Editors Note: This is the first installment of our “Secret Confession Tuesdays”. We encourage you to use this confidential email service called Guerrilla Mail, that allows the sender to send an email via a temporary and completely anonymous email address and share your own true confession. We encourage you to change incidental details but not the main thrust of the confession. Each submission, no matter the length, (one sentence or several paragraphs) will be edited by me so there won’t be any hints as to identity via writing style. Once a week we will publish a confession via the blog. Please send any and all submissions to email@example.com
I’m glad to have a place where I can share this without being judged, as a lot of people don’t understand why my mom, who lives very close to me, and I no longer see each other. It’s certainly more difficult around the holidays that are coming up, so this is a great opportunity to hopefully offer some explanation to people who will be asking why my mom isn’t showing up on the cozy family pictures that are about to be posted on Facebook.
I don’t hate my mother, she never physically abused me, neglected me or stole from me. What she did do was spend the last thirty years gaslighting me, feeding and nurturing my insecurities and lying to me about things so they would fit her victim narrative. In short, as I learned later, she was a raging narcissist. This personality type is particularly insidious as they have learned how to appear one way in public so they appear to be charming, kind and compassionate people, but to their chosen target they manipulate love, a desire to improve the relationship and concern into a never-ending cycle of blame for their unhappiness. To outsiders, the target looks insensitive and uncaring to the narcissist and the narc get to snuggle more comfortably into their permanent role of the victim.
Some of you may recognize the pattern:
Mom: “I’m unhappy because you don’t treat me like you love me.”
Me: “Okay, I’m sorry you feel that way, let’s go to a museum this weekend.”
Mom: “Why not today? You never have time for me.”
Me: “The best I can do is Saturday, I already have obligations this week.”
Mom: “Why do you never prioritize me?”
Me: “I just found out you were feeling this way, I didn’t know before, I am doing the best I can.”
Mom: “This is what I’m talking about, if you really loved me, you would have already KNOWN.”
And I confirmed her accusation before I could even try and remedy it. The cycle continued, me, always conveniently falling short of being the kind of daughter that would make her happy, her assuming the role of the neglected victim of my abuse. Many of you may roll your eyes and think, that’s just how moms are, let it go, she’s the only MOTHER you will ever have. And I did, for decades, always thinking if I just approached her the right way, early enough she would believe I cared for her and we could achieve that blissful mother/daughter connection that always seemed to elude us. Of course this was all my fault, I was the one that always seemed to trigger and upset her.
It took my partner, absolutely fed up with listening to me complaining about my mother to say, “I cannot listen to you bitch about how this woman treats you anymore. I’ve seen what she is doing to you and it’s wrong. Either come to peace with the fact that this is the way it will always be with a smile on your face, or go no contact with her. Either way I can no longer be your sounding board.”
That declaration woke me up- my wife is one of the most patient, kind and compassionate people in the world and even SHE couldn’t stand it anymore. Why was I? How much was I going to take? How much self-flagellation was going to satisfy my mother? The answer came to me when I went online and started reading up on the personality types associated with this behavior. I won’t go too deeply into detail but I will say there is a plethora of information out there and some great personality tests to determine the kind of person you are dealing with when you really start looking into it.
My mother turned out to be a 10/10 narcissist with some bipolar depression issues. Apparently, the ONLY way to deal with a narc is either go “grey rock” which is the aforementioned staying neutral, smiling and not letting anything get to you OR going “no-contact”. I chose the latter telling her I needed some time away to heal on my own and wished her the best. It has been two years and as I told my sisters, who are still in contact with her and have always enjoyed a good relationship, I will always look out for her security, health and make sure she was properly taken care of as she is a widow, but I could no longer be in her life anymore, regular interaction wasn’t healthy for me or her.
Since our final horrific fight and the “divorce” as I call it, I lost 20 pounds, have a closer relationship with my partner and our kids than ever before, am much happier and have found time to devote to what I discovered is my true calling, working at an area children’s hospital with sick babies. I realized all the worry, anger, angst and frustration energy I was pouring into her was sapping me of my joy. When I cut her loose, I regained that energy and could channel it into my family, work and most importantly, and I do not feel guilty for saying this at all, me.
I hope this explanation and confession resonates out there, if you have a close relationship with your parents now that you are both adults, enjoy it! Luxuriate in that bond that enriches both of your lives, but please understand not all of us have that, but we are doing the best we can mothering or fathering ourselves.