Hi everyone. I have some great news. I went to my chiropractor and for the first time in a long time my neck is not locked up! He said, “something is different!” and was really surprised. I’m thrilled but I am not surprised. I knew that stopping contact with my family of origin (FOO) and the no-win situation it provided me with would improve my health. But I am a little surprised at the guilt that is hanging around me again. Yeah, that old black cloud is back but I am trying to ignore it. I’m sure that ignoring it is the right thing to do. Narcissistic mothers are masters at inducing guilt if it works and being a highly sensitive child, it worked on me. See, I tried this whole no contact thing with my family before. At the age of 23, my mother seduced my husband and I to move back to my hometown–we had moved many states away after college and my mother was being so nice! Plus, we had both gotten some counseling, and both feeling really confident in ourselves, naively thought we could handle anything and really wanted a good relationship with my parents.
I thought it would work! It didn’t. As soon as we signed the papers buying the house nearby my parents, my mother changed back. And the negativity began. I didn’t know what hit me. Every time I was around her I ended up feeling like I’d been run over by a steamroller. I found a counselor to talk to in the town and after a few visits she told me for my health I need to move away from there. Long story short, we had lived there a total of a year and a half until my husband found a new job and I sent her a letter. It was a carefully written letter saying I loved them but I needed time and space.
In that moment I went from being the Golden Child to the Scapegoat. And I didn’t really address what she had done to upset me–you can’t ever accuse a person with narcissistic personality disorder anyway without getting your words twisted against you. At that time in my life I couldn’t really stand up for myself and say exactly, “you did this and this and this” anyway. (Now I know that being back there I was constantly triggered to feel my unresolved childhood pain.) But, I knew my counselor’s advice made a lot of sense and my husband agreed it had been a mistake. So we packed up and moved to another state with our wonderful baby one year old who was the joy of our lives. We hadn’t even sold the house yet and were living in a tiny apartment. But we didn’t care. We were happy and together and free. It took about 5 months for the house to sell and then we were literally home free. I remember it was an exhilarating time but I also remember the guilt started to creep up on us both. For a couple years though, I have wonderful memories of us in that tiny apartment and the new friends we made that understood why we left and were very supportive. The guilt started happening when I’d see people my parents age or if I’d be friendly to a stranger and think I am being nicer to them than I am my own parents. If I only knew then what I know now I wouldn’t have let myself feel guilty about that.
It had been a few years with no contact and my two brothers had visited me with little judgement on their parts back then (times have changed) so everything was all right. But this nagging guilt was causing me some anxiety so I sought out a counselor. The wrong counselor! He was good at some things so, not trusting my instincts, I trusted him and he convinced my husband and I that we had “thrown the baby out with the bath water”. Boy was he wrong–he had no compassion or knowledge about how important it is to detach from parents with narcissistic personality disorder in order to fully heal.
Anyway, feeling no support for my pain and just more added guilt I called my mother and we reconnected. What I felt as a relief from my guilt I now realize was the loss of living my truth and I lost a piece of myself that I now have regained finally at this new decision for no contact! I am no longer living a lie and it feels so good! My relationship with my mother triggers painful feelings in me from early childhood to come to the surface and pretending to get along with her sucked the life out of me. By the time my last child went to college, I had a severe case of adrenal fatigue. But since this Christmas, my energy is better! I can deal with the guilt, let it hang around and follow me but I am not caving in this time!. I deserve to be free. I am free!
Have you heard the saying that guilt is anger turned inward? That is very helpful to me sometimes because if you can get angry at that guilt feeling and say “No I don’t have anything to feel guilty about” you can use the energy that the anger provides to get strong, exercise, and get things done for your own life. Use it to get up and do all the things you’ve been wanting to do now that you are free. That’s what I have been doing with this nagging guilt hanging around from childhood. I don’t feel tired and sickly anymore! It’s like the monkey is off my back and now I can move freely. Just don’t let the guilt change your mind. Stay strong.
It’s easy for me to say because I’ve been through it all and now at 48 I can look back and say I shouldn’t have taken them back in my life. But I think, in some ways, I had to go through a lot of the pain along the way to finally see my inner strength and who I really am. I have to look at it this way–48 is right in the middle so the second half of my life is going to be awesome. The first half was pretty fantastic raising these two wonderful kids and my husband and I literally grew up together and found ourselves and each other in the process. We used to be co-dependent on each other and have overcome that as well. My hope is that I can help a few others that are suffering in their relationships with their parents by helping them ignore the guilt and fear and childhood pain that will come up when you try to make a stand and get free. It’s so important to understand that YOU CANNOT WIN when dealing with a person who may have narcissist personality disorder! It’s important to your health to get free so you can heal! And the people who truly do love you need your energy for them. Don’t waste it on the energy suckers. (think of those with narcissistic personality disorder as energy vampires!–but that is a different post for another day).
I need to say that another thing I needed to go through to make this final step happen was grief. I had to grieve and be sad about all the “potential” I saw in my family. That’s what makes it so hard for highly sensitive persons (HSPs) to leave unhealthy situations. We always see the potential of others and give them the benefit of the doubt. But we are quick to blame ourselves and say maybe it’s me. It’s not you! It’s them. But you still have to grieve about your loss of what “could have been.” And then you have to accept that they don’t want to change and never will.
In some ways I had to feel like I tried everything. As my children got busier I had to be more assertive to my mother about my time and that’s when the punishments got worse. The negative comments to undermine my confidence, the guilt-inducing threats about who is getting what in the will. I had to grieve about the material things. When I realized how horrible it is to do that to your children, it was easier to let it all go. I don’t want that “stuff” anyway, let my siblings have it all because it all kind of turns my stomach anyway. My Mom knew I always wanted her grandmother’s quilts but when I couldn’t come to a reunion because one of my kids had a concert she told me she was passing them out at the reunion. Over the next week my feelings took over. The rage I felt at first shocked me and then the grief–I grieved for those quilts. And then finally I accepted it–I no longer even wanted those quilts. Those quilts don’t represent love–they represent control and meanness. My greatgrandma was mean anyway. I can buy my own quilts that mean more to me than those quilts anyway. Then I wrote 2 songs “This Too Shall Pass” And Help Me to Forgive” . I’ll never forget it. And then I really felt stronger and freer knowing I could start making more boundaries for my mother without fear of getting kicked out of the will–I no longer cared.
Please don’t feel bad if you can’t take the plunge at freedom just yet. You have to be strong enough on your own and ready and that takes time. Be nice to yourself about it. Just know you have an ally in me and this blog community when the time comes to move on.
Another thing that kept stopping me from no contact was my dad. But I had to get in touch with my anger at him too. All the times he took her side and used his threatening “Don’t upset your mother!” really let me down! It hurt me so much more than I allowed myself to realize. My feelings never mattered to him either. It doesn’t matter that he never manipulated me the way she did or said mean things. He was never there for me as a child and he still isn’t today. I now see how I was very much afraid of his rejection and rage if I wasn’t obedient and sweet and quiet. Back then I felt guiltier about him than her but getting in touch with the denied anger at him helped me get over that. You have to fight for the right to be free from the negativity and control.
I have become more spiritual because of all the pain that I worked through and I resolved that I know I’ll see my parents in heaven and they will understand why I did what I had to do! My mother has everyone fooled with her brilliant performances being the victim of my so-called cold and heartless acts. One thing that helps is, in the last few years, I’ve shown my true self and my songs to a few relatives and it’s clear they are too enmeshed with my mother to let me in their hearts but I’m glad I tried and I know I touched them on a deep level. So I feel good about that.
So for any of you out there who are struggling with guilt for wanting to be free from your needy, controlling, guilt-inducing parent–there is hope! The guilt is a not a voice you should listen to–it is childhood pain to help you: get clarity about the truth of what happened to you as a child, get in touch with the repressed anger about being manipulated with guilt, use the anger for positive action for your own life, allow yourself to grieve that you never received unconditional love, comfort yourself through it, see your true essence, establish new healthy boundaries for yourself, release the past– layer by painful layer, and open up to the love and light from above that has been there for you all along, then ultimately feel empowered about being free to be YOU! Writing out your feelings in a journal will help you get clarity about the repressed emotions. This takes time but you can do it!
With love, Elaine