How I became a Cluster B basketcase.

left-out_child

I had some new insights today on the genesis of my disorders. Not actual new memories, but insights on memories I already had that I know now led to my covert narcissism and BPD. I can pinpoint the exact events that turned me into a borderline, and later on, a covert narcissist.

I’ve been a borderline since about age 4 (in a young child incipient personality disorders are known as attachment disorders). A few weeks ago, following my trip down the rabbit hole, I mentioned having remembered that someone told me something when I was 4 years old that was significant in the development of my BPD.

I still don’t remember what was said, or who said it, but somehow I know I began to be sexually abused at that age. By who or in what context, I can’t tell you because I don’t actually remember. I just know I was.

That’s when things began to get weird for me. I have a vague, dreamlike recollection of sitting on the short flight of carpeted stairs of our split-level house in New Jersey, watching my parents (who were probably drunk) dancing in the living room. They were doing the Cha Cha Cha, a dance popular at that time. I remember feeling unreasoning (and probably Oedipal) jealousy at that moment, because my father was ignoring me, even though I was calling to him to dance with me too. I believe that’s when my hatred toward my mother began. Instead of reassuring me or including me in the moment with them, I was simply ignored and impatiently told to go back to bed.

I don’t remember what happened after that, but I began to have terrible nightmares, and sometimes would wake up screaming. Sometimes after I woke, the dreamlike, dissociated state would continue. I remember hearing, ghostlike, the theme from the TV show “The Mickey Mouse Club” playing somewhere–although it was 3 in the morning and in those days, it wasn’t possible for anyone to have recorded the show and play it somewhere later. I got out of my bed to find out where the music was coming from, but the house was completely dark and everyone was asleep. It was very eerie. I also remember one morning, having gotten out of bed for breakfast, seeing tiny colored sparkly objects that looked like glitter, falling everywhere around me. No one else seemed to see them. I asked my parents if they saw the falling glitter and they looked at me like I was crazy. There was something else that happened around that time that was equally strange, but I can’t recall now what it was. It’s not far from my conscious awareness though. I think I’ll remember soon. I might remember what was said to me and who said it too–because I know it was important.

I started doing things like banging my head against the wall in the family room, because it felt good to me for some reason. My mother would tell me to stop but I’d keep doing it, because I couldn’t stop. It seemed to relieve some kind of congestion inside my head. I don’t know–I tried it recently just to see if it still felt good, and it didn’t at all. It hurt! I also began to develop strange ticks and habits like pulling my hair and sucking on it. My mother started keeping my fine hair short because “I was ruining my hair” by doing that.

I began to get a taste of rejection in kindergarten. I always felt somehow different from the other children, but couldn’t figure out why. Not different in a good way, but in a defective one. I’d already internalized the conflicting golden child/scapegoat messages given to me by my parents, who expected me to serve both roles because I was their only child. No wonder I longed for a younger sibling! This alternating, unpredictable and crazymaking golden child/scapegoat treatment exacerbated my BPD (which I think already existed) and set the stage for covert narcissism–unworthiness and inferiority (beaten into me by being their scapegoat) that overlaid grandiosity and a sense of being better or more “special” than other kids because my parents sometimes told me I was when they weren’t punishing me. I didn’t know who I was. When people told me to “just be yourself,” I had no idea what they meant. Who was I? I couldn’t live up to their lofty idea of the perfect little girl they wanted me to be or thought I was; but it also made no sense when they wouldn’t allow me to try new things or make decisions on my own, always saying things like, “you can’t do that,” or “you know you don’t want that.”

Their punishments were severe and I became a fearful child, and feared rejection wherever I was. How could anyone like a child that was so bad, but at the same time, was supposed to be this perfect princess but could never live up to being one? I was so confused and felt so apart from others. I remember when I wasn’t crying (I wrote a article about what a huge crybaby I was), I was nervously asking the other kids at school if they liked me. Was that my true self or a newly minted false self asking them that? I’m not sure, but I think it was a last ditch attempt of my true self to get reassurance, love and acceptance, because I sure didn’t get it at home.

I was an unpopular, oversensitive child and everyone always told me how sensitive I was too. I remember being mortified and embarrassed by this but had no idea what to do about it. my mother used it against me too, calling me out for my “hypersensitivity” in front of other people, or making excuses for her hurtful comments by blaming me for “always taking things the wrong way.”

I started to try to hide my emotions but wasn’t very good at it, and the other kids could always see right through that transparent mask I tried to wear. I was intelligent, and my grades were okay, but my teachers always told my parents that I was an underachiever and a daydreamer and of course “too sensitive.” They also wrote on my report cards things like, “Lauren is intellectually brilliant and very creative, but she is an underachiever. She could be doing so much better if she applied herself. She also has problems socializing appropriately with the other children.”

And I did. I never fit in anywhere. I got bullied throughout my elementary and most of my high school years. It didn’t help any that we moved three times within my first 8 years of school, requiring me to start two new schools in the middle of the year (actually, the second school was due to my having been bullied so badly my parents were forced to have me change schools). I used to be chased home by bullies everyday and was never invited to parties or after school activities that weren’t teacher- or parent-planned.

I did manage to always have one or two close girlfriends so I’d sometimes get a respite when a sleepover was scheduled. But for some reason, my mother wouldn’t allow me to go on sleepovers very much. She didn’t like the idea of me doing things on my own without her. It got so bad that around the age of 11 or 12, I got very upset one night because she had failed to come in to the bathroom to wash my hair while I sat in the tub. I felt like I couldn’t handle something like washing my hair on my own, and more than that, I felt…rejected and forgotten! I remember going downstairs crying and asking my mother to tell me she still loved me, just because she had failed to come in to wash my hair. I don’t think I got that reassurance. At the time I still went out of my way to make friends. But I was too friendly and clingy too, so although at the time my debilitating shyness hadn’t set in and I made new friends fairly easily, I didn’t keep them for long. I was already demanding too much from them, I guess.

My parents divorced when I was 14, and I moved to New York with my mother. I already blamed her for their divorce, and already had pegged her as a narcissist, although I didn’t have a word for it then. I remember telling her how “empty” and “shallow” she was. This would make her rage. But under my anger was terror. She scared me on some deep gut level and she seemed to hate me. Even as an adult, I’d always revert back to being a child in her presence. She was drinking heavily, and I began to drink too. She didn’t try to stop me. She had a string of lovers that came and went, and to get to the kitchen or bathroom, I’d have to walk through the living room where she and some boyfriend were sleeping. One of her lovers used to love to make fun of me with her. I remember sitting at the dinner table with the two of them laughing at my worries, speech, the way I looked, and anything else they could pick on. I remember running away from the table in tears more times than I can count. I was left alone in the house often, which I actually liked because it meant I didn’t have to deal with her or her nasty boyfriend, and I’d cook my own dinner, usually a TV dinner or frozen pizza. Inside, I secretly worried that this woman who seemed to always want me by her side when I was younger (and be her mini-me) didn’t seem to want me around at all anymore. I wondered what I had done wrong to make her stop loving me. Now I know she never had.
I was a depressed, sullen, underachieving teenager who lived in a fantasy world inside my head because I was learning to hate people.

At age 15, I was rejected by a group of girls that I described in “Crybaby.” That was devastating to me, and I spent several days literally sick in bed after that. I don’t remember if I cried. I think I might have already stopped being able to cry easily, but I felt like I wanted to die. I remember making a promise to myself I would never again reach out to anyone in friendship and that I’d have to hide my emotions from that day on.
I think this was the beginning of my narcissism–my false self was born. Up until then, I’d displayed borderline attitudes and behaviors (as they would appear in a child), but after this event I became increasingly aloof and tried to pretend I didn’t care what anyone thought of me.

I began to act up more at home too, and outwardly rebel. My mother and I got into huge drunken screaming matches that would end with her either passed out on the floor drunk, or with us both throwing things at each other. One night, unable to control my rage, I grabbed a kitchen knife out of the drawer in the kitchen and went after her with it. She was drunk. I held it in front of her to scare her but did nothing, then dropped it and told her I was sorry when I realized what I’d done.

That was the night she kicked me out. I was 17. I went to live with my father for a time before entering a girls’ residential facility for a year that treated adolescents with emotional or behavioral problems.

But even though I can’t say I blame her for kicking me out since I probably scared her to death with the knife incident, being kicked out by my own mother was traumatic. I took this as proof she never loved me, because threatening her with the knife had been a desperate cry for help, to be validated. Even though I can understand why she didn’t want me around anymore, the hurt from her total rejection of me (she didn’t speak to me for another three months after that night) stayed with me and ate away at me for years. I believe this incident–being literally tossed out of the house by my own mother before I reached 18–was what solidified my narcissism and when my false self became a permanent fixture.

I became colder and more aloof. I stopped being able to access my true feelings, except for rage and fear. I could no longer meet people easily. To get too close to anyone meant I’d be rejected, or made fun of. Occasionally I’d explode into a BPD rage, but mostly I kept my emotions inside–so far inside I couldn’t even feel them much anymore. The only exceptions were the times I fell in love. My crushes were intense, insane, overpowering; they were a force of nature. My emotions would be all over the place, and I’d be completely obsessed with some boy I imagined would make me happy for the rest of my life. I couldn’t seem to live without a boy who could reflect me and act as a mirror. I was attractive and seemed to find dates easily, and I had a way of getting boys to fall in love with me (I had the slightly pitiful yet charming waif act down to a science). I think I’d become very manipulative in these relationships. Eventually these relationships would end, and I’d be miserable until the next one came along. When I wasn’t dating, I had intense unrequited crushes and lived in my fantasies of happily ever after. I think I might have been showing histrionic PD traits too, although my narcissism is actually the cerebral type. I was never that interested in sex for some reason.

Without a relationship to validate me and prove that I existed, I felt empty inside. Without a relationship, I was nothing. I had no real interests and any type of hobby I did pick up, I’d eventually drop. I couldn’t stick with anything, and began abusing alcohol and later, drugs. These were the only other things that seemed to temporarily fill the vast black hole I felt inside. I still had no idea who I was or what I was here for.

This was longer than I intended, but it’s pretty clear now when my BPD and narcissism began. My BPD began at age 4 due to some type of sexual abuse and something that was said to me. As for my cNPD, it didn’t happen overnight. It gradually developed in me between the ages of 14 and 17. What solidified it were two things–being rejected by a group of girls who had seemed to like me; and the final boot by my mother. My BPD always lay beneath the narcissism, ready to erupt at the worst possible times.

“Ordinary People”: a case study in malignant narcissism.

ordinary_people

I remember when I first saw this 1980 Academy Award winning movie being quite triggered by it, because the main character, Beth Jarrett (played convincingly by Mary Tyler Moore) reminded me so much of my mother, all the way down to her impatient, flippant mannerisms, fake cheerfulness, and clipped speech. And at the time I felt very much like the teenage son, Conrad (Timothy Hutton), who was clearly suffering from a severe case of PTSD and depression, which no doubt had its roots in his mother’s emotional abuse and coldness.

“Ordinary People” (directed by Robert Redford) is about an upper middle class family from the Chicago suburbs, but the individuals involved are certainly not ordinary–or at least you hope they aren’t. Moore’s Beth Jarrett is a high-spectrum malignant narcissist who cares only about her social position and status and the appearance of having “the perfect family” and “the perfect life.” She is always perfectly dressed and coiffed, and can pour on the fake charm whenever she is trying to impress their friends and colleagues. Beth’s husband Calvin (Donald Sutherland) provides his family with their affluent lifestyle and is a good man who cares deeply for his family but is codependent to his narcissistic wife, who makes endless demands on him to keep up the image of perfection, and you can see from his demeanor it’s destroying him.

Their son, Conrad, is his mother’s scapegoat, and while she never actually says so, it’s clear that she blames him for the accidental boating death of her Golden Child, Buck (shown only in flashbacks). Conrad was with Buck at the time of the accident, and suffers from survivor’s guilt in addition to PTSD which was probably caused by his mother’s horrific treatment of him as well as his guilt over the accident, because he was unable to save his older brother’s life. The movie begins just after Conrad has been released from the hospital after a suicide attempt. I think there is more to Beth’s hatred of her child than her belief he is to blame for Buck’s accident. I think she hates him because he sees the truth about her, and calls her out on it. He is sensitive and able to see through her mask of perfection to the monstrous narcissist she actually is, and she can’t handle that.

From the very beginning, we can tell Beth despises her depressed remaining child. Her attitude toward Conrad is dismissive and impatient, and she makes no attempt to understand and appears to have no empathy for the emotional turmoil he’s in. She always puts her own needs ahead of her son and husband, and berates Calvin for attempting to understand his son’s pain. There’s not one moment where she shows the slightest shred of sympathy or love for him, and yet on the surface, no one would call her abusive, because of the mask of normality she always wears. Here’s a scene where Conrad attempts to talk to his mother about why they never had a pet–you can see how disconnected Beth is from Conrad’s (or her own) emotions, and Conrad’s hurt comes out as rage.

There’s a heartbreaking scene where the grandparents are present and Calvin is taking pictures. When he asks Beth to pose with her son, she glibly changes the subject to avoid having to SAY she doesn’t want her picture taken with him, but her disgust is obvious. Calvin insists, and Beth smiles with gritted teeth as she coldly stands next to her son. Conrad, who is sensitive, picks up on his mother’s hatred but tries to smile anyway. Beth, still smiling her fake smile, demands that Calvin give her the camera so she doesn’t have to have her picture taken with Conrad, but Calvin keeps insisting. Conrad, fed up and hurt, loses his temper and screams “Give her the goddamn camera!” It’s scenes like this that so brilliantly depict the subtle emotional abuse a malignant narcissist mother inflicts on her most sensitive child.


The camera scene.

Conrad begins seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch) who begins to get Conrad to open up about his feelings and show his anger. He also begins to date a girl he met in band practice (Elizabeth McGovern), who is upbeat yet understanding and helps bring Conrad out of his shell.

Calvin and his mother seem to be constantly arguing. Calvin tries to referree, but can’t seem to appeal to his wife’s loving nature, because she apparently has none. After one of these arguments, Conrad calls out his mother for never having visited him in the hospital, adding that “You would have visited Buck if he was in the hospital,” to which Beth retorts, “Buck never would have been in the hospital!” This is a clear implication of the higher esteem she held her older son in, who she believed would never have “gone crazy” and had to be hospitalized. Unlike Conrad, Buck would have enhanced, rather than diminished, the image she had of having the perfect life and perfect family.

Beth’s evil really comes out when they go on vacation to Texas to visit with some of Calvin’s colleagues. While golfing, Beth sweetly suggests to Calvin they go on another vacation–which would be during Christmas. Calvin agrees, but suggests they should bring Calvin along with them because he might enjoy the trip. To this, Beth flies into a narcissistic rage and loudly berates her husband for always trying to include Conrad in everything. During this rage, she projects her own anger and selfishness onto her husband, who unsuccessfully tries to stand up to her. Later in this clip, there’s a chilling scene after Conrad’s parents return home and Conrad tries to give Beth a hug. Beth’s face stays cold and hard and you can feel the hatred and disgust she has for her child while she barely returns his embrace at all.


The golf scene and “the cold hug.”

Conrad finds out his friend Karen from the hospital (Dinah Manoff) has committed suicide. Frantic, he makes an emergency appointment with Dr. Berger, and shows up in his office in a broken state. He rages and then sobs uncontrollably and everything comes pouring out: the whole story about the night Buck died and how he blamed himself, his mother’s hatred for him, and how he was never good enough. Dr. Berger listens and holds him like a parent would a child, and finally Conrad begins to calm down.

Gradually, Calvin becomes more aware of his wife’s malignant narcissism and is beginning to doubt her ability to love anyone but herself. One night Beth finds him crying alone and asks him why he is crying. Calvin asks Beth if she really loves him and she gives him a non-answer, saying “I feel the way I’ve always felt about you.” Calvin admits he is not sure he loves her anymore. He’s beginning to see the soulless monster she really is. Early in the morning, Beth leaves for good, not saying goodbye to her husband or son, leaving them to fend for themselves and try to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives together. No doubt both are much better off this way.


Calvin’s realization and confrontation with Beth.

This is one of the most convincing and well acted movies about the havoc a malignant narcissist mother can wreak on her family I have ever seen, and 35 years later, it still hits home because of the uncanny similarities I see to my own mother (who was not as outwardly rejecting or quite as malignant as Beth Jarrett). Every one of the 9 DSM indicators of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is evident in Beth. If anyone is interested in studying the myriad ways a malignant narcissist inflicts their abuse and scapegoats their children, this movie is the best case study I can think of, outside of having to deal with one yourself. Of course, not all malignant narcissists are upper middle class like Beth is, but even though the specific words and actions may differ from one social class to the next, the manipulations and abuse are always the same.


This trailer shows other scenes of the way Beth emotionally abuses, gaslights,projects, and triangulates against her surviving son.

Why family scapegoats become lifelong victims.

If you were scapegoated by your family, two things can happen. You can become a narcissist yourself (narcissism being an elaborate defense mechanism to avoid further hurt and abuse) or you will internalize the early message that you’re worthless, defective and have no rights. I’m going to talk about the second scenario because that’s what this video is about and it’s what happened to me.

As a scapegoat, you are trained to live in fear. You become afraid to defend yourself, express your opinions, or demand fair treatment. This attitude of worthlessness, fear and shame is carried into adult life. Other people can immediately sense you are a pushover and a magnet for abuse, rejection, and bullying, and you become a target for abuse by others well into adult life.

You can become a lifelong victim unless you find a way to break the pattern. It’s difficult to unlearn, because it was established so early in life by the narcissistic parent.

Golden children, who more closely resemble the narcissistic parent or provide them with narcissistic supply (adulation), are more likely than scapegoats to become narcissists themselves. They will often become the aging narcissistic parent’s flying monkeys against the scapegoated adult child, continuing the family pattern of abuse.

Scapegoated children are the family shock absorbers. They are the children who have been assigned to absorb and internalize the narcissistic parents’ rage and to mirror back what has been projected onto them.

scapegoat_child

This is exactly what happened to me. Although because I was an only child I sometimes served the Golden Child role, for the most part I was the scapegoat. My Aspergers and high sensitivity made me even more perfect for that role.

Today I’m the black sheep and the “loser” of my family. I’m never included in family functions because of my poverty and the fact I’m “different” than the rest of them. Although they disapprove of me, I really became exactly what they needed me to be. My becoming a “loser” ensured they would always be winners.

I’ve been disinherited because they believe I’m undeserving, a shameful blemish on the family’s “good name,” further guaranteeing I will always remain poor and therefore powerless–unless I hit the lottery (which I don’t play) or write a book, which I plan to do. The irony of all that is the book may very well be one that exposes the people who raised me for what they really are.

I’ve always been a risk-averse, avoidant underachiever. My dealings with others have suffered because of my fear of the judgment of other people. I was often bullied as a child and teenager.

I married a narcissistic man and continued to live with him and allow his abuse even years after we were divorced.

Although as an adult I’m no longer bullied (and am Very Low Contact with my ex), people still try to push me around, treat me like a mental defective, leave me out of conversations, overlook me for promotions or raises at work, or just talk over or look through me as if I’m not there at all. When I say something, people act like they don’t hear me. It’s very hard for me to make friends or fight back when I need to because I was trained from an early age to be so very afraid of everyone. I’m the proverbial shrinking Violet and wallflower–the kind of woman my mother used to mock for being so “insipid.” I seem to have the opposite of charisma.

For many years I walked around as if ashamed to be alive. I carried shame with me like a heavy burden that affected the way I spoke, the way I related, the way I thought (all the negative self-talk and self-hate), even the way I moved and carried myself. I embarrassed myself.

Since I started writing, I’ve learned that I wasn’t put on earth as an example to others of how not to be (I actually used to believe this), but that God gave me these challenges and this life to teach me valuable things about myself–but that waking up to who God meant for me to be was going to be hard, painful work. I don’t live in self-pity: my narcissists have been my teachers.

One day I dream that people offline will know who I really am. That I have a personality. That I’m funny and intelligent. That I have opinions of my own, and that I am actually good at things. But more than anything else, that I have a finely tuned bullshit detector–a gift unintentionally bequeathed to me by my narcissists, and it’s a gift more priceless than any amount of money I may have inherited.

The following video will explain why what narcissistic parents do to their own offspring is nothing less than soul murder. Unfortunately, the original video I had posted here (which I preferred) was the best one to illustrate the way being scapegoated as a child tends to continue well into adult life, with the grown adult child now unconsciously projecting a “kick me” sort of vibe in relationships, friendships, on the job, and everywhere else, and then they wonder why they continue to feel victimized everywhere they go.     It’s hard to break the pattern, but it can be done.    Here’s a different video with the same general message as the first, although the first one (which was removed) was much better, in my opinion.

Why being a Golden Child isn’t so golden.

golden_cage

I was raised as an only child–the second marriage for both my parents–in a narcissistic family. Only children are in an especially vulnerable position in narcissistic families, because they must serve as all things to one or both parents.

In families with several children, one child (usually the most sensitive) is normally chosen to be the scapegoat–to serve as the family trash can for all the narcissistic rage of the parents. Another child, usually the one most closely resembling the narcissistic parent or the one who best serves the parent’s need for narcissistic supply, may become the Golden Child–in other words, the parent’s favorite. The Scapegoat is always wrong, bad, stupid, crazy, a “problem,” etc. The Golden Child can do no wrong. Misdeeds are overlooked or projected onto the scapegoat. Golden Children may become the narcissistic parent’s flying monkeys and are even sometimes given the “honor” of helping with the abuse against the scapegoat.

I’m reminded of a book I read some years ago called “A Child Called It,” written by Dave Pelzer, who not only recovered from the horrific abuse inflicted on him from ages 4-12 by his psychopathic mother (who had been loving up until that point) and brothers (who served as her “helpers”) once he was removed from the family and placed in a foster home, he actually seemed to become stronger because of it. Today he is an author, motivational speaker, and activist against child abuse. Dave was the scapegoat of his family, and I think his mother turned against him when she realized he was the most sensitive child and probably the most intelligent one too.

But what happens when there is only one child in the family? Well, I think that child becomes both a scapegoat and a Golden Child. If I had grown up with siblings (I have older half-siblings but I wasn’t raised with them), I’m almost certain I would have been the family scapegoat. But my parents (I am including both here, even though I don’t believe my father is a true narcissist, because they worked as a “team”–he was codependent and under my mother’s thrall) needed a Golden Child too who would serve their need to show a child off as a prized possession, a status symbol of sorts: the physical proof of how superior they believed their genes to be compared to everyone else.

Being both scapegoat and Golden Child is even more crazymaking than being just a scapegoat, because you never know where you stand. You constantly feel off balance and anxious, never knowing if something you said or did will be rewarded, ignored, or punished. Life feels chaotic and unformed. You feel like you’re playing a game you never wanted to play, a game where you were never taught the rules, and most of the time you don’t even know WHAT game you’re playing, but you’re expected to play like an expert anyway.

confused_kid

There was no consistency in the way I was disciplined or the things I was disciplined for. I was punished often (for infractions that were usually fairly minor or even nonexistent–I was a “good kid” who was terrified of angering my parents until my teens), but that wasn’t the worst thing. The worst thing was that the next time, I might actually be rewarded for the same infraction!

I was often punished for things I couldn’t help. Acting “spooky” was one of them. As a fearful, sensitive Aspie child, there were times I would retreat inside myself when I was feeling very anxious or when there was too much ‘input’ from the world, and this enraged my MN mother, who would berate or punish me for this behavior. I had no idea what I had done or how to stop being “spooky.” It just happened. I think it enraged her because it was during those times I went “inside” that she could no longer reach me with her abuse.

Even though most of the time I was treated as if my feelings didn’t matter, I was often told how pretty, smart and talented I was. It’s my belief I was no more of any of these things than any other kid my age, but I was told I was “special.” To my young mind, “special” meant “different”–and most children, myself included, dread being different from their peers.

When I was bullied at school, the reason my parents gave me was that the other kids were just jealous because of my “superior” looks, intelligence, or talent. I was also told our genes were better than other people’s, and our family was of a higher socioeconomic status than my friends’ families. I know now this was complete bullshit, but it’s the lie I was being fed while I was growing up. I think these “compliments” were intended to isolate me from my peers even further, so I’d just be “theirs.” I never felt empowered by the “praise” I got, because of the way it made me feel somehow defective and different from other kids. In addition, I felt like I could never live up to the pedestal my parents put me on at those times. I was right–and as an adult, I am looked down on by my family as actually defective.

left_out_kid

The most crazymaking thing of all was the times I’d be complimented and diminished at the same time. One of the most common ways I’d be demeaned was being told how “sensitive” I was. This was never meant to be a compliment; it was meant as a way to let me know how weak I was. Sometimes I was told I couldn’t or shouldn’t do things because of a combination of my “good” and “bad” qualities. For example, when I was about 10, I wanted to join the swim team. I remember exactly what my mother’s reaction was to this. She always liked to tell me what I was thinking, which is another way narcissists make us doubt our own reality and question our instincts. She said:
“You wouldn’t like being on the swim team because you’re too sensitive and you don’t like competition, and you’re too smart to be on a team with those people anyway.”
Huh?
Left-handed compliment much? She always sandwiched her praise this way–between insults like a shit sandwich. This was just another way I was constantly thrown off balance and this led to my becoming an extremely anxious child and later, an extremely anxious adult.

In general, my family treated me like I was a huge burden and didn’t really want me around, so the praise I got as a sometimes Golden Child made no sense and to my sensitive child’s mind, never felt sincere. Even at a very young age, I knew I was being lied to. I knew I wasn’t loved the same way other children were loved, even though my parents constantly mouthed the words like some sort of tic.

How my mother became a narcissist.

housework

I’ve said a lot of negative things about my mother, but I don’t hate her. Today I was thinking about how she got to be the way she is. While most narcissistic psychopaths are probably genetically predisposed to this condition and are missing the part of the brain that causes them to have empathy and compassion for others (actually it’s just not functioning properly), in most cases there are also psychological factors. Many psychopaths and narcissists were abused or neglected children, whose own parents failed to mirror them adequately as young children. So as unpleasant as they may be, their condition is not their fault. It was done to them.

I’ve already described my mother as a vain, self-centered, image conscious woman who almost always put her own needs ahead of those of her children and husbands, and chose me (as the youngest) to be her scapegoat. At times I was also her golden child, especially prior to my teen years when I started to rebel, and she loved to make me in her own image, dressing me up like I was a little doll. She expected me to act like one too, and flew into a rage if I ever had an opinion of my own or dared to challenge her.

The story I’m going to tell is gleaned from the scant bits and pieces I heard over the years, most of it described by people other than my mother. Like most narcissists, my mother is stunningly lacking in introspection. She almost never talked about her past or her childhood, and the few times she did, it was negative. Most of her anger seemed to be directed toward her mother, who she spoke of with contempt the few times she did mention her.

Ginny was a beautiful child with big blue eyes and light red hair. Somewhere in my mother’s home there’s a photo of her at about age two, and she is dressed in a pink and white dress with a Peter Pan collar, her bright hair is done in a 1930s bob, and she’s sitting in an oversized chair holding a large teddy bear on her lap. On her feet are brown high top shoes, and her little feet are sticking straight out toward the camera. Ginny’s expression is solemn, almost sad. In fact, she looks close to tears. I will probably never see that photo again, as I am not in contact with my mother and she’s in her 80s and probably won’t be here too much longer, even though she’s in good health for her age and still looks younger than her years. I wonder if at the time that photo was taken, Ginny’s narcissism was already ingrained, or if she could have still become a normal, loving woman had her circumstances been different. The sadness in her face tells me she was hurting. It’s the most vulnerable I’ve ever seen my mother.

Ginny was the fourth and youngest child born to a naval academy officer and second generation Irishwoman. The family was middle class, lived in a nice house in a safe neighborhood outside Annapolis, Maryland, and raised all their children as Roman Catholics. Because Ginny’s father was in the military, when the Depression hit, the family didn’t suffer too much financial hardship and his job remained secure. But Theodore (her father) was a heavy drinker, probably an alcoholic, and started drinking almost the moment he got home from work. Anna Marie (Ginny’s mother) suffered from melancholia (what we now know as major depression) and after Ginny was born, took to her bed and stayed there for most of her childhood and teen years. She may have been suffering from postpartum depression, but in those days, no one knew about such a thing. Anna Marie started to neglect her duties as a housewife and mother, saying she was “too sick” and had to lie down.

Ginny was the most attractive of the four children, and the only one with blue eyes. She was obviously Theodore’s favorite child, and he constantly told her how beautiful and special she was. Anna Marie began to resent all the attention he showered on his favorite child, and became even more depressed (she may have been a narcissist herself). Theodore was a faithful husband (from all accounts) but his wife’s demands were wearing him down and he began to drink even more. Sometimes he came home from work already drunk and often he would pass out after eating dinner, so that no one was running the household but the children.

By this time Ginny was about six, and her older sisters (who were in their teens) and brother (who was about 11) weren’t interested in keeping the house clean or taking care of their exhausted, drunk father and depressed, ill mother. Ginny hated dirt and disorder, and took it upon herself to keep the house clean and cook the family meals (Anna Marie was a bad cook). Her sisters were always out at parties or on dates and of course her brother was a boy so he wasn’t interested in keeping up the home or taking care of the family. Soon Ginny was the sole caretaker and became her father’s young surrogate wife. (I don’t know whether or not she was sexually abused, but it would not surprise me and I assume she probably was). Anna Marie developed a hatred for Ginny, who seemed to be everything she was not and also got all her husband’s attention. Theodore’s adoration of Ginny increased, and he began to depend on her for everything, including confiding his problems in his marriage. Ginny seemed sympathetic, but was already plotting to leave the home.

At age 15, Ginny had become a drop dead gorgeous young woman. She left her family and dropped out of high school to marry a young man from the naval academy who was studying to be a Methodist minister. She took a job modeling for the local newspaper to help makes ends meet. By 18 she was pregnant and gave birth to her first daughter, and a few years later she had her second child, also a girl. But Ginny was tired of the church dinners and the drudgery of family life. She was bored and longed for excitement that her two young daughters and minister husband couldn’t provide. So when her daughters were just 7 and 2, she left them to marry my father. It was the late 1950s, and a woman leaving her husband and children just wasn’t done, but she did it without a second thought.

Although her older daughter had abandonment issues and hated Ginny for years for leaving, today my mother lives in her home and my sister’s become Ginny’s most loyal flying monkey. I barely ever knew my sister, but I was told several years ago that I was not welcome in her home because my sister didn’t want me there. Either my mother didn’t want me there and blamed it on my sister, or my sister is a sheep who believed all Ginny’s lies about me. Ironically, my sisters were much better off than if she hadn’t left them because the woman who married her jilted husband and raised them was a kind, nurturing woman, almost the polar opposite of my mother.

Another irony is that even though my mother, as a malignant narcissist, is completely lacking in compassion, both her father and my father were taken in by Ginny’s fake “sympathy.” Ginny listened to her dad talk about his marital problems when she was a teenager and offered him kind words and a ready ear; and recently my son told me how my father fell in love with Ginny (my father never told me this story but he told him): my father’s 3 year old son from his first marriage had been hit by a train and died, and my mother offered him a shoulder to cry on and a sympathetic ear and soon he was madly in love with her.

I clearly remember when my grandmother suffered a major stroke at age 57 when I was only 7, my mother’s comments after seeing her in the hospital. All she could talk about was how helpless and disgusting she was (the stroke had left her paralyzed from the waist down and incontinent) and how she couldn’t wait to get out of there. Even at that young age, I was horrified by my mother’s callous remarks about her own mother.

Even though I don’t use my real name or their real names, sometimes I think it’s just a matter of time until she discovers this blog. I had to go inactive on Facebook because of her extended family all finding me there.