I’d always believed that my mother loved me and all her interference in my life was to make me better, stronger. Blindly, I trusted that she meant for me to be happy. But I also knew that … something was wrong. I never could do right by her and I just knew that something was wrong with me. She was inside my head, under my skin, causing me to drown. I lost my strength and discovered that I feared her.
These revelations took over a year – it was a whole process for me.
My life had fallen apart and I went to a specialized therapy clinic for help. There, I learned I was codependent. My therapist actually told me “you have a bad mother, you need to protect yourself from her.”
I was shocked.
I talked to my mother as I came out of the clinic and decided to break contact with her. Afterward, I felt so guilty and sunk into a very deep depression. I think I put all my energy into avoiding contact with her. I was stuck in bed, only leaving to go to therapy.
I couldn’t understand my mother’s attitude toward me. How could she be so crazy insensitive to what I was going through? I was obsessed with the question “why?” After seven months of therapy, I discovered that it was helpless to believe there was a way to save our relationship. I remember my therapist saying “no, I don’t think so. Any relationship with her, you’ll only get hurt.”
I cried so much. It was such a big loss. I finally understood how much she’d taken from me. How she enslaved me, took away everything I got, people that I loved. My mother had bullied me all of my life. The pain was indescribable; I was destroyed. Crying every day, having nightmares all night.
None of this made sense. I felt that she’d only rest once I’d killed myself. How could she be so awful to me? I did everything for her; gave her more than I had to give. Was it really just jealousy? Why? Why had she been so cruel to me? My therapist explained that she’s a narcissistic mother; she has narcissistic personality disorder. I was her extension. It was quite confusing so I turned to the internet for answers. I didn’t know what having a narcissistic mother meant.
There I found it. I understood the way I’d felt my whole life. I understood her attitude toward me.
I learned the tactics of psychological manipulation: invalidation, gaslighting, parentification, triangulation, narcissistic rage. Convincing me to do the opposite of what my gut said. Denying my needs.
I was deadly shocked for I don’t know, months? I haven’t really recovered. My symptoms increased, I developed panic disorder, my self-esteem melted, felt so insecure talking to people or making changes in my life.
For five months, I stopped dealing with it – it was just too much. I’m still unable to deal with anything or anyone. I feel lost, I’m afraid that I’m too damaged to be able to be happy. I’m paralyzed. I have no idea who I am.
I’m 40 and I lost my childhood, my innocence, my adult life. I am sick, depressed, lonely, and terrified.
I discovered The Band Back Together Project, for which I am very grateful. Thanks to reading your stories, I now know that I did the right thing in stopping contact to my mother. That was really killing me.
I can understand all the pain I’m feeling. How badly I’m grieving this loss. To top it off, I discovered that my father also has narcissistic personality disorder.
I’ve been badly abused all of my life. No wonder I’m unable to do what I want and need, how absolutely everybody in my life has abused me, why I can’t stand up for myself.
Knowing that I am not alone and understanding my symptoms gives me hope. I understand that I need treatment and support. I’ll return to therapy which I hope can help me to learn to feel angry, to defend myself, to stop feeling guilty all the time. To allow me to have things, a family, someone that treats me well. I hope I’ll never have abusers in my life again.
I wish I could see what life is like. Until now, I’ve never had a life of my own to lead; I was just a stupid toy, trying to please everyone for love and attention. I want to learn to respect myself and set clear emotional boundaries with other people.
The hardest part is to see how damaged I am. That’s really scary.
Thank you, Band Back Together for giving me the opportunity to speak out. I don’t need to be ashamed; I was abused, I am a victim. Thank you for showing me that.
Can you, The Band, share your stories about being an adult child of narcissistic parents?
I really want to believe this emotional trauma will end and I will, at long last, be free.
Thanks to Band Back Together posts, I’ve found many links about other adult children of narcissistic parents (ACONs). I’m learning a lot about who I am and what I need to do heal from the emotional abuse I lived through.
I now understand that through emotional abuse as a child, a person develops many challenges in his or her adult relationships. ACONs are unable to judge people (especially when it comes to protecting oneself), lack understanding what is bad and wrong, instead believing everyone is good. This is what emotional abuse does – it makes us magnets for abusers in our adult relationships.
Lacking the ability to act assertively and set healthy emotional boundaries is big deal of for ACONs. Since I’ve been to the clinic, I read about narcissistic personality disorder. I now understand that I need to put myself first, to respect myself, and set emotional boundaries. This is new for me: I couldn’t tell when it was too much until was too late. I still struggle but I believe that a part of me is learning to respect myself.
I made a huge step: a friend of mine was celebrating her birthday and was pushing me to go to a disco to party with her. It was far too much for me. I have panic disorder,depression, and struggle interacting in social situations.
I explained to her how I felt, but she continued insisting – she told me she wouldn’t come to my birthday party if I didn’t go to hers. I was about to go. I’d picked out an outfit when it hit me: I knew I’d feel distressed and exhausted. I decided to call her and tell her I wasn’t coming. This was incredibly difficult for me but I did it.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel guilty or fear punishment – I felt I needed to respect myself. If she is my friend, she needs to respect my feelings. She doesn’t need to understand them, but she needs to respect them. I’m so proud of myself.
I’m starting to understand what being emotionally abused by a very manipulative malignant narcissistic mother has done to me. I’ve had to learn that it’s okay to say no when one feels like it. I can do that without feeling guilty. This is self-respect, not failing with someone else’s expectations. I’m not hurting anyone by saying I’m sorry, I can’t – I don’t want to do that.
I know it’s a long road I’m facing to learn to say, “No! Don’t touch me!” To put a really angry face when I feel disrespected, and to develop positive aggression to protect myself from abuse. For that, I need to be able to understand my emotional boundaries.
Still can’t. But I’m learning every day.
I now feel comfortable about cutting ties with my ex-boyfriend. I can see that he’s a crazy narcissistic abuser and that the best thing to do was to cut him off. I’d been feeling very insecure about dealing with him as he keeps sending me kind messages. I ignored them, but I was very insecure that cutting him off. Now I know that’s the right thing to do.
I’m loving this new found freedom. I can easily cut out all the abusers in my life. It’s been tough, though. I now see how many narcissistic people I’ve had around me my whole life. How I’ve been abused by friends and that all my ex-boyfriends – without exception – are narcissists. How I let them abuse me without realizing it. I’d get hurt and try to tell them, but they would never hear, I couldn’t see why they’d hurt me. I’d used to think it was because they didn’t realize it. I struggled, trying to make sense of their abuse. So naïve.
I never really confront my problems, to myself or anyone. I want to accept my life, but I cant.
My family is dysfunctional. I have accepted that. My mother has been isolated from 90% of her family, and my grandmother gave me a panic attack at my Nana’s funeral.
Family issues have clouded time for grief. I have only cried a handful of times over her death, but countless times over the problems in my family. There are too many to list, and yeah, every single one stings.
But there have been no family issues since Christmas time. I don’t blame that for how I feel now.
I dont even blame my family for their problems.
Everything is my fault.
I feel like I’m literally the cause of everything.
I have things going well in my life. I have a nice boyfriend, lots of friends who support me, and whatever’s left of my family.
But I feel alone. Like there are people around me who are meant to listen, but I cant get the words out to them.
I guess it would be impossible for someone else to understand something I cant even get my head around.
They don’t understand. They never would, so I wear a smile and push them away when they come too close. All I will do is hurt them in the end, anyway.
In the end I’m just another girl no-one cares about. No-one will remember me when I’m gone. No one will know what eats me inside because it’s my fault. They’re my problems, and I should clean up my own mess.
I understand that I have a problem, but I dont know what it is or how to fix it. I want to talk to someone, but I’m alone in this.
It’s like I’m alone on an island, screaming for help, but no one can hear. If they could, I wouldn’t deserve their help because it’s my fault I’m on the island anyway.
Starting over fresh can be one of the scariest and most exhilarating things we can do.
This is her story:
“You need to get out of here. Now. While your self-esteem is still intact,” my nurse hissed at me as we pretended to be conferring over a particularly challenging medication pass.
I simply stared at her, my eyes threatening to fill with tears.
“I mean it. This place will chew you up and shred you into a zillion tiny pieces. Get out now!”
I nodded, afraid my voice would give my distress away.
“You okay, Boss?” another nurse came by our “difficult” medication pass.
I shook my head no.
“I saw what just happened – the whole dining room did. What she did was NOT okay, Boss. You deserve better. You’re a good lady,” she continued.
The tears spilled down my cheeks.
“I saw her hit you,” a CNA, also “conferring” on the “difficult” medication pass crept over to chime in. “That’s abuse.”
I nodded, trying to cling to the last vestiges of my leadership. They were right. I just didn’t know what to do: I loved my job, my staff, my building. It was just her.
“Why the hell did she hit you?” yet another CNA pressed some Kleenex into my clutched hand as she wandered up to see how I was doing. “That’s just NOT okay. You can’t work with an abusive boss. Why do you think so many of us leave? We can’t take her.”
“I-I-I,” I stammered trying to wrap my brain around it. “She’s mad at me. There was a misunderstanding.”
“Misunderstandings don’t constitute abuse. I heard her yell at you last week about being a “failure,” for something that was my fault,” the second nurse chimed in. “I’m really sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I replied. “I’m trying to be the buffer between you and her.”
They all looked at me sympathetically. “That’s not your job,” the CNA stated flatly after a moment of silence.
“I know it’s not,” I replied. “But if I don’t, you’ll all walk out and you’re some of the best staff I’ve ever met. And I love my job…. when I can actually do it.” I smiled wanly.
They clucked around sympathetically before I gathered myself together, hugged them, then walked back into the fire, my head high.
“Get in here,” she yelled across a dining room full of staff, residents and family the moment she saw me. “And shut the door.”
I sat perched on the edge of her chair, waiting for the onslaught of insults and character assassination that I knew would follow. I loved my job, but I hated this part of it.
Nurses I’d noted, more than most professions, are more likely to accept abuse and ill-treatment thanks to the way they’re treated on the job. I knew this, and still I stayed, loyal to my ethically-challenged boss, or, at the very least, my amazing staff and the residents whom I adored.
Sure, I’d taken to vomiting on my drive to work from the stress of working with my boss. Sure, my anxiety about being even five minutes late because I dared stop for gas often led me to weep in the car. Yeah, I spent most days walking on eggshells and taking the abuse she loved to dole out. But I had a job! And I loved it! How many people could say that?
I sat there and listened to her berate me, my face impassive, as I allowed the words my coworkers had said to wash over me. Carefully, she’d documented any transgression I’d made from not signing my name on a particular document to daring to be several minutes late following a routine doctor’s appointment. It was all bullshit and I knew it.
I also knew from watching her do this in the past that she was building a case to ensure I wouldn’t see a dime of unemployment. That was her way. I’d been waiting, like the rest of the staff, to be fired during one of her outbursts. We often joked, when she wasn’t around, that we stashed boxes in our office to quickly pack our things because we never knew when the ax would fall.
She offered me probation, a salary cut, and various other indignities, all over being unreachable by my cell for several hours on my weekend, even though I hadn’t gotten a single call on my land-line. She, I knew from experience, didn’t have any desire to listen to me; she was in punishment mode.
And sitting there in her office, I stared outside at the bright blue sky as she continued insulting everything she could think of, then began to lie to fill in the gaps, tuning her out.
A lightning bolt hit me as clear as a bell: this was it. I could sit there and take her shit, continue vomiting into a plastic bag on my way to work and panicking every time my phone rang, or I could start over. I was a grown adult and I was damn good at my job. Certainly this wasn’t the only place I’d be able to work. If I’d learned anything in the past year, it’s that life is too short to be miserable all the time.
When she was done assassinating everything from my dislike of sandwiches to my coffee habit, I stood, shook her hand and looked her in the eye.
“Thank you,” I said, my eyes hardened and cold, momentarily knocking her off balance with my response, as I held out my hand to shake hers. She didn’t take it.
She stammered something cruel as I turned my back, opened her door and walked out, ready for the next chapter of my life to begin.