Saturday, February 28, 2009

BPD Mother | Meddling with Our Lives (1)

Recently my brother has been going through some very challenging times in his life. During this time, as I wrote earlier, my mother popped her head into his life by contacting him through Facebook (Rearing Their Ugly Heads) -- note that she couldn't contact me as I blocked her, so I am 'invisible'. Anyway, my brother opted to not communicate with her through Facebook, and also blocked her (not letting her into his 'world'), but decided to email with her.

In the very short time they've been emailing, he's gotten so deep into his financial obligations that he ended up in jail as he made a court appearance on a delinquent account ( Adult Child in Crisis with Personality Disorder Parents) and the court demanded money up front, which he couldn't pay, so they hauled him off to the clink. He's been collect-calling his fiance, our Dad, and our mother while in there. And my mother has now been communicating with my brother's fiance as well. UGH.

Just as I thought that I had some peace from the toxicity of my parents, here we go again. I don't know why, but my mother has been talking negatively to my brother's fiance (I have a solid relationship with the fiance). I am still BAFFLED as to why my mother, who would sing my praises up and down -- all day long, would (after not seeing eye-to-eye about my wedding thoughts... not plans as we had just gotten engaged: Little Women) cut me off, do a 180 degree turn, and vilify me. And just after I thought that I had cleared myself of this toxicity out of my life, as I haven't heard from her or had any damaging influence from her in 5 years, here she is AGAIN, stirring up her pot of brew.

I am just sick over how she has reared her head into the picture again, trying to appear like she is acting in my brother's best interests when she's only seen him ONCE in the last TWENTY years. They haven't even TALKED in the last TEN! All the sudden, like the crusader she is, she is trying to act like she knows her son and is going to rescue him, becoming the hero. Then she'll do like she always has-- knock him down with verbal & mental abuse and reject him once again. My brother needs support-- genuine, unconditional love-- during this time of serious trying times. My mother is the opposite of what he needs-- here goes this cycle with him, once again!

Anyway, all of this has got me thinking of her and how she would say to me (even just before we started this recent estrangement in 2004), "You are all I have, I am all you have. I am the only one that will take care of you, as your Dad won't look after you because he doesn't have your best interests in mind".

Now, what I left out of this blog, my history (In the Beginning), is that I had a different father at birth, and at a few months old, my mother divorced him in order to marry her high school sweetheart. He adopted me, and that is my Dad. My baby album and baby book were both altered, and absolutely no evidence of my birth father remained. No words were spoken about this birth father, but I did know about him. I didn't care-- my Dad is my Daddy, my father, and who I love. All my memories from the earliest are with my Dad, and I love him with all my heart.

When my mother messed around on my Dad with his best friend (late 1970's / early 1980's), and that whole tumultuous divorce happened (You Dropped a Bomb on Me), my mother had moved into an apartment. If you read in the blog about the divorce and all the crazy crap that happened, my mother and Dad had a very dramatic, confusing, and hurtful divorce that involved us kids. They both were going after each other with all they had-- which included using the kids to hurt the other.

Well, when I went to visit my mother for visitation when I was 13 years old, my mother, OUT OF THE BLUE, says to me one afternoon, "I know how to get a hold of your birth father. Would you like to speak to him?" I was taken back by the question but curious. I remember entertaining the notion, and we did speak to him for a short phone call. After that, I had no interest whatsoever talking to him again. LITTLE DID I KNOW, my mother used this information -- that I was in touch with my birth father-- to hurt my Dad. She leaked the information, making sure he found out. And I didn't find out until recently how much that hurt him. My mother is ruthless.

Now, later when I moved in with my mother as a teenager, she again pushed the idea of communicating with my birth father. What her motive was, I don't know for sure, but I feel like she was trying to 'right a wrong' (taking his baby from him and and abruptly leaving him the way she did) by getting me back in touch AND trying to hurt my Dad even more. Funny, but I was not interested in the least in getting together, talking with, or whatever with my birth father.

During a trip to Williamsburg, VA with my mother and step-father, I got a case of food poisoning VERY BADLY. I was very ill on the drive home as well, but my mother insisted that we drive by where my birth father lives, in the dark of the evening, and meet him and his family at a McDonalds. Remember how much I have used the word 'bizarre' in my blog posts?? Well this meeting epitomizes BIZARRE. I didn't have much to say, and I was like an animal on display at the zoo. After eating some burgers, we got back in the car and were on our way again.

My mother definitely had an agenda.

When she and I had an estrangement when I went off to college (she claimed that I didn't love her because I came into town and didn't call her: Out of the Nest), she proceeded to call my birth father and his family and tell them ALL KINDS of crazy things about me. She told them outright lies, very awful things. Why in the world would a loving, caring, and supportive mother do this type of thing to her child!? BAFFLING.

She certainly tried to create a wedge between my Dad and me. She tried as hard as she could to discredit our relationship, make him seem so evil (nicknamed him Captain Nasty), and would become enraged if his name was even brought up. I think she has tried to alienate me so that I am dependent on her-- trying to guarantee that I wouldn't leave her.

She has also brought up the fact that I have a different father than my brother to my brother at stunningly inappropriate time. First of all, why bring it up anyway--she created the deception from the very beginning! Second of all, I love my brother with all my heart & soul. I don't care of he's full or half blood, but why bring this up if it's not necessary!? Third of all, now that we are adults, and I know how I want to conduct MY life, I don't want to talk about the issue PERIOD.

Well, my mother hadn't seen my brother in TEN years when she went into the hospital for a pulmonary embolism in 1999. I flew my brother to see her as the condition could be fatal. This was the first time that my brother, mother, and me were all together in the same room in almost FIFTEEN years. So, we were all in the hospital room, and my mother was acting like Mr. Hyde. I don't know what got into her, but there she was in the hospital bed, being very boisterous, pushy, and rotten. I was trying my hardest to get my brother to the hospital in between working and so forth, and during this particular visit, I had to get to work.

OUT OF THE BLUE, my mother brings up that I have a different father, and that my brother "is ONLY" my half brother. WHAT!? Excuse me!? I was floored. My brother means the world to me, and to have her even step into that area to try to put a wedge into my relationship with him-- HELL NO. I remember feeling breathless and wanting to put my hand over her mouth. What is her purpose!? Again, what is up with her!? My brother was stunned looking, kind of blank. But I quickly changed the subject, and my brother followed suit.

I brought this up with my mother later-- saying that I would appreciate allowing me to divulge information about my life, and in regard to this, there was no reason to bring this up. She reminded that my brother being a half brother is only a 'fact', and I agreed but added that if the fact is so innocent and neutral why did she take such extensive efforts to hide this fact for DECADES. My brother has enough going on in his life (and believe me, he DOES), trying to shatter his sense of family for no reason is ruthless. Not only that, he is my ONLY family that is the pure, honest, and unconditional love from my original family unit of mother, Dad, and brother.

Next, about 6 years ago, we were sitting out on my back deck when she said that she is upset with my Dad to this day because he left her. SAY WHAT!? She said that although she was having an affair with his friend, she had no plans to leave my Dad. She said that she was forced to tell my Dad when my Dad's friend decided to tell his wife (he was in a miserable marriage and wanted out). Anyway, my mother said that although she admitted the affair and wanting a divorce, she said that my Dad abandoned her because he walked away. She said that he could have asked to stay and that she reminded him of that, but he just ignored her and walked up the driveway. All of this is SO typical borderline! Fear of rejection and abandonment! Anyway, that's why she becomes so CRAZY when my Dad is brought up-- he did the unthinkable for a BPD... he rejected AND abandoned her.

Once I was older, she would continually say to me how we are the only family we have and how much we need each other. I would never respond because I didn't view things the same as her. Although she had cut off her father, sister, son, and more, I hadn't. I didn't have an isolationist point of view like she did. She also talked about her Will more than once, reminding me that she would take care of me because my birth father won't be, my Dad won't be... so, she reminded, I should remember that she is the only one I've got.

Well, as I mentioned earlier, my mother and I didn't see eye-to-eye on my wedding thoughts: Little Women. And on that day that she blew up on me, saying that she is out of the wedding, she shouted out that she was going to call my birth father and tell him that he and his family aren't invited to my wedding. WHAT AGAIN!? This is the point that I got PISSED as it's one thing for her to be mad, threaten to stay out of my wedding, or whatever, but when she starts to bring people into her crazy rage, that's completely uncalled for. In the past she's started a campaign of letter writing and phone calls to degrade me, but this time she is threatening to meddle right to my face.

I asked her why she would WANT to tell them they aren't invited when NO ONE was invited to the wedding as NO wedding plans had even been STARTED! She said again, "That's it. I am telling them that they aren't invited" as if to egg me on to talk about them. I told her not to mess with my life, and questioned why she would even want to try to hurt people like that, especially since it's an outright lie. Once backed into a corner, she went back to shouting that she is out of the wedding.

I was baffled at her outrage. I was baffled at how she decided to handle herself. I was baffled at her attack on me. I was baffled at how she suddenly changed from the loving mother to the wicked witch.

By the way, my birth father wasn't invited to my wedding. Why would he be? My Dad is my father. Not only that, he was contributing to some of the wedding expenses. Why would I show my appreciation for his generosity by having my birth father, who gave up his rights as my father so that my Dad could take care of me since I was an infant, attend my wedding (especially given we don't have a relationship)!? What a huge slap in the face that would be! And why is my mother so insistent on having my birth father, Dad, AND step-father all in the same place at the same time!? Can't she see how uncomfortable that would be for not only them but for ME!? She left my birth father for her high school sweetheart (flying out to see her high school sweetheart BEFORE she even asked for a divorce), cheated on my Dad with his best friend, and is now married to my Dad's ex best friend. Do you really think these men want to hang out together? Isn't my wedding supposed to be the happiest day of my life? Why would she want to put me in such a NO WIN situation? And that's what she was trying to do that day on the deck when she brought all this up. I walked out of her house that day, and I haven't talked to her since. She, however, started a campaign of vilifying me that hasn't stopped to this day.

Looking back at my life, my mother created my path by meddling in my life, taking away my birth father, having me adopted, removing all evidence of my birth father (creating the deception), trying to push my Dad and me apart by bringing my birth father back into the picture, and continually trying to discredit my Dad and my relationship to the present day. Each move she made, she effected my life by trying to alienate me. She seemed to try to position herself as the only family member in my life, to create a dependence on her, and to attempt to guarantee loyalty so that she isn't rejected or abandoned.

Ultimately, however, she failed to keep herself honorable in my life as she has lost credibility, trust, and love through her ruthlessness, conditions, and bizarre nature of her moves. She did manage to effect my relationship with my Dad-- and of course effect my relationship with my birth father by removing him from my life as an infant. Now that she and I are estranged, and I don't have contact with my Dad either, I feel very alone in regard to parents... like I am parentless.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Disclaimer | It Wasn't ALL Bad

From the sounds of all my posts, my childhood, teen years, and young adult life was pretty grim. Well, mixed in with the mind boggling stuff, I did have some fun, memorable, and loving times.

My parents made holidays fun and exciting up to the point my Grandparents passed away in 1977. So, up until I was around 10, holidays were great. My parents made Easter, our birthdays, and Christmas special with tons of gifts, traditions, and decorations. I have many fond memories of those special occasions. Thanksgiving is a weird holiday as my brother and I don't have any 'real' memories. My mother didn't cook, and we didn't have relatives over for dinner. So, I suppose the holiday was played down.

We went to Disney World quite a few times when I was a child, as well as when I was a teenager. That place was all magic, and I have many cheerful memories of the place with my parents. We also went to Six Flags, Stone Mountain, Daytona Beach, and Sea World. So, we had our fill of amusement parks and vacations as young children.

A few 'good' memories I have of my mother were mainly linked to music and living room. When I was little, we listened to an 8 track tape of "The Sting" on a rainy afternoon and dancing around to it in the living room. I also remember her getting out her old LP's that she baton twirled to, and we would run around the living room. I remember her holding me before bedtime and dancing to "Edelweiss" in my Grandparents' living room.

My mother wasn't one to get outside and play with us kids, but I have a picture of her in the backyard when I was around 8 years old, and we were playing baseball. She also climbed Stone Mountain with us at one point. She wasn't much of an outdoors person. She did, however, attend almost all of my brother's Tee-Ball and Little League baseball games. She would become enthralled in them and would cheer like crazy.

My father was the 'fun guy' who would take us down to his office on the weekends, and we would run around the place, playing on the typewriters, rummaging through drawers, and exploring the place. I can still remember the smell of that place. He also took us to feed the squirrels at the park, get us treats to eat, and take us to places that he worked with. The coached my brother's baseball teams for years and years-- a very participative father.

Once the divorce hit, fun times with my parents became few and far between-- if any-- and life was completely different. I remember my Dad taking us to Disney World, and the trip was surreal, being there, in that fun and magical place with all the turmoil and divorce fall-out happening in the background of our minds. I don't think I had another fun time with my mother until she was in her new apartment (after I had initially lived with her when the divorce was announced then moved in with my Dad). My mother and I would hang out at her pool, sunning ourselves while my brother wilted with boredom.

When I was in high-school, I lived with my Dad then moved in with my mother around the end of my 2nd year. Living with my Dad wasn't typically happy once he married my step-mother, as she had control over all situations, and things were always tense. We did go to Disney World as a family (2 adults with 4 kids) but the trip was pretty hectic. Once I lived with my mother and step-father, we went to Hilton Head and Williamsburg. I managed to have a ton of fun at Hilton Head, as I have always been able to make friends fast.

So, our holidays and family trips made some happiness in our confusion of a life. And as I type this, I think, shouldn't happiness, fond memories, and good times also be found in day to day living? I would say I have always been a 'happy' person-- it's in my nature. Did I have a happy childhood? I would say 'yes' up to the point of my Grandparents' deaths and my parents' divorce. Things just got too darned confusing, jumbled, and conflicted afterward-- and life became very stressful.

My teen years were filled with the promise of tomorrow, the thrill of discovering new experiences, and enjoying life with my friends. I found solace in running and think that it kept my head screwed on straight, taught me how far I could push myself, and created priceless memories. Interestingly enough, my mother came to less than a handful of my track and cross country meets. As far as good times with my parents in my teen years, on a day to day basis, I think my happiness and good times were all derived from myself. My mother was tied up with her own life, and I spent time doing my own thing, trying to look toward the future.

Once I was out of college, I formed relationships with both parents off and on. I would say that I have never had my 'true self' exposed to them, as I have to be guarded with what I say to each of them pertaining to certain subjects. I think that withholding what's bugging you, not being to ask questions regarding your past, and not being able to talk frankly causes the relationship to be shallow-- and I feel my relationship with both parents as an adult has been shallow. I think my mother loves me but she can't accept my decisions or thoughts. I don't think my Dad loves me (he may love the thought of me as an object in his life) but he doesn't know or care to know me.

Even when my mother and I were seemingly 'close' at the end of the 90's and beginning of the 2000's, I still wasn't able to talk to her about what bugged me from my childhood & teen years or about my Dad knowing she would flip her lid. Additionally, our relationship ended within a blink of an eye on that July day in 2004 because she didn't like my fiance and my thoughts (not plans, just preliminary thoughts) for our wedding. If I were so special to her, if she loved me as much as she professed, how could she just let the whole relationship go? The relationship wasn't built on a solid foundation to start with.

Having to go through life with conditional love is very stressful. Not only that, having to walk on egg-shells all the time is also very stressful. So, although all the times haven't been 'bad', the 'good' times are also tainted with the conditions and precariousness of the relationships.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Narcissist and Emotional Intelligence

Our reactions with each other have extensive biological impact, spreading cascades of hormones that regulate everything from our hearts to our immune systems, making good relationships act like vitamins - and bad relationships like poisons. We can "catch" other people's emotions the way we catch a cold, and the consequences of isolation or relentless social stress can be life-shortening.

Daniel Goleman, who authored "Social Intelligence" explains the surprising accuracy of first impressions, the basis of charisma and emotional power, the complexity of sexual attraction, and how we detect lies. He describes the "dark side" of social intelligence, including narcissism. I want to further explore this "dark side' by comparing and contrasting Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

Emotional Intelligence (EI) has several facets, which are grounded in our:
  • self-knowledge: simply an understanding of yourself and your goals and abilities
  • empathy: a very eloquent definition was provided by psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut, who defines empathy as “the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person
  • likability: how well you are liked with critical elements of personality encompassing friendliness, empathy, realness, and capacity to connect
  • ability to connect people and ideas
NPD symptoms are as follows:
  1. grandiosity / exaggeration
  2. fantastic thinking / romantic
  3. believes special / unique
  4. requires admiration
  5. entitled / demanding
  6. exploitative / manipulative
  7. lacks empathy
  8. envious / jealous
  9. arrogant / haughty
Narcissism leads to breakdowns in relationships. This doesn’t surprise me. Compare and contrast the two lists above. The first facet of EI is possessing self-knowledge which the NPD's vision of himself doesn't match his true self (grandiose/exaggeration, believes special/unique). The second facet of EI is being empathetic, and the NPD exhibits very little, if not any, empathy toward others. The third facet of EI is likeability, which may be the only facet that the NPD may be able to pull off for a short period of time. Narcissists tend to be likeable, friendly and easy to get on with; often they are fun to be with. But it is all a sham - in reality they are only behaving like this in order to get your attention and fuel their addiction for being seen as wonderful. The last facet of EI is the ability to connect people and ideas, which the NPD possess a kind of street-smart EI. They are acutely aware of whether people are with them wholeheartedly and know who they can use and can be brutally exploitative

Most of us have dealt with narcissists in the workplace, home, or social settings. When we interact with a narcissistic individual, there’s no real relating going on. It’s all about one person. There’s an absence of empathetic exchange and mutuality, two prerequisites for healthy and rewarding relationships. Research evidence (Student Research in Psychology at Southeast Missouri State University) was found that those with higher levels of NPD symptomatically described themselves as lacking emotional control and emotional repair, and as being emotional preoccupied and concerned with the public impression of their emotional experiences. These results clearly indicate that people with NPD need to overcome several deficiencies in their emotional functioning.

In regard to the four constructs of EI, the following is a discussion of my Dad's behavior ( My Dad, the Narcissistic King) in comparison:
  • Self Awareness: Since he's been retired, his narcissism has gotten much worse. I project that the loss of people to bark orders to and make him feel like the big shot has caused his ego & self esteem to take a hit. I also think that aging has caused the narcissism to become more prominent due to loss of looks and weight gain. Furthermore, his wife has fallen ill, and he has not been empathetic to her-- displaying rather cold reactions to her diagnosis and treatment.
  • Self Management: He flies off the handle at the drop of the hat-- and when he loses his temper you'd better watch out. In 1979 when the divorce hit (You Dropped a Bomb on Me) and he discovered his wife (my mother) had been messing around with his friend, he was a MESS. He used us kids as pawns, being spies for him & brainwashing us against our mother. He had a private detective following her, trying to catch her in some act that he could use against her in court.
  • Social Awareness: My Dad was always the life of the party since as early as I could remember. He's always been the center of attention, the boisterous talker with plenty of long-winded stories, and a laugh that could be heard around the block. When you're having a conversation with him, the conversation is actually dictated and managed by him. He controls the topic and the amount of time you have to speak. Even if you initially started talking about one thing, he will interject and twist the conversation into a totally different direction-- usually into some long story about something completely unrelated. He repeats the same stories without realizing he's already told you-- and I am amazed that he doesn't realize he's boring the listener to tears when the glazed over looks appear. He has been a status seeker, whether owning his own business, joining a country club, or always owning a new car. He loves to talk about the famous people he has brushed elbows with. We used to go out of our way to attend events where we may meet someone famous. I specifically remember one where we actually met ML King's mother! To this day, he always has a story about the highfalutin people he's met.
  • Relationship Management: He has always been particular about 'his' time. When he's had enough of the kids on a holiday, he'll ask everyone to leave so that he can have time for himself. When he remarried to my step-mother, they would retreat into their master bedroom at 8:30pm, telling the kids not to bother them. He feels he's the expert on many topics, and he doesn't hesitate to interject how you should do this or that. If you're in a conflict with him, a disagreement or otherwise, he will want to have a 'talk' with you. This means that he wants to have your undivided attention, one on one, to tell you how you're wrong, need to apologize, and change. Even if you have what you want to say figured out before the 'talk', he can have you so discombobulated by time the 'talk' is over that you don't know what just hit you.
Further with relationship management, my Dad inflicted great emotional distress on my brother and me when he engaged in tactics to alienate us from our mother. See subsequent blog post: Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome for details.

In each of these constructs, my Dad shows deficiency in how he conducts his emotions. My Dad being an overt manipulative narcissist (My Dad, the Narcissistic King) with an apparent low EI mirrors the results of many studies evaluating the EI of NPD's. Given the definition of NPD ("a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy"), a low EI is only a natural bi-product of the disorder. How can an individual with a skewed sense of self, constant need for emotional reassurances, and lacking in the ability to put one's self into someone else's shoes have a high emotional intelligence? Having an emotionally unstable Dad for decades has made for an unstable relationship, one that has been severely strained from conditional love, criticisms, judgments, and careless treatment.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Borderline and Emotional Intelligence

The Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) individual distinctively has a challenge managing emotions. Whether the emotions stem from the fear of rejection or abandonment, acting appropriately in social settings, handling children with love & affection, or spinning into manic or depressive states, the emotions of the BPD are intense, unpredictable, and volatile.

The BPD may be socially inappropriate, to the point of embarrassing those around her. Through all the books & research that I have encountered regarding BPD, I haven't heard any of the experts mention Emotional Intelligence (EI). In fact, as of 2008, the relationship between EI and BPD had only been examined in less than a hand-full of studies.

Salovey and Mayer define EQ as, "The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth." In the most recent study (Wiley Interscience 2008), a relationship between EI and BPD was recently identified. EI was found to overlap considerably with alexithymia (an inability to experience & communicate feelings consciously and a construct associated with emotion processing & emotion regulation). The relationship between alexithymia and BPD suggest that difficulty identifying, differentiating, understanding and communicating emotions and feelings (somatic sensations) impairs ability to regulate emotions. An inability to discriminate emotions and somatic sensations explains why people with BPD who are distressed use deliberate self-harm as a means to emotion regulation.

Another study (Emotional Intelligence and Borderline Personality Disorder) suggests that the affective instability, chronic feelings of emptiness and inappropriate, intense anger of BPD are all indicative of challenges with processing emotion or low EI. Similarly, other characteristics of BPD such as impulsivity, self-harm, fear of abandonment and dissociative symptoms are abnormal responses to emotions; therefore, those with low EI might display these behaviors and characteristics due to insufficient ability to manage their emotions. Additionally, a low EI is related to all the main BPD symptoms.

I can affirmatively conclude that BPD is the contributing factor for the mess of emotions and resulting erratic behavior that my BPD mother exhibits. From a very early age, I realized how inappropriate my mother is in social settings, how she didn't manage herself very well in personal settings, and how she didn't really have a 'filter'. After I studied EI while earning my master's degree, as well as studied BPD, I know that my mother may have a high Intelligence Quotient (IQ) but a very low EI. Let's discuss the constructs and how they apply to my mother (Understanding My Borderline Mother):
  1. Self-awareness — the ability to read one's emotions and recognize their impact while using gut feelings to guide decisions. Due to my mother's overwhelming fear of rejection and abandonment, her gut feelings are tainted, and thus her decisions are rash, quick to judge, and irrational.
  2. Self-management — involves controlling one's emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances. She has very little self management and doesn't adjust her reactions or behavior according to the situation. Therefore, she will act the same at a fine dining dinner party as she would in a concert. She will act the same with rowdy friends as she would with professional colleagues of her husband's. She doesn't filter what she says, talking about some of the most inappropriate topics and subsequently doesn't observe the reactions of others as these rude things are coming out of her mouth. She doesn't take any context cues from those around her, not realizing she is offending so many, and thus not managing herself appropriately.
  3. Social awareness — the ability to sense, understand, and react to others' emotions while comprehending social networks. She does not react to other's context cues in social situations, realizing one person should be handled in one way, whereas another should be handled differently. She will be boisterous and aggressive to each individual regardless of how they present themselves to her-- and she doesn't acknowledge, in her actions, the differences in those in the social setting.
  4. Relationship management — the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflict. She manages to deflate, demotivate, and destruct those close to her. Although she appears loving, supportive, and empathetic to the outsider, her sudden shifts in mood, self-destructive behavior, paranoid distortions, and obsessive ruminations are very apparent to those closest to her. Additionally, she doesn't manage conflict, she creates it. She drums up crusades and creates conspiracy theories, trying to recruit as many people to her cause and spending countless hours on her mission. See subsequent blog entry: Adult Children of Parental Alienation that outlines my mother's efforts to alienate us kids from our Dad.
When I think back on it, the first evidence of low EI was evident was when I was around 5 years old and she would lock herself in a dark room for a day or longer (In the Beginning); she would cry uncontrollably upon the notification that my Dad was going out-of-town for business; she was cruel to my Dad's parents; and she was always in an angry or dark mood. She maintained this behavior through my youth.

When I was a teenage, she was very inappropriate socially (It's My Fault)-- flirting with boys that visited at the house by batting her eye lashes, making her eyes really big, wearing tight jeans & high heels while strutting around in front of them, and laughing this loud, haughty laugh. She also would engage in inappropriate conversation with my friends regarding drinking and sex while using profanity. She would talk to me about sex (in a friend to friend way, not mother to daughter way), use plenty of foul language, and listen to explicit music with me.

I remember going to professional settings with her (my step-father's medical meetings for example) where I would cringe about how she conducted herself. She would talk about topics that I found uncomfortable, and I could sense the company found the topics awkward or inappropriate as well. I remember her talking about nasty and gross topics at the dinner table when we had friends over-- and they would be disgusted, questioning our mother's behavior. My mother thought she was being "cool" by using foul language, and she used it to such an extent that a very Christian boyfriend wouldn't date me anymore after hearing her talk.

By the time I was a young adult, I found myself making excuses for her to company (Years with my Mother)- or I would be so embarrassed that I would leave the room. One time we were out at a VERY fine dining restaurant with a large group of people, some of which we knew and some we just met. She started talking about her hysterectomy and its complications. I could tell how appalled some of the people were-- and I wanted SO MUCH to crawl up underneath that table.

Throughout my life she has had groups of friends and then dumped them, replacing them with entire new group of friends. At this point in her life, she doesn't have any long term friends to speak of except one that lives across the country. The friends that are dumped wonder what the hell happened, which includes the one that lives across the country as she was dumped at one point for over a decade. My mother also seems to weasel her way back into the estranged friend's life at serious times. For example, when her ex-friend was on his deathbed, she suddenly was at this man's side and talking about how much she loves him. She relishes drama and being on a crusade-- and this type of situation fits that desire.

When she's in a social setting, she feels as if she has to fill in the gaps and entertain, so many times she rambles about things that are inappropriate, laughs an obvious fake laugh, and thinks that she's making people feel comfortable. In reality, she is making people uncomfortable with the constant chatter and the questionable topics. Sometimes she'll divulge private information about family members -- even when they're right there. Many times I remember feeling my blood pressure rise when hearing her speak about my private life or private issues. One of the first times that she met my in-laws (my husband and I weren't married yet), she talked about some information at a fine dining dinner that my mother-in-law had privately told my mother. And when you confront her about what she said, she turns the table on you and says that you are being ridiculous and shouldn't be so sensitive.

My mother definately doesn't have a filter for what she says, but she also doesn't have a filter for how she reacts. She flies off the handle, changing from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde instantly when she feels threatened, if you don't agree with her, or if the topic is my Dad. And the fall out from the Mr. Hyde can last for months-- with her viewpoint of what happened morphing further and further from reality. During these episodes, she'll write letters / emails that become more and more deranged. She'll try to get as many people on her side as possible, telling all sorts of lies, exaggerations, and misleading statements.

My mother lives and breathes the situation to the point that she believes her own lies. I think the only way she can live with herself after the dust settles is for her to believe her own lies. Her husband is so intimidated by her that he doesn't help to keep her head in reality. He won't contradict her as he doesn't want to feel her wrath, so he goes along with her rants and twisted accounts. His complacency and seeming agreement with her only reinforces her belief that she is right-- that her bizarre reality is correct.

The amazing part of all of this is she was an Alcohol & Drug Rehab Counselor who has undergraduate work in Psychology. She dealt with all sorts of personality disorders and otherwise and was educated in the field of disorders, yet she has been unable to identify with any of the symptoms on her own. She hasn't connected the dots that she has cut off all family members (father, sister, son, daughter), and that she is alone by her own doing. She hasn't connected the dots that she has been married three times, each marriage failing because she cheated on her husband. She hasn't connected the dots that she is taking massive amounts of anti-depressants for depression but has manic spells characterized by unlimited spending and eating, as well as bouts of not living in reality-- and that she has stated that her son is BPD but doesn't recognize it in herself.

Basically, she is not in tune with her own emotions due to a low EI, and therefore, she is not able to comprehend the depth of her personality dysfunction and its ramifications. The BPD manifests itself in a low EI which cripples the ability to identify areas in ones life that need improvement or serious attention.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blaming Parents for Our Past

"Our childhood experiences guide the way we create our own lives"
Gopnik Berkeley

A common theme that my parents have harped their entire life is that my brother & my childhoods shouldn't effect our adulthood-- that we are a product of our own choices and those choices are ours alone. My parents say that childhood should not be used as a crutch or an excuse for failings or shortcomings, that you as an adult make your life the way it is. I agree that one shouldn't use crutches or excuses; however, the life you make is a collection of choices that have been shaped by your past experiences. Funny how book after book is written to help the adult-child of abuse move past their childhood / teen years and to accept & heal. Hmmmm, but no, our childhood doesn't effect who we are as adults?!?!?

Neither parent will discuss the confusing, destructive, and tormenting past (OR any of the fun times either) that we endured from the late 1970's through the 1980's. My mother doesn't remember most of it accurately or becomes enraged when speaking about my Dad, and my Dad says he doesn't remember because he doesn't 'want to'. My parents also haven't taken accountability for the emotional abuse we were subjected to with Parental Alienation Syndrome as well. So, either way, my brother and my experiences are not validated, we are not to evaluate our childhood as possible causes for our reactions / actions / choices in our adulthood as the childhood had no impact, and we are supposed to deep six all of the aspects that concern both of us because it doesn't matter anyway.

Well, our childhood DID happen. Our childhood was very confusing, very destructive, and very tormenting. Our childhood left us treated carelessly, with conditions on love, and orphaned. And I think dealing with the emotions, feelings, and memories is crucial to being a healthy, happy, and productive adult. I thoroughly believe that our choices are guided by our internal subconscious shaped by our past experiences. And that internal subconscious can be a positive or negative force depending on the presence, amount, and condition of the scars.

Prudent choices may not be made if the child of an abusive parental relationship has not dealt with and come to terms with his / her past. Further, if one's self confidence has been eroded from the waves of parental mistreatment over the years, choices are further hindered. My mother just recently jumped all over my brother about 'owning up' to his bad choices that he's made since childhood, Rearing Their Ugly Heads, reiterating that HE made the choices. Yes, he made choices, but evaluate each choice to which she is referring independently, IN CONTEXT, and you will see that the surrounding is not black & white. And the fact that she is condemning him for things that happened when he was a CHILD is sad and bizarre in itself. Sad because he was a child-- a young boy that could have had parents guiding & supporting him in his decisions at the time, and bizarre because he's almost 40 years old being berated by his mother like he is 10 years old again.

My brother has needed his parents' support, reassurance, and guidance since a young boy, and having very selfish parents that were centered on their own wants & needs, my brother got very little that he needed. Sure, he had a Dad that coached his sports teams, and sure, he had a mother that laundered his clothes for him-- but what he needed was someone to help him deal with growing up. He needed someone to talk to, to help sort out all of the challenges that a kid feels when they're growing up. My mother treated him as the "No Good" child who could do nothing right, whereas my Dad wanted so much to please his new wife that he chose her over his son. My brother's room was given to her daughter, and he was to reside in the basement.

At one point, he was crying out for attention so much that he jumped out of a moving car. Sure that got him some attention, but not the attention he really needed. He really needed someone to REALLY talk to him, to REALLY listen to him, to REALLY help sort out his thoughts. Instead he was called stupid and yelled at. When he needed his parents even more, we lost our grandparents, and our mother retreated further from us, and our Dad was left to figure out how to keep the household going. Then our parents divorced and started using us as pawns in the game of divorce. Stress levels were intense for us kids, and I remember my head spinning from the amazing amount of mental abuse we endured. Then our parents almost immediately remarried to people that already had children, which added even more confusion to the simmering pot of parental neglect.

By the time that my teen brother started using alcohol and drugs to gain attention, my parents were so into their new lives that no one really took the time to sort out what in the heck was going on with my brother. Quick fixes were their answer, his problems were ignored, or he was told to try harder. How do you try harder when you've never been given the tools to work with in the first place!?

What happened to my brother BAFFLES my mind. I wouldn't treat my child with such disinterest and neglect. And it's so obvious that he was tossed aside so many times. And to now say that he is solely responsible for the choices that he made as a child, teen, young adult, and adult is simply negligent even further! And the fact that we were put through a huge amount of manipulations, guilt trips, mental & emotional abuse, and carelessly treated by ultra-selfish parents only compounds the neglect my brother experienced.

I dealt with all of the confusion of our childhood differently than my brother. I retreated, a lot of times, on my own, and thanked God for the good head he put on my shoulders. I spent a lot of time thinking about what happened, realizing that the situation was not my doing but between my mother and Dad. I would also immerse myself into running, my education (knowing I wanted out as fast as possible at 18 to go to college on my own away from them), and in my friends. I tried to digest the abuse as much as possible my writing in my diary as well.

My brother, on the other hand, was 2 1/2 years younger than me and a different person than me-- so of course he dealt with the situations completely different than me. He is mentally ill- diagnosed bipolar; however, I am certain that deeper issues are effecting him and have been effecting him since he was a small child: Antisocial Personality Disorder: Letter to my Brother. I don't think he's spent quality or quantity time sorting out his feelings and memories. I don't think that he's been able to figure out what happened, why it happened, and who our parents are. I don't think that he realizes, truly realizes, the reality behind what happened to us from such a young, tender, and innocent age. And I think if that ends up hitting him, the reality of it all, that he may get thrown over the edge.

He is very, very depressed-- mentally ill. And recently when I called my Dad to enlist his support for my brother, the amount of empathy that expressed was in the form of a to-do list and buying some things for him. He visited with him for a few days after not seeing him for years and honestly didn't delve into the crux of the issues. My Dad, again, just like when my brother was little, had quick fixes for my brother-- "He just needs to get a job and stick with it" My Dad completely fails to realize that my brother can't hold down a job is only a SYMPTOM of a much bigger issue-- the job is not the problem. My Dad doesn't want to take the time or the effort to get to know his son, to find out what makes him tick, and to understand what REALLY is going on in his head after all these years.

My brother's choices are a result of a damaged core combined with mental illness. My brother's choices are a result of a damaged self esteem with crippled self confidence and shattered sense of self. My brother's choices are a result of being orphaned by parents whose ghosts are still around haunting him with abuse into adulthood. My brother's choices are a result of not having the emotional tools to handle what life throws at him. My brother's choices have ALL been directly effected by the way he was handled as a child. PERIOD.

For my brother to overcome these obstacles in order to make different decisions, he has to overcome mountains of scars, erosion, and roadblocks in his mind that were started at a young age and reinforced through almost FOUR decades. So, for my parents to say that where he is in life is due to what he's chosen is completely inaccurate. I think they don't want to face the fact that they have damaged their son to the core and left to him fend for himself. And I would like to tell my mother, "You are a ruthless woman who should be ashamed of herself" and my Dad, "A job is not the answer. You are such a lazy and shallow thinker"... and to both of them, "You are both the most selfish people I have ever met" Adult Child in Crisis with Personality Disorder Parents

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Road to Discovery and Understanding my Past

How did I get to this point of understanding my parents, my past, and how it all fit together? The path I traveled is convoluted and interesting.

I knew my mother wasn't 'right' when I was a little girl (In the Beginning). I didn't really think about it however. I didn't compare her to other mothers, and I guess I just accepted that this is the mother that is my mother. I knew she didn't cook meals like most mothers, I knew she was weird spending a great deal of time in her room in the dark, and I knew that she was not very nice. I always thought that she was mean because she wore her curlers too tight. Sounds funny now but I always correlated her worst moods to the days that she Dippity Doo'ed her hair up in those huge, tight, bobby-pinned rollers.

During their tumultuous divorce (You Dropped a Bomb on Me), I knew both parents were not treating the kids (my brother and me) the way kids should be treated, but I sucked it up and dealt with it. What else was I to do? I was warned by adults that my mother is crazy, but I think at this age, I wasn't ready to accept that or I couldn't grasp the full meaning of what that meant.

The hardest element to deal with was the guilt-trips. Plus I remember trying to handle the inordinate amount of stress that seemed to be squashing me. I spent a lot of time thanking God that he put a good head on my shoulders because that stress was terribly traumatic and confusing. At this point, I thought my mother was having a mid-life crisis or just horny as she was acting like a teenager with her new boyfriend, and that my Dad was depressed from getting his heart ripped out. I didn't see the sheer selfishness and CRAZINESS and how careless they treated us kids.

Around the age of 15, I realized that my mother was really sick in the head (Run Forrest Run). That's when I started to really pray for my safety and security as I felt in danger. I prayed I would make it until I was 18 years old and an adult on my own so that I could escape the verbal and mental abuse. My mother always said that she thought my brother has Borderline Personality Disorder. I never really thought about this term until decades later. At any rate, my mother was quick to say that my brother has deep seeded issues and needs institutionalization, which is another point that comes around again decades later. My father during my teenage years appeared self-absorbed, self-centered, and extremely selfish. He definitely was involved in his own life and the kids were a part of it-- rather than him being a part of his kids' life -or- more healthy, being a part of each others lives.

To further confirm my fears of my mother, she had a hysterical and irrational episode when I entered college: Out of the Nest. I knew she was mentally ill at this point. I just didn't know what. My father was still the self-absorbed, self-centered, and extremely selfish man that I knew I couldn't count on, depend on, or have to morally support me. I knew that I needed to get away from her, as well as protect and depend on myself. I knew I had to build a life for myself that I could be independent of my parents.

By the time my 20's rolled around, my mother mellowed out: Years with my Mother. My father and I didn't have much of a relationship-- and he made little to no effort to be involved in my life. By my late 20's, my mother flipped out. I still hadn't labeled what she was going through mentally, but I knew her behavior wasn't appropriate or 'normal'.

With my 30's, my mother was back to being 'nice (In Through the Out Door) during the first part of the decade, and then she flipped out again at the end of my 30's (Little Women). So, you can see the cycle. You can also see that fears of abandonment spur on the irrational thinking and estrangements. She even admitted that she brought on one of the estrangements just so she knew that I would be okay without her.

During the estrangement in my late 30's, I was talking to a friend over drinks. He started saying that she seems very depressed. I concurred that I knew that to be true. I also mentioned that she attempted suicide back in college. We also noted her manic phases, which are painted with spending sprees, binge eating, and other reckless behavior. We also noted her thinking that is not based in reality. The funny thing is that we never added all of these elements up.

Well, my brother ended up having some issues that he wanted answers to. I was doing research for him when I came across a book reviews about, "Understanding the Borderline Mother". I was immediately drawn to the stories that were identical to what I had been through my whole life. Reading simply the reviews was like reading about me! I bought the book and read it in two days. BINGO. This is my mother. After all those years of her saying my brother has BPD, she was perfectly projecting herself onto him. The Borderline mother, hating the person she is and knowing she needs helps, instead institutionalizes her child (think back when she did this to my brother). So, my friend and I had nailed it, but we just didn't put two and two together. The depression + the manic + the schizophrenia = the Borderline Personality Disorder. Wow. The answer was right there under my nose the whole time.

Reading the book was an eye opener and truly a gift. The book gave me tremendous peace of mind, applicable insight, and such closure. Additionally, it provided a lead to the next piece of the puzzle. The Borderline woman typically marries a Narcissist, and upon reading about the character types that the Borderline marries, my Dad fit the Narcissistic King perfectly. And by the way, my mother's present husband fits the Fisherman to a tee as well. This book is crazy as to what information it is able to provide.

During the time of my studies, his narcissism was become more and more profound due to extenuating factors such as retirement, aging, and an ailing wife. And his behavior toward me became worse and worse. As I studied Narcissistic Personality Disorder, he fit the symptoms bullet point by bullet point. WOW. See subsequent blog post: What Makes my Narcissist Dad Tick

Now the puzzle pieces fit together and answer so many questions. I have had a hard time contending with the fact that BOTH of my parents are messed up. Why BOTH!? Doesn't that make me look like the one who is the problem? Well it makes perfect sense now. You can't have a personality disordered wife married to a 'normal' husband as she is not getting what she needs emotionally. She has to have a narcissist to rescue her and to feed her ego. Plus she needs to be needed, and the narcissistic husband needs to be needed (but for a different reason), so they are the perfect match.

And to think that my mother is now married to a co-dependent man, who would figure such a thing? Well, that makes sense too. She really needs someone to push around when she becomes the Witch, and quite frankly, her present husband takes it. He's a whipping post for her, and she stays because he is the only long term relationship she has. And he stays because he hopes that the woman he met decades ago, the fun & happy woman, will come out of that Witch again.

When you read the devastating results a Borderline mother can have on an "All Bad" child (as the Borderline mother chooses who is "All Good" and who is "All Bad" based on the child's characteristics), you can clearly see why my brother is suffering as the "Lost Child" as he is to this present day. When you read about the pure selfishness, manipulations, and toxic control of the Narcissistic parent, you also know how that further compounds my brother's troubles. AND THEN when you add in the mind-blowing divorce, the premature remarriages with ready made families, and the lack of support my brother received during some terrible teen years, you definately KNOW that his troubles are rooted from dysfunctional and disordered parents-- who to this day say it's all HIS FAULT.

I also know that I have fought to get where I am mentally and emotionally. I have searched my soul up and down, I have thought about everything from all angles, I have talked my dear friends' ears off, I have read so many self help books it's sagging my shelf, I have read post after post on blogs & professional sites... and I have peace of mind knowing that I have given it my all, trying to make amends with my parents. And that to save myself, my husband, and most importantly my daughter from high levels of toxicity, I have to have no contact.

Life is so short, it's so sad that it has to end up this way. Thinking that I may never see or talk to my mother again, and that she will leave this world without meeting her granddaughter is a very tough pill to swallow. Realizing that all of this is not a 'game' as my Dad plays it, and that this is real life, MY LIFE, that is ticking by was a huge eye opener. I simply wish for unconditional love and acceptance from my parents, and that is not possible due to their personality types. So, I move my thoughts elsewhere, and thank God once again for the good head he put on my shoulders.

UPDATE: I discovered Parental Alienation Syndrome after this post, which was a huge eye-opener and A-HA discovery. Please refer to my blog post: Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome

Friday, February 13, 2009

Estranged Parents Rearing Their Ugly Heads

It's funny. I've been concentrating on writing this blog, getting all the background information in so I can actually get into actually blogging, and lo & behold, both the Queen and the King reared their ugly heads into my life.

I am on Facebook, and I have checked to see if my mother has an account every now and then. My account is set to private, but I want to be able to fully block her if she happens to pop up. Well, she popped up last week. My heart hit the floor. Yikes, there she is. With the way Facebook is set up, if you are set to private, people can't see your profile but if you share a 'friend' with them, they could see your comments left on the Wall. If you block the person, you are completely invisible, including all comments left on a Wall. So, no hesitation, I blocked her.

Well, it was late at night and I didn't want to bug my brother, so I decided to wait until morning to warn him. By the time I got a hold of him in the morning, she had already Facebook emailed him. She said something to the effect of, "Funny seeing you here". What a bizarre thing to say after not communicating with your son for TEN YEARS. If you are reaching out to an estranged son wanting to open lines of communication, wouldn't you say something like, "I have missed you" or "How are you? I have been thinking of you"??

I advised my brother to not answer her and to block her. I reminded him of the vicious cycles we have endured with her-- and how each of the cycles concludes. I reminded him of how she will go after your friends and say horrible things about you, and how on Facebook, the system will easily facilitate her being able to find people from his past to talk smack to. And just as I warned, my mother had ALREADY contacted his fiance that she has never met! How ballsy! How presumptuous! How tacky! How MY MOTHER.

My brother, being soft hearted about her recently, said he had to 'think' about what to do. Time heals wounds, and the last attack on him by my mother was ten years ago. My wounds are fresher, plus I have brought a lot of this to the forefront by researching, reading, trying to understand, and writing about it. My clarity of thought is at a much different level than his at this point.

He instructs her to email him at his private email, and then he blocked her from Facebook. His fiance tells my mother that she doesn't want to get in the middle of anything and that she should contact my brother at his private email, then she blocks her as well. So, my mother writes my brother and asks how he's doing. My brother recently was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, and since she has an auto-immune disease as well, he thought they'd have common ground for discussion AND a mother who could give valuable information about these diseases.

To his dismay, he got a scathing email about how horrible he's been since he was a child. That he has to own up to the things he's done since he was a child if he's to ever be a 'man'. She continued by saying that she and my Dad have had nothing to do with the choices he's made, the path in life he's taken, and where he is in life. As my brother read me her words, my stomach twisted into a knot, I started to shake, and I hyperventilated.


Now, I admit-- my brother has made some mistakes in life (haven't we all??), AND my brother DOES own up to them. BUT my mother and Dad have made extremely selfish choices through out their life that rarely (if ever) included my brother's best interests. Neither of them have owned up to this fact! In fact, both of them think that our past has absolutely nothing to do with who we are.

Instead of embracing my brother for who he is, for loving him for the person he has become, and believing in him, he gets shot down with how bad he is... AGAIN. I couldn't believe the cruel and hateful words... and I begged my brother to stop all communications with her immediately.

A couple days later, I went out to my mailbox to find a birthday card for my daughter from my Dad. He never contacted her for Christmas-- no card, no call, no present, no nothing. To top it off, he only saw her 5 times in 2008, which included showing up late, leaving early due to other obligations, and not spending one-on-one time with her. He doesn't show an interest in fostering a relationship with her and says that she's not 'normal' because she's timid toward him. But here's a birthday card. Hmmmm.

My Dad and I haven't communicated since December 27, 2008 (Holidays Leading to the Last Straw) when he sent me an email canceling coming over to my house to celebrate the Saturday after Christmas. The communications before that were harsh and uncaring because he was mad that my husband's parents were coming in town for Christmas preventing us from going to Dad's house Christmas Day - and- because he thought I made a 'big deal' about not receiving my gift from the family name drawing when I inquired about the shipping status of it.

So, I am holding this card to my daughter wondering what the motive is behind it. My life with him has always been a game, so what is the strategy behind his move? To make me feel guilty? To remind me he's still there? By the way, he's still gossiping to my brothers about me and presenting a poor-pitiful-me to them, saying he wants to give my daughter Christmas gifts but he's waiting for me to call him. Now that's ass backwards. "Hi Dad. Do you have gifts for my daughter? Oh, you do. Well, bring them over and give them to her". No, that's not how gift giving works. So, one of my brothers ponders to me, "Why doesn't he just pick up the phone and call you!? Or why doesn't he pack up the gifts and send them if he wants so much for her to have the gifts!?" My Dad wants control-- plain and simple. And I won't allow him to control me anymore. See subsequent blog post: What Makes my Narcissist Dad Tick

All I know is my life is so much more peaceful without all the drama... without the manipulations and control issues... without the conditions... so whatever the motive, it's my time to make the move in the game, and I am staying put.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Dad, the Narcissistic King

My brother and I have been trying to get our Dad back again, ever since we 'lost' him when he remarried. The problem with our thinking, we have just discovered, is that we never had him to begin with. We have been trying to achieve the unachievable. We have been looking for understanding, compassion, unity-- and most of all acceptance as his child-- which he can never give. We continually get rejected, shot down, and handled so carelessly. He treats us like he doesn't like us. He may act like he is listening (if he ever stops telling his stories) but he's not hearing you. He gossips terribly about you behind your back and nit picks at everything about you and your life. This is no father-- much less friend. He acts like someone who is pushing you away for good.

Our Dad was torn between loyalty to his wife (in both marriages) and loyalty to his children. "Idealization of the father prevents depression and rage from surfacing and protects the child from feeling orphaned" p 302 Lawson. That idealization of my Dad has only come to realization recently, as his narcissism has grown exponentially due to his aging appearance, retirement, sickly wife, and unhappiness with his life in general. As his narcissism grows, the way he treats my brother and me grows worse as well.

Will a narcissistic father ever accept me? I love the answer that was given, "Give up. Achieve closure. He doesn't deserve more than what you have already given him. The word "love" is understood by the narcissist to mean "dependence", "neediness", "ability to provide narcissistic supply", "becoming the narcissist's extension and property". In these - distorted and sick - senses of the word, all narcissists love to be loved.

A post-mortem of a relationship conducted with a narcissist is very frustrating because it never achieves closure. The narcissist is interested exclusively in allocating blame and generating guilt - not in progressing, developing, atoning, soothing, or concluding anything. Such exercises in futility are best avoided.

Narcissistic psychopaths have no friends, or lovers, or spouses, or children, or family - they have only objects to be manipulated. Narcissists have no problem perceiving ideas (many narcissists are intellectually gifted). But they do have a problem perceiving other people's ability to conceive of ideas, to have their own needs, emotions, and preference. Wouldn't you be startled if your television set suddenly informed you that it would rather not work on a Sunday? Or if your vacuum cleaner wanted to befriend you? To narcissists, other people are instruments, tools, sources - in short: objects. Objects are not supposed to have opinions or to make independent choices and decisions - especially if they don't comply with the narcissist's worldview or plans, or if they do not cater to his needs."

I totally relate with this answer. To have a relationship with my Dad is to be subjected to the blame game and to guilt trips. The blame game is intense, and along with the blame game comes criticism, judgment, and nit picking. AND if you don't play by my Dad's rules, you must have a "talk" with him, which translated means you are reverted to a 10 year old being scolded by your Daddy for being bad. He attempts to manipulate your thinking with guilt, promises of money & things, and intimidation. No matter what you do, you walk away from these "talks" feeling very small. And no matter what, you don't receive unconditional love from him. I don't even know if he can love-- as the answer above said, narcissists view people as objects. I continually feel like an object in my life, that he places at events, gatherings, and holidays for show as he doesn't have conversations with me, doesn't inquire what's going on in my life... and if I ever do have a chance to speak to him, I am quickly interrupted for one of his long winded and disjointed stories.

So, what exactly is a narcissist?
  • grandiose sense of self-importance. CHECK.
In our family, he always positions himself as the one who keeps the family together although he is the one who is tearing it apart. He subjected my brother and me to Parental Alienation Syndrome against our mother, treating us like pawns in his chess game of divorce: Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome. He also anchored his identity in his job, and after retirement his narcissism has come out immensely. Now he is boasting that he being used as an 'expert witness' for high profile cases and needs to fly for depositions.
  • lives in a dream world of exceptional success, power, beauty, genius, or "perfect" love. CHECK.
His marriage has been a dream world of perfect love. He talks about his wife with disrespect ("I'm having a mid life crisis. So, I could either get a divorce or a Corvette, so I opted for the car"), talks about his wife's daughter with disdain but plays the game of nicey-nicey anyway, and he acts loving toward his wife in public but behind the scenes he lives a separate life from her.
  • thinks of himself as "special" or privileged, and that he or she can only be understood by other special or high-status people. CHECK.
He joined a very expensive country club (and has to remind you just how expensive it is) and talks about the high profile people he mingles with. He moved into a highly affluent neighborhood and name drops about all the famous people that reside in the community (and who he has brushed elbows with). He makes sure also to tell you these long, drawn out stories of all the famous / special / high-status people that he encountered in his socializing and travels.
  • demands excessive amounts of praise or admiration from others. CHECK.
He relishes all the staff at the country club bowing down to him. He also demands praise and admiration from the folks he works with, talking down to them if not getting what he wants-- then making jokes to cover up his harshness.
  • feels entitled to automatic deference, compliance, or favorable treatment from others. CHECK.
Since I've been a small child, he would go off on service people if he didn't get what he wanted when he wanted, how he wanted, etc. And if the situation was rectified to his satisfaction as quickly as possible, he would culminate into a boiling rage. He walks into restaurants with an air about him, like he owns the place.
  • exploitative towards others and takes advantage of them. CHECK.
Since I was a small child, he ALWAYS has people doing things for him, whether it was the tab at the local pharmacy for our prescriptions, the mechanic, the builder, or whoever... he exploited his relationships and took advantage of what he could.
  • lacks empathy and does not recognize or identify with others' feelings. SUPER DOOPER BOLD CHECK.
He completely is void here. VOID. There is not an ounce of empathy in him for anyone, including his presently ailing wife. He has never been empathetic and doesn't identify with the feelings of others. Observing how he reacted to my grandparents deaths in the 1970's, how he handled us kids during the divorce with our mother in the late 1970's and 1980's, how he's handled my brother's trials & tribulations in life, and how he's dealt with his wife's road to diagnosis and treatment for a debilitating disease.
  • frequently envious of others or thinks that they are envious of him or her. CHECK.
His apparent envy for my husband's status in the professional world is very apparent. What also is apparent is the change in the way my Dad treats me since I've been married to the professional. When I was dating guys that were in the service industry or whatnot, my Dad was much nicer and caring than now with the man who is professional and successful. A poignant observation relating to the narcissists envy.
  • "has an attitude" or frequently acts in haughty or arrogant ways. A LITTLE CHECK.
My Dad is a true entertainer, and he's all about appearances. So, he doesn't necessarily act in a displeasing way to people although he is passively haughty, arrogant, and copping an attitude.

  • Craving narcissists. These are people who feel emotionally needy and undernourished, and may well appear clingy or demanding to those around them.
  • Paranoid narcissists. This type of narcissist feels intense contempt for him- or herself, but projects it outward onto others. Paranoid narcissists frequently drive other people away from them by hypercritical and jealous comments and behaviors.
  • Manipulative narcissists. These people enjoy "putting something over" on others, obtaining their feelings of superiority by lying to and manipulating them. CHECK.
  • Phallic narcissists. Almost all narcissists in this subgroup are male. They tend to be aggressive, athletic, and exhibitionistic; they enjoy showing off their bodies, clothes, and overall "manliness."
  • Most observers regard grandiosity (CHECK) as the most important single trait of a narcissistic personality. It is important to note that grandiosity implies more than boasting or prideful display as such—it signifies self-aggrandizement that is not borne out by reality. In addition, grandiosity complicates diagnostic assessment of narcissists because it frequently leads to lying and misrepresentation of one's past history and present accomplishments.
My Dad has told everyone, and continues to tell everyone (and everyone that I know of believes him) that he graduated from college... and he didn't.
  • a tendency to be attracted to leadership or high-profile positions or occupations. CHECK.
He owned his own company-- but before that he was never accepting of the non-leadership / low-profile positions he held. In fact, when he left his position in sales to open his own business, the transition was full of drama, turmoil, and severing ties.
  • a pattern of alternating between unrealistic idealization of others and equally unrealistic devaluation of them. CHECK.
He unrealistically idealizes his step-granddaughter (she can do absolutely nothing wrong) and unrealistically devalues my daughter. Although he doesn't know my daughter, he has been highly critical of her actions as a THREE MONTH OLD, he has made no effort to get to know her but criticizes her when she is shy to him, and says hurtful things that she doesn't understand yet (but I do) such as, "If you weren't the way you are, you could be here with us" (he was hugging his step granddaughter and my daughter was playing on the floor in front of him). See subsequent blog post: What Makes my Narcissist Dad Tick
  • a need to be the center of attention or admiration in a working group or social situation. BIG FAT CHECK.
LOVES and RELISHES being the center of attention-- my mother always said this bothered her (but I also think that's why she loved him in the first place). He places himself as the center of attention no matter the situation. His laugh is loud, is talking is loud, the dominates the conversation, his stories are too long, and he makes sure everyone knows he's there.

My Dad barely lets people get a word in edgewise, and I don't know how many times I've been talking to him, and he interrupts me, changing the subject mid-stream -or- he gets up and walks away.

I love this excerpt from a blog about narcissists called The Parent Who Wouldn't Listen: "Of all my narcissistic father's behaviors, it's his total inability to listen that I have found the most troubling. I have observed very closely some narcissists I've loved, and their inability to pay attention when someone else is talking is so striking that it has often seemed to me that they have neurological problems that affect their cognitive functioning. When a person says something to my father, if you can manage to finish your sentence without being interrupted, it's almost as if they hadn't spoken at all. There is no acknowledgment of what was just said. There is no appropriate reaction. If you tell him you have the flu, he will tell you that everybody around him is sick. If you tell him his granddaughter broke her arm, he will not ask if she's in any pain or if she's wearing a cast, but he will tell you how terribly upset he is because you allowed her to fall off the swings. When I told him I had got into the dream college of my choice, he didn't register the news. Then he wanted to know why I was packing to leave."
  • hypersensitivity to criticism, however mild, or rejection from others. BIG FAT CHECK.
One small example was when I sent him an email with some website references about my baby daughter relating to stranger anxiety & grandparents, you would have thought I had sent him something derogatory and cutting. He went off the deep-end and said that I insulted him. He was mad at me for months.
  • preoccupation with outward appearance, "image," or public opinion rather than inner reality. CHECK.
He has always been about appearances. No matter what turmoil or drama we were going through, we always had an outward appearance that everything was fine & dandy. He is showy with his cars, clothes, and appearance as well. He wants you to be at the holiday gathering as a show to others that his family is a cohesive unit, although it is so broken. He wants you to be part of public gatherings so his friends and family think that he has it all together, that he is loved by his family, and all is something to be envied & admired.
  • painful emotions based on shame (dislike of who one is) rather than guilt (regret for what one has done)
He will not ever discuss memories of the past. Even small, seemingly irrelevant memories he will scorn. He said to me the last time I asked him a question about my childhood, "I don't remember. I don't remember because I DO NOT WANT TO REMEMBER." He will not talk about my mother and said, "I wouldn't shed a tear if she died tomorrow" and "I divorced that lady so almost 2 decades ago and haven't talked about her since then, and I want to keep it that way". The sad thing is that if he could talk to my brother and me about our childhood, many questions could be answered, wounds healed, and doors closed. But he won't ... and he is very selfish for that.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Understanding My Borderline Mother

As the grown child of a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), I am forever grateful to Christine Ann Lawson who authored Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship for shining a spotlight on this mystifying, tragic, devastating disorder. Was your mother an unexplainable enigma of hatred, abuse, wild mood swings, illogical behaviors and obsessions? Is the first feeling that you can ever remember experiencing as a small child anxiety or fear? Could you describe your mother as a controlling, manipulative, lying witch that left you wondering what the truth was? Does this sound familiar? If so, you need to read this book.

The truth is, children of borderlines do not hate their mothers, but in time, I think that they learn to fear them, and ultimately, hate can grow from deep-rooted fear. You cannot really love those you fear. The child of a normal mother can never understand this. Not in a million years. “If anything, it's the children of a borderline who are clearly the abused and deserve to love themselves and better themselves.”

The main feature of BPD is a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions. People with borderline personality disorder are also usually very impulsive. This disorder occurs in most by early adulthood. The unstable pattern of interacting with others has persisted for years and is usually closely related to the person’s self-image and early social interactions. The pattern is present in a variety of settings, not just work or home, and often is accompanied by a similar lability (fluctuating back and forth, sometimes in a quick manner) in a person’s emotions and feelings. Relationships and the person’s emotion may often be characterized as being shallow. A person with this disorder will also often exhibit impulsive behaviors and have a majority of the following symptoms:
  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment-- the borderline in many ways is consumed with an all-encompassing rage and hatred that is inconceivable to most people.
My mother's irrationality and rages were the worst when it came to anything about my Dad. My mother especially has this hatred to my Dad, even after 29 years of divorce! To the last day that I talked to her, five years ago, she gets enraged just hearing about him. She claims it's because he left her-- that she gave him a chance to stay. I reminded her that she was the one to CHEAT on him with his BEST friend and then ask for a divorce. She said that she didn't intend on staying with my Dad's friend, but because my Dad's best friend told his wife, she was forced to tell Dad. And she said that she asked him to stay, and he walked up the driveway and left. So, to this day, she feels abandoned by him-- the fear of all fears for a person suffering from BPD-- and thus the reason for her severe irrational reactions if he comes up in conversation. Throughout my life, she looks for signs that I am "betraying" her with my Dad. She asks leading questions or comment about how I should or shouldn't do something that might involve my Dad, testing me to see where I stand.
  • While a person with depression or bipolar disorder typically endures the same mood for weeks, a person with BPD may experience intense bouts of anger, depression and anxiety that may last only hours, or at most a day. These may be associated with episodes of impulsive aggression, self-injury, and drug or alcohol abuse. Distortions in cognition and sense of self can lead to frequent changes in long-term goals, career plans, jobs, friendships, gender identity, and values.
My mother changed jobs frequently; shifted careers several times in several years, and would change complete groups of friends periodically by dropping all of her friends and associating with a whole entire new group. She also has dropped relationships with my brother, me, her sister, her father, and many others at a drop of a hat. She had these intense bouts of anger and depression, and later in years, used prescription drugs heavily.
  • Sometimes people with BPD view themselves as fundamentally bad, or unworthy. They may feel unfairly misunderstood or mistreated, bored, empty, and have little idea who they are. Such symptoms are most acute when people with BPD feel isolated and lacking in social support, and may result in frantic efforts to avoid being alone.
My mother always had a problem with either my Dad leaving (business trips, trips to see his family, extracurricular athletics) or her present husband (my step-father) going away. She stays home all the time, and presently has little to no friends.

Up until 1996ish, my mother was a go-getter and high achiever. After she was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease and the disease kicked-in, she became pretty much a recluse, never leaving the house except to go to the doctor. She has been successful in hiding her dysfunction from the public, and my step-father is so codependent he doesn't see any of it. He once tried to leave her and would spend hours discussing the plight he was going through with me. However, once the tables were turned and she directed her rage at me, my step-father had nothing to do with me.
  • Borderlines do selfish things for their own good, and rob their children of happiness and a "normal life" in various ways. Borderline mothers tend to use their children, and their husbands, and then discard them when they are through with them. Borderlines destroy families and tear them completely apart, and they are not always victims. Many of them can destroy their entire family and extended family, and feel justified.
Why? Because they think they are "victims." But remember, this victimology is often one which they create out of pure mythos. They only see themselves as "victims" because they're too narcissistic to cope with reality, or else it's convenient to make yourself a victim when you've just hurt your loved ones in order to escape dealing with your own guilt and wrongdoing. This is not about borderlines being victims, it's about how they destroy those around them and create meaningless chaos.

My mother has been married three times, has no relationship with her children, treated her sister and father very carelessly, and tore our family apart from as early as I can remember. And all along, she has seen herself as the victim and has created meaningless chaos through crusades, conspiracy theories, picking fights, fear of abandonment, not getting her way, or selfish & irrational thinking.
  • Borderlines are "crazy makers." People who get to know them end up damaged in some way or another. It's a fact that borderlines are not always psychotic, and their damage is often willfully inflicted on others out of sheer hate and malice.
My mother was always on a crusade. She will go after someone and keep on going until she has achieved her goal. Whether the crusade was having my 3rd grade teacher fired or the Dean of her university removed, my mother would spend countless hours scheming, planning, and going after their head. She will also occupy her time & thoughts with conspiracy theories: she believes my grandfather was murdered, and she thinks her mother-in-law was poisoned.
  • Borderlines often inflict harm on their own children when involved in separations and divorces.
My brother and I were pawns through the divorce. We were put through incredible amounts of trauma and stress. Now, not all of the trauma and stress was from just my mother, as Dad had part in perpetuating and starting some of it; however, HE is the one who is losing his family because his wife was messing around with his friend. My Dad should have been angry, BUT they both should have refrained from using the children as pawns. On another note, my mother would drill us about my Dad, sitting us on the floor and asking all sorts of crazy questions. The mental abuse was intense, and even more intense for my brother who was even younger. The input was incredible to process and decipher.
  • People with BPD often have highly unstable patterns of social relationships. While they can develop intense but stormy attachments, their attitudes towards family, friends, and loved ones may suddenly shift from idealization (great admiration and love) to devaluation (intense anger and dislike). Thus, they may form an immediate attachment and idealize the other person, but when a slight separation or conflict occurs, they switch unexpectedly to the other extreme and angrily accuse the other person of not caring for them at all. Even with family members, individuals with BPD are highly sensitive to rejection, reacting with anger and distress to such mild separations as a vacation, a business trip, or a sudden change in plans.
My mother completely fits this description. As a young child, if my Dad had to take a business trip, she would completely fall apart or flip out. She threatened to lock herself in her room for the entire time. She would cry and cry upon receiving the news that he was going out of town.

In regard to me, she can completely love me and adore me ... and within the SAME DAY turn her back on me and not talk to me for years, telling everyone possible horrible things about me. She has treated my brother, her sister, her father, and others the exact same way.

  • Fears of abandonment seem to be related to difficulties feeling emotionally connected to important persons when they are physically absent, leaving the individual with BPD feeling lost and perhaps worthlessness. Suicide threats and attempts may occur along with anger at perceived abandonment and disappointments. I
When she was in college, she apparently attempted suicide, causing her to move back home with her parents.
  • Borderlines make a person feel so loved, so secure etc., in the beginning (high value stage) and then a free-fall into insanity when the person completely morphs into a different personality, whom is cold, super angry, emotionally out of control and totally unreasonable and you find yourself lying emotionally wide-open, flat on your back, wondering what in the hell happened. (de-valuation stage).
Been there, experienced that many times with my mother! She was Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde from the earliest parts of our childhood on. She also would lock herself away, sometimes for days, leaving Dad wondering how he's going to care for us and get to work. My mother could turn her rages and sadistic behavior on & off like a light switch. She would instantly become "normal" the moment another person entered the room. My mother could be nasty as a snake to my brother and me and then turn it off and be sticky sweet to whoever is at the door or on the phone. Even at a young age, this behavior made me sick.

My mother went into hiding in her dark bedroom with Valium when Grandma died. And when she emerged, she relentlessly picked on my Grandpa, kicking him out of our house, an sending him a scathing letter that led him into a spinning depression. People in our family think my Mom ultimately had a hand in Grandpa's death (he died of a heart attack).

During the years in the 90's and 2000's when I had a relationship with my mother, she would brag about me, tell me how I am the best thing that ever happened to her, and sing my praises as if I hung the moon. But when she snapped (1990's due to a package I received from my Dad; 2000's due to not agreeing with my fiance and my wedding ideas), she took a completely different perspective within minutes. She went so far the other direction in her thinking that she was already saying derrogatory and awful things about me to friends and family within 24 hours of the time she snapped.
  • A middle age person, whom is over-adoring and loving, but has a history of failed relationships is displaying a huge RED FLAG, because BPD's cannot maintain long term relationships unless they become involved with a co-dependent, who keeps "hanging in there" hoping for that person to eventually begin to act "normal".
In regard to failed relationships, she doesn't have a relationship with her sister, son, daughter; she had cut off ties with her father just prior to death; she completely cuts off a group of friends to start a new group and then cuts them off (cycle).

She has been divorced three times. Her second husband (my Dad) was a rescuer for my mother, and she, in turn, stroked his narcissistic ego: he being King Dad and she being the Queen Mother. My Dad is very narcissistic and is an entire topic on his own. My mother's 3rd husband was my Dad's best-friend with whom my mother had an affair. He is a passive man who takes her abuse-- and doesn't help to shelter the kids either. I have plead to my step-father for help from my mother's wrath, but he's never done anything-- rarely even said anything either. I think he was just happy it wasn't him for a change. I also think he saw a fun, happy, and excited woman during their first years together, and I believe he keeps waiting for that woman to emerge again. He hangs on to the hopes that she will return. The last time I communicated with my mother was 5 years ago, and at that point, she only had one long term relationship-- my step-father.
  • People with BPD exhibit other impulsive behaviors, such as excessive spending, binge eating and risky sex-- impulsiveness in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging
My mother is a shopaholic, and buys incredible amounts of stuff. She has purchased hundreds of hat boxes but she doesn't wear hats. She purchased hundreds of shoes but she rarely leaves the house. She has hundreds of Beanie Babies (sometimes duplicates or triplicates of some) in plastic tubs hidden all over her house. As far as the eating, she is very, very overweight and binges on food through the night. She stays up all night and sleeps all day, which BPD's often are insomniacs unable to be alone with their own thoughts through the night.
  • BPD often occurs together with other psychiatric problems, particularly bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and other personality disorders.
My mother takes high doses of Prozac and other meds for depression.
Like many of the case studies cited in Lawson's book, my own mother behaved quite normally (and acted quite lovingly) toward me during cycles. Paranoia and rages were the other part of the cycles:
  • She said if she could do it again, she wouldn't have kids
  • She rarely showed affection. She would also get onto my brother and me if we said, "I love you", as she would scold us and say to only say that phrase if you REALLY mean it. She would never come to you and show affection. We would go to her for hugs and kisses. I remember trying to hold her hand in the movie theater and her pulling her hand away, looking at me funny
  • She said that she has started estrangements with me to make sure that I could make it on my own (her fear of abandonment creates herself pushing me away)
  • She accused me of multitudes of things I didn't do
  • She viciously gossiped about me and talked about me to others in a horrible manner
  • Her view of reality continues to get further and further distorted during the paranoid / rage cycle
While I truly DO feel sympathy for my mother, I do not feel empathy toward her. In my view, it is FAR too lenient to say, "Well, she simply couldn't help herself" because she could. My mother could turn her rages and sadistic behavior on & off like a light switch. She would instantly become "normal" the moment another person entered the room, called on the phone, or came to the door. My brother and I would get nauseated at how she could be so sticky sweet and truly fake. She has been this way her whole life-- and I think it's one of the reasons I never trusted or liked her, even as a very young child.

This element of self-control is the overlooked piece of the BPD puzzle. People who "suffer" from this disorder know exactly what they're doing when they behave in a sadistic manner. And they possess the genius, not only to hide it in front of other people, but to actually convince others that they are the "helpless victim" of the person whom they are targeting for such unspeakable abuse.

If you're a grown child of a BPD parent, my love and best wishes go out to you. You are a "war veteran" in every sense of the word, and your psychic landscape no doubt looks something like what's left after a bombing attack.