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