There is a story in me that remains untold. It has been untold for almost three years now, and I have swallowed it down and swallowed it down to the point that it has become a big swollen blockage in my throat that never goes away. Because this story is not going away. Even though no one involved will believe my side of it, even though telling it may ostracize me from my family and cause me to lose so many valuable relationships, it won't go away. Because it's TRUE FOR ME.
This story, as I said, will not make me popular. If you have anything to do with my family you may want to stop reading now. Even as I write this I feel doubt and guilt and fear rising in my heart, because this story is not allowed. And because the narcissist’s greatest trick is to make you doubt your perceptions and experiences. But I am a writer and I will always be a writer. Most of you know I used to have a different blog that I wrote in with total authenticity, honesty and abandon. This story is the reason I don't write it anymore. Because it wasn't allowed. I had to choose to keep the peace instead of giving in to the immense urge in me to write and tell the truth. I had to choose to protect others at the expense of my own suffering. Although I have started writing again sporadically on Facebook in recent years, it has never been the same, and I have continued to literally feel choked in my throat and mouth because I am not writing about the bloody great elephant in the fucking room. And if I try to sensor how I write to protect people, it does not work. It does not flow. It just stops. Because speaking the absolute TRUTH is what I am here to do.
That's maybe what is most fucked up about this whole situation. I am the one in my family who is a 100% advocate for total honesty, transparency, truth and authenticity. Everyone knows this. Most don't like it. It triggers people. It ruffles feathers. It rocks the boat. But it is an indisputable FACT that everyone who knows me KNOWS. And yet a LOT of people will go out of their way to tell me THIS story isn't TRUE. As if I've suddenly decided to completely reverse my morals and write lies instead. Their belief in their own version of reality has been so overwhelmingly strong that I have frequently become confused, doubted myself, questioned what I have repeatedly experienced, going over and over the FACTS in my mind and writing it all down just so I know I'm not crazy. It's NOT all in my head. I'm NOT making it up or distorting reality. It is TRUE. For me. And because it is NO ONE else's experience of this particular person, I have become the villain, and she the innocent victim.
The other stupid and ridiculous part about this story is that it's not even fucking BAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After reading this giant preamble you are probably expecting me to tell you that my mother has beaten me up, sexually abused me, or chained me in a closet and starved me. It's absolutely fucking RIDICULOUS that because one person completely refuses to face their shit, and a whole network of people refuse to look at things from a different perspective, a load of small issues have turned into monsters.
My mother is not a bad person. I had 25+ years of having a very close and loving relationship with her. So what changed after 25 years? I DID. I started awakening. I started healing my past. I started opening up to honest and frank discussion. I started opening up to authenticity. I started opening up to owning my mistakes. One of the biggest and most healing things I have done out of pure and passionate compulsion many times during my awakening has been to contact people I have hurt and apologize. I have NEVER shied away from doing this. Why would you?? Hindsight is a powerful thing and as you step up in layers of consciousness it all becomes clearer. You can see your actions and the way they have affected others. And it is the most healing, calming and relieving thing to own them.
I also have been constantly open to people approaching ME about things I have done that have hurt them. I actually went TOO far with this. I took it to the point of being manipulated by some because I would too quickly believe their view of me, even if it completely contradicted my view of myself. Because that's what healing and transforming is all about. You cannot, I repeat CANNOT, bring about radical change inside yourself if you stubbornly cling to your views and perspectives. That's part of the FUN of this whole journey - getting totally outside the box and looking at things from a different angle. Taking in someone else's perspective of you and seeing if it's true. It may not always be true (Narcissists will take advantage of this and try to implant false stories) - but generally it is, in some way. And you have to at least take time to CONSIDER this new evidence if you are to ever get anywhere in this journey. There is no going around that.
So, I changed. And I started having a lot of childhood stuff come up. Stuff that I'd repressed so well I didn't even know it was there. Oh nothing bad! No dark dirty secrets. Just normal childhood stuff - like my sister getting more attention than me and the way that affected my life. None of it was terrible. But in order to heal it, I needed to write about it. So I did. And Uh oh... my family didn't like that. Namely my MUM didn't like it. First red flag. It literally never even crossed my mind that it would upset them, because I was travelling and living in a world of conscious people who spent every day having deep and meaningful conversations about emotions and healing that were TOTALLY without judgment. They were just DISCUSSIONS. And that is how I wrote my blog too. Not to be like "Hey look everyone, my parents are horrible people and I am the victim of their horrible crimes, poor me!". NO! It was never, ever like that. It was just writing and discussing how I felt, as it arose in me, in its most authentic and raw form, because my spirit was calling me to do so. And it turned out that there was a very good reason for that! Not only was it healing for me, but it was healing for a lot of other people too. The more authentic I became, the more I was reaching an audience around the world of people who until reading my words, hadn't felt understood, validated or heard. A lot of them had been swallowing their stories too and felt totally alone.
So I was doing good things, I was blossoming in the best possible way; it felt like I'd been in a cage my whole life without even knowing it and I'd suddenly busted free. It was incredible! I was so amazed and proud of this new me that was emerging and the way she was changing the world for the better. I felt like I'd FINALLY (after spending most of my life feeling like I had no passion or purpose) found what I was put on this Earth for. I'd found my calling, and it was flowing and growing like nothing ever before.
It literally never occurred to me that my parents wouldn't share in that pride and joy. In fact I couldn't wait to bask in their pride when I got home to New Zealand - I had been waiting my whole life to do something great that my parents would be proud of me for (I come from a family of very high achievers so I felt I was a bit behind). Of course they had been proud in the past but this was my THING! I'd found my THING! I went and stayed with them in Raglan after months of travelling as I was burnt out and in need of a clean house and good food and to stay put for a while. I also strongly suspected that I had some childhood healing to do - every step of my travels was so strongly guided and my team were surely sending me home. I was excited for the healing that would occur. I was most excited to take my relationship with my parents to the next level and be able to have those amazing insightful and honest discussions with them that had become the norm while travelling. I couldn't wait to pull apart my childhood and my experiences with them to discover the gems and truths inside. I couldn't wait for how much closer it would bring us all, how much better we would know and understand each other. I genuinely thought that was how it was going to go down.
But I was in for a surprise. The very first time I tried to sit down with Mum and have one of these discussions, (I think my opening line was, "Looking back and knowing what you know now, do you think you would do anything differently in raising me and my sisters?) - I was shut down. It literally felt like some energy from her had jumped over to me and put one hand over my mouth and one hand around my throat. I could FEEL the tension in Mum immediately, and it was literally choking me and scrambling my thoughts. She responded with defensiveness and the tension became stronger and stronger until I literally could not string a sentence together anymore. Like the words would not come out of my mouth. It was like my tongue had swollen to twice its normal size. And the more I tried to backtrack and dig my way out of this unexpected hole I'd found myself in, the deeper I seemed to go.
It was a horrible experience, and one I didn't want to repeat - but I NEEDED TO TALK. I was having so much stuff come up, and the Mum that I (thought I) knew was always GREAT with these kinds of discussions. When they were about OTHER PEOPLE. I had spent YEARS talking through things with her about my sisters or my Dad, and she had always been so supportive and helpful. She had in fact been a cheerleader for me when I learnt to stand up for myself. But when, for the first time in my life, my issues were with HER - she just couldn't take it. I kept thinking that if I approached it better, or got her in a better moment, it would be a different story. We would be able to have the discussions I was envisioning. But the more times I tried, the more defensive she got - either saying, "No it wasn't like that" or "I don't remember it that way" or blaming it on someone else. The more times I tried, the more I felt like I was being literally strangled and actually brainwashed into agreeing with HER side of the story.
What I know now is that this is called GASLIGHTING - on the website 'Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers' (link at the bottom of the page) this is described as "a term that refers to the way in which abusers lie to you, by word or deed, intentionally or unintentionally, to convince you that your version of reality is not right." They say "It can make the victim feel as if she's going crazy. If your perceptions of reality are constantly denied, and above all, denied by your mother of all people, the person you look up to and who you think knows everything, it is very, very head-wrecking and crazy-making."
"No matter what emotions or memories you bring up, they'll dismiss them. This leads you to not knowing which way is up. Are they really toxic or are they right about it all being your fault?"
"Gaslighting can be done deliberately, or (in my mother's case) it is done in order to preserve the Narcissistic Mother's vision of herself as perfect, without her actually having to do any of the hard stuff that would make her perfect. Far less effort to change your perception than her behavior right?"
My mother - a Narcissist??? No way. Until yesterday, I would not have believed it. But this pattern of her not owning her actions, denying my experiences of her, and energetically choking me out continued on and on... until I felt like I was literally losing myself. I felt completely overwhelmed and violated by her energy, I was utterly and literally unable to disagree with her, and I started once again taking on HER beliefs and values that I had shed during my awakening. I was going back into the cage I’d busted out of, and I felt I had no control over it. I started becoming an extension of HER, with barely a mind of my own - even my BODY started copying her shape! I felt totally energetically entangled with her, and was fighting a losing battle every day just to hold onto my identity.
I started agreeing that the me I'd become while travelling wasn't the real me, that I had been negatively influenced by other people and the real me was the version that Mum believed to be true. The nice, kind, obedient, gentle sunshiney girl that I was as a child. Not the spirited, passionate, honest, wild and outspoken woman that I'd become. No no no. Of course that wasn't me. I started agreeing with her that my stories weren't true - because suddenly they weren't! I didn't even know who had written them. It was like someone else had taken over me. I agreed that I must have somehow taken on someone else's stories. They weren't mine.
BUT THEY WERE.
It took moving out from their house and a really fucking long and tiring process of coming back to ME and realizing "Hey! What the fuck happened, I completely lost myself and my truth there."
On the website I mentioned earlier, this is called ENGULFING. Which is basically allowing no boundary to exist between mother and daughter - causing the daughter to grow up without proper self identity. This is all fine when the child is an infant - mothers and babies are meant to be practically one being - but the problem comes when the child tries to individualize herself and become her own person (me moving away from who I'd always been and becoming who I really am) which often results in the mother thwarting and pro-actively blocking those attempts.
"This is done so emphatically and subtly that the daughter doesn't even realize it, and perhaps may not question it."
"It's so hard to escape from, because as we've said, most of the time the Engulfed Daughter doesn't even realize it's happening."
"It's harder to recover from too, if escape does happen. Engulfed daughters have to find themselves. What others did naturally and organically from a very early age, they have to do it consciously and proactively."
This is SO TRUE FOR ME it blew my mind when I read it yesterday. I spent my whole life idolizing Mum and thinking she was perfect, and basically becoming another version of her. Maybe I made different choices in life, but my personality and my values and beliefs were always totally aligned. Sometimes it made me uncomfortable how alike we were. When I started healing my stuff, again and again and again something would come up within me and I would be like "OMG THIS IS JUST LIKE MUM". I felt like I was a living walking extension of her energy. Like I had just absorbed everything of hers - the positive attributes as well as her issues and traumas - and I didn't have an identity of my own.
But until yesterday I couldn't understand WHY Mum so actively and aggressively (energetically) opposed me becoming different. Although she claims (and will continue to claim until she's blue in the face) that all she wants is for me to be myself ("whatever that is") - she rejects my true self every time I show it to her. She clings to her 'sunshine girl' and will not accept that this wild woman is her real daughter. And yet she will tell you the absolute opposite (which drives me insane).
That's when I read about NARCISSISTIC SUPPLY. This is the name given to the constant attention and energy that Narcissists need - they literally feed on it. Although my mother does not (for the most part) come across as someone who craves attention - I have felt her again and again pulling on my energy and almost DEMANDING that I agree with her (she is completely unaware that this is happening and will fiercely deny it). The most common type of narcissistic fuel is admiration, adoration and approval. I believe that specifically for my mother, she NEEDS to know (and be constantly told, energetically or verbally) that she is a good mother and a good person. This admiration and adoration feeds something damaged in her that will never be satisfied. Which is why she is constantly doing everything for everyone. Because she is proving to herself again and again that she is GOOD. I remember her telling me that as a kid her mantra was an almost desperate "I just want to be a good person!". That child in her is so scared of it not being true, that she literally CANNOT hear anything that contradicts this idea of her as GOOD.
"This dynamic can often work well in the early years of a child's life. Children automatically adore their mothers and put them on a pedestal (me!!!), and that suits Narcissistic mothers perfectly, and provides them with copious amounts of their Narcissistic supply. This is why some children of Narcissistic mothers actually have good memories of their early childhood. "She changed when I was about seven", they'll say.
In fact, what happened was that the daughter herself changed, and since seven is the age of reason, it often happens then. The daughter gets a mind of her own then, and that threatens the Narcissistic mother who starts fighting for her Narcissistic supply."
It clearly took me a lot longer to start having a mind of my own (I was always a late bloomer!) but this is why as soon as I changed and (worst of all) started challenging Mum as a mother and a person, I was cutting off her supply and she began fighting me for it. This is why she still clings to me as her "sunshine girl" - because that child FED HER like no one else. And this is why for the first 25+ years of my life, I never had an issue with her. This is why hardly ANYONE else has an issue with her. Because PEOPLE DON'T CHALLENGE HER.
The website says, "Unlike the Malignant Narcissist, this person (with Full Blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder) will not deliberately go out of her way to hurt you. Once this type of Narcissist is getting all the Narcissistic Supply she needs, and you're giving her enough deference, and not challenging her at all - well, she'll be calm and even quite pleasant to be around."
"It can be likened to walking along a very, very, narrow path on a cliff-side. The meadow on the clifftop might be pretty, with bright wildflowers, and the day might be sunny and warm - but no matter. You are still always on a cliff-edge, and one false step ends in disaster. And in the same way that walking along that narrow cliff-path would require endless, exhausting, vigilance and concentration, being with this Narcissist is the same. You're one wrong word or incorrect opinion away from her rage or tears or whatever her ploy is."
"This category can be a tough one to deal with because it's so subtle. If you're actively being mistreated, as in Malignant Narcissism, then at least you know it. But this category can be a very crazy-making, head-wrecking one."
And now it gets really interesting. Because now we see the true Narcissist come out. And like I said, I would never have believed it possible of my mother until yesterday. But several days ago I wrote a long list of all the reasons why I no longer have a relationship with my Mum. I wrote it because I felt like her energy was still fucking with my head, and the inability of my family to see my side of the story was causing me to question and doubt myself. So I wrote this big long list of all my reasons why our relationship is toxic. And then when a friend sent me this website yesterday, I practically had my list regurgitated back to me. It was UNCANNY how similar it all was. And the next part is perhaps the most significant one. This is the part where the Narcissist responds to being called out on her actions or behavior. And THIS, really, is where all the problems stem from.
If the Narcissistic Mother is no longer getting admiration, adoration and approval, usually she will try to get her supply through FEAR. And this exactly what I experienced when I was being constantly choked out by her. I felt overwhelmed by dread, like I was doing something very very bad and dangerous, and I needed to stop RIGHT NOW otherwise I was going to fuck things up forever. It took me years to stop being overwhelmed by that psychic attack and to stand my ground. The more I tried, the more fear she would instill. Dad would get involved and I would be sat down like a naughty child and disciplined. It was genuinely EXCRUCIATING. It felt like I was being physically pulled in two directions. And once I finally, painstakingly, learned to resist the pressure and stand up for myself, her next ploy was Pity. It's all outlined below:
"Fear is an acceptable alternative (to admiration etc). While you're fearing somebody, you are definitely paying attention to them. Failing fear, then pity. The Narcissistic mother will often play the victim to get this. There might even be tears. "Oh you're such a bully" she might sob if you dare stand up for yourself.
"The interesting thing is that she might appeal to those three levels, one after the other, in a kind of hierarchy. Her default is looking for and expecting admiring attention, and as long as you're giving her lots of that, then things can go surprisingly well. But let that admiration flag, or worse again, if you dare call her on anything she's done or hold her responsible for any of her behavior, well then she tries to inspire fear. And very often succeeds, of course.
She'll shout, she'll snap, she'll assert her parental authority. She might threaten you even. And if that works, great. Great for her of course, I mean. Not for you.
But if it doesn't work - say you're determined to keep your position and fight through the fear, then she'll try the pity card. She may even burst into genuine tears. The tears are genuine because she is genuinely sad, and is feeling attacked, and is feeling huge amounts of self pity.
She might sob things like, "Oh nothing I do pleases you. I can't do anything right. I'm so useless. Nobody loves me. I wish I were dead." (LITERALLY ALMOST WORD FOR WORD WHAT MY MOTHER HAS SAID TO ME).
And that, in my experience, tends to be game over. It takes a hard heart to be able to confront those tears and still hold her accountable. She is literally being pathetic, in its original meaning of compelling pity and sympathy. And if she has done her job of parentifying us, and making us responsible for her feelings (yes!!), well then, these tears and wails affect us strongly for that reason too.
Also, as was in my own situation, tears were when my Enabling Father (Father or other family member in my case!) stepped in and comforted her and stopped the original discussion. And so my issue was never resolved, and my mother never had to own what she had done. Which of course was exactly the idea."
I CANNOT TELL YOU how closely this information matches my list. It is literally EXACTLY what I have experienced again and again with my mother. When I've gotten to the point where I'm so frustrated with her defensiveness and deflection and I actually stand my ground, I have been accused of attacking her and called abusive and disrespectful. She's put it back on me and said she doesn't feel SAFE around me. Her favorite victim line is, "I don't deserve this." And of course EVERYONE rallies to poor Mum's side, and no one even stops to think that I might have a valid point in what I am attempting to address. No one even stops to comfort ME - when I am clearly VERY upset - because upsetting MUM is totally taboo. I don't matter anymore in that scenario. No, I am just the bad guy and she gets away - once again - with never EVER owning her shit. No matter what I say to her, she will either completely deny it, get defensive, blame someone else, tell me it's not true, try to energetically intimidate me or exert her parental authority over me - and if I'm still standing then she will play the victim card and I will be the one being abusive, attacking, disrespectful and aggressive.
The crazy thing is that I have seen this situation with her before but from the OUTSIDE. A few years ago (before I got into all this with her) - she had a series of fights with her sister, and I completely hook-line-and-sinker swallowed her victim story about it all. I truly believed that she had been treated horribly by her sister, that these 'vicious attacks' had been entirely unprovoked, and that she had done absolutely nothing wrong. How could her sister treat her like that when she'd done so much for her? When she'd always just tried her best to do the right thing by her, to help her in any way she could? How could she possibly be so cruel? ... I actually stopped having a relationship with my Aunty for a long time because I was outraged on my Mum's behalf. Even though Mum's account of it all contradicted my perception of my Aunty as a person, I believed Mum fully. Because Mum was a perfect angel who did everything for everyone and never did anything wrong. Of COURSE it wasn't her fault. She was the innocent victim here.
And now I find myself on the other side of that equation and I am the bad guy who has behaved atrociously. My poor Aunty got a very big apology from me, let me tell you! And when I heard her side of the story (she said she bawled her eyes out when she wrote it, just from the relief of having someone finally listen and believe her) - it all made total sense. It was basically the same thing - when she tried to stand up to Mum, she just couldn't handle it and swung it around. The whole family turned against my Aunty. And that's what I'm feeling like now. It's a fucking horrible feeling. Yesterday I started screaming and couldn't stop. Just screamed, again and again and again. Because I felt so unheard and alone, NO ONE WAS LISTENING TO ME, NO ONE WAS BELIEVING ME, and I genuinely thought I was going to lose my mind. (I did lose my neighborhood reputation as a matter of fact - apparently 8 neighbors gathered outside and were calling the police thinking I was being murdered lol!). If I hadn't found someone to talk to who had had the same experiences as me, and who put me onto that amazing website, I don't know what I would have done. I have never been that upset in my life. I felt like I was out of control and losing my sanity. That's what this situation does to people, THAT'S why this story needs to be told.
There are so many other little bits and pieces from my list that marry with the information on the website. The way I feel like, because my Mum has done so much for me, I don't have the right to be angry at her or to call her on her shit (this is another subtle manipulation technique that is talked about). Constantly having to walk on eggshells around Mum, so scared to say the wrong thing or disagree with her. The way my father and other family members enable her behavior constantly - because if you rock the boat and upset Mum, she will make you feel like the smallest and worst person in the world. So they take her side and anyone against her is ganged up on. The way that my Mother will happily call other people on their shit, but CANNOT take it back. The way that I feel her emotions so strongly, and take responsibility for them - to the point that I can’t tell the difference between hers and mine. The GUILT, worry and confusion that I feel in breaking off contact, even though I know it's the right thing to do. The way that this form of abuse is completely invisible to everyone, including the perpetrator (who literally cannot see what she is doing) and her victim (who knows only this). The discomfort with the lack of boundaries - Mum feeling like it was ok to come into my room without knocking, or into the bathroom while I was naked or on the toilet, or her reading my journal as a teenager. The way we just internalize the stress, think that it's US that's wrong and horrible, and maybe even crazy. The way this confusion is assisted by the Narcissistic Mothers and Enabling Fathers telling us continuously that our memory and perceptions are mistaken. The common after effects of this kind of subtle abuse - feeling we cannot be our authentic selves. Feeling like we have to be quiet and not cause trouble. Feeling unsafe to own our power. Patterns of self sabotage and impossible perfectionism. Having difficulty setting boundaries in relationships. Being overly fearful of authority figures, or people being angry with us. Dealing with repressed emotion, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts while not having any idea of the cause. The grief, fear and loss associated with disconnecting from the family you have always known. The deterioration of relationships with people who try to continue having a connection with both you and the Mother. The list goes on.
As I said, my mother is not a bad person. And the people who believe she is incredible are right. AND, she is also a Narcissist. But you have to cross her, challenge her, see through her perfect veneer and call her on it to experience the bad side of this. Most of the time, you will never have reason to. She tries her best to do right by everyone. You will have very few opportunities to criticize her on her behavior or actions. But NOBODY IS PERFECT. And I feel so sad that - although she believes that she accepts her failings and is working on them - she cannot bear to hear from her daughter or her sister that she has done wrong. It never EVER needed to be a big deal. I know I have hurt her too, and I have owned it; put myself in her shoes and apologized every time. Easily. That's how things get resolved. All of this could be over tomorrow if she would just gift me with the same courtesy. But she seems to be utterly incapable of doing so.
They say that Narcissists never change. I don't know if that's true. She is a GOOD person (haha ironic right) who is genuinely on the path of healing and awakening. I hope that one day she will be able to look honestly at herself, and change. I hope that little girl in her that NEEDS to be only good, can accept that she's also a little bit bad. Like we ALL are. I wouldn't have come so far in this journey myself without facing many many things inside me that scared the absolute SHIT out of me. That made me want to run a mile in the opposite direction. Parts of me that I had rejected to the point of not even believing that they were me. It's a scary journey. But it gets easier with practice. I hope that my Mother will be able to get there one day.
In the meantime, I am not her daughter anymore. That might sounds harsh, but when you feel like someone is stuck to you like an octopus and won't come off, saying a statement like that feels like the biggest relief. Every time I disconnect from her a little bit further, although there is fear, guilt and grief, the overriding emotion is RELIEF. It feels like I can think again, like my head is clear of all this complication that was filling my brain like white noise. My heart feels like it can breathe again. My body has lost so much weight (physically and energetically) - I actually got really sick for a few days after our last big fight; fever, body aches and vomiting; I could literally feel all that dense energy being detoxed out of me. My body is no longer copying her shape. I am becoming my own person again. And it feels so good!
Despite what the whole family will tell me, my relationship with my mother was toxic. Extremely, subtly, insanely toxic. And I am so much better off out of it. I still feel guilty, I still grieve for what was, and what could have been. I feel bad thinking about all she has done for me. I think about having children of my own and worry about how to tackle taking their Grandmother from them. I honestly cannot believe that it has come to this. But this is my truth, and I can't deny it to myself or anyone else any longer. Maybe someone reading this will relate to it and it will give them the courage to make changes too. Whatever happens now, this story needed to come out of me. And I have to believe there are good reasons for that.
Toxicity can come from the most unexpected places. I genuinely always thought that my relationship with my Mum was amazing and that her love for me was absolutely unconditional. But it turned out that it was only that way because I was feeding her. And it's time for me to feed ME instead. To do right by ME. This story is years in the writing because I have been putting everyone else first. And it has to stop now.
This is my truth. This is my untold story. Thank you for reading.
Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers