Were you raised by a Narcissist? I was : Part One

Laura Chouette, unsplash.com

Some clues that you were raised by a narcissist: you have low self-esteem, you blame yourself for everything, you feel guilty and take responsibility for other’s bad behavior, you’re subconsciously attracted to narcissistic, abusive people.

I’m currently not in therapy but I remember several therapists told me that my mother was a narcissist. I knew it was true but I didn’t want to think of her that way. My mother was a physically abused child and was a battered wife. She seemed child-like to me; she needed our protection from our father but she couldn’t protect us from him.

My siblings automatically went to her rescue during our parent’s fights. They wedged between our parents and pleaded with Father to not beat Mother. “Please forgive her!” they begged. I was the youngest and I was afraid to intervene. I stayed in the background and silently prayed for god to help us. The help never came.

When both of my siblings left our childhood home, I was left with the responsibility to defend our mom. The first and only time I had to step in during a fight, I awkwardly blocked my father’s punches with my hands. I placed my hands between his fists and her head, and I pleaded with him to stop. He eventually did.

Later on after he left the house, my mother came to me and said, “When your father hits me, you have to block his hands. You put your hands on my head but it didn’t block his punches.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t protect you the right way,” I said to her. Inside I felt angry with her but I didn’t show it. I thought she didn’t know any better than to criticize me for not fulfilling the caretaker role that should never have belonged to any of us. We were her children, we deserved her protection but we had to reverse the roles. This is something that she never understood. She was never able to protect us from him. He beat my siblings with pieces of lumber and he molested me. She was stuck in survival mode, so we the children, had to defend ourselves and her. No one else in my family can admit this reality. I’m the only one who dares to say this. That’s why I’m labeled the black sheep of my family.

I kept my molestation a secret from my family until I was around 26 yrs old. The only exception was my sister who knew I was molested (she witnessed it, actually they all witnessed it but coped with it by being in denial). The difference with my sister was she believed me because she had also been molested. She told me that she felt guilty when she was a child, because when my abuse began, her molestation ended. I was her replacement.

Hello I’m Nik, unsplash.com

Writing about this is hard. I have layers of anger about the role I played in my family. I was never given respect, never believed. My role as the scapegoat made them feel better about themselves. I propped them up as heroes and I downplayed their mental illnesses. I took in shame and blame, for not being what they wanted me to be. I even felt guilty for freeing myself from their dysfunction. When I ran away, it made them question their reality. My father surprisingly was the only one who could see that I carried their collective burden of shame. He said, “Judy carries the cross in our family.”

I planned on keeping the molestation to myself for all of my life. I asked my sister to never talk about it with our family. I felt deep shame about what I experienced and I never wanted to confront what happened. But during a visit home, my mother and I had an argument. She was angry with me for having left 3 years ago.

“Why can’t you forgive? Why do you stay away? Out of everyone in our family, you suffered the least. I suffered the most, next is your brother and then next is your sister. You were never beaten. You were spoiled and pampered. Why can’t you forgive the past?”

When she said that, something inside me burst open. “You’re right, Mom. You suffered the most and I suffered the least. But you know what, You never protected me from Father! Something was wrong with him! He was a pervert! He molested me and you knew, because he did it in front of you! Everyone saw what he was doing but no one did anything! You all just left the room!”

She was shocked at my accusation. She said I had imagined it. She said he loved me and I misunderstood. I told her I didn’t imagine anything, that what he did was wrong. “Ask Sister! She knows! It happened to her too!”

That’s when my mother’s face changed. “What? It happened to her? She never told me!” Somehow it mattered only then, because it happened to her. My sister somehow legitimized the reality of my experience.

Mom then confessed to inappropriate things that my father had done in their marriage. She seemed to believe me for a brief moment. I asked her to never discuss the sexual abuse with Father or my brother. “Let’s never talk about this again.” I said to her and she agreed.

But she didn’t keep the promise. She told my brother whose immediate reaction was, “Judy’s gone completely crazy.” He only half-believed it happened after my sister confirmed that she experienced it too. She said the news horrified him and he literally threw up in disgust.

The role I held my family was as the morally lost scapegoat, the selfish, prodigal child. That image of me subconsciously propped up their sense of normalcy in comparison; but I never deserved that role. It’s taken me decades to realize this. Knowing the problem is important so that you can change the pattern. You don’t have to live in a role that no longer works for you. I don’t hate my mother for being a narcissist but I also don’t have to pretend that she wasn’t, in order to continue to love her.

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12 Comments

  1. Judy, you are the ultimate love warrior. It’s so awful what your mother and father did, and it’s heart-wrenching to think of any child suffering that terrible abuse (from your father) and use (from your mother). Unthinkable to use a child as a shield. But you write with such compassion and also matter-of-factness that the page is filled with honour, the whole post rings with a kind of cleansing vibe. The way you write!!! It makes a very difficult topic readable, approachable, filled with hope. To see your beauty and poise, what you achieve and fight for in spite of all this attempted oppression from the family… it’s a light for others and a huge service to the world. I love the way you interspersed it with these beautiful photos and captions, it lightened things and again, brought a feeling of hope and perseverence, truth and light throughout. Thank you for sharing. Much love, and I certainly do bow to the divine in you. Namaste, Seoul Sister. ❤️🙏🌷

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    1. Thank you so much, Nadine😘. I think that we’re all mirrors of each other; we can help each other to see various aspects of ourselves, especially our blind spots and I think you can see compassion, beauty, hope and poise because you’re a love warrior 😇 you have those qualities too💖. I definitely can see that in you and within your intelligent, artistic writing. Your comment makes me feel validated and understood, I’m graced by your support. Thank you for reading my story and for being an encouraging friend❤️🙏, Namaste, Nadine❣️🤗🌷

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  2. You are brave and courageous for telling your story. I hope your words will help and encourage other people to tell their story, also. I am estranged from my family because I was a scapegoat. Great post. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sue. I think we’re sometimes in families that don’t understand us because we were meant to be teachers in the family but it’s easier to put a scapegoat label on us, almost like a way to silence our experience or perception. I think it’s brave of you to be different from your family of origin, I see your strength. 💖

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  3. Wow, Judy. This was absolutely heart wrenching to read. Your story deserves to be heard and I hope this start to your releasing it can help free you and others, in some way, who have have lived any of the horrors you were faced with. I so admire your strength in telling this and feel honored that you shared your story with me. You are a beautiful soul with so much to offer the world and to yourself. I wish you so much love and healing ❤️

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    1. Thank you, Katy💖. Writing is a good form of therapy I think it helps to get the toxins out, and helps me to unravel what happened. Many cope through with denial by hiding the truth but it often makes the cycle repeat. I appreciate your compassionate and supportive comment.

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  4. Oh my gosh, I have to read this again and again. I would like to embrace you to say “I believe you”. I have the same thing in my life, nothing I say matters, unless someone else co-signs that my experience was valid.

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    1. Thank you for your sweet comment. It’s very validating to know that this happens this many people, I’m sorry you experienced this too. I think sometimes certain people in the family fulfill a role of being dismissed/not believed/blamed. I believe you too💖. It’s important that you know what’s true, you’re strong.

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