NPD and Divorce: A Traumatized Brain

I told the psychologist my story, or at least what could be told in 50 minutes. At least the parts that I haven’t blocked out.

“I think that a trauma-based framework is the best way to look at your therapy,” she said.

Of course, I thought. I am feeling the PTSD lately. It has arrived again, and I can not budge it, no matter how much I tell my friends that I’m okay – even when I agree with them that I have nothing to worry about. Intellectually perhaps they are right. But the PTSD is stronger than intellect: it gets inside my chest and heart and flows out through my body to my fingertips and toes and the top of my head. It tells me that there is danger out there again and that I need to be hyper vigilant. I can’t let history repeat itself. I need to watch out. I’m scared. A lot.

Along these lines, I mentioned casually to the therapist that Ex is on the Ashley Madison lists – certainly one of his more innocent online activities, actually – and that I was worried about my children finding out.

She asked me why I went and found the list in the first place to look for him. And immediately I knew I was in trouble. Fifty minutes into therapy and already I was showing her that I’m probably certifiable, still snooping on my Ex.

I admitted that I had developed a long history of snooping during the later years of my marriage, always trying to locate and identify the danger and betrayal that I knew were lurking out there. I told her about the years of gaslighting, rug-sweeping, and time after time when I accused my Ex of doing something he was doing, only to end up apologizing to him the next day after he convinced me I was wrong and crazy.

I told her briefly about my three-year divorce in which I peeled away layer and layer of deceit and dangerous activities by my Ex that could put myself and my children in terrible danger. I described how it never ended: every time I thought he couldn’t do anything worse, he did.

She nodded.

“You once needed to do that snooping,” she said. “Your brain developed coping mechanisms that served you and your children well during those dangerous times. They protected you.”

She paused.

“But now your life is different, and your brain needs to develop new patterns.”

I nodded.

“What you did by looking up those AM lists is re-traumatize yourself.”

I sit up straighter. I realize that’s exactly what I have done. I immediately regret it.

“We want to teach your brain to be quiet. Peaceful,” she said. “I think this is what you should be working towards.”

A peaceful brain, a peaceful mind, a peaceful life. Wow, I think. She just described the exact opposite of living with an addict, an NPD, a sociopath. They create chaos and conflict and danger wherever they go, and all innocent people around them get swept up too. This is what I know: this is the PTSD.

I have been working so hard towards the peaceful life since my divorce. I have come so far, it’s amazing. But I didn’t make the connection. Peace doesn’t come from the safe home, the orderly house, the easy job. It comes from within.

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6 thoughts on “NPD and Divorce: A Traumatized Brain

  1. I don’t completely agree with your counselor. Yes, I agree with the part about retraining yourself. I’m doing that. It is a process. However, when one cannot fully get away from an NPD/soc/SA because of the children, one must maintain a higher level of informational and situational awareness than your regular divorced co-parent. There is no shame in that, there is wisdom. Should you or I obsess? No, of course not, and in time the urge to check does fade. But an occasional survey of new information? It is necessary, and in some cases prevents surprises.

  2. Like you I went through a three year property settlement process. I am finding that, even though sometimes I feel euphoric of finally being free, at other times I have had quite bad PTSD. It comes on suddenly and sometimes is associated with a memory from many years ago, often when I come across something from the past. I wasn’t getting this when I was going through the settlement process as I had to put feelings aside and just keep trudging. Now I am feeling my feelings, and sometimes quite painfully. This does not happen all the times and mainly now the days are good days. So when the PTSD occurs, I am just trying to go with the flow and let it all happen – deal with the pain and emotion when it strikes. I do not think there is anything wrong with me and it is because I buried things for so long.
    As for the snooping? I personally think that it is just another way of working through what happened and as long as it does not become an obsession, it is maybe just best to treat it like a weak moment. Think of it as “thank goodness, I don’t have to put up with THAT anymore!”

    • Hi dear Elizabeth. I like your strategy. The therapist told me that when I start feeling strong feelings, that I need to slow down and listen to them. It’s just a different way of saying what you’re saying. AS for snooping, I don’t feel bad about it, but I do feel bad about the way it makes me feel. My ex will never disappoint me. I’ll always find something terrible about him. So as long as it doesn’t affect my kids, I need to stop. How are YOU????? xxxx, M

      • Hi, I am mostly good these days. There is still a little piece of a hole inside me, but I have accepted that will always be there and generally I ignore the feeling when it comes. Thanks for asking. How are you?

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