Happy New Year, my beautiful!  I sincerely hope you were able to celebrate yesterday with a renewed vigor and lease on life.  More importantly, I hope you started your year narcissist-free.  I remember my first narcissist-free New Year’s Day.  It seemed hollow, empty, as though it was missing something…aside from the obvious.  The thing is, over the previous 4-½ on-again, off-again years I’d spent with my narcissist, Julia, I’d celebrated two of the four New Year’s Day’s with her.  But this time, the most recent celebration, I knew she’d never be coming back.  And honestly, I was sad.  But it was a happy sadness.

The thing about Julia, most probably much as with your narcissist, she would use the silent treatment as a form of punishment whenever she deemed I was deserving, which was usually about 2-3 weeks after she’d hoovered me back into her lovingly cruel embrace.  And, for some reason, I allowed it.  It wasn’t that I wanted to feel insignificant, inconsequential, or unimportant.  In fact, quite to the contrary, I longed to feel wanted, significant, consequential, and, most importantly, important.  What I didn’t realize was that all of this longing, all of this want, all of this desire to feel needed, was merely in my head.  And all the resultant sadness, depression, angst, and anxiety I felt when Julia and I were apart, was just as much in my head.

Now please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not saying that depression, sadness, fear, and anxiety are figments of our imagination or that they don’t exist.  To the contrary, they are very much real, but only because we perceive them as being real.  So many of our feelings are based solely on our perceptions of external stimuli, what we consider to be reality.  It’s not that depression, sadness, fear, and anxiety are corporeal entities, taunting us, but rather, they exist as ethereal perceptions haunting us.  In other words, the overwhelming, smothering feeling you get when you’re lying in bed at nights, like you can’t breathe no matter how deeply you inhale, as though you’re drowning between the sheets, while real, too real, only exists because we give it life.

I have never, in all of my years, had an anxiety attack, not until Julia.  In fact, it wasn’t until about a year after Julia, that I had experienced my first attack.  I remember I was asleep but suddenly found myself wide awake, in a cold sweat, struggling to breathe, feeling as though I was being smothered in a large room with plenty of space.  I sat up and threw the covers off of me, taking deep breaths, but felt as though I could hardly breathe.  I’d already been reading about PTSD, and some of the things that happen as a result, so I knew this was only as real as I made it.  I knew it was my perception, it was my mind’s interpretation of my situation and my body’s reaction to the physiological stressors of recovering from 4-½ years with a narcissist.  But in that moment, it was as real as if I were indeed drowning in air…and I was!

Since then, in a little over a year’s time, I’ve had about a half-dozen panic/anxiety attacks, and mostly at night.  I’ve learned to not grasp for breaths, don’t gasp for what I have aplenty.  I slow my breathing, taking longer, deeper breaths, and close my eyes focusing on the breathing.  Sometimes, if it’s just too intense to meditate through, I’ll get up and prepare a little midnight snack, something that serves to distract my mind and senses, acting as a secondary form of stimulation to distract my thoughts and provide a different, more positive input on which to focus.  It takes a little time, sometimes 15-20 minutes, but the anxiety and panic finally subside and I’m able to return to bed and sleep.  What I have to keep reminding myself of is this reality is only my perception of reality as I interpret it.  In much the same way a person can change their mood by focusing and dwelling on either happy or sad thoughts, so, too, can I change my reaction by changing my perception of what vexes me. 

I share this so you will better understand that I’m not belittling the validity of your struggle.  In point of fact, I share in your struggle.  If you remember anything from today’s article, please remember that anything negative which comes from you, is of you – your fears, anxieties, angst, anger, frustration – and, as such, you can learn to have complete control with time, patience, and practice.  Yes, is so much easier to allow it to control you, to give in, to succumb and suffer, but is that really the life you want?  Is that truly the way you want to spend your days, wondering and worrying when the next panic attack will be?  When the next time will be that you’ll fall apart and become a disheveled mess and mass of raw emotions focused on nothing more than how horrible you’re feeling?  Remember, these are feelings, your feelings, perceptions of situations as based on experiences and your reactions to those experiences, and not reality.  The only thing genuinely real, truly tangible, is how you react to them.