Category Archives: narcissism

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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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.

 

Puzzle Pieces

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Picture Credit: LongEnough

For so long now, it feels like I’m trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together in some desperate attempt to understand why life unfolded the way it did. The frustrating thing about this is that I don’t have all the puzzle pieces, there are large gaps in my memory, most likely due to trauma and perhaps due to so many years passing since I was a child.

This morning a new puzzle piece was found,  covert sexual abuse. Upon reading this article I felt immediate relief that there is an actual term to conceptualise this experience. It’s something I have posted about here in The Mother Talks Too Much. This experience of knowing the sexual pressure she felt from my Dad, and becoming her emotional support from a young age, seems to fit with covert sexual abuse. Combine this with a father who shamelessly raked his eyes over me or came into the bathroom whilst I’m showering, all seems to have contributed to the erosion of my self  growing up in this toxic home.

So far, I have always wondered if I was sexually abused, everything I have experienced seems to fit with something like this. I’ve experienced depression, self-injury through cutting, an eating disorder, drug addiction, binge drinking, promiscuity, extreme self-loathing, multiple suicide attempts, traits of borderline personality disorder and most certainly have post-traumatic stress disorder. Having children has triggered memories, one very disturbing memory  is of a woman’s hand sexually abusing me. Now whether or not this memory is real is not what I am focused on now, what I realise in light of covert sexual abuse, is that it doesn’t need to have happened for there to be the same outcome. The memory could simply be a manifestation of the fact that whilst I may not have experienced “hands-on” sexual abuse, my experience of covert sexual abuse, of being sexualised, has resulted in the same experience.

I feel like a weight has been lifted, I feel as though I can release this idea that I need to remember something. A wave of acceptance has come over me, and I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other moving further away from this dark past.

 

Little Things

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Picture credit: TimOve 

“Crying tears on the outside and blood on the inside, a stabbing feeling deep in my heart”

A little thing about the Mother that had a big impact on our day to day lives, and still does;

She is never, ever satisfied.

There was always something I did wrong, could have done better or not enough of. I would be chastised for mistakes or beliefs in her own head of how I caused something to happen for years following an event.

If I vacuumed the house, she’d be upset I didn’t clean the windows.

If I tidied my bedroom, she’d be upset I didn’t clean the kitchen.

If a photo was taken she was later angry about my posture.

When I wanted to ride my bike to school, she was angry and slammed the door in my face (a stranger got out of their car to help me cross the busiest road)

When I changed my hair colour to a deep red, she referred to me as “carrot head” until I changed the colour to a more socially acceptable colour, in her opinion.

When I was in a bicycle accident and couldn’t get up, it was my fault she hurt her back helping me get into the car.

When she went through a red light and almost had a collision, it was my fault. And I was actually trying to get us killed. I believed this for a long time.

When I was accepted into a uni degree she was annoyed at my excitement.

When I asked her why she doesn’t say nice things about me being pregnant for the first time, she replied “I don’t want you to get a big head”

There are so many more…

I think the biggest turning point in my feelings towards her was around age 15. I went away with a neighbours family for almost 2 weeks. I felt so homesick and missed the Mother so much. When I saw her on the platform I ran towards her, dropped all my bags and gave her the biggest hug. She immediately told me off for dropping my bags.

Then, in the car started yelling at me about the chores I didn’t do 2 weeks ago before leaving.

When we got home I went to my bedroom. This is my first memory of painful crying. My heart felt broken. I vowed to myself to never feel love for her again. Something inside me switched off.

In therapy I have begun to understand the dynamic with her a little better. During early childhood, everything I did was to keep her happy. Conform and mould into whatever she needed me to be. She was my world. This is what young children do. We do it for our very survival. She was the source of food and warmth. Then we grow up.

As I yearned for more of my own identity I believe this became a point of tension. Suddenly I don’t need the Mother so much, I want independance. I want certain freedoms, away from her. I was becoming a teenager who needed my own identity, I needed to figure out who I wanted to be. The Mother could not handle this natural separation. Instead she became extremely mean. Name calling was her way of bringing me back into line.

Name calling.

Every day.

I was so many things. So many nasty things.

Around this time Dad stopped physically abusing me, but now I was dealing with something else completely.

The next few years that followed are a little blurry in regards to the order of events.

I became bipolar. I would have extreme moments of happiness, laughing hysterically for hours followed by hours of crying. I attempted suicide, with 3 of those attempts landing me in hospital.

The accumulation of little things. Living with the Mother was daily emotional torture. This post scratches the surface of how these little daily interactions eroded my self-esteem and ability to even think for myself.

Now in therapy, one of the things I hope to achieve is finding my voice, allowing myself to have independent thought. Learning to find the words to express myself in a way that is constructive, assertive and respectful.

 

 

Is Strength Found in Forgiveness?

Art Journaling Flowers and Forgiveness

Picture credit: Julie Jordan Scott

Both the Mother and my Father are very much a part of my life. There have been periods where I’ve had no contact with either or both, however one thing or another has always happened over the years that has led to contact being re-established.

Now that I am married, have two children and what I like to consider a fairly happy, stable life they want to see and talk to me more than ever before.

You may be asking yourself, why on earth I continue to have contact? The best answer I have is that through self-reflection and therapy I made a decision to re-define who I want to be. Do I want to be someone who hates and harbours resentment for the past. Or do I want to be someone who can forgive. I choose to at least try the path of forgiveness.

This has been an easier path to walk down in regards to my father. Like me, he is good at living in the present and we very rarely talk about the past. I think we both have an unspoken agreement not to discuss this too much. It’s a trigger for me, and well, he claims to not remember anything which is very frustrating.

The Mother on the other hand, lives in a perpetual past. She is a constant victim of everyone and everything. The Mother never holds herself accountable and will consistently place blame on those around her. This makes forgiving the past more difficult, because my present day interactions with her trigger memories and feelings of childhood. I want so much to be stronger around her, I don’t want to be triggered into this blubbering mess, or child-like state. It’s like she is the only person in the world who doesn’t see me for all my good qualities. I am only reminded of past transgressions or how I am the cause of her ill-health.

In trying to forgive, perhaps our current relationship is one where I can practice strength. I can learn to recognise my feelings and not react. One strategy I use when in her company is to imagine a sign on my chest that reads “Just Visiting”. It makes me smile and remember than I’m an adult now and she can’t hurt me.