~ This blog continues on from a previous post which you can read by clicking here. ~
Despite the fact it took me until my mid 30s with many years dedicated to self-healing to finally figure out my mum is a covert narcissist, the weeks and months that followed have in some ways been the most difficult. On one hand I feel immense relief for having identified the issue but on the other hand I feel the weight of the recovery challenge. Upon diagnosis many questions were answered but many new questions have also surfaced.
If there’s one thing I passionately dislike, its conflict. I have always not coped with any degree of conflict to the point of feeling anxious about answering my phone if I think the caller might eat me or abuse me or something. I completely understand how absurd it is, its 100% bonkers. My mobile rings with a private number or even someone I know and my partner says, “It’s okay, it’s just an ordinary person, just another bare bum in the shower, they can’t hurt you.” Seriously. (This is something I’m working on because I’ve identified it ain’t exactly normal healthy and I now know where the issue stems from – I had debt collectors after me many moons ago and their hounding seriously traumatised me. And going further back, calls to my dad as a teenager always left me a sobbing, confused mess. Not to mention the ugly tone of my mother’s voice as she pretends to care even though she’s undermining and manipulating me in the same breath.) But even as a child when I perceived I was in the midst of a conflict situation (even just feeling a tense vibe between adults) I would withdraw completely and isolate myself in my imagination backspace until I thought it was safe to come out. Such a special little possum, aren’t I?
Needless to say that making the most of this traumatic situation with my mum and finding the opportunity to grow from the experience rather than let my fear steer the ship is somewhat of a challenge. Challenges are good though, right?
The first decision I knew I needed to make was whether I was going to keep her in my life in a controlled manner with safe boundaries or whether I was going to break contact with her altogether. The knowledge that she’ll never change due to the nature of this personality disorder and that as a grandmother her poison now harms my children too contributed immensely to my final decision. Until this moment never EVER did I EVER consider making such a bold and difficult decision – I honestly never thought I’d have to.
On the day the decision was made my anxiety had been consuming me; I felt absolutely crippled by it. I was sitting in the sun trying to gather my shit together so the kids and I could get on with our day when my phone rang. It was her. Like clockwork my anxiety began to rise up but on this occasion it was harder and hotter; rising up from my root chakra right up to my throat like a heavy cloak was squeezing the air out of me, like my blood had turned to stone. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t answer my phone. The ferocity of my feelings on this particular occasion was the sign I needed to get the situation sorted NOW.
Unless you have been stuck in the web of a narcissist yourself you probably won’t be aware of how painful conversations with them can be. They are highly skilled at twisting your words and using them against you. They build you up and then crush you down. They ask you questions and then turn their backs as you begin to answer. They are second to none at layering a conversation with fake admiration and chit chat on the surface and below that, often outside your awareness, they’re pulling strings and emotionally coercing you. They leave you feeling like “what just happened?” and because they are masters of their charade you feel like you lost the conversation to them even though it wasn’t a competition and all you wanted to do was chat about something harmless in a rational manner. It is constant high level mind fuckery. Until you realise you’re in their web it truly never crosses your mind that you’re their puppet or that they’ve calculated and mastered how best to provoke, fluster and control you.
I knew I needed to tell her. I also knew it’d be a complete disaster if I attempted speaking to her. So I texted. I asked her to stop trying to contact me. I said I wasn’t interested in speaking to her or seeing her. I explained why. I explained that I’d been documenting the situation for years and that with professional help I’d reached the point in my healing journey where I was strong enough to create a safe boundary and that I was doing so for my own sanity and for my family.
And then I blocked her number. I forwarded a copy of the text to my partner and a friend who both expressed how proud they were of me. I remember sighing with relief as I slumped back into a lounge chair; that single text message was a momentous move forward. As was blocking her number.
In the weeks that followed my kids both celebrated their birthdays and sadly my aunty, my mother’s sister, passed away. All of these occasions peaked my stress levels because this was water I hadn’t navigated before. Going “no contact” was one thing, but resisting the guilt trips and games to lure me back in was another thing entirely. I hadn’t even begun to figure out how I would go about mending my relationships with extended family members; she has contaminated these bonds and as the person at the centre of the family, she has triangulated with everyone. How do you face people who have been told you’re crazy and need help? What do you say when they think you need saving from your partner? How do you address all the lies that have been said about you when those very people adore the narcissist and have no idea they’re in the narcs web? I am yet to have such answers.
Choose love not fear sweetpeas,