Ricochet

I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away

(song lyrics from ‘Titanium’ by David Guetta featuring Sia)

As I think about the past years of blogging, I realised that the majority of posts are not about my mother (NM).  After all, she is the reason why I am here today (in more than one sense of the word).  And it feels appropriate, oddly enough, to come back to her after some time.

My tired, tumultuous relationship with her may have begun on my birthday but my long, difficult and rewarding journey began about four years ago.  Short in comparison with my actual age.

After going No Contact for five years, I broke it in the summer of 2012 (due to finding out my father was really ill).  Breaking it was easier than I thought it would be.  Something I hadn’t expected.  I guess ‘easy’ is a nice way of saying I survived it.  It didn’t kill me, it only lead to the flu the night before seeing her and then, walking pneumonia after (none of these sicknesses claimed DH).  My body survived and my mind eventually healed.  My soul is a work in progress.

“You can spend too long on a one-sided love.”  Mrs. Patmore (Downton Abbey)

Since that summer I have seen her on each of my visits to the US.  Here’s a summary:

2012 (summer) – NM was dismissive; ignoring me, only addressing the questions from DH.  She was hospitable and polite to him and never asked anything about us.

2012 (winter) – NM started out with her usual silent treatment.  At one point she made an abusive comment about me to my father and lied about something I had done.  I waited for one of her friends (that she had conned into coming over while I was there) to leave and asked her to go for a walk in the cold December air.

I chose my words, careful not to attack her.  I wanted to tell her I was hurt when she said this and why.  And within my first sentence she started her overt narcissism.  She started attacking me.  She steered the conversation to the past instead of discussing the two behaviours I was adressing and although I didn’t name call or attack her, I got angry.  I addressed all the past behaviours about me she brought up – like the fact that I went No Contact.  It wasn’t what I had wanted but I had made progress.  I hadn’t fallen so far down the hole that I couldn’t get out.  I stopped the conversation walked back to their house and said Goodbye to my father and left.

2013 (summer) – This visit included yet another ‘surprise’ guest (always a different person: a neighbour, a friend, a cousin) and she continued to return to her state of dismissiveness.

When I reflected on the past visits and wrote out the summary, I realised my mother treated me exactly how she did during my childhood.  She treated me with constant ebbs and flows of silent treatment and verbal abuse.  There was nothing surprising or different about her behaviours, nothing had changed except the years and me.

Before our recent visit, DH had never been witness to the awful things NM had said to me.  In fact, he was privileged to a different mother.  He saw through this and having learned so much about narcissism he could see that she failed to show actual warmth or caring or concern towards me.  She never asked the question: How are you?.

2013 (winter)

NM can so easily toggle between covert narcissism to overt that it seems that it should be accompanied by a Mozart movement.  It wasn’t until this colder December, DH was introduced to my mother’s overt narcissism.  I guess she had had enough of changing masks or maybe she saw it as a chance to point out what an awful daughter I am in front of DH, feeling righteous, as now her gun was loaded with enough ammunition.

As we (DH, my father and I) were sitting in the family room drinking coffee my mother walks in to join us.  An odd move as during my visits DH and I are left alone with my father (when there is no ‘surprise’ guest).  I ask her ‘How are you doing?’ hoping to have a peaceful, short visit before continuing to see friends six hours away by car.

In response to ‘How are you doing?’ she fired away with:

‘Anyway, do you know what I heard from your aunt* this morning, she was hesitating to tell me but she felt she should tell me.’

Her tirade was about the fact she didn’t know that DH and I had gotten married (DH and I got married December 2012).  It may seem weird but the only salvation I had in this was that DH knew it wasn’t my intention to not tell her (no wedding bands were hidden).  I was planning on telling her during the winter 2012 visit or during the summer 2013 visit.  There wasn’t a moment to tell her, the only time she sat with us is when there was an audience (of people I barely knew).  Then, our fight and her ignoring me didn’t seem like the ideal moment to say: btw, we are getting married.  I thought about telling my father but my father with his illness goes in and out of dementia.  He isn’t with it (most of the time) and when he seems to be, it is difficult for him to answer: ‘How are you?’.

To paraphrase, she stressed her words almost yelling:

‘How could you not tell me, I mean, isn’t it normal to tell your parents that you are getting married; (to DH) did you tell your parents that you got married?  I had to find out from your aunt and you didn’t even have the courtesy to tell us.  This is something that parents want to hear and parents would be happy for their children getting married.  I am sure you would want our blessing, everyone would want their parent’s blessing, of course, we would give you our blessing.’

After never saying ‘Congratulations’ and she got down from her soapbox, I said: ‘I am sorry I did not tell you.’  It was hard for even me to believe but I genuinely felt sorry I hadn’t told her.  She dismissed me and uttered that it is all well and good to be sorry and walked out.  My guess, having to reload her gun.  She had used up her first round.

It seemed like a good time to leave.  I wasn’t upset with what she had said nor did I feel she was right in behaving this way.  If she was hurt she hadn’t expressed it or happy about our marriage – she hadn’t expressed that either.

I sat there for about five minutes thinking about what had happened.  I was taken aback a bit by, well, the lack of emotional response to her words.  I had read from many of fellow blogger’s experiences that it hurts less.  And I wasn’t sure this would be the same path for me.

I said Goodbye to my father and said I would be back in the summer.  I checked my bulletproof vest and prepared for battle – not with a weapon like NM’s – but with a different one – my voice.

xxTR

*The aunt she heard the news of my marriage from is not the same aunt I wrote about in the post (The Sport of Paradoxing).

Related posts (words that came to me):

Caliban’s Sisters: Incapacity, Refusal, Acceptance

Through the Looking Glass: Name that Feeling: the Amygdala Hijack

The Project: Me by Judy – Stank on the Rock on FB

 

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23 thoughts on “Ricochet

  1. It’s good to do this sort of review, but I’m also happy to see that you moved on with your blog. In my little opinion, the Ns still have their hooks in you if you can’t write or talk about other things. They are such difficult people, aren’t they, and it’s so much worse when it’s a family member. At least in my case, I was able to divorce him. If he ever knew about this blog, though, he’d be trying to sue me, even though I’ve protected his identity (and my own).

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    • Hi Lynette,
      Writing/reviewing is such a great gift in that respect – all my thoughts are jumbled and interwoven and because of its linearity it helps me see the pattern and even how I feel about something.

      I think I will continue to write about narcissism and outside of this blog try and discover other aspects of myself that were never explored from growing up with maternal narcissism. Because I found out that it wasn’t only my mother were I needed to recover but also about 85% of my family of origin and friends (including husband’s side). I think I attract them but it is getting better on that. I can completely understand that Ns have a way of getting their hooks in, unhooking ’em one hook at a time :).

      I can see how that would be a threat, your ex trying to sue you. I often wonder if they have enough self-awareness to search for stuff about it? My husband and I have talked about that and we can’t see our N family and friends searching for emotions, emotional health or narcissism – simply because they have no self-awareness of anything – they think they are perfect!

      xxTR

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  2. I wonder if the mask slips because we stop buying into it, so they (Ns) try harder, which doesn’t work well with N behavior. Lies are made of the flimsiest of thread. It holds when no one tests it or pushes back with the truth and without the emotionalism. The emotions are the central force of the game. If they control the emotional content, they win. When I take responsibility for my own emotions, their game falls apart. Good for you, TR!

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    • Hi Judy,
      Thank you! I wonder that too, does it slip because we stop believing it, I think that is true. I like the analogy, the lies are made of the flimsiest of thread, very much so the mask is. It unravels before us.

      That is the huge part of it – my own emotions towards her behaviours. I was so focused on my pain and hurt. The game, almost like they are cheating, gets unravelled to where now, I am beginning to see how I can get out. That has given me renewed energy! xxTR

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  3. It is such an odd feeling when the bullets no longer pierce, isn’t it? I think it takes so much hard work to get to that point and I’m happy to hear that you’ve made it there. This was interesting to read about your mother, as I’ve not read much of your story about her.
    I do have to disagree with your first commenter. I DO think it’s important to make space for other things in your life, beyond narcissism. But I don’t think, for a child of a narcissist, to totally “move on” is quite that simple. Growing up with a narcissist changes the very fabric of who we are, and in moving on, we may be required to orphan ourselves. I’m not quite sure a divorce from an N compares. Not to say that being married to a narc must not be horribly painful, and that moving past it is easy. I’m sure it is not. But I just don’t see it as comparable. It’s not really the same thing at all.
    I’m not wanting to be combative with the commenter above, but I worry that hearing “move on” might make you feel that you need to progress faster, or that you can’t go back and explore issues more. Of course, focusing completely on the narcs keeps the attention on them, but, in my experience, totally focusing on the narcs and hauling it all out into the light is what made the difference. I’d love to move past it, but I imagine pieces of it will filter in through my whole life.

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    • Hi Jessie,
      Thank you! It was surprising and I wasn’t expecting it. I haven’t written about her a lot, although I face difficulties from my childhood with her today, I understand that our relationship will not be different and now she is a sort of ‘gatekeeper’ to see my father, unfortunately.

      Thank you for checking in on the that – comparing progresses. I have learned a lot about the phrase ‘move on’ because I have learned so much from all of you guys on different paths we take on recovery. I have found comfort in our similarities and in our differences. Similarities because I am not alone in this and I really felt like you guys were with me as I handled the situations during this visit (it feels so supportive) and the differences because it is a reminder to not compare or to think it ‘should’ go a certain way. I do feel like that too – that narcissism will continue to be a part of my life because healthy narcissism is necessary and because even if I have successfully dealt with all my past demons I will continue to meet new people who will be difficult and who will be unhealthy for me.

      I agree that it is important to make space for other things, narcissism is a huge part of our lives but it isn’t the most interesting thing about any of us. 🙂

      xxTR

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      • Hi TR, I think too, for me, being raised by a narcissist has obviously left it’s mark on the person that I am. Dealing with/learning about/struggling with the narcissists is one issue. But so much of what NM taught me was unhealthy and abnormal, and it will take awhile to unravel that too. I’ve had to completely shift my perceptions of the world and remove the “narc filter” she seemed to install in me. Then, there is removing a lot of those fleas that she installed in me. And as you said, I seem to have attracted quite a few narcs into my life too. So, learning why and how to fix that and the sort of “house cleaning” I needed to do of my life added another layer. Plus, trying to sort out how to be a parent in the midst of all of this complicates it more. There is just SO much work sometimes to do. Every time I think I’ve figured it out, a new layer seems to emerge. It has been a complete “remodel” of my life.
        I think several people (including yourself) bring up good points about observing narcissism once your emotions have cleared. Removing that amygdala hijack, removing the emotions clouding my vision, has helped me so much in being able to see what was going on. It was amazing what I was missing when I was so focused on my emotional reaction and not their behavior.
        I look forward to your next posts.
        P.S. Do you think their is a reason you write more about your in-laws than your mother? For me, I find that my NMIL situation is so much more difficult to deal with. With my NM, I’ve gotten to the point you have (realizing the relationship is what it is), but with NMIL, my husband seems to keep holding onto the idea that it will be “better” or “different”. It just makes it much more complicated and difficult to deal with, and I often feel helpless (and not in control of the situation. Not that I want complete control of it- I’ve been accused of that. But I would like control of me in that situation, and NMIL doesn’t seem to think that is OK.) Plus, it’s just easier to see the crazy in NM than in my very covert MIL :).

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      • Hi Jessie,
        I can completely understand how it seems that narcissism is ‘everywhere’. I feel like that is my case and when this realisation hit – my FOO, friends and DH’s FOO I was going out of my mind, this was when I started blogging. It can be so overwhelming that, I agree, a new layer emerges even after finding a starting point. I feel like screaming, is there a break ever?

        I feel that emotional health is a life encompassing thing. The abuse is a huge part and although it has affected me gravely I do believe there is more to me than what NM saw in me and how when someone knows about the unhealthiness that is sometimes all they see in me.

        Thank you, I’m writing round two and pulling stuff from my notebook. This was the first time this has happened with NM – vision clearing up.

        P.S. That is really funny that you ask and have noticed that. NM’s pattern were easy for me to see because she is overt too and well, I have known her all my life. My in-laws, it is all covert. It is so difficult to see the abuse but I know it is there. That is why I tend to write more about them, I know I need your guys thoughts on it more so – the crazy is so hidden ;).

        I am in exactly the same situation you write below. DH thinks the solution is with changing them and getting them to understand what they are doing and I feel like I don’t have the control too and have been accused of being controlling too. (So weird). I struggle with this because I have boundaries regarding them that are not the same as DH’s. But I secretly think they are the same because how he acts in front them and how he has ‘little’ escapes – he is getting better though. Although I think he is aware he hasn’t fully accepted the unhealthiness.

        My next posts from the visit will be about them and deciphering their crazy. I’ll keep an eye out for your next post on your in-laws. I think there is a way to handle the covertness because I think the majority of unhealthy people we meet (outside of FOOs) abuse covertly too. Hugs, TR

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      • Thank you for the clarification. I do see that the situations have their differences but I have learned much from your journey and the journey of others who have been involved with Ns later in life that your stories have equally guided me through this process. xx

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  4. Hi TR, first, I am impressed by the simplicity of the apology you offered your mother for not sharing the wedding news (although I understand why you didn’t). By simply saying “I’m sorry” for that, you’ve robbed her of any more ammo. What an amazing shift. To just feel for her, in that moment, to say you’re sorry, then to sit with your own feelings. That’s all you owe her; she thrives on indirection anyway.
    Re: writing about narcissism and its impact on your life, that’s kind of what this particular blog is for, no? I think we need to continue to explore the permutations as long as it helps us. Narcissism in parents has a deep reach in their kids, and it takes a long time to untangle the mess. xo CS

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    • Hi CS,
      Thank you. Yes! She does thrive on indirection. It is a bit weird to say this but she is someone for me to ‘study’ and ‘observe’. In a way she was very interesting to watch and see how the reels turned in her head. I’m writing Round Two now and putting together the ‘data’.

      I do foresee writing about it for a while for the reason you state – the deep reach of our parents takes time to heal. It is a place of healing for me and true exchange.
      Hugs, TR

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  5. TR love the new wallpaper on your blog. Or maybe I am just noticing tonight. Either way it is lovely. I believe it is an interesting place to be when their tirades stopping hurting not because we are numb but because their opinions are their opinions and their words are not our problem

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  6. Judy makes a good point about the mask.

    I tried low contact with my mom for awhile, but it didn’t work for me. Even when I saw the attacks coming and thought I was inured from it, underneath it still chipped away at me in sneaky ways. I wasn’t getting anything out of the relationship, so it’s better to be NC. It does affect my relationship with my siblings, but it did when I was in contact too because of NM’s triangulation. Now it’s easier for me to look like the bad guy. Oh well.

    I’m sorry your father is so ill. That must be very difficult. I’m glad you’re able to be bulletproof with your NM so you are able to do the other things you want to do when you visit the US.

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    • Hi PV,
      Thank you for your comment, I realised from your comment I wrote poorly on the lack of emotions – I meant emotional response – I will adjust it. Because I do believe words hurt.

      I understand that feeling, I am not getting anything out of the relationship with my NM. She is who I have deal with to see my father. I wonder what will happen when he passes (he has terminal illness). Thank you for your kind words, it is sad to see him each time and it is difficult for NM to deal with it – she is not getting the help she needs (she has the means to do so).

      xxTR

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      • I worry what would happen to my dad should he become ill or incapacitated because my mother is so selfish. She was horrible when her own mother was terminally ill despite having the means to help. So I am sure what you go through with your father must be very difficult. It’s good that you are so strong, although it is sad that you need to be in order to deal with your mother.

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      • That is a scary concern with mothers like ours, I think. My mother is verbally abusive to my father, has always been and he has never been 100% healthy going on 20 years now. I have never known my father to be full of life and I think he wanted so desperately to keep the peace that he let his own health suffer. His illness has no cause and I may be way off base but I often think about his situation and wonder if the year’s of living with abuse with my mother lead to this.

        Thank you for your kind thoughts.

        Hugs, TR

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  7. You know, I’m wondering whether it was not so much that you didn’t have an emotional response but that that you didn’t get your feelings sucked into her manipulations. Does that make sense? We still get an emotional response: we feel sad and disappointed and hurt, but we don’t get back into the “vortex” of having to defend or justify ourselves. In that sense, once you get to the point of “seeing” what’s really going on, it’s over. I’m guessing (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that you got a feeling that you were “watching” her go on with her tirade but as if you were standing back (emotionally speaking) from the situation.
    It always amazes me how they pull the “family card” (i.e. “isn’t it normal to tell your parents you’re getting married?”) but they never look at the reasons why they find themselves in that predicament. (I’ve recently seen that in BiL2 with regards to his daughters (-long story- will post about it in TNW) and I can’t get over the fact that they take no responsibility for their part in the situation and the best they can do is appeal to their kids sense of obligation because “We’re family”. I think you managed the situation beautifully, we all know that sudden and unexpected attacks are so hard to deal with. You did great.

    Hugs,
    Kara xxoo

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    • Hi Kara,
      I had trouble deciphering what went on with me emotionally. Yes, exactly, I didn’t revert to my old ways of justifying – which is something I had started to do in the previous winter visit and stopped myself when I caught myself. I didn’t feel my blood boil and I felt very calm and yes as if I was watching her. I was registering the triangulation when she tried to get DH into the conversation and her overuse of pronouns.

      When we left I was quiet during the road trip, I wrote in my notebook and I didn’t say much to DH and at some point I switched gears to the upcoming evening – which I knew was going to involve some shame triggers. I was able to handle the evening okay which told me I had dealt with the emotions from my mother but I can’t pinpoint what I did or I don’t have a good awareness of it. My guess is that it may of hurt less or I moved through it better than I used to. I did think about it and somehow realised that she wasn’t going to change. So, I’m at a loss of how I processed it and the words to describe it. Thank you for your comment because I don’t really understand what was happening at an emotional level with me.

      Thank you. It is amazing how they play that card. I don’t know if she honestly believes that that will work every time?

      Hugs, TR

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  8. OMG! I am so glad I stumbled upon this blog! I emailed you earlier about your relationship with your mom and found your recent visits from last year. The post on silence was me almost 3 years ago. We went to see my in-laws and what I observed was like this huge light bulb went of. I love my MiL but my FiL is so toxic and he’s an alcoholic. Then observing how my DH’s demeaner changes when he’s around his dad was sickening. It’s like he’s a totally different husband. Not that he was bad to me but he would cower from his dad and then retreat somewhere and get totally angry. Due to my extensive research on narcissism, he now sees it in his dad. The thing that I saw that hurt me the most from witnessing it was his dad’s ill treatment of my MiL. They have been married for over 50 years and this woman has put up with so much I realize now. From having to be the main bread winner since he didn’t hold down consistent work to taking his verbal abuse. We now realize that we can only stay for short periods of time. We’ll plan the trip as their home being the main base but we’ll leave for a few days at a time to get a break. I have 2 bro-in-laws and that’s a whole other dynamic but they are not narcs like your sibling in laws are. They are kind men but you can see how they have taught themselves to respond to the years of abuse and dysfunction. Anyway, thank you for this blog. Have you read Katherine Mayfields “the box of daughter.” ? Or….Melissa Francis’ Diary of a Stage Mothers daughter?. She was on Little House on the Prairie back in the 80s. She is now on Fox Business News. Both stories are just heartbreaking but make you feel like thank God I’m not alone. I know there are so many books out there. Like I said in my previous email, I’ve missed One Angry Daughter’s blog so this will be a great replacement. I’m going to search your site for dealing with narcs during the holidays. It’s getting easier every year but at the same time you question yourself…why is this my family life? It’s so ugly.

    Thank you again! I”m going to look forward to reading this Blog!

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    • Hi Kelly,
      It sounds like you have made really healthy decisions about you and your family of choice. And you understand the dynamics in your family of origin (your’s and your husband’s). It isn’t easy and I know that feeling of questioning oneself. I think it is normal to question it and it takes time to fully understand and access our intuition and how people make us routinely feel. I have often asked myself that question – why is this my family? It is hard to look at it and not want the past to have been different. To have a family that is healthy – this is often my fantasy. And when I am reality, it can’t be so. Accepting the past the way it is, is by far the hardest thing I have gone through. You bring up a great point – it does get easier. It is easier when not going at it alone 🙂

      Thank you for the book suggestions, I hadn’t heard of them and I will check them out.
      xxTR

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    • Kelly — OMG! I just looked up “The Box of Daughter” on Amazon and read the poem. I could have written it! I came up with the phrase “the small dark box” about twenty years ago in reference to the depressing cage I felt myself trapped in because of NM. And the observations about the brother… dang. I’m going to have to get this book. Thanks.

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