Tuesday, April 24, 2007

When I Surprised My Narcissist Mother-Part Two

The designated night of my escape had arrived. Late that night I was up writing my goodbye letter. The majority of the letter was filled with my apologies and mea culpas for what I was about to do. I explained I was thirteen weeks pregnant and was leaving to get married to my boyfriend. I sobbed for hours at what I was about to do. My sense of shame was nearly crushing me. There wasn't any part of me that could feel good about what I was going to put my family through. To this day I really don't know what other option I had but the one I'd chosen. Hindsight only confirms my decision. If I could go back, I would tell my 17 year old self to do what I was going to do, and never look back. It was the looking back, it was my willingness to try to make up for my "sin" that resulted in years more of suffering at the hands of my cruel, selfish mother.

I doubted that any of my belongings I left behind would ever be reunited with me, so I packed up the few things I didn't want to part with. A small duffel bag of clothes. My cherished 10-speed racing bike. A small quilt that my paternal grandmother made me. I was right. Everything else I left, except my clothing, stayed behind.

I don't remember the time when I began the sneaking descent down the stairs. It was probably an hour or two after midnight. My trek from my bedroom to my boyfriend's waiting car was fraught with opportunity for me to be caught. My bedroom door was directly across the hallway from my parent's bedroom door. My cousin was sleeping each night on the floor in the living room in a sleeping bag. I was afraid of waking him as he was in direct earshot of the stairs. I had spent time in the previous days memorizing which steps squeaked and where to best step to prevent the louder pops and groans of those infernal stairs. Once outside I had to grab my bike and try to walk as quietly as possible on the gravel road that ran only a few yards along the front of the house. My parent's bedroom window faced out over the road. The sound of the gravel moving under my feet that night was thunderous. Each moment I expected the house lights to come on and the gig to be up.

I found out later that my cousin did hear me coming down the stairs and walking on the gravel as he was a very light sleeper. My parents were extremely angry to find out he had heard my escape and didn't tattle on me immediately. My delinquent cousin shared a moment of solidarity with me as he heard me making an escape. I know he would have loved to do the same thing. Life under my parent's roof was hell for him too. I found out years later from my cousin's immediate family that he said I was the only member of my immediate family who he felt was kind to him. I treated him fairly and decently. I have never suffered fools well even back then. When my cousin acted like a little shit around me, he knew immediately I was formidable when pissed. But since it was not difficult to stay in my good graces, he was motivated to please me. I didn't realize how my fair treatment of him was going to pay off in the end.

My boyfriend and a buddy of his were waiting about an eighth of a mile down the road with the motor idling and the headlights off. As they saw me coming, they opened the trunk so they could quickly throw my bike in. We took off for Tijuana. It was more than a thousand miles directly south. The two guys would switch back and forth driving until we reached San Diego where we parted ways with my boyfriend's buddy and stayed the night in a cheap motel. The next morning we were married in front of a Mexican lawyer.

Meanwhile, back home was where the real drama was occurring. My mother was the one who found my empty bed and the note the next day. I found out from my sister later that my mother read my note and collapsed on the floor. This story wrenched my heart for years. Now I realize it was all about her. And only about her. All her anguish, all her pity, all her tears were only for herself. She never spared any pity for me.

My mother's physical collapse was symbolic of the collapse of her world. She laid on that floor a long time unresponsive to my younger sister's pleas. It was hard on my 14 year old sister to lose her mother that day. The spoiled child suddenly was on her own with her big sister gone and our mother retreated fully into herself.

This is what happened to my mother's little world: She had for years cultivated the image of a "perfect" mother. This was easy to convince people of because she had her children completely under her thumb. We had been perfectly terrorized into compliance. Our behavior was always "perfect" to observers. She always received compliments on our good behavior. Our behavior was mostly "perfect" when no one was looking because nothing else was tolerated. She and my father were prominent in their church and looked up to by many. Most people at least pretended to believe my mother's version of reality of supreme mother of the Perfect Family. Looking back, I think some people had their doubts about what was happening in our Perfect Family. My mother made a small living by raising other mothers' children and there was never any doubt in those mother's minds that my mother was the expert. She often held up her own children as proof to them that she was the pinnacle of motherhood. We made her look good. That was what we were there for.

In one night my mother went from Perfect Mother to Perfect Failure. At least, that is how she saw it. No one else in her sphere of acquaintance had a pregnant daughter who eloped. There really was no greater shame she could have conceived of to befall her. Her grandiosity bubble was violently exploded in her face. Her whole persona, the mask of motherly perfection she had crafted to present to the world, was perhaps forever damaged. How could she hold up her head around these people?

She sunk into a deep, dark, quiet depression. My father loathed me. I didn't call my parents until the night after I was married. My father picked up the phone. It felt like getting ice water thrown in my face as soon he said a word. "Hi, Daddy. I just wanted you and Mom to know that I'm okay." "Hmm," he grunted. I started to cry. I knew he didn't give a damn how I was. "Daddy, I'm so sorry about what I've done." "Don't call here again," he abruptly ended the phone call. I again sobbed my heart out. I felt I had lost my parents. My father didn't care enough to even ask where I was. Again, looking back, I wish I had lost them all the way back then. My life would have been better for it.

In the end, my mother decided to try to prop up the Perfect Mother image. The Perfect Mother would not cut off her child so she set about to convince my father not to divorce his daughter. He was only cutting me out of his affections because of the apparent "trauma" I inflicted on my mother. If the victim herself was willing to "forgive" me, then he should too. He went along to get along. Story of his life.

The next several years my mother was not entirely "herself". This was because the carefully constructed "self" had been completely dismantled by what I had done. It took her some time to repair herself. In the meantime, she would spend hours sitting alone, in the dark, in the hardest chair she could find. She was making sure everyone knew she was suffering. Her persistent behavior of silent isolation would be acted out in the living room where we were sure to find her. It wasn't entirely for show, though. I am sure she was spending those hours and hours of silent time trying to find a way to reconstruct a new way of presenting her grand self to the world. She eventually achieved it.

But this story is about how a complete and utter surprise knocked a narcissist off her pins for a very long time. She spoke for years about how I could have managed to pull off such a surprise. She eventually settled on blaming my cousin and his family for the undoing of her family like she had had no choice but to take him in. Yes, she was so distracted by dealing with my cousin she just didn't take the time to analyze what was going on with her daughter. She claimed she knew something was going on with me, but she told herself she would tend to that as soon as she had straightened out my cousin. She just didn't realize she didn't have time to waste where I was concerned.

This became The Narrative of the Runaway Daughter.

So, as you can see, even though she was completely surprised by both my pregnancy (which means she missed the fact I was sexually active) and my leaving home, she claims that on some level she "felt" that something was amiss. Even though it was obvious by her reaction that she was absolutely blind-sided by my actions she still laid claim to some level of "knowing". She will admit I totally surprised her while at the same time trying to credibly claim she was not absolutely and completely surprised because she "knew" on some psychic level something was "wrong". The false reality she reconstructed in those long months after my elopement has a few non-sequiters in it, but she is able to live with cognitive dissonance as do all narcissists. I have never confessed to her that I had been sexually active for three years prior to my getting pregnant and leaving home. Her Narrative was never contradicted by me in word. I recognized it was how she kept herself together by believing it. I also knew it to be total bull shit. She had no clue what I had been up to for years. I only got caught because you can't hide a pregnancy unless you have an abortion. Abortion was not an option for me, so my secret had to come out. She was clueless and I knew it. I was never as afraid of her after this event because it was my first revelation that the Great and Terrible Oz was operated by a old and much less terrifying fallible person. Yeah, she still could scare me. But never did she have as much power over me after these events.

Unfortunately, a few weeks after I had returned to town after the elopement, I accepted the overtures of my mother and was admitted back to the family. What that meant was that I was allowed to come for visits. Those visits most often occurred during the day while my father was at work. He did not see how my mother would pound me in her bedroom behind the closed door with shame, blame and anger. Not that he would have intervened, but a couple years ago he tried to shame me into forgiving my mother by pointing back to this time period as evidence of how forgiving my mother was of me. I threw it back in his face.

Anyway, I took anything she dished out because I believed I deserved it all. I did not resist in any way. So what that I was pregnant. My emotional torture was the only thing which would bring her any relief. It was the only thing I could offer up to her to make up for my sins. I'm sure offering up myself as a scapegoat for the family shame did much for my mother's psyche. It was important to wipe every smidgen of stain and shame onto someone else. Who better than the perp? Never mind that my behavior was a symptom of what was wrong with our family, not the cause. That is something she'll never get close to admitting to herself.

I hate this story. I hate all the memories that go along with it. Hopefully, somewhere in this damned story I made a clear illustration of how devastating the results can be if you manage to surprise a narcissist. What I have learned about NPD, as well as what I learned from a protracted and painful experience, is if you find yourself in the position to destroy a narcissist's reality bubble, make sure you get out of their life and stay out. Never look back. They will pick up the pieces whether you are there or not. But if you are there, they will do their damned best to make you pay, and pay, and pay. You will be forever in their debt if they are allowed to pretend they have shown you any mercy. Save yourself.

It was obvious my mother had a complete mental and nervous breakdown after my elopement. I wish someone had committed her ass to an asylum because that is where she belonged. She didn't start to climb out of her depression until my baby was two days shy of two months old. My baby died of SIDS. Now all the pain of the previous year faded into nothingness for me and I was subsumed in the deepest grief.

My moment of supreme suffering was the light at the end of the tunnel for my mother. She started to act more like her "old" self with an new flair. She suddenly became the "concerned" mother and offered me a sympathetic shoulder. Now, when I say she was "concerned" and "sympathetic", this is more by comparison. It was a rare thing indeed to get concern or sympathy from her. I was too distracted by my grief to analyze this "new" mother. I was only grateful to not have to carry around her emotions as I was trying to deal with my own. Only in retrospect does her unusual role of "mother" make sense.

Several years later she told me both she and my father were hoping at this time I would leave my husband. I am only left to assume they hoped I would leave him and return to live at home with them since at the age of eighteen with an incomplete high school education I would not have been equipped to live on my own. Mommie Dearest was daring to hope I would be coming home to live under her thumb again. So the death of my infant was the dawning of hope for my mother. She saw me as having the perfect opportunity to expunge the outward evidence of my shame. No baby. Next, no husband. Move back home. Go to college. The appearances of the Perfect Family could be set back in place. So she presented herself as concerned and loving toward me as enticement. If I was to see my opportunity to leave my husband she wanted me to feel comfortable enough to consider her home as a desirable place to jump to. Why didn't she out and out suggest such a plan? Because she was going to great lengths to prove to all how she was not a "controlling person" as she was trying to quell rumors to this effect. (To this day she loves to present herself as "the least controlling person I know.") She was trying to appear to be honorable by not overtly trying to end a marriage. She had to play act for church people and my husband's family. My husband's family would have made a huge stink had she openly tried to end my marriage. Since they ran in the same circles the fall-out for my mother would have been significant. So she offered up a "motherly" persona to me hoping I'd take the bait.

It didn't work out as she'd hoped. I stayed with my husband and got pregnant again at age 19. She again sunk into depression, though a less deep one; she even contemplated leaving my dad at several junctures. She did eventually find new sources of supply and her depression dissipated.

Take from this what you will. It is only one story about one narcissist and her blind-sided collision with reality. It wasn't a pretty sight. It was very, very messy. A train-wreck will always ensue when any narcissist is forced to watch their grandiosity bubble punctured for all the world to see. Be sure you get out of the way if you ever do this to a narcissist. Especially if you are a child of a narcissist. The price for "peace" and "reconciliation" is way too high. The price will not only be extracted from your hide, but subsequent generations will suffer too. I've lived it. I know whereof I speak.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experience and insight. Your posts provide assurance that I'm not alone as a "good girl" daughter who has been long emotionally abused by n-mom and enabler dad. Even as a young child I knew that n-mom didn't love/value/cherish me, and that she strongly preferred/favored my younger (also now narcisstic) sister. Dad failed to intervene or protect me, also failed to properly parent, advocating "peace in the family". I'm supposed to excuse n-mom's petty cruelities, lopsided favoritism, dad's tirades, their extreme punishments, etc. N-sis is beneficiary of their bad behavior towards me. I'm proverbial Cinderella.

So often I've been told "that's the way I am/she is", "your mom just doesn't like you", "you always made us/me so unhappy", and "we don't want to see you, we just want our grandchild".

I expect them to eventually disown me - not because of my actions, but just because their history of uneven financial treatment. I'd like to "divorce" them too, just haven't found enough courage yet.

Anna Valerious said...

As I read your comment, I was rather amazed at the similarity of our histories. I am glad to know that at least one person has benefited in some way from my sharing my history. I always feel a little icky when I reflect back on those days. It was no different after posting my story. Thanks for making it seem worthwhile.

I have come to despise my father even more than my mother for his demanding over the years that his daughters make allowances for his wife's abusive behaviors. He would tell us how she was "fragile" and it was our responsibility to not break her by standing up to her. When he demanded this of me again a year and a half ago, I told him how I wasn't playing the game his way anymore. We had all the evidence we need to prove his method had made Mom worse, not better. He was happy to be rid of me after a summer of letter exchanges with me where I wouldn't back down an inch, and in fact got all the more "in his face" by calling him on his lies and lack of logic. He seems content to have me out of the picture now.

I hate weak fathers. I hate that your father enabled the cruelty of your mother to continue unabated. I completely relate to feeling like Cinderella. I too have been controlled and kept quiet by the over-riding concern for "peace". At some point I realized all we had was Detente. When I was willing to engage in open warfare it became apparent I had the moral and intellectual high ground. My bullying father was cowed. I walked off the "field" the victor because I gained my life sans them. I look forward to the day when you too can find the courage to stand up against the evil in your family and declare your emancipation.

Thanks for reading my blog. God bless.

kyleth said...

I really connected with your insight. I saw the part where if you let the N back into your life after you've shattered their world then they will make you pay and pay and pay.

I had an experience with my mother when I was much younger when she decided to divorce my dad. I chose to live with him, but since she lived in a house zoned for my high school it was easier for my dad to drop me off at school in the morning and then I would ride the bus back to her house. I remember being torn into on a daily basis by that woman because I didn't choose her. She never gave me a reason to choose her.

I'd write more but that's something I should probably post on my own blog at some point.

Anonymous said...

You are so brave to have decided to leave, Anna. I admire your courage.

Anna Valerious said...

It would have required a lot more bravery to stay. I don't feel like I was all that courageous. I was scared, very, very scared. What I did was an act of self-preservation. Given my home life, the outside world looked a lot less intimidating to me than staying in my parent's home.

XOXO said...

I'm totally at a loss for words.
I read this post and just really wanted to say, "thank God you got out". Your insight is so helpful to others.

Sarah said...

What a horrible experience for you. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your baby. :( I can't imagine going through something so painful, let alone having a mother who reacted in such a way.

It sure seems like you are a gift to others going through similar experiences. I have some extended relatives who seem to be N's and I relate to them from a very safe distance. But I've seen what they've done to their children. It's very sad. My aunt disowned her children at times for locating their biological parents. She took it as the deepest insult. Even at a time she was saying her son wasn't her family anymore, he was hospitalized and near death. She said, "Why is this happening to me???" She sent him a card. That's it. But this young man who she forbade her siblings to talk about, all of a sudden he's her family again because he's possibly dying and it's all about her? He got better and the disowning continued.

elderwoodxxx said...

Weak father, N mother, pregnant at 17, younger sister,silent treatment, isolation... I am the 'black sheep' now 31... and becoming more and more aware of how i refuse to be corrupted by evil...Thank you.. my inner demon self doubt... but now i know my enemy, I am learning how to fight with my own fire of truth..
http://uk.blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-.CxYDmQ0d6J.Z7Sa9gbk4mcwrYY-?cq=1&l=1&u=5&mx=73&lmt=5.. my blog which is closing soon.. so will find a new platform and continue to shine a light as you so verily do.

Anonymous said...

It is so brave of you to share your story, thank you. I'd imagine it would be both terrifying and theraputic at the same time. I hate to even think about my teen years and the mistakes I made back then. It brought tears to my eyes reading your father's reaction to your post-elopement phone call...so sad. =(

Umbra said...

"She didn't start to climb out of her depression until my baby was two days shy of two months old. My baby died of SIDS."
Did she climb out of her depression just before, or just after your baby died?
Are you certain your child died of SIDS? You mentioned that your mother would likely have murdered you if you hadn't been such a quiet child. She does indeed, sound murderous.
And then, "No baby, no husband," and you'll come back home again? Is she the type to "take care of" the matter of an inconvenient baby?
There's no statute on murder. Was she anywhere near your child just before your child died?

Anna Valerious said...

As I said, the improvement occurred after my baby's death. There was an autopsy...so, yes, I'm sure he died of SIDS. My mother was no where near my baby when he died. While I understand your suspicions, they're unfounded in this instance. Thanks.