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"Leaving" a toxic situation / person to feel safe again?

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by zclesa, Jun 2, 2022.

  1. zclesa

    zclesa Well known member

    Has anyone found that actually leaving an ongoing stressor improved their symptoms?

    My mother had a narcissistic meltdown at me and punished everyone in my family for something I had done to her (in her mind). I didn't know she had a personality disorder at the time.

    My symptoms started after visiting my mother for the first time after that episode. I don't often see her, but I had a huge flare-up that lasted a month after having lunch with her. It's like it gave me PTSD for a month. I was in so much physical fear that I freaked out about other things that I wouldn't normally care about at all!

    I have lessened contact with her a lot, but she has noticed. So then, she starts sending me gifts I don't want. I worry about how to respond "gratefully enough". Last Mother's Day, I didn't want to spend my money on her because she doesn't deserve it. So I sent a card instead, but was then anxious about how she'd react to not getting the usual flowers. When my dad visits me without her, he says she has noticed that I am lowering contact all the time. And THAT freaks me out.

    I try my best not to care, but she is capable of doing very nasty things. I can't even tell her directly, "I'm not seeing you anymore". When my dad divorced her, she started a smear campaign against him. She has done the same thing with other relatives. She punishes other people when she feels hurt. But I can't see her because she worsens my symptoms. I'm stuck in "What do I do? What don't I do?" I can't win. There is no way to resolve this situation that will end OK.

    I have turned into that hypervigilant little girl again, treading on eggshells, afraid of her flipping out again. Just thinking about her makes me feel fearful and ill. The stress response is neverending. It is all because of this situation. If TMS is about safety, I have the jackpot here. It is like a mental battle always going on both consciously and subconsciously. It is mostly subconscious, because it's not like I sit here thinking about it all the time. But it is still happening in my body.

    And this fear spreads out to the rest of my life - things I never worried about before, now I do, because my body is stuck in an ongoing stress response. This colours everything, making every situation anxiety-inducing.

    But, I have noticed that whenever there is a physical barrier to seeing or contacting me, my symptoms are either less or gone. During lockdown, I improved. When I go abroad, I improve. When she was hospitalised and could have died, I felt some kind of relief. Sounds awful, but people with an abuser or toxic caregiver might understand. During a period of accidental no-contact years ago, I felt light and free like I never had before. A lot of this was subconscious; I didn't know it was because I was freaking out about my mother. But it's obvious now.

    I went halfway around the world with a friend for 2 weeks earlier this year - in a different timezone to her with not even an email or text to break my peace - and I had zero symptoms. I could sleep normally. I got my period back that I haven't had for 2 years. I could be myself again and have all my normal emotional experiences without pushing them away.

    It's like that distance helps me subconsciously. I feel safe again. Safe to be me.

    I'm seriously considering just going abroad, travelling, never giving her my address. Does anyone relate to this?

    I know I still have some stuff to work on, but it's like staying in this situation where I'm too close and constantly worried is just keeping me stuck in my stress response and making everything unmanageable.

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