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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

Abuse victims. Writing their truth. — Julie Mariner

Back in 2015 Brandon O’Neill wrote a blog for The Spectator chronicling the case of pianist James Rhodes and his victory in court overturning a legal injunction which was preventing him from publishing his child abuse memoir. It is a particularly harrowing account of sexual abuse which leaves little to the imagination. Not only does […]

via Abuse victims. Writing their truth. — Julie Mariner