The Curse of the ‘Gifted’ Child

From a very early age, my mother would go on and on about how clever and gifted I was. How lucky you are, she’d tell me, to be so clever and able to achieve so much!

This was often followed with yet another guilt-inducing sob story about how she had to leave school aged 14 and get a job as a typist.

The notion that I was not only clever but very talented was impressed upon me from such an early age. It never occurred to me to question what I was told because Mummy was always right, and yes, I did tend to do very well at school.

In my first few years at Primary school, all seemed to go well. My mother had already taught me to read, and do simple arithmetic before I started in reception class, so her assertion that I was far ahead of the other children was, in fact true.

But how far ahead was I really?

I skipped a year in Primary school jumping from year 1 to year 3 with a couple of other bright kids, and we were thrust into a class with children far older and more mature than we were.

I have to admit it was unnerving and I never felt completely at ease being surrounded by older, bigger, and often meaner kids, some of whom clearly weren’t very happy at being outclassed and made to look dim by younger children.

The teachers also didn’t seem very pleased that we were there because it meant extra work for them helping us to catch up with lessons the other kids had already completed like learning joined up handwriting.

By the time I was 9, I was no longer coping being with the older kids and the other 3 bright kids who had skipped a year along with me were stagnating too. The decision was made for us to stay down a year and rejoin the children our own age.

I have to admit it was a huge relief for me, but Mummy was less than impressed.

She was furious.

I had failed her – and it wasn’t the first time!

See here – I’m a terrible failure! Spoiler alert – I’m not really 😉

Now, something to understand about my mother is that she didn’t just set a high standard for me, or hope I would do my best. Oh no, that would be far too reasonable.

For some reason she had projected her own narcissistic infallibility onto me and decided that I was some sort of genius prodigy. And I can tell you; I’m really not!

OK, yes so I do have above average intelligence, and yes I do have some raw talent for all things artistic and musical, but Mozart I ain’t!

Despite this, Mummy insisted on punishing me anytime my results weren’t exceptional. Yes that’s right. Very good wasn’t good enough, they had to be exceptional.

Why? Because I was “so clever and gifted.”

She even persisted with her fantasy by making me take the entrance examination for the local private girls school a year early. And not just the regular entrance exam, oh no, I had to get a scholarship because she wasn’t going to pay for it!

Being a good student and a hard worker, I did my best, I really did. I studied extra maths to bring my knowledge up to the required level and sat inside doing mock exam papers for hours on end when I should have been outside playing with the other kids my age.

I remember sitting at the big wooden desk on the day of the entrance examination, on the verge of tears, feeling stressed and terrified that I wouldn’t make the grade.

I desperately searched my mind for some words of encouragement my parents might have given me if they’d been there – but I couldn’t find any. I couldn’t imagine anything positive they’d say, other than telling me not to be so silly, and that really didn’t help.

I don’t remember much else about that day but I do remember being called back for an interview with the headmistress as the final part of the scholarship assessment.

I waited anxiously for the letter to arrive with my results, and finally the day came.

I saw the letter waiting for me on the dining room table, and recognising the school’s insignia I stepped forward eagerly. My mother didn’t bother to come out of the kitchen to greet me, she just barked “you won’t like it!” in an angry voice.

Panicked, I grabbed the letter and read to my horror that I would not be admitted, but that I was welcome to apply again the following year.

I looked to my mother for some reassurance or sympathy but there was none. She was angry, cold and sent me crying to my room.

I’d failed her. AGAIN.

For years I carried the terrible burden that I’d somehow managed to FAIL an exam.

I was in shock – I always worked so hard and did my best, and although I didn’t always come top in everything, I’d certainly never failed anything before. My mother used to gloatingly bring it up any time I was happy with an achievement and use it to knock me back down to the gutter with feelings of shame and self-hatred, where she clearly felt I belonged.

Many years later, when boasting to some friends of hers, she let the truth slip out.

I was feeling ashamed about the subject of my failure being raised yet again in front of guests (a huge source of amusement to her) and I must have finished the sentence for her saying that I’d done really badly and hadn’t got in.

Never one to be outdone, she ripped the rug out from under my feet, and spinning round to me she said:

“Ah yes, but you don’t realise how close you came to getting that scholarship, do you?!”

She looked highly amused, like there was some huge joke I wasn’t party to. I remember feeling confused and shocked, especially after all the sh*t I’d taken from her over the years about it.

As it turned out, I had aced the exams and I was shortlisted for the scholarship with one other girl.

But, after interviewing me, the Headmistress had wisely decided not to award it to me, because I was a sensitive and shy child, and she (correctly) felt I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to deal with secondary school yet.

I nearly fell over from shock. I felt dizzy and betrayed. I’d endured years of humiliation, cruelty and punishment for my so-called failure which, as it turned out, was no failure at all. It was actually yet another achievement that any other normal parent, or human being would have treated as such.

Clearly though, in her eyes it had been a terrible failure because it wasn’t exceptional enough for her twisted, narcissistic mind. I’m sure she felt she had lost face after boasting about it to all the other parents in our road. And how DARE I humiliate her like that?!

The greatest irony about the story is actually that the reason I was so emotionally immature and sensitive was actually her fault.

My research into abusive narcissistic mothers and the damage they do has lead me to understand that one of the most common problems is that the daughter is left emotionally unfinished. The narcissistic mother does not allow her daughter to separate from her mother and individuate, develop her own persona and grow up.

Of course, there would really be no point ever telling her this, because she would dismiss it as nonsense, or make out I was being “vindictive” and “making things up.” As usual. Mummy can do no wrong, after all.

She would also vehemently deny any wrongdoing on her part, and make up a story in her mind about what a wonderful mother she was and how she is sure she must have comforted me about it at the time.

That woman has one heck of an imagination.

But the point here is that the narcissistic mother will often label one of her children as gifted or clever, and take any sort of raw talent as proof that they are as exceptional and amazing as her narcissistic mind believes that she is.

Despite the promising-sounding label, I was actually the scapegoat child and the “gifted” label was used over and over as a rod to beat me with.

It was a convenient excuse for her to withhold praise, affection or love because my achievements could be easily dismissed with brush offs like

“well we expected you to do well”

or the one I hated the most:

“it was easy for you.”

It wasn’t easy for me! I worked very hard, and subsequently grew up with a real workaholism problem which has been picked up by every manager I’ve ever encountered in the work place.

They couldn’t understand why I would work myself into exhaustion, or why I would be dissatisfied with file audits where I scored anything less than 100% accuracy.

I’ll admit, it has been a very difficult habit for me to overcome.

I still feel myself slipping back into the old emotional habit, judging myself harshly if I don’t get things right first time or don’t quite achieve an exceptional result.

I’m getting there, and learning to celebrate and reward myself for smaller achievements has been a tough journey, but it’s not impossible.

I’ve learned (very slowly) that you don’t have to be the best at everything, and you don’t even have to do well.

The most important thing is the one thing Mummy never told me, not once, so I’m going to tell it to you right now.

The most important thing is to be HAPPY.

Being a kind, contented and happy person is the real achievement in this lifetime, not being some genius prodigy with millions of pounds and a stack of doctorates.

There aren’t enough cabinets of trophies in the world that will make you feel you’ve achieved enough, so if like me you’re forever pushing, maybe it’s time to stop. Take a break and just focus on you.

You are a human being, not a human doing.

And sometimes, just being is enough.

 

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Meds or other remedies for Anxiety? My Experience…

One of the really fun side effects of childhood trauma, is the anxiety and depression that it leaves you very prone to as an adult.

Yes, that was sarcasm.

But seriously, I’ve been struggling with anxiety for several years now, and it’s very difficult to control.

I’m not talking about feeling a bit worried now and then, I’m talking about the crippling physical meltdown that you can’t control, that makes you unable to think, get out of bed, work or have any semblance of a normal life.

I do find that exercise helps somewhat, but like many of you out there,  I don’t always have the time or motivation to get a brisk 30 minute walk/run/workout into my morning schedule (because it has to be first thing or I’m a nervour wreck all day). And truth be told, on my worst anxious days, just getting out of bed is a struggle so trying to go for a walk to make myself feel less anxious is kind of a catch 22.

For that reason I’ve had serveral rounds of anxiety meds over the years including Citalopram and Sertraline.

Sadly the side effects were pretty bad for me (feeling thick headed and raging heartburn 24/7) and oh my goodness they took a long time to kick in!

At the time I didn’t have any other options so I took the meds, although I found that I’d keep having to up the dose because my body would start to get used to them. Each time the dose went up, the side effects got worse and the other pills I was taking to control the side effects stopped working.

I’d really had enough of it after a few months and I decided I had to stop taking them altogether.

I’ve worked very hard to find other remedies for anxiety that actually work, and I wanted to share the ones that I’ve had success with to give other anxiety sufferers some options.

Please note, I’m not a doctor so this is not medical advice. This is just my personal experience, and as with all things, you may find that what worked for me doesn’t work so well for you, but I do hope this can bring some value to somebody, somewhere.

I’ve put a couple of links to some online stores to help you find some of the remedies I’m talking about down below. They’re not affiliate links and I don’t get anything for sharing them. These are just to help you find the products.

1. Bach Flower Remedy – White Chestnut

This is one I’ve been using for a few years. It definitely helps in an emergency when I’m anxious but it’s not always enough on it’s own to get through the day.

Everybody bangs on about Rescue Remedy, but I’ve never found it effective. Flower remedies, as with all homeopathic treatments, need to be tailored to the individual so they are not one-size-fits-all.

I actually body dowsed on which flower remedy I needed and how many drops to use (in public at the Holland and Barrett store hee hee! Got some funny looks that day…)

It’s pretty effective, but I find I need to use White Chestnut several times a day.

I find that initially it makes me feel a bit like I’ve been sedated (not such a bad thing!) but it’s not as long lasting as I’d like it to be.

2. Indigo Essences – No Fear

Another good homeopathic range I like is called Indigo Essences – I’ve had the most success with one called ‘No Fear’ in a spray format, but I like to use a few together depending on what sort of day I’m having!

I think homeopaths tend to use these for children but I really like them (so bite me!) plus being an unloved child, I do think these resonate rather nicely with the hurt inner child within.

I have a collection of the sprays now, including Love, Chill and Plurk.

Again these help to a point, depending on what sort of anxiety day I’m having. At my more anxious times these aren’t always enough by themselves, but I do like having them on hand.

These can also be quite hard to get hold of but this online retailer usually has them in stock:

https://www.sensorysmart.co.uk/indigo-essences—first-aid-for-feelings-81-c.asp

3. “Calm Me” Aromatherapy roll-on by Pure Peace

This one is made by a lovely lady I know called Denice, who creates aromatherapy and homeopathic products. It’s a nice blend of aromatherapy oils including lavender, frankincense and sandalwood.

It smells very nice (not too “old lady” despite the lavender!) and I use it instead of perfume on my pulse points. I also like to inhale it straight from the bottle. It’s gentle but can really help me get through a difficult day.

This is another one you need to carry with you and reapply as necessary. It’s a tiny rollerball container so nice and discreet, plus it just looks like you’re putting on perfume.

Again this isn’t as effective as the meds were (when they were working!) but makes a big difference when I find myself slipping down the anxious slope.

There are lots of aromatherapy oils and blends you can try for yourself – I do however recommend getting help from a qualified aromatherapist (not some clueless doTerra sales rep!) because the oils should be treated with caution. They can do more harm than good if used incorrectly, so be warned!

You can find this product on Denice’s website here: http://pure-peace.co.uk

4. Niacin 

Yes Niacin, Vitamn B3! As found in breakfast cereals advertised on the telly! The only difference is you need a higher dose than the one in a portion of Rice Crispies.

Niacin was recommended to me by a friend who is training to be a naturopath. (Yes, I have a lot of friends who are alternative healers! I’m a trained holistic therapist myself, so it’s hardly surprising!)

He mentioned to me that taking a high dosage of Niacin can be very effective against anxiety – and he was completely right. This is actually the most effective remedy I’ve found so far.

Check with your doctor or phramacist if Niacin is suitable for you before taking it, and I suggest getting a non-flush type so you don’t get a hot flush when it kicks in. And boy does it kick!

Niacin is used by some people as a performance enhancer before exams or when they have a lot of work on, because it keeps your brain sharp. It says on the bottle that Niacin  “helps support proper brain function.” I’ve definitely found myself more able to focus since taking it regularly, and I don’t think it’s just because I’m not constantly distracted by anxiety anymore!

The first time I took it, I only took 100mg but made the mistake of taking it first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. I don’t recommend that! Niacin can cause a banging headache if you’re not careful to eat with it or take too much at once.

I’ve slowly increased my dose over a few weeks to 300mg a day which I take in the morning after my breakfast.

This is the amount that seems to work best for me at the moment.  The anxiety will actually go completely (yes, OMG the feeling of relief!!) and sometimes the calm feeling lasts to the next day – although this isn’t always a good thing because then I can forget to take it and the anxiety creeps back up on me…

But all in all, I’m very, very impressed with the results I am getting from taking Niacin every day.

I do find I’m able to focus on my work very nicely while taking it – quite unlike the anxiety meds from the doctor that made me feel a bit dippy and dull.

Taking Niacin for anxiety has been an absolute life-saver for me, and I’m so grateful that my friend suggested it to me which is why I wanted to write this blog today. I had no idea it could help so effectively.

I can focus, it actually works as well as the meds with no side effects and it’s affordable too. I just get one from my local health food store but it’s easily available online.

I must stress again that as with any supplement or therapy, always check with a medical profesional before taking it and remember to do your research re dosage and side effects etc.

Suffering from crippling anxiety has made my life hell for several years. Like I’ve explained in previous blogs, it’s not my mind that starts it.

It’s very odd but I get all the physical symptoms FIRST, then my mind tries to join in. I’m usually pretty good at controlling my mind and being the observer of my thoughts thanks to years of meditation and mindfulness practise, but even that isn’t enough to stop my body going into a meltdown and shooting me up with adrenaline and god-knows-what other hormones to torture me with!

From what I’ve read, this may be symptomatic of an emotional flashback,  but all I know is it’s made me incapable of holding down a full time job for the past 5 years, and made my life very, very unhappy.

So if you’re struggling with anxiety, my heart goes out to you. I know how awful and debilitating it is, and there really is nothing worse than somebody “helpfully” asking you what it is you’re anxious about and trying to explain why you shouldn’t be – the temptation to scream and punch them can be overwhelming, but violence is frowned upon…

I really hope that some of these suggestions help, and if nothing else I do strongly suggest looking into taking Niacin (vitamin B3) if you’re having a bad time with anxiety. It has helped me to regain a normal life again and you really can’t put a price on feeling “normal.”

Love and peaceful thoughts to you!

Shanti xox

 

Taking back my achievements

One of the common themes talked about when discussing the behaviour of the narcissistic mother centres around their children’s achievements.

As you’ll know if you were raised by a toxic narcissistic monther, the child finds themselves in a double-bind. Mother wants you to do well, so that you make her look good, but you’d better not expect any praise or recognition for your achievements! If you do too well or take too much attention away from her, she will be angry!

As a result, we children of narcisststs often grow up into high achieving adults with very low self esteem, and it can be very hard for us to even recognise when we do well. Mother’s voice is still ringing in our ears that we are “expected to do well” to avoid punishment, or that it was somehow “easy for us” or whatever other spurious excuse she used to justify why our achivements were not worthy of note.

I found myself considering this the other day, whilst telling my partner about the swimming club I was a member of as a child. I don’t remember how the subject came up.

I always thought that I loved swimming as a child, and I did reach a good level of proficiency and skill. As a result I’m a very confident and strong swimmer as an adult and it’s something that my partner noticed and commented on when we took his son to the swimming baths for the first time together a few years ago.

The most interesting part of the story however is that it wasn’t always that way, I just didn’t remember. As a small child I was afraid of water and frightened of the sea. I didn’t like swimming one bit.

My mother told me when I was much older, that she took me to a swimming class before I started infant school and her description of how I found it was “You didn’t like it, but you’d do it.”

So much for all her assertions that I was a difficult and unwilling child… but I digress.

When I started school, she enrolled me into the same swimming club as my older sister who was something of an accomplished athlete and a very good competitive swimmer.

And guess what – apparently I hated that too. I wasn’t just bad at learning to swim, I was the worst child there!

I seemed to have really no natural aptitude whatsoever, and I found it all very challenging and difficult.

Nonetheless, I did it because I always did as I was told, and I always tried to be a good girl, but now I think about it, it was a hard and unrewarding slog most of the time. I enjoyed interacting with the other children and having something to do after school on a a Friday, but it wouldn’t have been my first choice.

I remember feeling disappointed time and time again when I was never chosen for any of the awards for ‘best improver’ in my group no matter how hard I tried.

I did eventually make it up through the ranks to the second from top group in the swimming club after many years and much effort on my part, but as my sister had been in the top group years before, this was counted as yet another “failure” on my part. Second to top was not good enough. Never mind that many of the youngsters in the top group were much older that I was, and swam several times a week. Some even competed at county and national level.

I grew to love swimming despite my original apprehension and struggles, but I rarely took part in swimming galas because I just wasn’t fast enough compared to the other swimmers, so I was never picked to represent the club. My mother used to berate me that it was because I was “lazy” and couldn’t be bothered to “put myself out.” I never understood why she said that because I always tried my hardest – I just wasn’t a very fast swimmer!

Later in life, after we had moved house and swimming lessons were not longer a part of my life, my mother loved to humiliate me with the story that I had stayed in the beginners group at that swimming club for longer than any other child, including younger children than myself. Apparently, or so she used to mock, I stayed in that group longer than any child ever had before.

It was cause for great hilarity to her, and she would tell the story with a snide smile on her face, knowing full well how much it was upsetting me. I used to go bright red and feel very embarassed when she brought it up, which she usually did at social gatherings or in conversation with friends or new acquantances.

She liked to stick the knife in early to make sure they knew how “useless” I was, and at the first sign they though I was a nice girl or that they were enjoying my company, often at one of the many dinner parties we attended when I was a teenager, she would trot one of these humiliating stories out to smack me down, remind me of my place, and draw the attention back to her.

But back to present day – as I was reminiscing last week about my struggles learning to swim and how I managed to become proficient at a sport I clearly had zero natural aptitude for, it hit me for the first time what a big achievement that actually was.

For a young child with no talent or ability at swimming (I didn’t even like getting my face wet!) to persevere and work so hard that they became proficient in a sport that they never wanted to take part in in the first place, suggests to me a huge amount of strength of character.

For the first time I was able to marvel at the tenacity and determination it must have taken for five year old me to do that. Yes, to put this into perspective,  I joined the swimming club aged five and left when I was 11, when we moved house.

I am now, finally able to reframe what happened and see it through the lens of objectivity, as opposed to my mother’s cruel and warped version of reality which served only to put me down and make me feel bad.

Looking back I can also see how many times my mother played down real my very achievements in childhood, and I’m finally able to start taking them back for myself, albeit belatedly at nearly 40 years old!

I remember that when I achieved my swimming badges for distance swimming, she never bothered to buy the actual badge to sew onto my track suit sleeve after the first one or two, although she had done for my sister before me – the golden child could have whatever she wanted.

Achievements in swimming started small – I remember the first badge was for succesfully swimming one width of the pool without touching the bottom and then increased to one length of the 50 metre pool then 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and so on.

Even when I achieved my half mile aged 10, she still acted like it was no big deal and didn’t bother to get the badge for me despite my protests. She dismissively said I could have my sister’s old ones from her old tracksuit that she’d outgrown – but even that was too much effort for her because she never bothered to sew them onto mine.

But now I feel like I’ve finally been able to claim my achievements in swimming and I can actually start to feel proud of what I did. I see the past through new eyes – I suppose this is what they call reframing and it feels very much like I am reparenting myself at the same time.

I knew from therapy and from reading self help books that self-parenting would be something I’d need to do on my healing journey. I’m not sure that I’ve done very much of that before now because it felt a bit forced and the idea of it made me uncomfortable.

But not any more. The sudden moment of clarity about the reality of my childhood achievements in swimming happened completely organically.

The protective and loving parent-type feelings I found myself having toward little-me bubbled up to the surface all by themselves.

Maybe this is how you’re supposed to do it. I really don’t know, but I do know this:

You can heal and you will – if you allow yourself to.

I genuinely believe that there is a part of us that wants to heal, that wants to get past the hurt and that shows us the way. It’s the part of us that we unlock on our healing path when we take the first step in recovery.

It’s almost like a Fairy Godmother who lives inside you, and pops the right thoughts into your consciousness at exactly the right moment for healing to occur naturally, and it’s really rather wonderful when it happens.

So thank you Fairy Godmother! In my mind I can now wear my swimming badges with pride and whenever I’m faced with an obstacle at work or in life, I’ll remember that brave and determined little girl who kept on going, even though she was the worst swimmer in the club.

Big love to you all ❤

 

 

The other side of Mother’s Day

I’ve written before, more than once, about how Mother’s Day can be really hard for the children of unloving mothers, even in adulthood. Or perhaps especially in adulthood!

It’s something that it took me a long time to come to terms with, and after a lot of work on accepting myself, seeing my mother for who she is and letting go of pain from my past, I thought I was finally OK with it.

I’ve certainly been OK for a few years now when Mother’s Day comes around.

Until now.

It hit me hard again this year, but not in the way I was expecting.

I wasn’t actually thinking about my own mother at all, I was reading posts from friends on Facebook who are mothers themselves and I felt tears pricking at my eyes.

I’d forgotten that there were two sides to Mother’s Day – we all have a mother, and as a woman some of us ARE mothers and experience it from the other side too.

I don’t have any children of my own, and after quite frankly more than my fair share of abusive relationships, I find myself without children and without the prospect of any.

I’m fast running out of time and I’ve started to despair that it’s something I’ll never experience.

In order to survive my daily life, I’ve had to put that to one side for the moment, but it crept back up on me today when I wasn’t expecting it.

As the abused daughter of a narcissistic mother, I grew up with a horribly warped view of what it was to be a mother and to have children. I was taught that children were horrible and that to want your own basically made you the lowest of the low.

It was quite a challenge for my adult self to wade through the mire of that emotional mess, so it took me a long time to make my peace with the fact I might want to have my own one day. Coupled with the fact that I was only attracted to abusive men and had no idea what a healthy relationship looked like, I never found the right person to start a family with.

As I find myself at the end of my fertile years, I am faced with the prospect of never having any at all and it feels like a punch in the stomach.

I always tried to be so responsible! I waited for the right person to come along but he never did.

What do I do now – do I go it alone? The prospect of being a single mother doesn’t fill me with joy, and I can’t help but think it would be horribly unfair to bring a child into the world without the prospect of having a loving father – or a father at all.

The horrible irony is that I was never able to enjoy mother’s day as a daughter and now it looks like I’ll never be able to experience it as a mother either.

It’s all rather galling.

Sometimes I blame myself for not healing faster or for not taking the plunge but I know it would have been the wrong thing to do with any of the men in my past.

So Mother’s Day has a new saddening aspect for me that I wasn’t expecting, and provides me with more to work through on my path to healing.

It feels very unfair, and I just want you to know that if you find yourself in the same predicament you are not alone.

It’s not your fault, you were just dealt a bit of a shitty hand.

Maybe the healing path is one that never ends. I can honestly say I don’t know.

But I do know that in many  ways I’m much happier and emotionally healthier than I ever have been before.

I guess this is just another thing I’ll have to learn to deal with.

I’m not lazy

I got out of bed at 3 o’clock in the afternoon today.

“Oh my gosh, wow you’re so lazy!” people exclaim when they hear that.

Except I’m really not.

I was supposed to work today and I couldn’t. I wasn’t well enough. And boy do I really need the money right now.

I don’t have a fever, or a runny nose, a rash or even a cough but I’m not well.

It’s hard to explain sometimes because I look totally fine (other than the hiding under the duvet part) and I really wish it WAS laziness because that’s something I could deal with.

But it isn’t. It’s anxiety.

I’ve been battling with this for a few days and it got the better of me – it got the upper hand today and I couldn’t go to work.

I really wanted to.

I wish this wasn’t so hard.

I feel like the operating system for my mind and body have been overtaken by a rogue virus intent on shutting down vital systems and making it impossible for the processor to perform tasks.

And like the metaphorical computer, it leaves me with a frozen screen.

Sometimes it’s so very hard trying to explain this to someone who hasn’t dealt with it themselves.

They call you lazy. They call you useless.

And yet, I’m the most dynamic and capable person I know with more achievements to my name than most.

But not today.

Today just getting out of bed was my achievement.

I’m not lazy.

On days like this I have to work really hard just to get up and get dressed. Taking a shower can seem too much.

I’m NOT lazy!

Please believe me.

 

The Missing Nanny – An extension of the Mother wound

I often see adorable looking posts like this on Facebook and I watch as everybody joins in agreeing with how wonderful grandparents are and what a lovely time they had with their own.
(NB Image credit unknown please let me know if you recognise it so I can credit the artist)
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Am I the only one who can’t imagine what that is like?
It also leaves me asking; is this the norm with grandparents or is it just another misty eyed fantasy put about by cultural myth?
I’ll be darned if I know.
One of my Grandmothers died when I was tiny baby and the other one (the one who produced my narcissistic mother) was in a mental institution until her death when I was 12, having been forcibly taken by the ‘men in white coats’ and lobotomised in the 1940s shortly after her husband’s death in the war.
‘Medicine’ was pretty brutal back then, and I can totally see how mother’s horrific childhood damaged her to the point where her young brain wired itself for narcissism as a survival mechanism.
I don’t excuse her behaviour toward me but having some insight can really help to understand and find peace.
Sadly it also means that I have no idea what the whole ‘Nanny’ thing means or what that would be like.
If I’m honest, these posts leave me feeling a bit numb and confused like I’ve been left out in the cold.
They represent yet another family experience I can’t relate to and don’t really understand, but I feel as if I should.
It leaves me feeling so inadequate and broken. Like I’m somehow only half human for not instantly knowing how wonderful grandmothers are (because it’s obvious, right?!) while people around me smile and nod knowingly in agreement with the sentiment.
I feel like the only person in the world who has no positive family experience and it can make me feel very isolated, perhaps ashamed too, like somehow I don’t belong, or maybe didn’t deserve to have the loving, normal family and childhood experiences everybody else seemed to have.
I’ve been dealing with the lack of motherly love and care for a long time now, and I’m happy to report that the “Mummy” posts that abound on social media no longer upset me like they used to.
But this one about Grandmothers hit me in a way I was not expecting today.
I guess it’s another layer of healing that I need to deal with and it’s a sad one.
I don’t feel angry, just sad.
I’ve been working on making my peace with the fact I didn’t have the mother  I deserved, and I’m getting there.
But now I realise there’s a whole new layer of sadness beneath that, because I didn’t have the grandmother I deserved either.
I wasn’t expecting that.
I mean surely lots of people don’t have relationships with their grandparents right?
Are we allowed to be sad about missing out on that or am I just being self indulgent here?
I don’t feel like I’m wallowing in self pity, so that can’t be it.
Maybe it’s just an extension of the mother wound.
My mother wasn’t able to love and mother me, and I didn’t have a grandmother to fill the void either.
Double whammy. Yep, that’s it.
So I’ve uncovered another layer of grief to work through. And I’ll admit it’s a bit of a shock. I did not see this one coming.
And more to the point, when does this end? Haven’t I don’t enough work already?
Oh wait, that’s it. It doesn’t. It’s a lifelong path.
Yay 😐
This is just how it is as we walk along our healing path and deal with the pain and hurt.
As we do the work to finally be able to put the huge issues to bed, the smaller ones come into view to be healed too.
The repressed sadness, the feelings we forgot we had and were never able to deal with because our day to day was so god-awful that we just didn’t have the brain space or emotional resources to consider them so they were stuffed down, repressed and forgotten like so many other hurts.
But now, I can start to unpack them, look at them, feel them and make my peace with the fact that it’s ok to be sad about things I once dismissed as minor or unimportant.
Because maybe these seemingly little things ARE important.
And maybe they’re not actually little at all.
They just seemed so at the time because of everything else I had to deal with.
I have to admit there’s still a part of me that is disgusted I feel sad about something so ‘minor,’ and there’s a voice in my head calling me a baby, a wimp and telling me I’m making a fuss.
But I’ve also learned that nasty voice is a liar. She’s a bitch just like my mother, and if she says something is worthless or stupid then there’s a good chance the reverse is true.
It’s ok to feel sad that you didn’t have a loving Nanny.
I remember as a little girl watching my friends with their grandparents at Christmas and in the holidays, seeing them being doted on and given lots of attention. Taught to knit, taken on days out and treated in so many wonderful ways.
I wanted that so badly.
I remember one friend’s Nanny taking some time one Christmas to show me her knitting and she even let me have a try. I was bowled over by her kindness and I remember sitting on her lap, loving the one on one positive attention that I just never received from any of the adults in my own family.
It was probably just ten minutes or so, and I doubt it was at all memorable for her, but the experience stayed with me for a lifetime. It was a happy memory that I clung to and still rember vividly, as if it happened only yesterday.
Unfortunately for me, Grandparents only really visited my friends at Christmas and during the holidays, so I would normally be shooed off home when they arrived, so they could spend time as a family, despite my best attempts to stay and be allowed to join in.
But I wasn’t their family. I wasn’t welcome to stay.
So I would walk home feeling left out yet again and dreading what fresh hell awaited me when I arrived home.
So I guess the point here is that as you heal the big stuff, the smaller stuff comes into view. Except its not small, it’s important and your feelings are valid and real.
And if as a child you didn’t get your basic emotional needs met, then there’s a good chance what might be a ‘minor issue’ to somebody else is actually a pretty big one for you.
If you didn’t have a loving mother who was able to connect with you, then the lack of a loving Grandmother becomes a big deal!
If my own mother had been able or willing to love and connect with me I wouldn’t have felt such a desperate need to look for love and validation elsewhere.
A loving Grandmother can go a long way to safeguarding the emotional well-being of the son or daughter of an unloving mother. She can help prevent or at least mitigate some of the long term psychological damage that an abusive, narcissistic mother inflicts.
And if you didn’t have one available to help fill the emotional void, you are entitled to feel sad about that.

“Proud Mummy”

At the moment it seems as though everyone on my Facebook feed is having babies and posting a zillion photos about it, from former work colleagues to New Forest Ponies apparently.

It must be the season…

Anyhow, I wanted to talk about something that always leaves me feeling bemused about this stuff, and that’s the whole the “Proud Mummy” bit.

I’ve always struggled with that.

I find the concept of a proud parent completely alien, and perhaps even more weird to me are the “Proud Grandma” statuses. What does that even mean?!

I’ve been wrestling with this for some time, trying to intellectualise why you might feel ‘proud’ of a bright red, ugly and essentially useless, 9 pound blob. I mean, it hasn’t ever achieved anything in its life, so what on earth could there possibly be to be ‘proud’ of?

A lovely picture snapped by a friend, of a pony with her new foal, got me thinking about it again today.

She posted it onto Facebook and labelled the photo ‘Proud Mum.’

Upon seeing those words I got the weird, sick, confused feeling I always get when I see people’s baby photos accompanied by comments about how happy and proud they are. I feel I should know what that means, and join in the congratulating, but I can’t.

I love horses, but I couldn’t think why she would put that. Of course the mare has a strong protective instinct to her offspring which enables her to pass on her genes to the next generation, but what is with all the pride stuff?! Those comments always feel empty or fake to me. Is it just me?

As my father used to say to me in haughty tones whenever a new baby or pregnancy was announced on TV, “Anybody can breed, that’s nothing clever!”
This would often be accompanied by jeering, contempt or jokes about how awful it is to have children, which he always used to find terribly funny.

I found the jokes very hurtful, but any protest was immediately dismissed or worse I would be punished for ‘being a misery’ or a ‘brat’ and told to get out of his sight.

Musing on the subject today in an effort to gain some modicum of understanding brought me to thinking about what maternal or parental pride looks like.

I sat imagining mothers with beaming smiles like the ones I’ve seen so many times on social media and in real life, and I came to a surprising revelation about pride.

Pride is the partner to Praise!

Children are praised when their parents are proud.

I’m going to have to admit that I don’t know what is normal or is not normal to praise a child for, to ensure they develop a healthy sense of self esteem, because I was never praised at all. As an adult survivor of child abuse, I’m rather lacking in many areas that others take for granted.

But what I’ve realised is that not only did my parents not praise me, they never showed any other clues that they might be proud of me either.

So I guess that the experience of praise and your parents being proud of you is often one and the same thing? No wonder I don’t get it!

I’ve never experienced either, and consequently I don’t have any frame of reference for this stuff. So when I hear parents talking about being proud of their kids, not only does it not make sense to me intellectually, but on an emotional level something inside of me dies, I feel sick, anxious and get an overwhelming urge to withdraw (yep, that’s an emotional flashback right there…)

Remembering back to my own childhood, my parents never seemed to be proud of me, nor was I permitted to ever feel proud of anything I’d achieved, no matter how well I’d done or how big the accomplishment.

I remember that showing even the meekest amount of pride always precipitated a horrific fall for me – my mother or father, or sometimes both at once if they were feeling particularly sadistic, would smack me back down where I supposedly belonged.

Back into shame, guilt and feeling not good enough again.

I’ve written about a lack of praise before, but I guess I hadn’t realised that the flip side of that coin is a lack of pride being shown by your parents too.

I have memories of going to school open evenings and my mother refusing to even look at my contributions to a display, instead fixating on what another child had done and praising that instead, because she “liked it much better” than whatever I’d done. She was never proud of my work.
In hindsight I can see she was doing it on purpose to bait and torture me. Narcissists get off on that sort of thing. Sick bitch.

Even when at Parents’ Evening my teachers eagerly told my parents about what I’d done and achieved (I was always a good student) they never responded with any hint of joy or pride, despite my teachers’ best effort to cajole them into congratulating me. They would just give a small patronising smile and explain that they expected that from me and more, and in reality I could have worked a bit harder couldn’t I?

I would have been staring at the floor hoping to die by this point, so I don’t remember the expressions on my teachers’ faces when this happened, but as an adult I can imagine the mixture of confusion and worry at the heartless response from this seemingly well heeled couple.

One time when I was in senior school, my biology teacher went so far as to try to defend me at Parents’ Evening because my parents were being so critical about me to her, and she could see I wasn’t a bad kid.
I could tell she knew something was up but couldn’t quite put her finger on it. At that time my grades had started to slip from their usual levels of excellence, because of the horrors I was enduring at home, and it hadn’t gone unnoticed. My parents however, simply blamed me for not working hard enough, being bad, lazy, and in their eyes, making them look less-than to their friends.

So coming back to all the people proud of their babies just for existing, I really struggle with that concept. My parents never seemed to be proud of me no matter how well I did or how highly I achieved, so when I see those posts my inner child starts screaming and I find myself slipping into yet another painful flashback.

I’ve tried to understand the whole maternal pride thing, but having no personal experience of it, I can say it’s a struggle, and yet another reason I’ve always been too afraid to have children of my own – because what if I didn’t feel anything for them?

My mother couldn’t (or wouldn’t) connect with me, and there was nobody else to fill that void, so I don’t know what that special maternal bond feels like.

I guess that if I did, the whole thing about why mothers and grandmothers feel proud of their kids just for being born might make sense to me. And if I’m honest, I really wish it did.

My counsellor assures me that it would come naturally to me if I had my own child, but I’m afraid to, and it’s torturous because a big part of me really wants to.

I really do think that people underestimate the far reaching consequences of childhood emotional abuse.

Some days I feel like an alien, trying to make sense of why people do and feel what they do.

I know that most of the blogs you’ll read from survivors of childhood abuse come from people who have already worked through the issues and come out the other side, and they usually end on a positive about how they overcame the issues in counselling or whatever.

I feel I need to applogise to you as you read this, because I don’t have a happy ending to this story yet.
I don’t have my solutions to pass on and I haven’t finished working this all out yet. But I hope that one day I will.

I write these blogs partly because it’s cathartic, but also to let other adult survivors who are still trudging along the long and painful healing path know that they’re not alone, or stupid, or broken. I can hopefully shed some light on how they are feeling, even if I don’t have all the answers.

Because some days, normal life, the stuff other people take for granted and seem to sail through, can seem so alien and confusing, or worse yet triggering, that just trying to get through the day takes a herculean effort.

Because every day we fight battles that most people know nothing about.

And sometimes it feels good to share, and know you’re not alone.

You may have moved on, but the Narcissist hasn’t!

I’ve made a lot of changes in my life since learning about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and coming to terms with the fact that my childhood was indeed an abusive one, being raised by not one but two toxic Narcissists.

Many hours in therapy have helped me question the various parts of my life that were causing me pain, including the rules I’d always imposed upon myself, and who my friends really were.

Over time, I realised that most of my friends fitted the NPD criteria, and that one in particular was really very manipulative and abusive. It took a new friendship with a fellow survivor of narcissistic abuse to recognise it for myself and distance myself from it.

Sadly the children of narcissistic parents often end up with friends, partners or colleagues who are Narcissistic Personality Disordered.

I prefer to say end up with rather than are drawn to which is how it’s usually worded in texts about the subject, because I was never actually drawn to these people at all; in fact I knew that on some level I didn’t really like them and it caused me much inner turmoil and confusion. They preyed upon me and took advantage of my kindness and high tolerance level for emotional abuse.

Unfortunately, I was unable to act upon my misgivings because similar to other survivors of childhood narcissistic abuse, I’d learned very early on to ignore those mental ‘red flags’ – the warning signs that I was being taken advantage of. I also felt a misplaced loyalty, perhaps similar to Stockholm syndrome, to anybody who had ever shown me any regard or kindness, no matter how unkind they were the rest of the time.

What can I say – my parents set the bar pretty low.

As I had done with my own family of origin, I took the decision to go non contact with the abusive, narcissistic friend several years ago, and my life has been so much the better for it.

However, a rather unexpected message got me thinking about her again today.

This narcissistic former friend recently messaged a good friend of mine accusing her of “turning me against her” and saying some rather nasty things which were completely inappropriate and untrue.

My friend is, thankfully, experienced at dealing with narcissists herself, and carefully side stepped the attack, informing her to contact me directly should she have any issues to discuss and refusing to join in any triangulation. She wisely let me know what had happened, in case my narcissistic ex-friend attempted contact.

When I heard what had happened, I was initially shocked and confused. I haven’t seen hide nor hair from her for years! Why on earth would she do this now?

Very soon afterwards however, my analytical brain kicked in and started matching up the behaviour to textbook narcissistic traits:

  • Manipulation – trying to communicate by triangulation
  • Holding a grudge  We haven’t spoken for years!
  • Blaming, victim behaviour  Acting like she had done nothing wrong! She was a horrible “friend” to me!
  • Projection – Blaming my good friend for what happened instead of being accountable for her own actions.

And it all started to make sense…

My cutting off contact with her had caused her to suffer a narcissistic injury.

“Narcissistic injury occurs when a narcissist feels that their hidden, ‘true self’ has been revealed. This may be the case when the narcissist has a “fall from grace”, such as when their hidden behaviors or motivations are revealed, or when their importance is brought into question. Narcissistic injury is a cause of distress and can lead to dysregulation of behaviors as in narcissistic rage.” (Excerpt from Wikipedia page Narcissistic Rage & Narcissistic Injury)

Her spiteful, inappropriate behaviour toward a total stranger suddenly made complete sense when I looked at it through the lens of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The amount of time that had elapsed didn’t matter to her. She was still angry that I’d seen her for who she really was, and stepped away from her abuse.

In true narcissistic fashion, she was (is) still holding a grudge and determined to get back at me somehow.

You might think that I’d be angry, but I’m not. I was initially embarrassed and worried that she had upset my friend, but I realised that there’s really no point staying angry at her.

After all, there’s no point getting angry with a snake for biting you – it’s a snake and that’s just what they do. You must learn to recognise snakes and take steps to keep yourself safe and stay away from them.

She doesn’t have the necessary emotional intelligence or mental capacity to comprehend why her actions are inappropriate, because of her NPD. Or maybe she does, but she just doesn’t care. Who knows.

Either way, it just confirms to me that I made the right decision by ending the friendship and I feel proud that I’ve established healthy boundaries to protect myself from people like her.

Let me just clarify that with the snake analogy, I don’t mean to excuse the bad behaviour or condone it in any way. It simply helps me to stay calm and balanced when I can gain clarity and perspective on situations such as these.

The incident also made me think about my own narcissistic mother and how she must be stewing about how I dared to go No Contact with her! She has tried various tactics to force contact including promising me money and sending my sister to knock on my door (thankfully I’d already moved house and not left a forwarding address!)

I know that it’s just a matter of time until she tries something else.

Narcissists hold a grudge forever, and they WILL try to get back at you one way or another. Their mental condition means that they desperately need to wreak their revenge upon you in order to feel in control again.

So beware fellow travellers on the path to healing from Narcissistic Abuse!

Remember that although you may have moved on from whatever happened in your past, the narcissist hasn’t.

They never can and they never will.

Who the F*** Am I?

I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic and perhaps envious these past few days – my Facebook feed seems to be full of friends with kids going on holidays or having babies,  buying homes and happily getting on with their lives, their jobs and their normality.

And where am I? I’m sat at home feeling like an empty shell.

No kids, no money, no job (I can’t work at the moment due to CPTSD induced anxiety, depression and agoraphobia) and I just feel like a massive failure.

My life feels like one huge let down. After all the effort, the work, the struggle to succeed and get ahead, to achieve and always be the best, I end up here. At a dead end.

Was it all really for nothing? It certainly feels so right now.

I started therapy and self healing four short years ago and now my life is worse than ever in every way.

I don’t have a job anymore, my hopes for my business have been dashed by the realisation that there really isn’t much of a market for my services, I can barely get out of bed in the morning and I’m relying on meds to get through each day.

It’s not exactly the glowing picture of wellness and success I had in mind when I started counselling.

I guess I must be at a point in the healing process called “What’s the f***cking point” amd it sucks. I’m sure I’m not the first person to get here, but I wish somebody had warned me.

I’ve ripped off so many layers of falsehoods, mistaken beliefs and lies about me, who I am and what I’m supposed to do with my life, that I find myself in a very strange and unnerving place – a place called “I don’t know who I am” and it’s a scary place to be when you’re approaching 40.

I’ve come to realise that nearly every single belief I held about myself, my self worth, my abilities, what makes me happy and who I am as a person, were falsehoods. I’ve been living in the projected hatred from my mother as my own reality, believing on a deep subconscious level, that her spiteful  lies were truths that I believed for myself.

I thought I knew who I was and what I wanted, but now I feel lost, afraid and empty. 

EMPTY 

It makes me feel so helpless and unknowing, as if I were a small child again. An empty vessel waiting to be filled with love, kindness and self worth from my parents, except I know that will never happen. I feel far too little and helpless right now, and it’s a terrifying place to be.

I thought that therapy would help me to grow and learn, to feel better in myself and grow beyond my difficult past. But nobody warned me that my whole world view would be shattered into a million pieces. Nobody told me that I would literally have to start again.

I feel like I’m five years old again, except I know that I’m not and the clock is ticking for me in more ways than one.

I’m so afraid – I don’t know how or if I will get through this.

I used to be so capable able to do and achieve so much, but now something as simple as having a shower can represent a giant hurdle to overcome.

It’s not fair! 

I don’t expect an apology from my parents, nor would I get one, and to be frank I’ll be content never to see them again. But what really kills me is how unfair all of this is.

I was the good girl. I did as I was told, worked hard at school, never broke the rules, got a job, won awards and paid my bills. And what is to be my reward?

Anxiety, depression, poverty and loneliness apparently. Is it just me, or is that really f***ed up?

Sometimes I think it would be so much easier if I were dead. I doubt anyone would notice anyway…

My motivation, focus, drive and determination are all gone. Lost somewhere in the fog, I know not where. 

I used to be such a high flyer – what the hell happened to me?

Counselling happened to me. I took the more difficult path of facing my problems and trying to make myself a better person.

What a joke. Some days I wish I’d never bothered. But it’s a path of no return – too late to turn back now! If I give up now, I’ll be lost in the wilderness forever. Permanently incapacitated and helpless, game over.

So struggle on I must, although I really don’t want to anymore. I’ve had enough. I’m tired of this! So tired…

Please, somebody make it all stop.

How Long Will it Take to Get Over This?!

The last few years have been extra challenging for me. My partner frequently reminds me that I’m not the person he used to know, and resentment and recriminations have wormed their way into our relationship because I don’t have the strength to be me right now.

He’s not the only one asking the questions “Will you ever be better? How long until you’re over this?!”

I don’t have the answer to that, and I really wish I did. The path to my healing is shaping up to be a long one…

In 2012 I was introduced to the notion of maternal narcissism, and the devastating effect it has on the daughters of narcissistic mothers.
I remember reading that first article about it and feeling as though it had been written just for me because it described my childhood so perfectly.

The more I looked, the more I could see and I was finally able to admit that my childhood had indeed been an abusive one, and that my parents had hurt me more than I ever realised.

I embarked on my path to healing with determination and felt sure it was something I could overcome – I’d been through so many challenges, after all. Self improvement and achivement have always been my thing.

But it turned out that it’s not that simple. Funny how life never is…

I’ve learned that this particular rabbit hole goes deeper than I ever imagined, and although we heal and get stronger, we are never quite like everybody else.

It’s now four years down the line, and I find myself in the most difficult time of my life to date – and the worst part, is that it’s all in my head. Literally.

I’m not sure how long I thought the recovery process would take – maybe weeks, months, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to find myself incapacitated to such a degree, or for so long.

The healing process is tough, and it looks to those on the outside as if things are getting worse, or that we are becoming closed, reclusive or even lazy. But nothing could be further from the truth.

I spend each day dealing with old thought patterns, guilt, triggers, shame, memories, forever thinking and rethinking, second guessing myself and slashing through the tangled forest of my mind as best I can, battling giant weeds and planting new seeds.

My weekly counselling sessions help, but they leave me with so much processing to do that it’s hard to have the brain space for much else the rest of the week.

Couple that with difficult living conditions, trying to live below the bread line, dealing with the guilt of not being able to earn more because I’m not well enough, and my already overactive flight or fight response, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Anxiety is a constant, even on a good day. My depression scores are higher than they’ve been for a long time. 

Welcome to the path of healing!

Seriously? WTF

The way I describe it is that being in recovery is like being in the middle of open heart surgery. It takes a long time, and you’re out of action while it’s going on. You’re not being lazy, you just can’t get up off the operating table until it’s done or the operation will be botched and there will be complications further down the line.

Some days I barely recognise myself, and I wonder how I ever managed to be so driven, so strong, to hold down such difficult jobs in the past. I could deal with anything and anyone. I had dreams, ambitions and hope.

Right now I barely have any of these things left. I know they’re still inside of me somewhere, and occasionally I get glimpses of the powerful traits I used to take for granted, but I can’t seem to draw on them right now. It’s like those systems are unavailable. Cut off. Access denied.

The hardest part is that people around me don’t understand.  My doctor and counsellor are brilliant, and my more enlightened friends understand what I’m going through, some of them having faced similar challenges themseleves, but they don’t see me every day or have to live with me.

My partner really doesn’t get it, and he can be cruel and resentful about my seeming lack of action – little does he know the exhausting battles I fight every day inside myself.

Sometimes I fantasise about leaving this world for the next one – death seems like such a welcome release. I just don’t relish the idea of dying, and part of me still feels there is so much I haven’t done in this life yet.

It feels very much as though I’m only living a half-life right now, barely existing and not really living. Life feels strange and surreal some days.

I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’ll never be ‘normal’ or completely 100% healed. It was tough, but I’ve let go of that salvation fantasy along with the one where my mother becomes a normal human being.

It’s not going to happen. I get that.

But surely, I should be able to get back to a point where I can at least function in society?! Please?!

I believe the answer to that is yes, and I’m hanging on by the fingernails waiting for that day to come.

Please let it be sooner rather than later.