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.