Thursday, April 21, 2011

Raising Ourselves

Systematically going through my in-box and catching up on comments left over the last 12-months during another unintended absence from this blog...

once again, I'm struck by the kindness of commenters.

This kindness is astonishing, really, considering the toxic atmosphere in which we were raised. It's a wonder we all didn't turn out just plain mean, or evil.

In the mood I'm in these days - mulling over the legacy of an npd father as his health deterioriates - this anonymous comment caught my attention:

" must be healing to now know that the little girl that you once were was made to feel unsafe being raised by someone who in someways was younger than herself. And now you're left to finish raising yourself. I'm here because I'm in a similar situation. My parents both believed they were perfect. They fed each other this illusion and their kids could never quite measure up."

Left to finish raising yourself.

Wow. Sooooo true. Not only are we left to heal ourselves, we're left to finishing the job our parents were incapable of doing. Some days, I feel like a half-baked meat loaf still quivering in the pan and I wonder, why? Why are some things more difficult? Why do I not believe in myself more? Why aren't I more confident? Why do I lack certain social skills?

This raising-ourself-job is something we undertake...into mid-life! It seems ridiculous, but that's what I find myself doing. Oh, this is yet another area in which I'm "half-baked" and must now address. I just hope this process is done by the time I'm 60!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Destructive Inner Voices

In my previous post, I wrote about how I've finally been able to let longer obsessing over my longer controlled by guilt or by him.

However, I'm not "cured" or healed.

The legacy of his narcissistic parenting lives on. This came as a revelation yesterday. I'd failed to make a connection - once again! - to a current problem and the past.

Now that I'm job hunting, after staying home to raise my family and manage the affairs of my father, I'm in crisis. I've wasted a lot of time attempting an ill-conceived mid-career transition...too ready to abandon the skills and experience I acquired in my previous I enjoyed. I lack focus, clarity and confidence.

When I see a job I'd like, I think "Oh, they won't want me," even if the job is a more junior position than the one I held before. It seems as if I'm unable to look critically at a position and ask myself, "Do you really want it? Is it a good fit for you?" My husband says I undervalue my experience. To an astonishing degree. An old co-worker wondered why I wasn't playing up certain successes and had to remind me of my contributions to the company.

This isn't anything new. I've always undervalued myself in the workplace.

Why? Why do I do this? I'm pretty sure I have my n-father to thank. Whenever I accomplished life, at school, at work...and I made the mistake of telling him about it, he'd say, "Who do you think you are?" and warn me about getting too big for my britches. Any success on my part was met with derision. If I disagreed with him, for example, about politics and cited something I'd learned in class, he'd say, "You think you know everything just because you're going to college. Well, you're a nobody and don't you forget it."

Who could forget that message?

Obviously, that one sunk as deep and fast as an alien probe and is reactivated every time confidence is called for!

The revelation? Letting go is not the same, unfortunately, as overcoming the psychological fallout of the narcissistic parent.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Letting Go...It Really is Possible

My elderly father - diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder years before developing Lewy Body dementia - continues his rapid decline. He can hardly form a coherent sentence now. With the loss of speech, so has much of his power to diminish me, his only child.

He can no longer interrupt me or abruptly change the conversation back to himself. He can no longer make up stories that I'm his natural daughter and not his unnatural, adopted one.
But he's not totally without the ability to lob a good zinger. On the first day of my most recent visit he managed to say two things:

--"I don't like your hair. It looks bad."
--"Why do you look like that? Is something wrong with you?"

Okay, the poor man has dementia and I should give him a break. He knows not what he says. Well, this may be true but this is the kind of stuff he always said...back to when I was a sensitive teenager and his frontal lobes were still intact. The words stung. It was all I could do not to rush to a mirror and check my hairdo. I asked my daughter if I was slouching or had an unpleasant look on my face. (No)

So here's what happened. I couldn't bring myself to visit him the next day. I just couldn't. The idea of being in the same room with him filled me with unspeakable dread. I needed 24-hours to recover. And recover I did. By Sunday, I'd pulled myself together and managed to have a reasonably pleasant visit, although brief because of his sad condition.


I no longer obsess about my father: why he acted the way that he did; why he said the things he did; why he could never see me or hear me; why he'd been so...mean. Nor am I any longer consumed by guilt. I no longer fret about my lack of any true feeling or warmth toward him. I longer worry about what the staff at his board-and-care-home think about my infrequent visits...nor do I feel the need to explain why I don't have the same father-daughter relationship that some of their other residents seem to enjoy. Simply is what is is, folks.

So it was with total surprise that, finally, today I can say: I have my life and it no longer includes my father's toxicity.


And then I was catching up on past comments and found this:

JBH has left a new comment on your post "Guilt Trips":

I am glad to have read these posts! I am a clinical therapist in need of some of my own help w my parents. My parents are in their 60's and 70's, respectively. I am in my 30's, married w an 8 mo old and a 2 1/2 yr old.

If this comment doesn't highlight the insidious, destructive powers of a narcissistic parent, I don't know what does. Even someone trained as a clinical therapist is not immune to the trauma such parents inflict.

JBH also wrote:

I have revelations daily about it but I cant seem to let it go.
I want and wish I had great relationships w both my parents but sadly, I dont. And I have to keep telling myself its not my fault.'s a temporary and necessary phase...the revelations, the relentless rehashing of the past, the not being able to let go. Maybe you're in the grieving phase, mired in guilt...and getting ready for the angry, furious, why-did-I-get-stuck-with-these-losers-for-parents-phase. The chronology of the phases matters less than actually allowing oneself to actually have real, authentic safely reach the other big side of this mess!

If it's possible for ME to let go...after hoarding so much baggage there was hardly room for me...I'm pretty sure it's possible for you to let go, too. Eventually. After a lot of hard work.

And it's not your fault! Never was.