The discard phase is so challenging for survivors. Due to cognitive dissonance, created by the love bombing and the good days contrasted with the evil hurtful side of your ex-partner, you are left so confused, hurt, and in so much pain. It is not uncommon during the discard to be willing to do anything to get the loving version of your ex back and to try to play detective to make sense of what the heck just happened. I know I felt like I was losing my mind during discard and like I didn’t know who I was. Remember that the “loving version” of your ex was well, sadly a version and not the real person you were in a relationship with. For me, accepting this was the hardest part, so I know it stings.
After my discard, I remember feeling so anxious and confused. I was so restless and felt like I was crawling out of my own skin. That is your nervous system talking to you girls and guys! Your brain and body are being flooded with chemicals and hormones due to the sudden abandonment, confusion, and loss. In addition, I like to tell my clients that many of our emotions are adaptive. Feeling anxious and angry are ways that your body is communicating to you that something is wrong. How could you not feel angry or anxious right now? Give yourself some grace!
Narcisistic abuse and discards can lead to complex trauma is some survivors. Trauma is always felt and stored in the body. It doesn’t have to stay there, you can process it and feel better again. Here are some tips to heal after the discard that were helpful for me. I wish you well on your recovery and things will get better! Hang in there!
- Change the temperature- Literally if you are ruminating and feeling very scared, anxious, or paranoid take a cold shower, do some deep breathing outside, or put a cold wash cloth on your neck or face. Taking a drive with the windows down is helpful too. This can help ground you and get you back in touch with the present moment
- Move- Go for a 20-minute brisk walk, run, or just change your location at home. Sometimes just standing up and going to another room will help you to reset.
- Stretch- Watch a free online Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong video. My favorite technique is to combine slow movement and holds with positive affirmations. I would do pigeon pose in Yoga and as I was deep in the stretch I would say affirmations like “I am worthy of love,” “I am smart,” “I am healing,” “I am beautiful.”
- Use touch to self sooth- Identify where you feel your anxiety or sadness and gently place your hands on that part of your body. Imagine your own energy from your hands healing the pain in that location. As your hands are placed on your skin gently, tell yourself, “I am going to heal and I will be okay, this will pass.” Repeat as needed!
- Take a social media and technology break- Put your phone in another room or in your car. Sometimes it is too tempting to check your phone and that creates more anxiety. If you haven’t done this, delete or block your ex and everyone who is associated with him/her from your phone or social media. Going no contact is painful and challenging at first, but it gets easier and will help you to heal. Make a list of all the bad things your ex did or said to you. Read that when you want to contact them, it will help!
- Declutter- Get rid of the pictures, presents, and all things in your house that remind you of your ex. If this is too hard, put it all in a box and tape it shut and put it somewhere hard to reach.
- Be Mindful- Try to take a five minute break when things get tough and ask yourself, “What do I see right now?” “What do I hear?” “What can I smell?” This helps you stay present. Maybe even write your mindful observations down in a journal.
- Write- Each day try to write down five things that make you feel grateful. Include small things like the new tea you bought that you had with breakfast, your warm bed, the sunny sky, your sister’s phone call, you got to work on time, etc. It is healing to look back on a week or two of these lists to remind yourself that even during all this chaos, you still have good things in your life. Also, try jotting down your feelings as they come, just recognizing them helps and remind yourself that they will pass.
- Identify what is happening on the inside- Do not judge your feelings during this time. Recognize that your body is reacting to a very traumatic event. When you are flooded with emotions, try to recognize what triggered you. Tell yourself, “I am triggered; my anxiety and sadness will pass.” Learn about the neurobiological response to trauma. If people tell you to, “Just snap out of it,” or to “Move on, he/she was a jerk,” they do not get it! Realize that your body is going through some adjustments. You may feel up and down emotionally for a while, that just means your nervous system is trying to reset.
- Identify three people to be your support system. These people are your on call break up buddies that will let you stay over, come over to your place, or chat with you anytime that you need. Make sure that they are willing and have the time to play this role. Try to get moving with them too, maybe you talk while going for walks, drives, or exercising together.
- Make sure you are eating and sleeping well- If this is a struggle, journal how many hours you are sleeping each night and what you eat each day to help yourself keep track.
- Look into trauma focused therapists and healing tools- Not all therapists get how to treat trauma or narcisistic abuse. Connecting with and trusting your therapist is super important.
- Try to use your brain- Do crossword puzzles, play video games, memorize a list of words in another language, or read. This helps with the rumination and gets you thinking about other things you enjoy or want to learn.
- Be kind to yourself- This is a great time to get that massage, eat the ice-cream, take a bubble bath, or do something nice for you. You have just been through a lot. This was not your fault; a disordered person unfairly hurt and took advantage of you. All of those pits in your stomach, tense necks, tight chests, and stiff hips are signs from your body that you need to care for yourself and be compassionate during your recovery. Take time for you.
Jenny Tamasi, Survivor and Author of
The Psychologist & Her Narcissists, A Guide to Surviving Toxic Relationships