You Survived A Narcissistic Mother–Be Kind to Yourself

I hear from sons and daughters of narcissistic mothers who went through hell and back as children of narcissistic mothers. They psychologically discarded their kids except when it came to harsh torturous punishments. As adults they remember their mother’s screams thundering through the house:”I never wanted you.” “You are a piece of trash.” “I wish I had aborted you.” “You are to blame for every bad thing that ever happened to me.” “You make my life miserable every day.” When children are very little, some narcissistic mothers tell their children that because they are so bad, they are going to send them away. There is never an explanation to the child of what that means but it strikes terror in the heart of the child that lingers as a morbid threat.

The father in these family constellations is often very weak and terrified himself of his spouse. He becomes a workaholic and in some cases an alcoholic. He is completely unavailable to his children emotionally. Some fathers disappear and leave the home early in their childrens’ lives. They are irresponsible and infantile and flee the scene without ceremony.

Moment to moment these children are living in what can be described as a prison. Their nervous systems are constantly jarred by the NM’s demands and intimidations. Some children learn to tune out mother and they become numb to their own feelings. Others are in a constant state of fear, always waiting for the next catastrophe to arrive. Some children leave the home early and find relatives or friends who will take them in. And others stay in NM’s gulag for the sentence of their childhood and teenage years. Some kids act out through alcohol and drugs and sexual escapades to numb the pain and take them temporarily out of their living nightmare. This is self destructive but not surprising.

As older teenagers and young adults some abuse victims leave the home from hell and make efforts to forge their own lives. Some of these children pick themselves up and move forward with their education and careers. On the surface some are successful but inside they carry the painful imprint of their time in the house of desolation with the narcissistic mother. Others have a difficult time functioning in the outside world. Some adult children repeat the childhood pattern by marrying narcissistic spouses who psychologically incarcerate them.

Blame and shame are often the legacies of having a narcissistic mother as well as residual feelings of anxiety and depression. First—don’t blame yourself. You didn’t ask to be born to a narcissistic mother. It happened and it is horrible but don’t take this upon yourself. Focus your attention on a deep appreciation of who you really are and that you did everything to survive and achieved something great and very difficult.  Learn to be kind to yourself. This begins with self care. Acknowledge the wonderful unique person you are. Take time with the basics—good sleep, healthy eating, exercise in a form that works for you. Give yourself time each day to be quiet and uninterrupted where you can meditate, do basic yoga poses with emphasis on breathing through the nose which calms the nervous system. Writing what you are feeling and thinking privately offers many a source of freedom. Listening to music and allowing its beauty to become internalized inside is a source of healing. Some adult children find that excellent psychotherapy can help them work through many of the residual issues. If you decide psychotherapy is a possibility, I recommend that you interview several of them. I have found that there are fine therapists but there are others who are narcissistic and out for the money motive and making you dependent on them for that purpose.

Use your creative gifts–You have them. Be receptive to knowing what they are. Above all, use your intuition all of the time. It tells us the truth and is a companion throughout every moment of our lives.

I hold a special place in my heart for children of narcissistic mothers. I stand with you always.

The following comment is one I just received from a wonderful man, a great survivor of a narcissistic mother. I have his permission to share his life story with you:

My mother is a Covert narcissist. She wears the mask of the do gooder, the angel of mercy, the saint…the community praises and raises her to Sainthood, yet I know the truth. I was the golden child, but never a narcissist. The golden child is chosen as the one who is lavished upon, shown off to friends and family as the smartest, brightest, most attractive. She groomed me to be the best at everything I did yet never for my sake. It was all done for her, so she can say “look at my son, look what he can do, look at how much he knows!” Everything I did, whether it was winning at the swim meets, or running faster than anyone, and specifically in my case, being the most intelligent, was for her. I was quizzed everywhere we went since i was 2. And I reveled in it. This all began to change when I reached puberty. I began the natural rebelling state of pubescent boy. But she wouldn’t have it. She knew she was losing control so she tightened her grip. She became hateful, yelling and screaming. Emasculating me at every chance she could. My father was always working and when around, had no control because he was a victim of this Narcissist, as well. She had won, my puberty was the worst time of my life. I had learned to fear woman, mistrust them. I was looking for affection everywhere I could and a boy my age who had been molested himself, molested me. As deeply shameful as it was, it was still attention and in my twisted mind, affection. I spent 35 yrs. never knowing a woman, always befriending them, but terrified of letting them in. I didn’t think I was gay, but I was a tall, attractive person who spoke well on many subjects and I found friendship and attention in the gay community. I never had a sex with these men, but always went back to the first one who molested me. Throughout my life I used drugs and alcohol to medicate myself and to make it easier to be with this person and not feel the pain and confusion my mother caused. The thing is, I never consciously knew any of this. I had pushed it so far down I didn’t know what was wrong with me. And everytime I’d have contact with my mother, she knew exactly what to say to pull me back in and push me further down. I hated her, but wasn’t allowed to hate her. She is a master manipulator and confuser to such a degree that I didn’t know up from down, left from right. And she reveled in it. I knew something was wrong, but was never allowed to question her, or anything she did. I was hers. At the age of 40 I quit all drugs and alcohol cold turkey. I went through severe withdrawals. At one point I thought I had cancer. I told my mother this and she didn’t say a word. A month later, after my mind was clearing up I told her I didn’t have cancer. She screamed at me “I was going to take care of you while you died, how dare you take that away from me!” Pretty sick. But during my withdrawal, I was also withdrawing from my mother. I began to gain a strength I didn’t know I had. I started fighting back, and with every step forward I took, the less power over me she had. This was and still is a very long process. Today I don’t talk to my mother. There’s no use. She’ll twist whatever I say into something else, she’ll try to manipulate. What I’ve finally learned is that nothing I do, or say is going to help her make changes. So I finally said no more! And with that, my life is changing everyday for the better. I would never have known any of this if it weren’t for finding Dr. Linda Martinez-Lewi’s Site. I would have gone to an early grave, which would have been satisfying to my mother because she then would have won. As sick as that sounds, it’s how these people are. My deepest and most sincerest thank you, Dr. Martini-Lewis, you literally have changed my life!

Doug

13 thoughts on “You Survived A Narcissistic Mother–Be Kind to Yourself”

  1. Comment:From Jessica
    Thank you so much for this website. I thoroughly look forward to your emails. I have grown so much from reading these. My grandmother is a narcissist and her oldest son is the golden child. That son is my father. My grandmother ran off my mother when I was very young. So, essentially I was “raised” by a narcissistic grandmother and a golden child father. It was a complete nightmare.
    This website is just an absolute blessing. I am healing now. Thank you.

    1. I am the scapegoat of a NM of three boys. I was hit by a car at the age of 9 and spent two weeks in a coma. That’s when the real abuse started. Because of my accident, all three boys became doctors. I always knew something was wrong with our mom and stood up to my brothers. I was able to escape and do my family medicine residency in the Army. It wasn’t soon until I realized something was wrong with the hospital, but punished for trying to help. The hospital commander along with many high ranking officials were fired when 20 deficiencies were found after a few young soldiers died in the hospital from poor care. Being in the residency and trying to fix the corrupt system stressed my relationship with my girlfriend. She was able to contact my mother and they started to plot to ruin my life. The residency was shut down and I left the service proving my mothers/girlfriend’s allegations were completely false. Not until recently have I realized my mother was an extreme narcissists. I am now looking to get into a psych residency to help others with this silent and deadly disorder that affects the whole family. Narcs will never stop until everyone they know feel empty and insecure so they can finally fit in. This world is wonderful and everyone has the potential of doing great things!!!

  2. Comment:From Stephanie
    At age 5 my mother was killed in an accident. When I asked where my Mother was I was told the angels took her! I was sent to live with my Father’s brother Stephen his daughters, Stephanie and Alice and wife, Alice who recently lost a Son , what else? Stephan ! I was told to call them, Mom&Dad and sisters! When my Dad visited me he was also Daddy!
    So the routine was, Hi! I am Stephanie and this is my sister Stephanie, my Mother Alice and my sister Alice . I do so have two Daddies! Mommy dearest never wanted me, and often told me so when ever she could and no one could hear her.
    I did not know how bad things were until I grew older! I have a family of my own and I turned 70 and Alice is still hurting me even though she has passed away

  3. Comment:From Abdala
    Dear Linda,

    I just realized for short that I am a child of narcissistic parents. My mother being a crazy malignant one. Now I am grieving like hell. It have been terribly painfull to see all of this. You wrote in this post that grieving is a positive process. Did I understand correct? I would like to know if this get better. I feel really awfull.

    Thank you a lot.

  4. Thank you saying it is a prison and psychological emasculating as I tried to explain this to my ex therapist and other people in my life and they twisted everything I said making me feel ashamed of “speaking ill against my parents,” when all I am doing is speaking the truth. I am 28 still living at home in this prison which I tried to explain to my idiot ex therapist and she said ‘they are doing you a favor as your parents put a roof over your head.’ I am sorry, did I ask to be born? I wanted to leave when I was younger, but didn’t have life experience, had no idea how to handle jobs/life/people/etc, and ended up staying home. I told ex therapist my parents had us as their maidservants and butler which they don’t want me to leave because they won’t have anybody pick up after them and it’s their dang house!

    She had these idiotic answers (ex therapist is a mom and married) to “justify” why my parents treated me like this. I now got a job don’t make enough to move out but trying to figure out a way, and want to leave – always wanted to leave since I was a kid! My dad couldn’t seem to do anything with my mom yet he is a narc himself claiming oh I tried when he did absolutely nothing! We were born just to be their servants and to keep my dad around, a lousy “mother” who did absolutely nothing but gets credit from other moms because she is a “mom” who gave birth to us! What does that mean? That’s what I call parental arrogance. There was absolutely zero apologies, they both could say the most meanest and hateful things then tell me to suck it up and deal with it. I am the one enrage while they already moved on what sense does that make!?? Zero remorse, zero feelings/emotions, zero everything yet “they are still my parents regardless?”

    People could never understand that growing up with narc parents was living in hell and a nightmare – try having high stress from childhood until now and nightmares! How is that normal for a child? Told my ex therapist ‘hmm, your a mom. Try explaining that!’ They said ‘oh no, it’s parents making sure your own a straight path,’ and I said ‘you make sure kids are on a straight path, but do you give them hell by giving them a barrage of yelling/screaming/threatening/ etc?’ The faces were something else nothing but looks of confusion from people and it was absolutely silent!

    My dad is a pure narc, his family made excuses for him not his stepfather who tried to help him. Dad’s mom was an alcoholic, funny, he hated her but never speak ill about her because he will get upset/irate about it. Why? If you hate her, don’t see why he is protecting his dead mother (she died in 91 never knew her, sister and 1st born half sister hated her treated my brother like gold) and he said his mom did something to him growing up but won’t say. Hmm, molestation? That seems to run on both sides of the family.

  5. Comment:From Doug
    Marquis, I know your prison and your pain. You’re trapped because you were never given the tools to live on your own…this is part of the narcs control. They need you to rely on them…it eases, to some small degree, the terrible emptiness they hold so deep inside. As Dr. Linda has written, this is a fixed pathology, they will never change. I spent so many wasted years trying to get my mother to change, I begged for her to just meet me half way, but this meant nothing to her. It’s not in their capacity to empathize. Try not to waste your time. As for your therapist, if you haven’t already, drop her. From birth to about 13-14 I was the golden child. My father died when I was 15. She never hugged me, consoled me, nothing. But what she did do was begin to hate me because I was no longer giving her what she needed. Unfortunately, her hooks were deep. Even apart, she could call me and say the right things to push me further down, to make me feel more guilty and I was never allowed to question her, never allowed to hate her. I too was in therapy for many years, but my therapist did once mention NPD, but I dismissed it thinking be a narcissist meant loving yourself and I knew deep down my mother despised herself, but didn’t know it..but I did. I wish I had listened to my therapist. Three years later and I don’t recall how, I stumbled on Dr. Linda’s Site and everything came to light. Her Site, her information, Dr. Linda in conjunction with my therapist, saved my life. I hope to hear more from you.

  6. Comment:From Doug
    I just wanted to add, Marquis, that my mother is a Covert Narcissist…her twin sister is a Covert Narcissist and I believe her husband, my Uncle is a Narcissist. Going over there house was unimaginable..the screaming and yelling, it was chaos. They had two children, the eldest was the black sheep and the youngest, the golden child. In their family the lines were clearly drawn. To this day, the eldest is a mess and they can’t understand why because the golden child has done so wonderfully. It’s sick and twisted…

  7. mine is a very long story, I am posting here for any of you who want some some advice or to help with the realisation that sometimes you are better off cutting people out of your life. When I was 2 year old my mam and dad split up. I was always a mammy’s girl, I used to cry when my mother just left the room, anyway from the moment they split up my Nana filled my head with tales about my mother saying she was selfish, she didn’t care about me and my older sister, when my mam eventually met someone else when I was 6 years old my Nana told me and my sister my mam cared about this man more than us! Everytime I went to my nanas she was slagging my mam off to me and my sister and all of my dad’s side of the family. When my mam and dad had split up my dad got really depressed he loved her, my Nana even told me from a young age she is sure my mam was cheating on my dad, which there is no proof. Anyway my older sister was always the golden child. My Nana would be nasty to me, if my sister hit me my Nana would blame me, but my Nana would go out of her way to be spiteful and mean to me. Anyway when I was 7 my mam decided to move 20 mins in a car away with this man she met when I was 6. My Nana went mad and dragged me and my sister in to an argument, telling us we would not be happy moving, it’s true me and my sister didn’t want to move away from our dad (who was living with my Nana) move schools or leave our friends, but my Nana would not drop it, calling my mother all the names under the sun to us and trying her best to turn us against her. Anyway we moved and all of a sudden my older sister (2 years older than me) decided she wanted to live with my Nana. After many family meetings and me crying begging my sister not to go, my sister left. I loved my sister but I was also a mammys girl so I was torn. It did go to court and I was pulled in 2 directions by my mother and Nana but I stayed with my mam. The arguments never stopped, my mam didn’t say anything about my Nana but my step dad had his say, he told me at the age of 10 that my Nana didn’t care about me that she didn’t like me, although some of what he was saying was true wasn’t it wrong to involve children in these arguments? My Nana did the same with my sister, she told her none of us cared for her, eventually I didn’t see my sister anymore. When I was 11 my mam went to work away and my step father sexually abused me. I started acting out and eventually my mam kicked me out and packed my bags, I went to live with my dad who had re married and moved out of my nanas, my step mam was very jealous, she was always getting my dad to tell me off and the arguments got too bad that I walked out at the age of 15 and went to live with my then boyfriend, my dad wasn’t that bothered, he went from the loving father to been my step mams skivvy, I came up with the conclusion that he does whatever she says as he is scared my step mam will leave him like my mam did. I remember when I lived with him, I was sick of the arguments, I was walking to school crying, I was very lonely. I lived with my then boyfriend for about 6 months, I couldn’t keep the sexuaI abuse quiet any longer, so I had told my mams sister. My mam left my step dad but she started to call me a liar and say it never happened to people. She carried on been his friend and even let him work at her business, I then decided stupidly to move in with my Nana, from the moment I walked through her door she was asking when I was moving out, she turned my sister against me, she made my sister selfish, I would stand outside the kitchen door sometimes and I could hear my Nana and my sister calling me names, my sister would give me filthy looks and start fights with me, sometimes physical, my Nana and granda always stuck up for her, they told everyone in the family everything and made them think I was a horrible person. I did everything for my Nana and granda cleaned helped with shopping etc my sister did nothing all she did was take alot of money off them and they even bought her a car. My Nana and granda wouldn’t give me a penny. Anyway my sister found out she was pregnant when she was 18, when I was 16 my Nana was ringing around trying to find me a flat saying she didn’t want me there. 1 week after my sister found out she was pregnant I found out I was pregnant. I started getting in alot of pain and my Nana didn’t care she told people I got pregnant because my sister did. She did not know I had been sexually active since 15 and that after 1 and a half years of unprotected sex I just assumed I was infertile. I wasn’t trying to get pregnant I was just not been cautious. 2 weeks later after many hospital appointments which my Nana refused to come to I lost my baby, I sat upstairs confused and crying while I was loosing my baby, I came downstairs and my Nana didn’t care neither did my sister, my granda started singing about me miscarrying and he was been awful to me, taking the mick out of me. My Nana and granda continued to favouritise my sister and declared me homeless to get me out. They hated me. My sister got her own place with her baby and they paid for nearly everything, her house was lovely, I bought stuff for my flat and my Nana made me take it up before I moved in, it was a bad neighbourhold so I didn’t want to. I then got broken into and all my stuff was taken that I had saved up for, my auntys helped me paint my flat but my Nana and granda or no one would help to get me on my feet, I literally had nothing, they bought my sister food, they knew I had none and they let me starve. When my cousin moved down the street my granda would drive round to her house and drop food off all the time, he did the same for my sister and he would always offer money and food to people but obviously not me, they would tell them not to tell me they got stuff. I lost loads of weight as I had no money to eat, my Nana started lying to the whole family telling them I was on drugs, I was not, everyone thought I was a scumbag. I eventually got an apprenticeship and got myself a job, after 5 years I moved into the next town which is very nice. I have a lovely place a good job and at 24 I have just got engaged. While I was living in my first flat my auntys would go mad with me telling me to get down my nanas and help her clean which I did not, when my sister was pregnant she used to get up at 5am nesting cooking pies the kitchen was a mess, when I got up my Nana made me clean it, she told the family I did nothing when I did everything. When I got on my feet I started to forgive my Nana and granda, I would work until 8pm and then do her full shopping take it up and put it away, my fiance did alot of joinery work in her house, they always offered him money and food, but not me they liked him, they would say don’t tell me that they offered him money. My Nana told my fiance lies about me and started arguments, every now and then I would stop going up, and she would tell the family I was avoiding her for some reason, over the last few year I have bought her mother’s day presents done loads for her to get worse, turn people in the family against me try to turn my fiance against me, she sits in the kitchen every time I go up it doesn’t matter who I am with she told them everything about my mam, what happened with her and my dad and this could go on for hours. Just the other week I asked to lend a pen for my auntys christmas card and my granda instantly gave me a filthy look and screamed at me saying I was not using his pen for my mams sisters card. Push came to shove when me my Nana and my cousins were in the kitchen talking a few weeks ago and my Nana threatened to split me and my fiance up, that was it I felt rage, I realised I can live without my family that she is spiteful and Evil, I officially hated my Nana. Anyway my sisters first child is 7 and he is a mini version of my Nana, he is selfish and he treats me like something he stepped in, my Nana tells him he is the favourite eventhough my sister had another child who is 2, my Nana started been mean to the youngest, it wasn’t until the youngest child started crying for me over her and treat me with respect my Nana started been nice to her. The other week when I was in my nanas she was saying to my niece who do you love out of me and her, she wouldn’t stop saying it, my Nana said she only loves you because you play with her and that is the only reason! I ignored her, my older sister said she was jealous to her face. Then the day after my sister was going to pick my nephew up from school, my niece started crying she wanted to wait for her mam with me while I was putting my nanas shopping away, my Nana got jealous and kept asking who my niece was crying for making me feel uncomfortable. Anyway me and my sister had a hair appointment took my niece and nephew with us, my nephew was grabbing my niece trying to get her away from me, I then realised he was turning into my Nana, my niece loves me but obviously my Nana has turned my nephew against me and is on her way to doing it with my niece. The thing is I now have a younger cousin and since she was 2 my Nana has been awful to her, she is a lovely child but she is doing the same to her as she did me, my younger cousin has a stable family and is very happy unlike my life at her age, thank god. My younger cousin doesn’t really see my Nana any more now as she has gone to school. Me and my sister do get on now, but my Nana has made her and my nephew very selfish and my Nana will stop at nothing to try and ruin my life. My granda is dying from cancer and yes even after every thing he has done I love him, but I refuse to ever see them again. My Nana does not know I have cut ties I just want her out of my life. She has a 3 bedroom house and refuses to move into a bungalow, they are both invalids and my Nana insists she has trouble from cleaning to even feeding the dog and making a cuppa when she is sitting right next to the kettle, she is lying, she hints and hints makes people feel uncomfortable so they will do anything for her, the more people do the more she wants, the moment you walk through the door she says, eee I have been trying to change the bed all day and I can’t do it, she can do it, this is the extent this woman will go to, everyone now does everything for them literally! I used to do everything but not anymorer or ever again this has gone on for years, and when I have children I will be keeping them away from this poisonous woman.

  8. It has been over a year since I last had contact with my poisonous, destructive, hate-filled, narcissistic mother. I feel much better without the agonizing weekly phone calls but I still feel she has destroyed me in ways I am still discovering. Always there is that little voice telling me I am a loser, not good-looking enough like my narcissistic golden child, loser brother (who remains under her control). She told me it was laughable in how I have lived my life. I have 3 wonderful sons and am mourning the loss of a very supportive, loving husband who saw through my mother right away. I have had a long and successful working career and have managed to make a good life. She cannot stand that. She cannot stand that I love being a mother. She could not stand the genuine love between me and my husband. These were not things to be admired in my mother’s eyes. No — money and objects and physical attractiveness and fame. Now that is something to put on a pedestal. Her final victory would be to see me dead. That would please her. Because I dared to defy her and leave her control. These people are basically sociopaths and they do their best `knife work’ on their family members.
    If you have a truly narcissistic-disordered mother then you know how true these words are; there is no love, there is only control and abuse. Save yourself. Leave them behind. There is nothing to go back to. The well has always been dry.

  9. Thank you Doug for sharing your story. It took me forty years to figure out the crazy making but at least i have something i can hang an explanation on. When you grow up with narc parents it’s all you know. Your taught their deranged version of reality. And you learn how to survive. It’s how things are supposed to be vs how things are. This insidious abuse happens in secret and the abuser relies on the absolute disbelief from society that such atrocities could occur. But she’s your MOTHER. Your the one who is not understanding HER the right way. In the last two years i’ve called my mother out on her numerous indiscretions. When you know the truth puzzle pieces from the past make sense. She’s ramped up the smear campaign against me. We truth tellers are not to be tolerated. One thing i do understand is she gave birth to me but did not give me life. That belongs to the almighty. And despite her evil intentions for me I know i have a purpose in this world because i exist. I haven’t seen her in ten years and only hear of her in circles. I’ve grieved the loss of the mother i wish i had had. I’ve cut her tentacles. They no longer reach into this home. My children will never know her. They will only know me.

  10. I’m 37, have a physical disability & 5 heart problems. I’m adopted when a baby. dad was an obvious narcissist (extremely up himself, said he was “the high Prince of electronic engineering”), mom is a covert… extremely emotionally manipulative (guilt trips, blame, silence, temper tantrums etc) she tells me off all the time for being myself! we are from Australia living in New York, im applying for citizenship but can’t move away from her until that is done. I don’t know how to cope: I’m screwed if I do & screwed if I don’t. thanks for this site!

  11. Thank you for sharing your stories, Doug and everyone who commented. My mother died 4 days ago, and I find myself wondering if I could have done more to relate to her. Reading your stories here reassures me that there is nothing I could have done. My mother exhibited almost all the narcisistic traits, but also some borderline disorder traits, in that she would go into fits of uncontrollable rage, then after she had worn herself out would come crying and begging forgiveness. I remember being a small child, maybe 5 years old, and shrinking away from her when she sat on my bed asking my forgiveness and wanting to hug me. I didn’t put it into words then, but the words would have been something like “I don’t want any part of your love if it involves being yelled at and beaten to pay for each hug.” At some point I realized that it was pointless to try to talk to her in a meaningful way. Even as a child, I knew not to share my happiness with her, because I knew she would belittle my judgement, make me feel foolish for my happiness. My happiest memories are of things such as dust sparkling in sunlight, warm sunlight and cool breeze on my skin, music. She seemed to be oblivious of these kinds of things. She seemed to have no sense of wonder. I remember one morning when the car wouldn’t start, I was 8 or 9 years old at the time, she was sitting there saying agrily, “Stupid car. Now what am I supposed to do?” and I said eagerly, “No, really cars are interesting machines, let’s try to figure out how to fix it.” and she backhanded me hard across the face and told me to shut up. I had meant what I said sincerely, trying to share an insight with her. By the time I was 10 I shut down and didn’t try to share anymore. But after I grew up, I had such a lovely relationship with my own daughter, I decided to try again with my mother. It was always the same. I would have been quite willing to listen to her talk about herself, if she had been sincere. But all she wanted to do was gossip about people I didn’t know, brag about her rich friends, tell my what a jerk my dad was, and criticize me. One of the most terrible aspects of her disorder was that she took it out on her family only. Her friends thought she was wonderful. I believe what has filled me with doubt now is reading cards she received from friends who obviously cared for her. I remember when I was a kid, people would say, “You are so lucky to have such a beautiful, sweet mother.” After I grew up and left home, I would always go back and forth with my mother — limit contact for a while, then try again, realize it was futile, limit contact again. What really helped me was talking about the situation with my brother. Our mother used to turn us against each other, but when we were in our 50’s we started talking and realized she had been lying to both of us. We both came to realize that nothing we could do for her would ever be enough. Even if we had given our lives for her, she would have criticized us for not being immortal or for not wearing the right clothes or for messing up the floor with our blood. We jointly decided to visit her on our terms, at our convenience. As she slipped into dementia, we made sure she had the very best physical care, but that was all. We’d go to see her maybe twice a year and only stay an hour or so. Interestingly, when she no longer recognized me as her daughter, she was very warm and friendly. She transferred her flaming rages to the caregivers, who required extra money because of my mother’s volatile and abusive behavior. Not long before her death, she was talking to my daughter and said, looking at me, “Is that your mother? She’s very attractive.” How interesting that was! When she knew I was her daughter she always found something to criticize about my appearance. This so clearly demonstrated that her dislike of me was, at least in part, caused by projection of her own self-doubt, maybe even self-hate. My mother knew something was wrong with her and often sought help from psychiatrists. She would always start out by telling them how horrible her spouse and children were, and they would listen patiently and often prescribe drugs such as antidepressants. But when they would start to probe her own psche, she would find a reason to become angry with them and would switch to a new one. When I would meet her friends, I would wonder what terrible things she had told them about me. A couple of people told me they were surprised when they met me, because I was nothing like what my mother had given them to expect. I had to keep her strictly away from my professional contacts for fear of what she would say about me. Now that she’s dead, I’m not sure why it should even matter. I’m overwhelmed by sadness that things had to be the way they were. She was so beautiful and intelligent, and her children wanted to love her. There was so much potential.

  12. I was in my 60’s before I finally realized that my mother’s lifelong behavior towards me was not about me at all, it was always about her. I was the chosen victim and my brother the golden child. She was an Australian war bride, brought to the US with an infant. Career Navy, my dad constantly moved us. We were left with her rage and dispair. Fortunately I adapted well to each new environment and made friends easily. I spent as much time as possible involved with outside activities. Left home at 18, put myself through college, married and lived a happy, well adjusted life. Except for a lefetime of trying to have a relationship with a mother who made it impossible. She continued the pattern of verbal abuse, always using venomous words intended to inflict pain, wanting me to retreat and yet always acting as the neglected victim. My husband opened mail from her to protect me and finally told her he was doing so. The evil letters ceased. Six weeks prior to my mother’s death, my brother and I discovered she had been leading a secret life for 20 years. She portrayed herself to be the acclaimed, highly educated, wealthy of a famous ancestor. Her portrayal opened doors and gave her the opportunity for access, respect and fame. Apparently the attention she craved was not attainable from her parents, husband, children or in the context of her real life. This discovered knowledge gave me the answers I needed to begin to process my realationship with a narcissistic mother. I wrote a memoir and concentrated on how complex the human mind is and the need for forgiveness for what I experienced. Understanding that her personality disorder had nothing to do with me, allowed me to forgive her. I have been extremely blessed with a loving husband, friends and family. The cycle of abuse was broken. I walked with the Grace of God.

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