A long time ago a psychiatrist said to me;
” I see three kinds of people…sad, mad and bad. And you are sad”.
It was exactly what I needed to hear, and for that I am forever grateful.
Photo credit: Sad Sunflower
A long time ago a psychiatrist said to me;
” I see three kinds of people…sad, mad and bad. And you are sad”.
It was exactly what I needed to hear, and for that I am forever grateful.
Photo credit: Sad Sunflower
“Your love heart is not cracked anymore….I love you mummy”
Wow! What a thing to hear on a sunny winter morning. My four year old said this to me as I was washing the dishes. What seems to be a regular morning of random conversation carries a much deeper meaning.
It is a morning I am not impatient, I am not rushed, I am not angry, I am not sad. This shining light on the path of healing affirms the effort and reflection practiced daily so that I can step away from effects of childhood trauma.
After my second child I was diagnosed with post-natal depression and went on anti-depressants. Two key things stand out as I reflect on this period of time; intrusive thoughts and anger. Both of these were very distressing and led to one and a half years of anti-depressants. This morning is a sign post showing me how far I have come along the journey of healing. As I I think about these precious words, it brings a smile to my face, a warm feeling that I am on the right path. As I listen to my daughters playing, laughing and expressing joy, I am grateful to give them a better life than what I had growing up.
My love heart is not cracked anymore. Honesty and wisdom out of the mouth of a babe.
How did I get here?
One of the first things I have committed to is being able to REPAIR. This means saying “sorry” when I have done something wrong. In no way, is this a free pass to do whatever I want and then say sorry. It is quite the opposite, it is the awareness that I have done something wrong, saying sorry and reflecting on how NOT to make the same mistake again. That being said, when I do make mistakes I remind myself of the 80/20 rule, it is impossible to be perfect all the time, in fact it is unrealistic to teach our children that anyone can be perfect all the time, we all make mistakes. The lesson is HOW do I handle myself when that does happen. This been to repair, reflect, forgive myself and keep trying.
Another thing, and perhaps the most important from a child’s perspective is PLAY. Making the time to play. This is how children CONNECT with us. Their invitation “come play with me” is a child reaching out. In order to make this achievable I aim to dedicate anywhere between 10-20 minutes for a play at the end of the day. The beauty of this is that as a parent, I don’t even need to do anything. I follow my child’s lead, watch what they are doing and join in. And on the weekends, we DANCE, I put some music on and we jump around the room, spin each other around and be SILLY!
BREATHE. During those moments I am triggered and past traumatic feelings present themselves I walk away and I breathe. I remind myself that the feelings are a product of my own trauma and are more an indication of my experience rather than anything my children are doing. Once back to a calmer place, then I can re-engage and deal with whatever the situation is. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that children are at different developmental stages, they can and will do things that are irrational, they will not know how to handle their BIG emotions. I am the adult, and I have the cognitive capacity to react appropriately. And this has been my mission for years now, heal from my trauma so that the cycle of abuse stops with me.
And a lovely resource I’ve been following for some time is Aha! Parenting. You can find their website HERE. I’ve found it useful to sign up as many different parenting newsletters as possible so that I receive daily reminders and reflections to keep me on a steady path.
Last and not least, is my husband. I have been fortunate to marry a man who is intelligent and philosophical about life. He knows my deepest, darkest secrets and loves me anyway. He knows my stories of abuse and has allowed me space to heal. He is my confidant and biggest supporter in life. Whilst marriages are not always perfect, with each person bringing their own trauma, issues or what ever you would like to call it, one thing we do have is a commitment to make it work. Both of us have had very poor role models when it comes to love and marriage. The ironic part is that my dad, the one who was physically abusive has helped us through some of our biggest conflicts. My dad may have brought heartache into my life as a child but there’s an element of peace that has been found. For that I am also grateful.
photocredit: Jodie Dee
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.
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
As 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
My blogging journey began with the memories and now it has transformed into one of healing.
When I first began the journey towards healing from the past, one of my first steps was joining lots of different narcissistic support groups on Facebook. Reading other peoples posts of information they’ve found, books they’ve read as well as questions posted helped me feel that I am not alone. In my life, I am surrounded by family and friends who do not understand what it is like to be raised by a narcissistic parent. They lack the insight to provide any kind of support. Which of course I understand, to describe even the smallest thing I’ve experienced at the hands of my Narc Mother leaves people either laughing, speechless or looking at me like I might be too sensitive. Because after all, she’s your mother right? How could a mother really want to hurt her children? Generally people find this hard to comprehend because it goes against everything society holds dear about Mothers’. I get told, “but she’s so nice” or “she’s your mother”. That last one really gets to me; so because she’s my mother I must excuse the fact that deep down there is no genuine love for me? No genuine interest in who I am, no acceptance of my dry sense of humour. I must excuse her for belittling me in the company of other people because “she’s my mother”?
And then when I let people know I have no contact with the Mother, I get the ‘I’m so sorry’. To which I reply, there is nothing to be sorry about. Since going no contact I am the strongest I have ever been. I am more sure of myself, more conversational, more connected to other people in my life, friends and acquaintances. The best part is that I am actually feeling my emotional states rather than trying to suppress my feelings with destructive behaviour as was the case for most of my life. A great example of this is when we had a planning meeting at work and my manager cried at the end because she was so happy with all our efforts and where we are going in 2018. Before I would struggle to connect and feel empathy towards another in this situation and would engage more in what I think was a cognitive empathy rather than a deeper feeling state of empathy. Seeing my manager’s happiness expressed through tears brought tears to my own eyes, and I allowed myself to feel that connection. I did not push it away and nor did I feel ashamed.
A month or so later this happened again at my little girl’s school assembly. The Grade 6’s had made a beautiful video of children in the school celebrating their values each had written onto posters, things like being a good friend, sharing and kindness. These children were expressing themselves in a way that was unique to them, and this was a cause for celebration. Watching this video brought tears to my eyes and I stood there allowing the waves of feeling to rush through my body, I allowed my heart to fill with the love and there was no shame. My expression of gratitude was accepted by my school community, everyone shared in the emotion.
This is healing!
photo credit: Susan Lecente
One day my daughter will be old enough to read this. And when she does she will already know that she had a mum who fought against the odds to help her reach her full potential. I love you to the moon, around all the stars and back to the earth a million times over. You are my sunshine, and an absolute delight. Everyone who meets you adores and cherishes your humour, kindness and empathetic nature. We are so lucky we got you.
To get to where we are now was a long journey, one where I researched and found the best people qualified to assess and diagnose autism in girls. That is the crux of it right there. So many professionals do not have the right knowledge to diagnose high-functioning girls. They may have had years of experience, but do they have experience with girls and autism? This was the question I always had in the back of my mind. And when I came across GP’s, Paediatricians and Speech Therapists who would tell me there’s nothing to be concerned about, I knew better. So I persevered and found the right people to do assessments and eventually a diagnosis of Autism was confirmed.
From having a diagnosis, we were able to access funding to begin early intervention. Without this funding money we could never have afforded the level of intensive early intervention required, and even then it still wasn’t enough. Coming to terms with not having enough resources for the level of intervention I know has better outcomes was one of the most heart wrenching experiences. Eventually I found solace in the fact that she has me as her Mum, someone who has studied psychology and trained in behaviour therapy. I was doing so much with her everyday and well before a diagnosis that her potential would be reached. And it has. My daughter is starting school, she does not have an aid and has begun making friends. Yes, there are going to be challenges, as social life becomes more complex I will need to be attuned to my daughter and where she is at emotionally and psychologically, so that the right kind of support can be there every step of the way.
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.
April 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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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
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.