What’s the correct response to a narcissist’s attempt to reenter our life? For me, it was “Return to Sender!”
I checked the mailbox, as I always do upon returning home for the day, and saw the familiar handwriting on an envelope addressed to me that made my stomach immediately sink and a headache begin to creep in. I hadn’t seen that meticulous and cold execution of my name in nearly a decade, but all the old feelings of panic came rushing back! How did they find my new address? What was contained in the thick, business envelope with only a post office box as a return address?
What did they want?
Some of us married or dated narcissists. Others of us were raised by or around them. If you have ever felt the clutches of one holding on so tightly that it’s hard to draw breath, then you understand the flood of fears and emotions that appear when our narcissistic abuser reemerges in our life!
My personal villain controlled every waking and thinking moment of my life for years before I finally made the painful decision to eliminate their presence from my life.
It was like performing surgery on myself. A cancer threatened to overtake every inch of my body, and my only hope was to saw away at my own flesh to remove the disease before there was nothing of me left.
Like a beloved hand that I couldn’t imagine being able to function without, I cut it free from my body to save myself. The pain of cutting my narcissist away from myself was intense. This was someone I dearly loved and whom my identity was delicately intertwined with. I lost part of myself at the same time I cut my attacker free. It hurt, but it was a necessary step to forevermore remove toxicity from my life.
I had to re-learn how to think and act for myself. Before my surgical procedure, I was an extension of my narcissist. I talked, walked, thought, dressed, and formed opinions based on what was permitted of me. I didn’t dare form my own personality. My purpose was to live for my abuser, acting out all the things they could not do themselves. My destiny was formed by my controller’s plans, not my own.
I thought I knew who I was and what I thought and liked; but, it was only after breathing my own oxygen that I realized everything about myself was what they expected of me. I didn’t represent myself, I represented my abuser. I lived to make my abuser appear to be successful, special, talented, and better than the peers that they secretly felt so much less than. My abuser’s insecurities fueled an intense need to prove a point to the world through me.
To the world, I was paraded around like a show dog, while behind closed doors I was a tragic mistake and disappointment. I was continually reminded that I could never be good enough to achieve my narcissist’s love or acceptance. A threat always hung overhead that I would be punished, banished, or denied love if I didn’t stay in line and do as told.
Those on the outside saw nothing but beauty and light from my oppressor.
What an amazing, talented, generous, and loving person! They didn’t see the way my abuser shredded them all to pieces behind their backs, judged, plotted, and seethed with jealousy. Others would serve to build my narcissist up. Their failures would give my abuser strength. Weak and discarded people were chosen to lavish sweetness upon; but, only if doing so gave my monster an opportunity to appear saintly and if their smallness could make my puppet master feel bigger or better than someone else.
Who would believe me, that a wolf really hid behind innocent sheep’s clothing? My narcissist is a master of public image, beyond reproach, impossible to have committed any offense against anyone!
A few have seen behind the curtain and know what evil truly lurks there. Those few who got in the way and were cast aside helped me to see the patterns. There was always a common denominator in the midst of every angry social upheaval; and, sadly, the same antagonist that tortured me with days of silent treatment, blame, and guilt was the same who burned down relationships for what appeared to be minor, nonsensical infractions. I then began to see others who, like me, were too afraid to challenge the facade of harmony. They, too, bounced between the various parts asked of us to play: rescuer, victim, or culprit.
I decided to no longer play the game, even if it meant creating my own world from the ground up, and never looking back!
The thing about a narcissist, however, is that they need our pain and control over us like they need blood in their veins. I could run, but I could not hide forever!
That envelope from the mailbox taunted me and begged me to open it. I craved to know what the pages contained within said, much as an alcoholic needs a drop of drink. Did my narcissist wish to make amends? Was my narcissist actually sorry for all that had happened and wishing to put it peacefully in the past?
The cold and precise writing of my name and address on the envelope told me what I needed to know. My abuser was back to inflict pain after several years of me out of reach.
I decided that I had a critical decision to make in the moments when I held that parcel in my hands and wondered about its contents. I could open it and unleash all manner of anger and pain, or I could deny the sender all power and ignore it.
I chose to write “return to sender” on the envelope in my own identifiable handwriting and put it back in the mailbox for collection so that by the time it reaches its original destination, my message will be clear: you have no more power over me or my life! Not today, narcissist!
It is indescribably painful not to allow this person back into my life, but I have toiled for years to make sense of what happened during our time together and to heal from what was done to me. I simply cannot open that door again and let the poison flow back into my life! In my experience, closing the door on a narcissistic abuser may be one of the hardest things we ever do, but it’s quite possibly the only way to completely rid oneself of the toxicity!
Some have been successful in implementing strict boundaries between themselves and a narcissist. I tried for many years before I even realized what I was dealing with. I have concluded that cutting off the supply of what a narcissist seeks: our full attention, compliance, energy, and devotion is the only true cure! The narcissist will shriek in pain, make promises, beg to come back in, and trash our names to the entire world in response to us cutting them off. Every time we let them slip back in, even a little, that teaches them to push that much harder the next time!
I will always wonder what my abuser wrote to me. I wonder daily if my abuser misses me or thinks of me. What I can’t do is give, even a tiny bit, if it means that the abuse begins again! I refuse to surrender by reading their words, just as I refuse to breathe life into my boogeyman by even speaking his (or her) name. The further my demon is out of my mind and my life, the better off I will be!