Survivor Stories

Surviving My Narcissistic Mother

I was a parentified, enmeshed adult daughter of a narcissistic mother and a 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 entire 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 job, 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, my mother 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 a foreign language, climbed a mountain, or saw the best concert of my life, I intentionally omitted it. I posted less 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 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 who 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.”

Quercus Garryana

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

barwin October 5, 2012 at 5:39 pm

This is quite a post. Congratulations on therapy and low contact. I’m in therapy for the
Second time, alst a year now. I had a break down last year after realising my boss is an n
And realising my emotional problems and how he triggers me is really deeply rooted in my
I think what I’m working through is the overwhelming hurt and anger at the realisations that
I’ve been lied to, neglected – hardly touched – only by n mother and it wasn’t loving. I think
The fact that I was told one thing but sensed another is part of the crazy-making games – and
Told I was the bad/defective one.
I was also enmeshed and feel stalked by nm most of my life. But she never went to the extremes
Yours did! Sorry to hear how you’ve put up with this all alone growing up. Me too.


barwin October 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Hi Michelle,
Great blog. I understand about fearing typos. Am a little perfectionistic
About that sometimes – maybe a response to that internalised critical voice!
I really appreciated your following comment:
The old manipulations simply don’t have as much power if the first question
to yourself in response to your mother’s behavior is, “how does my response
protect my happiness and peace in my life?”

That helps so much, thanks!


Sophie Allen May 12, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Yes- that feeling of “cold dread” I’ve literally been scared to death by the backlash I’ve received from my mother and sister after merely nicely disengaging from the lengthy phone calls. My therapist has me on Xanax XR and it’s saved my life. Today got a way over-the-top thank you I love you from a small flower arrangement I sent for mother’s day. I feel like I have an idea of what war veterans go through with post- traumatic stress syndrome- suddenly flying into panic mode and running/driving/drinking, only hours later getting control.


Sophie Allen May 12, 2013 at 10:04 pm

oh- re-read that- I don’t run or drive after drinking- it’s one of those at a time.


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