How a Narcissist Changes You -- Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, and Spiritually

How a Narcissist Changes You -- Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, and Spiritually

Narcissus and DARVO - Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim Offender Reading How a Narcissist Changes You -- Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, and Spiritually 11 minutes Next Listen for Lies

I was chatting about my blog before the start of a meeting, and a coworker asked me “How did being with a narcissist change you?” I immediately fumbled around trying to get the dozens of thoughts flooding my mind out of my mouth. It was like my brain was overloaded with all the ways being with a narcissist wears you down and fundamentally changes your identity, self-perception, view of others, and outlook on the world.

After a minute or two of spewing one incoherent and half-formed thought after the next, I stopped myself and told my coworker – let me write a blog on this and send it to you. So – as, promised, here is a list of just a few of the many ways my narcissist changed me and, thanks to my online community’s willingness to share, I know that I am not alone. 

Physical Changes

The stress and fear from the constant lies, manipulation, gaslighting, silent treatment, neglect, future-faking, breadcrumbing, breaking up and getting back together, and downright abuse left me physically impaired.

When I met my narcissist, I was about 150 lbs and 5’8”. My skin was clear (thank God those puberty and later pregnancy hormones were done), and while I have always suffered from autoimmune issues, my health was good generally speaking. By the end of my relationship with my narcissist, I was down to 135 lbs (still a healthy weight but much lower than my adult normal), my skin was covered in hives and psoriasis, I experienced a monthly shingles outbreak, and my hair was about three inches long because I kept tugging at it causing it to break off. Additionally, my immune system was so weak that I could not recover from COVID-19 and, instead, suffered from long COVID-19 and COVID-19-induced bronchitis, double pneumonia, and sinus infections. I was a physical mess.

My physical appearance was the worst of my adult life after my first major assault. I avoided medical care at my narcissist's urging, fearing the DA would subpoena my records. Despite feeling like my skull was cracked, I didn't seek help until later abuse. Months later, a physician told me I likely had a prior skull fracture, caused when my narcissist first slammed my head against the floor after knocking me off my feet during the assault which led to his first arrest. My skin was so bad that I had to take steroids to get the hives, psoriasis, and shingles to subside – all of which were due to stress. I was so frantic with worry that I ripped out chunks of my hair, leading me to cut my hair super short. I went weeks with very little food because I cannot eat when I am stressed so I lost a lot of weight. 

Fast forward to now – a year narcissist-free. My health is excellent, my skin is mostly clear (I still have the occasional shingles or psoriasis outbreak probably due to unprocessed trauma), and I am just a little bit chubby. I could not figure out why I was gaining weight – I hadn’t changed my diet or exercise routine. Then it dawned on me - I  was not going days each month unable to eat due to stress (plus this perimenopause weight gain is a real thing). Overall, I have made an almost total physical recovery from the 5-plus years of narcissistic abuse, but my health issues flare each time I am faced with a flying monkey attack. 

Mental Changes

My mental health was terrible following my second assault, in part because of the physical abuse and, even more so, because of the emotional/ psychological abuse.

My narcissist was telling everyone that I self-harmed, and using my goodwill gestures against me to promote the narrative that he was the victim and I was the villain. (aka: DARVO)

When my twins died a decade ago, my mental health was the worst it has ever been. I really did not think that I could live a meaningful life without them. After my assault, my mental health was nearly this bad, not directly from the assault, but from how “friends” and certain members of my community, particularly my church, treated me – like I was the villain for telling on their dear Church President. I was frantic with fear and embarrassment, and so concerned with what other people thought of me.  

Like most victims of abuse, I was dealing with so many challenges and obstacles – financially, mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, and psychologically. Previously, I took one pill for sleep and one pill for OCD. I drank about 2 cups of coffee a day. In the weeks following the assault, my medicine increased to 2 anti-anxiety pills, 2 sleep pills (and I was still only sleeping 3 to 4 hours per night), 2 OCD pills, and 2 pills for nerve pain, since my fibromyalgia flared. I was drinking 3 to 4 cups of coffee, regularly. 

Moreover, I went from being in couple’s counseling for my narcissist’s drinking and violence issues to being in counseling for my own mental health issues. In the early days after my assault, I was seeing three counselors – one at the local shelter for abused persons, and two at the VA. I even had to travel 90 minutes one way to receive Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for my PTSD. 

Now that I am a full-year narcissist-free and in a very stable, loving, and committed relationship, my medicine intake is lower than it was before my assault. I drink only one cup of coffee per day and feel great. I regularly get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

I just ended my weekly counseling sessions because my therapist felt that I had enough coping tools in my toolbox, and I will now enter into group therapy, where I hope to use what I learned to support others while simultaneously learning from them. I no longer care who believes me and who talks about me. Their opinions are none of my business and, quite frankly, I would not ever ask them for advice so why should I care what they think?

Emotional Changes

Historically, I am not much of a crier. I will cry when a loved one is suffering or I become overwhelmed with frustration but, generally speaking, I don’t cry often. It is just how I am as an INTJ female.

I take things in stride and accept life as it comes to me. All of this changed when I met my narcissist. During my time with my narcissist, I cried progressively more and more. I would cry when he would give me the silent treatment or break promises. I would cry when he would ‘teach me lessons’ which meant acting very mean to me for minor infractions. I spent every birthday in our six years together crying – every single one. And not just a few tears, wailing crying because the hurt was so much. I cried each time I caught him in a lie - some of which were huge and compromised his own family’s safety and welfare. I cried when I caught him spreading rumors and lies about me behind my back when I was covering for him and trying to build him up. Most of the tears stemmed from not understanding how someone who claimed to love me could treat me so terribly.

After the second assault and through our ten weeks of divorce counseling, I cried every day. I remember I could not even meet my narcissist at a restaurant or public space because I would break down and cry. I cried for the life I had hoped we might share. I cried because I missed my step-kids. I cried because I was scared. I cried because I was betrayed. I cried because I was slowly realizing that he was a Charlatan – a snake oil salesman – and everything about our relationship was a lie. I grieved the death of our marriage, home, blended family, friend group, and everyday norms. I cried a lot. 

In the weeks after I filed for divorce, I still cried - a lot. I was a teary-eyed mess. Now, a year free of abuse and neglect, I only cry once in a while during appropriate times. Instead, I find myself laughing a lot. I remember the day I realized that I really do smile and laugh a lot. It was such a relief because, before meeting my narcissist, I was a jolly, free-spirited, happy person. Slowly, over the course of six years, I turned into an emotionally distraught, paranoid, scared, traumatized person whose laughter and love of life were replaced with tears and fear. It feels wonderful to be back to my old self. It is such a relief to wake up with a smile on my face and hope in my heart instead of existential dread and paranoia that yet another rug is going to be pulled out from under me when I least expect it. I am surrounded by friends and family who genuinely care about me – not faux ones who are trying to harm me. It is a gift that I am thankful for each day. 

Spiritual Changes

Finally, being with a narcissist took a spiritual toll on me. As someone who went to seminary, learned Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and Aramaic to study the Bible, frequents the Hare Krishna temple in New Vrindaban regularly, participates in Buddhist and Hindu ceremonies, seriously considered converting to Judaism, and spent the past 20 years studying religions of the modern and ancient world – I still don’t know what I believe.

Maybe there is a God and maybe there isn’t. What I always have believed, consistently, is that there is good and truth and justice and purpose in the universe. 

During my time with my narcissist, these spiritual beliefs that I held so dear began to slip from my grasp. I no longer saw the world as mostly full of good people trying to do their best to make it and help one another. I saw the world, instead, as a cold, dark, foreboding place. I saw people as manipulative and sneaky. I felt that I could trust no one. And these feelings were justified. Being with a narcissist and his array of lesser-narcissistic friends and flying monkeys does make one feel unnerved. My gut knew what my mind would not accept – these were malicious people, they were not to be trusted, and they were harming me.

A year after stepping away from my narcissist, I once again see a beautiful world full of love and care. I once more believe that there is goodness, justice, hope, kindness, and purpose. I am surrounded by genuinely good people who do their best to live out their values and be inclusive. 

To my true friends who have stood by me and supported me – thank you. Thank you for breathing life back into me, showing me care and love, and just being you. 

And to my faux friends – well, I guess you showed your true colors, you flying monkeys. I have removed each of you from my life. It was a self-cleaning process where the trash took itself out – thank goodness. 

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