I saw a request for hopeful stories a while back and thought I could write a post. I’m in a pretty good spot lately. Holidays can be dicey for me emotionally, but I’ve largely reclaimed them and have enjoyed them in my own way the last several years. When I was a teen that was not the case.
My parents & step parents had all had their own issues, and holidays were not a joyful experience for many years. There was fighting, too much drinking, domestic violence, emotional abuse and lots of crap. So I really did not look forward to them at all. My stepfather had narcissistic personality disorder and when I was around, I was often the scapegoat. There was a lot of pressure to do things exactly “right” and that just didn’t go well for me (not that walking on eggshells goes well for anyone).
When things got really bad, my mom and I would go to a double feature at the movie theater & hope that he had calmed down by the time we got back home. My dad was often in manic episodes or hospitalized during the holidays and he spent a few years in prison, so, while he was by nature a very kind person, he just wasn’t there for me during those years.
Holidays got a lot better for me once I moved out on my own. I have tried really hard to make my home a safe, stable, and peaceful place to be. I’ve been through some bouts of depression, some great therapy, and many hard years of figuring out how I feel about stuff and how to set boundaries with my family. For me, things got a lot better when I decided to no longer have a relationship with my stepfather. There was a lot of guilt and hard feelings involved, and years of pressure from my mom, but I knew this was the right decision for me. I had an awesome therapist to help me see the guilt trips and gaslighting. Unfortunately, my decision made it hard to maintain a relationship with my mom. Some family members just thought I was making a big deal out of nothing (for the record, they never lived with him).
There were about five years when my relationship with my mom consisted of very brief meetings at restaurants after several hours’ drive and her trying to bully me into seeing him, saying he had changed and was doing better. I’d say I was happy for him but that I still did not want to see him. Part of me would have loved to reconcile, but a wiser part of me knew that he would never be able to change enough for me to have a healthy relationship with him. After 20 years of second chances, my heart could not take any more manipulation.
We did not talk on holidays, and sometimes she just wouldn’t show up at all and wouldn’t answer her phone. There was a time that I didn’t see her for two years and we don’t live that far apart. I understood that she was in a very challenging relationship, but I still felt rejected and heartbroken. My life was moving forward, but each time a new milestone passed, I felt that rejection come right back in. During this time I stumbled across Band Back Together, and I drew so much support from the posts and resources here.
These days, my relationship with my mom is in much better shape. My stepfather passed away almost three years ago. I am not saying that is a good thing, because I would never wish him or anyone harm, that is just what happened. It has been very hard on my mom, who is aging and now lives alone, but the silver lining for me is that I get to have a relationship with her again.
There are still lots of difficult feelings there, but she acknowledges that the way he treated me was not okay and he didn’t start to get his shit together at all until I was at least 30. I try not to talk about him.
Now she takes time to visit me (and other family members), and she isn’t worried that he is going to blow up on her for spending time with other people. We are still cautious about holidays. We’ve tried two Thanksgivings together and they went well. We may not be picture perfect, but we do enjoy each other’s company. I’m almost 40 and I still feel like I’m constantly working on boundaries. I still have challenges with anxiety/depression. Sometimes life makes me want to crawl into a blanket cave for a week.
I love that being an adult, I can choose how and who I will spend a holiday with. I am genuinely grateful for the opportunity to have a relationship with my mom. This one thing is going well and I am grateful for it.
A figure appeared in the darkness. In the gleam of the moonlight, I knew it was her, the woman who gave me life. She was small but managed to overwhelm the room with her haughty pride. Her words always cut. They were sharp. The wounds were deep.
Every time my mother saw me, she realized her mortality, her own demise. She hated me for my youth. She couldn’t stand that I was a specimen of beauty and each day it grew; it was going to outshine her.
She knew that. She couldn’t control it.
So she controlled how I felt about myself. She made sure I knew I was ugly.
She told me every day, “You’re so ugly!” She wished I was a boy. Boys were better.
She didn’t have to compete with boys; she could manipulate them more easily.
She didn’t place value on my academic achievements; to her, I was worthless and stupid.
She didn’t graduate high school. She hated me for having opportunities she never did. She tried desperately to hold me back from being successful at anything.
I was the Repunzel in this warped retelling of the story.
The mother (the witch) had fallen from the high tower and was blinded by the thorn brush she herself harvested. Now she’s an aimless spirit, wandering the halls of my home. She wrestles with an unknown assailant as Jacob wrestled with the angel. She’s asking me for something, but she can’t speak.
Is it forgiveness?
Is she asking me for my blessing?
If I do forgive her and let her go, does this mean I’m free?
But I realized I’m not an angry person – I’m just pissed off at everything that has happened.
I’ve also realized I am not guilty or responsible for her demons.
I have my ways to beat the monster, to tame it. But ignoring is not one of them; neither is feeding it.
Quick wit can get you far, as will patience, but you can’t be tolerant because with tolerance comes more abuse. You have to show it that you won’t be broken down, that you won’t stay passive to everything it does.
Giving into the victimizing is as big a deal not as engaging in a screaming fit.
How can you deal with it?
The formula is simple: you don’t give it what it wants. It confuses the monster, and it puts it down.
This is a survival game; every day you’re on defense.
Every day, you need to examine the opponent, and every moment you have to be ready.
It can drag you down or make you stronger, whichever you choose.
I’ve been debating joining Band Back Together since the day it opened. I was leery, because good goodness do I have a lot to say. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. And hard to let yourself. Some things are hard to pull out of the box under the bed. It’s not easy to give them attention or light, even if sometimes that is necessary.
So I’m here. And fuck it all. I’m healing. I’m better. I’m stable and mostly happy. I got shit to say.
My mom once showed me a song by Lucinda Williams called Sweet Side. She said it reminded her of me. Which is sort of bullshit. I’ve been pretty emotionally fucked up but never quite to that extent. In any case, I found it sort of ironic that my mom should point it out to me. She mistakenly believes my internal wounds were created when I was molested.
They were her made by her alone. I’m honestly not affected by the molestation. I have been, but that pain has long since been banished.
Having one of the most insane stick up for you at the least expected moment. Finding shelter in his rage. Seeing the correlation. Black sheep meet black lamb. Those surreal moments that buffer you from the storm.
It’s being kicked out of your bedroom and moved into the corner of the living room, so your mother’s boyfriend can have an office. Or moving into the spider-infested, insulation-free shed outside. Because they are tired of you inside. Or a 3AM, walk outside to get to the restroom, because you aren’t welcome to live IN the house with the good people.
And finding the front door locked.
It’s a birthday party alone, while your family went on vacation (again) to New Orleans without you. During Mardi Gras. It’s a sweet sixteen where they haul in a musty old pull-behind trailer and tell you, “Happy Birthday, now GTFO” and you find yourself with a ‘birthday’ basket of cleaning supplies and a rank, disgusting trailer parked in the back yard. Your new home. Have a paper umbrella, it’ll make it right.
It’s making the (sane) decision to not speak to your mother, ever again, at seventeen. And being talked out of it. Stupidly.
It’s having the power cord leading to that same trailer be pulled repeatedly in the middle of the night by your mother’s boyfriend. Leading to HOLY FUCK IT’S COLD IN HERE. Leading to ‘Stop lying! He didn’t do it!’
It’s trusting, against your better judgment, to go home when your life collapses and you are sick and losing your mind. And finding yourself taken advantage of, and then thrown out. Again.
Of trying to get your life back together, only to have your money depleted entirely. Of going back to school only to discover that every day seems to result in another, “I TOLD you I couldn’t watch the kids, I have an appointment”
Of visiting a friend in California to get away from the building stress and anxiety, to find yourself homeless and stranded and papers being filed in your absence claiming you abandoned your children. Of having to explain to your children that you didn’t. And that you meant it when you said you’d be gone a week.
Of living in a shitty motel in the middle of the Mojave desert, subsisting on ten dollars a week in food to make it back to get your kids. In waiting a year to see them again because of your mother’s treachery.
Of gearing up for an epic court battle only to have her mysteriously drop them off with ‘a secret, don’t tell your mother’ and have your beautiful, sensitive daughter burst into tears because the pressure is too much. In hearing her, through her sobbing, explain that she’s afraid Grandma would be back to take them again in a month, because that’s what she said.
Holidays are bullshit. They remind me of the family I don’t have.
They remind me of going to Thanksgiving to drop off my kids to spend time with their Uncle, and be entirely ignored by my family. They remind me of being asked how much a vacuum was at Home Depot without a ‘hello’ or a ‘Merry Christmas’ preceding it and without even so much as a ‘have a nice day’ on leaving.
I spent the last two years with just my partner during the holidays. It’s been years since I so much as got a birthday card or a Christmas card. I don’t expect them, and I don’t need them. But I kind of wish I got them. It felt odd. It still feels odd.
This year, I’m going to cook a turkey, we will all will sit down to it and be thankful for what we have. And I will continue to love my children fiercely every day, no matter how angry and hurt they are inside. No matter how long their own healing process takes. No matter what silly, childish things they do. Even if they break something I love, or snark at each other in a hormonal rage, no matter if they make horrible decisions or great ones. I’m going to be there and love them.
The fact is, that no matter how much she’s done to me, no matter how much she has injured my heart, no matter how many times she’s screwed my life through her manipulations, I love her. She’s my mother; I can’t help it. I miss the love a mother is supposed to provide. I miss the safe haven. I miss the support system.
I miss the person you call when you are at your wit’s end and need advice. I have nothing like that. I’m it. I’m my own self-contained support. If a kid does something baffling, I’m on my own. If I’m drying out the turkey, I’m on my own.
I haven’t spoken to my extended family in years. I haven’t spent more than five minutes in conversation with my mother for two. My life has NEVER been better. It’s stable, I’m back in school. My kids are healing, slowly and painfully, but they are healing. We have our finances in order and our life is generally upwardly mobile. But still…
I want a mother so desperately it hurts.
And I can’t make that feeling go away, no matter how much I want to.
I am in celebratory mood. Divorce can be a sad and stressful time for may people, but for this particular fruitloop it’s a cause for much celebration.
Hands up anyone who’s tried to divorce a narcissistic psychopath. OK, so in the absence of my being able to actually see you right now, I guess I should give the heads-up for anyone who suspects that they’re married to a narcissistic psycho and wondering how to achieve such a mind-blowing coup.
Rule Number One:
Just remember, you can’t divorce a narcissistic psycho because they won’t let you. Use reverse psychology. Apply for a divorce. Wait about 8 weeks before they slap an anti-suit injunction on you. Haha! that’s a good one, because they don’t want you to divorce them, they have to divorce you.
Rule Number Two:
Be damn sure you have money to burn. I’m talking eye-wateringly, serious amounts of money that could be used for something far more constructive like your children’s education or your shrink bills. You’ll need the best lawyer you can afford. Firstly, because you have to deal with someone who is more cunning than a friggin weasel and has the charm of one of those guys who do tricks with a snake in a basket. You simply must have a lawyer who’s got teeth and balls. Frisk the bugger’s crotch and ask him to open his mouth. I’M SERIOUS. We all know though, that lawyers with a full set of teeth and mammoth balls don’t come cheap.
Secondly, remember… the psycho will always try to out-do you. They simply have to have the best lawyer. It’s a matter of entitlement. So, you can’t be caught with your pants down and relying on the legal skills of a toothless, impotent, eunuch when he wheels in the big guns.
Rule Number Three:
Patience. Be prepared for the longest, most acrimonious, frustrating, expensive, divorce and settlement in f**ing history. The narcissistic psycho will get these expensive lawyers to communicate about all possible minutiae from weekly letters regarding access to the dog, to a spreadsheet showing who owns the contents of the bloody refrigerator. I jest not! Oh, and you’ll need to sort out that anti-suit injunction.
Rule Number Four:
Keep your marbles intact. There will be times when you get to read and respond to their 100th solemnly sworn affidavit, and you’ll wonder if you’ve lost the plot. These things are amazingly convincing works of fiction, and reading them will make you want to vomit…you’ll probably want to slit your wrists too! DON’T. Sure, they’ll contain a grain of truth, but the truth will be so twisted that you’ll doubt your own sanity. Reach for the diary, the photographic evidence, the forensic accounting report and the bloody Valium….but keep your marbles intact.
Rule Number Five:
When the decree absolute comes through, and he sends you a pompous message reading “I find it so very pleasing that I have finally stopped your divorce and divorced you” …….f**ing well CELEBRATE! You will be finally free of the bastard.
Today, I celebrated with a spot of fly posting around the village. This weekend I am having an enormous party.
BECAUSE DIVORCE IS EXPENSIVE….. BUT FREEDOM IS PRICELESS!
Once upon a time, I had a narcissism blog I never published. Mostly because it had a lame name and most of the posts were responses I had written on a message board where I was once a member. When the service was shutting down, I wanted to keep some of the things I had written, so I put them in the draft heap. There they sat.
See, to me blogging isn’t just a medium to get ‘my story’ out. While there’s a certain catharsis to that, it’s more the conversation and feedback I get from you guys, the readers, that I treasure most. There’s nothing more validating and healing than that. It’s where we learn that we’re not alone and the tricks our Narcissists used to make us believe they were so special and unique fall apart. We all have stories to tell, and countless nights I’d stay up way too late reading, commenting, and nodding my head in agreement.
There’s so much I don’t have to explain to you. You already get it.
Years ago, all I knew was that my parents weren’t normal. My mother was a totalitarian dictator who thought that somehow my life belonged to her. When she tried to ‘punish’ me for not adhering to her life plan, my husband stepped in and told her off. He gave me a choice…either it was my family or my marriage. In retrospect I don’t blame him. My mother is an absolute tyrant, enabled by my narcissistic father who fears her. But honestly, at the time I was scared to death. I understood that in going cutting all contact with my parents, it would also be with the rest of my family as well.
My mother would make sure of that. My husband did what was necessary.
What I couldn’t do myself.
What saved my sanity was a little tiny blurb on the sidebar of a crafting blog. It was a link to information about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). I hit it out of curiosity, and spent the whole night, and many nights thereafter, learning and researching. I finally had a term I could plug into a search engine that explained my mother’s behavior.
After 30 years, I learned it wasn’t my fault.
In our ‘real life’ exchanges, narcissism is like a dirty little secret. To explain it, most people can’t comprehend how a parent can be so predatory. They can comprehend it only on a ‘it-happens-to-other-people-they-don’t-know’ level, but not as it happening to someone in front of them. And certainly not to the kids that lived on the nicest house on the street, or the ones who went to church every Sunday. No, it’s much easier to believe the mother who complains about her ungrateful children who keep her grandchildren from her. It’s so believable after all, because they live in such a nice house and go to church every Sunday. The hypocrisy of it all leaves us silenced.
I don’t know the person who wrote the blog I happened across, but I am forever grateful to her. It was a small voice in a barren land of silence. It led to exchanges with others seeking the same healing we seek. A virtual hug of sorts, where we lean and learn from each other. We don’t share to play the victim card, we share to heal. We feel compelled to write for our own healing, to comprehend our past and somehow move forward from it. We lend our listening ears through our eyes and offer our experience to help others.
It’s the people that have brought us to this place out of the FOG (fear, obligation and guilt), not the countless psychology articles we’ve read. We’re used to feeling alone and afraid. Together, we’re a beacon of sanity. It’s what our narcissists feared the most: people in our lives that can positively influence us. They sought to destroy any of our relationships, but didn’t count on the rallying cry of a rag-tag unit of strangers on the internet. Blogging is powerful because it’s real.
Real people writing truth the only way they know how: in their life’s experiences.
It’s a far cry from the overly produced stage we grew up in.