Surviving the Narcissist: A Reflective Q & A

zari-ballard-narcissist-supportAs most of you know, when we become involved with narcissistic partners, our lives become completely interchangeable. The shock of seeing ourselves in the stories of others is usually our first “aha” moment and it forever changes us. My story becomes your story becomes her story becomes his story. As my first book When Love Is a Lie describes, I became horribly addicted to the very drama that I claimed to hate and it dragged on for nearly thirteen years. That being said, this particular article brings very good news. I’m a survivor… and this month is my 3.5 year milestone of recovery. I did it and each and every one of you can do the exact same thing – survive. I guarantee it.

For those who haven’t read my book, reading my post “Reflections on 13 months No Contact” will fill you in on how it all came to an end and how I managed to make to a year of recovery. Now that I am 3.5 years in, I felt it was time to reflect once again, sharing with all of you my thoughts about the journey. To do it, I figured I’d take the questions I get asked the most during phone consultations – the ones that seem to weigh most heavily on the minds of those I speak with – and answer them accordingly.

When-love-is-a-lie
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How long did it take you to start feeling better?

In my second book, Stop Spinning, Start Breathing, I offer up this formula for recovery: one month for every year that we’re involved with the narcissist before we start feeling normal again. So, did it work for me? I would say that, at 13 months after the break-up, there’s no doubt that I was feeling better. Was I ready to start dating and getting back involved in my normal activities? No. At 13 months, I still had time to go but with every month that passed, the world got a little bit brighter. Let’s just say that, after that point, it never went backwards – ever. Now, at 52 months and counting, I feel free – finally – of all the ties that bind. Time really is the healer of all wounds.

What steps did you take to start recovery?

  • Step 1: After that first day, I blocked him on my home land line, my cell phone, and my son’s cell phone. I blocked him on Facebook and my Yahoo email.
  • Step 2: I pulled away from everything that reminded me of him and/or was associated with things he liked to do, we liked to do, and we would have done if he had ever kept a promise. I basically disappeared. Him being a musician (guitar player), me being a well-known local singer, and this being a small town, I instantly went on an unannounced, unexplained hiatus. This was the hardest part…giving up the music. At my age at that point, I already felt as if my musical clock was ticking and now I was being forced to pull the battery altogether. Based on his first hoover exactly one year from the day he left (See Question #3), I knew he was playing out and I wasn’t willing to risk an encounter. So I simply vanished and I didn’t tell a soul…I just did it.
  • Step 3: I quit social media. I quit looking for him online. I stopped googling his name and email address and all versions of both. I tossed my secret “Wayne” file folder – a folder that was stuffed to the brim with scraps of paper, post-it notes, envelope pieces, and matchbook covers, each one containing some juicy tidbit of evidence – either real or perceived – from at least 8 good years of solid investigative work into what I suspected he was always doing behind my back. In this file, written in frantic upside down and sideways scribble, were hundreds of mysterious names and  phone number that I’d either confiscated and/or stumbled upon in a few minutes of adrenaline pumped snooping. Also in this file were the fruits of my labor – the addresses, driving directions, and so forth associated with all this information and it all had meaning for me. In this file was all my “evidence”….”evidence” that I secretly kept to myself under the premise that someday I would confront him with all of it, whereby proving that I’d been right all along. I was always waiting for the perfect moment to whip out the file and send him on his pitiful way…to kick him to the curb with the power of concrete proof. But the perfect moment never came and the file – albeit growing bigger – stayed in the drawer. All the “evidence” always seemed so unfinished…I just had to work harder at it…find out more things…more proof!  So I worked behind the scenes as Lady MacGyver while he just got away with murder and continued to break my heart. To toss this file meant to me that it was really, really over. It meant that there was nothing for me to do anymore…nothing to work on night after night into the wee hours. It meant that Wayne really wasn’t my boyfriend and therefore the information just wasn’t important. I remember standing in my room holding the file and feeling the weight of it in my hand. At that moment, it represented a whole lot of wasted time and I felt nauseous. Into the garbage it went.
  • Step 4: I wrote my first book (that I barely remember writing) called When Love Is a Lie and then I created a blog to go with it. With that book and that blog (this blog), I intended to make a difference somehow, someway.
  • Step 5: I sat at this computer for 3.5 years and it has been so, so worth it.
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Click to Book!

Do/did you think about him?

Yes, every day. I have to because of the book and because of the articles that I write for the blog and because of the phone consultations where my story and stories just like it are a large part of the conversation. I talk about him pretty much every day because my life now is all about narcissism in relationships. However, it doesn’t hurt at all…which, I imagine, tends to happen when you turn a nightmare relationship into a booming and meaningful business…when you take lemons and make fucking lemonade.

Has he hoovered and, if so, how did he do it and what did you do?  

Yes, there were several hoovers. For the first three months, there were sporadic – and familiar – knocks at the door that I didn’t answer. Eventually, they stopped. At one year, I received a flyer (left INSIDE my car) for his band with a note on the back that I didn’t read. Instead, I ripped it up into a zillion pieces. Two weeks later, both tires on the passenger side of my car were slashed. I’m sure this was intended to hurt me financially since tires for my car are expensive. Little did he know, thanks to that month’s sales from the book I’d written about his sorry ass, I simply shrugged and bought two new ones.

Then, this past August 2015, while I was away on vacation and a friend was watching my apartment, the potted plants from my plant display by my front door were found neatly dumped upside down on my welcome mat. My friend simply picked up the mat, went inside, re-potted them all, and put them back out. After I returned, he sent a Facebook friend request. I ignored it and within a month, it disappeared. Then, sporadic knocks at the door that I ignored and my son ignored. The FB friend request reappeared and I ignored it. More knocks. Then, a FB message telling me his mom had passed away and he had just come back from the funeral. I realized right then why he had been trying to get my attention…NO ONE but me understood the volatile dynamic of his relationship with his mother and what it would mean to lose her. With no siblings and his dad far away, he was feeling all alone. I couldn’t respond because I knew what would happen… but I did cry for the first time in over three years. In that moment,  I just felt sad for everything…for us, for Jodie’s death, for how he interfered with my relationship with her, for how they’d often gang up on me together, for the fact that he couldn’t love anyone, for the fact that he was now “alone” – and especially for the fact that he had been the kind of douchebag boyfriend that prevented me now from being able to reach out with any normal compassion for his loss. But as I reflected on this, I also remembered something his mom would say to me during those times that she would actually be on my side, that when I would sob like a baby and pine for her son as he ignored me: “Zari, this too shall pass”. And she was right. So, I did not respond and I did not reach out. I did nothing and the FB friend request disappeared…and I’ve heard not a word since.

What now?

Life is fucking good. With the book and the blog, the world opened up – and I suppose I have Wayne to thank for that. I’m super happy that I didn’t offer my condolences because, obviously, based on the quick silence that followed his mom’s death, his sadness was quickly lifted. Narcissists seek that which is familiar (that’s us!) during a personal crisis but will quickly find no reason to hang around once the crisis has passed. Do not fall for the ruse should the ex come lurking around feigning grief over the death of a relative. With or without you, he will recover. You, on the other hand, may never recover because this discard will be worse than all the others. The truth is that there is no easy fix but there IS an answer – no contact…and time. The old familiar saying that time heals all wounds is the key to it all.

Finally, the best thing to happen to me – above all else – has been the opportunity to get to know all of you during the building of this very special support community. I just want to say thank you for everything and I’m here to support you.  It is my privilege every single day to know you, to read your stories, to speak to so many of you on the phone, to share tears and laughs, to watch you go from sad to mad to recovery…I am amazed at what we can do when we do it together. Recovery is definitely a team effort.

Love,

Zari

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41 Comments

  • Precious

    June 7, 2017 at 6:53 am Reply

    Hi Zara how are you?? It seems like you are well wish I could feel like you. I am 33 been with the N the last 7 yrs of my life known him years before that. He has left me yet again because he has found someone else, which I suspected but he told me I was crazy and messing our relationship up. I have been dealing with leukemia for the same amount of time I have been with him, he has never done anything but made me feel worthless thats why I dont understand why I cant move on. He has been ignoring me saying things on fb about me, negative things. I had a daughter with him, risked her health and mines and now he is threatening me about him having rights to her but I cant let that happen he is poison. I should have paid more attention to his past but didnt. All I keep wondering why he treats other women so well and how he and her are living but I also just want to get over all this pain and move on for good.

    • Zari Ballard

      July 10, 2017 at 12:51 am Reply

      Hi Precious,

      It has been so long since you have written. Please send me an update and I will look for it. I apologize…things have been so swamped here. He DOESN’T treat other women so well…it only appears that way. A leopard never changes his spots. I just sent you a PDF copy of my book When Love Is a Lie to your email address in hopes that it will help you understand that it is NOT you, sister. Please stay strong…this is for the better!

      Zari xo

  • Pushpalatha Pillai

    May 30, 2017 at 12:11 am Reply

    Hi Zari,

    I am so over my N hubby. But my babies are not. He is 21 and she is 18. She is wise to his antics but pines for a father. My son is ashamed of his father but needs his money to complete medical degree. In what way should I help my kids every time they come home crying after seeing their dad? I Know his behaviour really well but is it ok to tell them to leave him? Cos thats what I did. No contact and life is beeaauutifull! Please advise.

    Lat

    • Zari Ballard

      June 4, 2017 at 1:21 pm Reply

      Hi Lat,

      Yes, no contact does eventually make life beeaauutifull, doesn’t it? So grateful that you escaped with your sanity. Now, as for your “babies”, they really aren’t babies and you know this. The truth is that they will have to figure this on their own. Your son needs the ex’s money for school and therefore probably can not afford to make waves. He will have to suck it up and stop crying about it. After all, he will get a medical degree out of it and hopefully far surpass his dad professionally at some point. Your daughter is another story and yes, it is sad. You can help with her simply by being the best mom ever which I am sure that you are:) The fact that they see him regularly may be an issue and perhaps that can be changed here and there so that they do not have to spend so much time. I know it is difficult but your children are grown and should be seeing it clearly at this point. Your happiness away from this man – their father – is a clear example. You can certainly sit them down to discuss the options of staying and dealing with it and accepting him for what he is and not letting it affect them emotionally OR letting him go and taking the (maybe) financial consequences. There’s nothing wrong in doing that and allowing them to make their own decision as the adults that they are.

      Zari xo

  • Charlotte abbott

    February 24, 2017 at 12:33 pm Reply

    Hi i Am in the U.K. .. I have been through a hellish time with a narc/ sociopath who also had adhd , lesbian relationship , I feel I have a story to tell after a tumultuous 3 year stint .. I am interested in helping others , writing a book , I just wouldn’t have the first clue in how to go about this .. any knowledge advice info would be gratefully taken , I was discarded after breaking my heel and becoming incapacitated for a few months .. I was left in the lurch 9 days post op … please could you offer any help ??
    Thank you
    Charlotte

    • Zari Ballard

      February 28, 2017 at 5:55 pm Reply

      Hi Charlotte,

      If you’re interested in helping others, then by all means write a book! All you have to do to get started is start writing and don’t stop until you’re done. People love to read stories that they can relate to and narcissism right now is an epidemic. Once it’s written, you can self-publish on Amazon Kindle and Createspace and/or Smashwords. Do some research on self-publishing and get acquainted with the process. A good book and a blog to go with it can open up a whole bunch of doors – it did for me. And in the process, you will meet an amazing group of people (from all over the planet) and feel you’ve know them your whole life. For me, this has been a most wonderful experience…wouldn’t trade it for the world.

      Zari xo

  • Suzi

    December 29, 2016 at 10:48 am Reply

    So as 2016 draws to a close I am prepared to set on my path of No Contact I read the blog and your books and they embolden my decision to take this next step. This reflective Q&A gives me a real insight on how your life was turned around and certainly provided some answers to the questions about what happens after you come through the agony of the NC cold turkey I am facing. For me my historic ex husband Narc is overseas and we have had this electronic affair for 2 years with that one historic meet up after 17 years to rekindle this relationship. What I will miss is the mutual fantasy romance with writing, poetry, sensual emails and images. They have been my hooks and I know not having them in my life will feel like a loss. The Festive period has been tough we have not been in touch since his birthday but the next milestone will be New Year will I won’t I reach out. Not sure how robust my will power is. Practical steps will be undertaken starting with a consultation I think that will help the pain and the endless hankering. In the interim Happy New Year may we step out of the shadows and be the women we were always meant to be. xx

    • Zari Ballard

      January 2, 2017 at 11:51 pm Reply

      Hi Suzi,

      Right on, girl, and Happy New Year to you too! Stepping out of the shadows is the plan of action:)

      Zari xox

  • Heather

    November 1, 2016 at 2:44 am Reply

    My narcissist breezed into my life and swept me off my feet. The sex was incredible, the attention and devotion nothing like I had experienced. I was an independent woman at that time. In 2.5yrs he had convinced me to sell my house, I had lost all my friends because of his incessant texting, Facebook stalking , I had lost all my male beauty clientele. He was physically aggressive as well. BUT I still married him! Then everything got worse (he owned me) I became a prisoner with his 100s of text, ph calls a day, constant questioning. In less than 3yrs we met, I sold a house, we got married, built a house and now it’s over. The house was sold. He went onto a better life, I’m struggling , sad and don’t know how to move forward.
    Heather

    • Zari Ballard

      November 7, 2016 at 4:50 pm Reply

      Hi Heather,

      I am so sorry about what happened to you. If you lost it all in three years than you can get it back again. Hopefully you got some money from the sale of the house…take it and start over. You’d be surprised how you can get it back – that which you feel is so lost. Divorce him (if you haven’t already) and be done with it. He is obviously an awful person who had other intentions. You don’t have to suffer because it’s over. Make amends with your friends. The friends that were truly your friends will be there for you – the others don’t matter. Come back better than ever and know that this will be the best revenge ever.

      Stay strong & best of luck to you, sister!

      Zari:)

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