On Anxiety

There is a special type of anxiety that you will experience during and after breaking the psychopathic bond. Perhaps "special" isn't the right word. More like hellish, want-to-rip-through-your-skin-and-leave-your-body-behind type of anxiety.

A year and a half ago I was in the depths of this anxiety. I had never been an anxious person before; I was always a happy-go-lucky, optimistic, everything-is-gonna-work-out type person. And then I found out my husband was not the person I thought he was, and for about a year, with the first six or so months being the worst, I was flooded with an overwhelming sense of unspecified anxiety and panic on a day-to-day basis. More like an hour-to-hour basis to be honest.

Some good news: now, a year and a half later, I very rarely experience this type of drowning-in-my-own-body type of anxiety. I went from having to take medication so that I could function to take care of my newborn baby, to the waves of panic gradually lessening to the point that now, when I rarely get anxious, it is much more specific and circumstance-based. That is just to keep in mind if you are currently in the thick of it; "this too shall pass." I promise. 

But what is this anxiety? Where is it coming from and why? I found that the more I could understand what I was going through, the more I was able to eventually (like months and months later after doing a lot of inner "work" - which by the way I am still doing every day) let it go. Let. It. Go. Because, really, that's what this whole process is about, letting go of an idea, a fantasy, someone who never really existed. 

Which brings me to: cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the root of this specific type of unspecified anxiety (sounds confusing but let me explain). Cognitive dissonance is defined as: "the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas, or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values."

This article explains why cognitive dissonance always occurs during/after the discard phase of the psychopathic relationship: 

"At some point...the evidence of a highly disturbed personality shows through, especially once the psychopath is no longer invested in a given victim and thus no longer makes a significant effort to keep his mask on...The floodgates of reality suddenly burst open and a whole slew of inconsistencies, downright lies, manipulations, criticism and emotional abuse flows through to the surface of our consciousness.

However, even then it’s difficult to absorb such painful information all at once. Our heart still yearns for what we have been persuaded, during the luring phase, was our one true love. Our minds are still filled with memories of the so-called good times with the psychopath. Yet, the truth about the infidelities, the constant deception, the manipulation and the backstabbing can no longer be denied. We can’t undo everything we learned about the psychopath; we cannot return to the point of original innocence, of total blindness. The result is a contradictory experience: a kind of internal battle between clinging to denial and accepting the truth."

Sound familiar? For months I held two very different realities in my mind: 

1) the person I loved for 5 years and had a baby with, my best friend, my crutch, my heart, the sweetest, most loving man, 2) is actively trying to destroy me.

Number 1 and number 2 were both true in my mind for many months and they collided and crashed into each other on an hourly basis because they couldn't both, actually, be true. But I couldn't give up one for the other, at least not for months and months. These two beliefs, these two realities, swimming around in my mind, manifested physically as overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks. 

Knowing this didn't make the anxiety go away. But it did give me something to hold onto. For me, understanding what was happening on a psychological level was an important part of the process. Perhaps because, in a situation where nothing felt in my control, being able to sort through everything on a clinical/psychological level grounded me the tiniest bit. 

Eventually I was able to accept the second reality. When I finally really, truly understood what a psychopath is, I laid that first reality (and my ex-husband) to rest and that's when the anxiety also faded. When you finally truly accept and understand that your partner was and is a black void of a human being, his power over you dissipates completely. You will get there, and when you do, you will be free.