I was in a long term, committed relationship, with a narcissist for a long time. Almost a decade. Almost a decade, to be precise, throughout my twenties. As a result of this, I have a myriad of issues I am unpacking and unpicking, including PTSD, but one issue I’ve noticed (and I’m working on really hard) is the inability to express emotion in what I perceive as a correct and healthy manner.
As an autist, I have always experienced emotion very intensely, to the point of physical pain or discomfort. As an autist in a relationship with a narcissist, I … edited my emotional output and expression to be palatable to the narcissist’s inability to cope with anything other than superficial expressions of emotion. I would, in a sense, tense up my emotions, whip them up so they were light and fluffy enough to be appropriate for the target audience – Him. This, in a sense, prevented me from fully appreciating the depth of emotion that I could experience.
Another part of my abuse was the constant pressure to be perfect, to always be happy, to never be sad or angry or upset. Everything was always fine. Everything was always okay. Nothing was ever wrong. This caused me to avoid situations that might bring up any negative emotion, to seek only things that brought me enjoyment, and to ruthlessly clamp down on feeling.
It’s so ingrained it’s now part of my coping mechanism, and it got me to where I am today.
I realised it was a problem late last year, with my now partner. In an effort to correct this, I would spend considerable time before talking to him sitting, breathing, relaxing my stomach muscles and allowing myself to feel.
It’s taken a long time, but now I can look at him and there is no tension in my chest. I can look at him and allow myself to smile and know that it is a genuine one, not a pinched, repressed one. The fluoxetine definitely helps with this, but it has also been months of hard work, months of patience on his part, months of care and consideration.
It feels amazing to be at this point. I know there’s still a ways to go in this specific area of recovery alone, not including all the other ticks I’m trying to shed, but just this level of progress is so heartening.