So this Narc mom drama has been much on my mind still. She’s still making my sister’s brain spin in angry, sad circles. I still struggle daily with remnants of habits learned in my childhood. I’m learning to be a little more forgiving with myself, while also trying to change the habits before I pass them on to my poor kids. I’m not really sure where to start today, so let’s do it like this:
About the blog author’s very broken dad, and a little bit about her struggle with realizing that she doesn’t love him. The comments are important, too. Have I mentioned it’s nice to know there are people that get it?
Anyway, I don’t know if I love my mom. I don’t know if I’d be sad if she died right now. In fact she lives in a place that is currently experiences some rather dramatic natural disasters, and my mother-in-law asked me if my mom was being affected. I had to go look for information and compare maps and stuff. I really didn’t know. I really didn’t care. I didn’t even remember that she was in the general vicinity! In fact, I only went in search of the info because I figured it would be easier to just say, “No she’s fine” than explain why I don’t know/care to anyone else who might ask me.
Also, that moment described in the blog post “I heard you the first time”… that’s a very familiar scene. I probably experienced something similar hundreds of times, and unfortunately I have done it to my kids more than once. Boo!
The squishy life of a child of a narcissist… I never had the experience of being the center of my mother’s universe. Even in pictures from when I was a baby she has this look of disinterest. All the stories she tells about my infancy/early childhood are not nice. Some of them even seem like they should be neutral (like how big a baby I was at birth, normal stuff) but were always exaggerated and told in such a way to make me feel bad for putting my mom through that (“10 hours of labor for a 10 pound baby! Like a turkey, she was a butterball.” I wasn’t a ten pound baby, but I *was* a child/young adult with body image issues. When my grandmother died, my cousins and I went through her photos and found two things I kept- my birth announcement written in my mom’s hand stating just how NOT ten pounds I was, and also a picture of my mom at her wedding that was the ONLY wedding photo I’d ever seen of her smiling)
I don’t remember much from my childhood, good or bad. I remember snippets, mostly neutral-neither scary nor safe. I didn’t really realize how murky and undefined my memories were until a friend died in January. Our families were close, like super close. My sister and I flew up, and we spent a lot of time grieving with our friend’s family as if we were their kids, too. Reminiscing and recalling stories. I had the hardest time as they were bringing things up I have (still, to this day!) no recollection of. None. It was good stuff, safe stuff. Spending time with my friends stuff and I don’t have it. In fact, I wrote a eulogy for my friend’s funeral service and some of the memories I had to ‘steal’ so I could fill in some blanks. That’s not to say I wasn’t sad (I was devastated) and I didn’t miss her (it’s still crazy that she’s not here anymore) and I didn’t love her (she was like my little sister for over half of my childhood). I just don’t remember specific stuff.
I have a problem being “present” in my life, experiencing the current moment and focusing on living it instead of being distracted by the past/future/internet/etc. I think I had this problem in childhood, too.
I’ve actually had a very smart friend whom I respect and is part of my reality filter (the one I’ve had to create because I don’t trust anything about my decisions and motivations, it involves my husband and a few close friends who understand the mama drama) tell me that while I am incredibly intelligent, I am shit at making important life decisions. Like what I want to be when I grow up. Or even what I want to accomplish in general. Now before you get mad at my friend, I assure you this was said in a very safe, respectful, helpful way–trying to get me to understand that I *am* actually a smart person.
This post also reminds me of something a therapist told me once. I went to this therapist when my first son was one, because being a mom really messed up my whole “my mom did the best she could with what she had at the time” zen forgiveness mindset. I asked her when I get to stop blaming my mom for my problems and she told me “When you realize that’s where the problem comes from. After that it’s your responsibility to do something with it.”
Right now my goals in life all revolve around NOT screwing my kids up too much. Finding healthy ways for me to let off steam and working on my lacking self-care habits (total ACON thing, I hear) really do stem from the idea that I want my kids to be healthy and functional people instead of sharing my mom’s drama with them.
Ah, trusting. Lots of people are broken when it comes to trust. And without minimizing any of their experiences or pain, because they’re theirs and they’re real and they’re important, I have to say an ACON’s trust issues are little twisted. Extra twisted or different twisted or something. Many people can relate to a “I can’t trust anyone but myself” mentality. It seems most ACONs can’t trust themselves either. We were raised to believe our opinions were invalid unless they supported our Narc parent. Ours weren’t worthy of attention otherwise. We were raised to question our very own inner voice when it was talking to us ABOUT OURSELVES. I never, ever, EVER trust my personal motivations/reasons/drive. Remember that reality filter of friends I mentioned up there? Yeah, they’re the ones I talk to endlessly when I have to decide something and don’t trust my decision. Awesome.
Being raised by a Narc leaves you blank, or empty, or beige. Depends on which ACON you ask, but the experience is similar. We were there to reflect our parent and be filled up by whatever THEY thought was important/worthwhile/special. When it comes time to be our own person we don’t really know how to do it. I don’t know what my hobbies and favorite past times are. And any time I name one, it somehow manages to stop holding my interest. In some cases I can actually see that it’s not my interest that has waned but the pressure to “be” something… a writer, a scrapbooker, a nature-lover, whatever just was no longer worth the pursuit.
Again, I struggle with letting my kids show off their own colors. I see it and am working on seeing it in action and stopping it/changing it in practice. My kids are awesome, BTW. Really freaking cute, and crazy smart and interested in so much. They drive me nuts because I am always tired and have no patience, but I am working on appreciating them more and showing them that.
It has helped SO MUCH to learn that as an ACON I have some Narc habits because it’s what I learned, not because I’m a Narc myself. I’ve always known I don’t have a good mental model, a pleasant/useful default mom-mode because my mom was not a good mom. It’s hard to change, but at least I *can* and hopefully change the pattern for my kiddoes.
Things that help:
Reading blogs that are kinda the anti-mommy blog model
It’s nice to remember that nobody has their shit together, and if they tell you they do they are big, fat LIARS. Yes, SOME moms have a different, gorgeous hairstyle every day. Some moms throw amazing, detailed parties, and some moms make all their own jam. Some moms make their kids’ clothes and some moms are able to workout regularly without losing their marbles. Some moms have a nice clean house and their laundry is under control. BUT not all those things. In one woman, that’s nuts. Somehow we seem to be under the impression that we can and should be able to “do it all” because we look at everyone’s FaceBook highlights and forget that they aren’t sharing the other 90% of their lives. We have already established that I am no good with personal pressure. I like real people who are flawed and forgiving and loving.
speaking of forgiving, loving, and being patient with oneself: http://tinybuddha.com/
Also, there’s a website called Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers that I have found really helpful. There is even a mailing list where you receive notes from your “Inner Mother”- little affirmations your own Narc mom *should* have been telling as a kid but didn’t. I kinda thought it would be totally corny, and it sometimes kinda is, but I signed up because I realize I have no natural context for that kind of language but I need to learn it (like a foreign language) if I’m going to be a better mom for my kids. It’s still not natural, but I have reminders every two days and examples and I even used it a few times in my son’s lunchbox notes.
Finally, I have learned that if you tell a therapist that your parent is a Narcissist, it helps tremendously. You can have one conversation and gauge whether the therapist gets that, because if he does his entire approach changes a bit away from trying to help you improve your relationship with the Narc to trying to help you heal without it, or in spite of it if you maintain contact. Also you don’t have to spend countless sessions explaining why your mom is crazy and how, you can say “My mom’s a Narc, it’s effed me up in various ways I am still working out. I need help with how to deal with my impatience and anger without making it my kids’ fault” or whatever. Help trying to figure out how to trust my instincts. Help figuring out what my passions are. Etc. Etc.