narcissistic abuse is deadly

It Hasn’t Gotten Bad Enough for Me to Leave – A Reality Check

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One of the steps to recovery after leaving an abusive relationship involves self-forgiveness.  In fact, it’s one that took the longest for me to complete in my own journey of healing after narcissistic abuse. 

There are significant reasons for this, two of them being hindsight and self-loathing.

Hindsight came gradually after my exit, allowing me to see the devastating effects of having stayed in that torturous relationship…both on myself and my children.

Once I began to uncover the crushing consequences of having stayed, that’s when the self-loathing set in.  Self-loathing that was so strong, it often took days or weeks for me to recover from the heartbreaking realizations that my choices led to.   

Some of those tragic discoveries came slowly, like witnessing the developing scene of a disturbing crossword puzzle as each piece is apprehensively put in place. 

Other insights came with instantaneous blows, like a willful suicide bomber who realizes their grave mistake the split-second before the bomb detonates.

It took me almost two years to forgive myself for staying with my Ex as long as I did.

Everyone goes through these phases sooner or later.  That’s why I always feel a deep, knowing sadness when I hear people say, “It hasn’t gotten bad enough for me to leave” or “I’m not there yet.” 

Which leads me to the question, how bad is bad enough?  In this article, I share three of the biggest self-reflective questions and lessons I’ve learned, lessons that have set the course for the rest of my life and the lives of others who’ve made it out of their own abusive relationships. Lessons that could save your life or the life of someone you love.

Let’s begin.

#1 – What particular level of misery must your relationship reach before leaving?

I work with victims of narcissistic abuse on a regular basis.  I hear their stories, some that are similar to mine, and others that are far, far worse.  Women and men who tolerate infidelity, verbal abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, smear campaigns, parental alienation, and much more. 

No judgement here, I tolerated some of those things, too. 

But, what would it take for you to finally reach the conclusion that your relationship is “bad enough”?

  • A loved one dying before you can see them again, all because the narcissist insisted on isolating you from everyone you love?
  • Losing your job because you didn’t block them from your phone, and they called you incessantly during staff meetings, destroying any shred of professionalism you still had going for you?
  • Being banned from ever working in your field again because you made bad choices that ruined a client’s or patient’s life – or you did something illegal at the request of your partner?
  • Your cognitive abilities being impaired due to long-term emotional abuse?
  • Your children witnessing the narcissist threatening suicide while holding a gun to their head?
  • The narcissist murdering a beloved pet?
  • Your child taking their own life?

These examples are only a glimpse of the horrors I hear from clients.  Yet, when people read my articles or similar ones on other sites, they often think, “Oh, that would never happen to me.  My partner isn’t that bad.” 

Until they are.

So, ask yourself, how bad is bad enough, and are you willing to stick it out until the unspeakable happens? 

#2 –  Long-term emotional abuse causes injuries to the brain

I’ve written about how narcissistic abuse affects the brains of adults.  You can read about it here:

The Little-Known Reasons Why You Need to Leave the Narcissist ASAP!

But did you know that if you have children and you live with an abuser, your children are at risk of developing brain abnormalities which can cause aggression, depression, ADD symptoms, and other forms of psychiatric illnesses? 

Recent studies using brain scans have shown that chronic stress, negative thinking (brought on by emotional abuse), and spending time with unhealthy people actually hurts the brain!

It shrinks the hippocampus and prevents new neurons from forming.  Simply put, chronic emotional abuse and living in a high-stress environment not only kills existing neurons, it prevents new ones from forming, leading to cognitive impairment or memory problems. [1]

So, if your child can’t seem to improve in school, you can chalk it up to living in a toxic environment. 

But worse than that, it leads to PTSD, which is one of the most difficult injuries to treat as it is stored throughout the brain. [2] One of my readers recently wrote in to tell me that all of her children had been diagnosed with PTSD, sharing how remorseful she felt that she’d stayed in an abusive environment.

The takeaway here is that toxic stress derails healthy development in children and can affect brain development, leading to potential long-term consequences on learning, behavior, and health. [3]

You can see, then, how the old adage of “staying together for the sake of the children” is not only harmful on many levels, but it’s also the root of generational dysfunction, which has led to the epidemic of clinical depression, anxiety, and wounded adults in our society today.

#3 – What if you found out you only had three months to live?

It’s funny how being in a constant state of stress and fight-or-flight mode clouds our perception so completely, that we cannot see the forest for the trees.  This is especially true when you reflect upon what your life (or your children’s lives) could be like if you left your toxic environment. 

To drive my point, what if you found out you only had three months left to live?  How would that knowledge influence your daily choices?  Would you still care about getting the approval of a person who has treated you with contempt and indignity? 

Or would you focus on other areas of your life and try to make up for lost time?

My clients and followers share the details of their lives with me, and many of them have received diagnoses of cancer or other terminal illnesses and diseases.  Some of these conditions might be exacerbated by lifestyle choices, but one thing is clear, long-term stress and trauma sets us up for all kinds of physical maladies. 

Besides heart disease, PTSD, and depression, chronic stress has been linked to ailments from intestinal problems, gum disease, erectile dysfunction, growth problems, and even cancer. One study found that people who experience high amounts of stress are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Chronic rises in stress hormones have been shown to accelerate the growth of precancerous cells and tumors; they also lower the body’s resistance to HIV and cancer-causing viruses like human papillomavirus (the precursor to cervical cancer in women).[4]

Aside from the scientific data that illustrates the effects of long-term emotional abuse, it’s important to remember that no one is immune from the fact that tomorrow is not promised. 

One of your parents could pass today, your child could commit suicide, your beloved pet could disappear, and you may never know what happened, you could have a stroke or heart attack…

The disturbing reality of these possibilities is that no one ever sees them coming. They assume they still have time to leave when ____ happens, to have a better relationship with those they love, that they can make up for lost time…and then they loathe themselves when they later realize how mistaken they were.  (I know I sure did!)

Are you willing to acknowledge you are living in an environment that is not only causing harm to your brain, but is changing the course of your destiny? This might not be a pleasant reality to face and accept. However, since many people won’t change until they’re awakened by something traumatic, perhaps realizing that your relationship will never improve might give you the wake-up call you need.

The fact is, every minute you spend with a narcissist is a minute wasted.  It’s a minute your children spend wondering if life will always be miserable.  It’s a minute you could spend with a loved one who might not be here next week.  It’s a minute you might spend in an ambulance after succumbing to the effects of hypertension. 

The good news is, every passing minute is also a chance to turn it all around.

How To Get Started On The Stages of Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

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[1] Bremner, J. D. (2006). Traumatic stress: effects on the brain. Retrieved December 30, 2016, from

[2] Your Brain on Trauma. (n.d.). Retrieved January 01, 2017, from

[3] Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (n.d.). Retrieved January 03, 2017, from

[4] Why Stress Is Deadly. (n.d.). Retrieved January 03, 2017, from

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8 Undeniable Signs It's Time to Move on from Your Relationship - Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program says November 14, 2019

[…] It shrinks the hippocampus and prevents new neurons from forming.  Simply put, chronic emotional abuse and living in a high-stress environment not only kills existing neurons, it prevents new ones from forming, leading to cognitive impairment or memory problems. [1] […]

Barbara Ashton says September 15, 2019

“if only I had known” does not change the past. My deepest agony is the
“daily life” our children lived. I had lived it as a child. I did not recognize the behavior for a long time. I have 3 children, 5 grandchildren and he has turned them against me. Prayer is powerful and my faith and longtime friends help so much. I filed for divorce November 2018 so far not much is resolved. Should have had it annulled in October 1971.Hindsight is 20/20 I have heard.

Relationship Deal Breakers: Know When to Walk Away - Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program says September 15, 2019

[…] It shrinks the hippocampus and prevents new neurons from forming.  Simply put, chronic emotional abuse and living in a high-stress environment not only kills existing neurons, but it also prevents new ones from forming, leading to cognitive impairment or memory problems. [1] […]

Shirley Akpelu says July 24, 2018

It is going on three years since we both left the abuser/narc–my son and I. We have been through a lot, but we have been blessed along the way. Everything that was stolen from us will be replaced or has been replaced, but most important, we have our freedom and our identities back. Our narc radar is on full blast and we are learning from our mistakes. Healing and recovery have taken place. It hurts but we are looking forward to success being the best revenge. We suffered financially, spiritually, emotionally, mentally and with physical ailments. We are recovering. Things are looking up. We have embraced change. We still have our faith and hope in The Most High. Truly He has supported us every step of the way. Thank you Kim for reaching out and caring about those who have been narc abused. Blessings to you always!

Suzie says July 24, 2018

For me the “bad enough” came after 11 years of marriage and a few months after he confessed to cheating a few years earlier and getting the woman pregnant. The only reason he told me was because she was if he didn’t. He started getting more and more violent, we had worse and worse arguments. My daughter heard most of it. Then one night we had an argument about something ridiculous and he beat me up, threatened to kill me, strangled me, and then threw me into the dining room chairs when I fought back. He then threatened to take our 10 year old daughter away and said I would never see her again. This snapped me out. I threatened to call the police and he left. Now I have a restraining order and he has supervised visitation with our daughter. It could have been so much worse. I definietly have a lot self-loathing. There were so many things things I shouldn’t have allowed, so many flags. I hope it doesn’t have to go so far for others.

Nancy says June 26, 2018

My Narc was extremely violent almost immediately after we moved in together. He was irrationally jealous all the while he was trolling the internet and social media for new supply. He went to jail twice for domestic violence but still contacts me through new phone numbers or stalks my FB page through others.
Every new devastation I experienced seemed to be the one that I told myself I would never tolerate.
I moved across the country for a year to heal. When I came back, I allowed him back into my life. He became more delusional and more cruel than ever.
Most recently he contacted me to let me know how much better his new woman is in every aspect. He had erectile issues because of drug use, but he claims it was my fault and that he doesnt have this problem with his new supply. He even went so far as to critisize my private anaotomy

Deborah says September 12, 2017

When is bad enough? Thank you… It was about three weeks after beginning to date the ex that I wanted out, but he wasn’t having any of it. Finally he took off to live in Europe almost 11 year later but which time my health declined so badly that I found myself in a wheelchair, unable to stand or walk without utter agony and I was totally alone did I find myself realising the fullness of the ex’s ulitmatum and his cutting truths ‘I don’t care… what you think or feel… I’m going and never coming back’ and that was the first time I was told the truth. He lied about not coming back and when he saw me in the wheelchair he didn’t care, using a commode was humilitating; he didn’t even ask could he help me and that told me even more. I had become so weak and I really don’t think I would be alive today if it wasn’t for asking myself one simple question… What is the most self-loving and kind and compassionate thing I can do for myself? then followed ‘when was I last happy’? and really getting caught up in the acutal thing that brought me greatest joy. I no longer have to suffer that torment and torture and I seek the gift in the cruelty and suffering. That all my childhood trauma, the framework instilled from infancy and the life up until December 2016 had been unplugged; it had to come up and it has had to be face to be healed. When the police kept saying take care of yourself, it really did something in my head, for the first time I was been given permission to make me important enough of my own care. One last thing – I am no longer in a wheelchair, or using a commode, I still have pain and can only manage short walks but my body is healing more and more each day 🙂

Elaine says September 12, 2017

I’m pregnant with his baby and been a single mum for 3 years to my 3 year old daughter. I’m tired of parenting alone and don’t know if I can bring up a baby alone so I don’t see I have a choice. Advice appreciated.

    Kim Saeed says September 13, 2017

    Hi, Elaine, I was a single parent for a while so I know how difficult it is, but if you suspect the baby’s father is a narcissist because of abusive and manipulative behaviors, you wouldn’t be doing your children any favors by staying with him. We always have a choice, even though some choices aren’t the easiest ones.

    Melanie says July 24, 2018

    Hi, if this can help…. I was raised with a narc dad amd now i always seem to date guys just like that. My mom was a great mother but was affraid to leave him mainly because she thaught she couldnt raise us with the same money and lifestyle…. I really wish she would pf even if that ment i could get fancy clothes or do the same activitys… So do it for your kids… Dont make them live in that enviroment anymore then they need to. And maybe you will be able to break the cycle… So they dont end up with narcs… Good luck ?

Ki says January 5, 2017

Thanks for another gem, Kim. To #2 and the overall assessment that spending time with unhealthy, i.e. abusive and emotionally/physically/spiritually violent people hurts the brain and ultimately the heart as well: there have also been studies on the benefits of coaching as a means to counteract this negative influence (Univ. of Manchester, ICF). Everyone who has managed to break free will hugely benefit from entering into a healthy relationship with a coach in rebuilding their lives. It is not too late, no one is too broken to heal. It does take time and commitment, but it is absolutely possible to get your life back. Wishing everyone a sane and happified 2017.

Sherry says January 5, 2017

My Mom now has Alzheimer’s after 50+ years of being with my dad and I’ve often thought he’s the reason she is losing her mind. God knows I would have lost my mind had I spent more time at home (I moved out at 18) and then met at 22 years old and later married a narcissist with a personality disorder. I can relate to your article…I am still raising a 13 (almost 14) year old and also have a 19 year old and I have tremendous guilt seeing him hurt them mentally, emotionally, and verbally. He convinced our son when he was only 12 to live with him and my poor son is begging me to come home now. Our daughter lived with him for only one year (8 years after our divorce) when she was 17 1/2 and calls that year HELL. I was with that man a huge chunk of my life after being with my dad for 18 years and even now have to go no contact with my dad occasionally…and of course, with my ex, as little contact as possible. The majority of my life has been spent with narcs and made to feel horrible about myself. And now I’m watching the effects it has had and is having on my children. It’s like being tortured for years & years. I feel broken mentally.

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