Having a relationship with narcissists will drain your adrenals. It's as simple as that. When at last I realised that my adrenals weren't functioning as they should, I blamed it on the stress I had had for the three years before (I had moved three times) but now I don't think it was that at all. I think the stress was from being surrounded by people who just took and took and took, and eventually I had no (emotional) resources left. I was emotionally bankrupt and I didn't even know it. Having grown up in an Nfamily I didn't know any different. I didn't expect to have anything from other people but I always felt obligated to give to them. I can see now how this was a recipe for disaster. So in 1995 I had a really bad cold that wouldn't go away and after that I lost all the energy I had had before. In a book about adrenal fatigue it says that the cold or flu is what kind of catapults the adrenals to exhaustion but I think is the other way round: you get the really bad cold because your immune system and the adrenals are already exhausted and your defences are down.
Back then there was no information on tiredness, no internet, nowhere to find why I was feeling the way I did. So I kind of plodded along, trying to keep head above water as much as I could, met a guy and got married. Then I really crashed. While going out with my husband we had had a lot of grief from the people around us and I just didn't have the energy or the insight to deal with it all. It was all so stressful and in a way it felt like somebody else had the remote control of my life and I could see it being fast forwarded without being able to do anything about it. After we got married we seemed to have a whole lot of people come and stay with us: parents, siblings, relatives, friends, friends of friends. It never occurred to me at the time to say no, sorry, it's not convenient or I'm not feeling so great or whatever. This went on for some years, but one thing I had started to pick on is that some people seemed to drain me completely while others made me feel better and have more energy. I couldn't make head or tail of why this was happening. Nobody I spoke to seemed to know the answer either. I would have to wait to 2003 to read in a book about Adrenal Fatigue (by James L. Wilson) that yes, people CAN rob us of our energy and it DOES have a physical effect on us. Unfortunately, even though I felt highly validated that the whole thing wasn't in my mind, I was disappointed that there was not a lot of information about why this is the case. The book called them Energy Robbing People and it said:
"It is not necessary at the moment to explore the reasons why they deplete you but just to become aware of who drains your energy."
I strongly disagree with this statement, I think the reasons why they deplete you are paramount to your recovery. Because I wasn't getting to the bottom of this, it took me a long time to feel better. I did try to follow the advice in the book, but I found that while I now knew what was wrong and I was taking all the vitamins and looking after myself I only felt marginally better, maybe one or two notches up, which isn't that great really. But when I got to the bottom of it (i.e. discovering that my FOO was narcissistic) and learned tools to deal with people differently, my health and energy levels improved considerably. Even in the last few months since I started my other blog I have felt a whole lot better. Yes, I still crash every now and then but I rest for a day and I pick up whereas before it might have taken me one or two weeks of rest to decompress and recover.
However, to give credit where credit is due, there were two ideas in the book that really helped me:
"Patients often tell me that they feel guilty for minimizing their contact with friends or family members even when that person is robbing them of their energy. But it is important for you to realise that nobody has a right to your energy. Your energy is your energy to use to stay alive and healthy."
To hear that nobody had a right to my energy really helped, it's almost like I needed permission to cut ties with some of the draining people in my life and that sentence just let me off the hook. The thing with draining people is that they're absolute masters of making you feel sorry for them and then they use your pity to keep you in a vortex of obligation and guilt. That creates a sort of double bind because if you spend time with them they'll exhaust you and if you don't, you'll feel guilty which is an exhausting emotion too, so either way you're stuffed. If you're stuck in that kind of dynamic with someone in your life, your adrenals don't stand a chance:
"researchers have found that rendering an animal helpless is one of the most rapid ways to deplete its adrenals".
No kidding. Being stuck in unhealthy relationships in which there seems to be no hope of improvement and no way out is the surest way to deplete your adrenals.