Friday, January 10, 2020

Book Recommendation

Being an Audible member, a book was recommended to me based on other books I've listened to over the years.  True crime is one of the genres I dip into now and again.  I ignored the recommendation for a few weeks because I didn't know if I wanted to put my toe in that pool again.  The pool of stench that describes Evil Motherhood.  I finally did buy the book, and I could barely put it down.  It is written by a True Crime master, Gregg Olsen.  The title is:  If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood.

If you were raised by an abusive and malignantly narcissistic mother, you may find this book to be triggering.  Proceed with caution.  I freely admit I lived through nothing compared to the daughters of this witch, Michelle Knotek.  What I can also say is that I recognized all of it.  The principles are all the same.  The scale is where the stories differ from mine and maybe yours. 

Knotek was evil. This was evident from a very early age.  Her first victims were her family of origin.  She grew up and moved onto making her own family.  She became a master at looking like she was a loving caregiver.  She lured people into her life who were already vulnerable emotionally and financially.  She killed at least three people who came to live with her while her children were growing up.  She used the cloak of a caregiver to cover her malevolence.  Flattery, generosity, benevolence were her tools to get people close.  Gas-lighting, extreme physical deprivation, divide-and-conquer, physical torture, mental torment, unpredictability, and drugging were her tools of control.  Using others to carry out her will in order to implicate them in her crimes was also her consistent MO.  All these things were familiar to me.  The only difference is the scale.  Michelle was willing to go far further than many evil mothers do, but the tool box is identical.

I found this story reaffirming in a strange way.  It allows me to continue to condemn my mother's tactics in my heart.  I'm in limited contact with my mother and father now.  My mother is into at least moderate dementia.  My father is near death.  My mother is always in history revision mode.  She recreates events to make herself a hero.  It disgusts me.  I rarely interact with her.  Happily, she is my sister's problem.  When dad dies, my sister will inherit mom.  She is well positioned to do this because she has her own adult assisted living home and sister doesn't live on site.  She can keep a distance while taking care of mother dearest.  When my dad dies, which could literally be any day now, I will hold back very little when dealing with mom.  When I rarely talk to her, dad is usually on the phone too which has helped keep Mom in check.  When dad is gone, that check will be gone for her.  And for me, too.  Her lack of restraint will be met with mine.

My mother has zero power in my life.  She has no hold over me.  She knows it, and therefore finds me uninteresting.  It's all good.  I feel badly for my dad, but I also think he's reaping what he sowed.  My mother and father have no contact with my daughter.  My daughter has maintained her distance with my full support.  I allowed limited contact with me after my daughter was well on her own.  That was in 2013.  I have seen my mother twice since then.  My dad thrice.  Before he became too ill to travel, he visited me for a few days without mom in tow.  It was the first and only time in my adult life when I could have a long conversation with my dad without my mother there to interfere.  It was good.  I talked openly about the rift between me, him and my mom.  He listened kindly and well.  He earned some respect from me because of it.

The book of my parents is closing.  First it will be dad.  He is in the final stages of COPD due to those many years of smoking.  Mom is totally dependent on him emotionally and every other way.  She will transfer that dependence to my sister when he goes.  My sister understands that I can't be involved in taking care of Mom when the time comes.  If she resents me for it, I can't tell.  I wouldn't care if she did.

I will now speak of my sister.  She has changed dramatically.  She had long been highly narcissistic as I have described somewhat on my blog, but I can see huge shift in her whole life and thinking processes.  It's been a stunning thing, and a testament to God's power to change a life.  She has been consistent for years now.  The high drama is gone.  She is polite and considerate toward me.  She came for a week long visit a few years ago.  We talked for days on end.  We explored the many ways Mom lied to us about each other.  My sister admitted things she did to me.  She apologized sincerely and without equivocation.  I don't speak to her often, but when we do connect it feels right.  We are friends for the first time ever in our lives.  She doesn't play the victim card, she doesn't excuse her behavior by blaming how mom raised her.  It's hard to keep up this level of change for almost seven years.  She makes no demands on me.  I think she's finally grown up.  I contrast the huge changes in my sister with my mother who hasn't changed a wit.  My mother acts like she's a saint, but sister and I are not fooled.  Mother lacks the mental agility to manipulate with any efficiency.  She is rendered harmless by the deterioration of her brain, but she is still odious. 

Like the Knotek sisters, I hate my mother, yet she was my mother and part of me loves her.  It is a hard dichotomy to explain, but those of us with these kind of mothers understand perfectly.  


Alexis said...

I too had a very narcissistic and abusive (physically and emotionally) mother. My father (who walked out when I was barely three) was full on NPD, although neither malicious nor malevolent, just lazy. I divorced them both along time ago (I'm 65 now), although we maintained contact until they both died. I loved them both in my way--call it biological love--realizing they loved me as well as they were able to, which wasn't very well. The pain and sorrow my sister and I felt when they died was immense, but short-lived--I had already mourned their "passing" from my life a long time earlier. I don't miss either of them. Still, they made me what I am today, and for that I am grateful.

Thankfully, neither my sister nor I ended up like them. We both have little bits of narcissistic personality traits, but they don't dominate our characters--far from it. Because of my mother's abuse, we bonded together because we knew emotionally that it was us against her. I don't know that I would have survived if not for her; she says the same.

tylerchill said...

I hate my mother, yet she was my mother and part of me loves her. It is a hard dichotomy to explain, but those of us

I understand this perfectly. It means mother was mentally ill and we didn’t inherit it.

tylerchill said...

I have this very unscientific theory that malignant narcissists are made not born. And that their children who encounter the full force of this narcissism the earliest in their development, before they could speak or defend themselves, suffer the most in life.

BUT those very children, if gifted with a good solid native intelligence, are the most motivated to defeat the effects of this horrible malignancy because they have no other option. They study, they blog they comment they engage they talk they seek therapy and keep seeking therapy until someone somewhere gets it. Or, more likely, if no one gets it in its entirety they aggregate the sum of all their therapies and encounters, good and bad, and form a understanding that works and allows them to form reasonable facsimile of a good life.

Siblings who served the role of golden child have most difficult work in that they are neither here nor there in the effects. They are narcissists but not committed to the cause. They are selfless but not committed to that cause either. They are understanding but not to the level a four year old scapegoat might know.

So your brother or sister not suffering the full radiation may be redeemable. Entire religions were formed around redemption so perhaps we serve a purpose.

Alexis said...

Tylerchill, your comment-- "They are narcissists but not committed to the cause. They are selfless but not committed to that cause either" -- was so utterly apt that it almost brought tears to my eyes.

I was a "golden child"--smart, talented, beautiful. It took me a long time to get over it, because (very early on, to my benefit) I got out in the world and learned that there were people who were smarter, more talented, more capable, more beautiful than I was. I realized I was simply one among many--and that was ok.

It helped that I've always been a watcher--an observer (of myself as well)--learning and assimilating constantly, although not always aware that I was doing so. But I'm an artist (of a kind); a line from my reading that has always stayed with me: It is the function of the artist to take in more than he can know.

tylerchill said...

Alexis. Let's give due to the source of our troubles : conditional love from our parents is not love but extortion. I was thinking that to a certain degree being one of many is a joy not a punishent. Some of the most friendless people I've known were smart talented and beautiful but were denied the inner compass of self compassion. I've learned the hard way that true knowing often means trusting all your senses not just your intellect. Hence the purpose of artists in our lives.

Rose said...

I checked your blog today with the view of linking it for my son's girlfriend (who is dealing with a narc. in her family) - I was not expecting to find some recent posts!
Lovely to see you are still around and doing well.
When I first became aware of narcissism, and had my "lightbulb moment" of realising why trying to maintain a relationship with my mother was so fraught, your blog was one of the first the Lord led me to in order to help find my way to truth.
Thank you for helping to shed light, for me and many others.
All the best for 2020.

Rita said...

Thank you. I just ordered the book. While narcissism was never to this degree in my family, the abuse was.