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Reply with quote  #91 
I came across this thread on a Google search; thank you all for sharing your stories and strategies for recovering from N Parents. I am just now coming to realize the extent to which I was abused as a child... I am on very limited contact with both my parents (I live 1200 miles away so this is pretty simple), but am considering going No Contact because the few conversations I have with my mother typically degrade into abuse (subtle put downs and an insidious talk-game that I've never been able to diagnose, where she prompts me to tell her about all the stuff that is wrong with my life and then proceeds to make me feel bad about it. Is this gaslighting?)

Both my parents are abusers. I always pegged my dad as the source of the abuse until recently though: he hit me, made inappropriate advances on me once I hit puberty (I'm a woman), and he shows all the standard signs of being a narcissist (inability to relate to people, rigid perception of world as robbing him of success, requirements on every member of the family to always perceive and behave according to his needs, and violent outbursts including beatings for anyone who express dissent or feelings not in line with his worldview). 

However, only in the past few months have I begun to understand that my mother shares many of the same narcissistic traits and that she has indeed been an active abuser in my life. When I was a child she "orbited" around my dad like you might expect from someone with Borderline Personality Disorder... but since then she behaves very much like a narcissist.

I have no one to talk to about this issue right now. I'm in school (I'm 30 and completing a PhD program) and attending therapy is beyond my fiscal means for the next year or two. However, so many of you report that typing your experiences here help.... so here goes:

I grew up in an environment where every member of my household defined me as lacking. I have two N parents (in varying degrees) and a brother who "plays the game" and earned golden child status. From very early memory my parents were actively seeking to "diagnose" what was wrong with me... and I spent many years bouncing from shrink to shrink. I was deeply unhappy in my family: no one told me the loved me, I was not encouraged to bathe or brush my teeth, I was not allowed to have friends, and my parents did not engage me in play, learning activities, or social gatherings. One shrink I did speak to in adulthood described me as an "orphan of the living" or something like that. When I cried or expressed negative emotions, I was beaten, locked in my room, isolated, or taken to the doctor's office. I don't know if there is really even a term for this type of abuse: but I was "pathologized." I became the family's explanation for all of its dysfunction: when my dad got caught beating me and Children Services got involved, I was somehow made into the bad girl. When my dad hit me, it was because I was bad and crazy. When I cried in my room, it was because I was crazy. I don't really know how to explain it... but essentially I was given this label a priori and my parents used it to dismiss me as a human child under their care that was worthy or love. I was deprived of love, basic care, sometimes food, and most of all of role models.

Once I was in my pre-teens, my dad started making inappropriate advances at me. I also began to fight back when he hit me. My mother drove me to a mental hospital and complained that I was unruly. I was institutionalized briefly for observation (the first of several times) but was of course released when the docs couldn't find anything wrong with me besides depression. Once my brother and I got into a fistfight (when I was 13), and my parents had me arrested; I was incarcerated for a brief period. They actively discussed getting rid of me, sometimes while I was in the room. Eventually, the pattern of abuse repeated itself in even sicker ways: when my broth misbehaved, my dad would beat me in front of him. My brother began to beat me. I also took to cutting myself and acting out sexually by the time I was in my teens. I tried suicide once, unsuccessfully. I was an outcast at school: I was unwashed, malnourished, and in dirty clothing most of the time.

I never "fit" with the narcissistic family paradigm. If anything I was pathologically unable to cope in a family dynamic that required me to always perform a role. At 15, I left my family and moved out on my own.... it was hardly a recipe for success, but thank god I did finish high school, eventually get into college, and now I'm in graduate school. Education was my way out, my escape from that family. It's perhaps not surprising given this history that my parents did not help with any of that. Heck, I found out years later that my grandparents had sent them money to help with my schooling... monthly payments spread over years of time. My parents spent it on consumer items for their house. My brother is today still living with them at 28... he's never moved out or made anything of himself. But I feel guilty sometimes because while I was spurned and shunned, I got away. He never stood a chance.

Today I struggle with constant feelings of inadequacy. Physically my teeth are bad; I had some work done to reverse some of the damage of my earlier years, and luckily I have not had other physical ailments. My dad and I speak twice a year: I call him on Fathers Day and on his birthday. He's not interested in a relationship with me, and I admit the feeling is mutual. But my mom has become more persistent in calling me (about once a month)... and I don't really know how to handle her.

When she gets in touch it's usually light conversation, but inevitably she begins to ask about my professional and personal life. She does not support my choices in education and sees me as the disappointment of her life. Me, the one with the PhD. I've always been an overachiever and I think it's been about trying to earn the affections and good will of my family. But it's crazy-making, because no matter what I do I am always judged by what I'm lacking, typically in comparison to my ne'er-do-well brother. If I sound angry it's because I am... when I'm not sad about it. whenever I speak with my mom, I cry for days afterwards and feel funky and depressed. I have limited my contact with her to next-to-nothing: a phone call every month or so, no longer than 40 minutes and I cut it short if she starts in on the criticism. I've considered going no-contact, but other family members don't see her as the "bad guy" (they see my dad as a monster and my mom as an innocent victim) and worry that if I cut her off it will harm her psychologically. But I'm about tired of worrying more for my abuser than my own psychological health.

I read the book "Will I Ever Be Good Enough" and am trying to do some of the grief work involved in recovering from my childhood. It's hard, and some days I feel good but mostly I have a fog of negativity hanging not far over my head. So I'm not sure how much I can contribute to the "here's what I've done to recover" portion of this thread. But here's what so far:

- Allowing myself to feel feelings, even when they are negative.
- When I do speak with my mother, I shut down any abusive talk from her by changing the subject. If she persists I get off the phone.
- When I am grieving and sad, I take care of myself, pamper myself. For me, this has meant particularly treating myself to a manicure, at-home facial, etc. I think this kind of thing is therapeutic for me because I have a history of physical neglect.
- I go to the Gym. When I'm feeling angry, I have an aggressive workout. After, I feel great!
- I spend time with people who are positive, and limit how much I interact with negative people. I used to attract all kinds of negative people before doing this grief work (esp. narcissists). Because I'm so prone to getting sucked into negativity right now, I limit my interactions with toxic people.

Third Sister
Reply with quote  #92 
Welcome Nescafe -

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I don't have personal experience with being a child of narcissists or with the kind of abuse you described, but your story touched me and I wanted to share a few thoughts.

There is a term for being "pathologized" the way you describe - psychologists of family dynamics call it being "the designated patient."  One child in a family is made the scapegoat for all the family's dysfunction, and an excuse for other members not to confront the role they're playing. It's a very well-established phenomenon, and your situation seems like a classic case.

I can only imagine how devastating it is growing up in that role, and how difficult is would be to try to make something of yourself when your confidence has been routinely stripped away from you to suit other people's purposes. Please understand that you don't owe your recovery to anyone but yourself, and you don't need to "contribute" to anyone else's healing until you have a surplus, an excess, from which to contribute it.  It seems like you've done a tremendous job with the dismal set of cards you were dealt in life, finishing school and becoming independent of those sick people who tried to cut your legs out from under you.  The first and best thing you did was to realize, and keep believing, deep down in your heart that you weren't the problem, or the bad one, or not worth taking care of.  That in itself is a monumental feat of personal recovery, so give yourself credit.

As far as how to deal with them from here on in, keep in mind that you don't owe them anything.  It doesn't matter how they're related to you biologically - you don't owe them.  You owe it to yourself to try to have the best life possible and if that means cutting them out of altogether.  When and if you can afford therapy, I'm sure your therapist will tell you that, but right now I'm telling you.  You don't owe them anything.  You don't have to keep them in your life and allow them to keep undermining you.

Best wishes to you Nescafe.  You are on the right path.

Reply with quote  #93 
Hi Nescafe,

Third Sister said it perfectly.

Absolutely, you don't owe this bunch a thing, unless one is inclined to revenge. And like the saying goes, "The best revenge is living well." It sounds like you're on that path.  

I know it's hard to break family ties, to let go of that first primal biological connection. But these people don't sound as if they qualify as any kind of legitimate "family." You've done a great job of rescuing yourself and I hope you continue to do so. 

Why on earth would you call that man on "Father's Day" of all times? Well, I know, sort of. It's ingrained in us to do that kind of thing. But wow. You shouldn't go near him, even by phone. What a monster. As for your mother, whatever guilt your clueless relatives choose to heap upon you, you are not responsible for someone else's mental health or happiness. That is their responsibility. You certainly shouldn't sacrifice yourself for an abuser.

Again, congratulations on your accomplishments in life after that horrific childhood. Inspiring!
Black Sheep
Reply with quote  #94 

So I'm very new to the idea of online threads and seeking help but reading about the N behavior today and everyone's stories has helped shed a lot of light on my own upbringing and my family in general.  I guess I'd like to share my story and ask for any guidance. 

So I'm almost 100% positive that my father is an N.  I am starting to think my mother is as well but am not sure if that's the best description of her.  She is definitely toxic but its only recently that I've realized because my relationship with her was always friendlier.  Just to start I'm in my 30s and married with a child on the way.  So it's only been in the last 5 years that I started realizing that things were really dysfunctional  but when I think back on it they always were.  After graduating college, I was always talked down to and made to feel inferior.  When I would stand up for myself I was quickly put in my place and told that what ever was being said was a "joke" and I had no sense of humor.  This was pretty regularly and continued for years.  I have almost always felt like an outcast in my family, and that includes my aunts, uncles, cousins.  I have always dreaded holiday gatherings but within the last 2 years (when I didn't gather with my family) have started to enjoy them.

At one point I even quit my job and went into a new field to "please" the family and fit in, and this was just another situation for them to make fun of me, and ridicule me.  I always felt guilty for something but wasn't sure what for, and my parents were never satisfied...lots of back handed compliments, praising others, telling me my downfalls, etc.  This is when I finally started realizing just how toxic they were for me.  I unconsciously started distancing myself from them emotionally but always stayed in contact because my younger brother (15 years younger) meant the world to me and I wanted to stay close with him.  So I endured the abuse to maintain that relationship.

A few years ago my parents separated and the abuse, control and manipulation increased immediately as both parents fought for my support.  When I tried to set boundaries I was given many ultimatums, accused of stealing, being a "snitch", asked to be the eyes and ears for one or the other, yelled at, blamed, and the list goes on.  So I went very low contact with both of them for about a year.  During this time my father actively kept me from communicating with my younger brother, which cut me to the core.  He has also turned much of my family against me (these are the aunts, uncles, cousins from above) but I accepted that I wouldn't be close with them a long time ago.  Since I have a child on the way I reconnected with my family recently in hopes that I could rebuild a relationship.  I met with my mother, which went well, but she is very distant.  I met with my father and that started out well but turned negative quickly.  I was given ultimatums, told that he doesn't like my inlaws or wife, called a "snitch" and "mamas-boy", and was told that he deserves loyalty and demands respect.  My brother and I met and we seemed like no time had elapsed (a good sign for me).  

I'm very torn about how to move forward.  I want a relationship with my brother and want my children to have grandparents in their life but I refuse to be abused.  I am always conscious of my upbringing and trying to learn ways to deal with my deep felt inadequacy and guilt.  I am also extremely critical of myself and have a difficult time letting people "in".  While I was never physically abused I was always made to feel inferior and weak.  When I was young I would lash out violently but maturity has taught me to think logically resolve problems without anger and direct any frustration towards positive outlets.  It feels better to know I'm not the only one because most of my friends don't understand.  I have one who does but we don't talk about it often.

Thank you to everyone who has shared and for your support!
Reply with quote  #95 
Welcome, Black Sheep.  Your story is sadly very familiar. Many of us here deal with abusive elderly parents, so we understand your challenges and concerns.  I hope you will find the support and information here useful.
I am at a different stage of life than you are (my kids are in their teens and early 20s), but here is what I wish someone had told me when I was about to become a parent.  Children benefit from having grandparents in their lives only if those grandparents are able to love and nurture.  Grandparents who cannot love (like those who have certain personality disorders and toxic behaviors) eventually create pain and confusion for their grandchildren.

So if you grew up with toxic parents, and they have done nothing to change or learn, then they will likely become toxic grandparents, and your painful family legacy will continue.  Your kids will likely experience many of the same attitudes and behaviors from your parents as you did, and the lessons will be challenging to fix.  The interference, lies and frustration will increase exponentially.

In my experience, exposing your children to unhealthy family members serves no one.  It doesn't help the disordered people become better people, it doesn't protect or support the children, and it doesn't help you become a better parent. 
Black Sheep
Reply with quote  #96 
Thank you so much Splotchy.  I honestly never thought about it from a grandchild's perspective.  I have not spoken to my fathers parents in 8 years.  His parents were the same way my parents were/are and even my father stopped speaking to his parents for several years.  They didn't enrich my life, they made it more difficult and confusing.  

I have found a group of people that understand.  Again, thank you so much.
Reply with quote  #97 
I'm a poster from a long long time ago, the disfavored daughter of two narcissistic and quite difficult elderly parents, who was facing my caregiving obligations with great trepidation.  I was once a frequent poster.  My still-active parents were already quite demanding and controlling, even while fully able to care entirely for themselves. I've since concluded that my mother has a more complicated psychological profile.  Her behavior in particular has become progressively more malevolent and shunning towards me, while remaining highly expectant regarding my continued tolerance and obedience.

I finally sought therapy, and added some emotional and physical distance, in order to protect myself and my own family.  I've mostly stopped posting here. 

There's an excellent forum site for adult-children of borderline personality disordered (bpd) parents at "Out of the Fog forum" section on "unchosen relationships" for folks with disordered relatives and parents.  Good advice there too, as well as much empathy and understanding.
Reply with quote  #98 
I post on Out of the Fog from time to time and it's really helped me process things and develop tools to cope, especially since I'm "it" - the only child of aged parents who both have many physical problems and personality disorders.

The one thing that's really helped me is trying to put the emotions aside and seeing it with fresh eyes, like you're walking into it all for the first time.  It takes a LOT of practice and a lot of work, but once you get to that point, where you're detached, cool and not letting them push your buttons, things can change - on a situation-by-situation basis, that is.

It's like weeding a very stubborn garden and you just have to keep going over and pulling out little, tiny weeds every time they show through the dirt, or else you blink and the entire garden is overgrown.

That's what managing my parents is like.  Setting up boundaries and limits.  Reinforcing them constantly.  Not allowing them to be blurred or 'one-inched' away.  Being firm and consistent - and trying to remain kind about it.

Don't lose your cool, ever.  That's what they want.  That's what they expect.  So don't feed the bear.

Don't JADE - justify, argue, defend, explain.

Say things like, "I am sorry you feel that way."  "I will take it under advisement."  "That does not concern you."  "The decision has been made." 

Never, ever forget that, "NO" is a complete sentence.

Most of us were groomed or trained from early ages to fit certain roles and behave in certain ways by our parents(s) - which explains why so many of us seem to be magnets for people with personality disorders.  It's almost like the sharks smell the blood in the water and know we're easy meat.

You can't change them - but you can change YOU and your reactions.  You can stop feeding the supply they so desperately crave - and they'll go into overdrive trying to smoosh you back into the little box they created for you!  Guilt!  More guilt!  Threats of self-harm or eviction!  Even more vicious attacks against you for daring to not be the person you're *supposed* to be and fill the role you're supposed to fill - how DARE you!?!?!?

Dare.  DARE! 

You can be a strong person.  You can have limits and boundaries.  You can even walk away if you want and leave their fate with a higher power. 

They only have as much control as we want to *allow* them to have.

A part of it is figuring out where we begin and the other person ends.

Reply with quote  #99 
Healing only begins with going no contact fully. Limited contact can't get away long enough from .ongoing damage. That means going NC with the narcissist parent and all his enablers. The enablers just don't get it. They will help try to reel you back into the sick family game. Save yourself, save your children. Make a new family with friends. Mourn the family you left that never was a functional family. But realize you deserve to be honored. You deserve peace. Go NC not part way. That only puts off the inevitable and believe me u will need to go 100% NC eventually if you're to the point of trying to limit contact. They will waste and use up decades of your best life otherwise!
Reply with quote  #100 

I just discovered after 50 years that my mom and dad both have (had) parental narcissistic personality disorder.
I went through everything (the gaslighting, she's/he's always better than me, any thing I do good I'm reminded they are, my boyfriends could be controlled better by my mother than me, any pain I say I have she has worse, if I was sick, I was ignored or told to get with it or get over it, etc.

I would like to know if any of you know of a Support Group for Children of Narcissists.  I'm penniless and still living with mine, and I need to build self-esteem and get out.

Please, anyone know of a support group in Westchester, Putnam, or Dutchess Counties or driving distance?

confussed but conscious
Reply with quote  #101 
my mother is a covert narcissist.
she has never let me, or my brothers escape her reality. 
her reality is something i can explain, because i have lived in it my entire life.
but it made me feel sick, yes it was the only reality i knew that made any sense at all, but i can only explain it as ptsd from my brain trying to work out what the problem was. 
i have lost my eldest brother to that reality.
my little brother is left to grow up in it.
but i couldnt stay in it. 
and now, i am completely alone, with my entire family more willing to lock me up than to accept my mother has problems. 
it is so scary as i also have to leave my abbusive relationship now. but i need validation from somewhere otherwise i slip back into the reality i know best, the one i have lived in my entire life, the one in which i am psychotic and worthless and unlovable unless i do what she says!!!
i would love some help if anyone can see where i am at.

Reply with quote  #102 

I have felt many of the same feelings you are now feeling.  When you are raised in an unhealthy home with unhealthy and irrational people, you learn a lot of unhealthy and irrational lessons and develop many unhealthy survival strategies to cope.  Then at some point in your adulthood, when all the old lessons and coping mechanisms fail to work, you are left wondering why you are a broken mess.  (At least that's how it was for me...)

The good news is that when you finally get to this point, it means you are ready to hear the truth.  And the truth is that all the lies you learned as a child about yourself and the world and relationships can be corrected.  There are solutions to your pain.  You can become more whole.  You can become the child you were created to become.  You can reclaim that worth that you were inherently born with.  It just takes a bit of time and effort.

Like many others on this board, I have utilized many different resources on my journey to become more "whole".  While getting validation from others (from message boards, therapists, clergy, etc.) can be useful, the most helpful thing for me was working on my own life (i.e. correcting irrational beliefs, learning about boundaries, finding healthy ways to manage and express my fears and pain, learning healthier ways to deal with dysfunctional people, shedding childhood reactions and beliefs, learning how to manage my emotions, moving out of isolation, changing my thinking, etc.)   The path you take to do this is up to you. Some people use therapists, some use 12 Step programs, some use religion, some use self-help groups, some use a combination of things.....the key is to find what works best for you.

To start you on this journey, may I suggest something?  Right now, at this very moment, make some small contribution to your own well-being.  (This is a concept from Alanon and the Courage to Change.) Do something tiny to help yourself.  Start moving your life in a good direction.  And then keep going.

It all starts by knowing the truth that you are worthy and lovable.  All of us are.  That's how we were created.  If you don't believe it, then that's the first lie you need to address.

Take care and let us know how you are doing.

Reply with quote  #103 
This is the first I have tried something like this, but then again, I've only been "awake" since July 25th of this year.  Here's the kicker:  I am 65 years old.

I don't think I have ever been so sad.  I am the only daughter of a severely N mother.  My marriage of 21 years ended in 1989.  I have been depressed on and off since then, never knowing why until now.  For the last three years I have recognized my mother's N traits from various articles and had a few aha moments, but the full impact of what has happened didn't come until three days ago.

What I am struggling with is the fact that I cannot go back and undo my past.  It is the finality of that fact that grieves me to the point of physical illness.

I live near Harrisburg in Pennsylvania and wonder if there are any others in this boat.

I have no words to express the thankfulness for your, is it called, blog, Splotchy.  I feel at moments that I am literally splintering apart.

Reply with quote  #104 
I used to get very upset when I realized how much time I had wasted being a broken child.  Later I discovered that many of those negative experiences actually helped me in many ways, as they allowed me to grow in knowledge, strength and virtue.  All the events of my past, including the joys, the pains, the mistakes and the successes, made up the rich and beautiful fabric of my life. 

What helped me get past a lot of the regret was to start viewing the painful events of my life as "growth opportunities" rather than tragedies.  Another thing that helped me was to began fixing the broken parts of "me" and learning new ways to live.  As long as we are breathing, there is still time to find joy.     

Please do whatever you can to get some help. Talk to a counselor, meet with a clergy member, attend a support group (look up Alanon or NAMI groups in your area); talk to your doctor, or join an online support group for people who have personality disordered relatives  (Some people like   Things will get better once you have some tools to improve your life.

Take care.... 
Reply with quote  #105 
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