Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Last Straw

As I've attempted to try to convey the overall flavor of my relationship with my sister leading up to the event that caused me to finally break away I have been struggling with something. A woman in the Adult Children of Narcissists group said something that put my struggle into words:

I have taken a lot but this is the final insult. It may be a little thing but this little mistake has pushed me into action. It may be a little thing to everyone else but it is a big thing to me. Not anyone knows what life has been like for me... There is no way I can describe to anyone what I have had to face each and every day of my life, what I've had to put up with, what I've had to cope with. So many times I was almost driven insane with everything that just didn't make any sense to me at all, but now it does. And I'm angry.
Emphasis mine. This woman is describing my experience as well as her own. Perhaps she is describing yours. People on the outside looking in are ill-equipped to lay judgment on your decisions to deal firmly with toxic family members, yet they do it anyway. The event that caused me to finally hold my mother to account wasn't cataclysmic. At least, it wouldn't seem to be if I described it to someone who didn't know my mother or me or the many years of similar offenses. It wouldn't seem all that BIG to an outsider. For me, it was huge. It was the moment that defined all the other moments. It opened my eyes. It clarified the issues. But I knew that I would have a very hard time convincing someone who didn't know the fabric of my life with my mother that her behavior on that particular day was evil. So I have only talked to those family members who know me and my mother very well and two close friends. One of those friends had quite a bit of personal experience with my mother and knew before I did that my mother was an evil, scary bitch. The other friend had a brief encounter with my mother, but it was enough for her to "get" that my mother was seriously screwed up.

I have even more of a problem when trying to describe my life with my sister with people who weren't there. The event that caused me to cut off all contact with her may seem trivial to many. I run the risk of the criticizers out there who are quick to judge what they don't know or really understand. Putting it out there on my blog hasn't been easy for me. I've been willing to share my story hoping it will be helpful to someone else. I also recognize it opens me up for criticism for my decisions or behavior with my sister. I guess, in the end, I've decided I don't care what critics say. No matter how well I tell my story it will fall far short of explaining the day to day realities I've experienced. So don't think you have the whole story just because I get to the end of telling it. I do have the advantage of time and separation and life experience to lend to my telling of this story which I know lends me a fair amount of objectivity. I am not immersed in strong feelings or unresolved issues that would prevent me from looking at how things happened from an adult stand-point. I hope you, the reader, can grant me the view that I have been as objective as possible as I have described my relationship with my sister. I hope the overall tone of my blog is such that you can discern an individual who has put much thought into things and is able to rise outside herself to look at things from another person's perspective and who is not bogged down in a soup of subjectiveness. This blog post is my preamble to telling the last events between my sister and myself. It was a "last straw".

With both my mother and my sister the last straw events that caused me to see with absolute clarity what I was dealing with were not huge in the way that would make front page news. No, that wasn't was made those events significant. What was significant was that the events contained the same fundamental elements of all the ones that came before. Nothing describes those events better than "the last straw". Unfortunately, people who are on the outside looking in will think you have over-reacted. Accusations that you are overly sensitive seem to gain credence because even you yourself can admit that it isn't the bigness of the event that caused you to react.

No, it was the sameness.

So, when I finally get around to describing the last straw event with my sister some of you will understand this principle. You will understand how what she did contained the fundamental dysfunction our relationship always was comprised of. I thought I had perceived change in her character and had been willing to over look the past. But when a person's behavior today is like their behavior yesteryear then you know that everything you over looked is still operational in your relationship. You've over looked a crime in progress. Yes, you are dealing with a career criminal. Both last straw events...the one with my mother and the one with my sister...were revelatory to me because of their sameness with past events.

Those of you who were tipped over into reality by a last straw event please know that it is perfectly okay that you reacted strongly to an event that others would tend to classify as trivial. It doesn't matter what they think. What matters is what you know. The fact that it took you this long to experience a "last straw" moment is a testament to your patience. Justice has been long averted because you've not been willing to seek it. If some event finally convinces you to allow the law of natural consequences to work then good. It needed to happen. The fact that you've put up with the malignant narcissist so long is proof they will never change. A million "do-overs" will not finally result in the malignant narcissist suddenly getting it right.

This all means if there is to be any change it has to start and end with you. You can't change their hearts or their behavior. You can change your behavior and start to implement changes in your circumstances. If your life is to be any different tomorrow than it was yesterday you will have to take control of it.

Those of us who've experienced last straw moments are greatly blessed. Blessed to finally have the moral certitude and resolution to not take their shit anymore. Blessed to finally be able to escape the crooked reality of the narcissist.

"The straw that breaks the camel's back" is the saying. Remember, the term "last straw" itself makes it clear that the event wasn't a big one. A straw is insignificant itself. In the camel's case, that last straw became extremely significant because its tiny weight was added to the tiny weight of millions of other straws. The "last straw" is significant because of its sameness piled on with a million of its kind. Keep that in mind the next time someone tries to trivialize your finally reaching your limit after a "last straw" moment. It isn't the bigness of the event, it is the sameness. We all have our limits.

16 comments:

Elise said...

Hi Anna,

Hope you post the "last straw" details soon...would love to read it.

Mine are summed up in a series of posts on my blog, entitled "the rescue", "the siege" and "the aftermath", starting here:

http://houseofbonsai.blogspot.com/2006/08/1005-rescue.html

anti-narci said...

I have just randomly come across your blog and I am thrilled.Several years ago when I first started researching NPD because of my mother-in-law, I don't remember seeing your page, and I'm so glad I have now.

"The Last Straw" is the first post I've read, but I reacted so strongly to it that I have to comment. What you said about everyone thinking you were overreacting or irrational for cutting off contact over what they may think is a "trivial" incident...my husband and I can definitely relate. And that's what makes the process even more painful, that people think YOU are the crazy, evil one.

I look forward to catching up and reading the rest of your blogs. Thank you so much for sharing your story...

Jaimie said...

I just came across your blog and have already read many of your posts. Wow. Just wow. It could be me talking about my own mother. I knew I couldn't be the only one but I have never come across someone who really went through a life with a monster.

I had to comment on "The Last Straw" because I remember mine so well. She said something to me, awful of course, but on a scale from one to ten, it was about a three. I don't know what happened, it was like the shackles broke and dropped to the ground. I was very calm. Suddenly it was all over and I was free. I left and never saw her again.

I cannot explain how it happened, only that it did.

L.A. Woman said...

This is one of the best blogs I've ever read. Anna, your writing is so good! My boss is a N. The signs are all here. I need to leave my job. I've had a savior complex this whole time. Your writings have shown me how futile this is. You put into words everything my gut was telling me but that I was ignoring because I didn't want to believe that my boss, who I worshipped when I didn't know this person personally, was the opposite of everything I thought they were. Thank you!

Perhaps you could write about how it is that Ns can simultaneously "love" themselves and have low self-esteem. Or perhaps you've already written about it and I just haven't seen it. This is the first time I've ever seen your blog. But I'll be back for more!

Anna Valerious said...

The tiny url will take you to "The Narcissist's 'Self-Esteem'":

http://tiny.cc/uU20n

I'll add a few extra thoughts on it here in this comment.

Self-love which is not based on self-respect is the conundrum of the malignant narcissist. This conundrum explains why they can have "low self-esteem" and yet love themselves supremely. They are breathing examples of the consequences of always putting themselves first (which is the Biblical definition of self-love i.e. the one I use.). They are the proof that self-love doesn't translate into true self-respect and reality-based feelings of liking oneself.

Some people confuse self-love as feelings of affection for oneself. That is not correct. Self-love is defined by behavior. It is comprised of the behaviors of always thinking of and acting for oneself as if you are everyones primary concern as well as your own primary concern. As if your wants and needs should supersede anyone else's wants or needs. This is intimately linked with a huge sense of entitlement. This is a self-love which is bereft of self-respect and honest good feelings about the self because it must trample on everyone else in order to exist.

Self-respect is the result of self-discipline (which includes self-denial and putting off gratification) with the eye to future benefit resulting from these things. Self-respect has to be earned. We have to prove to ourselves that we deserve to respect ourselves. Constructive self-discipline is anathema to the malignant narcissist. If they were self-disciplined they would likely not be malignant narcissists. Another way we could say it is "self-control". Self-discipline is self-control. MNs only use enough self-control to keep themselves from being caught in their crimes. They use just enough self-control to make sure only their victims see Mr. Hyde come out. That is not a constructive use of self-control; neither is it a self-control with any endurance. It is short term self-control used for selfish ends. I give them no credit for their occasional use of self-control.

The narcissist doesn't do anything in the moral realm to earn self-respect therefore they tend to loathe themselves when they are forced to moments of introspection. Believe me, they are only moments. The narcissist's dependence on the praise of others is how they try to compensate for self-respect. The unmerited praise of others never has the ring of truth to it. Therefore the narcissist is constantly forced to pursue more of the cheap imitation to overcome the lack of the genuine article. Their bad feelings about themselves may start to surface so they demand that their sources of supply release some of the sweet nectar of adulation to overcome the threat of self-knowledge.

Narcissists are living proof that self-love is not something to be desired or pursued. Self-love doesn't make us happy or make us better people. SELF-RESPECT should be the goal and aim for lasting happiness and true accomplishment in the life. Self-respect means you think well enough of yourself not to mistreat yourself. It doesn't mean you think you are better than others. The narcissist's life proves you can't possibly love yourself enough to overcome the need for self-respect. Self-love requires no moral accomplishment. Self-respect does require moral accomplishment. Anything worth having has to be worked for. The narcissist is not willing to put forth honest and good labor to make themselves into decent people. So they settle for loving themselves above all others...you can see where that takes them. Down the path of evil...

Self-love is as over-rated in our society as self-respect is under-rated. Time to get things into their proper order.

By the way, in the movie "An American Psychopath" with Christian Bale the psychopath's anthem was "The Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston. It was the song he felt summed up all of the truth of life itself. "Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all". This was one of many truths of the narcissistically psychopathic mind portrayed well in this disturbing movie. Where did self-love take the psychopath? On the path of ultimate entitlement. An entitlement which meant that depriving others of their lives was a worthy sacrifice to his self-love. Self-love is not a virtue.

Anonymous said...

What a relief to hear about someone else's experience growing up with a narcissistic sister! It was a living H--- for me, and you're right, it's hard to put into words so that anyone else could "get" what it was like. I could also totally relate to it being a culmination of "sameness" of events that led me to cut off all contact with her. Over and over and over again her screaming at me about something she disagreed with and perceived that I had done as not right - basically anything and everything. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm not alone! No longer will I not talk about the dysfunction in my family!

Anonymous said...

The last comment sounded exactly like something my sister would say...my healthy sister, that is. Is narcissism a sickness or a result of "selling your soul to the devil"?

My mother and my youngest sister (who are obssessively close) are both narcissists. My mother is a very well-known figure in town. They corroborate eachother's lies so that I look like the bad guy even though I am the one who has worked without complaining to take care of my ill mother. She has been in the ER up to twice weekly for years. I have started backing away from the situation as my health and sanity will not last any longer.

My mother has been "dying" for over 15 years. She gets to ER and is suddenly very happy as she is center of attention. She is at the end stage of her illness. The intensity of my narc sister has ramped up as my mother's end nears.

How do I get out immediately? It is imperative. I know I will lose all the other relationships in my family. I can convince myself momentarily to remove myself from the situation only to have my mind twist into thinking I cannot leave my mother. Even my priest says to stay completely away - that they are evil and will destroy me and my family.

Anna Valerious said...

How do I get out immediately? It is imperative. I know I will lose all the other relationships in my family. I can convince myself momentarily to remove myself from the situation only to have my mind twist into thinking I cannot leave my mother. Even my priest says to stay completely away - that they are evil and will destroy me and my family.

Are you posing this question to me or is it rhetorical? Hopefully it is rhetorical because I do not know how to instruct a person on how to get out immediately when you can't be motivated by knowing that the people you're dealing with are evil and bent on the destruction of you and your family. How do I help you? What further revelation will enable you to save yourself and your family? If you can't act on your priest's emphatic pronouncements upon your sister and mother then who am I? What does it take for you to protect the innocent from the predations of the evil? What information do you need in order to feel your instinct for survival kick in?

Queennotprincess said...

Reading these posts made me realize that the Last Straw for me was that my N ex boyfriend was a raging hypochondriac. He was always sick with something. He is retired and lving off a very generous divorce settlement from his ex wife. (The sicko told me that she paid him $20,000 for everytime they had sex. $3,000,000) I catered to his every medical crisis even though I am a single mother with a business to rum. AND HE ALWAYS FOUND FAULT WITH WHATEVER I DID!!!!

When ever I suggested more exersise, a better diet, vitamins, water instead of doet Coke....I was being judgemental or controlling.

Six months ago he dumped me for a doctor he met at Church. This woman is very homely and difficult...probably a Narcissist too. I hope she likes riding around in a car with a handicapped sticker.(Fraud) I also hope she is there when he gets Alzheimer disease just like his Mother.

When I was dumped. I was devastated. Now I realize that God was just doing what he always does for me and my faith sisters ....God takes care of his Girls. The truth does set you free..Thank you for being a blog that bears the truth in a complicated world!

BusyLiving2008 said...

Cumulative events. Yes, that's the difficult part when you are forced to explain the ongoing abuse. In my case, it took 20 years to finally make the break from an abusive husband who was a sadist, abusive malignant narcissist. Twenty, thirty, fifty events of emotional abuse could be discounted, rationalized and explained. But thousands over a 20-year period added up to the final day when one little thing sent me packing. Or him, actually. It was over, finally, officially, forever, over. I knew that day, no matter what sort of financial, material or even social shortfall I had to endure, that I would never go back. I was done. The straw had finally broken the camel's back.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Anna. Until I found this website, I felt like I was in a club--a club all by myself that no one else could understand.

One Angry Daughter said...

I'm always amazed at the insight you offer - your blog has been a source of strength and inspiration. I also entitled my turning point with my NM "The Last Straw" - I don't think I fully understood how appropriate that title was until months afterwards.

Homeward Bound said...

I recently had a horrible, evil, deceetful experience with an N. She had me believing she was the most pitiful person on the face of this earth and all of her family was against her. I have been saved by God's Grace. I'm not perfect in any way but thankfully forgiven of my sins. This 26 year old mother of 3 deserves nothing less than to be permanently put away from any other living creature that God created. Thank goodness, she doesn't have complete custody of any of those poor children and pray she never does. She is pure evil as I could have ever possibly imagined. Going to the police because of "The Last Straw" has done me no good. I've pressed charges and proof was presented, they arrested her but she bailed out within a few hours. I wanted her to know that I wasn't backing down so I simply came in and sat down at her arraignment. When she went up to get a court appointed attorney (at our cost), I watched as she worked her evil magic on the bailiff she spoke to.... It was pathetic! It isn't over yet but I pray for it to be. She has tragically consumed my life and I'm in my early 40's with a husband, and 2 sons. I have severe depression problems as it is and the judicial system will fail against her. She is so sneaky and evil they won't have a clue as to the lying snake that they will be listening to. Please pray that God and justice be served...

Denise Quinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joyfulmomof6 said...

I know this is an old post, but the subject is timeless.
Thank you for helping me think in a new way...The last straw for me was CATASTROPHIC (NM accusing me of causing my father’s memory problems) but there had been so many of the “little things” piling up....it was like that children’s game “Don’t spill the Beans” where you put the toy beans on the pot until it tips because the weight is too much.

I really like your blog. It has helped me so much. I keep it bookmarked for when I need a boost....11 months of No Contact for me and feeling better than I ever did in my life....

Joyce said...

I know this is an old post but it has taken me 56 YEARS to stand up to my abusive narcissistic father. I finally did at a Christmas visit where he and my mother (who has Alzheimer's) were staying at my home. After three days he launched into yet another verbal assault and personality assassination and both my husband and I told him to stop saying insulting things or leave. Well, leave he did and in a flash- dragging my confused mother along. I don't know how they got home (6 states away). Anyway he is 84 and I was just thinking he will die soon (hopefully) and how I COULD NOT stand to discuss how "great" he was with my cousins and extended family. There is no way I could ever explain his mind warping abuse over my lifetime. My siblings and I are all severely injured and my mother did NOTHING to contradict his behavior. Small children should not be constantly considering suicide. I didn't know what it was even called but I knew that if I wasn't alive my Dad would be happy. How did I know? Because HE TOLD ME SO. If you are parenting children with a narcissist PLEASE PLEASE remove them from the situation or at least have the guts to allow them to form relationships with decent adults outside the family who will affirm their self worth. I know the "normal" parent can't do it because they will not oppose the narcissist for any reason- even their own children.