Narrowing Your Focus
It takes time to wade through the pain, hurt and fear, but each little step towards finding your joy makes it easier. It keeps you moving in the right direction and focused on the right things –namely, you.
Once you’ve got yourself on the highway out of Hurtsville, focus on creating stability, independence and harmony.
Start thinking about your career and your purpose. Change jobs if yours is unfulfilling. If going back to school is the answer, there is no better time to do it, then while you are in a transitional period. Putting all of that energy into your future feels incredibly uplifting.
I came to realize that I was my best asset, I had tones of potential, all I had to do was have faith and invest in me.
I stabilized my relationships, I got back into the habit of calling my friends on a regular basis, and I made time for them.
Spend time with your family and loved ones and create a support structure. You’ll find that, even if you have previously shut them out, because of your Narcissist, the important ones will forgive you and welcome you back with open arms.
Finding you again, is a difficult journey, but the toughest ones in life are the ones that teach us the greatest lessons. They jolt us out of our complacency. They wake us up in this world and they force us to take action. Once you have taken the little steps and stabilized your environment, take the time to reconnect with your spirit, and vow that you will never abandon you, again.
Always stay in your bliss and take center stage in the story of your life. Let go of the wobbly old caterpillar and become the butterfly you were born to be.
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I loved this – so resonated with me! I’m stronger now – but boy those dark days! & he saw my strength growing – then can back to pull me back down – & like an idiot (because I still loved him) I took it – let him. But eventually you see it for what it is & as much as it hurts because it won’t change, enough is enough. No lower, no more hurt, no tears left. That’s why I like the butterfly analogy – wow to think I’m a butterfly now – small flowers first – then Spread my wings & fly off to the whole world of flowers- I like that 🙂
Amazing. I am just at the start of the same journey of metamorphosis. Fortunately for me when I started mine, I had my therapist right there with me. She recognised my narcissist for what her was, the pattern of the previous narcissists in my life and the source of my susceptibility to narcissists – my narcissistic mother. With her help, my homework of checking up what narcissist’s do and finding these essays by Savannah Grey, my healing is starting to take on leaps and bounds.
The real eye opener for me was the essay by Savannah “Growing Up Narcissist: The Narcissistic Parent and Child Abuse”. My mother was the extreme case portrayed there. Along with this conditioning and event that occurred in my early team my emotional development didn’t have a chance against the subsequent narcissists. At least now in mid life I am discovering my life and I can be responsible for anyone elses.
Big thank yous to Sara (my psychologist) and Savannah. They haven’t met and are unlikely too, but both have helped me have an epiphany of understanding and Sara was please I did my homework by reading Savannah’s writing. Working hand in hand sort of it helped my understanding of what narcissist can do.
Yes I think I can say I am truly starting to feel like a butterfly.
as i read these articles and comments of woman who can relate to my situation i get teary eyed. for so long i knew and felt in my heart that something was incredibly wrong with my relationship beyond just not working out. no relationship is perfect but what i was experiencing was extreme. so extreme that i started looking online and researching different personality disorders and when i came across Narcissist i was overwelmed because evry single trait fit my partner to the T. i allowed this behavior for the past 12 years . it didnt start out bad of course but there are things that were going on that now i look back and see just werent normal. now 12 years and a 3 year old son later i recently decided to end the relationship . we had broken up for a while and he came back crying to me and telling how he had a epiphany and he was sorry and wanted to apologize for everything hes put me through over the years and wanted to make up for it. i waited soo long for him to say those words to me i felt like a burden was lifted and all the resentment bitterness coldness i felt for him just magically left and i was free again free to love him with no boudaries. everyday he showered me with compliments , took me on shopping spree, we went out to events i felt like the luckiest woamn alive. but slowly but surely he began to change back into the man that i left. and he made it his point to say it was because of Me because i didnt listen to everythinghe saud or do eveything he told me to . he saud even if i didnt understand what he was telling me i should just do it because i was so incapable of steering my own life in the right direction that it was best i let him control everything !!! i never felt so alone so numb and so sad. he started to withdraw affection there was no more kisses no hugs no nothing our sex became meaningless at times during forplay he wouldnt even look at me or he would look at a porno to become aroused and once he was then he would insert me on my side almost never face to face . even though when we got back together our sex life was so intense we text me throughout the day and tell me how satisfied he was. nut recently told me how i was boring in bed and if i didnt do things to spice things up or engage in sexual acts that he wanted he would cheat on me . imaginne hearing this from someone you loved with everything inside of you i was devestated. i could write a book about the things that went on in this relationship . but the last draw was when he involved our son when i told him it was over he implied that he will continue to do Nothing for him and its my fault because i knew he didnt want him here anyway!! so i should continue to struggle get on the bus with my son because i willnever own a car because i cant afford it and find another Daddy for him. and when my son gets older hell explain all of this to him and hell understand why he did what he did !! it breaks my heart because my son is really attached to him and loves him to death . but hes never really interatcts with him he does a lil hey man or does about 2min. of playtime with him then hes bk to watching tv or texting on his phone. i feel like i hve no one to talk to because unless you been with a narsissit you you wont understand what im going through its a lot more deep than him just being a asshole beacuase even a asshole has a sole this man cant possibly. people on the outsude cant see him for who he truly is because hes good looking charmimg has monrey drives around in a 80000 car ect.. reading these post and the more educated i bacome on this disorder the stronger i become thank you for your blogs and information and to the woman who have gone through this or who are still dealing this type of indidvidual i pray for you and hope you find your strenghth .
Just want to thank you for this blog because we seem to be surrounded by people who have no idea, who advise of how “relationships are hard, and take a lot of work” implying that I didn’t work hard enough, etc. They just do not understand that life with a narcissist is like being on the space ship with in Alien. It is horrible, and just when you think you have finally killed it, it rises up again. I don’t think anyone without the experience can fathom it, and thank you woman for sharing your experiences! And I do have a few close friends who fathom it. It is the casual friends and acquaintances who make the comments.
@Kathy – None of our friends are going to understand unless they’ve been through it themselves with an N, or have their own serious issues with boundaries/self-esteem/co-dependency, or addiction. Much like how war veterans cannot seek solace from civilians and therefore really need the support of their fellow vets and therapists, the same goes for us.
No disrespect for those who have served, but I really see all of us on this community as survivors of a unique type of combat, an emotional and psychological war that was waged against us.
For me, the friend issue has been a difficult part of picking up the pieces of my life after I left my N. ALL of my friends, except for one close friend, cannot fathom this and just do not get it. They treat what happened to me as though it is a typical break-up, and express trite, embroidered-pillow sayings for to console me.
I’m going on 4 months of leaving my N, and my friends have all asked me if I have heard from my N. They think I was very extreme to block him electronically by every means possible and that I’ve gone No Contact. They ask me all the time who I’m dating now, and then why I am not dating and “bouncing back” from this, as though I’m a college girl who just left the boy she had dated for 6 months.
It’s really annoying, but it’s not their fault. They just don’t have the capacity to understand — which to me speaks volumes about their character. They cannot understand what my N did, and why I stayed, because they are normal, healthy people who would never treat anyone the way my N does, and they have good boundaries and would never let someone do this to them.
Anyway, the long answer: I’ve learned the past few months that we really cannot talk about what happened to us with our friends. For me, it’s made me feel worse. This online community and a licensed therapist is the best way to go, I think.
I am just one month out of a roller coaster ride. I feel numb, I can’t cry, can’t feel can’t laugh. I live in a foreign country by myself which makes it worse. I really have no one to talk to about my experience. Your articles are a great source of strength and inspiration. Thank you.
Also wanted to comment on HM’s post and the reponse from Savannah- my mom told me once to use my stubbornness in a different way- never knew what she meant until I finally stopped acting desperate for my Nar and took back my power. Instead of clinging to him for his minor duckets of approval, I turned that fire inward and told myself “F him and he was lucky to know me” and went NC. That power or “anger” fuels you to get yourself back or at least put you on that path toward gaining yourself back. I’ll never have his love or approval and what he thinks of me doesn’t matter. It’s a BIG world out there and we all deserve love from someone who is capable of giving it.
Thanks for the beautiful words. Helps so much. Cannot begin to express how much I relate to your blog and how much it empowers me. Just thanks.
Yes, I went around and around I figure over 2000 times and I STOPPED a year ago. He is still pestering me to go around again.
So similar, I told him as he was walking out “I dimmed my light because you needed to shine so bad”….and I vow to never dim my light for anyone ever again. If it’s love of any kind, they’ll want you to shine brightly…I shrunk so small to please him.
The pain is still there, it’s been a year after a 14year relationship but I have perspective and I’m getting stronger and growing more every day. A year ago I said I couldn’t do it, but one day, one moment at a time, I’m emerging.
I actually would recommend that a victim of an N, especially those of us who supported our Ns financially, to go shopping and spend some money on themselves. This applies to both women and men.
Of course, I don’t advocate going into debt or living outside of your means. But to me, this is such an important step in getting back to you. We deserve to spend our hard-earned dollars on ourselves!
Deprivation is mentioned in this column. Aside from the immaterial, I deprived myself of all the material things I needed and wanted, along with basic, general self-care, because I was financially supporting my N.
I went without for a very, very, long time. Didn’t get my hair cut at my favorite salon. Didn’t buy new shoes, and the pairs I did own were starting to look ragged. Didn’t buy any new clothes. Absolutely nothing for myself. Why? I couldn’t afford to support two people on one income. I was paying for someone else’s basic necessities.
It was not a noble sacrifice. One day I woke up and asked myself why in the F was I supporting this lazy POS? I was not a parent who needed to go without to support their child. I was going without to support a grown-ass man who was capable of making his own living, but came up with excuse after excuse as to why he couldn’t. I still want to slap myself silly over allowing this.
When I finally kicked his worthless ass out and I got my finances back on track, I at long last, spent money on myself.
I cannot express how glorious it felt to buy a new pair of shoes. I actually cried when I came home with the box and put the shoes on and walked around my apartment, and they were not anything fancy-schmancy like Louboutins. Just the act of going to the store to try them on made me feel like me again.
If you have neglected yourself, PLEASE go get something for yourself that you’ve been wanting now that your N isn’t around to eff everything up. Even if it’s as small as buying a high-end shampoo because the smell makes you happy, a new cologne or bottle of wine you’ve been wanting to try, go do it!
Love all your blogs but I especially enjoyed this one. I’m 18 months out of a 15 year narcissist relationship and can identify so much with what you’ve said. Sometimes I literally jump for joy at my newfound freedom, something I hope I will never take for granted again. Just reading your blog makes me jump for joy again! 🙂
After nearly a year of counselling I found the thing that helped me was a personal trainer starting too look after myself … spent money on new clothes wasnt interested in other men just did it for myself
I still fighting the urge to go back he still constantly asking being nice then nasty
I lost 2 business and myself thorough him and his domestic violence I been on same roundabout
I liked your reply I know now im getting stronger back to who I was im going to start a fresh business abd ever time I feel weak and he telling me how he changed im going to read your words of how broken he is and how he never be happy
I just left a 23 year marriage to a narcissist and I have so much freed-up thinking time I’m a bit lost as to how to fill it. I vacillate from grief to anger to excitement about new possibilities.
Thank you for your beautiful timely post.
So like my experience!
However, and this is probably not coincidence, when I finally realized I was ready to let go and knew I would be happier by myself, HE decided that he didn’t want to leave me after all.
Surprising how that happens and then when you give in and go back the same things keep happening and around and around you go.
While much of the anger has dissipated, I find trouble reaching true happiness. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments of happiness. And yes, life without the constant harassment, verbal abuse, disappointment and humiliation is wonderful – there is still this lack. I’m not sure what it is, maybe I’d call it a lack of faith, hope, optimism etc. It’s like I’ve lost my faith in humanity. Every now and then, I am jarred by a reminder of what I endured and hurt all over again.
It’s like that quote: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice” Martin Luther King Jr.
I wish there were some sort of justice to put this all to bed.
HM I hope I didn’t make is seem like everything was sunshine and roses. Getting through this was hard and I had to inch and claw my way through. My anger fueled me, because I was determined that he wasn’t going to be happier than me, he wasn’t going to have a better life than me. That was my revenge. I think true peace is when you decide that you are going to live your life in harmony, happiness and joy. The justice comes from the knowledge that you learned a very big lesson, one that he will never learn. While he may skip around and everything might look wonderful from the outside – you know that isn’t the truth. He’s still him in all his glorious dysfunction and that dysfunction will tarnish every relationship he has. He was broken before you and he will continue to be broken after you. You have the opportunity to grow and change, he doesn’t, he has a life sentence of living with his dysfunction. That is your justice.
In terms of feeling lack – this is a mind set and it’s a lie that we all tell ourselves. There is nothing missing – you are and have all you need. The more you go about your business believing that things are missing – the more things will be missing. You are enough, you are loved, you are good enough – nothing is missing. You are completely whole. I would focus my energy on understanding why that void exists in you and how to feel whole.
I too felt something was missing and I couldn’t put a name to it, but 15 months after breaking up I find I am finally becoming content, I realise I am enough, my children are enough, my job is enough, my friends are enough, it’s a nice feeling, something I lost while being with him and trying to be the best I could be, but finding no matter what I did, I was just never enough for him
I never had that anger though and I do wonder whether if I could have had an angry stage whether I would have been able to move on faster, although in saying that his constant contact until four months ago, when after changing my home line, my mobile and then him contacting me at work because heyho he didn’t quite get it, didn’t help at all!
I realise now that the thing missing was the fact that for the last five years I was used to drama, so much bloody drama and to finally having peace was so totally unusual that I didn’t know what to do with myself. You spend so much of your thinking and doing based around them and their needs and what will make them happy that it leaves what is actually quite a big hole which you have to fill, but fill it you do and it is such an exciting feeling when it finally hits you that you are happy and contented without them.
Thank you both for your responses. No, you didn’t underplay the struggle it would be, I too have crawled and scratched my way back to ‘normal’.
I don’t think I expressed myself accurately, what I feel is a lack of belief in humanity, I don’t believe in people anymore, I think everyone is a farce, a lie etc. I scrutinize everyone who comes across my path wondering “what’s their ‘true’ story?”. I was never like this before. I believed in people, I believed in love, I believed in the future. Now all I see is the worst in people and I genuinely don’t trust love at all. Do you know how that feels (I’m sure you do)…to not believe in love? To question humanity? It is the worst thing ever. This situation has shaken me to my core. If it weren’t for my child, who reminds me daily that love is real and possible then I don’t know where I’d be. So thank god for that.
It’s getting better, I am MUCH better than I was 7 months ago. There isn’t even any crying anymore – hooray! I would just like to be able to believe again and not dread meeting someone new 🙂 Thanks again for your kind words.
Fabulous article as always, Savannah.
I loved what you said about your anger. For myself too, I found that since I’ve stabilised I’ve been able to experience and enjoy the full range of emotions in a much more healthy way, including anger. I see it as being bright and sharp and it makes me feel so motivated and energised. It’s there for a reason and a protection too, I reckon, as it can also stop us from being manipulated again.
Thanks again, Savannah. I really enjoy and appreciate your words.
What an inspirational article, thanks Savannah!
As a dude…I didn’t realize I could lose myself. NY wife was a controlling influence. ..after being a lame pastor for years, she took over. Four years after ministry were years of becoming the wife. She led. I lost myself…as my identity was in being a pastor…then became trying to please her. I looked for the job to make the money that would match hers. Never did. Now divorced, in my fifties, no satisfactory options fir service work but insurance…the little thing is the biggest thing…grieving toward a step back to me. We are all a bit Narcs… but, losing the self, even under the noble paradigm of Jesus… is nit healthy. Learning that now.
Wow, again. Your experiences are exactly the same as mine. My wife of 28yrs discarded me in exactly the same way. I was a wreck of a human. I was the invisible one for 27 years. I’m about to start the new life. I’ve been no contact for two weeks now.
You give me so much hope because I can’t fathom my life without her, but I know I will have to make it on my own. There is no other option. I’ve done a few things for myself but it feels strange and I feel guilty.
I met her when I was 19. I’m about to turn 50 but like you, I do feel 19 again. I look forward to doing anything in the world I want to do. It exciting but very scary. Thank you again for sharing your experiences. They give me hope.
An inspiring account of liberation.