It is easy to get through a crisis in the beginning. In the beginning, everyone gathers round and holds you up. Your family drops everything to be at your side, your friends check in on you every day, your children are on their best behavior. You are surrounded by love, and you come to believe that no matter how much it hurts, you’ll make it through, because those around you will make sure of it.
At some point though, they have to go back to their lives. Your family goes home, your friends stop checking in as often, and your children go back to being who they are; children, who talk back and make life complicated.
It’s the long haul that does you in. This is made so much worse by the fact that you just didn’t expect it. How can you possibly feel as bad a year later then you do on day 1? What is wrong with you???
I have a cousin who, for reasons unknown, went into Adult Respiratory Distress. He was on life support for two weeks, during which time his family was told the prepare for his death. It seemed imminent that they would have to pull the plug, until all of the sudden, he blinked his eyes. The MRI said, in direct contrast to the cat scan of the day before, that he was there; he was alive. During the next week he came back. He was weened off of life support and started to recover. As quickly as it had started, it stopped. No reason, no explanation.
There was a problem though – the illness claimed both feet and both hands.
He is now learning to function with claw hands, prosthetic legs and feet. His home is being retrofitted to accommodate a person in a wheelchair. His wife is being told to decide – how do you want the house to look, what tile for the bathroom, what counter tops for the kitchen. The people who gathered round when this all started are gone. They were there in the beginning. Everyone gathered at his hospital bedside, sure that this was it for him and they were saying their last goodbyes. They said their last goodbyes and they went home. They were devastated, of course, but they went home, to the life they knew so well, going through their daily routines with the people they loved and loved them.
My cousin is in a different place. His life has had a cold boot. The ctrl/alt/del keys were struck at the same time, and his life will never be the same. He is now learning to eat with claw hands, to bath with no hands, to put his claws back on after he’s bathed, and to walk on stumps that are raw and hurt. The life he knew a few months ago is gone, and he will never get it back. One day soon he will wake up and realize that while his life has changed forever, no one else’s has. He has to get through this alone, or give up alone. His wife, his children, his brothers and sisters, and his mother are the same as they were before this started; he is the only one who has changed. He doesn’t know this now, but the future is not the rosey picture that’s been painted for him. The future will be Hard.
This is how it is for us, those recovering from a long term relationship with a covert narcissist. In the beginning, everyone gathered around. I had a full house. I had my sister, my mother, and on and off my brothers. My friends called or texted every day. I could wail and lose it, and no one judged. They got it, and they were there for me.
In the end though, who can keep up that level of intensity if they don’t have to? I have to, my cousin will have to, anyone else with a chronic illness or the pain of being left by a sociopath has to, but everyone around us does not. They move on. They go back to their jobs, their home, their spouse and their children. They go home and think “there but the grace of God”, as they snuggle closer to their spouse, or pull their children in closer. They mean no harm by this, it is just human nature. Why live in pain if you don’t have to?
We are alone. It is alone that we have to face our demons, our “what if’s”, our regrets, our self chastizing, our failures. We are, and will be, alone. There is no other way to get through then to get through it alone. Who in their right mind would sign up for the intensity of the hell we are living? No one, not even a mother. We are alone.
I don’t know how to get through this. I have days, sometimes weeks, in which I feel strong, centered, capable and healed. I have days when I look in the mirror and like what I see. I see a strong, attractive woman who can rebuild her life. She is worthy of happiness and love; she is beautiful.
Then there are these days in which I feel such intense pain and anger I can’t even see straight. I feel ugly and dirty. Days like today, when I find out that my “ex” is away with his new girl for the weekend, and won’t make it to our sons basketball game. I know I should be thinking about my son, worrying about how he is handling that, how he feels. Instead, I am overwhelmed with the hurt I feel that my ex is once again able to take time off from work that he could never take off when with me. Once again he is able to be there for his GF in a way he never was for me. It hurts. And hurt doesn’t even begin to adequately describe it. It is a feeling that suffocates me.
I would never say this out loud because, as an ex-therapist, I know what the response is to the statement “I just wish I was dead”. I’m not willing to get taken away in the straight jacket. I’m not willing to express my true thoughts to those who try to “help me”, because I know the consequences. And here is the really terrible part – It’s not that I fear being locked away, or leaving my children or my pets, that makes me hold it all in. What I fear is the satisfaction I’d give my ex of knowing that he broke me. I can’t stand the thought of him being able to gloat that he was right all along – I was crazy, and here was the proof. That is disturbing, right?
For people like my cousin, who’s life is forever dramatically altered because of one freak illness, for people like those I know who battle cancer every day, for those I know who have lost their battle, I can’t apologize enough for this, but I often just wish I had died. I don’t believe in God or an afterlife, and even the thought of nothing is preferable to the pain I am so tired of feeling. On an intellectual level I know that if the time were to come that I was dying, I’d most likely be filled with regret; regret that I hadn’t been able to overcome this pain, that I hadn’t been able to take care of myself, regret that I hadn’t been able to put the needs of my children over my own needs. Right now, though, I can’t feel these things. All I can feel is the pain of knowing that after all I tried to do, my ex is there for his new girl in a way he never was for me, and I am alone.
Knowing she’ll pay a tremendous price for this is no consolation. It does nothing to ease the pain, the pain of knowing I was not every truely loved.
And it really, really hurts.