Having a strew of family members who are infected with narcissism can not only make me delve into a sea of depression where no help or savior is in sight, but it can squeeze every ounce of energy and joy out of my life. In all my travels, I never encountered a more deadly disease. Narcissism is a disease of the heart. There is no cure for it. I feel like I’m losing my mind sitting on my island watching my family members of origin refuel on hate, jealousy, cruelty and lies. The world runs on petroleum and they run on arsenic.
I find myself craving comfort when I grow disturbed at the thought of their insanity. I went about my day; reading, yoga and chatting on the phone with friends. All the while, I carried the gloom of living on my island. The feeling of isolation is a frequent visitor in my domain. When I got home after yoga, I curled up in a fetal position and zoned out for a few minutes trying hard to not be overtaken by the hopelessness of it all.
Deep down, I know that no matter what, I will be okay. Yet, I can’t help but to doubt if I really will be okay. What if I crumble? What if I’m a weakling and give in to the loneliness? I better brush up on my swimming so I can make it off my island to shore.
A dear friend of mine lost her mother several years ago and she struggles daily to carry on without her mom. When I spend time with my friend, I can feel the sadness she carries inside her. She is brave and holds the pain inside, yet sometimes it seeps out. She shared with me that ever since her mom passed away, she cannot sleep well at night. She is up every morning at 3 am. I bit my lip hard to stop myself from crying. I’m upset that she is hurting so much. I don’t want her to hurt. I don’t want her to be depressed and feel empty inside. I know that pain. Don’t feel this pain I think to myself loudly! No, not this pain. But, there is nothing I can do other than listen and show her that I care.
I often ask her to share stories about her mom and her favorite memories. You see, I don’t know what it means to love my mom. I don’t understand what a close mother daughter relationship should look like, or what it feels like. So, for this self fish reason I ask my friend to share her stories and memories of her mom, so I can begin to understand what it means to have a mom you cherish and adore. I don’t feel bad asking her to do this because she lights up when she shares fond memories with her mom. She becomes a little girl again soaking up her mother’s love and approval. I enjoy watching her transform to a happier version of herself when her mom was still with her, besides her.
I feel so grateful that I have friends that teach me what a mother’s role is and what a good mother does. I so much want to know so that I can continue to be the mother my children deserve. I felt myself healing last week when I filled my daughter’s plastic pumpkin from her childhood with candy she likes to eat. I felt myself heal when I wrapped the candy in festive Halloween tissue paper and gently laid fluffy Halloween socks in the pumpkin. I felt myself heal, when I wrote her a loving and kind Halloween card. I felt myself heal when I mailed it to her dorm room.
I’m starting to know what it means… thanks to my friend.
My mother wrote the script and she broke my four sisters and I down into a specific role. If we ever diverged from those roles, she delved into her daily routine of berating, humiliating, scolding, shaming and demeaning us. It actually was genius work that she did. She designed the script, broke us down into those narrow specific roles, humiliated us if we stepped out of those roles. That’s a lot to manage while still having to cook, clean and do laundry. I’m not being bitter or rude, I just stating the facts.
The narcissist’s job is to inflect pain and suffering on their victims. My mother did this. She was obviously, a very unhappy person. I don’t think she knew what the word happy, joy or peace meant. I don’t think she’s ever experienced such feelings. It’s strange but I did witness, on several occasions, “joy” wash over her face when she inflected pain on myself and/or my sisters and others. It still creeps me out to think of her “joy” when she made sure my sisters and I were unhappy. It’s not a happy joy, but a wicked, creepy joy. A dark joy where her eyes would narrow and her lips would turn into a slight smile. I’ve been haunted by this look for as long as I can remember.
The part that I find hard to accept is that my sisters have no idea that they are following my mother’s script. They have no idea that the actors in their lives change, but the roles and script are the same, because they make sure everyone in their life follows the script. I just recently discovered that I too was following my mother’s script. Like me, I’ve seen my sisters force neighbors, co workers and family members into the roles written in my mother’s script. Yes, so just follow the script because it’s been the family tradition for some time now and a great way to ensure no individuals evolve into who they are meant to be.
Hiding is a defense skill that adult children of narcissistic parents learn in order to survive. This is going to sound very odd, but until recently, I use to walk around thinking that I was invisible. When people would talk to me, I’d think to myself, how do they see me. I often wished I was invisible, but now that I know I’m not, I feel better about being seen and even heard.
My narcissistic parent scares me as do my narcissistic sisters, especially my older sister. Often I wish that I was an only child as I already have no contact with my three sisters. They are more enemies than sisters. My mother planted hate, jealousy and rage in the soil of our childhood. I no longer believe that any of my sisters can overcome it. They have tried and failed miserably. In my family of origin, my mother constantly repeated the same phrases over and over again. It was a sort of brain washing that took place. She’d repeat throughout the day, “A good girl never thinks she’s better than her mother.” And all sorts of other insane things. The damaging message of, you better never be better than me in anything, was absorbed. The hard part is when I step out into the real world and everyone else is telling me, “Come on Dana, you can do it! Try again. Push yourself.” It’s so kind and sincere and mind boggling. It’s the complete opposite message I received all the years I was in contact with my mother, aunts and my sisters.
So, I no longer want to hide. Maybe just from my family of unfortunate origin. I’ll leave them to stew and stir their pot of black magic as I carry on and try to tackle my challenges at every turn.
As a Special Education Teacher I worked with children who had emotional disturbances. Some children cried, some shut down and other were just plain enraged. It hurt me to see children so young carry heavy emotions. I thought to myself, their lives didn’t even begin yet and already they are drained of joy, energy and hope. James was a fourth grader who trusted me and connected with me enough to be vulnerable. We were reviewing math together when he just froze and stooped in a dazed phase. I watched him for a few seconds wondering what he was in deep thought about. The look on his face was intense and his emotion seemed raw.
He quickly regained his focus and said, “Mrs. B?”
“Yes,” I replied eager to hear what he wanted to say.
“They hurt me. My father and his wife put my feet in scalding water when I was three. I didn’t do anything.” I swallowed hard trying to fight back the tears that were ready to stream down my face as I watched his tears stream down his sweet face. Say something fast Dana, I thought to myself.
“I’m so sorry James I said softly. You never deserved that. You’re a special sweet boy who deserves to be treated well all the time. Look at me James,” I said holding his hand. He looked at me and I said, “Thank you for sharing this with me. I’m sorry they hurt you.” Without consent, my independent thinking tears gushed down my face. Damn it Dana, I told you not to cry I demanded. James didn’t seem to mind my tears. He knew I cared.
- But, not all children were like James. One child would not listen to me. She was mad and she did not trust kindness. Her wall was super high. I continued to reassure her, coax her and wait for her to listen and trust me, but , she wouldn’t. Mental and emotional abuse is crippling and suffocates child development. I will continue to try with her, until little me listens. My inner child is damaged. She is frozen in the pain and fear of the abuse. Everyone tells me to keep talking to her and that in time, she may listen.
Even now as a seasoned and grown woman, I still feel disturbed and terrified of my narcissistic mother. I understand that not all mothers are loving and kind, but my mother was and is insanely sick; she is twisted like characters you see in horror movies. I remember how she’d growl, stew and rage. That maniac look in her eyes still sends chills down my spine and sets off my PTSD.
I don’t need to watch horror movies, I lived a horror movie. You either sell your soul to the devil or you are dumped and disowned by your own family. A mother who is jealous of her own daughter is unnatural and demented.
It’s taking me a while to recover and heal. I know I need patience with myself to get better. To forget.
Sometimes I can find my peace and tucked it away where no one can disrupt it. Often though, I cannot keep my peace and I allow people, family matters and things break me into pieces. I struggle to regain my peace and not let things I cannot control upset me. I think I need to experience uninterrupted peace. I think that if I tasted it longer,
I’d learn to not let anyone shatter it into pieces. I am an introvert and I do recharge in the quiet and peace. The world is a beastly extrovert with loud voices, big opinions and suffocating judgement. I cringe at the thought of all this. This is when I shut down, leave and go home. You see, all of the noise reminds me of the narcissist. So I leave.