Narcissistic Recovery: Learning to Laugh Again

Sometimes I don’t want to see my friends. They are my soul mates, my spirit guides, my urban family. For ten years we have spent every holiday and every birthday together. They have seen me through two devastating break ups. They have seen the light in me thousands of times when I haven’t. They bring me food and love when I feel I don’t deserve either.

They are my loved ones and I am more grateful for them than words could ever express.

And yet many times as of late, I want nothing to do with them. Sometimes I need to be without them all. Sometimes the dark of my apartment and my cats and a book are what is best for me.

Sometimes that is inconvenient. Sometimes that means I miss an event or two. Sometimes I’ll detach and I won’t talk to any of them for weeks. Sometimes they’ll reach out and my responses are stilted and brief and sometimes my responses are even a little terse.

Sometimes I can’t handle people, even the people I love most. The world is too much for me at times. It is too stimulating, more so than I can handle. Every interaction feels fraught with potential trauma at those times. Every comment anyone makes feels laced with conversational land mines and I fear that anything I say will be interpreted in a way that offends or I will wind up distraught from a comment that is heading my direction.

Navigating conversations as though I’m playing a game of chess has become habitual. Anything anyone says is a move on the board and in my mind leads to a thousand possible follow up moves, a direction of play that I have to choose whether or not to pursue and how to escape if I want the game played differently. I try to control everything, to strategize during every conversational flow, to steer everything away from any topic that might lead to checkmate.

It’s amazing anyone finds my company enjoyable.

And yet, sometimes I relax. With them, sometimes, I can relax. With them, sometimes things are said that hurt my feelings. With them, it doesn’t matter. I am able to remember the words were not said with intent to harm and have far more to do with the speaker than the recipient. I am strong enough at times that I can remember this.

Those are the good days.

Once, there were days when I laughed. There were lots of days when I laughed. When the Narcissist and I first met, I used to laugh. Once, while showing off his devotion and affection for me to my group of friends, he asked if anyone there could name all of my laughs. I don’t remember how many he had noticed. There were a lot. He was able to name them all.

My friends knew most of them, though. They thought it a great game. And while I thought the Narcissist was a little odd for trying to one-up my closest and dearest friends, I appreciated a conversation about people liking that I laughed. They liked that I laughed frequently and they liked that I had different laughs that were suitable for different situations and levels of hilarity.

They loved me. They did then, when I used to laugh, and they do now when I hardly ever do.

That’s something pretty tremendously special.

I know my laughs will come back again someday. Right now, a small chuckle is really the most anyone might get from me. I’m too scared, too shy, too insecure to relax enough to let my other laughs out. I hope they come back someday, though. I really do hope they come back someday.

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