I had absolutely no idea for such a long time. I’d never truly understood what narcissism or sociopathy was and never suspected that you of all people could have a personality disorder. I always thought you were the clever and emotionally balanced one, while everyone else around you was easily angered, contradictory, false, selfish or ‘emotional’. You are such a good actress and so clever at twisting the truth. You always, always ended up being the one in control. Always. Such is the power of a mother’s carefully planned and covert manipulations, as well as the stereotype most people believe without question – that nobody loves their child as much as a mother does.
This “not knowing” kept me under your spell – pliable and dependent – for nearly half a century. In the meantime, I thought that something was wrong with me. I needed to toughen up, I needed to be more positive, I needed to have more resolve, I needed to understand more clearly, I needed to be “better”. For such a long time, it never dawned on me that I was good enough as I was. I was an intelligent child, a hardworking and successful student and a conscientious and dutiful adult daughter. But it’s clear to me now that I was also the family scapegoat.
You never took any blame or responsibility for anything. You were so stoic in your rock-solid stance, unwavering and beyond accountability that I never questioned you either. The only one in the family that I was able to question was myself. I sometimes have memory flashbacks of the inexplicably mean and callous things you did and the ruthless and self-serving actions you took. The circular arguments, the silent treatments, the invalidation no matter what I said or did. To be able to survive as a child and then a single woman with only my immediate family for support, I believe my own mind conveniently rationalised those memories for the most part. Those memories did enter my consciousness every now and then and the flashbacks were both painful and bewildering.
I grew up very independent and self-sufficient. In my mind, it was pointless to rely on or believe in other people because they would inevitably prove to be untrustworthy and unreliable. For almost all my life, I thought this belief system was an innate part of who I was. I thought it was my personality and something I was born with. Now I see that it was a natural defence mechanism triggered by a lack of genuine bonding. To the outside world, you looked like a perfect mother, but underneath the shiny surface, the unconditional love, security and affection that every child needs and deserves was not really there. My attitude towards relationships and other people set me up for a lifetime of loneliness and painful isolation. I find it extremely hard to spontaneously relate to other people. I need to constantly calm my thoughts in their presence and remind myself that I am worthy of respect as a person in my own right and there’s no need to try so hard. In my mind, the “go to” thought process is that everyone else is “more important” than I am.
But now I know what you are, thanks to the internet and the research I did when I thought I was losing my mind. Slowly but surely I researched everything I could on depression, anxiety, mindfulness, self-esteem, self-compassion and mental health. I approached my research with the firm belief that I needed to change myself. I was so unmotivated, so jaded, depressed and mentally exhausted, I couldn’t continue living that way. I felt completely empty and nothing at all gave me any joy whatsoever. I needed to find resolutions. My life was crashing down all around me even after all the hard work I had done to have a successful career and happy life.
By surfing the net compulsively, I stumbled across an article that described our family dynamic – the golden child and scapegoat scenario. Then it hit me. The problem wasn’t me, it was YOU!!! You are a narcissist.
When it first became irredeemably clear – almost two years ago – the realisation both stunned and terrified me. You’re a sociopath. My mother is a sociopath incapable of empathy or putting anyone else first, even her own children. In my state of emotional exhaustion and depression, I couldn’t bear the thought of what you were. It made me physically ill. I couldn’t stop myself from crying. The anguish and disbelief made my hands shake and the feeling of hopelessness made me want to hide at home forever. It was SO hard to believe and accept. But deep down, I knew I had finally stumbled upon the truth.
That was my lowest point. Since then, I have become a lot stronger and I now actually like myself and believe in myself. I still have a long way to go, but you will never, ever manipulate or fool me again. I always tried so hard to please you and make you happy and proud. Now I don’t care what you think of me. My mind is my own and it’s much too important to me to allow you to play games with it. The love-bombing, silent treatments, triangulations, pity plays, guilt-trips and invalidation simply don’t work anymore. Furthermore, every time you try to use your underhanded tactics, it reinforces to me how pathetic and disordered you are. Now, I thank the universe every day that I did not inherit your sickness.
The advice of ‘no contact’ is, I agree, the best remedy when dealing with a toxic narcissist. Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done in some situations. I can’t just move to another town or country. I can’t just uproot my whole life and forget that I have a family. I still love my family, even though it’s so unhealthy for my peace of mind. I love and still want contact with my father, a good natured, peace-loving man who has basically surrendered his own will in order to survive the intolerable. I don’t even know for sure if he is actually in a constant state of delusion or if he’s aware but towing the line. Either way, my heart breaks for him. I believe the main reason we are still a “family” is because of his ability to endure your covert and dominating mind-games and still treat his children with a semblance of love and good humour.
Now that I know what you are mother, I can see how childish, immature and self-centred you are. I can see how fragile your ego is. You need to be the centre of attention all the time. You need to be cared for and listened to first, no matter what hardships or pain other people are facing. You are constantly critical of anything and anyone. If the sun is shining and it’s a glorious day, to you it’s too hot and you’re uncomfortable. If someone else is suffering from a fatal disease, you instantly start talking about how much pain you’ve been in lately. I’m embarrassed and sad for you that you don’t know any better.
We will never be able to have a normal, loving conversation together as mother and daughter. Isn’t that sad? It is to me, but you lack that emotion, so it’s pointless asking you. My life has been profoundly affected by such sad thoughts and memories. I look at other people who do have loving relationships with their mother and I wonder what it must be like.
On the bright side, you have inadvertently shown me that the world has so much beauty and wonder. It’s evident everywhere, even in your personality disorder. You often made a point of telling me some awful story or tale of woe that you’d heard. It was usually about some terrible thing happening to someone and how vicious and frightening the world and other people could be. I think you were deliberately conditioning me to be fearful of the world around me. You wanted to make me as miserable as you are. I believe you were threatened by my natural optimism and confidence, because they made me less dependent on you and less controllable. Your covert manipulations worked. For many years, random fears and negative thoughts would creep in about many things. I’m glad to say though, that all your efforts have ultimately failed. I look around and I see so much beauty. Even your disorder is now fascinating to me in some ways … now that I’m no longer trying to keep my head above the emotional stormy sea you tried to drown me in.
The Healthy One.