This succinct and powerful quote from Tennyson’s The Coming of Arthur, an excerpt from his epic work Idylls of the King, would often echo in my mind throughout the 4-½ years I was with Julia, my narcissist, summing up perfectly the hell that was missing her. If you’re still with your narcissist, or have recently experienced a(nother) discard phase at the hands of your narcissist, you’re all too familiar with that feeling of drowning in what seems to be an abyssal ocean of despair and forlorn longing. The narcissist has left you to suffer alone and appears to not be the least bit concerned with your pain or the fact that they are the only person who can calm these turbulent seas, ushering in a return of sunshine, calm breezes, and placid waters…or so we think.
I remember, all too clearly, so many times when Julia had sulkily stormed off and subjected me to yet another discard phase in what would become a myriad of discard phases during our time together. Well, more accurately, our time apart. And no matter how hard I tried to preoccupy my mind and my time, I simply couldn’t distract my thoughts and keep them from returning to her. Anywhere I went, anything I did, somehow, always, invariably, my thoughts would gravitate back to her. I found myself drowning in deep despair, missing her more than I’ve ever missed anyone before. Whether I went for a walk, put miles in on the bicycle, even watched a movie, – somehow, she was where my heart and my thoughts always returned. How anyone could exact such an unwavering devotion and commitment to someone and to something that was, unequivocally, a unilateral love, is truly beyond my comprehension. And yet, there I was, missing someone who had given me boundless abuse masquerading as love. And here you are, most probably finding yourself in the same quandary.
So what is one to do when the waves of missing someone continue coming with greater and greater intensity and strength? To be honest, you won’t like the answer, but, as with many unwelcome answers, that doesn’t make it any the less true. When you find yourself in this maelstrom, the best thing you can do is to hold on to what little hope you have and ride out the waves. You’d be amazed at the sheer amount of power even the smallest morsel of hope can bestow to someone lost in a sea of despair. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus fashioned a lifevest of reeds because he knew it wasn’t going to be smooth sailing once he left Calypso’s paradisical island. And just as with our intrepid explorer, Odysseus, you must also be prepared for the struggles and rough seas that lie ahead once you set sail to leave your narcissist.
I know that’s not the answer you wanted to hear. I know you were hoping for something more insightful and more inspiring but sometimes truths and realities are synonymously painful. You see, beautiful, here’s the truth we don’t want to embrace but we must if we’re to have any hope of reaching the shores of healing – grieving is not a process in which you can take shortcuts or skip ahead. Yes, you can try to avoid thinking of him or her as much as possible, but in the end, our thoughts and our heart will always find their way back to the person we miss. And do you know why? Because they are our home. They are who we love. It’s really just that simple. But it’s not so much that we must stop loving them, or even learn how to unlove them to be free of this pain. In the end, we have to learn how to let that love go so we can begin healing.
Holding on to that love and, by its transitive nature, them (our narcissist), is as a large stone tied to your feet that will keep pulling you down no matter how hard you claw at the water, gasping for just one more breath. We erroneously believe our narcissist is our vest of reeds, our salvation at sea, who can pull us up from these suffocating waters. Despite what we want to believe, what broke us simply cannot be what saves us. That’s just not how healing works.