The awkwardness of being a Borderline ACON.

Thought I’d reblog this, as it shows where my head was at almost three years ago, and how I reacted to criticism from “pure” abuse survivors who didn’t believe it was possible to be both an abuse victim and also suffer from something as “evil” as Borderline Personality Disorder (whose symptoms are often mixed up with those of  Complex PTSD and may even be the same thing).

I’m a lot calmer and more centered today, but I was also in therapy at that time and learning a lot about myself, so it was a fruitful time for me, however difficult it could sometimes be.

Comments here are welcome, since the deadline for comments under the original post has expired.

Lucky Otters Haven

awkward-1

I won’t lie.  It’s incredibly awkward being a blogger who blogs about two things that seem diametrically opposed to many people in the narcissistic abuse community:  being a victim of narcissists, and having a Cluster B disorder (BPD).   To those of you who aren’t familiar with the ACON (adult children of narcissists) blogosphere,  there are a few ACON bloggers (not too many on WordPress, fortunately) who seem to think if you have BPD then you can’t also be an abuse victim and certainly shouldn’t be blogging about it.  Because, you see, if you have BPD then you are one of the soulless abusers.  If you are any kind of “cluster B person” blogging about abuse, then of it follows that you must have an “agenda.”  What that agenda is is never specified though.

I have been accused of many things, none of which are pretty, and few of which are true…

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Truth teller.

truth_teller

I am the truth teller in my family. Because of that I have been scapegoated and disowned. I’m well aware of the possibility of my family seeing this, but due to the indifference I’ve been able to develop toward them (which I think is healthier than the hatred and rage I used to feel), I can now say this without guilt. It’s also the only way I can ever “communicate” with them about how I really feel, as if that would make any difference. It won’t, but at least they will know, and they should know. I’ve hesitated about ever writing a post like this, but I’ve kept this inside too long, and need to get it out there for all to see. That’s what this blog is for, after all.  It’s about MY life, not theirs.

1. I was trained by my family to be a victim (scapegoated child). I was never given the emotional tools to do well in life, or much financial help either after I turned 18. My family had money, but would not pay for my college education. I had to pay for it myself and take out loans. (My father did pay for my son’s college education. I’m not bitter about this but grateful at least he got help).

2. I live in poverty because I lacked those emotional and survival tools to do well on my own. I have had extremely low self esteem my entire life and felt incompetent in most things because of the way I was treated. In addition to having no confidence and being painfully shy (which is a handicap out in the world today), I also can’t connect in any meaningful way with people, so I am all alone in my 50s as well as poor.

3. My family, who still has money, refuses to help me. Not that they should have to at my age, and not that I would ask, but they never have (except during the few times they were shamed into it by people in authority, but I won’t get into that here because it’s irrelevant). In loving families, when a child, no matter how old, is struggling, everyone pitches in to help. That doesn’t mean support them forever, just help them get back on their feet so they can make a fresh start. But my family isn’t normal. My mistakes are not tolerated. I failed to meet their unrealistic standards of perfection, so I don’t deserve a second chance. But this shouldn’t surprise me. They are a family of narcissists, both covert and overt, with my mother at the helm. Others in the family live well and get help when they need it. But not me.

4. I have been disowned, even though I was a “good kid” who never got in serious trouble, didn’t do drugs, get in trouble with the law, etc. No, I wasn’t “easy” (I had lots of BPD and complex PTSD episodes and severe mood swings), but overall, I wasn’t a bad kid, just really fucked up in the head. They hold it against me that I “went back” to my sociopathic malignant NPD ex, even though I was so victimized at the time I felt like I had no other choice. I felt like I had nowhere else to go. But I think I would have been disowned anyway, because I was the scapegoat of the family and singled out for this treatment when it became clear I was the one who saw through all the lies and bullshit.  Even though I’m no longer with my sociopathic ex, as far as I know, I’m still written out of the will.  No one ever tells me anything.

4. My mother has triangulated against me and turned the entire family against me so everyone thinks I’m crazy and evil and wants nothing to do with me. She has actually told her relatives I deserve nothing and “brought this on myself.” No one in the family (except my children and my father) talks to me.  (My mother and I do exchange cards, but they are very generic and impersonal).   I’m never invited to any family functions. I’m grateful at least my kids  know I’m not this horrible person the rest of the family thinks I am. Actually, they told me they think I was a good mother who did the best I could with what I had to work with.  That means a lot.

4. They throw their disdain and contempt toward “the poor” in my face all the time, quoting Tea Party screeds about how all poor people are lazy and leeches on society and deserve to be poor. This is done to shame me and make me feel like an outsider, which of course I am.

scapegoat_child

I try not to be bitter about all this, but it’s so hard sometimes. To survive, I had to become indifferent toward them and think of them as pathetic little victims themselves, otherwise the rage would have destroyed me. Actually, I do have love for my father, who I do believe loves me. But he’s under the thrall of the rest of the narcs, who keep telling him how useless, crazy, and undeserving I am.

That’s what I get for being the truth teller in my family. The one who can see through all the bullshit.

Until I found the narcissistic abuse community, I felt all alone. I’d never known anyone who was treated this way by their family of origin. But my experience seems to be a common one among so many victims of narcissistic parents. So many of us have “failed at life” because we were never given the tools to do well, or allowed to develop any self confidence. We were always told we’d fail at anything we ever did and not allowed to try things when we were young. But then later we were blamed for not achieving great things in life. I’ve never seen so many people living in poverty in their 40s and 50s except among other children of narcissistic parents.  Why is it that so many of us don’t discover what we’ve been up against until so late in life?

It’s incredibly painful to realize our own family doesn’t love you and probably never really did.  I used to envy others for their loving families and still do, but it’s time to move on.  Indifference is the only way I can cope with having been rejected by the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally.

I’m getting enraged now so I need to stop writing this and go back to being indifferent.

Further reading:

Why Family Scapegoats Become Lifelong Victims

It’s All About Image: The Skewed Values of Narcissistic Families

 

The 4 types of narcissistic abuse victims.

abuse_boy

It’s become clear to me that not all ACONs and abuse survivors are on the same page when it comes to their attitudes toward narcissists.
Because we all are abuse survivors you would think there’d be more solidarity among us, but this is not necessarily the case.

It seems there are four distinct types. In spite of things I may have alluded to in the past, I don’t think any one group is worse or better than any other. They are different, and each has their reasons for having the attitudes they do. I’ll explain why I think the attitudes are different among the four groups. There is definitely a pattern I’ve noticed.

1. The Narc-Hating Group.

female_warrior

These ACONs usually underwent the worst abuse as children, or had two narcissistic parents instead of just one. Having abusive parents seems to instill the greatest anger in victims–more so than having been with an abusive spouse–and this anger isn’t easily let go of. This group has a warrior mentality: to them, ALL narcissists are evil, bad seeds, or demonic, and have no hope whatsoever of recovery or healing. They may acknowledge a continuum or spectrum among narcissists, but it’s not important to them. A narc is a narc is a narc, and they are all considered impervious to change and anything they do is suspect. Some ACONs of this type are ultra-religious and believe all narcissists are seared souls destined for hell.

2. All Cluster Bs are the Same Group.

cluster_b

This group goes a step beyond the first one, in that they believe anyone with a Cluster B disorder–Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, or Antisocial–is character disordered and manipulative, and therefore all pretty much the same and to be avoided like the plague. They do not make exceptions even for Borderlines–the least “malignant” of the four disorders. People who subscribe to this view were as damaged by their malignant narcissistic parents as the first group. One of their parents may have been Borderline or Histrionic, rather than narcissistic– but people with those disorders don’t always make very good parents either. It’s unfortunately all too common for narcissists to collude with Borderlines in the abuse of the child, with the Borderline in the more codependent, subservient role.

3. Not all Narcs are Hopeless Group.

smashingmirror

This group may be in the minority among ACONs (at least among bloggers), but it’s the group I’m evidently in–which has raised the ire of some of the Narc-Hating ACONs. People in this group aren’t going around singing the praises of narcissists and in fact the vast majority strongly encourage No Contact (just as the other two groups do). They do not tolerate or enable narcissistic manipulations and abuse, but they hold that because narcissism may be a spectrum disorder, that those at the lower end of the spectrum (non-malignants) may be redeemable under the proper circumstances and with the proper treatment. They may show more sympathy or empathy for people with narcissism than the first two groups, but they aren’t enablers either. Most do not believe malignant narcissists and psychopaths/sociopaths are redeemable, however.

Many people in this group were part of the Narc-Hating group when they were trying to disengage or go No Contact with their abusers. They used their anger to give them the courage and motivation to disconnect and stay disconnected. But because their hatred and anger toward narcissists isn’t as deeply ingrained as in the first two groups (I’ll explain why in the next paragraph), people in this group eventually can no longer hold onto their anger and prefer to try to understand the motives of those who abused them, while at the same time remaining disconnected from their abusers and not enabling narcissistic behavior. Their desire to let go of anger is very difficult for ACONs of the first two groups to understand, and people of the third group may be seen as betraying the ACON cause, even though this isn’t really the case at all. They’re just handling things differently.

Another reason a person may hold that some narcissists are redeemable is they may have a narcissistic child, and it’s an extremely difficult thing for a parent to accept that their own child may be beyond hope.

It’s been my observation that people in this group may have suffered less severe abuse as children, or had only one narcissistic parent instead of two. One of the parents (usually a codependent spouse) may have actually loved their child, and this love tempered the abuse inflicted on them by the narcissistic parent even if they were forced to collude with the abuse at times. Some people in this group may have even had normal childhoods with non-narcissistic parents, but got involved in relationships or marriages to narcissists (which technically means they are not ACONs at all). It’s been my observation that people who suffered most of their abuse at the hands of a narcissistic spouse or lover rather than a parent never developed the deep hatred toward all narcissists that the first two groups tend to do.

4. Codependents.

Fashion model stylized as marionette doll sitting on violet studio background

Codependents are often (but not always) personality disordered in some way, and many of them are Borderlines or covert narcissists. They are usually victimized by their narcissists, but also identify with and collude with their abusers. Most codependents were abused by narcissistic parents, and are drawn to narcissistic relationships where they are compelled to re-enact their abusive childhoods. This is the group that may never acknowledge they are being abused or reach out for help. They continue to defend and enable their abusers and may believe they are the ones at fault for anything that goes wrong. If a Codependent leaves their narcissist and realizes they were actually being abused, then they are no longer Codependent and join one of the first three categories.

Narcissism is a family disease

abused

 

Children of narcissistic parents are always deeply damaged people. Because it’s a genetically inherited disorder (at least to some degree) but also because narcissism is a defense mechanism to protect and isolate oneself from abuse, many victims of narcissistic abuse become narcissists themselves. Those who do not become narcissists suffer from all manner of mental disorders, especially PTSD, avoidant personality disorder, schizoid and schizotypal personality disorder, depression and bipolar disorder, the whole gamut of anxiety and dissociative neuroses, and even psychoses like schizophrenia. And it’s entirely possible to be a narcissist and ALSO suffer from those other disorders. Being a child of a narcissist is the ultimate mind-fuck. There is no way to escape its effects, unless you are removed from the disordered FOO at an early age and adopted and raised by loving parents. Even then, the child will be scarred (“Child of Rage” Beth Thomas is a good example of a child who was severely abused and adopted by a loving family at age one and a half, but still needed years of therapy to overcome the damage that was done to her.)

I see signs of this happening in my daughter due to her MN father’s psychological mind games and mental abuse, but I don’t think it’s deeply entrenched in her because she also suffers from guilt and remorse and does have empathy or at least seems to, so I may be wrong. I hope I am. I still see signs of the sweet child she was, and her currently relationship seems to be bringing that out in her more and more often; she told me sincerely she wants to change her behavior and stop doing things that sabotage herself and hurt others.

Sam was an abused child, the oldest son of a malignantly narcissistic, thoroughly evil mother. He is an ACON, like we are. This is an interview he gave to a writer for Psychology Today, in which he describes what his childhood is like. It’s an excerpt from this journal entry from his website.

Interview granted to Elizabeth Svoboda of Psychology Today

Q. Could you briefly describe your relationship with your parents growing up? What were some of the high and low points?

A. My mother was by far the dominant presence in my life. She treated me as an extension of herself. Through me she sought to settle “open scores” with an indifferent world who failed to appreciate her gifts and to provide her with the opportunities that she so richly deserved. My role was to realise her unfulfilled dreams, wishes, and fantasies. I thus became a child prodigy.

But this was a vicious circle. The more successful I was, the more insidious envy I inspired in her and the more she attempted to subvert me and my accomplishments. Moreover, she resented my newfound personal autonomy. Smothering and doting turned into undisguised contempt and hatred and these fast deteriorated into life-threatening physical and psychological abuse.

Apart from savage beatings, she hit me where it hurt most: tore my poems, shredded my library books, invaded my privacy, humiliated me in front of peers and neighbours. Instead of being her prized possession, I now came to represent the much despised “establishment”. To avoid this disorienting predicament, I made myself into a juvenile delinquent, a gang member, a truant, a rebel with one cause: to regain my mother’s attention. But to no avail.

I hate the words “physical abuse”. It is such a clinical term. My mother used to burrow her fingernails into the soft, inner part of my arm, the “back” of my elbow and drag them, well inside the flesh and veins and everything. You can’t imagine the blood and the pain. She hit me with belts and buckles and sticks and heels and shoes and sandals and thrust my skull into sharp angles until it cracked. When I was four she threw a massive metal vase at me. It missed me and shattered a wall sized cupboard. To very small pieces. She did this for 14 years. Every day. Since the age of four.

She tore my books and threw them out the window of our fourth floor apartment. She shredded everything I wrote, consistently, relentlessly.

She cursed and humiliated me 10-15 times an hour, every hour, every day, every month, for 14 years. She called me “my little Eichmann” after a well known Nazi mass murderer. She convinced me that I am ugly (I am not. I am considered very good looking and attractive. Other women tell me so and I don’t believe them). She invented my personality disorder, meticulously, systematically. She tortured all my brothers as well. She hated it when I cracked jokes. She made my father do all these things to me as well. This is not clinical, this is my life. Or, rather, was. I inherited her ferocious cruelty, her lack of empathy, some of her obsessions and compulsions and her feet. Why I am mentioning the latter – in some other post.

I never felt anger. I felt fear, most of the time. A dull, pervasive, permanent sensation, like an aching tooth. And I tried to get away. I looked for other parents to adopt me. I toured the country looking for a foster home, only to come back humiliated with my dusty backpack. I volunteered to join the army a year before my time. At 17 I felt free. It is a sad “tribute” to my childhood that the happiest period in my life was in jail. The peaceful, most serene, clearest period. It has all been downhill since my release.

But, above all, I felt shame and pity. I was ashamed of my parents: primitive freaks, lost, frightened, incompetent. I could smell their inadequacy. It wasn’t like this at the beginning. I was proud of my father, a construction worker turned site manager, a self-made man who self-destructed later in his life. But this pride eroded, metamorphosed into a malignant form of awe of a depressive tyrant. Much later I understood how socially inept he was, disliked by authority figures, a morbid hypochondriac with narcissistic disdain for others. Father-hate became self-hate the more I realized how much like my father I am despite all my pretensions and grandiose illusions: schizoid-asocial, hated by authority figures, depressive, self-destructive, a defeatist.

But above all I kept asking myself:

WHY?

Why did they do it? Why for so long? Why so thoroughly?

I said to myself that I must have frightened them. A firstborn, a “genius” (IQ-wise), a freak of nature, frustrating, overly-independent, unchildlike Martian. The natural repulsion they must have felt having given birth to an alien, to a monstrosity.

Or that my birth fouled their plans somehow. My mother was just becoming a stage actress in her fertile, narcissistic, imagination (actually, she worked as a lowly salesperson in a tiny shoe shop). My father was saving money for one of an endless string of houses he built, sold and rebuilt. I was in the way. My birth was probably an accident. Not much later, my mother aborted my could-have-been-brother. The certificate describes how difficult the economic situation is with the one born child (that’s me).

Or that I deserve to be punished that way because I was naturally agitating, disruptive, bad, corrupt, vile, mean, cunning and what else.

Or that they were both mentally ill (and they were) and what was to be expected of them anyhow.

And the other question:

WAS IT REALLY ABUSE?

Isn’t “abuse” our invention, a figment of our febrile imagination when we embark upon an effort to explain that which cannot be explained (our life)?

Isn’t this a “false memory”, a “narrative”, a “fable”, a “construct”, a “tale”?

Everyone in our neighbourhood hit their children. So what? And our parents’ parents hit their children as well and most of them (our parents) came out normal. My father’s father used to wake him up and dispatch him through hostile Arab neighbourhoods in the dangerous city they lived in to buy for him his daily ration of alcohol. My mother’s mother went to bed one night and refused to get out of it until she died, 20 odd years later. I could see these behaviours replicated and handed down the generations.

So, WHERE was the abuse? The culture I grew in condoned frequent beatings.

It was a sign of stern, right, upbringing. What was different with US?

I think it was the hate in my mother’s eyes.

You can read about the daily reality in our home:
Nothing is Happening at Home
http://gorgelink.org/vaknin/wronghome-en.html

Q. Once you became an adult, how did your relationship with your parents change? What are some of the unique difficulties of being an adult child of narcissistic parents? Feel free to give examples or describe specific situations you found yourself in.

A. Adult children of narcissists adopt one of two solutions: entanglement or detachment. I chose the latter. I haven’t seen my parents since 1996 (Actually, since I left the army in 1982). I avoid the encounter because it is bound to stir up a nest of emotional hornets which I am not sure I could cope with effectively. I also refuse to subject myself to repeated abuse, however subtle, surreptitious, and ambient. Absenteeism is my way of neutralizing my parents’ weapons.

But the vast majority of grown up offspring of narcissists find themselves enmeshed in unhealthy permutations of their childhood, caught in an exhausting dance macabre, developing special semiotic vocabularies to decipher the convoluted exchanges that pass for communication in their families. They compulsively revisit unresolved conflicts and re-enact painful scenes in the forlorn hope that, this time around, the resolution would be favorable and benign.

Such entanglement only serves to exacerbate the corrosive give-and-take that constitutes the child-parent relationship in the narcissist’s family. Such recurrent friction, unwelcome but irresistible, deepens and entrenches the grudges and enmity that both parties accumulate in sort of a bookkeeping of hurt and counter-hurt.

Q. What effects do you think your parents’ personality problems had on you–as a child and as an adult?

A. I owe my multiple personality disorders – narcissistic, borderline, masochistic – and my depression to their unhealthy upbringing and to the nightmarish atmosphere that they have instilled in our home. I owe them every single self-destructive and self-defeating act I have since committed (quite a few). I inherited from them and via their flawed version of socialization my paranoid delusions, my antisocial behavior, my misanthropy, my a-sexuality.

I am fully accountable for my conduct. My parents cannot be held responsible for my choices at the age of 46. But that I react the way I do, that I am the sad vessel that I am, is their doing, no doubt.

Q. When we become adults, what are our responsibilities to parents who have personality problems? Do you think we’re obligated to put up with them as a kind of payback for everything they gave us when we were young, or are we justified in cutting them off if the situation gets too intractable?

A. Our first and foremost obligation is to ourselves and to our welfare – as well as to our loved ones. People with personality disorders are disruptive in the extreme. They pose a clear and present danger both to themselves and to others. They are an emotional liability and a time bomb. They are a riddle we, their progeny, can never hope to resolve and they constitute living proof that not only were we not loved as children but are unloveable as adults.

Why would one saddle oneself with such debilitating constraints on one’s ability to feel, to experience, to dare, and to soar to one’s fullest potential? Narcissistic parents are an albatross around their children’s necks because they are incapable of truly, fully, and unconditionally loving.

Q. Now that your parents are no longer part of your life, have you compensated by putting together your own “adopted family,” so to speak, of people you care about and that care about you? If so, could you talk a little bit about what effect doing this has had on your well-being?

A. In my late teens and early twenties I was still making the mistake of looking for a surrogate family. Soon enough, I have discovered that I cannot but import into these new relationships all the pathologies that characterized my family of origin. Ever since then I am careful not to get involved with family structures. I haven’t even created my own family. I am married (for the second time) but am repulsed by the idea of having to parent children. In general, I am trying to avoid relationships with an emotional component.

further reading: The Narcissist is Looking for a Family
http://samvak.tripod.com/narcissistnofamily.html

Q. How can we try to manage difficult parents’ behavior, if at all—or at least, minimize its impact on us? Q. What advice would you give others who find themselves in a similar situation with their parents? What were some of the strategies that worked for you?

A. At the risk of sounding repetitive: disengage to the best of your ability. Make it a point to limit your encounters with these sad reminders of your childhood to the bare minimum. Delegate obligations to third parties, to professionals, to other members of the family. Hire nurses, accountants, and lawyers if you can afford it. Place them in a senior home. Move to another state. The more distance you put between yourself and your personality disordered abuser-parents and their radioactive influence, the better you are bound to feel: liberated, decisive, empowered, calmer, in control, clear about yourself and your goals.

These points are crucial:

Do not allow your parents to manage your life any longer

Do not allow them to interfere with your new family: your wife and children

Do not allow them to turn you into a servant, instantaneously and obsequiously at their beck and call

Do not become their source of funding

Do not become their exclusive or most important source of narcissistic supply (attention, adulation, admiration)

Do not show them that they can hurt you or that you are afraid of them or that they have any kind of power over you

Be ostentatiously autonomous and independent-minded in their presence

Do not succumb to emotional blackmail or emotional incest

Punish them by disengaging every time they transgress. Condition them not to misbehave, not to abuse you.

Identify the most common strategies of fostering unhealthy (trauma) bonding and the most prevalent control mechanisms:

Guilt-driven (“I sacrificed my life for you…”)

Codependent (“I need you, I cannot cope without you…”)

Goal-driven (“We have a common goal which we can and must achieve”)

Shared psychosis or emotional incest (“You and I are united against the whole world, or at least against your monstrous, no-good father …”, “You are my one and only true love and passion”)

Explicit (“If you do not adhere to my principles, beliefs, ideology, religion, values, if you do not obey my instructions – I will punish you”).

The Burnt Child

Searing, powerful poetry from a fellow ACON. There’s nothing more I can add, so I’ll let her words speak for themselves.