Category Archives: emotional trauma

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.

Boundaries

Image

 

On my journey of recovery from childhood abuse one of the steepest learning curves as an adult is learning BOUNDARIES.

This is something I still struggle with as I am a people pleaser. Always wanting to say yes, and never wanting to let anyone down. This kind of self-sacrificing approach no longer serves me in this life.

Yes, it was necessary as a child, for my very survival to be on high alert, tip-toeing around parents without any recognition or awareness of what my own needs might be.

Not. Any. More.

I am allowed to politely say no to people if I can not do what they are asking of me.

It. is. OK.

Practicing boundaries is something I will most likely continue to work on for some time yet. Visually, I am beginning to post look-outs on my boundaries, scouring the scene ahead, little protectors that put me first. And I mean this in the most un-egotistical way possible.

I believe, for anyone recovering from trauma, knowing your own boundaries and what your limits are, needs to be a part of that therapeutic journey.

Boundaries.

Yes Please. 

Car Accident

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 11.02.52 PM.png

The other day I was in a car accident with my children. The other driver slammed into us from behind, the car was a mess, I was a mess, but thankfully no one was hurt.

At the moment of the accident I was trying to find my way to an address which wouldn’t show up on my GPS for some reason. Traffic was heavy, the girls were shouting in the back, I was anxious, stressed and distracted. Then, suddenly a loud crash and the car lifted from behind.

As I pulled the car to the side of the road I felt as though I was going over the edge, as though I was hanging on by a thread. My daughters looked to me in this moment, in all the commotion and confusion they looked to me to make sense of this situation, to make sense of what we were all going through. My emotions were raw.

Something happened in that moment. Something that affirmed my own perception of who I am in my heart and in my soul.

Knowing in that moment that my daughters were fine, that I was fine, that we were still here together and with each other was enough for me. I was relieved and thankful everyone involved was ok.

It was only later that the real shock and wave of negative emotion started creeping over me like a dark shadow in the form of a memory from my past.

You see, when I was a young girl a similar incident happened to me with the mother driving the family car.  Only that time, there was no crash, no commotion, just what should have been the relief of a near miss. However, instead of relief at narrowly avoiding tragedy the mother used this moment to guilt and shame me into years of believing that I had distracted her while driving, claiming over and over that I had tried to kill us all. That I had somehow intended to have her, my younger brother and myself all fall victim to a horrible accident – simply by  carrying on the way children sometimes do in cars.

It was my younger brother who screamed out as the mother went to drive into an intersection. He became the angel of our salvation and for the years following I became the devil who tried to kill us all. She literally said “you tried to kill us” more times than I can remember.

Thinking back to that traumatic experience with the mother, and looking at how I myself handled my own car accident and my own children in that circumstance AFFIRMS for me that I am nothing like the mother. This experience, this baptism of fire, proved to me that I am different. That I am cut from a different cloth.

I once read ‘that which we fear we attract’

I no longer fear being like the mother.

Already, I feel more at peace with being a mum. These last few days since the car accident, I have sat with my daughters, admired them, drawn pictures and have felt so grateful to be able to give them the love I didn’t have growing up.

 

 

Photo Credit: Hurt Meatz

 

 

Blood Dripping

blloooood

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

 

 

A Narcissistic Lullaby

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 2.41.02 PM.png

“Hush little girl, don’t you dare say a word,

You must forget all that, you’ve seen and heard.

But if my baby bird, decides it’s going to sing.

Mama will tell the world, that you’ve come unhinged.

Poor little child, your minds lying to you,

what you think, you recall is not completely true.

It’s not my fault that, you exaggerate and lie.

It seems Mama, can’t make you happy,

No matter how hard I try.

There’s food in the cupboards, and toys on the floor.

There’s clothes on your back, so what you complaining for?

So now hush little baby, and stop acting out.

Or Mama’s gonna give, you something to cry about”

Written by Kira Cooper 2018

Photo credit: a girl, dreaming her life away 

 

 

 

A 180° Turn

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 1.38.01 AM.pngAs of this last week, my story of healing has taken a large step in the opposite direction. Unfortunately these maladaptive ways of dealing with my feelings and thoughts has reared its head again. In the lead up to attending a mediation assessment at the request of the Mother, I am overwhelmed and unsure of what the future holds. I am having catastrophic thoughts of ending up in family court and her wanting to see my children. I keep thinking how am I going to protect my children from such a toxic person if a judge thinks she has rights.

I wonder if all the emotional abuse in childhood, as well as adulthood has any weight in the eyes of the law? So many questions and no clear answer has resulted in me stuffing my thoughts away with food. I know I’m attempting some kind of escape but can’t stop. Sometimes when I’m driving alone, I put the music in the car so loud to drown out all these awful thoughts about how my life would look with the Mother in it. It’s unbearable. It’s the ‘not knowing’ part that really gets to me.

So far, I’m doing everything in my power to create a different life for my girls, one where they are not abused, they are not toyed with, manipulated and used as a weapon for another’s gain. I have happy little girls who get to be who they want to be. They are accepted for all their quirks and cheeky antics, they have firm and reasonable boundaries that don’t change according to a parents mood. Without the stress of the Mother my girls have a Mum who is happier. Right now, thinking about some end point where I am in court having to deal with the Mother and all her manipulations makes me worry and loose touch with the present moment of all the joy that’s right in front of me.

How do I put these thoughts aside in a way that isn’t destructive to myself? Am I supposed to breathe them away? Distract with exercise? How do I make the worry stop?

Right now, much like the photograph attached to this post, I am in free fall. Falling down with no end in sight, how on earth do I float back up? I want to be able to rise above, in spite of what is happening that is beyond my control. Perhaps writing this post tonight can be my first step back towards the light and away from this dark patch.

 

 

Photo Credit: Sebas Oz 

 

Finding My Voice – A Journey of Healing

 

HIS MASTERS VOICE

Photo credit: austinbriab 

I am a person who suffered in a multitude of ways during childhood, and consequently, toxic family dynamics as an adult. One of my goals on the journey to self-healing was to find my voice. And well, I think this may actually be happening! This lightening bulb moment that my goal is being reached happened today. For quite some time, I have read Quora questions and answers, although not participated. Today  I was reading some answers to questions and thought I could contribute to various discussions. So I created a profile and begun answering questions.

I feel as though my journey can offer hope to others who are struggling with depression, drug addiction and toxic relationships. Perhaps knowing that there is another person out there having been through so much darkness and who has come out the other side a better person for it, offers some light. That nothing lasts forever, that the only thing we can truly rely on is CHANGE. It does happen, ever so slowly. Providing you do not give up. Even after the darkest days, that the next day you start again, keep starting again as many times as you need to until the days between starting again become longer and longer stretches of time.

The Narc Mother in my life took my voice. One occasion on a holiday, I asked a tour guide a question about something, and the tour guide liked my question, commenting that it was a “good question”. My non-parent (narc mother) clearly did not like this quality growing in  me. Thinking Thoughts. Independent Thought. Querying Mind. At every moment after that if there were an opportunity to catch me off guard in front of people, she would say in her sarcastic way “oh you’re good at asking questions, go on ask a good question, do you have any questions?” Completely surprising me and shining a spotlight when I did not ask. Well, after many times of these interactions I stopped listening, I would tune out, afraid to look interested in what was being said around me. And then the cycle begins, how can I think of anything if I’m not even interested in learning or knowing anything.

Coming back from this place has been a journey spanning decades, and it began with beginning an undergraduate in Science. I listened and learned so many new things, I read the same passages over and over again training my brain to learn and absorb information.  Over time I got better at essay writing, and now as an adult in my late 30’s feel I have some insight to offer that brings together my years of study and life experience.

Here I find the silver lining.

And here is the link to my Quora profile 🙂

https://www.quora.com/profile/Maria-Night-1