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Introducing my professionally invisible self

This is my first visit to the Band. I looked for this site because, at 54, I am still struggling to understand why my father won’t acknowledge my professional successes. I sent him an email last week asking about his holiday plans and mentioning that I am having a book published (we live about 5 hours apart, driving). I’ve been working on this goal actively for nearly a decade, and dreaming about it since I was in grade school.

I’ve nearly raised two children (they’re teenagers), I have a good marriage, and I’ve supported my family financially through my husband’s 5 layoffs. Don’t I deserve a pat on the head (realize this is an infantalizing image) for also pursuing my own dream all these years, while still doing all that was “expected” of me? My mother died many years ago of cancer. In fact, she was 54, the age I am now.

I signed this book contract six months ago but never mentioned it directly to my Dad, even though we shared a rental house for a week in the interim at a family vacation. Last week, in an email, he praised my daughter for academic persistence in high school, and I felt as though I should point out that she was taking a page from her Mom (me). I’ve written 4 book proposals, each 50-60 pages of work, and finally I made a sale! But, this revelation was met with total silence from my Dad and step-mother. I’m pathetic to still care and need and want this acknowledgement. I shouldn’t even ever have tried!! I should just admit that I’m invisible and stay that way. Why do I keep trying for normal?

I have a lovely mother in-law who takes pride in my accomplishments, all around: wifely, motherly, writerly. My husband does, too, as do many friends. I should be grateful. I AM grateful. I still want to make my father normal! Oy. Hopeless. I am grateful that I woke up from this crazy relationship in time to raise my kids without a narcissistic or victim-mongering mother. But there are bits that won’t go away.

The Blue Rocking Chair

The life I’ve been living for over eight months now is an ugly one. A lonely one. A dangerous one.
Night after night, after my son is in bed – sometimes earlier, if his father is home – I pour my first drink. A strong one. I recoil from the sharp taste of vodka or whiskey, both of which I’ve grown to hate. Sometimes it makes me gag, almost comes back up. But I never allow that to happen. I suck the drink down through a straw. Make another. Then another. My body relaxes and my mind becomes fuzzy. I grow sociable and talkative. Rarely do I become an angry or depressed drunk. Rather, I become the person I feel is the best version of myself, the one I used to be while sober – cheerful, fun, laid-back, interesting. My social anxiety dissipates. Things become less irritating to me. My frustrations, fears, and that unnamable empty sadness I carry around are buried – or more accurately, soaked – in a poison that is killing me.
I sit in a blue rocking chair where I tried and failed to breastfeed my son less than a year ago. It emits a maddening repetitive squeak as I rock and drink, but I don’t care. I don’t care about anything. I just want to get to that far-away, mellow state where life seems good, hope still exists, and I can tell myself that tomorrow, I will give up the bottle and make a fresh start. Lately, more often that not, I pass out in that chair, sleeping so deeply I cannot be shaken awake.
In the morning, I’m shaky and nauseated and dehydrated. My partner – I’ll call him Steven – is the one who gets up with our baby, feeds him breakfast, plays with him while I sleep off hangovers. I groan in protest when Steven wants to make it to his very flexible job by earlier than ten o’clock. We might have had whiskey-soaked sex the previous night, but now I want nothing to do with him. Together on-and-off for more than ten years, we’ve ceased to become a romantic couple. Now he is merely my co-parent, my roommate, my financial support, and my enabler.
I muddle through the day trying to be the best mother I can even though my hands shake as I guide spoons towards my son’s mouth and I have to listen to him wail in protest when I must run to the bathroom again with digestive issues. When you don’t have a gallbladder, and your liver is constantly busy trying to process toxins, the bile needs somewhere to go. Forgive the unpleasant image, but it’s something I’ve dealt with every single day for nearly a year.
I never vomit, and I rarely have headaches. But my body temperature is irregular; I have hot flashes at thirty-three. I can’t eat regular-sized meals anymore, and I’m very particular about what foods I can tolerate during the day – often chicken soup or broth is all I can manage. I’m always tired; I don’t sleep so much as become unconscious for five or six hours a night. My body is worn down. I lose my breath easily. I have coughing fits from the permanent lodge of mucus in my chest. I’m overweight, not from eating but from liquid calories. My muscles ache, and I struggle to heave my 25-pound child into my arms.
I say a few things on Facebook, read aloud and talk cheerily to my son, and spend the day lonely, wanting a drink, aching for something better. I don’t know how to regain the joy I used to have.
When I was twenty-one, I rarely drank. I wasn’t a partier. I was beautiful, thin, and blonde. I worked, and went to classes, and danced, and sang, and laughed, and threw Frisbees and footballs, and rollerbladed, and painted my fingernails, and flirted, and kissed, and was always surrounded by friends. I didn’t need to drink. Life itself was enough.
At twenty-two, I met Steven. It wasn’t his fault. I didn’t become an alcoholic because of him. The shitty fact is, it was likely always in my brain chemistry to become an addict. They run rampant on both sides of my family. It was always there, waiting. All it took was a relationship with a “social drinker” to change my attitude about alcohol. I saw that it made me freer, bolder, less shy and anxious, relaxed, witty, more fun. And from that point on, it took over my life.
By twenty-five, I was doing shots before going in to work my job as a jewelry seller at K-mart. By twenty-seven, a counselor told me to go to AA. By twenty-eight, I was drinking at every family gathering, every social function, every holiday, and often alone. By twenty-nine, I was living back at home with my parents, drinking secretly up in my childhood bedroom every single night.
I’m not even sure how my body was even healthy enough, at age thirty-one, to conceive a child. And here I have to apologize to the infertile couples who are hating me – I know I didn’t deserve him. I didn’t deserve a beautiful, full-term, perfectly healthy son. I did not drink after discovering I was going to be a mother, but I drank during the first weeks before I knew he existed and worried throughout the pregnancy, turning to Google countless times trying to determine how much damage I might have done. The answers were frightening. I almost expected a miscarriage throughout the first trimester, but my son was a strong one from the start. I felt him astonishingly early for a first-timer. Later, he kicked me with such force I almost expected him to emerge alien-style from my belly. He kicked until he broke the amniotic sac, forcing his birth five days before my scheduled induction.
He was pink, and wailing, and alert, and utterly perfect. The only issue was that he had breathed in some of the amniotic fluid and needed to be suctioned. I was stunned at my new role, but I loved my boy and wanted to protect him with a fierceness I’d never known before.
I had hoped motherhood would be enough motivation to keep me sober.
It wasn’t. By the time he was three months old, I was back to nightly drinking.
When I’m sober, my brain is my worst enemy. It prevents me from sleeping peacefully. It tells me what a failure I am, what a mess I’ve made of my life. It regrets everything I missed out on when I was younger. It berates me for being fat, ugly, socially awkward, useless. It panics about the future. It worries about money, my health, my wasted potential.
To quiet it, I drink.
Nobody but Steven knows. It’s my secret. We live hundreds of miles from our families. We have no friends in our current location. It’s just us, estranged partners struggling to raise an energetic, happy, rambunctious almost-toddler. He works long hours, and after the baby goes to bed, I’m alone. In my rocking chair, with a drink at my side.


The Narcissistic Mum

This has actually hit me like a ton of bricks, and I thought I had it sorted.

My mum is a Narcissist of the proper, fully paid up, type.

I knew it – I had heard it said and had agreed and listened but, it never, ever really sunk in. I don’t think I would allow it to. She also has a whole host of other mental health issues but, none of that really had the impact that the Narcissistic Personality Disorder did; not on me anyway…and we are talking major, major Psychotic breaks.

They were easier than when she was ‘well’.

I looked it up last night in bed and came across this site and read about having a Narcissist for a Mum and I was like…Oh – My – God (with the proper shocked face and everything). I knew I had been feeling ‘out of sorts’ for days now. I knew that my unavoidable interactions with her lately were taking me back and putting me in touch with a time from long ago. I knew I felt more off kilter than I do generally – and that’s saying something as I don’t think I’ve ever been ‘on’ kilter.

I knew I felt weepy and angry in turns, and hurt and wanting to run away. I feel repulsed by her – in every sense of the word and that was unusual because – normally I would feel…numb. My grown adult stance was – numb. Don’t react, don’t show weakness, NEVER share (I learnt very quickly that ‘Anything I said could, and would, be used against me in a court of mum).

So – to be weepy and grumpy and just…unusual feeling, wasn’t my norm. So I came here and…BANG.

The article, the Narcissistic Parent one – felt like a smack in the mouth. It felt like reading a scarily accurate slice of my life. Like someone had just divided me up like a birthday cake – took one slice and read it back to me. Everything was there. Everything.

Why did I not accept it before..? Because, I could see it and hear it and even nod in wise agreement but, nothing was shifting or moving or sinking in. My Therapist had all but told me! I had all but told others, I just can’t explain it…

…only – I can. I didn’t believe it and I deleted it from my knowledge base or ‘truths’ about myself because, deep down, I still believe her.

It’s still all my fault. I am still ugly and unlovable and blameworthy. There is still something wrong with me which made her not love me. It’s still all me; my fault. She hates me and then ‘they’ hated me. My sibling and her. I am hated and the reason is – just me, being me. Born bad, I am still bad – defective. I can cause stuff without even being near or ever involved. I believe this. I truly do.

I – still – do. THAT’S why I had nodded my head and made all the right noises and hadn’t believed a word anybody had ever said or anything, to date, I had read.

But, there was me in Black and White. The Scapegoat.

How I wished I was the Golden One. I used to dress up in their clothes, in private when they weren’t around, so I could pretend to be them. I used to study them to try and be more like them – and less like me.

They had lovely clothes, colourful and swishy. Beautiful things that were bright and warm and smelled nice and looked nice. I had…track suits; androgynous and bland. Not a boy – not a girl – not anything you could describe. Nothing to give identity or personality.

I got caught once – red handed and guilty. Golden One cornered me against my bedroom door and punched me, full on, in the face and I screamed. This alerted mum, who rushed up the stairs and without even stopping for a breath or asking what had happened, she rushed on to me and punched me too – full on – in the face.

I think I was about 10 years old then.

I also remember a time when I was cowering in the corner of my bed while they both scratched and hit and clawed at me. I don’t know how old I was then – or even what I had done. I just remember being in the corner with no way out and being hit.

Golden One had an awesome bedroom that was age and sex appropriate, it was full and warm and lovely. Mine was sparse and bloody cold and – empty.

My love was ‘him’. And that made me bad too because ‘he’ was bad. And he was.

But, whilst I’m writing this I’m buzzing about and carrying on with life and a thought occurred..

To me – ‘he’ was safe.

A violent, alcoholic bully was SAFE – for me.

This used to confirm to me (ok, still does), how ‘bad’ I was. And it definitely confirmed to them how bad I was. He was ‘BAD’ (and he was – no dispute there) but…

…he liked me. He thought I was funny and strong and intelligent. He felt sorry for me and I knew that because I overheard a conversation once…hanging over the banister…

‘…why do you do it?’

‘Because no one else does…’

That was me. The question was ‘Why do you favour her?’ He tried to champion me and – he failed – because he was a bullying alcoholic, a violent person, horrible, despicable – and then he died.


A Lifestyle Change

So I have recently started this “lifestyle change.”

If I call it a “diet,” I will fail miserably as I have a thousand other times. I try really hard to watch what I eat. Most days I keep a nifty online journal that tells me how many calories I can have and how many I’ve consumed. It’s really been helpful. Tonight, I even walked two and a half miles, which is awesome for me. I’m still sitting here sweatin’ my balls off!

It’s HARD not to get discouraged. The last three weeks I have pretty much stuck to eating 1600 calories, which means that I should lose about two pounds a week. I have only lost two pounds altogether and depending on the time of day that I weigh myself, I haven’t even lost that.

I know everyone is different and all that jazz. I know I shouldn’t weigh myself all the time. I know I have been drinking almost a gallon of water a day to fight hunger. I know I should walk more. I know what I should know.

I know I will lose the weight. I know I need to. I have gained almost 100 pounds since high school and there’s no reason for that. Yes, I had three children, I have a stressful job and a hard marriage. Still, not a good excuse. I really think I’m more disappointed in myself for listening to all the excuses and letting my weight get so out of control.

I have a constant fight with my reasoning. If I eat just one more bite, it won’t hurt. I have to finish my whole plate or I will be wasting money.

My whole life I thought that I was fat because family always said I was. Once, I asked for a snack and my mom replied “and you wonder why you’re so fat.” I was only 10. But looking back at pictures, I see I wasn’t fat, I was beautiful. Maybe if my family and kids at school hadn’t been cruel, I would have cared about how I looked. Then maybe I wouldn’t have been so discouraged. Now that I have friends who encourage me, I know that I can do it. I can lose this weight.

It’s up to me now. I have to get myself out of this mess. It’s going to be a long, hard journey. I will probably fail – I usually do. I’m going to try really hard not to. I have awesome support group this time. I will exercise my self-control. This will be a journey of hits and misses. I cannot and will not get discouraged.

I really need to get hot for Aunt Becky’s cruise (ed note: WOO-HOO!). I need to be able to wear a swimsuit in the Bahamas and not look like a beached whale.

100 lbs. That’s all.

I cannot wait to know what it feels like 100 pounds lighter. That’s a whole person. Somewhere, I will find the willpower.

And I will do it!

They Like Me, They Really – Oh, Shit

The following is reposted from my Facebook notes because, well, there are other people out there who get treated this way, too. And it’s a bunch of bullshit.

This is me ranting about people. Specific people. The ones who act all, “zomg, we should totally be BFFs!!!” and then don’t fucking talk to you for months. Years. Until it’s convenient for them, or they get bored enough to weed through their friends list. Life happens, I get that. Shit comes up. But damn, people.

Or how about those, “we should chat!” bitches you bump into on occasion who swear up and down they’ll call you/text you/IM you, then don’t? Love those. (That’s /sarcasm, for the me-illiterate.)

I’m starting to feel like that date who gets sugar and spice and everything nice at dinner, a promise of a phone call and second date, then wonders if maybe, just maybe, I gave the wrong number? Shit, did I transpose those last two digits? Did I write my email all illegible? But no, you just decided I wasn’t worth the time of day and conveniently didn’t tell me. A simple, “You’re nifty and shit, but I’m just not that into you.” will suffice. KTHXBAI.

And you know, I act all nonchalant and I-couldn’t-give-a-fuck-if-I-tried. Because breaking down into tears of, “why don’t they like meeeee??” is fucking pathetic and makes me stabby just to think about. But I’m not a goddamn droid there for you to turn on and off when you please.

I do actually have feelings. (GASP! I know. But my doctor swears I have a blood pressure and everything. Totally living, breathing, the nines. Go figure.) I’m a big girl who can handle her share of Dear John letters, but I’d actually like to GET them. Hanging in limbo sucks.

So if you don’t want to braid each others’ hair and make friendship bracelets, I think I’ll recover. Just have the cajones to tell me so, k?

It’s appreciated.