Can a Narcissist Leave You With Post Traumatic Stress?
After leaving one I keep having the same recurring nightmare
I keep having the same nightmare.
It’s my wedding day. My second wedding day to be exact. The atmosphere itself fluctuates, sometimes I’m outside, sometimes in a church, and sometimes in a house.
But the theme and angst remain a constant.
I am re-marrying my ex-husband.
In a panic, I run throughout my dream searching for someone to rescue me. But I can never find the person I am looking for. I beg others to help me. I tell them to find my mother because I know she will get me out of here. Or my sisters or my brother or my friends.
The ceremony is about to begin.
My beleaguered pleas morph into a frenzy. There is no way out. I can see the guests assembled in the distance. The people around me try and reassure me. They say I have reconciled with my husband. We are happy.
At this moment, I am reminded of my own personality.
The girl who didn’t want to make waves. The peacemaker. The people-pleaser. I can’t cancel a wedding on the actual wedding day. In front of all of our family and friends. I’m stuck. I continue to protest and say I do not want to do this.
How did I get myself into this situation?
And then I run.
I run and I run looking for one of my loved ones to save me.
I tell my sister about my recurring divorcemare. She thinks I might have a little post-traumatic stress.
Not actual Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but a lingering sense of trauma.
Her words do not fall on deaf ears.
I know full well the impact of a long excruciatingly painful and abusive divorce. No person and certainly no child should have to endure a five-year battle for peace and freedom.
I do not have PTSD.
However, individuals who leave abusive relationships or narcissistic relationships can suffer from this. Because their lives become a battleground. A war.
You’re fighting for your freedom from an individual who isn’t willing to accept your surrender. Which is what you believe you are doing when you choose to break up or divorce.
The narcissist operates under a military strategy known as ‘scorched-earth policy.’ I’ve written about it in another story, “A Narcissist Does Not Negotiate — They Win.”
Essentially, it means they will fight you as a soldier. They are willing to burn down the entire village to secure a victory. The narcissist is a ruthless opponent. There is a true cause to be afraid and to live in a state of unpredictability and anxiety.
While I may not have PTSD, the lingering trauma I feel is real.
It’s not normal to have nightmares two years post-divorce. Scratch that. It’s not normal to have nightmares at all because of a breakup or divorce. Yet mine continue.
Throughout our five-year divorce, I never knew what my husband would do next. The retaliation began as soon as I retained an attorney. Or should I say the war began?
From that moment on, my children and I lived with an indescribable level of stress and unpredictability. The mortgage company knocking at the door, sheriff’s deputies with warrants in debt for unpaid bills, the foreclosure notices, the cars that would circle the cul de sac obviously getting wind of the foreclosure notices.
We never knew what would happen next or should I say what his next attack would be.
I realize I have other residual anxiety from attempting to leave him. Sleep will evade me and I still have trouble concentrating. A level of distraction I have never experienced before.
But much of this I attributed to the financial situation he left me in.
No savings. No retirement. Ruined my credit. And more.
But the nightmares make it abundantly clear this is not strictly the financial stress he left me with.
Especially the theme of the nightmares.
I can’t free myself from him.
I beg others to help me get away from him.
I feel powerless.
People reassure me — still not seeing the danger of the charming narcissist.
This is exactly how it played out in real life.
I thought I would be divorced within a year of retaining an attorney. But he wouldn’t cooperate or hire a lawyer. I couldn’t free myself. Especially since I had made myself financially vulnerable staying home to raise my children and only working part-time.
I begged his friends and family to get involved. To encourage him to just divorce me. No one wanted to get involved even the sympathetic ones.
I felt powerless. He had all the power and control of our money. Despite the fact, I built a business with him since our twenties.
And then there is the charm of the narcissist.
Even though my husband shocked those who knew us, they still looked the other way. Otherwise good men, believing this must just be the anger of divorce or because of a misplaced ‘Bro Code.’
I don’t think it’s a coincidence my dream ends with me wondering how I got myself into this situation. It is a question I have asked myself countless times. One that even those who know me have asked me.
How did a strong and independent girl fall for a narcissist? But worse, how could it take her this long and involve so much brutality to escape him?
The answer is complicated and confusing to any man or woman who has unwittingly attracted this corrupt predator.
You liberate yourself at a hard-fought price.
An emotional one.
But it is far better than the uncalculated tally of remaining.
I’m happy with my new life.
Sometimes people will tell me how fortunate I am to have gotten away from him.
Yet in the dark of night, when my sleep is interrupted by a panicked bride in need of rescue…
I have to wonder — did I?
(The following piece “A Narcissist Does Not Negotiate — They Win” explains more about the scorched-earth policy)