Mirroring Feelings of Disappointment and Sadness.

Happy Boxing Day everyone. I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas Day and enjoy today whatever it brings for you.

This is the first time I’ve been able to sit down with my laptop and write and I feel like I need the release so much. I feel like I have so many different thoughts and feelings floating around in me and that once I’ve managed to write them out, I will feel a bit lighter for it. Here’s hoping.

So the things on my mind are: My mother and her Christmas Day text – the confusion and conflict that brought me, my decision and the end result.  My Dad and his texts over the last few days and the feelings that has brought up in me and my T and my feelings over her and the general feeling of Christmas having not seen anyone in “my family” (meaning my family of origin rather than my family of choice).  I apologise that some of this will be duplication from yesterday’s short typed-on-my-phone posts and some of it may already be written in comments but I am going to write it all out in full here for my own benefit really.

My Mother & Christmas so far

My mother sent me that I love you text about 3/4 weeks ago and I ignored that.  The guilty feelings over that passed pretty quickly, much quicker than I thought they would actually.  Then came the Christmas card last week.  That triggered yet more guilty feelings in me but I did ignore it because .. well, what was the point of it? Perhaps if she had written something other than our names and theirs… but she didn’t and so it made me feel as though it was more about keeping up appearances or being able to tell people she had sent us a card which would make her look like the good mother. Moving on, Xmas Eve I said to my fiancé that I knew she would text me and I knew it would be early in the morning. She has always got up very early Christmas Day to cook so I made the decision to turn my phone off when I went to bed. That is unheard of for me, my phone normally just goes on silent but I didn’t want to look at my phone when I woke up (which I always do) and for that to be the first thing I saw. So off it went and I waited until me and my fiancé had got up, had a cup of tea and opened our presents before turning it on. Sure enough there was a text, sent early which read “Have a lovely Christmas. Love you lots xx”.

From then and for the majority of the rest of the day, I was distracted with thoughts about that text. I didn’t know whether to reply or not. I toyed with what would happen if I ignored it and what would happen if I replied.  Neither option felt good to me, both felt like a no-win situation.  I tried leaving it to just percolate in my head as I showered and things but could feel my mood plummeting. I didn’t want to feel that sadness on Christmas Day and so I guess in hindsight what I wanted to do was whatever stopped me feeling shit, sad, guilty and ease my conscience a bit.  Equally I kept asking myself “what do you WANT to do?”.  I tried hard to distinguish between what I wanted to do and what I felt I SHOULD do and that was trickier then you might think.  What I WANTED to do was to open a text full of sorry’s and messages asking for my forgiveness but clearly that wasn’t going to happen and obviously I had no control over her actions anyway, so what did I WANT to do myself? I still don’t really know the answer to that.  I acknowledged I had heaps of guilty feelings going on in my body, guilt that she would be sitting there sad on Christmas Day because I hadn’t messaged her back and that I wouldn’t be seeing her. Those fantasies (however inaccurate) made me feel terrible.  I told my fiancé that was what my imagination was drawing up and he asked me whether I thought my mother felt wracked with guilt when she left me home alone on Christmas Day when I was younger or if she was full of guilt now at the ways she has treated me etc.  Obviously the answer was no. I could tell from his tone that he was a bit agitated at my guilt. I can understand that from his point of view to be honest, it must be hard when he loves me and he sees and hears about all the hurt she has caused me and then sees me beating myself up for being guilty.

We then arrived at my fiancé’s parents’ house and so from that point onwards I knew I wouldn’t have the opportunity to talk about it again. I was now on my own with it. We had a lovely day with them, they are such lovely and kind people. We had a lovely dinner, some drinks, a toast, some photos and played board games – all the normal things families do that I always craved growing up. It gave me the warm fuzzies in one sense, because it was what I had always wanted but it also made me feel something else…. some kind of missing. Missing having my own family to do that with – missing “them” even though “them” are dysfunctional and toxic and even though I would never have been doing those same things with “them”.  It’s hard to put in words what I mean, but it’s something about not having my own blood to feel those things with/for/about. I don’t know if anyone will understand that feeling?

Anyway, I’m not sure what happened but all of a sudden I went onto my WhatsApp and actually opened her message, before I had only previewed it.  When I did, it said she was online and something about seeing her online did something to me and instantly I typed a reply “You Too x” and I hit send before I thought about it any further. I then stupidly watched until the message got two blue ticks which took about 4 or 5 minutes and then she disappeared offline again.

The effect that had on me was that in one sense the guilt eased up immensely and in another, I felt weirdly disappointed that she read my response and then went offline. Gone again. Just like that.

I know that sounds completely ridiculous. I said myself that one of the reasons I was worried to reply at all was that I didn’t want messages back and forth… so I got what I wanted didn’t I? You’d think so.. but for some reason, it felt strangely sad to me that nothing further was said. I totally appreciate that there isn’t much you can say to “You Too”, it is hardly a conversation starter is it? What exactly was I hoping for? I guess if I am totally honest I was hoping for something along the lines of “I miss you not being here today” or perhaps “Christmas isn’t the same without you”… I don’t know. Having said that, I DIDN’T want to have to reply to tell her that our argument was still unresolved so what did I want? Total contradictions and complete conflict. I know none of that makes sense. Feelings don’t always make sense I guess.

Nothing has happened since then. I told my fiancé when we went to bed at his parents’ house last night. He thought I was joking until I told him I really wasn’t. He seemed disappointed and shocked that I had sent a reply. I know he doesn’t want me to know he really would rather I didn’t speak to her again because he doesn’t want to control how I feel or think, but it is clear to see. He hates her for the things she has done to me and the way she has made/makes me feel.  He said the other day he just wishes she would fight for me – show a bit of effort for once. I am sure I would feel the same if I were in his shoes.   Today I am just left feeling a bit….. a little bit empty I guess.  I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but I do. I just feel Christmas isn’t quite right. I feel a bit lacking of something. Some familiar family time or something.. I don’t know.

Anyway, that’s that. Moving on, my Dad.

My Dad

Things have improved with my Dad recently. We have spoken via text more than we ever have before. I am not sure if that is because we are both making a conscious effort, whether it has something to do with me not speaking to my mother (from both of our point’s of view) or whether it is something else but it is good.  On Xmas Eve he sent me a text which said “Happy Christmas Eve my darling xx” and it nearly made me cry. It touched my heart instantly. I was actually mopping the bathroom floor at the time and I felt so much warmth come into my body when I read that. I replied a few minutes later and said what a lovely message it was and said the same back. It was lovely.

Christmas Day he sent another message this time he said “Happy Christmas my daughter” and again, it felt lovely. Really lovely. Such simple things that meant so much. We then had numerous texts over the course of the day, some in the morning and some in the evening.  Then today he sent another!!! Happy Boxing Day and “two more sleeps” meaning until we saw each other. Later in some messages I told him it is my last Christmas with our surname as I will take my fiancé’s name next year and he said he wasn’t sure he liked that and that he hadn’t thought of that. It felt strangely nice that he felt he didn’t want me to lose our surname – our bit of connection I guess? The messages made me feel young I suppose.

I later told my fiancé about these messages and he said how he was really glad and that he wasn’t a total write-off after all (as we had both said many times over the years). I was shocked but I said to him “It just makes me feel a bit sad…” my voice cracked and my eyes welled up instantly. I had to try really hard to choke back the tears. As that happened his car alarm went off and he had to go and sort it out and that conversation never continued but I realised that the messages were and are nice.. and his effort is wonderful but the thing that makes me sad is that I am nearly 30 now.  I needed this so badly before now…. I don’t say that in an ungrateful way. I’m not saying it is too late, clearly it isn’t, but it taps me into some more loss. Loss of being a child that received messages like that from her daddy. I needed that so much then.  It also taps me into some sadness over how my mother (unconsciously I am sure) ruined any chance of that for me and him.  For whatever reasons, her narcissism, her jealousy, her insecurity, control? whatever, she put a big wedge between us. She made me doubt him a lot, she told me lies about him and constantly told me how he didn’t care about me and I was a child who naturally believed her mother.  When the whole false-self thing kicked in and I morphed into her when I was a late teen, he had no hope. WE had no hope.  And so, it is better late than never of course, it truly is… but it makes me feel another sense of loss and missing.

T

And lastly, T.

I am very aware at the moment that I have such a strong desire to stay away from T.  I am very glad that there is no therapy tonight and I am still very glad that I didn’t go to my session last week either.  I don’t feel in touch with any real sadness of not feeling a happy and warm connection with her although I guess it must be in me somewhere.  I just feel a real need to stay the hell away from her. That stupid message hurt so much and I feel so childish and immature and pathetic for feeling that way. It’s based entirely on jealousy and insecurity isn’t it, I can see that… and I can see that I am doing the whole black and white splitting thing again which isn’t healthy or very adult and I don’t WANT to feel how I do.. but .. I do.

I feel silly for writing this but it’s like it has ruined everything. It feels it has taken away something so big. It has changed how I see her entirely.  The fantasy has been ruined and what is left is the truth that T feels differently about me than she does about that other person.  That other person whose name I will never forget. Why do I have to feel so extreme about this? I can see it shouldn’t make me feel this way. It shouldn’t change anything and yet it does. It has.

It sounds ludicrous I know, but all I want to do is run away and never have to see her again. I don’t want to talk to her about this. 1 because – well, CRINGE and 2 because – what is the point??? She can’t say anything that will make this feel any better for me. Perhaps she will empathise and say she can imagine how painful it is and that makes it worse. I don’t want her pity.

The other thing about that bloody text is that the therapisty bit in there was so generic. It is the same words and phrases that she uses with me. Of course it is! But seeing it for yourself in black and white makes you feel so… so insignificant and so…. just so nothing.

I can see that the facts haven’t changed. That she has been sending other people messages like that for the entire time I have known her, I just didn’t know.  I can see that it doesn’t change the fact that we have done lots of good work together and that I have benefited hugely from our sessions but I can’t get the reality and the mature outlook to tally up right now. All I am left with is this feeling that everything has changed and will never be the same. Some kind of disappointment and sadness.  Much like I am left feeling right now about my mother and my Dad.

I’m sorry to anyone that has read this far that this is such a negative and bleak blog for Christmas, for Boxing Day. I just needed to write this out and try to get it off of my mind a bit.  In a few hours the children will be back with us and I have to get myself back into adult me.. until then I plan to snuggle under my new super soft blanket and hide away from the world.

Twink x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trauma Bonding: Growing up with a narcissistic mother

Last night I sat up until 1am writing my draft letter to my mother about going no contact. Somehow I ended up reading about Stockholm Syndrome and how that relates to growing up with a narcissistic parent.

I already had an understanding of what Stockholm Syndrome was but had never really applied it to myself in any way. I then started reading about trauma bonding and realised that it was something T was trying to explain to me just the other day.

I had said to T the other day that I sometimes feel guilty that I am not in contact with my mother, that I haven’t tried to fix things with her and that I am planning to send a proper no contact letter soon. I told T that I didn’t know why I was feeling guilty because I knew that my reasons were very valid, but that I couldn’t help it.  T told me that years ago, she worked in a job where she would have to remove abused children from their mothers/parents and that the children although black and blue, or starved and malnourished or neglected, would kick and scream to stay with that abusive parent.  I was shocked as she told me this.  She explained to me that babies and children were automatically programmed to bond with the caregiver – it was natural and was in fact a case of life and death. I guess she explained trauma bonding to me but just didn’t us that exact phrase.

Reading about both trauma bonding and Stockholm Syndrome really helped me last night. It has played on my mind a lot since and has really helped me to understand the reasons why I find it hard to detach completely from my narcissistic mother.  It helps me to understand where the guilt, shame and panic come from.

When a baby is born they bond automatically with their caregiver.  They bond for safety and for survival.  I read today that it is basically a defense mechanism to prevent the baby being annihilated. They attach to stay alive.

These are the 4 conditions that need to be in play for a victim to experience Stockholm Syndrome:

1. That there is a perceived threat to the captive’s existence, and they fervently believe that the captor will carry out that threat.
2. That the captor experiences small kindnesses from their captor within a context of terror.
3. That the captor is isolated from any other perspectives other than those of their captor.
4. That the captive perceives they have an inability to escape.

Obviously these conditions can relate to many victims of many different types of abuse, but I refer to my experience and that of growing up a daughter of a narcissistic mother.  You will be able to see how all 4 conditions were active.

A child bonds with their abusive caregiver in order to survive. Literally. They do not know any different.  They get good bits every now and again, that eternal dangling carrot – which makes the child just try harder and harder to get the love and approval it so needs and desires.  A child clearly cannot escape.  The child learns to blame its mother’s shortcomings on itself.  If only it was smarter, better behaved, prettier, more fun. It teaches itself that it is not mother’s fault. Mother after all is a strong, competent and all-poweful protector.  The child therefore is faulty.

For a child, even when things appear to be going along nicely, the child is in no doubt that this will be short-lived and that at any moment, the narcissistic mother will snap back to her aggressive, cold, unhappy and angry ways.  The child therefore tries its hardest to keep her happy. It becomes hypervigilent to the highest degree. Keeping mum happy is the safest thing for it and so it complies in whatever way is necessary.  You see then that the child is living in constant fear. It has a constantly activated fight or flight system.

Imagine then, if the struggle is that hard for a child when things appear to be going nicely, how awful it is when things are NOT going nicely.  I can’t talk on behalf of other children of narcissists, but for me, it was an extremely scary time. You have the emotional pain of the cold, distant and unloving mother but you also have the raging mother, the mother who is pulling apart your character, taking away anything that you love or enjoy – including, for me, people I loved like stopping me from going to my nan’s.  Basically if mum wasn’t feeling good – nobody was. Those times were hellish.

Eventually the child learns to be grateful for any small mercies.  To try hard to keep mum happy. To protect mum from anything that may set her rage off.  For me this was entertaining my sister, feeding her, bathing her, helping her with her homework (to lessen poor mum’s load), cleaning the house and doing the washing (again, poor mum had enough on her plate), trying to predict anything and everything that she could need. Then, when the narcissistic mother showed some kind of remorse or kindness (if you can call it that) the child feels indebted to the mother and relates this feeling to both loving and being loved.  This feeling of being in love is what makes the child (perhaps an adult by now) viciously defend the mother from anyone that may question her.  You can see then, why children that grew up with such a distorted view of “love” can find themselves in abusive and dangerous relationships as adults. You can see how these children become codependant.  Their template for healthy relationships was unhealthy to say the least.

The same dynamic applies in physically violent relationships.  The same conditions apply and the same trauma bonding patterns play out.  The victim is triggered back to their childhood way of relating and the fear of annihilation is again, very real just as it was when the victim was a baby and needed to protect itself by bonding with its mother.  Again, this is where people-pleasing and hypervigilence come in.

I have been very lucky not to end up in a violent relationship, but I watched my mother being the victim of domestic abuse several times. I could never understand why she stayed, why anyone would stay, her reason that she loved him always infuriated me – I guess now I understand it a little better. After all, she grew up feeling the same way herself . Thank God I didn’t follow in her footsteps.

My T has told me this is also the reason I never found myself attracted to the “nice guys”.  I confused normal for boring and dysfunction and possibly abuse, for love.  Now when I hear young girls saying they fancy the “bad guys” it makes me shudder.

 

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