If you weren’t “crazy,” unstable or *borderline before you were involved with an abusive manipulator, chances are good that you aren’t now. But after being blamed and called crazy by the abuser, disbelieved by family and friends, and perhaps misunderstood by a therapist who gave you the wrong diagnosis (due to their failure to understand character disturbances and abusive relationships), you may be left wondering if you might really have some psychological disorder. Or you may be misinterpreting your own very normal stress reaction to having been exposed to emotional and psychological trauma. You may even believe that the abuser succeeded in driving you crazy, and that you’ll never be well again.
*Please note that I’m not using “borderline” as a synonym for “crazy,” I’m talking about mistakenly believing you have Borderline Personality Disorder, or even being incorrectly diagnosed with it as some people are after relationship trauma.
Close involvement with a person lacking in empathy has serious consequences on our emotional and psychological well being. When manipulation and betrayal are added to it, the effects will be severe. Many emotional manipulation tactics are designed to make you doubt your own perceptions of reality and even your sanity, and the deep betrayal of your partner misrepresenting who they were and what they wanted will leave you morally injured, mistrustful and feeling unsafe in the world.
“Their disregard goes far beyond simply not caring very much to purposely wanting to hurt, exploit, manipulate, and most especially, to dominate those with whom they come into contact, and that makes this group capable of the most serious kinds of relational abuse.”
~ George Simon, PhD, “Abusive Relationships: From Disregard to Dominance”
Most survivors suffer post-traumatic stress, and some even end up with post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress can resemble paranoia, according to Dr. Simon. Other symptoms include shame, self-blame, anger, rage at the perpetrator, guilt, hopelessness, depression, grief, mistrust, obsessive thoughts, fear, confusion, bad dreams, emotional numbness or hyper-emotionality, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, social withdrawal/isolation, substance abuse, and feeling overwhelmed, helpless, powerless or alone.
If you’re doubting your own sanity, rest assured that if your symptoms started during the abusive relationship, you are experiencing post-traumatic stress. If you’ve sought help for your symptoms and have been diagnosed by a therapist with anything other than post-traumatic stress, get another opinion from a therapist with expertise in character-disordered people (psychopaths, narcissists, etc.), the effect they have on those close to them, and abusive relationships. Treatment based on the wrong diagnosis can’t help you.
According to Michelle Mallon, MSW, LSW, “Many of the survivors who do seek out professional help during and after these types of abusive relationships (narcissistic abuse) are misdiagnosed. I have found it deeply troubling just how many survivors of Narcissistic abuse who are suffering from PTSD and complex PTSD are diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder.”
Please get help if you’re having trouble functioning at home or work; suffering from severe fear, anxiety, or depression; unable to form close, satisfying relationships; experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks; avoiding more and more things that remind you of the trauma; isolating yourself; feeling emotionally numb and disconnected from others; or using alcohol or drugs to feel better.
According to “Posttraumatic Relationship Syndrome: A Treatment Model,” by Ami Rokach and Debra VanderVoort, treatment for Posttraumatic Relationship Syndrome (PTRS) involves four stages: (1) Understanding, normalization, and desensitization (which focuses on coping with the initial traumatized state); (2) Reflection and acceptance (which focuses on processing the trauma); (3) Integration of the trauma into the self-concept; and (4) Empowerment and growth. The treatment approach emphasizes that traumatic relationships can not only be survived, but post traumatic growth can—and often does—occur.
You’re not crazy; you’re having a very normal reaction to the trauma you’ve endured. You can and will heal from post-traumatic stress. Have faith in that, become determined to do so, and seek the help you need. And don’t forget to have patience and self-compassion as you go through the healing process. Self-compassion is vital and it will make a world of difference.
“Traumatic relationships can not only be survived, but post traumatic growth can—and often does—occur.”
A poem by Linda, a reader of this blog:
Sweeping down the years
Across infinity, and upward through the stars
My line of life
Surges forward, streaming histories.
And the line
At an interval of instants
In a wrong encounter:
I stand. The patterned flow
And the line spins on and on.
♥ Have thoughts you’d like to share? Please leave a comment.
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