Window of Experience: Adult Child with a Toxic Parent

What does narcissistic abuse from a parent look like when you’re an adult with your own family?

It’s so pervasive and unrelenting that it colours your entire reality, it can affect how you see yourself, relate to your husband, wife, children, friends and work colleagues. I was in this half reality for so long and did not even realise how affected I was until going no contact for a length of time. The more time that went by without seeing the toxic parent, the more I was able to see just how damaged my perception of reality was.

Let me explain, before seeing toxic parent, I would strategise and have a plan if certain behaviours were to occur. I was not to allow myself to get baited by her unrelenting comments that were usually highly critical, undermining, and essentially said to try and get a reaction from me in public (so that she could look like a victim). After being in the company of toxic parent, I would de-brief and cry most of the time because she was just so damn mean and dismissive. For days afterwards, my mood would be low, my general interactions with my husband and children would be affected. A week or two goes by, I feel better. Then it happens all over again with the next visit. This cycle of narcissistic abuse continued for years. It wasn’t until going no contact for 2 years now, that a veil has lifted.

Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m happy all the time and completely healed, what I do have are better coping strategies with life in general, I understand self-care, being forgiving of myself and others more easily rather than hold grudges and negative energy. I can handle small obstacles and bumps along the way without over the top reactions, and if I do react, the moment passes quicker and I am able to press on with the day.

A toxic parent stunts your growth as an adult. After such a traumatic childhood filled with all kinds of abuse, I still had so much growing up to do even in my late 30’s! There’s still such a way to go, but I feel confident that I have the skills to continue living a good life, make good decisions and go on protecting my own children from this most toxic person I used to call Mom.

I do not advocate for no contact as the first port of call, each person’s journey is unique and their own. For some, clear boundaries and low contact can work. For other’s it doesn’t, and that was the case with me. Honestly, it wasn’t until I witnessed the same psychological games being played on my children that were played with me that I finally had enough. Not everyone can understand my decision and that’s because I won’t tell everyone all the details. There’s no point re-living this experience just to help someone else make sense of it. The more time that goes by where I remain no contact, I stand on firmer ground and become stronger emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

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