The ‘new’ normal (whatever that is) is code jargon for ‘something in your life that changed and for which you just have to suck it up and get used to’. This cliché kind of phrase has crept into the world of pathology too, and even the recovery movement. So let’s answer some of those questions about ‘the NEW normal.’
“Is ‘How Crappy I Feel’ my new normal?”
In other words, “Will I ever feel like my old self again?”
Let’s say your girlfriend was driving home late one night, off in thought, and after a glass or two of wine. She was blasting her favorite song on her ear buds. This condition left her not in her most focused self—tired, distracted, a little buzzed, and drifting off to the groove of a good song, when she didn’t even realize the slight bump her car made as she drove over the railroad tracks. Since she had no reason to believe something that could really hurt her was barreling down the tracks toward her, she didn’t even glance to see the oncoming train. Once she realized too late that she was going to be harmed—wide-eyed and gasping—she wondered what she could do to save herself. The answer by then was, ‘nothing.’ In a nanosecond she went from being her old self to being someone entirely new—she became a seriously injured person.
You too were run over by an oncoming train – one with a big ‘P’ on its front. You too may have been tired, distracted, or out having a good time when you encountered the train that was going to run over you, destroy the framework of your life, and nearly fatally wound your soul.
The oncoming psychopath does not apply the brakes for anything on the tracks of his life. Your mangled psyche, broken heart, and your sideswiped joy are the natural conditions of having been run over by a runaway psychopath.
As your girlfriend lay at home recovering from having been in a ‘train wreck’—her broken bones held together with casts, her head bandaged from a whiplash concussion, and being relegated to resting for the unforeseeable future, she does not yet realize she is lucky to have escaped with the gift to heal. Her family and friends, recognizing her extensive injuries, are not likely to say to her, “Very shortly, this will be like it never happened. You’ll be back to your old self in no time at all.” It’s easy to see the girl was seriously injured and it was a gift from God she’s alive.
While psychological injuries are not as evident to the bystander’s eye, they are notably experienced by the victim. You were hit by a train! You were injured—emotionally, psychologically, mentally, spiritually, financially, and maybe even physically.
If someone has erroneously said to you, “Very shortly, this will be like it never happened. You’ll be back to your old self in no time at all”… remember—other survivors who have been hit by the same-train-different-tracks will tell you: “No, it will not be like it never happened. No, you will not be back to your old self in no time at all.”
I don’t know if you want the truth or you want that girl’s story whose name is Pollyanna. It is not that you will never heal. It’s that your injuries were serious. You are in the critical care unit of the recovery center. You WILL heal. But it will not be in ‘no time at all.’ If your girlfriend didn’t rise up off the bed in a few days like Lazarus being raised from the dead, you too should not expect that type of ‘miraculous’ healing. Train wrecks mangle bodies, minds, and spirits. Give yourself the gift of recognition that what you have been through is traumatic and life changing. And that you need the time anyone who has been run over by a train would need in order to heal.
The impatient family member who thinks you should be ‘over it’ by now, was not run over by the train. The girlfriends that want you to go on a cruise and meet someone new were not run over by the train. The psychopath train that hit you that thinks you should be through the body-repair shop of what he did to you—was not run over by a train his size.
The problem that exists is that your level of expectation is not equal to your level of harm.
You are expecting to walk away limping but not seriously injured from a psychopath. That doesn’t happen often—so infrequently, in fact, that I don’t even know if I can give one example of that happening with the women I have worked with for 25+ years.
Learning to live with the ‘new normal’ of aftermath symptoms is really a self-nurturing act. It means you have taken the time to really assess your damage and give yourself the things you need in order to heal—time, space, therapy—whatever it takes. The ‘new normal’ following pathological love relationships is called ‘aftermath damage.’ There is a cure for it. But the first step in curing it is to say out loud, “I was run over by an oncoming train. I was critically wounded.” Now, healing can begin.
(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)