Unhealthy Bonds

There is a very strong bond between a mother and her child; and in many cases, it’s even stronger when the child is a daughter.  But unfortunately, when the mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder that bond can become quite unhealthy.

Such was the case with my mother and me.  I thought of her as my best friend while I was growing up, and, as a little girl, I liked that.  As an adult, I can see so many other facets of that relationship, and recognize it for the co-dependency that it truly was.

I think part of the reason I initially put her in the “Best Friend” role as a child was because I was constantly picked on by other kids in school, and felt like no one understood me . . . except for my mom.  Another reason would probably be that I felt emotionally abandoned by my father at an early age.  My mom used to tell me how, at the age of three, I came up to her and said “Mommy, Daddy doesn’t love me anymore, and I don’t know why.”  She would then tell me how Dad acted like the sun rose and set with me when I was born, but when my brother came along a year later, it seemed to her like I became a secondary character . . . he now had a SON to carry on his name.

Something else that contributed to my thinking us so close was because she would often tell me how similar our lives were.  Looking back on it now, it’s kind of weird how often she’d say that.  Not that it wasn’t true–there are a lot of similarities in our lives–but I wonder how many there would be if she hadn’t pointed it out as often as she did; like maybe I was picking up on her desire for us to be so alike, and subconsciously made similar choices.  There was even one time, when I was about seven or eight years old, that the song You and Me Against the World by Helen Reddy came on, and she actually said that she felt like that song was our song.

As a child I was so happy that my mother felt the same way about me as I did about her, but as an adult all I can think is “How could you put THAT much pressure on a child!?!”  This behavior ties into points #23 and #27 on the Do You Have a Narcissistic Mother survey by Dr. Karyl McBride that I mentioned in my last post on NPD:

23.  Do you find it difficult to be a separate person from your mother?
27.  Did you feel you had to take care of your mother’s emotional needs as a child?

I had a very vivid dream when I was about five years old where I literally gave up my life to save hers (I woke up just before I slipped fully under the water).  And over the last decade or so, I’ve started feeling more and more pressure from her to continue the co-dependent relationship we’d had during my formative years.  To be fair to her, it’s hard to adjust to something different when you’ve had a certain dynamic for 20+ years, but as the parent, she should’ve been able to separate our lives in the first place . . . there IS a 24 year age difference, after all.  But that wasn’t going to happen, because–as this article outlines“. . . Narcissistic Parents are possessively close to their children when they are small – their children are a source of self-esteem . . .”

Thankfully I feel the opposite with Athena, my step-daughter . . . I enjoy spending time with her and we have a good time when we do things together, but I also realize that she needs to spend time with people her own age, and I encourage her to do so.  While I’m happy to be her friend, I don’t want to be her Best Friend.  I’ve got my own Best Friend, and so should she.

Anyway, as time went on and my mother lost more and more friends (or stopped wanting to be around them for one reason or another), she would often tell me how I was the only person who understood her.  I couldn’t help but feel an immense pressure from her about that.  Not only because it felt like she was making me responsible for her emotional security, but also because there were subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) reminders that–if I didn’t agree with one of her viewpoints or excuses for her behavior–then I didn’t “understand” or accept her anymore (a key behavior that is explained in this article that I found on Goop, author unknown).  As if the fact that I might disagree with her was an indication that I was somehow lacking in supporting her.

So, over time, I began to give my opinions less and less.  If she said something that I didn’t agree with, I would simply make some noncommittal sound; like I do with strangers or coworkers whose opinions I don’t share.  Then, about two years ago I received an unprovoked email from her where she laid out a major guilt trip  (which I’ll talk about in more depth next month, as it ties to different survey points).

And now, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I have no contact with my mother.  She went from being my best friend to being someone who drained my energy nearly every time I spoke with her.  I would have preferred it if she could’ve let go a little more and allowed me to be my own person–without constantly trying to keep me at her side (figuratively, of course)–because there were still some good times in my adult years.  Which is why I initially tried to set boundaries and just do “measured contact,” with my mother (as this article suggests near the end), but when I did that, she became more overtly abusive, and the good times came farther apart, and were instead replaced by blatant guilt trips, and unprovoked digs into my behavior.

It’s not all bad, though.  There is a wonderful freedom from not speaking with my mother right now.  For one, I don’t have to censor my true thoughts and feelings about things.  Craig and I are able to have discussions where we disagree on something, but don’t make the other person feel badly for having a different opinion.  It’s quite refreshing and something I never thought was possible in a relationship.  I also don’t have to worry about being held responsible for someone else’s happiness or sense of worth (a subject which gets discussed in this article by Bethany Webster [thanks to my friend Natalia for sharing this with me]).

But it is still a long healing process.  Thankfully writing it down here is helping (thank you, dear reader), and there are other articles that I’ll share later which offer more ideas on how to heal.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Malena
    Mar 11, 2016 @ 06:46:31

    Alyx, I am captivated by your story. This is powerful and honest writing that you should be very proud of. Keep on writing!


  2. Natalia
    Mar 28, 2016 @ 02:22:29

    Thanks for sharing your journey, I enjoy your posts very much. It must be liberating to write them and a big part of your healing process. Keep it up! For you and us 🙂

    Also, I am glad you enjoyed the article. I loved that it addresses the syndrome from such a different perspective and it makes total sense too!
    Love from Prague, Natalia


    • Alyx Morgan
      Mar 28, 2016 @ 15:47:03

      I’m glad it’s resonating with you, too, lady. What’s been most healing is reading how others have gone through these same things. And yes, articles like the one you shared with me help complete the picture & bring on the healing. 🙂

      I miss you, lady.


  3. Trackback: A Different Reality | Droppings From the Mind of Alyx
  4. Trackback: Wrapping It Up | Droppings From the Mind of Alyx

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