As long as I can remember I knew that my mother and I had a difficult relationship at best. I started wondering why my mother doesn’t love me when I was still quite young. Maybe I thought: she must love me, but she sure does not like me! I had an understanding that there was something not right, even when I was a young child. By the time I was 8 I used quite choice words to describe my mother in my diary, honestly, a child that young should not dislike their parent that much (or in fact have that vocabulary…).
What Is Wrong With Me?
Like so many victims of non-physical abuse, I thought there was something wrong with me that made the relationship with my parents so troublesome. Even as I grew older and could see their behavior was not normal, I would still assume that I held the responsibility. I figured I must be awful and unlovable if not even my parents could find it in their hearts to appreciate me!
I can see now that more often than not I assumed to role of the adult in my parental relationship. When I could feel the tension building, I was often the person that suggested we sit down and talk. When my mother was being particularly impossible, I would give in to her whimsy in order to solve the issue. And so when things got worse, I would doubt myself, would try to adjust my behavior, would try to figure out what was wrong with me. Also, my sisters seemed to struggle with my parents’ behavior far less (something they would all point out to me regularly), and so I felt more and more that I was somehow the person to blame.
When I Finally Connected the Dots
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I figured out that I really was not responsible for the problems I experienced with my parents. When I first learned about emotional abuse, I started connecting the dots. I started reading everything I could find about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the underlying issue that seems to cause my mother’s abuse. It was like reading the playbook. I really think my brain exploded those first few days. So many memories flooded back, and I was constantly re-evaluating things against my new found insight.
I order to try and calm this storm of insight, I tried to structure my thinking more. And so I started taking the descriptions of NPD and emotional abuse I was reading and started filling notebooks with examples from my own life. I was thinking about my parents almost constantly, trying to make sense of it all. I was angry, afraid, sad, frustrated.
I found others that had had similar experiences and told them about my life. The feedback and support I received were invaluable. I needed a sounding board. I needed people to help me reflect on my story. I needed their input to further my understanding of what happened to me, and how it influenced me.
I Wasn’t Unlovable, She Was Unable to Love
The realization that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with me, was the beginning of the lesson that it was she that was unable to love, not me that was unlovable. That realization was the budding flower of self-love, and I think in many ways the essence of my healing journey. Because my mother had programmed me to believe I did not inspire love in others, I was incapable of loving myself. Without love for myself, how would I ever care for my own emotional, mental and physical health? How would I be able to fully engage in friendships and relationships? How would I ever think I was good enough for anything?
I know that my mother will have suffered in her own life. I understand that, but I also understand that I should not have to suffer for her trauma. The healing journey is a long one, and I am still traveling along that path. I have good days, I have bad days. I even still have eureka days. But those first weeks that everything started to fall into place. When I started to talk to others with similar stories and learned I was not alone… nothing compares to that sense of liberation.