As far back as I can recall, my mother has been my number one problem. I’ve spent most of my life trying to understand her behaviour and fix our dysfunctional relationship. My childhood home was not a sanctuary filled with love and support but a battlefield where any tiny mis-step by myself or my faded father would result in a massive explosion of rage and abuse from Mama. Nothing I ever did or said was good enough. No matter how hard I tried to become the daughter she wanted, it was a lost cause. I was a clever, pretty child, straight A+ grades in every subject at school and glowing reports from teachers. But she wanted perfection and as most of us know, only God is perfect. It was impossible to be the daughter she required but I still kept on trying. I longed to see love and pride shine from her eyes but when she looked at me her face was always twisted, crumpled with disappointment and contempt.
There was never any peace as I grew up. My mother would go days and weeks ‘not speaking’ to my father or myself due to some mysterious minor transgression. Sometimes her mood would escalate to violence, smashing up ornaments, ripping up family photographs, stripping naked and running around the house screaming. I never knew what might happen next. She would go to any length for attention and control. I remember nights when she would exit the house like Betty Davis in a 50s melodrama swearing she was going to kill herself. My father and I would spend anxious hours searching the dark canal bank with a torch, expecting any moment to find her floating in the cold water. Or we would cruise the suburban streets looking for her. When we found her marching, head erect and facing front like a furious soldier, she would ignore our pleas to get into the car. At the age of 13 I took an overdose of aspirin in a moment of loneliness and despair. I slept through nearly 24 hours. My mother never noticed. She was always busy cleaning the house which had to be immaculate at all times. She was always looking in the mirror and applying make-up. She was always dressing up in fur coats and gold jewellery. Image was everything. Other people thought she was a devoted wife and Mother.
I married the first boy who came along at the age of 18 just to escape my home environment. Then I tried to create as much physical distance as possible between myself and my mother. But she continued to exert power over my emotional well-being for many years. It could take just two minutes of hearing her voice on the phone to propel me into a severe depression. It’s only gradually, through counselling and reading and writing that I’ve come to understand that my mother has Narcisisstic Personality Disorder. She is concerned only with her own needs and ego. Other people are mere objects, tools for her gratification.
According to Wikipedia:-
“A narcissistic parent is a parent affected by narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder. Typically narcissistic parents are exclusively and possessively close to their children and may be especially envious of, and threatened by, their child’s growing independence. The result may be what has been termed a pattern of narcissistic attachment, with the child considered to exist solely to fulfill the parent’s wishes and needs. Commonly parents attempt to force their children to treat themselves as though they are their parents’ puppets, or else be subject to punishments such as emotional abuse. Relative to developmental psychology, narcissistic parenting will adversely affect children in the areas of reasoning, emotional, ethical, and societal behaviors and attitudes as they mature. Within the realm of narcissistic parenting, personal boundaries are often disregarded with the goal of moulding and manipulating the child to satisfy the parents’ expectations.”
We are taught by religion and society to respect and obey our parents. But what if they do us harm? What if it’s either them or us? Our first duty is to protect ourselves, to survive. Sometimes, sadly, there is no solution to dealing with a narcissistic parent. The only way is to break away, have no contact. This hurts. There is grief, guilt and loneliness, even though it’s not rational. I envy friends who enjoy spending time with their mothers. I envy harmonious families. In fact I find it hard to understand because my experience is so different.
I believe it’s better to be alone than to live with abuse. If you have a narcissistic person in your life, beware. They are toxic. You will never fix them. Their satisfaction depends on your demise. You can only save yourself.