When I was a pre-schooler, around the age of 4, I have this memory of being dressed in a ballet costume. I am standing on my grandparents front porch crying and looking at the blood dripping down and along my hand.
You see, I am a nail biter. It’s something I began at a very young age, and are my first attempts at self-injury. Later in life, I would cut myself with razors and broken mirrors or glass. The scars are still visible.
In this particular memory, I have made a real mess of myself. I look at the Mother, crying and wanting her to wipe the blood away. She is holding a camera, taking photos of me, smiling and laughing. Telling me to pose for the photo.
Over the years, when the Mother was allowed contact with my daughters and I witnessed this kind of inconsiderate behaviour around taking photographs, it would trigger me to either ask my step-dad to remove her phone or I would hide her phone myself. And it was never just one photo, it was 10 plus photos.
The Mother was constantly behind her camera forcing my daughters to pose, scrutinising their natural smiles with comments like “act normal”; “oh that’s too much of a smile” ;“don’t smile too much”; treating them as if they are little dancing monkeys, there for her own amusement at no matter what the cost. There was no regard for what their needs might actually be, which is usually just wanting to play with their toys.
I would see the shamed look cross their faces, their plastered fake smiles and lack of joy. All the while, the Mother continually wanting more photos. I feel so much guilt at allowing these kinds of toxic interactions into their precious world.
I’ve often thought that the ‘buck stops here’ when it comes to having my own children. So far, i’ve been No Contact for 10 months and I must keep reminding myself why this is so important. As time goes by, it’s easy to forget why I am No Contact and this natural forgetting is perhaps one of those inbuilt survival mechanisms of trauma that has allowed the mother continued access into my life after no contact periods.
I am not forgetting this time. This time the stakes are too high, I only get ONE chance to give my daughters the best chance at a happy, fulfilled life. Narcissistic parents go on to traumatise their grandchildren. This is fact. Everyone is narcissistic supply.
In 1975, Ghosts in the Nursery was published by Fraiberg et al., The authors conceptualise ‘ghosts’ as unresolved inter-generational trauma referring to these ghosts as ‘intruders from the past’ (p.388). The authors touch on the fact that traumatised children of narcissistic parents do not always go on to traumatise their own children. That these grown children seek help from professionals, identifying the ghosts and banishing them from the nursery.
This is ME.
Not only are these ghosts banished. They are banished along with the Narc Mother who brought the ghosts into my life. The Mother is not aware of the ghosts that walk with her.
I am aware. The reality is all too real. There is no more pretending. In my grief journey of mourning the mother, I am finally at the stage of ACCEPTANCE.
I am FREE.
Physically free. I do not see her. The emotional anguish I experience daily at trying to NOT be like her is the legacy I am left with. Constant self-reflection, constant monitoring of my emotional reactions. This is the legacy of childhood abuse.
A good example of this is when my daughter stood up from the couch, stumbled and fell. The thoughts in my head were the mother “ha ha you’re so clumsy” “you’re so accident prone silly girl” “get up and stop crying”.
In the midst of hearing those things that were said to me as a child, I scooped my daughter up and gave her a hug, rubbing the spot where she hurt herself on the corner of the table. I told her she was ok and our day continued happily. The abuse cycle stops with me.
The mother’s name-calling, snide remarks and meanness became my inner voice for a long time. I feel as though I am healing from this and am able to recognise when this happens. I allow those internalised comments to slide away because I know I am not stupid, I am not an idiot, I am not accident prone, I am not a bitch.
I am so many different wonderful things that she will never, ever know. She is not capable of knowing who I am because that would involve seeing me as an individual person who is different to her. And in her eyes I will never be enough. I now ACCEPT this without it affecting my self-esteem. This is an amazing feeling.
Although there is still a long way to go in my path of recovery, I am allowing myself to enjoy this moment. This is what HEALING feels like.
photo credit: Loren Schmidt