When I was too small to be understood when I spoke, my father taught me to scream. He was a sadist, and from him I learned to fear.
When I was in junior high, I met a policeman at my school. He was just there visiting someone. I told him that my life at 11 years old was a nightmare. I told him I was being molested by my step father. I asked for help. He said he was out of his jurisdiction. His girlfriend, my teacher, told him that as far as she knew I had a good home life. She knew that because she saw me for less than an hour a day for one semester in gym class. This was a class where I never participated, or dressed for gym because I didn’t want to have to take my clothes off in front of people to shower. From the policeman I learned that no one would really believe me or help me.
From my stepfather I learned to hate my body for the sickness it inspired.
From the cops who arrested me at age 15, I learned to devalue myself and make excuses for people who treated me badly.
From my husband, I learned to hate alcoholism, addiction, and excuses. From ridicule, to assault, to spousal rape, he taught me to despise him.
There was another lesson I learned from my Grandfather. It was his story. From the Jewish boy who grew up in Budapest Hungary, who saved up money he earned as a bell hop to come to America, I learned to leave . From his story, I learned to never give up, and when all else failed, to take those I loved and go.
I know looking back he was not a great man, not even really a good or kind man. Still, he taught me what I needed most. Thank you, Grandpa, for your story.
The first memory I have of being abused was before I could talk well enough for people to understand me. I was maybe 2. My father was home and acting playful. He was letting me climb on him and crouched down on the living room floor with me. I was happy, he was like a different daddy because normally, I was scared of him. He was always yelling and hitting people.
On this day he seemed happy and nice. He picked me up and I reached out to touch his mustache. I touched it lightly and he pressed my hand harder onto his mustache, then he took my fingers into his mouth. He bit them really hard. I screamed, but he didn’t let go right away. When he did let go of my fingers and put me down, there were purple tooth prints on my fingers. He was still happy, but I never wanted to play with him again.
When I was 3, he started coming into my room when my sister wasn’t home. We shared a room, so it didn’t happen a lot, but when it did, it was terrible. I never thought it was meant to be pleasant for me, he liked to hurt me.
The first night, he reached under my blanket and just felt my private area. He was talking quietly about how it was too small and would bleed if he put his finger in. He sat there for a while just touching me, then he left.
The next night, while we watched tv, he called me over to him on the couch. He said he thought I had a fever, and he was going to take my temperature. I think he already had the thermometer. He made me lay across his lap and told me to put my face down into my pillow. He pulled down my pants and put the thermometer into my rectum with his finger along side of it. He told me to hold still and relax, or it would break, that it was glass, so it would hurt a lot. I cried even though he told me to stop. My mom came back and saw what he was doing . She told him he was doing it wrong. He said he was afraid the thermometer would slide in and get stuck if he didn’t do it that way. So I had to lay there in front of everyone while he timed it. They said it would be a few minutes but, when the show was over he was still at it. When the show was over the other kids were sent to bed. He told me to be real still and he’d take it out. There was a bit of movement of his finger then he took it out slowly and sent me to bed.
The next time my sister was sleeping over, somewhere my dad brought me into my parents bed. He said I’d been crying because I was scared but I hadn’t been.
The scars of a narcissistic mother last a lifetime.
This is the brave story of an adult child of a narcissistic mother’s story.
My dear father fell ill the end of February 2013. He’d been in and out of the hospital for three months with various ailments and a discovery of an aggressive cancer. We lost my dear father on May 29th 2013.
My father cared for my 80-year old mother. He waited on her hand and foot; he’d been doing this my whole life. It was now my turn to care for my mother.
I thought I was doing what was right; I thought I was being a good daughter. I visited with her every day. Let her cry on my shoulder, took care of her needs, medication, doctor appointments, fed her, cleaned her home, took care of her pets. My brother occasionally would show up, with some type of take-out food, but scoot out quickly.
After a few weeks, I started to get the wrath of my mother. I couldn’t do anything right
…I was too slow. I forgot to do something. Then, it turned into criticism of my body and how I raise my children; she was sorry she ever adopted me. I left her home crying every day; going home to my own family filled with anxiety and stress. I felt every bit 12-years old, all over again.
I am just recently learning about Narcissism.
I was 2- 1/2 when I was adopted. My brother is 8 years older than me and my parent’s biological son. I could never remember much of my childhood before the age of 11 or 12, but do remember a few haunting memories that I tried to pass off as a nightmare. One of the reoccurring memories happened when I was 6 – my then 14-year old was brother tickling me. It progressed to him pulling up my nightie and trying to penetrate me with his penis.
I can’t remember much past that.
He was always inappropriate, showing me his penis and laughing, making a sick game of it. I can’t remember the length of time this went on. Sometimes he would be nice, then he would be plain cruel to me.
I stopped talking in 2nd grade. I was so terribly shy, so shy that I would cry if someone looked at me the wrong way. I started remembering everything when I was a preteen but I was too ashamed to tell anyone as my brother continued his cruelty. He didn’t call me by my name. He called me Moose – as in a “fat moose.” My mother allowed this. She allowed him to be cruel to me and never said anything. In fact, it was my fault he was being mean.
He left for college when I was 12. Then came the wrath of my mother. She would make me weigh myself in front of her. She was very thin, an ex-model; she was an alcoholic and a very mean drunk. My father would water down her vodka in hopes she would be less volatile. She would scream at me for various reasons, none of them made sense. I just felt unloved. In fact, she made me go to a therapist at 13 because she said I had a “detachment disorder” and “could not love anyone.” Something about “not being held when I was back in my home country.”
My father tried the best he could to assure me I was pretty, smart and lovable. I always felt that from him, but he never stood up to my mother and quietly observed the maniacal behavior. I could write so much more of what happened through my childhood. (ed note: please share with us)
I am now 44 years old, married 18 years with 2 teenagers. I know I have the ability to love. I know I was mistreated because I could never treat my own kids that way. I am now in therapy to reconcile my feelings of guilt and quell my anxieties that still exist. I have never felt good enough or have been able to express myself for fear I might upset someone.
I am learning that my brother was the “golden child” and I was the scapegoat. It is all starting to make sense to me now. My therapist also believes my parents or at least my mother had knowledge of my brother’s sexual abuse towards me. Ughhh, I can’t even imagine this could be true. I have no contact with either my mother or brother as of Thanksgiving. My children tell me I seem less stressed. My husband also has noticed a huge change. I believe I am healing. I believe my father’s passing brought me to a place where I could see all the indignities I had suffered at the hands of someone I called Mom.
A childhood steeped in hatred and abuse can threaten to break us.
And yet, we go on:
I was six months old when I was beaten the first time.
This beating required an Emergency Room visit. When you are beaten from such a young age, you learn that your body has no boundaries, you are not entitled to safety.
I was molested before six years old, my mother witnessed this at bath times…and did nothing. I was raped from six to eight years of age. Mom reminds me, regularly, that she was a victim, too. Therefore, I do not have permission to blame her for these things.
Back then, violence was a multiple days a week occurrence. Dad was quiet most of the time. And then, without rhyme or reason that I could detect (and I tried to identify the cause, to stop it), BLAM! Heaven forbid we did a normal kid thing that was bad.
Nighttime was parent fighting time. From my bed, I could hear the screaming, Mom crying. I could hear bodies tumbling and grunting, from him reaching for her and hitting her. He would rape her. He would break furniture on her.
By the time I was six until I was eight, he stayed in the guest room on a frequent basis. EVERY night he was in that room, I was too. I got to hear graphic details of Vietnam, before the touching and raping.
When Dad moved into his own home, this decreased to weekends.
But then Mom started. She was depressed and suicidal. She couldn’t handle our noise, our needs, or even us asking for permission to do things. She would strike out, smack us with books, knock our knees with her foot, pushing us away in frustration.
When our bodies were dirty, she would bathe us. She washed my vagina so hard, her nails or the edge of the washcloth would leave slices in my labia. She would pinch between my toes, hard enough to hurt. We had to “get the dirt out.”
Dad ran off when I was eight. Counselors had identified that I was suicidal; what he had done to me. He was confronted and fled to avoid prosecution.
By the time I was nine, Mom had started studying the Holocaust. We were made to watch documentaries with gruesome footage of violence. We had to see pictures of the piles of dead bodies.
We went to museums to meet Holocaust survivors, to hear their stories. The same graphic documentary pictures were always hanging on of the walls.
There were never other children to find, to play. We had to stay by Mom’s side, to witness these things.
We were not permitted anger, or to be sad. No tears, no screaming. We could smile. Or, we could be quiet.
When encouraged, we could explore mud puddles or play on the beach and laugh and giggle with Mom. There were the good times.
We’d always been very poor – with Dad around we were poor, but always had food. After he left, we’d have times of hunger. No food, or too little. I would dish out more to my sister first. Then Mom. Sometimes, I would sacrifice my food so that they could get more. I had become the family cook by the time I was nine. I cleaned. I helped with my sister’s homework. I helped with Mom’s college homework. I was an A-student on my own studies.
Mom used a wooden spoon to spank us. She hit so hard, she would crack handles. We had bruises and welts in the perfect shape of a spoon head on our bottoms and thighs. Sitting in a wooden chair at school was uncomfortable.
When she smacked our heads with her open hand, she would hit our ears. The ringing would startle me.
Her verbal abuse was astounding, sharp and biting. She told me that I was so annoying that it drove her to drink. (Subtext: Daddy was an alcoholic because of you, and I drink because of you too.)
All of these things struggled to silence me, shame me, and remove my human dignity. All of these things demonstrated that I had no rights.
And yet, I persist.
My daughter will be 6 this winter. She’s dying to have a sleepover at our house, she wants to go to one even more. She asks me weekly when she will be old enough. And I want to say never.
When I was 8 a new family moved in next door. I was thrilled because the family had a daughter who was 9. We quickly became friends. She had a brother who was 11. He creeped me out.
We all used to play together a lot, many imaginary games involving us all owning stores. One time, another little girl and I went to the brother’s (let’s call him T-Bone) store. It was in his room, but we couldn’t see him. We opened the closet and found him on the floor with his sister. He was kissing her and had his hand up her shirt. The girl and I ran away and never spoke of it.
Sometimes I feel bad, like maybe we should have told somebody. But we hadn’t heard of bad touching, or incest or anything like that. T-Bone made me uncomfortable whenever we played, his “character” always said suggestive things to my characters. He was always trying to get me to be alone with him.
When I was a bit older and made a point of avoiding him, T-Bone started calling me “Jezebel.” Adults heard him and thought it was cute but it made me scared. I remained friends with his sister and when I was 10 I agreed to sleep over at her house. T-Bone wasn’t supposed to be home for most of the evening, I think, and the sister and I were to sleep on a pull-out couch in the TV room, which was next to the parents’ room.
Looking back, I don’t know why no one thought it strange that they’d moved the sister’s room from next to her brother’s to the floor below, across from the parents. Or that the grandmother’s room was moved up to the 3rd floor. I don’t know why I didn’t blink when we were told to sleep in the T.V. room. I don’t know why I didn’t fake an illness when I found out her parents were going out but T and is friend were staying in. I was 10. I just wanted to stay up late and watch movies with my friend.
We did that. And then we went to sleep. At some point T-Bone and his friend came into the room and jumped on top of us. T-bone pushed my nightgown up and started clutching at my non-existent breasts. I thought, at first, that they were trying to wrestle with us. But then T-Bone starting calling me “whore”.
When he went for my underwear I started scratching and kicking. He slapped me across the face, then suggested to his friend that they “trade.”His friend was like, “But that’s your sister!” The friend went up the stairs. T-Bone followed, snarling all the while.
The sister tried to make it sound like they were wrestling and we had beaten them. I didn’t feel like a winner. I felt dirty.
It didn’t help that T-Bone called me those names whenever he saw me from then on. Jezebel. Whore. Slut. I never went to that house again, but it didn’t really matter. We lived next door in an era where kids played outside unsupervised all the time. He called me those names in front of the other kids. He called me those names after I kicked him in the balls. He called me those names after he tried to lock me in a play house.
He called me those names when he chased me. He called me those names until I was 16 and he had me backed into a corner at the neighborhood 4th of July barbecue. By then he’d been away at college and I hadn’t had to run or kick in a long while. I was so stunned that he was there and that he would still call me those names that I just stared at him. I like to think I would have let him have it, especially since no one was near us, but another neighbor came up then. He was my age but he was a lot bigger than T-Bone. He told T-Bone to leave me alone or else.
I will be grateful to that guy until the day I die. Of course, even though T-Bone stopped calling me those names, it took me a lot longer to stop hearing them. I still can’t stand to be touched when I’m sleeping.
Do I think it’s likely that the same thing will happen to my daughter at a sleepover?
No, I don’t…
…but that doesn’t mean I don’t have nightmares about it.
When I began counseling for childhood physical and sexual abuse, I was broken. A broken heart, a broken spirit. I had carried the guilt and shame of my childhood abuse for so long that it was like an old winter coat. So heavy to carry around each day. So hot that some days it was stifling. And yet it had the comfort of the known. It was scary to throw off that old heavy coat of guilt and shame and face what else was under there.
I thought we would begin slowly. I thought I would share just a bit at a time. My counselor agreed to go at the pace I set. But once I began talking, I kept right on talking. I told her EVERYTHING I could think of. If I thought of something in between sessions, I wrote them down so I could tell her next time. It seems that once I felt a crack in the dam that I’d built to protect myself, the floodwaters couldn’t run fast enough.
I let it ALL out.
It was scary. I shook like a leaf in a hurricane the first session and sometimes after that. But the overwhelming feeling was relief. My need to let it all out was greater than my fear of what my counselor would think of me (of course, that was my insecurities and had nothing to do with my counselor). It was such a RELIEF to release all the secrets I had been carrying.
Once the rush of information was over, we started working on issue after issue.
At some point in counseling, my shame and guilt turned into anger.
ANGER that the abuse occurred. ANGER at those adults who knew and did nothing to protect the little freckled girl with long braids that I had been. ANGER that I carried the guilt and shame of the abuse for so long. ANGER that my stepfather never was held accountable for his actions. ANGER at the days and nights of fear and pain and abuse I endured as a child unable to protect herself. ANGER at the bruises, welts and blisters I had to hide outside of our house. ANGER. ANGER. ANGER.
My counselor encouraged me to feel the anger, but I was terrified of the anger. I remember one conversation where my counselor asked my what about the anger made me so afraid. My reply was “I am afraid that the anger is so huge and so overwhelming that if I tap into it I won’t be able to control it.”
She asked me what I thought losing control of the anger would look like.
I told her I was afraid that the anger would take over and I would just scream and scream and scream until my throat was so raw I wouldn’t be able to scream anymore or that the anger would take over and I would break every single thing in my house. I truly was afraid to let myself feel the level of anger that I knew was raging inside of me.
Then she told me she had a plan, if I was willing. She took me out to her car in the parking lot. She opened the trunk. There in her trunk and in her back seat were huge plastic garbage bags of glass bottles. She had been saving glass bottles for a month or so. Not just hers, she had also asked friends, relatives, and neighbors to save their glass bottles for her.
Her idea was for me to find a place and time where I could be alone (or have a trusted person with me if I chose) and break the bottles. I could scream, cry, or “talk to” the people who I was angry at with each bottle I threw.
Her only “warning” – wear safety glasses.
I won’t lie. It sounded kind of corny to me. But I really trusted her by this point and I was aware that I really needed to deal with this anger before it exploded in some uncontrolled way.
My husband took the kids for a Saturday to go to a park, out to lunch, etc. I went into our basement and set the stage for a safe anger experiment.
I wanted to be able to contain the flying glass so I could avoid anyone being cut later on an overlooked shard. I hung up some plastic sheets so the glass would stay in one area of the basement. I lugged bag after bag of glass bottles to the basement, knowing there was no way I could break all of these bottles at once. I put on long sleeves to reduce the chance of me being hurt by flying glass and donned the ever-so-lovely safety glasses.
I felt stupid. I felt ridiculous setting all of this up. Do “normal” people have to go through all of this just to deal with some anger? But I soldiered on. I wanted to at least be able to say that I tried.
I threw the first bottle. It shattered, but I felt nothing. I threw the second bottle. Again, nothing. I threw the third bottle with some real gusto. Oooh, that felt GOOD! I started throwing the bottles as hard as I could. I eventually started yelling things like “THIS IS FOR NOT PROTECTING ME” or “YOU BASTARD, ROT IN HELL” or “YOU SHOULD CARRY THE GUILT AND SHAME” as I threw the bottles. IT. FELT. AWESOME.
Oh, I was ANGRY. REALLY, REALLY ANGRY.
But I can’t even describe how it felt to have an outlet for that anger.
Bottles were flying fast and furious! There were clear bottles, green bottles, amber bottles and blue bottles (the blue ones had the most spectacular shatter for some reason).
When I had thrown EVERY. SINGLE. BOTTLE. I was breathing hard and exhausted. But I realized I had felt my rage, really felt my RAGE, and the world had not stopped turning. My house was still standing. My family was fine. All was well. Better than well. Not only had I started my anger work in a very satisfying way (I can not describe the satisfaction of yelling out “YOU ARE A SICK FUCK WHO TOOK ADVANTAGE OF A LITTLE GIRL ” and then hearing the shattering of the bottle) but I had also proved to myself that I could handle the anger without losing control.
I know it sounds a little “nuts.” I know it sounds kind of corny. But I am here to tell you – this exercise opened the door for me. It helped me get past my fear of the anger and bring it out in the open so I could work on it.
So thank you SR for being such an awesome therapist that you collected bottles from far and wide for me. Thank you for showing me a way to tap into that anger safely.
I saved a little glass jar of the multi-colored shards of glass. Blue, green, amber, clear. I smile when I walk past it now. Beautiful reminders of my righteous anger and SR’s lesson that helped me release it.