Category Archives: emotional trauma

Surviving the Narcissistic Parent: ACoNs (Adult Children of Narcissists)

Below is an informative and insightful piece on what it is to be raised by a narcissistic parent. Being able to read this and identify with what is said is part of my healing. More specifically, what I experienced was real. The subtle and pervasive abuse of a narcissistic parent can leave you questioning reality. And here I find comfort that I am not alone.

At this present moment, I have no contact with the Mother, other than through her lawyer. Upon reading this article and seeing that narcissistic parents go on to further traumatise their grandchildren gives me faith in my instinct to protect my children from her. When our first child was born, my husband and I agreed that the Mother would have supervised contact going forward and that she would never have any significant amount of time alone with our children. At these points in time, the Mother had a boyfriend who took on the role of step-dad for me. He is what the article below refers to as an ‘enabler’. If any long period of time went by, I would inevitably get a phone call from my step-dad telling me how sick the Mother is, that she’s really unwell and needs to see me. Or my step-dad would facilitate contact via encouraging lunch and dinners out at restaurants. So eventually we would always see her.

Prior to seeing her, my husband and I would discuss strategies around how I would excuse myself from the table if the Mother was triggering me via mean, subtle sarcastic comments or undermining my role as  a Mum; I was to say I had a phone call and leave. Breathe. Come back. This was for the sake of our children who I did not want seeing their Mum get upset. After seeing the Mother, my husband and I would debrief, I might cry out of the sheer frustration of being in her company and feelings of grief that this woman continues to find happiness in my pain.

Over the years of the Mother having contact with my children, it has become very clear she has a favourite. One Christmas, her favourite received a robotic unicorn that talks and sings (for a great article about Narcs and gift-giving see this link here). My other daughter whilst still young, cried and didn’t understand why she couldn’t play with the unicorn. The Mother refers to her favourite as a small version of herself, always making comments that my daughter is just like her, that they are very similar and “I was like her when I was little”, she will tell her “I love you” and then turn to my youngest and say “oh yes I love you too” with disdain in her voice.

The Mother comments on her ‘favourite’s’ blonde hair and then in the same breath says some comment that my other daughters hair is dark and not as appealing, whilst in their presence.  This kind of subtle emotional abuse of pitting one child against the other based on physical attributes begun very early for my children and did not go unnoticed. It triggered many memories of how the Mother played my brother and I against each other based on looks. I pulled her into line, thinking that I might be able to stop her, this was foolish and I now realise she will never stop. Creating division is what she does, it’s how she creates drama and maintains control over the long term. I know there is no true genuine love for my children, they are merely props to her. Props to make her appear to be a doting grandmother and props for photos. The Mother would yank dummies out of their mouths as babies, making them cry, demonstrating no regard for their wants and needs, only that she requires the perfect photograph. This continued into early childhood, observed by her interrupting their play, forcing them to pose, shaming them for sitting incorrectly. It continued to be point of tension for us, even going so far as to give her a certain number of photographs and my step-dad would then remove her phone.

I have now removed her from our lives and a weight has been lifted. Maybe now I can truly begin to heal. No more preparing, no more debriefing, no more worrying that the cycle of narcissistic abuse will continue.

 

The Invisible Scar

narcissistic-mothers-smApril is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month. At The Invisible Scar, we are focusing on emotional child abuse, such as the various types, how to help emotionally abused children,  resources for healing, adult survivors of emotional child abuse, and the special case of narcissism.

Adult children of narcissistic parents (ACoNs) know a special type of emotional abuse in being raised by narcissists. (Biological mothers, stepmothers, biological fathers, and stepfathers can be N parents.) 

Before we discuss the special case of narcissism, please note that not every emotionally abusive parent has the narcissistic personality disorder. In some circumstances, an emotionally abusive parent who is not a narcissist can change and improve his or her parenting.  The same is not true for the narcissistic parent, however. Every narcissistic parent is an emotional abuser.

A narcissist is a person who has the narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissistic personality disorder is one…

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Fragmented Memory

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So far, my blogging journey has allowed me a space to move memories from my mind into something more tangible, a place where they are organised rather than floating around. It’s like I can remember, then write and they leave me for a while. I am able to live more in the present as a result.

As memories seep into my mind I have enjoyed searching flickr for a visual representation of how I feel. And as I was reflecting on my memories and how fragmented they are using various search terms, this beautiful photo appeared; it captures the state of my memory, where one thing is in focus, only some small detail and the rest fades to nothing.

One of these memories popped into my mind in the early hours of the morning as I lay in a bed, not my own and not able to sleep. In this memory I am yet again a fly on the wall. Outside of my body looking in. I can see myself lying in this bed screaming, crying and in pain. I am sunburned on my back. We are at the Mother’s cousins house. The room is dark and I am alone, left alone and crying. This is the strongest feeling of the memory, being alone, feeling alone, not being cared for. I don’t remember how long I was left there, in the memory it feels like forever. I can hear the Mother talking, laughing with her cousins. She does not check on me. Instead, as I remember this I can see how much my sunburn was an inconvenience for her. Clearly she had plans for a good night and nothing was going to stop her. Much like this photograph, this is the only part of the memory I remember. I don’t remember where or how I got so severely sunburned. I don’t remember leaving and going home.

I’ve often wondered why my memory is fragmented, with only small snippets, like flashes that fade to nothing. In therapy I learned that emotional or psychological trauma can and does affect memory. That this memory loss is a survival mechanism in the brain to protect from further psychological harm. There is a very real possibility that I will never remember everything because the emotional torture and physical abuse was so constant and so pervasive that bringing them into consciousness may in fact be more damaging than not remembering.

 

 

‘fragments of my memory’  Sonny NG

 

The “Bully” in my life

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In Year 11 of high-school I became friends with girl who had bulimia. At school she would often compare our leg size with her hands, measuring her leg against mine. One day she said to me, “I can help you lose weight”. She took me to the bathroom and put her fingers down my throat to make me throw up. It didn’t work, however I really wanted to be like her. So I went home and continued putting my fingers down my throat until I threw up.

It didn’t take long until I also had bulimia. I did all the classic things that girls with eating disorders do, I was secretive and so sure I was doing a good job at hiding my purges. Until one day the Mother heard me purging and confronted me. From this point I didn’t care to hide it. And she didn’t care to help either. After meals she would encourage me to purge or make some mean sarcastic comment about what I would do after meals. The craziest thing she did a handful of times was also try to throw up her meal. And then later ask how I do it because she wasn’t able to.

The Mother told everyone I threw my food up, she told friends in front of me when they came to our house to visit.  I honestly don’t know why, perhaps it was some attempt to shame and embarrass me. I wont ever know.

I was alone in this experience, and food became a source of comfort. I was trapped in the bulimic cycle of self-harm. Swinging between food to numb emotional pain or cutting myself with razors. So deep in this darkness, my bulimia became my own inner “Bully”. I battled with this Bully everyday for 15 years. Trying various kinds of therapies and nothing seemed to work. I was trapped. At the worst times on this journey I would purge up to 10 times a day and abuse laxatives to the point of passing out in the bathroom. Once having to go to hospital due to cracking the back of my head on a tap.

As I got older, I felt as though even therapists thought I was a lost cause. There was no hope, and I came to a place of complete acceptance that I would be bulimic forever. And that I would just have to learn to manage this disease of my mind. So it became a two-steps forward one-step back. It was at this point that the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy I did years before actually began to help. My life was lived in 3-hour blocks. Getting through three hours of a day and then a small meal, making sure I had at least 5-6 small meals with me everywhere I went so that I never risked becoming too hungry. And slowly I began to binge and purge less and less. However, the final turning point for me in this journey was becoming pregnant. I had this little life growing inside me, and her well-being became so much more important than my Bully. Focusing on her enabled me to get over the final hurdle.

To this day I am still conscious of triggers, one in particular is the Mother. As I saw her less and less over the years I began to notice a pattern. In her company I would binge and after her visits would purge. This relationship between eating disorders and the mother-daughter relationship is a well established one. The dysfunction between her and myself is so utterly toxic that it would re-ignite my ‘bully’. Having this awareness has allowed me to regain some control over food in her presence. That being said, I really believe that having children and looking after their well-being has allowed me the space to also look after myself.

The time I have alone between caring for my family and working everyday is so precious, that now I prefer to read the news, put my feet up and have a cup of tea. Sometimes I’ll have a small biscuit or some other sweet treat and I am not triggered. Now I understand what it is to actually ‘take care of yourself’. This is something that has taken me a long time to learn. Children of narcissistic parents don’t ever learn to do this, it’s something we need to put effort towards teaching ourselves. My entire childhood was on high alert to someone else’s needs and moods, there was never an opportunity to actually learn how to self-regulate. And now I’m learning. Finally, in my late 30’s I’m learning to take care of myself and be happy in my own company.

 

 

False Beliefs Narcissistic Parents Teach Their Children

Narcissistic parents might like to think they’re the best parents ever, but they are so far from it. They instill the worst possible beliefs in their children that often follow (well, maybe more like haunt) those children for the rest of their lives. Below is a list of a few of them. “You need […]

via False Beliefs Narcissistic Parents Teach Their Children — CynthiaBaileyRug

The Cutting Pain You Can Not See

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I drew this picture when I was in Year 11. That would have made me somewhere between 15 and 16 years of age. This picture was stuck on my wall, this picture was seen by anyone who entered our home. No-one ever asked me about the picture. No one raised an alarm that I would draw a picture of the Mother in such a grotesque way. At this point in my life I had begun self-injuring, cutting at my skin with razor blades or broken glass. Anything to distract me from the emotional pain, which now I only realise retrospectively. Drawing pictures like this must have been a cathartic experience to process the amount of hatred I felt towards the Mother that could not be expressed in any other way.

So here it is, I am looking at this picture through the eyes of someone so different to the girl back then and it brings tears to my eyes when I connect with this pain of the past. This pain grabs at my heart and then I can feel the ‘ball’. This is how I refer to the emotional trauma I carry with me everyday. If I allow myself to feel this ‘ball’ of pain too much I can experience panic attacks that feel out-of-body or I can shake uncontrollably. At different times during the years of therapy there have been moments of truly connecting with this unresolved pain and there are no words to describe the utter heartache my body feels, it physically hurts. Feeling scared is a severe understatement.

As I look back now, the first memories of experiencing this ball of pain began in those teenage years. This is where the name calling from the Mother truly began to escalate and affect me negatively. At this point in time I would swing between hysterical laughing and hours of crying. I was suicidal. Around this time I met a boy, this would be my first boyfriend, my first experience of love and sex. When I would come home after staying at his place, the Mother would say “Did you have a good fuck last night?” with such viciousness in her tone. And I would say we don’t fuck, we love each other. And she would scoff at me.

As I look back, it would have been so nice to have a mother who could embrace this new chapter in my life journey. Perhaps guide and accept that I was growing into a woman. A mother who would love me. And that is the clincher right there. For years I have wished for the Mother to love me. To truly love me without an agenda. In this later part of my life I have been grieving. I have mourned and cried for the Mother I never had and have slowly come to accept that the person who birthed me into this world is not capable of any genuine affection and love.

Since June last year I went from little contact with her to no contact at all. What I witnessed triggered me to the point of no return. In previous blogs I have discussed how the Mother has little regard for what is appropriate conversation for a child. On this particular day, the Mother was discussing my brother in front of my daughter. I politely asked her to stop multiple times. (To understand why I have no contact with my brother see this link here). The Mother proceeded to include my 5 year old in the conversation by directly asking her “its ok for me to talk about your Uncle and cousins isn’t it?” The Mother caught my daughter in the middle, she was between a grandmother and her own Mum who was clearly distressed. In response to the Mother’s question, my daughter began to self-injure, she started to bang her hand into her head and laugh hysterically. I could not believe my eyes, here was my precious little girl displaying similar behaviour to when I was a teenager. In that moment, I mustered every remaining strength in my body to stay calm, pack our bags and leave. And I have not seen the Mother since then. There is no turning back from here. The Mother is a toxic influence and I finally see that it is not possible to even have occasional contact with her. She has no respect for boundaries and no respect for the mind of a child.

 

A Slow Walk Towards Empowerment

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In recent months there has been an increase in the usual family drama. This of course stems from the Mother and her manipulations. One of the dramas she thrives on is creating wedges between people in her immediate circle, this involves backstabbing one person to another, stretching truths, making herself appear to be the victim or herself some kind of saviour to a situation. There are many ways a narcissist behaves and here’s a good link that explains what these are in more detail.

This story begins with the Mother divulging my financial situation to my brother. At the time she was giving me $100 per week into my bank account. The Mother made it appear to him that she was giving a lot more than that. This annoyed my Brother, he saw me as some kind of leach and that I shouldn’t be living off the Mother. The vile messages he sent about me to the Mother I truly believe is a result of her being in his ear and telling lies about me. As a consequence of his messages and threats he made towards me, my husband and children, I decided to cut him out of my life. The accusations against my husband and I were so awful and so untrue that I really felt I had no choice.

This decision has disempowered the Mother and her ability to play my brother and I off against one another. Not that I ever felt I was against him. But certainly felt I was being played with. From what I’ve read about narcissism and children, is that children of narcissists will not often have functional relationships as adults due to the meddling ways of the narcissistic parent. My brother and I fall into this category. Whilst things between us were not that great for a long time, there was definitely no hope as we’ve become adults with having such a toxic parent in our lives. Unfortunately, he has not realised her manipulative ways, and I can only believe that he succumbs to the lies and victim stories she tells.

In the many months that have followed this decision I have been accused of tearing the family apart, I have been told I’m a bitch, that I’m heartless and selfish too many times to count. The Mother is doing her absolute best to make me the problem, to make me feel guilty. I am now the Scapegoat. And for months I have stood my ground.

And now the situation has escalated.

An anonymous email was sent to my work accusing me and my husband of awful things. I can’t even go into the details here. The content of the email also had information that only someone who’s known me for most of my life would know. I assumed it was my brother as it was all very consistent with the messages I know he did send a year ago.

I reacted.

I went to the police and I made an allegation against him. This was followed up and the police concluded that it’s a family feud they don’t wish to pursue. I was devastated.

My brother denies it was him. Even without solid evidence, I have this feeling that he is somehow involved.

So far, no further emails have been sent to my work. However, I’ve had red beetroot thrown at my front fence and today, an anonymous letter telling me that I am a ‘moron’ and a ‘parasite’.

What I do know at this point in time, is that someone out there really wants to hurt me. It even crossed my mind that it could be the Mother. She would always call me a ‘moron’ growing up. I know it’s one of her favourite words.

Now I sit here, not knowing what’s going to happen next. The police can’t do anything. And I feel completely helpless. I’m worrying about the future of my children, I’m worrying about my own future.

This feeling of helplessness is so overwhelming. The not knowing of what’s going to happen next is scary.

What makes this situation worse, is the lack of time I gave my own children whilst being consumed with all of these emotions. Just like the meme attached to this post, I allowed the anonymous letter today to distract me from being with them.

I have to remember to put my children’s needs first. Whoever is doing these things will keep doing them. I have no control over that. What I can control is my reaction. My children deserve the best parts of me, not the fearful mother they witnessed today.

 

 

 

The Mother Talks Too Much

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Photo credit: Anderson Mancini

So many things a child’s ear should not hear…

The first one being that when the Mother was heavily pregnant with me, my Dad tried to kill me by throwing her through the glass coffee table in our living room. This is one of those stories that also fed my fear of Dad, throughout my childhood I believed that he did try to to kill me. When I was in my 20’s I asked him about this; he said that the Mother was lying and it never happened.

When I was a baby and would crawl up to Dad, he would put me on his foot and kick me away. The Mother constantly reminded me about this and the fact that he did not like me or want me near.

As a child, I grew up knowing the sexual pressure the Mother was experiencing in the marriage with Dad. He wanted her to do things in the bedroom that she wasn’t comfortable with. I felt  so sorry for her that she had to do certain things to keep him happy but also didn’t feel like I really understood either. He likes blow jobs and anal sex. I was in primary school.

She often said that Dad hated my brother from the moment he was born, she would say it was because he had dark skin.

If we were ever to be robbed and had dangerous people in our home, the Mother said she would save us by seducing the men.  And to let her be alone with them in the bedroom. I remember feeling so safe, she loved us so much that she would sacrifice herself for our safety.

As a teenager she would burn photos of my dad into a pot and say “spells”. I participated and repeated the words with her. I felt scared when we did this.

I only have these snippets of talking memories in my mind, these are all I can remember. And for a long time were a part of my own life story in how I understood myself, how I related to my Dad, how I thought I was better than my brother because I had blue eyes and blonde hair.

I looked up to her so much and felt as though I was right there with her through everything. For my whole childhood, Dad was the bad guy and we were victims. What I didn’t realise was this other game going on, this narcissistic game where I was being played and toyed with.