Category: Mental Health

I recently read a post about Narcism on the blog “Sanctuary for the Abused” which you can find here:

I thought it was a really good post, and wanted to copy it here (although it is very long!).  Something I have not talked about in some time is concerning the abuse my children and I endured from my ex.  He is extremely narcisistic, and this post really details so many things that he has done to me in the past, as well as his treatment of my children (which unfortunately continues).  This post is specifically about Narcisistic Mothers, but it definately could apply to anyone, in any relationship.

Sanctuary for the Abused

Friday, March 23, 2012

Narcissistic Mothers’ Characteristics


1. Everything she does is deniable.
There is always a facile excuse or an explanation. Cruelties are couched in loving terms. Aggressive and hostile acts are paraded as thoughtfulness. Selfish manipulations are presented as gifts. Criticism and slander is slyly disguised as concern. She only wants what is best for you. She only wants to “help” you.

She rarely says right out that she thinks you’re inadequate. Instead, any time that you tell her you’ve done something good, she counters with something your sibling did that was better or she simply ignores you or she hears you out without saying anything, then in a short time does something cruel to you so you understand not to get above yourself. She will carefully separate cause (your joy in your accomplishment) from effect (refusing to let you borrow the car to go to the awards ceremony) by enough time that someone who didn’t live through her abuse would never believe the connection.

Many of her putdowns are simply by comparison. She’ll talk about how wonderful someone else is or what a wonderful job they did on something you’ve also done or how highly she thinks of them. The contrast is left up to you. She has let you know that you’re no good without saying a word. She’ll spoil your pleasure in something by simply congratulating you for it in an angry, envious voice that conveys how unhappy she is, again, completely deniably. It is impossible to confront someone over their tone of voice, their demeanor or they way they look at you, but once your narcissistic mother has you trained, she can promise terrible punishment without a word. As a result, you’re always afraid, always in the wrong, and can never exactly put your finger on why.

Because her abusiveness is part of a lifelong campaign of control and because she is careful to rationalize her abuse, it is extremely difficult to explain to other people what is so bad about her. She’s also careful about when and how she engages in her abuses. She’s very secretive, a characteristic of almost all abusers (“Don’t wash our dirty laundry in public!”) and will punish you for telling anyone else what she’s done. The times and locations of her worst abuses are carefully chosen so that no one who might intervene will hear or see her bad behavior, and she will seem like a completely different person in public. She’ll slam you to other people, but will always embed her devaluing nuggets of snide gossip in protestations of concern, love and understanding (“I feel so sorry for poor Cynthia. She always seems to have such a hard time, but I just don’t know what I can do for her!”)

As a consequence the children of narcissists universally report that no one believes them (“I have to tell you that she always talks about YOU in the most caring way!”). Unfortunately therapists, given the deniable actions of the narcissist and eager to defend a fellow parent, will often jump to the narcissist’s defense as well, reinforcing your sense of isolation and helplessness (“I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that!”)

2. She violates your boundaries.
You feel like an extension of her. Your property is given away without your consent, sometimes in front of you. Your food is eaten off your plate or given to others off your plate. Your property may be repossessed and no reason given other than that it was never yours. Your time is committed without consulting you, and opinions purported to be yours are expressed for you. (She LOVES going to the fair! He would never want anything like that. She wouldn’t like kumquats.) You are discussed in your presence as though you are not there.

She keeps tabs on your bodily functions and humiliates you by divulging the information she gleans, especially when it can be used to demonstrate her devotion and highlight her martyrdom to your needs (“Mike had that problem with frequent urination too, only his was much worse. I was so worried about him!”) You have never known what it is like to have privacy in the bathroom or in your bedroom, and she goes through your things regularly. She asks nosy questions, snoops into your email/letters/diary/conversations. She will want to dig into your feelings, particularly painful ones and is always looking for negative information on you which can be used against you. She does things against your expressed wishes frequently. All of this is done without seeming embarrassment or thought.

Any attempt at autonomy on your part is strongly resisted. Normal rites of passage (learning to shave, wearing makeup, dating) are grudgingly allowed only if you insist, and you’re punished for your insistence (“Since you’re old enough to date, I think you’re old enough to pay for your own clothes!”) If you demand age-appropriate clothing, grooming, control over your own life, or rights, you are difficult and she ridicules your “independence.”

3. She favoritizes.
Narcissistic mothers commonly choose one (sometimes more) child to be the golden child and one (sometimes more) to be the scapegoat. The narcissist identifies with the golden child and provides privileges to him or her as long as the golden child does just as she wants. The golden child has to be cared for assiduously by everyone in the family. The scapegoat has no needs and instead gets to do the caring. The golden child can do nothing wrong. The scapegoat is always at fault. This creates divisions between the children, one of whom has a large investment in the mother being wise and wonderful, and the other(s) who hate her. That division will be fostered by the narcissist with lies and with blatantly unfair and favoritizing behavior. The golden child will defend the mother and indirectly perpetuate the abuse by finding reasons to blame the scapegoat for the mother’s actions. The golden child may also directly take on the narcissistic mother’s tasks by physically abusing the scapegoat so the narcissistic mother doesn’t have to do that herself.

4. She undermines.
Your accomplishments are acknowledged only to the extent that she can take credit for them. Any success or accomplishment for which she cannot take credit is ignored or diminished. Any time you are to be center stage and there is no opportunity for her to be the center of attention, she will try to prevent the occasion altogether, or she doesn’t come, or she leaves early, or she acts like it’s no big deal, or she steals the spotlight or she slips in little wounding comments about how much better someone else did or how what you did wasn’t as much as you could have done or as you think it is. She undermines you by picking fights with you or being especially unpleasant just before you have to make a major effort. She acts put out if she has to do anything to support your opportunities or will outright refuse to do even small things in support of you. She will be nasty to you about things that are peripherally connected with your successes so that you find your joy in what you’ve done is tarnished, without her ever saying anything directly about it. No matter what your success, she has to take you down a peg about it.

5. She demeans, criticizes and denigrates.
She lets you know in all sorts of little ways that she thinks less of you than she does of your siblings or of other people in general. If you complain about mistreatment by someone else, she will take that person’s side even if she doesn’t know them at all. She doesn’t care about those people or the justice of your complaints. She just wants to let you know that you’re never right.

She will deliver generalized barbs that are almost impossible to rebut (always in a loving, caring tone): “You were always difficult” “You can be very difficult to love” “You never seemed to be able to finish anything” “You were very hard to live with” “You’re always causing trouble” “No one could put up with the things you do.”

She will deliver slams in a sidelong way – for example she’ll complain about how “no one” loves her, does anything f1or her, or cares about her, or she’ll complain that “everyone” is so selfish, when you’re the only person in the room. As always, this combines criticism with deniability.

She will slip little comments into conversation that she really enjoyed something she did with someone else – something she did with you too, but didn’t like as much. She’ll let you know that her relationship with some other person you both know is wonderful in a way your relationship with her isn’t – the carefully unspoken message being that you don’t matter much to her.

She minimizes, discounts or ignores your opinions and experiences. Your insights are met with condescension, denials and accusations (“I think you read too much!”) and she will brush off your information even on subjects on which you are an acknowledged expert. Whatever you say is met with smirks and amused sounding or exaggerated exclamations (“Uh hunh!” “You don’t say!” “Really!”). She’ll then make it clear that she didn’t listen to a word you said.

6. She makes you look crazy.
If you try to confront her about something she’s done, she’ll tell you that you have “a very vivid imagination” or that you “made it all up” (this is a phrase commonly used by abusers of all sorts to invalidate your experience of their abuse) that you don’t know what you’re talking about, or that she has no idea what you’re talking about. She will claim not to remember even very memorable events, flatly denying they ever happened, nor will she ever acknowledge any possibility that she might have forgotten.

This is an extremely aggressive and exceptionally infuriating tactic called “gaslighting,” common to abusers of all kinds. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up without any confidence in your intuition, your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the abuser.

Narcissists gaslight routinely. The narcissist will either insinuate or will tell you and others outright that you’re unstable, otherwise you wouldn’t believe such ridiculous things or be so uncooperative.
You’re oversensitive.
You’re imagining things.
You’re hysterical.
You’re completely unreasonable.
You’re over-reacting, like you always do.
She’ll talk to you when you’ve calmed down and aren’t so irrational.
She may even characterize you as being neurotic or psychotic.

Once she’s constructed these fantasies of your emotional pathologies, she’ll tell others about them, as always, presenting her smears as expressions of concern and declaring her own helpless victimhood.
She didn’t do anything.
She has no idea why you’re so irrationally angry with her.
You’ve hurt her terribly.
She thinks you may need psychotherapy.
She loves you very much and would do anything to make you happy, but she just doesn’t know what to do.
You keep pushing her away when all she wants to do is help you.

She has simultaneously absolved herself of any responsibility for your obvious antipathy towards her, implied that it’s something fundamentally wrong with you that makes you angry with her, and undermined your credibility with her listeners. She plays the role of the doting mother so perfectly that no one will believe you.

7. She’s envious.
Any time you get something nice she’s angry and envious and her envy will be apparent when she admires whatever it is. She’ll try to get it from you, spoil it for you, or get the same or better for herself. She’s always working on ways to get what other people have. The envy of narcissistic mothers often includes competing sexually with their daughters or daughters-in-law. They’ll attempt to forbid their daughters to wear makeup, to groom themselves in an age-appropriate way or to date. They will criticize the appearance of their daughters and daughters-in-law. This envy extends to relationships. Narcissistic mothers infamously attempt to damage their children’s marriages and interfere in the upbringing of their grandchildren.

8. She’s a liar in too many ways to count.
Any time she talks about something that has emotional significance for her, it’s a fair bet that she’s lying. Lying is one way that she creates conflict in the relationships and lives of those around her – she’ll lie to them about what other people have said, what they’ve done, or how they feel. She’ll lie about her relationship with them, about your behavior or about your situation in order to inflate herself and to undermine your credibility.

The narcissist is very careful about how she lies. To outsiders she’ll lie thoughtfully and deliberately, always in a way that can be covered up if she’s confronted with her lie. She spins what you said rather than makes something up wholesale. She puts dishonest interpretations on things you actually did. If she’s recently done something particularly egregious she may engage in preventative lying: she lies in advance to discount what you might say before you even say it. Then when you talk to anyone about what she did you’ll be cut off with “I already know all about it…your mother told me… (self-justifications and lies).” Because she is so careful about her deniability, it may be very hard to catch her in her lies and the more gullible of her friends may never realize how dishonest she is.

To you, she’ll lie blatantly. She will claim to be unable to remember bad things she has done, even if she did one of them recently and even if it was something very memorable. Of course, if you try to jog her memory by recounting the circumstances “You have a very vivid imagination” or “That was so long ago. Why do you have to dredge up your old grudges?” Your conversations with her are full of casual brush-offs and diversionary lies and she doesn’t respect you enough to bother making it sound good. For example she’ll start with a self-serving lie: “If I don’t take you as a dependent on my taxes I’ll lose three thousand dollars!” You refute her lie with an obvious truth: “No, three thousand dollars is the amount of the dependent exemption. You’ll only lose about eight hundred dollars.” Her response: “Isn’t that what I said?” You are now in a game with only one rule: You can’t win.

On the rare occasions she is forced to acknowledge some bad behavior, she will couch the admission deniably. She “guesses” that “maybe” she “might have” done something wrong. The wrongdoing is always heavily spun and trimmed to make it sound better. The words “I guess,” “maybe,” and “might have” are in and of themselves lies because she knows exactly what she did – no guessing, no might haves, no maybes.

9. She has to be the center of attention all the time.
This need is a defining trait of narcissists and particularly of narcissistic mothers for whom their children exist to be sources of attention and adoration. Narcissistic mothers love to be waited on and often pepper their children with little requests. “While you’re up…” or its equivalent is one of their favorite phrases. You couldn’t just be assigned a chore at the beginning of the week or of the day, instead, you had to do it on demand, preferably at a time that was inconvenient for you, or you had to “help” her do it, fetching and carrying for her while she made up to herself for the menial work she had to do as your mother by glorying in your attentions.

A narcissistic mother may create odd occasions at which she can be the center of attention, such as memorials for someone close to her who died long ago, or major celebrations of small personal milestones. She may love to entertain so she can be the life of her own party. She will try to steal the spotlight or will try to spoil any occasion where someone else is the center of attention, particularly the child she has cast as the scapegoat. She often invites herself along where she isn’t welcome. If she visits you or you visit her, you are required to spend all your time with her. Entertaining herself is unthinkable. She has always pouted, manipulated or raged if you tried to do anything without her, didn’t want to entertain her, refused to wait on her, stymied her plans for a drama or otherwise deprived her of attention.

Older narcissistic mothers often use the natural limitations of aging to manipulate dramas, often by neglecting their health or by doing things they know will make them ill. This gives them the opportunity to cash in on the investment they made when they trained you to wait on them as a child. Then they call you (or better still, get the neighbor or the nursing home administrator to call you) demanding your immediate attendance. You are to rush to her side, pat her hand, weep over her pain and listen sympathetically to her unending complaints about how hard and awful it is. (“Never get old!”) It’s almost never the case that you can actually do anything useful, and the causes of her disability may have been completely avoidable, but you’ve been put in an extremely difficult position. If you don’t provide the audience and attention she’s manipulating to get, you look extremely bad to everyone else and may even have legal culpability. (Narcissistic behaviors commonly accompany Alzheimer’s disease, so this behavior may also occur in perfectly normal mothers as they age.)

10. She manipulates your emotions in order to feed on your pain.
This exceptionally sick and bizarre behavior is so common among narcissistic mothers that their children often call them “emotional vampires.” Some of this emotional feeding comes in the form of pure sadism. She does and says things just to be wounding or she engages in tormenting teasing or she needles you about things you’re sensitive about, all the while a smile plays over her lips. She may have taken you to scary movies or told you horrifying stories, then mocked you for being a baby when you cried, She will slip a wounding comment into conversation and smile delightedly into your hurt face. You can hear the laughter in her voice as she pressures you or says distressing things to you. Later she’ll gloat over how much she upset you, gaily telling other people that you’re so much fun to tease, and recruiting others to share in her amusement. . She enjoys her cruelties and makes no effort to disguise that. She wants you to know that your pain entertains her. She may bring up subjects that are painful for you and probe you about them, all the while watching you carefully. This is emotional vampirism in its purest form. She’s feeding emotionally off your pain.

A peculiar form of this emotional vampirism combines attention-seeking behavior with a demand that the audience suffer. Since narcissistic mothers often play the martyr this may take the form of wrenching, self-pitying dramas which she carefully produces, and in which she is the star performer. She sobs and wails that no one loves her and everyone is so selfish, and she doesn’t want to live, she wants to die! She wants to die! She will not seem to care how much the manipulation of their emotions and the self-pity repels other people. One weird behavior that is very common to narcissists: her dramas may also center around the tragedies of other people, often relating how much she suffered by association and trying to distress her listeners, as she cries over the horrible murder of someone she wouldn’t recognize if they had passed her on the street.

11. She’s selfish and willful.
She always makes sure she has the best of everything. She insists on having her own way all the time and she will ruthlessly, manipulatively pursue it, even if what she wants isn’t worth all the effort she’s putting into it and even if that effort goes far beyond normal behavior. She will make a huge effort to get something you denied her, even if it was entirely your right to do so and even if her demand was selfish and unreasonable. If you tell her she cannot bring her friends to your party she will show up with them anyway, and she will have told them that they were invited so that you either have to give in, or be the bad guy to these poor dupes on your doorstep. If you tell her she can’t come over to your house tonight she’ll call your spouse and try get him or her to agree that she can, and to not say anything to you about it because it’s a “surprise.” She has to show you that you can’t tell her “no.”

One near-universal characteristic of narcissists: because they are so selfish and self-centered, they are very bad gift givers. They’ll give you hand-me-downs or market things for themselves as gifts for you (“I thought I’d give you my old bicycle and buy myself a new one!” “I know how much you love Italian food, so I’m going to take you to my favorite restaurant for your birthday!”) New gifts are often obviously cheap and are usually things that don’t suit you or that you can’t use or are a quid pro quo: if you buy her the gift she wants, she will buy you an item of your choice. She’ll make it clear that it pains her to give you anything. She may buy you a gift and get the identical item for herself, or take you shopping for a gift and get herself something nice at the same time to make herself feel better.

12. She’s self-absorbed. Her feelings, needs and wants are very important; yours are insignificant to the point that her least whim takes precedence over your most basic needs.
Her problems deserve your immediate and full attention; yours are brushed aside. Her wishes always take precedence; if she does something for you, she reminds you constantly of her munificence in doing so and will often try to extract some sort of payment. She will complain constantly, even though your situation may be much worse than hers. If you point that out, she will effortlessly, thoughtlessly brush it aside as of no importance (“It’s easy for you…/It’s different for you…/You aren’t as sick as I am”).

13. She is insanely defensive and is extremely sensitive to any criticism.
If you criticize her or defy her she will explode with fury, threaten, storm, rage, destroy and may become violent, beating, confining, putting her child outdoors in bad weather or otherwise engaging in classic physical abuse.

14. She terrorized. For all abusers, fear is a powerful means of control of the victim, and your narcissistic mother used it ruthlessly to train you.
Narcissists teach you to beware their wrath even when they aren’t present. The only alternative is constant placation. If you give her everything she wants all the time, you might be spared. If you don’t, the punishments will come. Even adult children of narcissists still feel that carefully inculcated fear. Your narcissistic mother can turn it on with a silence or a look that tells the child in you she’s thinking about how she’s going to get even.

Not all narcissists abuse physically, but most do, often in subtle, deniable ways. It allows them to vent their rage at your failure to be the solution to their internal havoc and simultaneously to teach you to fear them. You may not have been beaten, but you were almost certainly left to endure physical pain when a normal mother would have made an effort to relieve your misery. This deniable form of battery allows her to store up her rage and dole out the punishment at a later time when she’s worked out an airtight rationale for her abuse, so she never risks exposure.
You were left hungry because “you eat too much.” (Someone asked her if she was pregnant. She isn’t).
You always went to school with stomach flu because “you don’t have a fever. You’re just trying to get out of school.” (She resents having to take care of you. You have a lot of nerve getting sick and adding to her burdens.)
She refuses to look at your bloody heels and instead the shoes that wore those blisters on your heels are put back on your feet and you’re sent to the store in them because “You wanted those shoes. Now you can wear them.” (You said the ones she wanted to get you were ugly. She liked them because they were just like what she wore 30 years ago).
The dentist was told not to give you Novocaine when he drilled your tooth because “he has to learn to take better care of his teeth.” (She has to pay for a filling and she’s furious at having to spend money on you.)

Narcissistic mothers also abuse by loosing others on you or by failing to protect you when a normal mother would have. Sometimes the narcissist’s golden child will be encouraged to abuse the scapegoat. Narcissists also abuse by exposing you to violence. If one of your siblings got beaten, she made sure you saw. She effortlessly put the fear of Mom into you, without raising a hand.

15. She’s infantile and petty.
Narcissistic mothers are often simply childish. If you refuse to let her manipulate you into doing something, she will cry that you don’t love her because if you loved her you would do as she wanted. If you hurt her feelings she will aggressively whine to you that you’ll be sorry when she’s dead that you didn’t treat her better. These babyish complaints and responses may sound laughable, but the narcissist is dead serious about them. When you were a child, if you ask her to stop some bad behavior, she would justify it by pointing out something that you did that she feels is comparable, as though the childish behavior of a child is justification for the childish behavior of an adult. “Getting even” is a large part of her dealings with you. Anytime you fail to give her the deference, attention or service she feels she deserves, or you thwart her wishes, she has to show you.

16. She’s aggressive and shameless. She doesn’t ask. She demands.
She makes outrageous requests and she’ll take anything she wants if she thinks she can get away with it. Her demands of her children are posed in a very aggressive way, as are her criticisms. She won’t take no for an answer, pushing and arm-twisting and manipulating to get you to give in.

17. She “parentifies.”
She shed her responsibilities to you as soon as she was able, leaving you to take care of yourself as best you could (i.e. covert incest). She denied you medical care, necessary transportation or basic comforts that she would never have considered giving up for herself. She never gave you a birthday party or let you have sleepovers. Your friends were never welcome in her house. She didn’t like to drive you anywhere, so you turned down invitations because you had no way to get there. She wouldn’t buy your school pictures even if she could easily have afforded it. As soon as you got a job, every request for school supplies, clothing or toiletries was met with “Now that you’re making money, why don’t you pay for that yourself?” You worked three jobs to pay for that cheap college and when you finally got mononucleosis she chirped at you that she was “so happy you could take care of yourself.”

She also gave you tasks that were rightfully hers and should not have been placed on a child. You may have been a primary caregiver for young siblings or an incapacitated parent. You may have had responsibility for excessive household tasks. Above all, you were always her emotional caregiver which is one reason any defection from that role caused such enormous eruptions of rage. You were never allowed to be needy or have bad feelings or problems. Those experiences were only for her, and you were responsible for making it right for her. From the time you were very young she would randomly lash out at you any time she was stressed or angry with your father or felt that life was unfair to her, because it made her feel better to hurt you. You were often punished out of the blue, for manufactured offenses. As you got older she directly placed responsibility for her welfare and her emotions on you, weeping on your shoulder and unloading on you any time something went awry for her.

18. She’s exploitative.
She will manipulate to get work, money, or objects she envies out of other people for nothing. This includes her children, of course. If she set up a bank account for you, she was trustee on the account with the right to withdraw money. As you put money into it, she took it out. She may have stolen your identity. She took you as a dependent on her income taxes so you couldn’t file independently without exposing her to criminal penalties. If she made an agreement with you, it was violated the minute it no longer served her needs. If you brought it up demanding she adhere to the agreement, she brushed you off and later punished you so you would know not to defy her again.

Sometimes the narcissist will exploit a child to absorb punishment that would have been hers from an abusive partner. The husband comes home in a drunken rage, and the mother immediately complains about the child’s bad behavior so the rage is vented on to the child. Sometimes the narcissistic mother simply uses the child to keep a sick marriage intact because the alternative is being divorced or having to go to work. The child is sexually molested but the mother never notices, or worse, calls the child a liar when she tells the mother about the molestation.

19. She projects.
This sounds a little like psycho-babble, but it is something that narcissists all do. Projection means that she will put her own bad behavior, character and traits on you so she can deny them in herself and punish you. This can be very difficult to see if you have traits that she can project on to.

An eating-disordered woman who obsesses over her daughter’s weight is projecting. The daughter may not realize it because she has probably internalized an absurdly thin vision of women’s weight and so accepts her mother’s projection. When the narcissist tells the daughter that she eats too much, needs to exercise more, or has to wear extra-large size clothes, the daughter believes it, even if it isn’t true.

However, she will sometimes project even though it makes no sense at all. This happens when she feels shamed and needs to put it on her scapegoat child and the projection therefore comes across as being an attack out of the blue. For example: She makes an outrageous request, and you casually refuse to let her have her way. She’s enraged by your refusal and snarls at you that you’ll talk about it when you’ve calmed down and are no longer hysterical.

You aren’t hysterical at all; she is, but your refusal has made her feel the shame that should have stopped her from making shameless demands in the first place. That’s intolerable. She can transfer that shame to you and rationalize away your response: you only refused her because you’re so unreasonable. Having done that she can reassert her shamelessness and indulge her childish willfulness by turning an unequivocal refusal into a subject for further discussion. You’ll talk about it again “later” – probably when she’s worn you down with histrionics, pouting and the silent treatment so you’re more inclined to do what she wants.

20. She is never wrong about anything. No matter what she’s done, she won’t ever genuinely apologize for anything.
Instead, any time she feels she is being made to apologize she will sulk and pout, issue an insulting apology or negate the apology she has just made with justifications, qualifications or self pity: “I’m sorry you felt that I humiliated you” “I’m sorry if I made you feel bad” “If I did that it was wrong” “I’m sorry, but I there’s nothing I can do about it” “I’m sorry I made you feel clumsy, stupid and disgusting” “I’m sorry but it was just a joke. You’re so over-sensitive” “I’m sorry that my own child feels she has to upset me and make me feel bad.” The last insulting apology is also an example of projection.

21. She seems to have no awareness that other people even have feelings.
She’ll occasionally slip and say something jaw-droppingly callous because of this lack of empathy. It isn’t that she doesn’t care at all about other people’s feelings, though she doesn’t. It would simply never occur to her to think about their feelings.

An absence of empathy is the defining trait of a narcissist and underlies most of the other traits I have described. Unlike psychopaths, narcissists do understand right, wrong, and consequences, so they are not ordinarily criminal.
She beat you, but not to the point where you went to the hospital.
She left you standing out in the cold until you were miserable, but not until you had hypothermia.
She put you in the basement in the dark with no clothes on, but she only left you there for two hours.

22. She blames. She’ll blame you for everything that isn’t right in her life or for what other people do or for whatever has happened.
Always, she’ll blame you for her abuse. You made her do it. If only you weren’t so difficult. You upset her so much that she can’t think straight. Things were hard for her and your backtalk pushed her over the brink. This blaming is often so subtle that all you know is that you thought you were wronged and now you feel guilty.
Your brother beats you and her response is to bemoan how uncivilized children are.
Your boyfriend dumped you, but she can understand – after all, she herself has seen how difficult you are to love.
She’ll do something egregiously exploitative to you, and when confronted will screech at you that she can’t believe you were so selfish as to upset her over such a trivial thing.
She’ll also blame you for your reaction to her selfish, cruel and exploitative behavior. She can’t believe you are so petty, so small, and so childish as to object to her giving your favorite dress to her friend. She thought you would be happy to let her do something nice for someone else.

Narcissists are masters of multitasking as this example shows. Simultaneously your narcissistic mother is:
1) Lying. She knows what she did was wrong and she knows your reaction is reasonable.
2) Manipulating. She’s making you look like the bad guy for objecting to her cruelties.
3) Being selfish. She doesn’t mind making you feel horrible as long as she gets her own way.
4) Blaming. She did something wrong, but it’s all your fault.
5) Projecting. Her petty, small and childish behavior has become yours.
6) Putting on a self-pitying drama. She’s a martyr who believed the best of you, and you’ve let her down.
7) Parentifying. You’re responsible for her feelings, she has no responsibility for yours.

23. She destroys your relationships.
Narcissistic mothers are like tornadoes: wherever they touch down families are torn apart and wounds are inflicted. Unless the father has control over the narcissist and holds the family together, adult siblings in families with narcissistic mothers characteristically have painful relationships. Typically all communication between siblings is superficial and driven by duty, or they may never talk to each other at all. In part, these women foster dissension between their children because they enjoy the control it gives them. If those children don’t communicate except through the mother, she can decide what everyone hears. Narcissists also love the excitement and drama they create by interfering in their children’s lives. Watching people’s lives explode is better than soap operas, especially when you don’t have any empathy for their misery.

The narcissist nurtures anger, contempt and envy – the most corrosive emotions – to drive her children apart. While her children are still living at home, any child who stands up to the narcissist guarantees punishment for the rest. In her zest for revenge, the narcissist purposefully turns the siblings’ anger on the dissenter by including everyone in her retaliation. (“I can see that nobody here loves me! Well I’ll just take these Christmas presents back to the store. None of you would want anything I got you anyway!”) The other children, long trained by the narcissist to give in, are furious with the troublemaking child, instead of with the narcissist who actually deserves their anger.

The narcissist also uses favoritism and gossip to poison her childrens’ relationships. The scapegoat sees the mother as a creature of caprice and cruelty. As is typical of the privileged, the other children don’t see her unfairness and they excuse her abuses. Indeed, they are often recruited by the narcissist to adopt her contemptuous and entitled attitude towards the scapegoat and with her tacit or explicit permission, will inflict further abuse. The scapegoat predictably responds with fury and equal contempt. After her children move on with adult lives, the narcissist makes sure to keep each apprised of the doings of the others, passing on the most discreditable and juicy gossip (as always, disguised as “concern”) about the other children, again, in a way that engenders contempt rather than compassion.

Having been raised by a narcissist, her children are predisposed to be envious, and she takes full advantage of the opportunity that presents. While she may never praise you to your face, she will likely crow about your victories to the very sibling who is not doing well. She’ll tell you about the generosity she displayed towards that child, leaving you wondering why you got left out and irrationally angry at the favored child rather than at the narcissist who told you about it.

The end result is a family in which almost all communication is triangular. The narcissist, the spider in the middle of the family web, sensitively monitors all the children for information she can use to retain her unchallenged control over the family. She then passes that on to the others, creating the resentments that prevent them from communicating directly and freely with each other. The result is that the only communication between the children is through the narcissist, exactly the way she wants it.

24. As a last resort she goes pathetic.
When she’s confronted with unavoidable consequences for her own bad behavior, including your anger, she will melt into a soggy puddle of weepy helplessness. It’s all her fault. She can’t do anything right. She feels so bad. What she doesn’t do: own the responsibility for her bad conduct and make it right. Instead, as always, it’s all about her, and her helpless self-pitying weepiness dumps the responsibility for her consequences AND for her unhappiness about it on you.

As so often with narcissists, it is also a manipulative behavior. If you fail to excuse her bad behavior and make her feel better, YOU are the bad person for being cold, heartless and unfeeling when your poor mother feels so awful.

FACEBOOK GROUP FOR DAUGHTERS OF NARCISSISTIC MOTHERS (closed group – you must apply to join via Facebook)


Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day.  I had someone ask me last night if it was “messing me up”; if it would be a hard day for me.  Honestly, Valentine’s Day was never a very huge deal between my fiance and I.    I typicaly haven’t put a huge importance on Valentines Day, as I think that every day should be an opportunity to show your loved ones that they are important.  But, with saying that – I’ve never completely ignored or disavowed Valentine’s Day just because of the commercialization of the day.  So, I have participated, even if it was not a big of deal as it is to some.

Last year; Valentine’s Day was a horrible day.  My fiance was not in a good place.  I got him a little something; and it sent him into a pretty intense tirade.  He hadn’t gotten me anything; and although I didn’t say anything to him about it; he was mad that I had done something for him.  We got into a huge argument about it.  Strangely; in both of my serious relationships (with my fiance and with my ex-husband) Holiday’s always seemed to be the days that they struggled with the most, and I don’t have a lot of great memories of ANY holiday.

 I wonder – how is everyone else dealing with it?  Is this a good day for you; or not so much?  What about Holidays in general?  I’m just curious if other’s share the same experiences on Holidays?

I have been thinking about this post for awhile.  But, I want to be careful and sensitive to those living with Bipolar; as I in no way want to paint anyone with a mental or emotional disorder in a bad light.  For me, though, it’s important to have a place to write about my experiences without censor.  So – I hope I am able to express this in a way that is honest without appearing to have any discriminatory feelings towards anyone with Bipolar.

I met my fiancé in December 2008.  I had just started going out, trying to meet new friends, a year and a half after I had separated from my abusive husband.  I went to a Christmas themed pub crawl, and I was very nervous.  I don’t make friends easily – and I was still in a very vulnerable place.  This man approached me during the night; full of vibrancy and life.  He was funny, over-the-top, and full of energy.   He accepted me into the group and made me feel like he had known me for my whole life.  He made me feel welcome, and made sure that I never felt alone in any of the group events I attended in the next few months.  Eventually, we started to spend one-on-one time with each other, and he won me over with his extraordinary kindness and generosity.  I felt safe with him.  Like he would never let any harm come to me. 

 He did tell me early on that he was depressed.  But, he tended to make light of it – joking about it and downplaying it.  He did mention that one Doctor had diagnosed him Bipolar, but he discounted this.   He also told me of the medications that he had been on in the past; and the medications he was on at the time.  Now, I understand that these were all typical bipolar medications; but I really knew nothing of the disease at the time.

My first experience with one of his true, intense lows was less than a year after we had met.  We had just decided to exclusively date a few months prior.

We had an argument earlier in the day, and were set to go to a party that night.  He was feeling insecure about the argument, and got upset with me for “flirting” with other people at the party.  He ended up leaving me at the party without telling me.  When I realized he was gone, I tried to call several times but he would not answer.  I was stranded at the party; I had left my car at his house.  I ended up getting a ride from someone else, back to his house.

He was passed out; completely overdosed on his medications.  He finally woke up and came down the stairs; screaming obscenities at me and telling me to leave.  However – the next day he remembered nothing of that night.  He contacted me and blamed me for never coming over.  He starting accusing me of staying the night with someone else; when I had really spent the night on HIS couch. 

He wouldn’t get out of bed for over a week.  He threatened suicide.  He screamed at me, ranted and raved and popped all sorts of pills.    Ambien, vicodin, xanax, seroquel… anything he could get his hands on.  I stayed at his house as much as I could, to try and make sure that he was ok.

 This was completely out of my realm of experience.  I had dealt with an abusive husband; but I had no idea how to handle what was happening with him.  Of course, he blamed the whole episode on me.  I still had enough of the victim’s guilt in me that I believed him and I wanted to “fix” it.

Eventually, he stopped overdosing on the pills (that time), and came out of it.  He didn’t remember any of what had transpired.  He apologized, and said that sometimes he went through “lows”.   He swore that he would keep his medications in check; and that he would stop taking his Ambien – which he blamed for the black-outs.   I cared enough that I stuck around, and hoped that I would be able to prevent it from happening again, by being a better partner.

We had good times and bad times.  Gradually, I began to detect a pattern.  Periods of extreme “hyper-ness”, of wanting to go out and be the life of the party, needing the social experiences and everyone laughing at him and feeling like he was the most popular person on the planet.  During these times, he was calling me numerous times a day, to tell me of the most mundane things – and would talk in this very fast, rambling way.  I was always afraid to tell him I had to get back to work; because I didn’t want to ruin this buoyancy and send him into another depression. 

These were the times he would go to Home Depot on a whim, and come back with a carload of things that he was going to use to improve the house.  He would have to finish it all without taking a break.  One time he tore out all the carpet in the downstairs and installed wood floors.  Another time, he completely redid the bathroom – new tile, new paint, everything.  He would get angry when I wasn’t as exuberant about getting this project done as he was; or if I got in his way… or if I didn’t anticipate his needs and help in the way he needed, at the moment he needed me to.

I came to know that these highs meant that the lows were about to come.  No matter how happy he was during his manic episodes; the lows ALWAYS came after.  Days in bed.  He was barely able to get out of bed to go to work.  Sometimes, he was not even able to do that – and would call in sick or come home early.  He would come home with stories about how his boss was such a “fucking asshole.”  He would tell me about how he had screamed at his boss, and how he didn’t know if he had a job anymore.  He never seemed to think this behavior was out of the ordinary. 

I went days where he wouldn’t call me during the day, and he wouldn’t answer his phone.  The only thing he seemed to want to talk about when he WAS able to communicate is to say how horrible his life was.  How much he wanted to die.  He had a love affair with the idea of dying.  He would talk of the ways it would happen.  About how he would make it look like an accident so that I wouldn’t have to live with the fact that he had committed suicide.  Every time this came up, I told him to stop.  I couldn’t handle all of his talk of suicide, and it scared me.  I would try and make him promise he wouldn’t do anything rash.  His favorite phrase was “Well, I won’t actually commit suicide, but I wouldn’t care if I got hit by a bus.”

 Later, he talked about how he hated me and my children; because we were keeping him from dying – when that is really all he wanted to do.  He would tell me that we were the only things standing between him and blissful death.

When things got bad enough; I would take his gun and hide it.  He would tell me that he would never use a gun to kill himself; that he would find another way.  Every single time he had one of these lows… I had such anxiety.  I had anxiety when he wouldn’t return my texts.  I had anxiety when he seemed down when he DID answer his phone.  I would have anxiety when I was pulling into the complex; wondering if his car would be parked there when he was supposed to be at work.  If I did see his car – I would look up at the windows and start panicking if the lights were out; because that would mean he was in bed; having a depressive episode.  I would open the front door on these days, shaking so badly that  I could not get my key to fit into the lock.  I didn’t know what I would find when I opened the door.  I always wondered – would this be the day I would find him overdosed on his medications?  I would walk up the stairs with dread at the silence, and open the bedroom door to find him completely covered in blankets; and I would come to him to see if he was still breathing.

Then… he would finally come out of his depression, and another manic stage would begin.  He would be loving and kind and funny…. and I would try and tell myself that it was all ok now.  He took more of an interest in the kids than their father ever did.  He cared for them, and he cared for me, deeply.  I knew this.  But, I also knew that a lot of the times he loved the idea of death more; and I was in a constant battle to try and convince him to love me, and life, more than death.

When 2011 started; it signified a very drastic turn in my partner.  I noticed his depressions lasting longer.  His paranoia was increasing to a point where we could not go out together, as he was convinced I would just wander off with another man, or I would so something to hurt him (none of which was substantiated).  He didn’t like my clothes, as he thought they were too sexy.  He didn’t want me to wear makeup, because he saw it as an indication that I was trying to get attention from other men.  He didn’t want me to wear high heels.  We were essentially confined to the house, of which I began to thought of as a prison.  No matter how gently I tried to coax him to get out the house; even just for a small walk; it always ended in a fight.  He became convinced that I hated him.  That I was going to hurt him.  No matter what I did, or how hard I tried – these convictions became more and more real to him every day.

He started counseling.  His counselor again diagnosed him with bipolar.  She said he was going thru a quite common occurrence in people with bipolar, in which their symptoms get very bad during the spring time.  He saw a psychologist who tried to change up his meds.  Nothing became better, and he began to drift farther and farther from me.

One day in early May – he overdosed on Xanax and took his motorcycle for a drive.  He told me later that he was hoping to die that night.  He wanted to wreck the bike and make it look like an accident.  He came home more depressed than ever – because he was “too chicken” to go through with it.

I wish that I could say this story had a happy ending.  But, two weeks after the motorcycle incident – he kicked me out of the house, and after 3 long days of overdosing on his medications – he shot himself in his bed (he broke into my safe and took his gun which I had taken from him during his last suicide threat).  Despite my attempts to get him help – no one would respond.  I finally went over to the house and found him, sometime within a day of the time he had committed suicide.

I know that I will never truly understand what he felt inside, and that I cannot compare my experiences with his.  However, although I was not the one diagnosed Bipolar; in a way – I lived that life with him.  I was a passenger on the roller coaster that he went through on a daily basis.   I experienced it in the 3rd person, and I know how helpless and afraid I felt.  Now, I am here and he is not.  I read somewhere that suicide does not end pain; it just disburses it.  I am living proof of that.  This is now my legacy.

This post is the hardest one that I ever expect to write.  In fact, it has been almost 7 months in the making.  It’s taken me that long be able to put my experience into words to explain my story – especially in a way that would be readable to those who weren’t personally involved.

I would say that many Americans  are wondering if law enforcement is prioritizing what is truly important.  Especially with the “Occupy” movements being publicized around the Nation.  What are they focusing on?  Are they here to truly protect and serve us?  Not in my experience.

If you were like me, growing up you heard stories about how police officers were there to help you.  “If you are ever in trouble- try to find a police officer.”  “Drive to your nearest police department.”  “Call 911!”

How many times have we all heard these phrases?  And we believed them, at least I did.  I believed that police officers where there to help.  That they were on the job, risking their lives each day, in order to keep order.  To HELP those who needed them.

I can think of many circumstances, as I am sure many people can, which have made me question if I can trust the law to keep me and my loved ones safe.  I have had difficulties in having the law uphold my restraining order; in protecting my children; in protecting those I love and THEIR children..  But, the ultimate betrayal and confirmation of how little you can trust “officers of the law”  to hold up their end of the bargain came in the days leading up to my fiance’s death in May.

My fiancé was diagnosed bipolar.  He was taking all the right steps to try and control this disease.  He had started counseling.  He was making med changes on the advice of his doctors.  He was a fighter, and wanted to beat this disease.  But, he was sick.  He was so sick that his disease began to take control of him.  Just as a cancer patient whose deadly cells begin to multiply and take over.

He became suicidal.  He was repeatedly overdosing on his medication.  I personally requested the police to help.  To provide a “welfare check” or, in technical terms – a “5150 – Involuntary psychiatric hold.”   I asked multiple times , over several days – to no avail.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this piece of a police officer’s job, a “5150” is a 72 hour involuntary psychiatric hold – which a police officer can order.  When a police officer has probable cause to believe that “…a person, as a result of a mental disorder, is a danger to himself/herself or others or is gravely disabled, they can place this person into custody and place him or her in a facility for a 72-hour treatment and evaluation.”   In order to do this, the facility into which they are placed will also “require a written application stating the circumstances under which there is probable cause to believe that a person is, as a result of mental disorder, a danger to himself/herself or others or is gravely disabled”   In addition – this probable cause can be based on the statement of a person other than a police officer, or a professional person.  The legal consequence is – this person shall be liable in a civil action if they intentionally give a statement that he or she knows to be false.”

So – what this means is that a police officer can, either based on their own observations, or on another’s observations, commit a person to a psychiatric hold.   Not only did the Police Department refuse to perform this duty; but they actually lied to me about the circumstances in order to help protect themselves, and the bureaucracy they work for.  Why?  My only guess is to avoid possible retribution for not performing the duties that were assigned to them by law.

The beginning of the end happened during a medication change suggested by my partner’s Doctor.  He had always had issues with abusing his medications.  He turned to them when he was feeling sad.  Overwelmed.  Anxious. This time was no different.  His paranoia took over.  No matter what I said, no matter what anyone else said, he wouldn’t/couldn’t stop.   He needed some serious intervention.

I had to leave the house, due to my safety and the safety of my children.  But, I never gave up trying to get him the help he needed.

First, I called the crisis line.    They recommended that his counselor try to talk to him and convince him to go to the hospital.  If that didn’t work or if he seemed to be getting worse – they told me I should get the police involved. They also told me that there is a mobile crisis team that will come out and perform a wellness check.  Since there were weapons involved, they would need to be accompanied by the police, if it came to that.  He stopped answering his phone, stopped answering his door.   The only communication I received (anyone received) was a few incoherent text messages.

So, I called the crisis line back.  They recommended I call the police to get a mobile crisis team out to do a welfare check on him.  I called the police. I also called the mobile crisis line to ask them to come out as well.   The mobile crisis line said that it would be faster to have the cops call them to come out, once they arrived.

The police came out.   I told them I wanted a welfare check.  They told me that they would not call unless they were able to check on him themselves and see if they thought he needed it.  They told me to stay out of sight from the house.  I waited.  And waited.  They came back a few times and told me that they had been calling his number and knocking on the door but he wouldn’t answer.  Therefore, they couldn’t call the crisis unit – as they could not make a visual confirmation that he needed help (which, is not required – they could have called based on my statement!).  They suggested that I stay away from the house.   I asked them to talk to the neighbor as she had seen how desperately he needed help and could testify that he was not ok.  They told me that she was standing at her door when they came up; but that she closed the door on them.  They finally left.

I called the mobile crisis line back later that night.  I begged them to go over and check on him.  They finally agreed – and brought a police escort.  They called me back later that night; and said that they had been to the complex; but did not go up to the door as they deemed it too dangerous (with the police escort).  They told me they had tried to call but did not get ahold of anyone.

The next day came.  He left me one last text message.  Again mostly incoherent but obviously suicidal – a “goodbye”.  After that – his phone was turned off and no one heard from him for the rest of the day. He didn’t even call in sick to work, which he had always made sure to do in the past, and had done the past few days.

I called the police again.  I begged them to go over to the house.  I  told them that I still had a key, and that I could open the door so that they didn’t not have to worry about entering the house without consent (this was my home, as well).  I even offered to go into the house, but I wanted a police escort.  They told me that they would not agree to anything until I came to meet them.  So, I drove 45 minutes into town to meet with the cops.  Four or five officers showed up to speak to me;  even the captain came out.

They continued to refuse to go to the house.  They said it was too dangerous – because they had to walk up stairs to get to the house – and they didn’t have a good escape route.  They urged me not to go to the house either.  They used the excuse that they had already been out twice and couldn’t go again.  They tried calling – even though I told them his phone had been shut off all day.  One officer finally decided to drive by the house.  They came back, said his car was in the driveway and the lights were off, so it was obvious he was home.  I asked them how long we would have to wait before anyone would agree to check on him.  They wouldn’t give me an answer.  One of the officers finally took pity on me and told me that he would be on duty at 5:00 the next evening, so I could call back then and “maybe they would agree at that time.”

The next day, I was finally able to find a phone number for our neighbor.  I called and she confirmed that she had not heard any noise coming from his house since the previous morning.  At that point, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer.  I had to do the job that the police and refused to do; as it was “too dangerous” for them.

I entered the house, and found my fiancé.  Dead; by suicide.  Three days after I initially contacted the police, and the crisis team, for help.  Had they been willing to heed my calls at any time during those 2 or 3 days – my fiancé may have been able to get the help he needed –and he may still be alive today.  Now, dozens of lives have been shattered and the world has lost a wonderful human being.

Eventually, I went to talk to my neighbor.  What I found out is that the first time they came out to the house – she DID talk to them.  She opened her door and tried to tell them he needed help.  With their guns drawn, they told her to go back inside and lock her door.  They also talked to my fiancé.  They asked him if he had threatened me and he said no.  So they left.  And then, came back to where I was waiting and denied that they had been able to talk to either him OR my neighbor.  They were VERY aware that the reason I had called was for a welfare check only.  I had NEVER told them he had threatened me and I had made it very clear that he was suicidal, and that was why I was calling.   And, as anyone who dealt with him at all in those past several days could attest – there is NO way that any police officer would have been able to look at him and decide that he was ok, and that he did not need intervention.  Why would they have had to lie to me, if that was the case?  Why would they continue to lie to me – and in fact later tell me that it was “too dangerous” for them to go to the house; if they felt that he was not a danger to himself or someone else?

I cannot describe the helplessness I felt, when I reached out to the police for help.  But, it pales in comparison with the betrayal I felt when I realized that not only did they refuse to help; but they also lied about their involvement and the fact that they had actually made visual confirmation – which they  had stated was  necessary in order for the crisis team to intervene and save a life.

I wonder, many times, how these police officers feel.  Do they lose sleep at night?  Do they think about all they could have done – and in fact were employed to do – so save a human life?  Do they even CARE?

I understand that there must be good police officers out there.  Ones who truly care and risk their lives to help.  But, I definitely haven’t met any – and I don’t know if I can ever forgive them for refusing to try and save a very precious life.