Friday, April 27, 2012

The Nightmares

As the days accumulate after my victorious escape from the clutches of my parents' narcissism, the nightmares have grown in frequency and have led me to be a generally awful person to be around. I find comfort in virtually nothing except emptying my mind of all thoughts by watching mindless YouTube videos or looking through old friends' 1000-count Facebook album photos. This isn't the life I want to live and I am trying my best to find ways to confront my guilt and fear.

I left the apartment of theirs in a rather chaotic rush, leaving more than half of my belongings behind. Treasured books and curtains I took weeks to select were all parted with in a matter of an hour. Their narcissism had become increasingly threatening, had made my boyfriend lose his job (a more detailed story for later!!), and made me feel generally uncomfortable and unhappy. I had spent my whole life working to be the person that they wanted me to be: I chose the college they wanted me to choose, tried to get into graduate school to make them happy, and always showed them grades that proved I'd excelled. It didn't matter. Their response was always, "okay, keep it up." If anything was out of line in the house like a dish being left out or an argument between my brother and I flared up, the repercussions fell on me because I was always the inevitable target. I finally knew there was only one choice to make: give my things up and fit what I could in the car, or leave everything I'd worked for and fall again into their world of obligation and shame....only this time it would be worse for "putting them through what they had to go through with my latest rebellion." In a movie-like escape, I fled, middle-of-the-night style and moved to a place where I am allowed to be myself. However, any daughter of a narcissist (and anyone that enables them) knows that recovery comes not only with physical distance, and I've been completely unable to distance myself from them.

The nightmares come in many forms. Either I dream they find me here and pull me from the life I've made for the hair...into their car, or it's a dream about how they follow me from place to place and there is always someone watching me making me feel guilty about what I'm doing, like, private investigator style. Sometimes I even dream about one of many moments in my past where I felt such guilt and shame that I wanted to melt into the floor, like the times she embarrassed me in front of people for her humor or when she'd wake me in the middle of the night to yell at me because she knew I'd be too sleepy to respond and she'd finally get her unabashed say in how things should be. This has become and every day affair. I haven't been able to properly deal with how I feel about them as we are already financially pressed and I do not have the time to regularly confront the issue in some sort of guided therapy. Reading self-help books (like "Will I Ever Be Good Enough?" by Dr. Karyl McBride, which I highly suggest and daughters of narcissists read) and YouTube DIY videos are my only comfort, and even that isn't really good enough.

Even without them here, I am unable to feel rested, and I've grown increasingly grouchy over the past few days wondering whether all of the moves I've made are really worth it. Maybe they're right, or I'm wrong, or something. Why did I put all of my loved ones through this? Nobody deserves to be dragged into this mess. And what if I'm really crazy and have just been portraying my side well enough? Then they're efforts are really for naught. And how about all of the people I've been surrounded with who are doing fine? How are they doing it? Doesn't everyone have problems? Why aren't their problems affecting them like mine are? Simply put, excuse my French, I constantly feel like a piece of shit. Any little remark from anyone that has any sort of criticism or negativity mixed in sends me into a whirlwind of shittiness and memories of always not feeling good enough.

What's worse is that the exhaustion doesn't just come in an emotional form. I am physically deteriorating which is ridiculous for a person to be experiencing in her twenties. The stress they perpetually bring, even without their physical presence or close proximity, has taken its toll on my back and neck and have caused me to remain fatigued, even when I've slept for upwards of twelve, thirteen hours. I am in constant pain and have trouble picking things up that I've dropped on the floor because my muscles are so tense.

I need to look into coping mechanisms like writing about it like I'm doing here, but do any daughters of narcissists have any suggestions? I know I've already taken the right steps in distancing myself, and I don't think I'm quite ready to send them a letter acknowledging my hurt as I've already tried that and send myself into a two-day mental breakdown, but is there anything you do to separate yourself from your guilt? Do you have a hobby or is it more than that? I try to find solace in my husband but sometimes I just feel like he's pushing me too quickly, of course unintentionally. I don't blame him, but he just doesn't understand the extent of my weakness.

I'm just so....tired.



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Dog

I'm writing this before I go to take my dog King on a long walk; he needs the exercise as he has been cooped up lately due to the rain we've been having. As I was brushing my teeth this morning, I began thinking about how he was the impetus for a lot of the extremely drastic changes I've made recently, and how he helped free me from a lot of the narcissistic control that was going on in my life.

My husband and my second cat did not get along, and so when I gave him up to another family (for both of their sakes), I was pretty devastated. I felt like I had let the cat down; like he was a representative of the vulnerability I had all through childhood, and how me, without child, could exhibit traits of patience and kindness to him. I could be, for this cat, the mother that *I* never had. This is absolutely ridiculous considering he went to an exceptionally good family home with a kind and soft-spoken mother, her patient and loving husband, and their two gentle little boys. They were the perfect recipients of my pseudo-child, and perhaps could be more for this cat that I was being at the time. It is also ridiculous because I cannot live vicariously through a cat and expect to get by on the feelings I am *assuming* he feels. Such is the personality of someone traumatized from a lifetime of dealing with a narcissist. I had become the scapegoat for even the most minute events that happened in our household growing up, and I never came out of an argument the victor. Every conversation I've ever had with my mother has only left me a little more wounded or ashamed. A typical random jab would go as such:

(someone in a wheelchair rolls by, perhaps he or she broke his or her leg)

Mom: (stares condescendingly at the wheelchair person) You are so lucky you're healthy, that's the most important thing -- look at what happened to that poor person. *I* won't be healthy forever, that's why I deserve your attention and respect.

How did we even get to that? And how do you just openly say something like that? My mother is in her mid 60's and she is not going to hit her death bed for another 30 years minimum, I guarantee it. It is in her genes. Her father died at 86 and her mother at 92. She looks like she is MAYBE 50 years old. She is constantly at the gym and worried about her physique (as any wealthy narcissist NEEDS to do), but she is not worried about the simple things that people don't see like mammograms or routine dental checkups. The irony is that she complains about how she is going to die all the time, which is an excuse she got from her brother dying of a mesothelioma-like cancer from being exposed to toxins all the time (constantly going in basements for catch my drift). A simple cough turns into an exaggerated illness of the rarest kind -- she even milks it up to sound worse if you're talking to her. "Maybe I'm going to die," she coughs, "you never know." No, actually, I do know. You don't even have a cold. Something went down your throat the wrong way when you were shoving it down and hiding it from everyone. If she wanted to take care of her health, she'd make an attempt to stop being stressed about every little blip on the radar that comes her way. Yeah, sometimes the house gets a little messy. Sometimes things leak. Sometimes things don't go perfectly at work. She makes these issues life-or-death situations which, inevitably, pile up and cause death. Somehow, she thrives off of these things. And somehow, I feel like I owe her something due to the fact that she said it. Imagine she actually died after making a comment like that? I'd feel guilty forever. So, again, I'd keep getting drawn in.

Anyway, I digress. My (now) husband knew I was devastated over the cat and allowed me time to appropriately heal from the ridiculousness I was feeling. He fully explained to me that a cat cannot be a life I vicariously find happiness through, although I have a right to be sad to let go of a pet. Once I worked on these feelings, he decided he really did want another cat (but not one that did not get along with him), and so we decided to go to the pound to get another one. (I avidly support animal adoption.)

**An important note here is that we were living in a building at the time that is owned by my parents' company. That issue is a long one for another day, but let's just say I'm happy I'm out of there as of now. The fact that we lived there (and were decent, rent-paying tenants), is a major topic of contention for what follows.**

When we get to the pound, instead of being directed straight towards the section with cats and kittens, we pass the section of dogs. Even while I was single and living by myself I had always dreamed of owning a dog. I had one when I was still living in my parents house in high school, and I love animals. However, I couldn't find the time to care for a dog by myself, especially with a cat already in the house. After a little bit of trying to talk myself out of it, I cannot resist going in the dog section and having a look. Almost every dog is yappy and jumpy, two personality traits that would not mesh with an apartment building and the crazy complaining tenants that live there (who would complain to my parents...see the issue?). However, when I get to the end of the row, I see King. He, my husband, and I all clicked. He is composed and quiet, but not fatigued in any way, just sitting properly to see if we would have a look. Instantly, I knew I wanted to take this animal home. I also knew a dog would not be something my parents would be too fond about my having, but I decide to be strong and do what is going to make me happy (and make my husband happy because he wanted one too!). We take him home and I'm finally at peace. He is quiet and behaved and sweet, and just has a little bit of separation anxiety. He cries a little bit when we leave him, but stops and goes to sleep, an issue we can work on and fix in a matter of a couple months.

That peace doesn't last longer than about a week.

I don't get a text message or a phone call from my already-enraged-due-to-losing-control parents asking about why I have a "large dog" in my apartment and what we can do to solve the disagreement about my having it. No, instead I get a 10 Day Notice to Cure or they will commence an eviction which takes about two more legal business days. Basically, their lawyer sent me a notice saying "other tenants have been complaining. You have a little more than a week to get rid of the dog or I'm throwing you out. Sincerely, the lawyer for your parents." Talk about trying to exercise control. I would have been happy to have the discussion and arrange something had they been open with me. They're not just my landlords. They're supposed to be my parents. However, I know that the Notice to Cure is not just about the dog. They're upset that my boyfriend isn't what *they* imagined for me. They're upset that I don't call them every day anymore. That I'm not slaving working for them. You get my point. They're mad that I'm not their robot anymore, and they'll do anything to take me down. The dog is a perfect excuse.

 Well, at that point, I flew into devastation again. We could not afford to live anywhere else as my husband had just started his job, and I was in transition from working for my parents and being deliberately underpaid (aka they knew I didn't have enough to eat after I paid the rent). I was not getting rid of the dog. I couldn't do it. So, we scrambled for every option. I called Pet Hotlines and reached out to everyone we knew for foster care. Fortunately, a family friend took him for a couple of weeks so we could find a little more time to figure out how to get out.

All I get in the meantime is a message from my mother which basically asks what has become of me and why I continue to do such hateful things to MY family. (Hah, MY family) Why, she asks me, would I reject people that have given me everything? That *is* a question she would ask. I choose not to respond as I am not ready to do it in a respectful manner and it would probably only send me backwards at this point. I cannot afford a therapist at the moment. I'm working on all of this myself.

In a story for another time, we are forced to leave the apartment sooner rather than later due to their hand being in our professional lives as well. Hang tight for that one.

Simply put, I would have been caught in their net for so much longer had the dog not caused their lawyer to send Notice to Cure. (By the way: turns out neighbors weren't complaining, it was passed along to us that my parents had hired a private investigator to follow us. Weird.) I finally took the step and was courageous enough to move out of a place they owned, a place that was so familiar to me in a sick obsessive way. It really was an action that was so straightforward instead of the perverse "we love you so we're doing this horrible thing to you". 

I still feel really out of my element; I'm in a totally different place with a different vibe and its unfamiliarity makes me nervous. I was so comfortable being a child due to being treated like a child. I had grown comfortable being told what to do and who to be, even with argument and tantrum. However, I'm ready to learn how to be an act like an adult. I am married and in a totally new place now. It's time to start over and figure out who I want to be.

I'm just glad my dog is a part of it. Time to go walk him!

My best. <3

Monday, April 23, 2012

Introduction, Background, and Intent

I am not a writer. My thoughts are all over the place and nothing ever seems cohesive, but I'm going to give this my best shot.

Throughout my childhood, I was afforded all of the finer things in life: all of the gifts I could have ever dreamed up--from Barbies to books to clothes from boutique stores, the luxury of private school and fancy birthday parties. However, as I transitioned from little girl to moldable teen to developed adult, I managed to realize that things weren't quite the same in my house as they were in others. I may have been wealthy and well-to-do, but I knew somehow underneath it all that I was a victim of something truly subversive. My mother, without question, is a narcissist. She has a full blown disorder.

I could write for years about the stories that come out of my childhood, and even more so my teenage years. About the accumulation of wounds that have turned me, simply put, into a traumatized human being. About how my mother was just about the most narcissistic human being to walk the planet; each conversation was about her and how hard her pampered life had truly been. How she learned it from her mother. About the unnecessary demands and the soap she'd shove into my mouth when I spoke up for what I believed in. About how she'd rile up my father into an angry hulk-like monster who would lose himself and take it out on me. About how I always carried around the guilt and feelings of shame for not being able to make others happy -- and how when I would express even an inkling of independence they'd convince others I was disobedient and mentally unstable. However, I've decided to take a step back from getting it all out at once and write more specifically about how I'm feeling on my path to recovery, and which of those stories are relevant to the roadblock I'm facing.

To give you JUST a little bit of background, I was, as I've mentioned, a wealthy girl from a wealthy city surrounded by luxury in a home I was not allowed to touch (apparently the oils in our hands will disintegrate the whole house). I was raised by an au pair (who I thank to this day for making me normal). I was taught to love things and people *with* things. I was taught that I was to marry someone in the same religious, financial, racial, and political background as I (aka them). I wore what they wanted me to wear. I cut my hair how she wanted it cut. I studied what she wanted me to study. I went to University close to our home because I knew it was what she wanted. Finally, however, I decided to make a change, simply because deep down I am not that person. I tried to be an asshole, I really did. I wore Lacoste and tried to like the boys I was supposed to like. It really didn't work at all. I want to learn the things I want to learn, love who I want to love and speak how I want to speak. Narcissists do not like these things, and have caused the inevitable crumbling that has taken place.

Fast forward through all of the drama I will take time to disclose as I am reminded of it through the upcoming months, I am now NOT in that wealthy city, not provided with a single dime from their estate, in a home filled with loving people who are helping me transition from traumatized to empowered. I am surrounded now (finally) by people I can hug and love and sometimes even curse in front of without threat of reprimand. If they have two, they find a way to give me three. I am now married to one of these people. I am meeting and choosing to reach out to those I felt are/were genuine in my life, which sadly is not many -- I suppose this is primarily because I was surrounded my whole life by people who were also driven by the love of money and their grandiose selves.

I am no longer on the short leash with the choke collar I've been on my whole life. I am finally emerging from the cloud of confusion and feelings of self deprecation and shame. However, I am in the period where I accidentally reflect on a memory and fall into the same feelings of shame all over again. I still feel like a hurt puppy with no say in my life's pathway.

That's all going to change, and I hope you take the time to continue your recovery with me. I want to hear your stories. I hope we can find a way to acknowledge and confront that we truly were victims. For too long I've been carrying the guilt of not having the family I wanted. It is my turn to live a happy life.