Welp, I’ve been putting this off (and frankly sort of dreading it), but decided to dive right in and start writing my story about how I came to be the kind of person I am and the way I came upon my present circumstances.
Over the past month or so, I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about malignant narcissism and psychopathy, and realized that rather than me being at fault for my “bad choices,” as both my parents love to remind me (and had convinced me was the truth), I’m not really the one with the personality issue that got me into so much trouble throughout my adult life (not that I don’t have personality flaws because I certainly do–as do we all). I realized I entered adulthood without the tool kit most people are given during childhood and I also realized that this was intentional on their part (especially my mother) and I was never a loved child–in fact, my mother, being the psychopathic narcissist she is, hated me and still does. It’s been really hard to face this fact — no one wants to believe their own mother didn’t love them and it’s all too easy to listen to people who say, “oh, she must have loved you in her own way” but I now know that’s bullshit. Strangely, being able to face this has given me a sense of freedom and lessens some of the guilt I had over not being a “good enough” daughter. Her dislike of me is not my fault!
So let me get started. My conception itself wasn’t under ideal circumstances. I was “wanted,” but for all the wrong reasons. Two years prior to my entry into this world, my father had lost his 3 year old son he’d had with his first wife. He had been hit by a train. The car stalled on the tracks as the train was coming and his mother desperately hustled the baby and 6 year old daughter out of the car to safety first. Billy, strapped into his seat, had to wait for her to come back to get him after removing the first two children, but it was too late and the little boy died immediately.
My father (let’s call him Harry), in his vulnerable, grieving state (I don’t think he is a MN, although he definitely has always colluded with and been attracted to narcissistic women and has some narcissistic tendencies himself–more on that later) was never the same. Almost immediately he took to heavy drinking, and he and his wife grew further apart as he tried to drown his grief in booze. This was the late 1950s and divorce wasn’t acceptable especially when young children were involved, but she could no longer put up with his drinking and filed for divorce.
Before the divorce was granted, my father (who was a Navy academy teacher at the time) met a beautiful redhaired woman named Ginny at a dance at the naval academy in Annapolis. It was love at first sight. Ginny listened to him talk about his lost son, and cried with him and held him as he talked and grieved. She seemed sympathetic in a way his first wife never was (and probably couldn’t have been as she was grieving in her own way). Ginny was married to a minister, and had two young daughters, but that didn’t stop her from seeing my father romantically, and for no reason other than infatuation (her husband treated her and the girls well from what I understand), she divorced him and left her daughters to be raised by their father so that she could marry my father. Remember, this was the late 1950s and a mother leaving her own children just wasn’t done. But she did it without a second thought. Her oldest daughter (age 7 at the time) was greatly damaged by the abandonment, and to this day has issues related to that and has been in therapy her entire adult life (today she’s one of my mother’s flying monkeys but more on that later). The younger daughter (age 2) was too young to remember anything but I’m sure she was damaged too. Their father remarried a lovely woman who loved the two girls as if they were her own. They were raised with two other children and went on to have a normal childhood with parents who loved them and supported them. They got lucky. It was actually a very good thing that my two half sisters got out of having to be raised by Ginny. I was not that lucky.
So Harry and Ginny married, and almost immediately she became pregnant with me. The pregnancy was a wanted one, though why a woman who abandoned her own two children a year before to have another baby with another man is kind of beyond my comprehension (but she’s a narcissist so it’s not too surprising). She smoked during the pregnancy, though at the time, doctors actually recommended pregnant women smoke to keep their weight down, and my mother was always obsessed with her weight. She always brags how she never gained any weight during her pregnancy with me (or her other two children). Miraculously, I was born healthy if a little on the small side.
From the get go, I was a difficult baby, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I cried all the time, and had health problems–I suffered from horrific ear infections that left me 80% deaf in my left ear. I was allergic to many foods and to just about everything else. By the time I was a toddler it was apparent I was an incredibly sensitive child, one who reacted to everything in a very emotional way. I was high strung, threw a lot of tantrums, and was easily hurt. From reading about other people’s experiences, especially this one by a wonderful survivor whose story is remarkably similar to mine, it seems that very sensitive children (empaths) are often born to and raised by narcissists and psychopaths, and that’s just about the worst parent/child combo possible. Whether they become overly sensitive due to their treatment, or whether the sensitivity is innate and just a cosmic joke that these kind of kids and parents wind up together so often is something I can’t explain, but unfortunately it all too often seems to be the case.
As I grew a little older, I’d go into these sort of trances where I’d tune out the environment and enter my dream world. I had an active imagination and imaginary friends, and this was my form of escape from the tension in my home. When I was about 3-4 I also engaged in banging my head against the wall. I don’t know why I did this, but at the time it felt good to me. Go figure. Today I believe I actually have high functioning autism (Aspergers) even though I’m self diagnosed (confirmed by a psychiatrist later). I seem to fit all the criteria for it, as well as for C-PTSD and Avoidant personality disorder, but more on that later. My mother hated it when I went inside myself, and always used to chide me for acting “spooky” and would tell me to snap out of it. I couldn’t. I didn’t know how. But if I continued to act “spooky” I’d be punished, usually with a beating or slap in the face.
I used to have terrible nightmares. Some were about Ginny, and I remember one where I dreamed she was standing over me, and I realized her eyes were nothing but black holes, like the demonic people you see in movies whose eyes are completely black. And she was wearing that self-satisfied sneer. I woke up screaming, but the nightmare continued in waking life as she rushed into the room demanding why I was screaming and then laughed at me for getting so upset about a “little dream.” But to this day I think what I saw was actually who she was inside. I think she hated me because she knew that I had the ability to see what she really was.
Both my parents were big on corporal punishment and a yardstick was kept in the kitchen hanging next to the refrigerator as a constant reminded to me that punishment was always close at hand. I was never allowed to express my opinions on anything and God forbid, never, EVER show any anger. Showing my emotions was a huge no no, although my mother was allowed to rant, scream and cry whenever she felt like it. My father usually colluded with her on these punishments, and dinner was always eaten at the table in near silence. Occasionally though the attention would be focused on me, usually to make fun of me in some way. Both parents used to laugh about how “literal” I was. When I was 6 and starting first grade, they found it hilarious when they asked me if I was looking forward to school, and I became frustrated because I couldn’t “see the school.” They weren’t laughing with me, but at me. Of course I was taking things literally. I was just 6 and not capable of abstract thinking yet, and it’s also a fact that autistics think literally, especially as children.
My parents never had another child, and my mother began to chafe at her role as housewife/mother. She was bored and would leave for long periods of time to see her friends, shop or just to get away from me and my father, and left me with a lot of babysitters. When she was home, more and more of her criticism of me focused on my weight and appearance. She treated me like a doll she could dress up and she loved to play with my baby fine hair to the point it tangled and hurt, and I would scream in pain and she would get mad and slam the brush down. She was also obsessed with my bowel functions and if I went a day without a BM, she would give me an adult sized enema. This was pretty traumatic. She also used to sit and watch me go to the bathroom to make sure I produced something. Naturally this led to me having even worse constipation as a result to “hold it in.”
As such a sensitive child, I was bullied in school. I didn’t know how to joke back, how to roll with the punches, how to appear invulnerable like the other kids. I always felt different. It was always difficult for me to make friends, though I usually managed to make one or two. Third grade was the worst, as I not only was targeted by a group of bullies who used to follow me home from school and fed on my reaction (I always cried) but was targeted by my psychopathic teacher as well. Mrs. Morse scared the daylights out of me. She was an overweight woman in her 50s whose upper arm always shook like Jello when she wrote on the board. She regularly liked to call me up to the front of the class to answer a question (and she ALWAYS called on me because I was always daydreaming) and when I couldn’t answer the question (which was often the case as I went into freeze mode at these times and couldn’t think straight) she’d demand why I couldn’t until I cried. At this point she’d call out the crying to the entire class, and all of them would have a good laugh at my expense as I stood there wanting to sink through the floor in shame.
Oddly, I was always told how pretty and intelligent I was (especially by my father, who I think really did love me in his flawed way). But the compliments stopped there. Any praise was almost always limited to innate qualities rather than my achievements or things I could do well. I was also was told constantly I was “too sensitive.” (This is another thing psychopaths like to say to keep their marks in their place). I WAS too sensitive, but this was always used against me and used to embarrass me. When company came over, my mother loved to “brag” to her friends and relatives about how sensitive I was and how everything made me cry. I became very self conscious as a result and started to hide my emotions more so it wouldn’t be called out to shame me. Of course she just found other things to use against me and undermine any little self confidence I had.
Ironically, though they hated my sensitivity, both my parents almost seemed to encourage it. They always wanted me to look frail and helpless and as I entered my teens; Ginny in particular became critical if I looked or acted too “tough”– a demeanor I sometimes used as a way to protect myself and hide my vulnerabilities (though it didn’t usually work too well). All teenagers are sarcastic (and most parents don’t really care for it), but when I used sarcasm or humor to protect myself, she’d tell me I was acting “low class.” Oh, and that’s another thing. Ginny was obsessed with social class and always described us as “upper middle class,” never the more humble “middle class,” even though in actuality that’s what we were. She always put on airs as if she was of higher social status than she actually was and to this day, has a very affected and fake way of speaking, not to mention extremely condescending.
Ginny never let me do anything on my own when I was a child. I remember wanting to help her wash the dishes one night after dinner, and she said I wouldn’t be able to do it because I might break something. When I was 11 and wanted to join the swim team at the pool and tennis club we belonged to, she didn’t say no, but pointed out that maybe I shouldn’t because “you don’t like competition–you’re too sensitive and you’ll get bullied.” I joined anyway and had no problems with my sensitivity or bullying even though I usually finished in third place and never first and rarely second.
I was a good student expected to make straight A’s (and was beaten with the yardstick if a failed to make an A) but always had problems with math. I had a low frustration tolerance for it and was lucky if I got a B. This was never acceptable to my parents, but I was doing the best I could.
When I was about 12, Ginny’s focus on my weight became an obsession. She was always a thin and vain woman herself, and expected me to be her mini-me, even far into adolescence. Even though I was far from overweight (in fact I was a little on the thin side) she liked to point out how big my ass was, and used to do this when other people were present, embarrassing me so much I wanted to die. Probably as a form of rebellion, I actually tried to gain weight and developed a love of junk food. Anytime I wanted dessert, or seconds at dinner, she’d remind me how “overweight” I was and that I needed to watch my calories. She even threatened to send me away to weight loss camp. With all this obsession over my non-existent weight issue, it’s a miracle I didn’t develop an eating disorder.
My half sister came to live with us when I was 12 for a short time, and we got along great. Debbie was far more self confident than I was, very outdoorsy and adventurous, and took me around to meet her friends and do things with them. They all seemed to like me. For the first time I felt liked and was developing a little confidence in my social skills, which were never that good (I’m painfully shy even to this day). After a couple of months of this, my parents decided to send Debbie back to her father and stepmother (even though this was her own daughter!) because she was having a “bad influence” on me. I was heartbroken.
My parents divorced when I was 13. My father’s drinking had become much worse, and both parents were having affairs (this was the 1970s). It was around this time my mother decided she was a feminist, and started spending more and more time away from home, and landed a job public relations. After my father moved out, my mother and I moved to New York City to a one bedroom apartment. At first, I hated the city, but I was never asked my opinion about the move, or given any sympathy that I’d be leaving all my old friends behind. My mother’s new PR career became her primary focus (what a perfect job for someone so image-conscious: public relations is ALL about image!) and she always talked about how much more rewarding this was than being a mother. She left me alone overnight often so I learned how to fend for myself and cook my own dinners. I actually didn’t mind this because it meant time away from her (by this time I decided I couldn’t stand her) But this was New York City in the 1970s (the city was rampant with violent crime then) and I was just 14 and 15 years old.
Ginny began to drink a lot and bring her boyfriends home. To leave my bedroom for any reason, I’d have to walk through the living room where more often than not, they were in bed together or even having sex. I never said anything about it but it really bothered me. She had a string of boyfriends, most who she’d recruit as her flying monkeys to join her in her belittlement of me and constant gaslighting.
One night we had a huge argument (I don’t remember what it was about–I was drunk myself but she was so wasted she didn’t even notice) and in a drunken, narcissistic rage she started throwing bags and all my belongings out the door and told me to go live with my dad (who was already living with the woman who would become his third wife) who really didn’t want me around much. I told her he didn’t want me and didn’t have room for me in his apartment and she told me she didn’t care. At that point I grabbed a kitchen knife and started to come at her with it. I wasn’t actually intending to use it, but I was very emotional and wanted to scare her. I guess it worked because she got on the phone and begged Harry to come pick me up, telling him I was “disturbed” and “insane.” So he did, and I spent three months living in his studio apartment where I was pretty much ignored (they were never home).
Within a few months, I was placed in a girls’ residence in Queens, New York, and was bullied by the girls there too. I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere in the world. I felt so alone.
High school was a nightmare. I was attending a Catholic all girls high school, and I was completely out of my element. I was bullied by the popular girls, and even the not so popular ones ganged up against me. I became the school pariah. I had no friends at all. I regularly went to visit the guidance counselor in tears. She seemed the only person in the entire school who took any sympathy on me but soon she disappeared and I was informed she found another job. My grades suffered, and one day my mother received a letter from the school that “perhaps Suzanne would be happier in another school.” My mother went ballistic and raged on about how much the school was costing my father (who she usually berated and trashed) and what an ungrateful little shit I was.
I finished high school at the local public school, with its mostly black and Hispanic student population. I found out I got along well with the blacks in particular, and felt more accepted by them than I had by the snobby white girls in the Catholic school. I made a few friends, mostly black. The school didn’t have high standards, and I’d get A’s just by showing up in class, so I didn’t learn much. In my spare time I’d bury myself in books and writing–this was the adolescent version of my childhood daydreams and “trances”–but got criticized by Betty for “reading too much” and not being social enough.
As I entered my late teens, I became a little boy crazy. My first serious boyfriend at age 18 was a narcissist and an abuser. This set the pattern for what was to come.
The next part of my story will be about my early adulthood years culminating in meeting my narcissitic ex husband.