Surviving My Narcissistic Mother

by Michelle Piper

The following is a survivor story from one of our readers:

I was a parentified, enmeshed adult daughter of a narcissistic mother and complicit enabling father when I finally began to break free. It was following a semester away from home in university that I came to the realization that life was infinitely better when I was out on my own. I made huge changes in my life, struggled to live within my means, and broke up with my mean-spirited high school boyfriend. Reluctantly, after a blissful term of personal growth and freedom, I moved home again to finish my final year. It was then that the war really began.

“I’ll admit to it! I resented you!” my mother shouted at me completely out of the blue. I froze, totally unfamiliar with this scenario. My mother had been ‘predictably unpredictable’ for my whole life until this moment. A new game was beginning, and not knowing the rules filled me with a cold dread. Living in a city on my own was enough to push her pathological envy of me and my life to terrifying new heights. What happens next had therapists literally competing for my business.

I moved back to the city once my degree was completed. I thought it would be like my semester away – but this time, my mother followed. She quit her career, moved to the same city, and switched into my field of study without any experience at all; she wanted to work at the same place as me. She wanted to live in the same block as me. In fact, in time she wanted me to move in with her, into a swanky apartment that was “better” than the one I had rented. She dressed like me. She contacted my friends on Facebook to hang out with her. She took up sports and activities that I did – she replicated my entire life as best she could and competed with me in a way that could best be described as obsessive.

Moving out was strategy #1. It helped, but she followed a few months later. Shutting down emotionally was strategy #2; I couldn’t do much to avoid her at the time, so whenever we were together, I would try to detach myself from my emotions – I kept my mind as blank as possible, almost as if I was asleep or sedated. This vacuum in my emotions (and thoughts) made interaction almost tolerable, but I soon learned that more was required; strategy #3 was to limit all transfer of information.

To compete with me, she needed to know what I had, what I did, where I went, etc. So slowly, carefully, I began to pull back. What did I do last week? Nothing – work, I guess. What did I do on the weekend? Sleep in.  If I had gone on a shopping spree, learned an oriental language, climbed a mountain or saw the best concert of my life, it was intentionally omitted. I put less up on Facebook and I certainly didn’t call attention to anything new. I tried to make my life sound as dull as humanly possible.

Strategy #4 was the most important of all. When I had became engaged, then married, and had to deal with my mother losing her mind out of jealousy, I knew I couldn’t get by without a therapist. It wasn’t difficult to find one – I interviewed several and found one with a sliding scale so that I could afford the help I so needed. I didn’t realize how important it was at the time. Suicidal thoughts, emotional breakdowns, frightening heart arrhythmias and bleeding stomach ulcers were wearing me out. Seeing a therapist may have saved my life.

I’m still in therapy, every week for over a year now. It’s a hard go, but without this help, I’m not sure how successful I’d be in setting boundaries, which is strategy #5. At present, my husband and I have successfully enforced the “don’t show up at our apartment without prior consent” boundary which was a biggie, and by not playing nicely with her in the communication department or meeting up with her, she’s quit speaking to me altogether (I get it in the neck from dear old ‘enabler dad’ now instead, and relatives I barely know are messaging me through Facebook insisting that I patch things up with my poor mother).

“Low Contact” is working for us thus far, but I still feel that the worse is yet to come. However, since taking up therapy, reading every blog I can find on NPD, and presenting a united front against my mother with my husband, I feel more and more certain that I can win the next battle…and also win the ‘war’.

From:  Quercus Garryana

Admin of The Acon Society blog: aconsociety.blogspot.com

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

L November 3, 2012 at 5:35 am

wow its a very good story i hope to read more like this very relateable and helpful.

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Michelle Piper November 5, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Thank you for your kind comment.

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tatum December 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Wow…my husband has literally gone through the exact same steps with his narc mother and enabling father. My mother in law has manipulated the entire family against us, and the thing that I am still struggling with is this feeling of being “lied on” by her. She is painting us out to be awful people when I know we are not. I know for a fact that she has lied on me to my husband’s brother and his wife, all in an effort to make herself look good and us look bad. She denies like crazy and projects all of her traits onto us.

It is a process for sure. Best of luck to you!

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Charles May 22, 2013 at 12:49 am

I completely understand and can relate to your feelings of being “lied on” as you put it. Trust me when I tell you that narcissists have a significant blind spot in their emotional persona and everyone they interact with will eventually get a taste of their toxic lies and never ending attempts to manipulate. Their delusion and lack of empathy for anyone but themselves prevents them from realizing how absurd and duplicitous they come off to the rest of civilization. They are not only there own worst enemy but oftentimes actually delivery the message of reality, or the “truth” with there own ridiculous actions and behavior. Besides a narcissist serving as an outstanding example of “How not to behave”, this is one of the few positives when having to deal with these corrupt individuals.

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Roger January 17, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your story, it is empowering. You have found strategies to deal with your NM and it seems like you are doing a great job at sticking to them. Emotional detachment, I feel, is a key component to dealing with an NM because they thrive off of getting under your skin and knowing every little thing about you, what you’re doing, etc. I hope that other people get to see and read your story and feel inspired!

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Rob March 15, 2013 at 2:26 am

It is hard to have a mother who loves so much yet is so demanding.

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Karen February 2, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I wished I had your smarts when I was in my 20’s and 30’s in regards to figuring out your mother is a narcissist and all the manipulative & controlling games she plays. But I didn’t have the benefit if a computer back then in the 1970’s and 80’s where I could investigate my mother’s behaviors and actually have a word to call it. Narcissist. You mentioned your father.
I refer to mine as the “spineless enabler”. It is bad enough all the problems my mother causes, but then to have my father basically copy her destructive and abusive behavior is maddening. As a young girl, I thought my father was the greatest. Now, I have no respect for him. It is as if he has lost his ability to think for himself. My parents proved that they won’t alter their behavior even if you have terminal cancer, which one of my brothers did. Even when my brother was looking death in the eye and he needed their support, mom played her games and dad went along for the ride. My brother got so fed up with them, that he cut them off in his final months of life. If my father dies before my mother, I fully expect she’ll have a nervous breakdown. I’ll let my youngest brother, who lives 2 doors down from them, toss her into a nursing home. He’s the “golden child” of the family and the executor of their will. He’ll have to work for his inheritance. I’m sure I’ve been written out of the will which I can live with. After all, my parents favors always come with long and controlling strings attached. No amount of money is worth that.

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Renee April 11, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I think the most encouraging element of your progress and healing is two-fold; you’ve identified the N and put active strategies in place. This is HUGE for someone so young.

I’m new to blogging and recently ‘awakened’ to my mother/family’s N dynamic (and I’m 54!). There is a lot of repetitive dialogue in many survivor stories (which is comforting and validating to survivors). To your story, the unwelcomed meshing of your mother’s life into yours is unsettling and spooky. I also am a stalking survivor (late, late 80’s, before laws were laid and applied) and it sure sounds that your mother has that tweak to her. I get it …… golly and I’m so sorry! The wang about that is to explain to authorities that your stalker is your mother. That sounds daft …. but we just can’t make this stuff up.

Congrats on your wedding and it sounds like your husband is of great support to you. When I discovered the N dynamic in my prior ‘nuclear family’, I realize now my husband of 23 years is a gem to have stayed with me through the first 21 years of the dysfunction and the last 2 with me in awakening. Hang on to that!

Once I really allowed the N dysfunction awareness to be absorbed and accepted by me, that was when I saw my mother; a very sad, miserable, pathetic, sick, seriously disturbed person. And there are times I actually feel sorry for her ….. and then I remember the horrid, unnecessary events I endured (and couldn’t figure out how she justified saying terrible things to me) …… and then concluded she deserves herself (and my golden sister/brother-in-law)! How’s that for re-gifting? LOL!!!

With that, some of my last interactions with my mother were very powerful and healing for me as I made it crystal clear; sentence after sentence after sentence and absolutely not acknowledging any of her absurdness except her OWN absurdness (hope I didn’t lose you on that one!), I’m onto her and it ends because I’m ending it.

I no longer feared; loss of my mom (well, did I really have one?), being disowned by the family (mom & dad), the inheritance, the promised cars and fully paid college educations for my children, etc. It wasn’t worth it. It just wasn’t. I think the fear of loss(es) is what needs to be addressed and conquered and the irony is ‘what is there to lose, something we never really had’?

In the last week of my enabling dad’s life (moving forward through terminal pancreatic cancer), I was shanghaied by my parents. Thinking we were going to have a nice, peaceful chat, they sat me down and told me I was the reason my dad has cancer, I’m the reason my dad can’t die, I’m the reason for all the strife in their marriage, I’m the reason for my mother’s chronic health issues over her lifetime, blah, blah, blah.

Now, picture it and try not to laugh …… I sat 2 feet away from my mother and told her that she is a narcissistic and that is what all of this nonsense is based on. Horrified, she recoiled and retorted something to the effect of, “I am not. That is a person who thinks the world revolves around them.” I told her, ‘exactly’ and that the reason dad can’t die is because he knows he helped to create this mess and now he’s too sick to do anything about it.

It was such a cleansing to finally let the whale out of the bag!!! True to the N form, she told me I should be a psychologist because I was so good at twisting words. EPIC, because guess what everybody? I have a BA in Clinical Psychology and a BA in Social Work!!!! (No offense to the psych pros, this is just a N in perfect bliss) Again, you just can’t make this s%$t up!

It’s sad that that was the last time I saw my dad. I also know now, from the other side, his vision super duper, undeniably clear. I’ve told him now he has to work even harder to fix the junk he left behind.

So, dear friend, sounds like you have everything to gain; an exciting life before you, a career, a husband and maybe soon a family of your own to love THE RIGHT WAY, the way it will be because you know differently. Why wait for a battle or a war? Disengage. You can put a ‘daisy’ in her barrel, ya know? You can. You are smart, bright, have common sense, and wisdom.

Be true to you.

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Sweet Petunia June 5, 2015 at 12:25 pm

When I called out my mom on her craziness, she shrieked at me, “You are sick, insane, and need to be in a hospital!”

It cut me to the quick at the time that my own mother could be so hateful, but now I know she was only describing herself, just like all other narcissists, projecting their sickness and actions on to their victims.

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Linda January 7, 2015 at 7:31 pm

This is a very helpful blog. I thought I’d share my power anthem which might really help daughters and sons of narcissistic mothers as it has helped me.
Ben Harper’s ‘I’ll Rise’ the words by Maya Angelou are ver applicable
http://youtu.be/xFFpwhTMr6A

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Laura April 7, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Thank you for sharing your story, Michelle! I can totally relate on so many levels.

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Ana January 18, 2016 at 5:15 pm

God what a horrible thing to live. It’s good that it was so obvious to you though because my mother does a bit of everything but it takes very trained eyes to see them, which makes it even harder to get anybody (not even my own friends, and that has been a great way to see if they are truly friends of mine) to validate me.
I would no doubt go totally no contact with this woman and probably move away and never talk back again. Just block her everywhere (email, phone etc) and live my life.
That’s my stage with my mom after I tried for about 3 years a low contact approach.
Also I did tell her by the time I discovered about narcissism everything I thought she was, without hate because she made me believe we could talk about anything with each other (of course now I know as long as it suited her), and she answered something very vague in the lines of “I might be like that, it hurts to read this” but after this talk it was as always as if NOTHING had ever been said.
Nowadays she still writes emails to me trying to engage me in something she thinks may interest me (like pics of my nephews that my own brothers never mind to send), but what makes me still surprised at how this syndrome works is that she never, ever once asks me the simple question “how are you?” It’s always just a vomit of non important things she did everyday (like went to the bank, had this for lunch – I do not kid you). It got to the point where after not receiving any answers from me (she never asks a thing, so), she started to try to get info from my husband sending him the same quality of emails.
It’s just so incredible how dumb they think people are. And also so incredible how dumb some people really are to continue being next to her even after being abused. Everybody gets something, even her friends. It’s awful. She’s an awful person trying to pass as a normal human being and I pitty everyone who deals with her. I don’t pitty her. To me she’s the right definition of a b… .

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Tina April 1, 2016 at 1:06 am

Thank you for your story and the strategies you’ve worked on. I hope you are doing well.

I spent years on low contact which worked pretty well for a long time. But after a big problem surfaced with my mother and her husband and her subsequent irrational and toxic behavior I have decided to go no contact. On the one hand I know this is what I must do and on the other hand it is a bit of torture because I am a decent human being and I worry about her. She needs help, is addicted to drugs and I can’t do anything for her but let her face the consequences of her actions. It’s incredibly painful to be this person’s daughter but I’m living my life with my own beautiful family. I simply cannot subject myself to manipulation, lies, and verbal attacks anymore. Most days I’m proud of myself for choosing to care enough about myself to move on, but some days I feel I am in grieving mode and it becomes hard to focus. I try to accept how I feel and just let it be. And then there is the explaining to friends what has happened and that I have no contact with my own mother. Plus, I also have been helping my kids understand but it is a challenge as they cannot possibly know all that I have been through. I worry that they might see me as insensitive or unkind. I can only hope that my honesty and genuine good character shows them that although I have made this decision, it does not mean I am being unreasonable or uncaring.

It’s a really tough, uncomfortable place to be. But putting up with my mother’s antics my whole life has been so toxic I finally reached my limit. I’ve suffered so much over the years and I just want to be free. I think I deserve that.

Thanks for listening.

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Denna Weber May 19, 2016 at 5:14 pm

Question: Since I seem to be the only one who really “gets it,” (that our mother’s need for attention is narcissism) should I share with my siblings? Unfortunately, over the years they rolled their eyes when she did nutty things about them, but latched on to her comments and lies about me. Our well-loved but complacent father let it go and let it go, fearing repurcurssions (silent treatment, slamming doors, etc.) if he dared say “You know that’s not correct.” My father came to me a year before he died–sad, morose, apologetic. He knew tall tales had turned those I loved against me, and that was perpetuated by a sister in law who decided right off that she disliked me. To “protect” my brother (one of the goldens) my mother got worse; she thought she was protecting her only son by agreeing with with his wife. OMG. I’ve spent too much of my life crying; I’m sad that my own children have no relationships with cousins; none of us hears from them anymore. By the looks of things, my siblings think Dad came to reprimand me, and to honor him they should do the same! Is there good reason to let my siblings know the real deal? Frankly, our older sister who committed suicide told me “There will never be room for everyone in that heart. But you’ll make it; you’re strong.” Sure enough, at least the first part was correct. My father echoed her words (though I never related that; I thought it might make him feel worse). I’ve been too quiet too long. Torn loyalties, huh? I tried to be there for all my siblings, and for my parents when they needed it. My dad said, “This isn’t right, and you don’t deserve it.” Should I tell them?

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Denna Weber May 19, 2016 at 5:27 pm

It’s so hard to admit your own mother has pitted your siblings against you. And their children, in turn, follow suit.) I prayed, and cried, prayed and cried. Every time I’d find out the OTHER story, it was way down the road; by then, someone was ill….or there was a marriage…or divorce…or bridge club (ha!). My deal seem petty compared to serious things, and I didn’t want to cause resentment for ANYone. Now I know even more what I thought was true. I hate dying, thinking my own flesh and blood despise me. And for what? Right or wrong, black or white, in or out; that’s the game now. I swear it wasn’t that way when we were younger. Should I level with my family or origin about my dad’s visit, his apologies and sadness when he figured it out? And how? Thy fly in and out to see our aged mother, and they never call unless to chide me about some insignificant thing. In a letter? Or, not at all?

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Katherine July 11, 2016 at 11:44 am

This story sounds eerily similar to a former “best friend” of mine. It’s only recently that I’ve come to strongly suspect my now deceased mother was a narcissist/borderline, so it would make sense that I kept pulling people like that toward me without even realizing it. Thankfully this past year has been pivotal in my realization of this pattern of people in my life and I’ve cut the cord systematically one by one. It’s just surreal – although helpful – to read similar stories from others. It helps me question my sanity a little less every time.

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