Content Warning: verbal/emotional/physical abuse, parental trauma, self-worth issues, narcissistic personality disorder
I didn’t know I was abused.
I had what a lot of people would consider a lovely childhood. My parents were married and both employed. We had a home, celebrated holidays and birthdays together, and took vacations. I had grandparents and extended family that I knew and who nurtured me throughout my childhood. From the outside, my life looked great. And I would have told you that it was great.
But my mother is a narcissist.
I have had unrealistic expectations placed on me for as long as I can remember. Mostly appearance-related, as is common with narcissists, but also accomplishment-related.
I can remember being 6 years old and wearing a size 6X instead of just a 6 (this was before other terms like “husky” were used) and feeling a deep shame that I was fat.
I remember being so embarrassed about shaving my legs that I physically couldn’t speak about it. My mother got angry. She dragged me into the bathroom by my arm and shouted the basics of shaving at me while angrily shaving her own legs. Shaving cream was flying, she was shaking the razor in my face, and finally, shoved the supplies at me and stormed away. (When I told my husband this story, he cried.)
It was the same with my period. I had to tell her I had started my period. She was nice at first, and then later asked me how it was going. Again, I was so embarrassed and ashamed, I froze and could not talk. She rolled her eyes, threw up her hands, and never asked me another question about it.
She withheld food. Mostly sweets. She would give my brother larger portions of food, yelling and screaming if I made a comment.
She withheld money. When I went to college, I was put on an impossibly small budget, forcing me to ask for money and explain what I needed and why. She did this into adulthood, promising to pay for things (e.g., airplane tickets) and then never following through.
I have always suffered–and I still suffer–from thoughts and feelings that I am not good enough.
I have since learned that all of these, and more, are classic signs of narcissistic abuse.
I did not come to this realization until I was in my thirties. The catalyst was me becoming a mother myself. Once I had my children, I felt unconditional love toward them. It was only then that I realized I had never been given that kind of love.
She started to do it to my children.
As any mother knows, you’ll do anything to protect your children.
I sought therapy. I tried boundaries. I tried talking to her. I tried “gray rock.” I didn’t want to cut off contact, but I knew that I was quickly running out of options.
Then, she divorced my dad in a spectacularly dramatic fashion. She moved everything out of the house while he was away, having planned it for weeks. She cataloged all of their belongings. She hired a lawyer. She hid things at friends’ houses. She took family photos and heirlooms. My dad had to call the police twice, that I know of, because of her behavior.
She then sent me a letter essentially ending our relationship. She was angry with me at the time. By then, I knew it was narcissistic rage, and I was able to take it less personally. She wrote to me outlining all the reasons I am terrible and had caused her irreparable heartache. She ended it by stating that I am unable to engage in an adult relationship, so she would no longer have any relationship with me. The last words in her letter were, “I’m out.” (My best friend read the letter, cried, and told me never to read it. My husband did the same thing.)
I have had no contact with her since then, which was about four years ago.
I have never, in my entire life, felt better.
She continues to try to contact my children. At first, I would read the letters before giving them to the kids, and I would give them the gifts. That is, until this last set of gifts came with letters full of shaming and guilt, that were clearly meant for me. I have since, and will forever, throw anything else she sends in the trash.
I live in constant worry of what she will do next to try to hurt me or my children, and the only relief I will have is when she dies.
I realize that a lot of this sounds off the wall to most people. Most people have a mother who loves them unconditionally, and these feelings are unfathomable to them. However, if any of this resonates with you, please know you are not alone. Children of narcissistic mothers, especially daughters like me, suffer in silence and solitude, filled with guilt and shame.
You are not alone; it is not your fault, and you are good enough.