Growing up I knew my mom was a little different. I figured I was just even more so and that’s why we didn’t get along. I butted heads with her as soon as the age of 5 and 6 and it never stopped.
I learned much later that there was actually a term for what I just called “mean spirited.” The official term for my mom’s issue was Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
The definition of this condition is the following: “…is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
Sadly she also fell under the subcategory of “Malignant and Covert” which divides the pool even more.
A Malignant Narcissist: is a psychological syndrome comprising an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial behavior, aggression, and sadism. Often grandiose, and always ready to raise hostility levels, the malignant narcissist undermines families and organizations in which they are involved, and dehumanizes the people with whom they associate
75% of those diagnosed with this disorder are male. (APA, DSM IV-TR 2000).
Of the assumed remaining 25%, less than 4% are possibly malignant Narcissists (That’s my own estimate.)It wouldn’t surprise me if this number was much larger but there isn’t much to study here since it’s unusual for a Narcissist to seek help for an issue that denies flaws at its core.
This description makes everything seem so obvious and clear that there was a problem. But like any abusive relationship or situation you often don’t know it’s abusive until you leave, or it’s always been that way and you assume that behavior and those conditions are normal. Better yet, it gradually becomes severe and you barely notice it until it really hits you one day.
Stories of abuse are much like a car accident- they are awful for everyone involved, you want to look away but can’t. Which is why I’m assuming I’ve kept you this long, eh?
I’ve been at odds with my mother since the age of 5 or so. Right around the time my sister was born. My mother and I were inseparable until then. When my sister was born I was in the way a lot, told I was underfoot and needed to go do something. I hated being pushed aside but I didn’t blame my sister. She was just a baby and needed a lot of care. I understood that, but I began to think I shouldn’t be around when my sister was because I somehow made mom angry.
Believe it or not folks, kids notice when they aren’t wanted at a very very young age.
Things got much more blatant when I reached the inquisitive age a couple years later. You know the age. Why is the sky blue? What does that do? Who does that? I wanted to know everything. Unfortunately, everything was answered with a short tempered “I don’t know.” To this day I hate asking questions that seem like they must be obvious to everyone else.
I withdrew a lot around that time. I spent my time in my room or outside away from my mom. I did a lot of coloring and reading and playing with the neighbor kids.
She hit me occasionally but told me it was only because I made her so mad. (my fault, typical abuser fashion, blame the victim for your bad behavior) Most of her abuse though was emotional and verbal. She knew how to withhold love, affection, and simple relationship maintenance for any and everything she deemed wrong. I was grounded a lot for talking back. I was lashing out at her unknowingly, wanting to know why my sister had a mom/daughter relationship and I didn’t. She took away whatever I liked as a punishment. I cried for them, like a child does but eventually stopped caring. She once took something away saying it was bought with her money so it was still rightfully hers. It clicked with me that everything I owned was now hers and not really mine, right on down to my mattress. I learned quickly to remove any attachment to material things and hide my love of something tangible. It was all fair game to be used against me.
I was a good kid in school. Never acted up or talked back. Teachers would be shocked to hear I’d been grounded for something.
Into my preteen years my mom and I had even less in common. She wanted a slim and athletic girly girl, a makeup and appearances driven girl. Someone who cared about her appearance and style. I wasn’t ready for that, it wasn’t me. Rather than understanding and guiding in another direction it was made to be a disappointment and a point of shame. I was told countless times I was embarrassing the family.
You see, a Narcissist sees everyone they can control as an extension of themselves. In fact, my mom said that quite often. “Why don’t you think?! You are an extension of me! Everything you do reflects on me and makes me look bad.”
Once my teenage years hit (13+) I’d grown out of toys and stopped feeling attachment to items she could take away. She resorted to yelling a lot more. We got into at least one big argument a day. By this time I’d had enough. So I yelled back. Why not? I had nothing left to lose. I had no patience for her. I didn’t have to do anything to earn her daily screams after a while. I just became a routine. Stressed about bills? Marriage? My sisters grades? The dishes weren’t done? A chore wasn’t thorough enough? To me she went; to scream about things that I certainly had a hand in, accuse me of wanting to tear her down, make her look bad and being “disrespectful” to whatever it was she had concocted.
** I should interject here and explain what arguments entailed. Sometimes she raged at all of us at home, sometimes she just walked around the house yelling, most of the time it was aimed at me. *She typically confronted me in my room or while I was in the middle of a chore. She’d start off with a demeaning comment about something she thought I’d said or did. (usually this was hours after a normal conversation, she had the annoying habit of mulling over what she heard and making it something else in her mind. The most neutral comment could be twisted into an attack. Once she had decided this there was no explaining reality. Everything can and will be used against you.) Ignoring her isn’t really an option, she presses for a reaction. I can recall specific times in my childhood that she was so angry that she had me bent over backwards over my bed, tears running down my face, her screaming at me, less than an inch from my face. Veins bulging, watery eyes, red face, spitting on me, finger pressed against my face. She screamed until she lost her voice. Once I was older she’d square up and make me engage. Nothing changed on her end, but I stopped hiding and shrinking away. I went nose to nose and didn’t feel sorry. I was tired of being mistreated. I’m talking years of anger and mistreatment. It took a lot for me not to throw a punch but I knew that’d land me in unimaginable trouble. She’d push me, swat at me and grab my arms with a death grip. [I never bruised. How’s that for zero evidence? My sister bruised like a peach, I could get hit by a bus and get up looking like I’d just taken a warm bath.] If I dodged any of those attacks it just made the next one worse. I hated that I couldn’t fight back. I still have nightmares about that. I think that fueled me all the more. Her aggression was never a red flag to her, mother to daughter. She saw it as the only way to “get through [my] thick skull about the things [I] do.” Disciplinarian to transgressor. If anyone brought up her actions she’d deny it ever happening. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” , “You have a very creative imagination.” She was so skilled in the denial I often left the room believing I was the crazy one, I was the one in the wrong and deserved the yelling.
Expecting the attack, means your mind picks up on little clues. Much like a soldier suffering from PTSD after coming away from the intense atmosphere of a warzone. Little things are amplified and send you into defensive reactions. I knew her mood in an instant by the way she shut a door, washed a dish, opened mail, walked (stomped) up the stairs and even breathed. I didn’t know it until later how in-tune I was to the emotional atmosphere of a room. After leaving home, I left work early once saying I wasn’t feeling well. Reality: The cleaning lady was cleaning the room aggressively (blanging things around, dropping things, slamming cupboards) I couldn’t focus and nearly burst into tears expecting her to come marching up the steps to my desk to yell at me. I didn’t know how much anxiety was sitting on my back daily until I learned to let go.
When I was little and knew mom was angry I hid under my bed. (I kept books under there to keep me company) As a teen I faced her head on- almost happily. You want to engage? Let’s engage, I’ve had some anger built up to last lifetimes. When Dad got home from work she’d tell him what I said to her (her stories always conveniently left out the fact that she was the one yelling and tearing apart my room first.) claiming I’d been disrespectful and needed punishment.
Punishment was her favorite thing to do. I think she provoked me to get a reaction worthy of a punishment. She’d poke the bear, break the stick and ask why the bear attacked. (But then again, I’m sure that’s what she said about me.) She often left the punishment up to me, with her final approval. She never thought it was enough. No matter what I suggested. (keep in mind, I didn’t think I was justified. I just didn’t care. I was ready to take any punishment for fighting back.) The only thing she could take from me were my relationships and phone. All of those were expendable to me already. She couldn’t do much else other than make me miserable and break my spirit.
I was unhappy so deep down I didn’t even know it. I just thought that was who I was. In fact, in true NPD fashion my mom once told me I was the thundercloud that darkened a room just by entering it. Thanks, Mom!
Another thing about living with an NPD person is that originality is not allowed. Your hobbies and quirks have to be NPD approved. They have to make the Narc look good in public. “Your kid reads science theories for fun? That’s nice, my kid writes novels in his spare time.” See what I mean? If you take an interest in anything you have to become a pro otherwise you’re a failure and disappointment. If your interests don’t suit their needs or image it is stifled. The home was under a dictatorship when it came to personality, originality and free time. (Example: I couldn’t hang posters up in my room because “it wouldn’t look good with the furniture”. You can bet the inside of my closet door was covered in all things ME all through my teenage years.)
Outside the home was a different story. A Narc can act like the nicest person you’ve ever met. My mother liked to play the victim. If friends came over she’d provoke me until I dropped a snide remark and without wasting a breath she’d turn to the friend and say, “You’re such a good kid. Can you rub off on my child?” and “Do you see how they treat their mother?” and act so injured for an hour or so. The most frustrating part about that was to the average person her provoking goes undetected to anyone she hasn’t already been trained to react to certain things. Played like a violin and the NPD and you are the only ones who know.
She loved making it look like we were the perfect family in public, but once we got in the car to leave she flew into rage for anything. We had so many family meetings I couldn’t even tell you what they were all about. I stopped listening after a while. They all went the same way. Mom screamed until she couldn’t speak any more. No one could calm her down, nothing was off limits, everything was everyone else’s fault, and she wasn’t stopping until the majority of us was in tears. Interrupting or stopping her before she was finished only made things worse. I’d cry out of exhaustion and frustration before the family meeting even started. Not that it ever mattered.
A Narc often leaves one child feeling less wanted, less loved, less favored, and more often punished sometimes even for the other child’s transgressions. A multiple sibling environment is used in favor of the Narc. The Narc favors one above the other, usually the one most like them, known as The Golden Child. My sister is a people pleaser, she’s always had a bond with my mother I’ve never understood. In many ways she got a mom that I didn’t. She got a mom that liked her, and praised her, and she could make happy. I was in the way from the beginning and it manifested into active impatience and contempt until I left home.
What you see on the outside is rarely the whole picture. A Narcissistic Personality Disorder destroys, starves and divides and so easily hides from the eyes of others. If you ask me, it’s straight from Satan.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a sickness of the mind, and subcategory of malignant is usually from neglect in childhood. There is no cure.
Part 2 will be covering what it’s like dealing with this in a Christian home.
The Mild Millennial