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My Experience with a Narcissistic Mother

Imagine opening your eyes as a newborn for the first time as you enter this world. Your vision is blurred, but then a smiling face comes into view. It is a woman that is holding you with tears rushing down her face. She is smiling down at you and tries feeding you. You cry and this woman soothes you with her warm embrace. This must be your mother. Mothers are usually seen as very loving, compassionate, and nurturing, but what if your mother wasn’t loving at all? What if she was actually a selfish demon set out to see you fail? Imagine it is a hot summer day, the sun is shining, and the birds are chirping. You decide to kick off the summer by inviting some friends to go out to the lake. When you arrive, the first thing you do is put your bikini on and hop into the nice cool water. As you’re relaxing and swimming in the lake, you notice a small rounded black blob stuck to your leg. As you take a closer look, you realize it’s a leech. They are known for extracting blood from your skin and are not liked by many. Similarly, narcissists act in a similar manner as well.

My mother is a complex human being, one who has a mental illness that cannot easily be diagnosed by psychiatrists or other psychological specialists. She has a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and of all the personality disorders out there, my mother is at the extreme end of the spectrum, near psychopaths and sociopaths. I have learned that NPD is an intergenerational cycle that has repetitively been used as a tactic to gain control. It is most prevalent in Asian cultures and continues to evolve to the present day. To break the cycle, one must bring awareness to the topic and attempt to attract affected individuals to the recovery process. In order to recover, you must first admit there is something wrong and willing to seek help from beings higher than yourself. Being raised by someone battling NPD has not been an easy journey, but I am grateful to be alive today in order able to share this experience with the world and help others who are struggling, as I have.

 I was born in Victoria, B.C. on February 19th, 1997 and I am the eldest of two children in my family. Despite being the eldest, I always felt as though I was insignificant. My brother, Sam was always doing better in his classes, would benefit from me being a year ahead of him, and would receive constant appraisal and favouritism from our mother. I didn’t feel important, I didn’t have control over my life and most importantly, I felt like I didn’t know who I was. Growing up was hard for me as I didn’t get a chance to make any friends or socialize much because my mom made sure I was constantly busy with other activities. Seven days a week, I had a jam-packed schedule starting at 6:00 am and ending at 6:00 pm. Much of this time filled with school, band, tutoring, sports, private music lessons, studying, and other extracurricular activities. Although I was always busy, it wasn’t all bad, but I find myself only remembering the bad memories.

It feels weird to speak about my mother and think about her now since she is no longer in my life. I miss her every day, but she is too sick for me to have a “normal” parent-child relationship with her. Her mood would vary from happy-to-sad-to-angry all in an instant, most of the time for no reason at all. She believes she cannot be taught anything and doesn’t need to learn new things, but rather tries to teach others. She believes she is God, and therefore can do as she pleases. For example, on multiple occasions, my mother would show up to my school while I was in class just to spy and see which other kids were in my class, who I was becoming friends with, and even “ensure” that I was following all her “rules.” My classmates would tell me how they saw my mother creeping around the hallways or encouraging school staff to spy on me. This was her way to gain intel on my actions throughout the day while I was at school and away from her control for eight hours of the day. She wanted to control every single aspect of my day and made sure that I feared her. I remember back in high school, we were allotted thirty-five minutes for lunch and my friend asked if I wanted to walk to DQ with her and buy a Blizzard, as there was a DQ only five minutes away. I declined her invite because I was too afraid my mother would be lurking outside ensuring that I was to stay inside during the school lunch break. I was forced to eat lunch in one of my classrooms and work on my school assignments. Since my Sam also went to my high school at the time, he would sometimes partner up with my mom to get me in trouble and would spy on me for her as well. My mother turned Sam and me against each other right from the start, never giving us an opportunity to build our own relationship. He would sneak into my room late at night to check on me, seeing if I had snuck my phone down to my room or to see if I was asleep as I was “supposed to be.” He would use anything he could find to use as ammunition to make himself look good, and to simultaneously make me look bad. I was never a bad or difficult child. I was always very obedient, kind, caring, compassionate, and helpful. My mother used all of these characteristics to her advantage and had me doing chores after school, such as laundry, mopping floors, dusting the windows, cooking dinner every night, and washing the dishes. My mother also loved to hire people to do her tasks for her and “de-clutter” her “complicated” life. In my opinion, she had lived quite easily, she was a stay-home mom with no job, barely did housework or cooked, and bought whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Since my dad is a family doctor, she used him to her advantage as well. She never suffered in any way and had zero feelings of remorse or guilt for all the terrible actions she has committed. Furthermore, she would hire several nannies to pick us up from school, watch us while we were at home, and feed us. Some of these babysitters were not always nice and didn’t know how to do certain tasks. One lady didn’t know how to roll dough and she tried making Indian food for us but ended up wasting plenty of flour. We were exposed to many different nannies over the years until we were old enough to not need one. My mother always claimed she always put her children’s needs first, but that’s a lie. Her own needs were always met whereas the rest of us were depleted. Lifeless. Empty. Left with just enough energy to survive another day in the shadow of this woman.

My mother lived a very disorganized lifestyle, from how she got dressed in the morning to the way she slept on her bed at night. She had piles of random objects strewn across her bed and her closet always looked like it had been flipped upside down. Nothing ever made sense and it never got any cleaner. If anything, the clutter around the house got worse as each day passed. I liked to keep my own room very organized and clean. I would say I have mild OCD, which is not officially diagnosed, but as I got older, I realized it’s due to my dysfunctional environment that made me want to keep my own space clean. While living with my mom, I would constantly question myself why I was cleaning and reorganizing my room several times a week. I knew it wasn’t normal but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I realized it was the constant chaos in my household that was forcing me to find a safe space where I could escape. I was also never reprimanded for wanting to clean my room, it was one of the few things she did allow me to do.

There was one instance where I thought about my future, the type of job I would have, who I would marry, and the birth of my first child, but I couldn’t help but imagine my mom being there for each new milestone. Now, I’m not so certain. I ask myself, “Is she capable of love”? My answer is no, she can love neither herself nor others. She has no empathy for anyone and is probably the most selfish, unloving person I have ever met in my life. Nothing was ever good enough for her. There was always something bothering her and it was impossible to change her mood. The level of achievement she expected of me was not possible for me to reach. No matter how hard I worked, I wasn’t authentically loved by her, although she was always around. Over the years, I’ve had a hatred for her and experienced a lot of anger and sadness. I don’t know if I will ever get to the point of forgiveness. How can you forgive someone who has endlessly hurt you and shattered your trust completely that you no longer have an identity? Days go by, then weeks, then months, and eventually years. Time just slips away, and you don’t even realize everyone who was once it is now gone. It’s been just over two years that I stopped speaking to my mother. I’ve forgotten the sound of her voice, as well as the small details I used to remember about her. Everything feels different now. It’s like she’s dead, merely a spirit that comes and goes as she pleases. I thought I knew who my own mother was, but clearly, I didn’t. She is a stranger to me now. The last time I saw her in person was over a year ago on my birthday. I was at work and she surprised me with a hand-made birthday card with a sketchbook filled with photos of me as a child. She had found out about my work schedule through her friend who also works with me. Anyway, she typed out several paragraphs in this portfolio expressing how much she loves and misses me. I couldn’t help but feel emotional looking at these old memories, which in turn, was her intention. To make me feel vulnerable enough to allow her back into my life. Being an emotional person, I was conflicted about what to do. Should I approach her and rebuild our relationship? After all, she is my mother, and I shouldn’t ignore her. Some people do not know their mother, I should talk to her, even though I feel uncomfortable. Am I even allowed to have my boundaries when I spend time with her? All these guilty thoughts and questions would pop into my head. Sometimes my mother’s voice would even pop into my head, threatening me that if I cut her out of my life, I would not be successful and not make it anywhere without her. My mother’s voice was a constant reminder that I wasn’t good enough to make it on my own, or smart enough to learn how to cope with the “real world”. She would use double-standards quite often with us and most of these scenarios were heavily biased towards men. It was the fact that my brother was a male, and he is the youngest of the family that he could be trusted to have more freedom. When Sam was invited to a sleepover at a friend’s house, my mother agreed instantly and allowed him to go. When I got invited to a sleepover, I was told that I am not allowed to stay over at friends’ houses due to the fact that I am a girl and cannot take care of myself in someone else’s home. She didn’t trust me sleeping at any friend’s houses, unless they came from a “good” family, such as a doctor’s family, lawyer’s family or classical musician family. If my friends’ parents did not meet my mother’s criteria, I was to steer clear of them entirely. My mother does not smoke, nor does she drink alcohol. When my friend invited me to her birthday party at Esther’s Inn when I was 12 years old, my mother let me go, only because she decided to tag along with me. When we arrived, there were 15 other girls at the party from my class as well as the 3 boys that were also in our class. As we were all preparing to jump in the pool, my mother immediately threw a towel on me and tried to cover me up, saying I looked exposed in front of the boys. She embarrassed me that day. After this traumatic incident, I could not feel confident nor did I feel beautiful. I felt worthless. That was also the last party I was allowed to go to from that friend. My mother found out her parents both smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol and therefore, I was to never speak to her again unless it was school-related. Ironically, several years later, my birthday rolled around again, and I was turning 15 years old. My mother went to my school while I was in my classes and got a few of the same friends that attended the Esther’s Inn fiasco to organize a surprise party for me. I was not popular throughout school and when everyone showed up at my party, it felt more like pity than an authentic friendship.

They say when you dream, it comes from your subconscious, as well as the events that occurred to you the day before. Under the narcissist spell, I had numerous nightmares, almost every single night. I don’t know why, but I used to journal all these dreams and read them later on to compare them. Every nightmare I had involved my mother in some way. To this day, I still have nightmares about her. I haven’t spoken to her in over two years and she still haunts me. Not all my dreams are bad, however, one dream that resonated with me was from several months ago. It was a very dark, and stormy night. I was walking outside on the sidewalk at midnight and it was raining. It looked like a scene from an old film that plays in black and white. I remember feeling a shiver run down my spine making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Suddenly, a cloud came over me and the sidewalk was blackened out from the cloud’s shadow. There was something strange about this shadow but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then I saw the shadow morph into a pair of wings. When I turned around, I saw that they were very large, with charcoal black feathers. It was a raven, three times the size of the average human. It wasn’t just any raven either. When I looked up at the raven’s face, I saw my mother. She looked angry, mean and very intimidating. She was chasing me and gaining on me inch by inch. Swooping in with her sharp talons, she grabbed me and took off into the sky. That’s when I woke up in a pool of my sweat.  

I have so many emotions about my mom and some days it becomes too difficult for me to deal with. I feel lost, I feel sad, I feel angry, and then I grieve for the loss of the relationship I never had. It was neither a perfect nor was it a healthy relationship, but I still long for it every single day, which scares me to my core. Even the thought of going back to our family house sends shivers down my spine. Although we had a beautiful large spacious house, it felt empty, colourless, and cold, just like a dead body. I use the term “house,” because it was not home. Home is where one can feel comfortable and safe, however, mine was just the opposite. It was like a jail, everything I did was monitored and controlled. Many times, I felt I was in chains, unable to move or breathe, feeling like I was being suffocated. Even my bathroom breaks were supervised and I was not allowed to shut the door while I was in there. There was no real love in that house and out of the four of us, we never seemed to be on the same page. There was too much dysfunction and chaos for my brother, my father and I to realize what was happening. We were slowly dying, one cell at a time and it was a very painful lifestyle. The only way to cope was to keep my mind occupied and always be busy, whether it was organizing my room, cleaning the house, or helping with dinner. Growing up, I was a very overweight child ranging from 150-200 pounds at age 12. I was eating unhealthy foods and in large quantities. Looking back now, the weight I was carrying was also from the stress of living with and being raised by a narcissistic parental figure. So many expectations, most of which were impossible to achieve. She set me up to fail right from the beginning. Every time I thought I was making progress, there would be some massive change that would affect my ability to do so. I remember one night I was finishing my assignments until the early hours of the morning, and my mom came downstairs to check on me. She knew my course load was overwhelming and yet she still made my life difficult. Finally, after finishing all my assignments, I was finally able to go to sleep at 1:00 am, however she woke me up four hours later banging a cooking pot with a wooden spoon. To this day I struggle with PTSD due to the crazy methods she would use when trying to wake me up. The worst part in all of this was the fact that she scattered her movements so we would never know which method she would use next. She would constantly be changing it daily so as to not seem predictable. Another time, she brought a bucket of ice water and poured it on me, soaking my sheets and comforter. This was her way to put fear into me so I would never disobey her. Little did she know, there were other, gentler ways to wake someone up. Maybe she did know what she was doing, but there is no way to know her intentions for sure. On the contrary, if she decided to take a nap, and we woke her up in this manner, we would get physically beaten. As soon as she would realize that I was feeling too fearful of her, she would suddenly become nice and friendly again to reel me back into her sticky web of lies. She would tell me how much she loves me and compliment me or buy me gifts. Although I was an obedient child, I was also naïve. I believed everything she ever told me because I didn’t know any better, nor did I believe any mother would ever lie to her own children, let alone her own. At any instance, where I would question her or her motives, she would have excuses to back up her claims. If she could not think of a response, she would simply say “because I said so.” She wanted us to blindly follow her, giving her all the praise and attention in the world, as this is what she thrived on. She was always the center of attention no matter where she was or what she was doing. For instance, she always bought new clothes for herself and if something didn’t fit, or she didn’t like it, she would hand it down to me. However, a few days later if she changed her mind and wanted to wear it again, I would have to return it to her closet immediately.

Every aspect of my life was controlled one way or another. It is probably the reason I feel so confused as an adult. Am I doing the right thing today? I second-guess myself often because I never had a chance to find out who I am and what my purpose is in life. I have passions and activities I enjoy doing, but why am I here? Why did I experience this narcissistic abuse, or was it all for nothing? I strongly believe everything happens for a reason and any obstacle or person that comes into my path is simply here to teach me a lesson. I just have to find out what my lesson is and go from there. I try to see my journey as positive, as I am still breathing and alive and constantly learning how to not be so codependent on others and be comfortable in my own skin. Due to my experience with this trauma, I am now easily able to distinguish narcissists from other individuals and I feel I can help others who don’t have that knowledge who may be struggling in the same situation. I want to help people and that is a huge part of why I want to be a doctor. Practicing medicine isn’t all about prescribing medicine and fixing broken bones, but it also focuses on the mental health of the individual. Trauma isn’t easily “fixed”, and the recovery process takes a lifetime. The knowledge you learn in your life comes from a mixture of your environment and genetics. Due to this fact, any mistakes made by the past generations will be carried forward. It is incredibly difficult to stop dysfunctional cycles without having any prior knowledge. I am thankful for my dad, as he has helped me get out of the haunted house I grew up in. With no prior work experience, no money, and no license, I had nowhere to go and no one else to go to other than him solely.

Although I’ve endured a lot of trauma throughout my life and still experience PTSD due to these traumatizing experiences, there are still many positives that came out of this situation that I am grateful for. First and foremost, I was able to build a relationship with my dad. Although we lived in the same house my whole life, we weren’t able to build a true father-daughter bond because my mother would pin us against each other. There are no words to describe how grateful I am to have him in my life as he is the main reason I am safe and alive today. My mother used to pin me against my father’s side of the family as well. Since leaving my mother’s house, I have become close with all of my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandmother, who have all shown love and support throughout my difficult journey. Sadly, I wasn’t able to build a relationship with my grandfather as he had passed, but I know he’s always looking over me and loves me. My dad’s side of the family have accepted me regardless of the lies my mom voiced about them. They’ve shown me unconditional love, a type of love I never received from my mother. As mentioned earlier, I wasn’t allowed to have any friends when I was younger. During high school, I had made a best friend, Semone. She is the only person I had connected with when I was younger because we were so similar. Unfortunately, my mother disapproved of this friendship because she didn’t want opinions that differ from her own to “influence” me. Fortunately, in post-secondary, we were able to rekindle our friendship and have managed to remain best friends to this day. Through Semone, I was able to meet my other best friend, Simmy. We have a lot in common as she also grew up in a toxic and abusive home and I feel she understands the trauma I’ve experienced. Unfortunately, my relationship with my brother has been difficult, but I’m grateful for my two best friends as they have stood by me through all my life experiences. Lastly, although I don’t have a relationship with my mother, I was able to gain many other healthy relationships that I will always cherish. This shows that good things can come out of bad experiences. I do have anger towards my mother, but I am grateful to have met her as she will only make me stronger. I have learned to speak up and voice any concerns I may have, I have learned boundaries and I have taken more time to spend on me, with me, working on myself. All of this would be impossible without my experience with my mother. I pray for her and hope she finds happiness one day. All I can do is love her from a distance and detach with love.

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