When Things Fall Apart...
Healing from Narcissistic Abuse & Trauma
with clinical herbalist, Ayurvedic practitioner and founder of Northern California School of Botanical Studies Amy Branum
Our wombs are a center of our safety in our bodies.
When this safety is threatened by acute or chronic trauma or abuse, we are destabilized and over time, can even lose a sense of our groundedness, boundaries and who we are.
In this week's episode, clinical herbalist, Ayurvedic practitioner and Flower Essence practitioner Amy Branum brings her personal and clinical expertise on the process of healing from feeling shattered and lost all the way to recovering a vibrant of yourself.
Where do you even start?
The first step is to recognize that you're even in an abusive situation in the first place. This is not always as obvious as it seems.
According to Amy, many abusive relationships are due to narcissism, and particularly narcissistic personality disorder). Telltale signs of being in any kind of relationship (partner, family, friend) with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder may include:
- grandiose ideas of themselves
- lacking empathy (though they may be able to fake it)
- maturity may be stunted at a younger age emotional level due to past trauma
- may not answer questions directly or clearly
- may have a separate life or tendency to lie
- need some kind of target who they will give attention to and then take it away from
- may punish their target when they don't get what they want (this could be through their words)
- abuse can be overt (physical abuse, unquestionable verbal abuse) or covert (manipulation, more subtle punishing or sabotaging)
- might "lovebomb" their partner in the first stages of the relationship, giving everything they desire, almost too good to be true
- after the 'honeymoon' phase, they start to reveal their manipulative and abusive behavior
- can be completely socially adjusted in public and act totally different in private (where abuse happens)
- gaslighting is common (which can cause you to start questioning your own version of reality)
- often don't give you attention on your special days (eg your birthday etc)
So, once you recognize that you may actually be in an abusive situation, then what?
This really depends on how entrenched you are at this point. If it's safe and reasonable, just walk away, cut off contact, and move on with your life.
If you're more deeply woven into a life with this person, this may be a more gradual process. You may need to take some time to really observe and let it all sink in. To build up your strength and your resources before you decide to actually leave.
You'll need to embrace that you are, in fact, a victim in this situation, even if that's feels hard to stomach. You may feel a realistic fear of retaliation if you were to leave.
You'll need to find at least one friend or family member who will be your non-negotiable support, who will be fully on your side and not neutral. You may need to walk away from some friendships (especially if those people insist on staying neutral). In this case, neutral is actually not helpful.
If you are new to this, or still questioning your situation, call a Domestic Violence hotline. They are free, and will help you understand your situation and the resources available for you. Here's a link to the National Domestic Violence hotline. Start there.
Once you're clear that you need to leave, get prepared.
Start by saving up some finances, enough for at least a couple weeks. And be sure to pack everything you'll need for a couple weeks. Have a place you can stay, that is private and safe where the person cannot access you.
When you're ready to go, leave and cut off all contact. Do not return for any reason.
You may feel completely lost and shattered and helpless, and that's okay. That's normal.
Take the time you need to recover, heal and re-establish your new life.
Be gentle and patient with yourself. Stay safe, and start slowly. Cultivate you independence in any way you can, financially, finding a stable home, connecting with friends or family who are fully committed to supporting you.
No contact with your previous partner or any friends who are staying neutral or trying to reason with you. This is like an addiction, it will NOT be easy to leave. Stay strong.
Find any and all healing practices, modalities or therapies that feel supportive for you. These might be talk therapy, somatic therapy, trauma recovery work, energy healing, bodywork, whatever you have access to that works for you.
Take advantage of any local or national resources available for domestic violence victims if they may be helpful.
Be patient, allow the healing to take the time it does, and enjoy your new life once it finally blossoms.
You may want to incorporate herbs & therapies into your recovery process.
Herbs, flower essences and energy therapies were especially helpful for Amy.
For the initial stages - observation and getting ready to leave:
- Black cohosh flower essence - specific for being able to see abusive situations ("guide through the dark")
- Mimulus flower essence - for fear
- Rock Rose flower essence - for paralyzing fear
- talk therapy, somatic therapy, healing practices to help you reflect on your life, domestic violence hotline
For gaining the strength to actually leave:
- adaptogens such as rhodiola or schisandra (to be used acutely short term in the transition phase to bring energy and strength)
- Nervines for anxiety like California poppy or Shankpushpi calming nervous system as needed
Once you've left (or for any kind of trauma you may have experienced), for as long as it takes to feel more grounded and recovered:
- create protective boundaries around yourself everyday with smoke bundles (like mugwort, cedar, sage, etc)
- continue with adaptogen support (can take breaks and return if using for very long time)
- renourish your Ojas (deep stores of vitality, groundedness) with Shatavari
- continue with nervines as needed
- milky oats to rebuild nervous system
- Centaury flower essence - for enhancing boundaries
- Echinacea flower essence - especially helpful for feeling shattered and wanting to pull the pieces back together, strengthening the core
- Mountain Pennyroyal flower essence - to clear out projections placed on you that may be totally false or confused
- somatic therapy, talk therapy, trauma recovery work
- energy healing modalities and guided meditations such as Rebirthing (breath practice); Melanie Tonia Evans meditations specific for clearing out effects of narcissistic abuse; guided labyrinth walks; any form of healing modalities that resonate for you
For so much more detail and story, be sure to listen to the episode! And if you need more support, contact Amy directly (info below) or a domestic violence hotline.
Connect with Amy Branum:
Check out her personal website for consultations - Lasya Wellness
Check out her school website for in person and online programs Northern California School of Botanical Studies
Check out her Level 2, Community Herbalism certification program
Take her 4 part intensive on working with trauma in clinical practice through the American Herbalists Guild
Connect with Amy on IG: @lasyavitality
DISCLAIMER: This podcast and blog is for educational purposes only, I am not providing any medical advice, I am not a medical practitioner, I’m an herbalist and in the US, there is no path to licensure for herbalists, so my role is as an herbal educator. Please do your own research and consult your healthcare provider for any personal health concerns.
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