Thursday, July 24, 2008


Thanks for leaving comments, dear folks.

I've read them and hope to respond next well as posting about Stockholm Syndrome.

My time and energy have been channeled into helping one of my teenagers through a rough patch. And if you've ever had a challenging teenager, you know what I'm talkin' about.

Back soon.

In the meantime, here's wishing you strength and inner peace.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Overcoming Hypchondria

While I'm doing a bit of research on the next post about Stockholm Syndrome and whether it applies to some of us adult children of narcissists, I'd like to the answer the following question posed by an Anonymous commenter:

"Yes, I actually got here by googling elderly narcissistic parent with dementia....I am in a long Groundhog effect loop with a narcissistic mother and hope to add lots and lots of comments. Right now though, I want to ask you about your getting over hypochondria?? How??? I could really use some help."

Well, heck, I'm probably just as qualified as some advice columnists out there, so I'll give it a whirl. Which means I'm hardly qualified.

First, some thoughts.

--Both my self-absorbed parents modeled hypochondriacal behavior. My mother spent a lot of time in bed with various ailments and a bad back. My father went to the emergency room. A lot. I think I picked up on their fear of illness, even though I rarely got sick myself.

--For most of my life, I've repressed anger and resentment toward my parents. Secretly, I hated them, but pretended to be loving and dutiful. I believe that in order to distract myself from my real feelings, I became riddled with anxiety and became a raging hypochondriac.

In order for me to stop being a hypochondriac, I had to admit I loathed my parents. I had to be honest. I had the luck of having mental health insurance. I spent a year with a therapist and just talked. For the first time in my life, I was allowed to express myself without being corrected, interuppted or yelled at. Much of my anxiety was released. More was released when I finally set some boundaries and began to stick up for myself.

But the hypochondria had got out of control.

It had become a HABIT. The repeated breast-checking for lumps, the constant nagging worry that every little ache and pain meant some horrible, lurking cancer had a life of its own...a thing that fed on itself and was eating me up. If you have hypochondria, I don't have to explain to you what it's like.

But there was something else, too. Something linked to feeling UNWORTHY. Like I had no right to be happy, to exist, to breathe or be well.

Every opportunity for joy I ruined with worrying about a possible disease.

So I had to break the cycle.

Don't laugh. I had to sit on my hands so I wouldn't check for breast lumps. I started off with small increments of time: an hour. For an hour I wouldn't think about any of that stuff. When I finally succeeded, I stretched it to two hours, then three, then four, and so on until I'd reached a day. The days eventually reached a week. In the beginning, I had to distract myself with projects or forcing myself to be in the moment with my children, my husband or watching a movie.

I repeatedly told myself, "I am worthy" and I "deserve to be happy." I forced myself to go to the doctor regularly and in between, gave myself permission not to fret. That sounds easy...the deciding. But it isn't. The most important aspect to this was the decision to embrace my worth. To value myself. To allow myself to be happy and joyful.

I honestly feel that if I were actually to get sick, now, I'd be upset, sure, but I'd fight whatever it was. I wouldn't want to let it control or define me. The hypochondria was masking something I was terrified to face.

If this sounds too simple to be true, please believe that this worked for me. It simply took a lot of practice and mindfulness to break an awful, terrible habit.

If you've dealt with hypochondria and would like to share any thoughts about it...or how to overcome it...please leave your advice!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Narcissistic Parent Reaction to YOUR Illness

Okay. Some poor soul found this blog by Googling, "narcissistic parent reaction to my cancer."

I can just imagine that reaction.

And I can just imagine how that reaction is dragging you down at a time when you've got enough to think about.

While I've not had cancer, I once had to have a biopsy. I made the mistake of telling my narcissistic father. This was before he developed dementia. I told him because I was scared. I guess I thought that this would be The Event that he'd pull it together and offer comfort and reassurance. Wrong. Instead, he demanded to know who'd take care of him if I died. I could go on. But I won't. He had no empathy. He then hounded me asking the results of the biopsy. Not because he was worried about me, but worried that I wouldn't be available to help him in his old age. I then had the additional burden of trying to reassure him. This was long before my father was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.

Of course, not all narcissistic parents would behave in such a way.

My self-centered mother turned my few illnesses into her dramas. How worried she was when I broke my arm or had to have a suspicious forehead lump removed when I was a kid. What I was putting her through, how terribly upset she was. Yet, she refused to stay overnight with me in the hospital because it was too uncomfortable and boring.

A serious illness has a way of pulling off the the mask of the narcissistic parent. To our surprise, there's nothing much there. Just lack of substance. But maybe, just maybe, the person who Googled this topic found their narcissistic parent actually supportive? I suspect not.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ewww...I Feel Violated

I have no recollection of being sexually abused by my narcissistic father.

In fact, I can't even remember any physical inappropriateness, like Enilina can. Her father used to bite her. (Please see her comment to the previous post)

Yet, the idea of any physical contact with my father is simply repulsive. If he kisses me on my cheek, it's all I can do not to run to the bathroom and wash my face. I sit as far away from him as I can. There is a picture of me, about five, and n-dad in our backyard. I'm in a bathing suit and we're standing on some steps. He's grinning at the camera. I'm unsmiling and my entire body is angled away from him. It looks like I'm poised to vault over the banister to escape, but I can't because he's got one hand on my arm. (Next post: Stockholm Syndrome...thanks to Roxtarchic for bringing it up!)

In an earlier post, I mentioned that my cold, self-absorbed mother did douse my private parts with alcohol when I was tenish. No idea why.

As my parents aged and it became clear that somebody had to tend to their failing bodies, I knew one thing. It wasn't going to me. Sure, I'd take them to doctor's visits, manage their medical care, daily care and finances, but I wasn't going to be the one giving sponge baths and changing adult diapers. It would have been like submitting to a daily, physical assault.

But I've often wondered WHY I'm so repulsed by my parents, especially my father. Maybe it has something to do with what Cinder Ella wrote:

"The whole thing about sexual weirdness...I've felt some of that, too. I've pretty much written abuse off as nonsense in my case, but there were other weird things. I suppose it shouldn't be surprising considering that to the narcissist everything is about them, why shouldn't that include sexuality?"

This is as good a theory as I've heard.

N-dad has no filters. Whatever is in his head rolls off his tongue, without benefit of a single gasket.

Since he talks, non-stop, some of that chatter probably included stuff of a sexual nature or, at least, inappropriate for the ears of a sensitive daughter. I can remember him talking, in detail, about his bowel movements. When I protested, he'd say, "But this is about me. You need to know this." He seemed baffled that I wasn't interested. This happened decades before his dementia. As he aged, his conversations became more scatalogical.

After my mother died and he began dating (which I encouraged), he wanted to tell me about his sexual conquests. I'd get up and leave the room.

Before my mother died from complications due to Alzheimers, her caregiver said my father had taken to complaining about his sexual frustration. He'd follow her around the tiny house and complain how he hadn't had sex for ages because my mother was no longer interested. I had a serious talk with my father. While he did stop complaining to the caregiver, he began complaining to me instead. Again, he was baffled that I wasn't interested. When I tried to explain that it was inappropriate and, more practically, what could I possibly do about it, his shoulders sagged and head drooped in a parody of the hangdog victim. "I can't never do anything right," he moaned. "Everybody is against me." (No kidding. He actually says stuff like this)

The point is, my father shoved every part of himself on me. And some of those parts were were his bodily functions and frustrated sexuality. And while I may not have been sexually abused, it still made me feel dirty. Violated. My narcissistic father had crossed some boundaries because, in his world, there are no fences.

I'd like to hear from you: your stories (long, medium, short) and thoughts and theories.
And so would some readers of this blog...who expressed their interest in this subject. Roxtarchic said it would be like opening Pandora's Box. So let's bravely open that box and see what flies out!

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Parent Who Could Not Listen

Of all my narcissistic father's behaviors, it's his total inability to listen that I have found the most troubling.

Joanna Ashmun described it so well:

I have observed very closely some narcissists I've loved, and their inability to pay attention when someone else is talking is so striking that it has often seemed to me that they have neurological problems that affect their cognitive functioning.

When a person says something to my father, if you can manage to finish your sentence without being interrupted, it's almost as if they hadn't spoken at all.

There is no acknowledgment of what was just said. There is no appropriate reaction. If you tell him you have the flu, he will tell you that everybody around him is sick. If you tell him his granddaughter broke her arm, he will not ask if she's in any pain or if she's wearing a cast, but he will tell you how terribly upset he is because you allowed her to fall off the swings. When I told him I had got into the dream college of my choice, he didn't register the news. Then he wanted to know why I was packing to leave.

I remember, as a child, trying to tell n-dad about something important that happened at school. I had been first to finish one of those SRA reading boxes filled with short stories. Since I had such trouble in math, I was delighted to excel in at at least one subject. I remember him saying, "Oh good for you," in a distracted sort of way before he began chattering away about something else.

I learned right then and there that what I said was simply not important. That I was not important. That I must be at fault, somehow. That I must be inarticulate and boring. I developed a very poor, tentative way of expressing myself, as if I had no right to speak at all.
In a conversation, I'm usually thrilled with a 20 percent share.

A lack of reaction when one speaks also makes you feel invisible. It's the most profoundly disorienting experience, to be in a "conversation" yet not speak or be heard.

And even though you may come in for a scolding or mocking, the n-parent who can't listen will also not offer pearls of wisdom, reassurance or practical advice.

Later, when I began going to medical visits with my parents, the nurse or doctor would usually take me aside and ask if my father had always been like that. "He doesn't seem to be registering anything I say," one doctor observed in frustration. "Does he have ADD?" another nurse asked.

When my Dad was in his early seventies, I thought he'd benefit from the expertise of a geriatric specialist, so found him a new doctor. He immediately noted n-dad's incessant chatter and that he couldn't seem to engage in a normal conversation. "Is this behavior new?" he asked. I assured him that's the way my father had always behaved. He wondered aloud if my father might be slightly autistic. Eventually, he'd use n-dad's inability to listen as a criteria for dementia.

So that's another way to look at interacting with a narcissist who can't listen. It's as challenging as dealing with a poor soul struck with dementia.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What Others Think of Us

When an anonymous commenter drifted by and called me an ungrateful daughter, I wasn't surprised.

In fact, I'm surprised it took almost three months of blogging about narcissistic parents to get that sort of reaction.

Because, in real life, that's a totally typical response if you dare break the Honor Your Parent code, even if you had lousy parents who neglected or abused you. You're either told to "buck up" or "get over it" and/or forgive them. Apparently, venting about one's abusive parent is offensive in the extreme to some people. It upsets their delicate sensibilities of how a good daughter or son should behave. We are not to have feelings. And we are certainly not allowed to express them. How dare we?

While this is sort of interesting, what's worth discussing is what people in real life think of us adult children of narcissists who have distanced ourselves from our toxic parents and how that impacts us.

We know the whole story and have made decisions accordingly. Outsiders can only see a small part. And because many of us children of narcissists have developed people pleasing tendencies, displeasing or disappointing people can really sting.

In fact, in the past, I've fallen all over myself trying to prove what a fabulous, responsible daughter I am. It was quite a show I put on...all for the benefit of neighbors, family friends and family members who didn't even like my father. Hah! The very same people who criticized me for placing him in an assisted living facility never called or visited him once!

Basically, I felt guilty as hell for being repulsed by my own father. This is something I've only recently been able to admit to. Because what kind of daughter has those sorts of dark and sinister feelings? An ungrateful, monstrous daughter. Naturally. I didn't like what those feelings said about me, so I pushed them away. Denied them. And became a raging hypochondriac instead. (I was also suppressing an incredible amount of anger, because my adoptive n-parents made me pretend I was their biological child.)

When I say hypochondriac, let me clarify. I did not seek attention for my imagined ailments. I mostly fretted about them 24/7 and nearly drove myself crazy with worry that I was dying of some as yet undetected disease de'jour.

Still, even though I drove my parents to doctor's appointments and brought over covered dishes of food and eventually took over managing their affairs, I heard through the grapevine that people were perplexed I wasn't doing more. Why I didn't visit more often. From their perspective, they saw a couple with an adopted kid who later bugged out of town to go to college and then basically disappeared for more than ten years, only to return after n-mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimers. I looked like an ungrateful lout who'd abandoned her badly aging parents.

This stung. Really, really stung. Because back then, I really cared what people thought of me. My entire persona was based on the good, dutiful daughter, until I couldn't stand it or them anymore and fled. When I returned, I resumed that role. And immediately became extremely anxious and hypochondriacal. Can anyone say Xanax? I self-medicated just to get through a visit with my parents.

It is with the greatest of effort that I am able to continue caring for my aging narcissistic father without falling into the trap of trying to prove to total strangers that I'm a fabulous, loving daughter. Because I'm not loving. Sometimes, it's more than enough to behave responsibly and morally. And I'm NOT judging those who've cut off their toxic parents. Believe me, if there was anybody else except me in nfather's life, I'd take that route, too. Sometimes, what we can do is what we can do. Plain and simple. Not caring about what others think can help set us free.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

My Father the Leech

I'm going to share this story because it's a pretty good example of the elderly narcissist at his best.

This is a pretty typical interaction for my father. While this happened when Damned Old Dad was in his early 70's, it could have happened when he was a much younger man.

So we're at a restaurant: Dad, me, my husband and two daughters, at the time 5 & 7. This is almost a decade before he developed Lewy Body dementia.

We're waiting for a table. Instead of passing the time paying attention to his granddaughters, n-dad starts looking around and notices an attractive, composed professional looking 40ish woman. She's alone. My father leaps up and sits down next to her.

"I just lost my wife," he announces morosely.

The woman nods and offers her condolences. He launches. He tells her about my mother's Alzheimers, his loneliness, his whole life story. Just like that. He leeched onto her and expected this perfect stranger to offer him undivided attention and sympathy in a happening restaurant. It never occurred to him that she probably had a hard day and was hoping for some down time. He chattered on, hanging his head for maximum impact, without asking the lady her name or where she was from. Surprisingly, she didn't seem annoyed.

I was stunned. When we were called to dinner, I walked over to her and apologized. Some might say I didn't have to do that. Some might say it was none of my business.

In the past, n-dad pissed off or offended so many people that it often fell to me to smooth things over. At least, that was the (desperate) role I took on. The first time I remember this happening was when I was a kid and n-dad told some new parents their baby looked like Khrushchev. Their faces fell. I spent the rest of the wedding carting that baby around, gushing he was the cutest thing I'd ever seen.

I was every bit as embarrassed by n-dad's behavior at the restaurant as I was when he dissed that poor baby.

So guess how the lady responded?

She shrugged and said it was no big deal. She explained she was - HAH! - a shrink and used to dealing with "people like that." Then she dug out a card from her purse and handed it to me. "You can come see me some time," she said with a smile. "To help you deal with him."

I didn't do it. Not because I didn't want to, but because we were moving hundreds of miles away. That was ten years ago. I wish I would have pursued this issue much sooner and more seriously.

I spent much of those ten years catering to my leech of a narcissistic father. I allowed him to ruin family vacations and family time. I failed to understand that I'd become a people pleaser who always looked to others for validation instead of looking within. I too easily accepted the opinions of others. After identifying my father as a narcissistic personality and figuring out how to deal with him and me, I've become a much, much happier person. Gone is my own personal struggle with anxiety and hypochondria (more on that another time). And even though he continues to be needy, his needs are much easier to handle now that I've learned to say those magic words: "no," "I will when I can," and "I have to go because the girls/husband need me." Also, just because the phone rings and it's him, doesn't mean I have to answer. I actually learned to use voice mail!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Were We Abused? Part Two

Came back from an unplanned extended weekend getaway and now coming down with flu. (So I'll be keeping this short)

To everyone who commented, thank you. I read each and every opinion and learned much. I'd like to respond to each one individually, but this time, I can't.

To some people, it seems very clear that they did suffer emotional abuse.

I wasn't so sure. Probably because saying so made me feel guilty. But after reading the ANDREW VACHSS article that appeared in Parade Magazine, I definitely think so. (Thank you for the link, Katherine Gunn!)

As the child of narcissistic parents, I was emotionally abused.

That said, of course, not all of us will come to the same conclusion. I just want to make it clear than I respect whatever conclusion you've come to on this difficult subject. Like Ella, who wrote that she thought she had really bad parents, but they weren't necessarily abusive. (I hope I phrased that correctly!)

Reading Vachss' description helped me see my parent's behavior more clearly.

When my father wasn't talking my ear off or seeking my attention, he mocked and belittled me. He mocked me for having opinions that differed from his own. He used to say things like, "You think you're so smart, don't you?" Later, when I went to college, he'd say, "So who cares if you went to college? You're nothing but a little know-it-all."

When I tried to tell him about myself, he'd immediately lose interest and begin talking about himself. To the point that, to this day, I've never been allowed to finish one complete sentence.

My narcissistic father didn't know how to parent. He'd never seen it before. His alcoholic father beat him. His mother worked long hours to support them. He was a latch-key kid.

Occasionally, n-dad would get weepy watching me interact with my kids, saying he'd never got that kind of attention and he'd never got help with his school work, and his parents had never shown any interest in him. In fact, he sounded jealous of his granddaughters and often, competed with them for my attention. It never seemed to occur to n-dad that he was a father. That he'd never helped me with my school work and shown any interest in me.

My mother specialized in cold punishing silences that could go on for weeks. I'd do something that displeased her and she'd retaliate by pretending not to see or hear me.

As Vachss wrote, "A parent's love is so important to a child that withholding it can cause a "failure to thrive" condition similar to that of children who have been denied adequate nutrition."

So yes, I see it more clearly now. I was emotionally abused.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Were We Abused?

Anonymous Bob asked:

"Nina, don't you think that your relationship with your n-parents could be described as an abusive relationship? That's what I think about my parents. Look at this: My childhood sucked. No love, just ice cold mind games and manipulation. When I see her today I get this trigger thing going on so I can't really meet her without going crazy. So I avoid her.Here's my hypothesis: being a child of narcissistic parent(s) *is* actually abusive and as children of narcissistic parent(s) we share the main symptoms of physically abused persons like triggers, avoidance, etc. We were emotionally and spiritually abused!"

Yeah. Pretty much. But it's funny. And hard to think about, clearly, because both my adoptive, narcissistic parents thought they spoiled me rotten. Probably because they both grew up woefully poor. So the fact that they fed me, didn't slap me around (well, my mother did a few times), rarely drank, gave me birthday parties and paid $89 a month back in the seventies to send me to Catholic High School qualified them for sainthood.

On the flip side, the stories they told about me are...telling.

Every single story they ever related portrayed me as an insufferable inconvenience.

When I was one, I refused to stay in my crib and climbed out to be with them. My Dad likes to recall what a pain in the ass I was and how they could never watch a T.V. show without me butting in.

How I'd whine and complain about staying with my grandmother (every single weekend) because they went clubbing and wanted to sleep in late. Apparently, I couldn't understand why they needed a break from those strenuous five days of caring for an only child.

How I invited kids over and got the house messy or trampled through the ivy in the backyard. How I was always nagging them to go over to a friend's house.
How I abandoned my mother to hang out with friends and later, go to college.

So basically, after a lifetime hearing how good you've had it and what an ungrateful bastard you are, one must disregard their version of events and learn to respect one's own memory.

But like Anonymous Bob, I too have the same response: avoidance. After I'd finally left home, I couldn't stand to be around them.

When I visit my elderly father, I stay as far away from him as the room will allow and try to avoid touching him. If I do, I have to force myself not to cringe.

When he was younger and came to visit, he'd follow me around the house, talking, talking, talking. His endless chatter felt like an assault. I wanted to scream, "Get away from me, leave me alone for God's sake."

Okay. I know many parents get on their kid's nerves. But this is different. It's just not normal to react to one's parent like they were a zombie in Night of the Living Dead. Unless you were in an abusive relationship. Then it makes more sense. It's just not the kind of abuse that most of us have heard about it. There's much less general information, it seems, about emotional abuse.

And for the record, I think my both my parents were very ignorant and emotionally crude people, driven by their unconscious need for unconditional love and attention.

But I'd love to hear from you. I'm sure Anonymous Bob would be interested, too. As the child of a narcissist, do you think you were emotionally abused?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Emotional detachment is possible.

About a year ago, I was a wreck.

The phone would ring and I'd feel sick just thinking about my father on the other end of the line with the complaint de jour.

Before, there was the year when he kept having panic attacks disguised as heart attacks and spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital, requiring my attention.

I spent nearly every evening fuming and stewing about what he'd said, how he'd said it. I was furious, depressed, resentful and above all, trapped. Okay, I still feel trapped. But less so.

Reflecting on the past, trying to understand it, writing about all of it and learning that others have had similar experiences, too, have done me a world of good.

I can actually have a terrible encounter with my father, then forget about it ten minutes later.

"He's such an asshole," I'll say, then go back to whatever it was I was doing.

Now, I won't even bother describing, in great detail, to my husband what awful thing just happened. Because I don't want to let my father ruin a perfectly good meal or movie or time with my husband or daughters.

I managed to accomplish this with a great deal of PRACTICE.

Stewing and fuming, I'd concluded, had got out of control.

So I started with small chunks of time. I would force myself NOT to think about my narcissistic father. After a bad encounter, I'd let myself FEEL. I'd get angry or sad and sit with it for a while, respecting my feelings, but not allowing them to completely control me. Then I'd say, that's enough stewing. Time to move on.

I've also become better at anticipating problems and taking precautionary measures.

For example, my narcissistic father was winding up for mother's day. A week before, he started calling me daily to wish me happy mother's day. With each call, he'd become more maudlin...saying what a wonderful mother I was to my daughters, but that HE'D never had that kind of childhood because his mother had allowed his father to beat him. HE'D been a latchkey kid. And on and on. So I knew, for sure, that his attempt to take the spotlight (again) would be upsetting and triggering, so I asked my husband to answer the phone that day. I also didn't call my father on Saturday, the day before, just in case. I was able to have a lovely mother's day with my the horse races!....without letting my father ruin it.

I'd allowed him to ruin so many important occasions: going away to college (first weekend spent at hospital w/hypochondriacal father); birth of first child (trip to hospital due to his "bad" back); birth of second child (taking care of mother w/Alzheimers b/c father hadn't told me about her illness).

No matter the occasion, I was never allowed to enjoy it. To be in the moment. My father always had some problem or drama that required my attention and involvement.

But it's soooo much better now.

I'm not nearly the quivering mass of spineless jelly that I was a year ago.

And I'm REALLY glad I'm doing this while my father is still alive.

I'd like to end with a comment left by Anonymous Bob...which made me think about this subject in the first place:

"if I was to wait for my mother and father to die before I could have a good life or start working with myself I would be giving my parents power over my destiny. I would continue to be at their mercy like I was when I was a kid. Why should they control how I feel? Isn't this what we're trying to get out of - our parents controling our lives? When we were children we had no choice, but when we're older we can say "no, I will no longer let my parents control me".

Monday, May 12, 2008

Enduring...Not Enjoying...Our Parents

A couple narcissistic parent survivors made some comments I'd like to quote here, as they really got me thinking.

The first has to do with getting together with our narcissistic parent.

Long before I figured out that I wasn't just cold and selfish and a defective daughter, that my parents were self-absorbed in the extreme, I'd feel sick with dread at the prospect of spending time with them. It's one thing to read about this in a book. It's another to have adult children of narcissists describe in detail what that feeling is actually like.

I think Roxtarchic captured the reaction especially well when she wrote:

"i know how that "due at his side for dinner" feels... i bet everyone who visits here, feels it all to well... the dread, the sickening in the pit of your stomache, my shoulders would tense to the point of snapping and my sciatica would trigger... it was a whole body "revolt" trying to prepare itself, like a warrior going into battle, gearing up for the inevitable episode... other people visit w/their family... we have to endure."

Of course, having had to endure such a parent over such a long period of time, it's not unusual that some of us begin to ask...why the hell do people like this live so damned long?

To be honest, it's something I ask myself with increasing frequency. How long is my father going to remain on this earth? I'm all tapped out. With every day that passes, I'm becoming less available to emotionally caretake him. I'M getting older and I'M becoming less patient, less willing to give and not receive after a lifetime of getting the short end of the chi-chi stick.

So it was with great interest that I read the following theories, which I'd like to share with you:

Enilina wrote:
"My Christian friends like to say that God is giving these people the time and the chance to repent and change themselves. In their less generous moments they say God doesn't want these people in heaven, and neither does the devil in hell. I say that the mean people live longer because they've dumped all their negative feelings onto someone else so their own body doesn't have to deal piles of stress.

The question of why mean people live so long reminds me of the old saying “the good die young,” and like most old sayings, has a basis in fact. Take for example the military: top performers are usually the ones who get put in the most dangerous/critical jobs because they are the top performers, so they die faster than their less impressive contemporaries. So the natural selection process is that the best people rise rapidly or die, leaving less experienced and less capable people at the lower ranks. I believe the real world is also a reflection of this."

Roxtarchic wrote:
"i think mean people (esp narcs) live so long because they let it all out, w/out any filters while the more human of our species tend to bottle it up... hold it in... or back at the very least (& then there's the whole spite factor that oughta carry em a few years at least)"

Monday, May 5, 2008

Loathing Life With Father

There are some things that aren't discussed in polite company.

Things like loathing your own father or mother.

But it happens. You don't want to loathe them. You just do. And for damned good reason.

So when an Anonymous commenter stopped by and wrote the following, the feelings resonated, even if the experience did not:

All of you are lucky. My Dad expects a visit at least every other day and he is never grateful, kind or welcoming. He is ALWAYS miserable and complains incessantly. The ONLY thing he wants is to move into my home with my husband and children since my Mom passed away in February. He will not let it go and continually calls to tell me he is going to commit suicide since he can not be alone -- he MUST be with me in my home. Of course I have a full time job, my kids go to school and my husband works full time as well. He needs aides and he is the meanest man I have ever met. I have a feeling he will out live us all even though he is 90. My life has become a daily horror with him.

Later, she called him mean and petty and, I believe, a bully.

I'm betting he was always this way. Maybe just worse with age. Not all old people DEMAND to live with their adult children and families. Not all old people want to impose themselves in such a way. A friend's mother found her own assisted living facility and checked in without fuss. She didn't want to BURDEN her kids.

But what of the relationship between parent and adult child before? Even when there was a loving and warm relationship, caring for an elderly parent in one's own home is filled with challenges.

But if the relationship was marked with a lifetime of physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect, WHY would a parent at the end of life feel entitled to such personal sacrifice and care? In the case of the narcissistic parent, it's because they are truly disordered. I firmly believe this.

Not that poor Anonymous is even considering taking her bully of a father into her own home, but I just want to mention another unmentionable: incontinence.

When you loathe your parent, having to change their adult diaper is the ultimate violation. I know because I had to do this for my mother, who developed Alzheimers. She didn't repulse me in the same way my father did and still does, but such a close and personal act left me shaking. I felt like I'd been assaulted. It was a degrading experience. It took me right back to the time when, for reasons unknown, my mother held me down and poured alcohol on my private parts.

People with dementia, and many old people, need 10-15 changes a day. I can't imagine - for a single second - how I could survive a single day changing the diapers of a man I loathe. And with men who have no boundaries, I also have no doubt there would be a sexual aspect to this. Several times, he told me his nurses changed his underwear so often because they "wanted him." (Permission to laugh)

Here's another taboo topic. Why do the mean people live so damned long? My amazing, wonderful, funny, sweet uncle was healthy and self-sufficient until the day he keeled over of a heart attack at 82. My kind, loving aunt lived on her own. She died suddenly of flu at 79. And then there's my narcissistic dad. Triple vessel coronary blockage, Lewy Body Dementia, incontinent, wheel chair bound...almost three years in an expensive assisted living facility...and still making life a misery for those around him. It just seems so unfair.

Anonymous, I know you didn't ask for advice, so feel free to ignore it!

I sense you are scared of your father, which is totally understandable.

But since you are so miserable already, you may want to consider the following. A former therapist once advised me to quit being such a doormat and tell my father if he treated me badly again, I wouldn't call him. This was such a novel idea that it was positively shocking. I couldn't imagine myself standing up to my father in this way. But I finally got up the nerve the next time he was verbally abusive. I let myself get angry and let him have it. To my surprise, my father backed down. I felt GREAT!

As for those awful phone calls from your father, may I suggest that you not subject yourself to them? Don't listen to them. Delete them or ask your husband to. The suicide threats are extortion. Of course.

I think you should seriously think about taking a break from him. Explain to the staff that you need some mental health time off and won't be calling or visiting. It sounds like you can't take much more. The head nurse at my dad's facility totally understands these sorts of situations and was very supportive. Your father sounds similar to a horrible old woman who tormented her daughter, who visited regularly. The daughter was an absolute mess. So I feel for you. I do!

Take care of yourself. He'll be miserable and mean whether you visit. Or not.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Are Most Old People Like This?

So my narcissistic, elderly (81) father calls and leaves a message.

I'd just talked to him the day before and was planning to give myself the night off because I'd already spent much of the day running errands for him and dealing with his bills and paperwork.

So he rings about fifteen minutes past the time I usually call him and he shouts into the phone: "Hi, it's me! I was just calling to see if anything happened to you and if you're okay. DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME!"

When I play the message back, I feel like the walls are closing in. Like I can't breathe.

His plea may have been made out of lonely desperation. But for me, it's the last thing I want to hear.

So here's my question.

Do many/most old people behave like this?

Okay, okay, I know my father is a narcissist and manipulative. But I can't help but wonder, how typical is this needy sort of reminder?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Relating to a Narcissist

This weekend, I realized there's probably a big difference in the way people react to a narcissist.

There's the way WE - adult children of the self-absorbed - react.

And then there's the way others react.

My narcissistic father called and my 15-1/2 year old daughter answered the phone.

He asked her what she'd done that day.

Normally, she'd say something like, "Not much," because she's learned he's not interested in what she has to say, and then quickly hands the phone to me.

But she said he sounded eager and chatty and welcoming, so she TRIED to explain that she had standardized testing all day and how boring it was. She must have managed to utter a sentence before he cut her off. That's when I heard her say, "Never mind. Mom!" She thrust the phone at me with an oh-well shrug.

I don't think for a second she lost any sleep over it. I asked her about it later, and she said, "He's just like that." My husband has met plenty of kooky, self-centered people over the years and it's more a source of amusement to him because he just thinks they're weird and not worth his time. This is pretty much the same reaction of some of my friends raised by non-n parents.

Then there's me! When somebody ignores me, interrupts or in some way doesn't acknowledge me, it's more than just annoying. It touches something very deep inside. It pulls apart the edges of a wound that won't quite close.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My Narcissistic Father....The Drama Queen

I wouldn't say my narcissistic adoptive father is a hypochondriac. (I was - now completely recovered - but that's another post)

He uses both real and imagined illness to get his way. And to get attention.

By the time he actually got sick, I'd already had it.

The first time I can remember him pulling a You-Did-This-To-Me-Stunt was back in the late sixties when he and my mother finally broke down and took me to Disneyland, which was less than 15 miles away. I must have been around eight. My mother had a bad back. My father suffered from a highly selective inner ear disturbance which could make him dizzy, depending on just how badly he didn't want to do something. I wanted to go on the rocket ship ride, but couldn't ride alone. They tried to talk me out of it, calling me stubborn and selfish. It was the one ride I really, really wanted to go on. About a minute into it, Dad started shouting and gesturing wildly and people started screaming below and the ride stopped. We were carted to the medical station, where the staff got an earful about how I'd done this to him because I was so selfish and stubborn. The day at Disneyland was cut short and, once in the car, my Dad perked up and ate a hearty meal that evening at his favorite restaurant.

Perhaps the biggest drama - the one that fills me with resentment today - is the one that took place the weekend I moved to college. I have no idea why I let them go with me. After all, I was footing the entire bill. They'd refused to loan me a dime. Getting into the college was perhaps the most important thing that had ever happened to me. But I was not destined to enjoy or relish the experience. My father got stomach pains the afternoon of our arrival. Sure enough, he wanted to go to an emergency room. My mother blamed me. I had made him sick because I was cold and selfish for leaving them. So I was forced to take him to emergency while my mother went shopping. And spent the next 24 hours at the hospital as the doctors ran tests. Of course, nothing was wrong with him.

Fast forward.

My father, showing signs of Lewy Body dementia, is (forcibly) checked into an assisted living facility.

The transition is a nightmare. My needy father turns into a sniveling, voraciously needy wreck...calling me up to a dozen times a day. When the head nurse says I need to put my foot down and quit answering the phone, assuring me she'll take care of him, he fakes a heart attack.

By this time, I am so trained to think that any non-compliance on my part is enough to (almost) kill an adult man that I feel guilty as hell trying to belatedly erect what is commonly referred to in the self-help literature as, "boundaries."

The nurses calls saying she's pretty sure he's faking, but called 9-1-1, anyway. Then she calls back, giggling, saying I'll never believe what had just happened. She and other staff had surrounded my father and gave him lots of comfort and reassurance while they waited for the paramedics. He perked up. He sat up and began joking and laughing. When the staff saw he was okay, they began to drift off and my father got up and acted very agitated over the "abandonment." So she said, half-teasing, "You know, _____, the paramedics are almost here. Should we tell them to go home?" or something like that.

And you know what he did?

He flopped back on the bed, clutched his chest and began to gasp.

The dementia had impacted enough of his judgment to allow him to carry on with an old act in front of an observer. But it was an old and tired act. And to have it WITNESSED by a third party was incredibly satisfying. Finally, independent confirmation that he was a faker! The nurse said she'd never seen anything like it! She said, later, that my father was possibily the neediest, most difficult resident she'd come across. Bonus!!!

Knowing my parent is such an emotional con artist isn't enough to totally throw off the burden of responsibility I feel toward my troubled father. I feel less burdened. Less responsible. But not, unfortunately, totally free. At least not yet. But it's a state I'd like to achieve. Desperately.

I know some readers have left comments about health and manipulation in the last post, but feel free to leave your stories, observations or thoughts on how to Get Past Guilt.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

How My Narcissistic Father Got That Way

As my 81-year old narcissistic (adoptive) father descends into the last stages of Lewy Body dementia, he once again talked about the cruelty of his own father.

He began telling me about his no-good-lazy-drunkard of a father when I was very young. How he'd endured neglect and beatings and cigarette burns, until he forced his father out of the house when he was finally old enough. His father died on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

My father could never believe that his own father treated him so badly. This has haunted him throughout his life. This and the fact that his mother didn't stand up for him.

My father seemed to crave sympathy for his suffering. He desperately needed somebody to acknowledge the pain he'd endured as a child. So he turned to his own child to do that for him. His wife, my adoptive mother, wasn't a very patient person.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that the sympathy I developed for my father's terrible childhood experience got in my way of realizing that he had neglected me. That our roles had reversed. That at some point, my father began to use his bad childhood as a Lifelong Hall Pass excusing him from parental duties. That whatever he had survived had somehow entitled him to taking and taking and taking from his only child. It was as if he had never really fully realized that he had become a father himself. It was as if he was still that wounded 12-year old boy, looking for attention and comfort.

One of the oddest things about my aging narcissistic father is that he never seemed to acquire the ability to reflect upon his own life, to make connections between experiences had and lessons learned. He did not grow any wiser with age. He was and will always be that 12-year old kid.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Damn Liars!!!

My narcissistic father lied. Often.

When he didn't want me to take classes at a nearby college, he said a rapist was on the loose attacking young women. (Not true)

He told people he and my mother had paid for my college education. They hadn't. Not a single dime.

He complained he'd given me so much money he didn't have enough for his own retirement. I'd been financially independent since 18.

He used to tell people - right in front of me! - that I was his biological child when I knew darned well I was adopted. Then made up all sorts of bizarre stories to explain why I didn't look like them or why I was an only child.

He told me he was diabetic. He wasn't.

He faked having chest pains and demanded emergency help -- repeatedly -- when I'd take a night off from calling him.

I can't remember if he lied like that when I was a kid, although I think he must have and it was just one of the many reasons I didn't feel comfortable around him. I figured it out when I was a teenager, but never told anybody. Not even my best friend. It was just too weird. And if your own father is that strange, what does it say about you?

When I finally got up the nerve in my thirties to confront him, he gave an awful, evil little laugh, but didn't apologize or explain to my satisfaction. Basically, he said he wanted what he'd wanted, and I was being so stubborn, so he had to do what he had to do.

Catching him out on a whopper did NOT deter him.

I'd like to say, folks, that the lying goes away when the narcissist develops dementia.

But in the case of my father - who has Lewy Body Dementia - it has not.

This continues to astound me.

He's lost control of his inhibition, his legs, his bladder and most of what little judgment he had to begin with, but he's maintained the ability to lie. Old habits do die hard.

Do, please, feel free to share your favorite Damn Liar stories and thoughts on this disturbing behavior.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I think I'm witnessing something scary. Something ominous. A relative, Sue, is evolving from a self-centered woman into one of those narcissistic parents that drove us to the blogosphere in the first place.

An attractive, fit woman of 50 who spent most of our "conversation" talking nonstop about a) all the fabulous, organic meals she makes; b) how super intelligent and tall her 4-year old son is, thanks to her excellent parenting; c) how hard she works out and how hot she looked when she got all dolled up to go out and how heads turned! and d) again, how her son is smarter and taller and more charming than other kids and how she gives him daily doses of imported, organic fish oil for his brain.

Perhaps the most pathetic part of our talk came when I confirmed that my youngest teen is a size O, when Sue asked if she was still tiny. Sue immediately responded that she, at 50!, was only a size 2 and then when on about the amazing muscle tone in her upper arms.

That floored me.

That a 50 year old woman would feel the need to compete, on some level, with a teenager.

I'm predicting that Sue is fast developing into the type of mother who sees her child as an extension of herself. She's already very controlling and is overly invested in his "intelligence" which is a direct result of her parenting skills. When he dances, he's going to be the next Timberlake or when he sings in the car, he has perfect recall of the lyrics and can carry a tune. Woe be the kid if he turns out just an average student or refuses to wear the Ralph Lauren chinos she buys him. I don't think she's a full blown narcissist. She's not without empathy. But I got to wondering.

In some people with narcissistic tendencies, does having a child push them right over the edge into a narcissist?

As her son gets older, she's talking more and more about his intelligence. She honestly seems to think he's somehow different than other kids. Destined, at the age of 4, for the Ivy League (of course, she wants the best for him). Recently, when he had a tantrum and screamed he hated her, she threw a tantrum, too and called me crying, looking for reassurance. How could he hurt her like that? she wanted to know. After all she does for him! And I felt sick. She didn't seem to grasp that he's four and was probably tired and pissed off he had to clean up his Legos. She didn't grasp that it's her job as a mother to stay calm as best she can and comfort him, no matter what.

Is this how it happens for some people? A rather self-centered parent who knows she is aging begins to tap into her child as a new source of validation?

Friday, April 11, 2008

GIVING Gifts: A Triggering Exercise

Believe me, I've given my fair share of lousy gifts.

But over the last decade or so, I've turned it into something of an art.

My MIL - the recipient of many a quality purse, Nordstrom jacket and Gourmet Gluten Free Treat Basket, says I always manage to give her the very thing she wants, but wouldn't dare buy herself because of cost. This, of course, makes me happy. She has secretly given me what I want: acknowledgment.


After years of buying carefully researched toys and clothes for my nephews, I unintentionally missed a birthday. None of these gifts were ever acknowledged by my SIL. In fact, I had no idea they'd ever received them. Then my SIL sends a furious email to the family members who'd missed her son's birthday.

This REALLY upset me. This started one of those loops that keep playing in your head. The unfairness of it! She'd never sent my kids (her nieces) anything or most often forgot to call. She never acknowledged mine, after I had acknowledged hers for nearly two decades. In fact, I've spent my entire married life buying my SIL stuff that reflected her tastes that she never acknowledged.

This was followed by an episode with my brother-in-law. He calls to ask if I'd do something special for his wife's upcoming b-day and gives me a not-so-suble reminder that his son's b-day is coming up, too. This I knew. I'd bought his gifts months ago and stashed them in the closet with all the Christmas gifts I'd bought everybody during the summer.

So I do all that. Then I call on her b-day and make a big deal of it and she goes on about her Big Party and all the cash she got and my nephew's Big Party with designer cupcakes. No acknowledgment of the gifts. When I finally got up the nerve to ask my BIL if my nephew liked his stuff, he said his kid had got so many gifts he didn't know which was which. Then they forgot my b-day, that same week. Then they forgot my daughter's. And I felt like crap.

So what was I doing?

What was I expecting?

Why had I chosen to spend so much time choosing just the right gift for people who are incapable of acknowledging me? What kind of strings had I attached to these gifts? (I swear I've never given a Bunny Mailbox, chunky sweater or cheap jewlery.)

There's so much talk of unconscious repetition in the literature of psychology.

Was this what I was doing?

Every time, I felt invisible.

Every time, I felt like Always the Giver...never the Receiver.

And they acted so ENTITLED. Like that was my Role. I exist to support and acknowledge others. Which is very upsetting to the adult child of a narcissist, who has played that role forever and is sick to death of it!

Maybe my biggest fear is that my own unpleasant reaction is itself a narcissistic wound/trait and, if it is, I MUST cut it out, like an infection...before it spreads.

What is sorely lacking is an internal compass that others seem to have, but I don't.

Some friends think I'm crazy and say I should quit spending so much time on ungrateful louts.

But then I think THAT would be acting like a narcissist, so I continue. See? Get that?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Really Bad Gifts

I can't remember exactly which book about narcissistic parents talked about the tendency of the n-parent to give really bad gifts. Gifts that are more about the n-parent than the recipient. I didn't think this applied to me, mostly because my parents didn't give me gifts after I stopped liking dolls and Operation! On birthdays, they'd stick some money in a card and that was pretty much it.

But then some commenters came along and wrote about how their n-parent gave them some gift that didn't reflect them in the least bit. Often, the gift had strings attached. The gift was used to control or extort gratitute or something equally unpleasant.

I was kind of surprised that Really Bad Gifts was such a common theme.

We all get bad gifts at one time or another. The Father's Day Tie or the I Love My Teacher Mug aren't notorious for nothing. So what's the big deal? Now that I've allowed myself to think about it, it's more significant than I thought. And how I've reacted (okay, overreacted) is worth noting because Gift Giving has become a Really Big Hang-Up. And I need to get a grip.

In brief, my narcissistic parents stopped giving me Wrapped Gifts way before I hit 13. Except for those obligatory back-to-school shopping trips, my mother never bought me a single cute sweater or one darling blouse. She returned home loaded down with discount shopping bags filled with stuff for her, but for me? Nada. (For once, I'll let my full blown narcissistic father off the hook. He's a guy.) When I started working full-time after I graduated high school, I began buying her gifts. Cute sweaters. Darling blouses. Perfume. All of which she gushed over. She wasn't ungrateful. After working for several years, I took her to Hawaii.

And then I decided to go away to college. By now, you must be absolutely sick-to-death of this story, but for the sake of newbies, my self-centered mother stopped talking to me. I got the Cold Silent Treatment for leaving her and declaring my independence.

During my years at college, my parents did not send one single We Miss You card. Not one check. They did not send one care package. Not one Cute Little Jacket for the colder, Northern California temps. Nada.

Fast forward to the arrival of my oldest daughter. No cute little onesies for her, either. Just a check to help buy the layette.

Fast forward six more years. My mother has Alzheimers. My father drives her over for a visit to see the grandkids (also known as respite care, which meant chasing after my wandering mother while watching a 4-year old and 6-year old). N-dad arrives carrying a pink cake box, which I open later, after they've gone. What I see inside makes my stomach turn. The top layer of the cake, a German Chocolate affair judging by what was left, was nearly gone. It was like somebody had stood over it and picked off most of the topping with their fingers. So the whole thing was mostly covered with weird, bald patches. WTF?

I called n-dad. "Oh, that," he said in a no-big-deal-voice. "Your mother did that. She got into it before I could stop her. But it's okay. It's still good enough to eat."


Good enough for me. A cake with the topping picked off by my mother's undoubtable dirty fingers is good enough for the only daughter. Who knows? Maybe all children of The Great Depression are like this.

So it's no surprise that I've developed some really Big Hang-Ups about Gift Giving. Since this post is already long enough, I'll post about that later this week. Because it's something that has actually driven me to call my therapist in the middle of the day for an emergency phone consulation. Yes, that's how bad this is. That's how weird I've become, folks. And here's the funny thing. I'm just, like right now, making the connection between how I was treated (or not treated) and how Gift Giving has become so ridiculously endowed with way, way too much meaning!

And it's all rooted in acknowledgment. Or the lack of it.

In the meantime, please feel free to share YOUR Really Bad Gift stories, your theories and your thoughts on how it might have impacted YOU.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Got Narcissistic Parent? That Empty Feeling

Elizabeth, a commenter, asked readers of this blog the question:

Do you feel empty inside? I guess what I mean is that I feel like I am missing a piece of the puzzle, everyone else has it except me. I sometimes feel like an outsider or a fake trying to pass myself as a normal person. I don't think others can understand the hurt and pain we've been through.

Here are the answers (shortened a bit in some cases, sorry):

Enilina: That missing self growing up, I remember being mystified by the void within me and would go literally wandering around town by myself (and dog) for miles, kind of in an awake-dream daze. At least it made my dog happy to walk so much. So yeah, bloomed really late in college but even then it took a long time to catch up, still catching up. It's like I don't "get it" for the longest time until something click one day and then I get caught up with everyone else and even get abit ahead. But then I fall behind everyone else again and I have to study extra hard to repeat the cycle.

Chi Girl (daughter of divorced, n-parents): I was a pretty messed up individual and, needless to say, many of my close interpersonal relationships were problematic. I usually choose narcissistic partners apparently to recreate and fix my childhood. I had always felt like an alien visiting a hostile planet until recently.I 've been in Pyschodynamic psychotherapy for one year and finally learned how to feel my own feelings. This continues to be quite an emotional rollercoaster for me. My shrink says that narcissistic people (me) often think of themselves as special or different from everybody else. Each week my shrink likes to report his opinion on the progress or maturity I've made in becoming less narcissistic myself; he thinks I have amazing insight and that he enjoys working with me. Even sticking with my shrink has been hard because I don't really know how to depend on or feel dependent on him even though I like and respect him. Thanks mom and dad!! Also, my parents didn't think it necessary to meet or have relationships with my extended family so trying to learn about them in my 20's and 30's has been painful. The whole clan [paternal and maternal] is narcissistically inclined. I feel like God has played some horrible joke by placing me in this situation to see how damaged I could become. I'm learning to be happy about and to appreciate myself, my current friends while living in the present moment. None of it has been easy, but I guess no one said it would be. Finding my therapist and showing compassion towards myself has helped tremendously. I'm, also, glad to have found your site. It's so good to know I am not alone, which is a major problem for children of the self-absorbed. Many of us have some immature narcissistic traits but are not full blown patholgical or stable narcissists so there is hope for us yet:-)

Liesel Elliot: I've pondered this empty feeling for such a long time. I sometimes look at my husband who was raised in a loving, kind family and I wonder what it feels like to be loved. Oh sure my husband and son love me, and I certainly love them - but I have this tendency to feel emotionally detached. I know that I was not allowed any emotions when I was growing up. When I first arrived at college I cried and cried because I had not been allowed to cry at my parents' house. It was scary then and I felt like I was never going to stop crying, but I realize now that it was probably a healthy thing.I wanted to mention one other thing in regards to the "empty feeling". Many times as a child I would have these episodes of feeling as though I was trapped in a bubble and floating. I couldn't feel. and it felt as though no one could reach me. These episodes always happened when I was terribly depressed and they terrified me, because of course, I couldn't tell anyone what was happening. I know now that it was some sort of dissociative state, but at 15 years old I just thought that all the things my mom said about me were true.Like Elizabeth, my mother would also rant and rave for hours to break me down emotionally, and I think this is connected to the dissociative states. But you know, my mom says now what a wonderful child I was, and how I never gave her any trouble!

Heatherrainbow: Yes. Always the outsider. Always trying to fit in. Always never quite doing so. Always people pleasing and sacrificing of myself. That's probably the part that is missing.

Nina: Ever since Elizabeth asked this question, I've tried to be more aware of what I'm feeling when I'm around other people. By nature, I'm a friendly person who can talk to just about anybody. But in groups, I definitely feel like I don't know the rules of social engagement. Am I talking too much? Not enough? I just feel awkward. Like everybody else knows how to behave, but I don't. I suspect much of this has to do with the space - or the lack of it - that I was allowed growing up. Talking or expressing myself makes me feel guilty because when I did talk, as a child, I was interrupted constantly. Or mocked. But we children of narcissists are human, too, and long for human when we fail to connect after a lifetime of failed only adds to our sense of alienation and that empty feeling.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I AM My Father's Keeper, Dammit...

(Will post Got Narcissistic Parent? That Empty Feeling, later this week)

I am my father's keeper. (It's April Fool's Day. Oh, the irony!)

Nothing drives this home more than spending your entire morning trying to figure out which brand of adult diapers is more cost effective. Mmmm. The brand carried by Target...or Costco? (Costco. Definitely. $19 savings per 72-count).

Okay, the fact that I know that adult diapers come in packs of 72 and the cheapest fastest way to ship 'em is just further evidence that I have become my narcissistic father's keeper.

In a way, I always was my father's keeper. The emotional caretaker of this poor, uneducated, man-child who was badly abused by an alcoholic father in East Los Angeles.

There may be a cultural aspect to all this. Many first and second generation Mexican-American families parentify their children, often out of necessity because they don't understand the language or how to get things done in the U.S. Sometimes, teenagers are expected to work and contribute to the family income, while trying to go to school. Later, daughters are expected to caretake their parents as they age.

The dilemma is that parents are living much longer than ever before. But longer doesn't always mean better. It may mean a slow, agonizing descent into chronic illness and dementia.

And because Our Parents Generation didn't exactly take care of themselves, times being what they were, many weren't even able to take part in the Quid Pro Quo of helping take care of the grandkids. I had my first child at 30. My adoptive mother was in her early 60's and never babysat once. Her erratic behavior turned out to be Alzheimers. (I'd never leave my kids with my narcissistic father. Ever.)

My neighbors up the street, both in their early 30's, have two babies. Their mothers, God Bless Them, take turns taking care of the kids while the parents are at work. Five days a week!

It's hard not to feel a tad envious. Instead of getting help from my parents when my daughters were babies, I was flying across the country to take the car keys away from my mother because my father was too chicken to do it. Of course, I'm not blaming my amom for getting Alzheimers, I blame my father for not handling it and turning my Introduction To Being A Mother into a Double Major of Motherhood-Badly Aging Parents fiasco.

That was, gulp, almost 16 years ago.

My self-centered father now has Lewy Body dementia and I'm still Taking Care of Business. This is a bit of a whine, yes, but I do have a broader point: The other day a neighbor asked if I was working, knowing I used to work full-time. And I mumbled and said, no. Hah! Damn right I'm working. I spent the last week filling out health care forms, arguing over erroneous bills, checking on my father's investments I've made on his behalf, talking to the nurses at the assisted living facility, blah, blah, blah. Literally, that's all I've done. This whole caretaking thing is taking a big, fat chunk of my life. I might as well admit it. Quit minimizing it. This is what I do, folks.

I have a New Job. Not one of those Green Jobs the newspapers go on and on about. But a critical, emerging, Job of the Future: Aging Parent Manager!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Come Ye Children of Narcissists: A Question

Elizabeth asked an important question in the comment section that I thought was so interesting that I'd pose it to you, dear reader.

After you've responded, in the comment section, I'll lift them out and add them into a separate post. Not only is this much easier to read, it's more interactive and the more voices, the better.

So here's Elizabeth's question...which she addresses to everyone here:

Do you feel empty inside? I guess what I mean is that I feel like I am missing a piece of the puzzle, everyone else has it except me. I sometimes feel like an outsider or a fake trying to pass myself as a normal person. I don't think others can understand the hurt and pain we've been through. It feels so good to have feedback from this site. I glad I found you Nina, now I am not so lost!! get it??!!

Oh yeah, I get it!

I started this site because I felt lost and was trying to make sense of what had happened and I knew I couldn't do it alone. Yes, I did therapy and yes it did help and I learned some important coping tools, but I found that I needed to hear from others who went through the same thing.

Yes, I often feel empty and like I'm missing a piece of the puzzle. Like an outsider. And like a fake.

Here's some reasons why I think so. As yet another, separate post, I think we should address what we can do about it.

--We were not allowed to develop independently of our parents and what efforts we did make in that direction were discouraged.

In my case, my interests were mocked. I was mocked. I was mocked for being a book worm. For having opinions of my own that differed from theirs. For being "a little know it all" because I attended college. For having wild, thick hair so different from my adoptive mother (like I could do anything about that). For basically being me. Translation: I'm not okay the way I am. To survive, I had to pretend to be someone I was not. I had to wait until I moved far away to begin figuring out who I actually was. Which means I am a very, very late bloomer.

--We were not allowed our emotions. We were not allowed to be upset or needy. Maybe never.

My adoptive father says I was the perfect baby. He says I never, ever cried or whined. He says I wasn't like other obnoxious, needy babies. It never occurred to him that this wasn't normal. Why cry if there is no one to comfort you? If I was scared by a bully at school, I was blamed because I was a sissy. If I was scared by a dog, my mother would thrust me toward the dog and my father would make fun of me for being silly. If I fell down, I was told it didn't hurt, even when I broke my arm. When I cried because a boyfriend broke up with me, my mother slapped me and sent me to my room because I was being ridiculous and I'd scared her.

There was no one to talk to. No one to listen to us. No one to give us reassurance or constructive advice. We were either ignored or our worries and hurts minimized or dismissed. What else could we do, but deny those feelings of fear or discomfort or whatever. As a result, I suspect, we went numb. Other people around us, somehow, seem more real. We feel fake. Because we've had to fake.

--We don't feel loved or valued. Just needed.

This, perhaps, is one truth that's been the hardest to face. My narcissistic father is incapable of love. He doesn't know me. Not at all. How could he? I am 47 years old and have never, ever been allowed to finish a single sentence. Under torture, he couldn't tell you my favorite color, book, movie or anything about me except that I'm married and have two teenagers. When I was working, he only knew - vaguely - that I worked in news, but had no idea where or what I did. He does not value me...I'm just the person who will listen to him.

--Annihilation hangs over us.

If I dared to be me, my mother used the cold silent treatment that could last weeks. She stopped speaking to me for a year when I went away to college (because I betrayed her by leaving). The cold, silent treatment started when I was very young. If I didn't want to wear the clothes she picked out or wanted to have a sleepover or if I spent too much time reading and not paying attention to her. Which was terrifying. When you're little, you can't afford to have your mother freeze you out like that. It feels like death. (By the way, I had no idea this was abusive behavior until I read the work of Alice Miller, author of Drama of the Gifted Child.)

At first, my father seems like an affable, goofy, strange guy. But he's turned on every single person he's ever met. The second someone does something he doesn't like - meaning they demand their fair share of the conversation - he drops them and says all sorts of vicious things about them. I can't help but think if I really defy him in any way, he'll do that to me, too. And that's scary. As much as I can't stand the guy. Narcissistic or nightmare adoptive parents or not, they were the only parents I had.

Maybe we feel so empty and alone because...we WERE all alone most of our lives.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I Can't Stand My Father

Here's the truth.

I can't stand my narcissistic father. I can't even explain, properly, how much I loathe him. How much I am filled with dread at the mere prospect of spending a half-hour with him.

I've always hated for him to kiss me. I sit as far away from him as possible. I think he's weird and sort of creepy. After a couple of minutes in a room with him, I want to escape. I feel absolutely no warmth or affection for this man and his endless chatter.
He makes my ears hurt and my skin crawl.

It is some comfort that he's not my biological father. Maybe that explains it. Some social worker back in 1960 decided that I'd become his daughter. Maybe that's why I have never, ever felt like I was actually connected to this guy, who was badly abused and neglected as a child. This boy-man whom I was forced to emotionally caretake. (My mother told him to keep his mouth shut during the homestudy)

Somebody once suggested that he may have sexually abused me as a kid. That while I may not remember it - I don't - that the body never lies and the revulsion I feel may explain why I can't stand being around him. I don't know. I just don't know.

Maybe it's because I don't feel safe around him. How can you feel safe around someone who is so relentlessly needy?

I think it's possible that I might have cut him off if I'd been his biological child. For those of you who aren't adopted, it may be hard to understand how much we adoptees internalize all those messages that we should be grateful for our adopters...even if our adopters are not nice people. That we should be forever grateful for being "rescued" and, at least, "you had a home and weren't raised in an orphanage."

My self-centered adoptive mother constantly called me, "ungrateful"....after all she'd done for me. Once I asked, "Like what?" and she listed all the regular chores of motherhood, like fixing dinner and driving me to school.

I think this has made it harder to detach from my narcissistic parents. Besides being trained to serve, I was trained to be grateful.

I'm not asking any of you non-adopted folk to weigh in on this, but I'd really like to hear what sort of reaction YOU have to your narcissistic parent(s).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Narcissist as Grandparent

It's painful to watch a narcissist "interact" with their grandchild.

Mostly because there's not much interaction.

And what little there is is so brief and shallow that it hardly rates as a true encounter. More like a hit and run.

Not only do you feel bad that your poor kid doesn't have a real grandparent and is missing out on such a special relationship, you can't help but be reminded that's exactly what you had to deal with for most of your life.

It's like getting to watch reruns of a TV show you always hated.

In the case of my n-father, he's always talked about how much he cares for and worries about his granddaughters. Yet, yet....if he asks how they are and I say, well, one of them is actually very sick, he'll immediately interrupt and begin talking about how sick he'd got earlier that day. He'll never ask what was wrong with her or call again to find out how she's doing.

When my girls were still small, he'd compete with them for my attention. He'd pretty much ignore them and talk over them if he had to. He never asked them about school or what they liked to do. He never suggested that we take them to the zoo or the park. If they tried to perform a dance or sing a song, he'd smile and clap, then lose interest after thirty seconds and wander away.

It was scary to watch.

As my girls got older, they stopped trying to interact with him. They learned to smile and nod and didn't waste energy trying to engage him in any way. As teenagers, they'd exchange exasperated looks and sometimes, when he was "inappropriate," they'd burst out laughing. What was most astonishing was the patience the girls showed him, the adjustment to his odd behavior. They made no demands of him at all. They learned to listen, as I did, and find the quickest escape route. They've never expressed any anger or disappointment in their grandfather. Maybe it's because they have so little to do with him.

When we visit him at the assisted living facility, they do so with grace. Unfailingly pleasant. Cheerful. Supportive. And very, very distant.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Withering (Narcissistic) Minds & Tax Time

This marks my third year as Power of Attorney for my narcissistic father, who has Lewy Body dementia.

The one thing that remains intact, absolutely unchanged is....of course!...his narcissistic behavior. He is exactly as self-centered as he was when he was in his prime at 40! (Except now he expects me to eagerly listen to his adventures in the "poo poo room" as he calls it)

As tax time and the deadline for sending in health care reiumbursement claims are fast approaching, I have spent the last several days shuffling through paperwork, making phone calls, sending faxes and filling out stacks of annoying forms.

Taking over someone's life is complicated and time consuming. It's a job.

I just hope there's some money left over after he dies. At least there'd be something to go toward my daughters' college education and that would make me feel like there was some justice. That he'd contribute to my kids when he refused to give me a cent of financial help.

Basically, I spend my days trying to look on the bright side. The upside.

I try not to dwell on the fact that this is my fifteenth year of dealing with aging parents. I try not to think that this represents one-third of my life.

The fact that people are living longer is rather alarming. It's one thing if people can live longer and stay relatively healthy. It's another if they are sick and frail or develop dementia. Like both my adoptive, narcissistic parents did.

And then I read this bit of alarming news today:

"...the federal sponsored study concluded that 22 percent (of elderly Americans ages 71 and over) have begun to see their mental faculties decline, which translates into 5.4 million people.

"It's a huge number," said Brenda Plassman, a psychiatrist at Duke University Medical Center who led the study being published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Combined with a previous estimate that 3.4 million Americans have full dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, the new findings mean that more than one-third of people ages 71 and older have some diminished mental functioning, the researchers said. About 25 million people in this age group live in the United States."

Every time I read something like this, I shiver. Because I know a certain percentage of those people are self-centered, crazy parents like mine. And that some middle aged person, like me, will be faced with the dilemma of what to do with their (badly) aging narcissist.

Surrounded by others who felt loved and nutured by their parents, by those who'd do anything for their aging mother or father, it's hard not to feel like you're a complete ingrate or loser...until you snap out of it and remember just how much your parents were never, ever there for you.

But once you've accepted the responsibility of your parents, acknowledging their failings isn't exactly inspiring either. It just pisses you off as you sit there, up to your ears in paperwork or fielding their sixth needy call of the day.

It's hard not to feel alone.

Until you realize that other people, like yourself, are having similar epiphanies and experiences. And it makes you feel less evil, more human, more sane.

I'd like to share with you what an Anonymous Commenter wrote....most eloquently...that perfectly captured the Aging Narcissistic Parent Dilemma:

"So, you also come to the crux of why I, and so many other children of N's, hit the wall when we get older and start to understand how much we did not get when we were kids.

You feel like a bank account that should start out full ... yet your parents make withdrawal after withdrawal until you are sentient enough as a teenager to know that you are absolutely empty and know you don't even have feelings of love any longer. Even so, you continue to extend the credit, go on with your life as a young adult, and even tolerate your parents a little bit more (mostly because you don't have to see them every day anymore - what a blessed relief).

And then, say in your 30's, just when you feel like you have put in enough work on your own to build your personal emotional bank account back up to a healthy level - ironically, that's just when your narc parents are going into decline. No one else is paying attention to them as much anymore, and you are their fallback N-Supply, as the books say. Your N-parents are fabulous and desirable and witty and clever and amazing, all the way up to the top of the hill, where they become lonely, needy, sick, old ... all the way back down the hill. It's quite a shock.

You have really worked hard to put together a life you love, despite your parents, and are even possibly in an emotionally stable place ... only to find out that your parents have penciled you in as their Sherpa as they maddeningly meander down the other side of their own mental mountains.

You reach the point where are just like, how much more do I have to give? And then, the answer becomes even more important when you have your own kids, and you are like, how much time that I give to my parents, am I taking away from my own kids - ?"

Thank you for that, Anonymous Commenter!

I love that...."penciled you in as their Sherpa!"

That's gonna get me through the day. No kidding.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Chaos and Crisis

Somebody found this blog by Googling, "elderly narcissistic parent crisis."

Which got me wondering about the possibilities:

a) Was the self-centered parent having a crisis?

b) Was having a narcissist for a parent the crisis?

c) Did the parent become impossibly self-centered with age or dementia?

d) Was the adult son or daughter having a tough time caring for or making arrangements for their aging parent because said parent was narcissistic?

Having absolutely no idea, I'd like to talk a bit about d).

When it became obvious that my father was no longer able to live safely by himself, it seemed like he did everything imaginable to make a tough decision as miserable as possible.

That some aging folks actually plan or cooperatively participate in planning for their future needs is an idea so strange it's right up there with aliens. Two friends told me about their own mothers, who researched the various possibilities, then moved themselves into assisted living facilities because they didn't want to be a burden to their kids. Sheesh. One of these old ladies even bought a condo in one of those fancy schmancy places so she could give it to her daughter for her future use. Double sheesh.

My narcissitic father?

He took no responsibility for helping me figure out how to make it possible for him to stay in his own home. He'd only say he didn't need any help. That I was exaggerating his need for care. Yet, I was the first call he'd make when he needed help.

He refused to move into an assisted living facility. He threatened to throw himself out of the car if I drove him there.

He refused in-home help of any kind. When I insisted on at least a part-time housekeeper, he threatened to kill himself.

He refused to move into an apartment close to me, his only child, so I could help him maintain his independence. I repeatedly offered help with meals, cleaning and transportation to and from the doctor. He said he'd kill himself if I made him move out of his house.

He refused to compromise in any way. The man simply wouldn't budge.

Then I got the blame.

To everybody else, it must have seemed I was the World's Worst Daughter because I found out he went around complaining that I'd abandoned him after all he'd done for me.

He began to fall down, had his driver's license taken away (another post! OMG! the stress!!!), and things rapidly fell apart.

Have I mentioned my father is a hypochondriac? If he's feeling anxious or if he's upset that I missed calling him at the appointed hour, he begins having chest pains and calls 9-1-1. (Another post! OMG! the stress!!!)

Of course, he expected me to leave my children and fly 400 miles to solve the probems he'd created by refusing all offers of assistance.

Then the phone calls started.

He'd call five, to ten times a day with one crisis or another. This went on for two long, miserable months. I was a nervous wreck, always expecting the phone to ring, not knowing what was going to happen next, but unsure how to solve the problem.

Then I remembered what happened to my poor grandmother.

My narcissistic father failed to take responsibility for her when she developed Alzheimers in her early 90's. Until then, she'd been remarkably healthy. Long story, but I found out that the police had threatened my father with charges of elder abuse and neglect after she'd been mugged during one of her wandering spells, and so I stepped in and took over. I'd only recently moved back into the state and couldn't believe my father had neglected his mother, whom he professed to adore.

So that got me thinking.

I was going to have to get tough. Even if my father pitched a fit, I was still going to have to take responsibility and make the right decision. I certainly didn't want to be charged with elder abuse or neglect. Which was likely because my father was out telling the world about just what a lazy, good for nothing, neglectful daughter he had! It didn't matter if my father was willful and stubborn as all hell.

So tough I got.

I found a top-notch assisted living facility and said he'd need to move in or else he was completely on his own. And I meant it.

Now I look back at that time and shake my head. I felt like such an evil, awful person at making him leave his home. I gave myself no credit for trying to come up with other solutions. For trying to persuade him to accept help. All I felt was Guilt, Guilt and More Guilt. Of all the dark times, this was probably the gloomiest. But finally, in he went and I've never regretted that decision. Not for one teeny, tiney second.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How Did We Survive?

If you have a narcissistic parent, there will come a moment when you realize just how WEIRD he or she is and the hell did you survive childhood?

So last night I was talking to my 81-year old father (okay, I didn't talk, I was listening), and he was telling me how the director of health services at the assisted living facility has it out for him.

This is not surprising because he tells her she has a fat ass and is getting as a big as a door. Just to be clear, this isn't dementia. He's always been like that. The man has no filters. He pretty much says whatever he's thinking - no matter how rude or crude - and says it's not his fault. He's just pointing out the truth and if people are offended, that's not his problem. I clearly remember my horror at a wedding when I was ten and my father, 45, told proud parents of a bald, chubby baby boy that their kid looked like Kruschev. No kidding. The parents were crushed. I spent the rest of the wedding carting around that giant baby, making a fuss over him, to make up for my dad's blunder. dad has a long history of thinking people have it out for him. They do. They don't like him because he's rude, interrupts and can only talk about himself. But I couldn't resist.

"Why doesn't the nurse like you?" I asked.

"Because she doesn't like to hear nice things about me," he explained peevishly. "She ignores me when the other nurses give me compliments. She only pays attention to me when she's mad at me."

This isn't dementia. I wish it were. Sadly, this is an example my father's childlike behavior and view of the world. I can remember, with crystal clarity, wishing that I had a real man for a father and not someone so hopelessly juvenile. He'd go on tirades about the guys at work who had it in for him, who didn't like him...all said in the manner of a little boy excluded on the playground.

And it struck did this pathetic, needy half-man ever take care of me?

I remember him complaining that when I was around a year old, I kept climbing out of my crib and how it drove him crazy. Then he'd explain how he'd have to stop whatever he was doing and stick me back in. Or how I drove him nuts because I kept asking to go to Disneyland and he finally took me, but got sick on a ride in the first hour. So for years I got to hear how my selfishness had cost him. Rides home from dances, the occasional trip to the mall, even back-to-school nights were all evidence of his selflessness.

I used to wonder if my dad wasn't sort of retarded. I even asked one of his doctors if they thought he had a super low IQ or had some sort of mental deficiency that would help explain why my daughter, then 13, seemed more mature than her grandfather had ever been. Nope. But one psychologist finally figured out that he had narcissistic personality disorder, probably because he'd been badly abused as a kid.

I spent a lot of my adult years feeling sorry for him. For making excuses that benefited my father, while dismissing the way I was neglected and treated.

When I imagine myself alone with him as a vulnerable child, I'm horrified.

How did I survive him?

How did we survive parents so incapable?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Relentless Negativity

Although I try to keep my phone conversations with my elderly narcissistic father brief, by the end of the week I can hardly bring myself to call and check in. By Friday, I'm in desperate need of a break.

Every single conversation, somehow, is negative.

Today, he complained about a fellow resident whom he called old and ugly with a big parrot nose and wrinkles. Apparently, he finds her looks personally offensive.

Yesterday, he complained about one of the nurses who has a high voice, like a little girl. He asked her why she couldn't, "talk like a woman for God's sake!" He finds her voice personally offensive.

If it's not one thing it's another. Every day brings another complaint or tirade or drama. This isn't age related. He was always like this. And try as you might to insulate yourself, cumulatively, it ends up dragging you down. All that relentless negativity.

However, because we don't talk for all that long, I tend to minimize the impact of our talks. Surely, I tell myself, you can spare a lousy couple minutes a day talking with a poor, old lonely man without falling apart. Buck up baby, I tell myself. It's not like you visit him in person all that often or spend hours on the phone with him. It's just five minutes a day. And it's not like I have to exert myself. He does all the talking. All I have to do is dial and listen. Still, I dread calling him and have to remind myself, quite sternly sometimes that he may be a narcissist, but he is a human being and all humans need contact. So it's the least I can do as his only child. Buck up and chat for a bit. Sheesh. No biggie.

So I was explaining all this to my therapist. How guilty I felt when I took a night off calling. He is, after all, alone in the world. No friends or other family. If I don't call him, no one else will. He has no contact with anybody outside of the assisted living facility. How pathetic is that?

Much to my surprise, the therapist called this a Very Heavy Burden. That I should give myself not only a day off, but a week off, maybe longer. She called contact with him "toxic" and that I was, in effect, slowly being poisoned. Or something like that. I was so grateful to be told that I wasn't a selfish monster that I felt like bursting into tears with relief. My therapist told me this more than six months ago and I'm still calling my father almost every day. Now my rationale is that his health is rapidly failing and he's not going to be around forever, so I oughta call. And I do. And feel awful afterward. Is it the martyr in me? I suspect it's Guilt. It's probably also co-narcissism. How I've adapted and how I enable him or something horrible like that.

As always, I'd LOVE to hear from you.

And by the way, I'm not looking so much for validation or support for my situation, but rather to hear about YOUR experience with your narcissistic parent and how you may have adapted or enabled and, hopefully, dealt with the challenges that you've faced.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Comfort Factor

If you're trying to figure out if you have a narcissistic parent, there are lots of nifty checklists in self-help books to help you do just that.

Basically, you score your parent on a whole bunch of different traits. Things they do or say or don't do.

There's one I'd like to add.

Would you, could you....ever go to your parent for comfort if you ever had a problem?

How would they react if you did?

How would you feel after you confided in them?

I never, ever would have taken a problem to my mother or father.

I quickly learned, probably as a young child, that no comfort would be forthcoming. In fact, I discovered I then had the additional burden of reassuring them it wasn't a big deal and that they shouldn't worry. Later, I realized that any drama I might have would turn into their drama.

Some examples:

***When I was around ten, I had to have a growth removed from my forehead. This required an overnight stay at the hospital and a biopsy. My self-centered adoptive mom carried on saying, "You don't know what you're putting me through" and generally making a fuss about how terribly worried and upset she was because the growth might be cancerous (it was not). Apparently not worried enough to stay overnight with me at the hospital. This she refused to do because it was, "too boring" and uncomfortable. Adoptive Dad had the good sense to realize this made them look like bad parents, but he couldn't make her stay although he tried. They even argued about this. He couldn't stay because he needed a good night's sleep because he had to work the next day. It fell to me to reassure them that I'd be fine by myself. I presented a cheerful face to them and the nurses.

***When I was around sixteen, my much beloved first boyfriend broke up with me. I held it together long enough to escape into the house, where I burst into tears. Amom rushed into the living room and asked me what the hell was wrong. So I explained. She was furious. About as angry as I'd ever seen her. How dare I scare her like that? She thought I'd been raped, the way I was carrying on. Then she slapped me. And sent me to my room. "For God's sake, he's just a guy. Get over it." Any mention or tear shed for him earned me an angry lecture. So I had to hide my misery.

***Fast forward to middle age. I mentioned to Adad that I was acting distracted because I was worried about a biopsy I'd just had and was waiting for the results. He panicked. "What's going to happen to me if you die?" he demanded. "You're all I got!" I asked if he shouldn't be more worried about his poor granddaughters who would be left motherless. He said, "Forget them, they have their father to take care of them. If you die, I've got nobody." So much for any comfort. He then called, repeatedly, to ask for the results of the biopsy...which only added to my stress. When I told him my good news (negative), he said, "Thank God!" and said, "You don't know what you've put me through," then announced he had to hang up and take a nap because he, "could finally relax."

See how this works? Or didn't work. No comfort. No reassurance. No sage advice or wise words to help their child through a tough time. There will be no hugs or cards or phone calls to say, Just Thinking of You. They will not ask, What Do You Think About All This? or Gee, You Must Be So Worried." There will be no acknowledgment of your pain or whatever challenge you face. There is only them and what they "are going through."

Maybe this works differently in other dysfunctional homes with a narcissistic parent. Don't know. Maybe the kid gets a free pass when it comes to illness and the child finally gets some quality attention. I have a cousin with a narcissistic mother. She dealt with this by never admitting she was sick, even if she was staggering around with the flu. She even "worked sick" and dragged herself to school sick as a dog.

As always, please feel free to leave a comment if you have any observations or any experience you'd like to share.