A card with all the words in…

So yesterday was Mother’s Day. I had been dreading it for weeks.  A whole day devoted to mothers. A whole day devoted to her. A day where society tells us, no matter our age – that we must thank the one who brought us into this world.

Mother’s Day is idealized. Mothers themselves are idealized. Not everyone’s mother deserves to have a day dedicated to “celebrating” them and yet society tells us that we must. It is enough to make us vomit.  Well if you have a mother like mine.

Having a mother who is a narcissist or who has NPD like mine makes this day really sh*t.  They expect presents, cards, praise and thanks.. not actually much different to any other day, but this day they are “allowed” to expect it because otherwise everyone will disapprove of YOU, not just your Narc mother.  So it becomes your duty.

The thing is, once you find out your mother has NPD, things start to make sense – at last! It is hugely uplifting which I know sounds a bit twisted, but the understanding that the problem really wasn’t you, is a feeling like nothing else. Shortly following the elation comes the pain… the devastation and the grief…  I haven’t spent nearly 3 years (and counting) in therapy to spend Mother’s Day thanking my mother for all that she did (and did not) do for me.  The reason I spend thousands of pounds a year and hours of my week in therapy is after all, because of her.

I have been aware of the day coming up, walking past a card shop twice a day on my daily commute has served as a constant reminder. I put off buying anything for my mum for as long as possible. In the past, I would have been thinking about what to get her for weeks. What would she REALLY like, what would make her happy… sadly, what would make her love me?

I’m not sure I understood that is what I was doing, but I do now and that is really sad. Now that I am nearly 3 years into my therapy, I am on the way to acceptance and healing from the damage my narc mother has caused me and I have let go of the need to try to please her. I no longer want to spend money I don’t have on finding the right present – because it is completely unobtainable anyway. It is a challenge that cannot every be gratified.

So, I have finally accepted this and so I purposely get a small gift and tell myself that it IS enough. That it will do.. but I won’t lie, it goes against everything in my body when I do this – it feels completely wrong to me.  I brought her a candle. A nice candle, a candle I know she loves because she has brought them for me (and she always buys things that SHE likes you see)…. I had it wrapped nicely in paper and in a nice gift bag.. then it was time to find the card..

Eugh the card is the hardest part. For anyone reading this that has a narc mother you will know what I mean. Even writing about the card makes my heart feel funny.

Card shops are my nemesis on mother’s day. I hate it. I hate watching everyone in there searching for the perfect card for their perfect mothers. I hate those people. Well, I don’t hate them at all, but I am jealous of them – I admit it!

I didn’t put myself through reading the cards this year. I managed to find the perfect card for my mother. It was a jokey card – one about mum drinking lots of wine instead of doing the chores! Was I being passive aggressive? Possibly…. but even she couldn’t deny the card summed her up perfectly. I will however be totally honest here and say, I still feel a pang of guilt that I know it would have upset her not to receive what she was hoping for.

She always told me growing up that she expects the cards with “all the words in” – and so that is what she used to get… but now I just can’t bring myself to do it.  I debated just grinning and bearing it and buying her a card full of “all the words” whether I meant them or not, but I can’t – it feels way too hypocritical and so I didn’t but I feel guilt about that today. Guilt that I have no doubt my T would say wasn’t mine. T would tell me to “give it back” and she would tell me it “doesn’t belong to me”.  But it feels like it does.

Yesterday morning I woke up and saw Facebook covered in lovely statuses to everyone’s “amazing mothers”.. thanking them for everything they do for them, telling them how they hope they turn out half as good as them.. rada rada radaaaaa… I knew how much my mother would love a status like that but I couldn’t bring myself to do that either.

I had to go for lunch with her yesterday. My grandparents were also there, as was my step dad, my sister and my boyfriend. I watched my mother give my Nan, her mother, a card. It was no typical card. The card was huge and it came in its own box. A special box which encased a special, huge card – one with all the words in.  Obviously.  Put simply, the card she brought her mother, shat all over the card I brought for my mother.  It has got me questioning, is she trying to win her mother’s love? I mean, she didn’t turn out this narcissist through pot-luck.

Somewhere along the line she got injured so badly that she turned this way.  The problem with having this feeling is that it does make me somewhat sympathetic towards my mother. I know first-hand how bloody painful it is trying to win your mother’s love and never getting it. Never feeling good enough.  Always feeling faulty.  If she has spent her whole life feeling like that (whether consciously or not) then I guess I kind of understand that she did the best job she knew how to… she did the best job with the tools that she had… even if that means the job she did was awful…… it is very hard to feel anger and pain and sympathy and hate all at once.  It makes me feel guilty. Yes, yes I know – blah blah blah…….

I noticed that my Nan asked my mother in quite an accusational tone whether I had got her a card. My mother said yes, and then she asked me, “Twinkletoes, did you get your mother a nice mother’s day card???”  What a weird question… the thing is, this question would have been fuelled somehow by my mother, it wouldn’t have come out of nowhere. I assume they’ve been discussing me and how I never make any effort anymore or something like that.  Meh. She also sat at the table and asked whether “anyone had any exciting news” which was very clearly aimed at me and my boyfriend and the hope that we would be announcing news of an engagement or pregnancy – that irritated me too, not because she asked, but because it was evidence of conversations had between her and my mother (trust me, I know them both well).

My mother brought my nan some presents which my nan opened in the restaurant, one of which was rather odd. My nan asked me if I liked it and I politely smiled and said, it was nice (although I think it was probably evident by my face that I thought otherwise).  My nan asked me what I collected and I said I didn’t collect anything. She looked appalled and said “you don’t collect ANYTHING??”…. My mother then said that her, my nan and my sister all liked the same things – that they all had the same taste… all of them apart from me.  For once, this was music to my ears! Is this a sign that I have broken free? A few years back, this would have devastated me but today it makes me feel relieved.  I am on my way to becoming my own person. My authentic self.

T has taught me that narc mothers think that we are extensions of them – and so it is important for my mother that I look like her, dress like her, like the same things as her and if I don’t – that spells trouble. Now that I properly understand this, it has made things much easier.

I thought about my T several times yesterday morning whilst getting ready for the meal. I thought about what she would be doing. I thought that she probably got some lovely cards – ones with all the words in.  Some thoughtful presents, not about their value but the sentiment.  I wondered whether her children would cook for her or bake her a cake like I would have liked to do if things were different. I caught myself and told myself that T isn’t my mother and never would be. I thought about writing her a card/note/email to let her know I was thinking of her after all, mother’s day is about celebrating all “motherly” figures, right?

I told myself that clinging on to the thought/hope/fantasy that she is or could ever be was just an attempt to soften the blow of my harsh reality. I didn’t really like that internal conversation and so I didn’t revisit that until writing it out now. I am suddenly very aware that attaching towards my T in a daughter like way/seeing her as a mother figure is purely an attempt to replace my mother with her instead of grieving the relationship I actually have with my real mother.  I know that is the truth even if I don’t like it.  And I don’t like it.

I note that I “forgot” to send my step-mum a card this year. This is very unlike me, in fact I’m not sure I have ever forgotten before apart from the years that me and my dad have not been speaking (which is quite a few!).  I remembered enough times to have sorted something out and yet I didn’t and I have been questioning myself why since.

In the past I have been to see her, taken her flowers or sent flowers if I didn’t visit and yet this year all I did was send a text message. I think that I realised that sending her flowers and taking her gifts were other examples of me trying to prove my worth – hoping it would make her/my dad see how lovely I was… perhaps that wish has gone away now. I did send her a nice text message but also feel a bit guilty today that I didn’t make the effort to post a card.   A few years ago me and my dad went nearly 3 years without speaking and I was (am?) upset that in that time I didn’t hear from her either.  Perhaps another example of me being a bit passive? That’s food for thought.

I’m a (unofficial) stepmum myself. My boyfriend asked me what he should do about mother’s day this year, because they are awkward for me… it is my view that he shouldn’t force the children to acknowledge me on this day because I am NOT their mum and that is the point of the day…. I said perhaps when we are married and I am officially their stepmum, a bunch of daffs might be nice but I think it totally defeats the point if the adult is telling the kids they have to.  It is my hope that one day perhaps they would buy me or make me a card, off their own back but if they don’t then that’s okay – because I am not their mum.  I hope one day to have my own child and I will not force or expect my child to do or buy me anything for mother’s day – clearly I hope that my child will love me in a healthy way and might want to draw me a picture for the fridge or whatever, but not because I think that day is all about me. Not because I will pile on the pressure for them to conform to society.

 

 

On a final note – please can I just say that for anyone reading this who may have found yesterday painful due to their loving mother’s no longer being here – I truly am sorry for you and I appreciate that some people may read this blog and think I am incredibly selfish for feeling this way. I understand that some people will be shouting “at least your mum is still here!!” at the screen and I don’t expect you to get it – the whole narcissist mother thing is very hard to comprehend and so I’m not going to even try to get people to understand.

 

Repetition compulsion?

Okay so her words are running through my head today over and over again. Sometimes she says something and it’s like she is shouting it at me really trying very hard to make me pay attention, to sit up and understand what she is saying (not literally).  I don’t know whether it is that she really does say it in a different way, or perhaps that she repeats it enough times that I finally listen or whether sometimes something in me realises somewhere along the line, this is important, Twink, listen up.

Yesterday’s words that are having this effect on me were “your needs and feelings are not too much.  You just attract people who cannot handle feelings.  It isn’t your feelings – it feels like it is, because everyone around you is the same so you blame yourself, but it isn’t you”. Or words to that affect anyway, I can’t remember the exact words but I remember playing it back to myself at the time thinking “she is saying that it feels like EVERYONE in the world thinks my feelings are too much, only because I’ve attracted those people around me…. so that’s all I know”…

Repetition compulsion at play again I guess.

So, do I believe her? I guess the adult part of me has sat up and thought about this and understood that she is a very clever, knowledgeable lady and what’s more, she is a therapist.  It is her job to point things out to me, make me understand and believe them and not lie to me. Yet I guess there is a part of me that still thinks she is just trying to be nice to me and say nice things, whether they are actually true or not.

When I’ve sent her an email in a dark place, I send it off to her and I don’t hold back. It could be full of desperation, loneliness, sadness, anger, fear – any of those things.  All I care about is getting it out of me, making some sense of it and sending it to her “to hold” because she is the only person in the world who could possibly understand what I mean.  Sometimes I worry that my emails have little emotional effect on her and that she reads them like reading a story about a stranger in a magazine, skimming to the important bits just enough to be able to tell me that she has read it and the other half of me thinks that is entirely unfair because she is clearly invested in me and has known me for nearly 3 years, enough to care about me when I’m in pain.. surely?  Anyway, I send her the email, I eventually calm down and return to a bit more of an adult way of feeling and then I’m whacked by this great big shame storm for having been so needy, so desperate, so pathetic. I hate that I’ve sent it to her and I hate that she has read it and worry she will think “Jesus Christ, will you stop!!”.  Obviously she hasn’t ever given me any reason for feeling this, although when I emailed her last Tuesday to tell her that I was not looking forward to coming because I really felt so ashamed for having sent such a desperate email a few days before, she didn’t reply and that really didn’t help contain me when I was already feeling extremely anxious.

She said that she thinks I get this shame attack because I’ve had it drummed into me that my needs are bad and that my feelings can’t be handled. My mum couldn’t handle my needs or feelings and made that very clear to me over the years. She said that is why I find it so hard to really bring the feelings into therapy and why I’ve found it so hard to cry with her because I am so worried I will be too much. Makes sense….

Another thing we spoke about was that when you are a child, you have to keep your parent good – you can’t allow yourself to “see” the bad stuff about them.  So you push away anything that doesn’t fit with the image you hold of them, the one you want to hold for them.  You idealise them. She also explained to me that in a relationship, at the beginning stages, you idealise your partner and you both project onto each other what you want the other person to be – a while later, maybe years, that projected image starts to fall and you are left with the real person.  She said that it is this stage that effectively makes or breaks a couple. Do you really/still like what you are left with or not?  She said that couples who get through this period are normally pretty set for life.

I told her that I’ve been crying so much lately and she asked what the main feeling/fear was. I said I wasn’t entirely sure and that it was hard to make any sense of. I thought a while and then I said that I think it’s that feeling that “we” weren’t really real. That what we’ve had wasn’t as good as I thought it was and that I don’t really know him at all.  It made me cry quiet, slow tears again.  She nodded and seemed to understand.  She told me that she thinks although I am starting to use her as the mother figure for transference issues, she thinks I’ve done a lot of it with My boyfriend.  She said that obviously she can’t be there with me at home every day and that he is so she thinks I’ve maybe done a bit of this with him…

So today I’m trying to digest this… I’m only just now, 3 years in, realising that he isn’t able to be emotionally open with me and he can’t discuss his feelings, fears etc because of his own things… and I guess that is proving so unbearable for me because I have to “keep him good” like a child has to keep their mum good.  Now that I’ve had my eyes opened to the truth, that he isn’t emotionally available to me, it is killing me because I NEED for him to be what I NEED him to be.. I don’t know if this makes any sense but the words seem to be flying out as I process it.

I told her that after our last session, I had sent him an email telling him our theory about why he finds it so hard to be emotionally vulnerable with me and about our theory of why concerning his upbringing and his mum and dad’s relationship etc – I told her his reaction which was mainly defensive although he agreed to one small point in it.  She said “you can’t be his therapist, don’t even try”.  I said oh no, I’m not, I just want to help him so that it helps us! But she said “you can’t change him”.  I didn’t like her saying that because I don’t want to be someone who is accused of wanting to change someone they love.  I guess I was feeling instantly defensive.  Am I trying to change him? I guess I am, but not because I don’t think he is lovely as he is, and not because I don’t love him – just because I want so much for our relationship to blossom into a healthy, authentic and equal one and that him being more in touch with his emotions is something that we need to happen… still, I guess the words have stayed with me because she is right. It isn’t for me to try and get him to do that – I just want to encourage him to because I guess I worry what the alternative is… if he doesn’t ever open up to me and learn to confide in me, will our love stagnate because I will change due to all this therapy and I will one day realise we are incompatible because of it?

I have been so busy playing my part of this relationship triangle business and enjoying the “benefits” of being the victim – getting all the comfort, support, love, advice etc that I hadn’t sat up and looked at things in a clear light.  Now I can see that I’ve attracted a (wonderfully) imperfect man, its scared me.  All I want to be able to do is accept that he is imperfect as we all are, and be able to still feel the love I feel for him.  I hope that is possible more than I can write.  All my previous relationships have been with emotionally unavailable men, and I’ve spent the last 3 years telling her that he is so different – which is is don’t get me wrong!!!! But on this level, they were somewhat the same. That is a hard thing to discover. I had totally idealised him as my perfect saviour – my hero.

As I write this, I feel totally consumed with my love for him. I can picture his face smiling at me and it makes me feel so happy inside. I truly love him, I hope whatever is next in my therapy teaches me to be able to tolerate any pain I feel which is really aimed at my mother and my loss of what she couldn’t give me so that I can keep me and him safe whatever issues we may have to confront together.

Perhaps one day he will agree to some couples counselling – but I can’t see it right now.   :wave: