Saturday, December 22, 2012


I put my armor on when I was still a baby or a toddler and never again took it off at home.

Maybe I first put it on when I was left to cry it out as a baby or when I was spanked for crying after they woke me up from naps as a one-year-old. Maybe when I was spanked for expressing my desires or feelings, so I'd know I couldn't always get what I wanted. Or when I was thrown all alone into a closed room to cry until I passed out when I dared to cry as a toddler.

These may have been things that I felt. Things that made me cry and hurt my feelings back when my parents were still able to make me cry and hurt my feelings.

But I don't remember these events. I only learned about them from things my father said.

And after that, all my memories of my parents are emotional blanks, save for some anger, frustration, and fear.

They made me angry, but they never made me cry, not that I remember. I'm a warrior, not a wimp.

Where can I start? What can I go back to? Where can I dig, when feelings are so far into the past, before I even started remembering?

Good little girl

This will sound kind of pathetic, but it's a memory that makes me sad for the little girl I once was.

I was supposed to make no sound and never cry when I got shots as a kid. My father was very proud of this. I had no problem with it when I was as young as 2.

But this time, I was 6, and sick, and had to get penicillin shots twice a day, I think. And my parents took me together that afternoon and the nurse obviously had no idea what she was doing because it really hurt a lot, for a long time.

I was fighting tears and getting ready to pronounce the obligatory "Thank you" to the nurse. I thought "If I just get out of here soon enough, I'll be OK. But will I be able to say 'Thank you' when the moment comes that anyone even looks at me?"

But my parents were chatting with the nurse, flattering her, charming her, impressing her, I don't remember which it was this time. And it went on and on. No one looked at me once.

When it was finally over, I managed to squeeze out "Thank you." I hadn't cried, but was worried someone would know I was close. Thankfully, we could get home soon after that.

I remember feeling angry and invisible and embarrassed and ashamed of myself and wanting to be even more invisible, all at the same time.

It makes me sad because I have a girl who's almost 6 now. I'm trying to imagine her in such a situation and, mercifully, I'm failing. But the exercise is kind of sad.

Brave New Kitty - On Numbness

I just found this post on Brave New Kitty (great blog, by the way) and I'm sharing it mostly for selfish reasons - so I'll be able to revisit it any time I want. Because it describes my issues perfectly.

Here's the part that basically describes me:

"Numbness protected us as children by allowing us to tune out our parents fighting, or not question their shame and ridicule, or feel nothing but the physical pain when we were backhanded, slapped, or worse. Numbness allowed us to pretend the experiences didn’t happen or that they happened for reasons that were valid, but beyond us. These are the only choices a child has. She is not capable of the complex thought required to sort out, and emotionally separate from, abuse and cruelty at the hands of the people who are supposed to be nurturing her and protecting her from such things. Numbness offered a much-needed escape. In an environment where a child’s emotional needs are not being met, numbness is necessary.

According to every definition I’ve read of post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional numbing is a key factor in dealing with stress and trauma. But other than as a way to function during traumatic events, numbness is not necessary for adults, and if it fits certain patterns, it can be indicative of disowned feelings. Often, precisely because of the numbness, people can have trouble determining if this applies to them; people who’ve learned to numb out are often in the position of guessing at what they’re feeling. If you think you might be in this category, but aren’t sure, here are some indicators to look for:
  • feeling tired and drained around relatives
  • feeling out of control of your emotions
  • feeling powerless over your life or clueless about what you want
  • depression
  • compulsive behavior/addiction
  • unsatisfying relationships, wanting to feel closer to people but not knowing how to
  • confusion about what you feel or guessing at what you’re “supposed” to feel
  • having “emotional amnesia” about past events; having no feelings about something you know was painful
  • inappropriate emotions: laughing about something that was painful
  • blanking out chunks of your childhood
  • feeling like something’s missing from your life but not being able to identify what it is."

I hope she won't mind.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Defending myself from love

I've used defense mechanisms against people in my life that could have been close to me.

I don't hide stuff, or lie, or refuse to engage. But it's like I enter every relationship with the idea that I can't be really close, that I can't expect anything from another person, and that I could easily be rejected at any moment.

Still, I've felt hurt and pain over some relationships with people who were not my parents. Boyfriends, friends. But I deny and minimize that too. I wasn't really all that attached. I don't need anyone. He never really loved me, so what's the difference?

Or, if someone is ready to end a friendship with no explanation for what later turns out to have been a stupid, stupid misunderstanding, then, you know, good riddance.

No, I don't mean that. This one hurts. It's fucking sad. And I feel a lot of shame surrounding it because I've been so stupid and lacked social skills and somehow it all led to losing a good friend over a fucking smiley in a fucking text.

So I'm telling the story.

I had a good friend. A female friend who was actually female and feminine and was into talking and sharing and not only drinking beer and discussing politics. Then we both fell in love with the same guy for a while, while we both had boyfriends. We were all friends. It was a crazy situation. They eventually got together. There were secrets involved. They broke up a lot. Somehow, I ended up talking to both of them about their relationship and listening to what the other did. There were inconsistencies and I'd point them out and this sometimes led to them getting back together. I somehow found myself in the middle. Acting as some sort of peace-maker, go-between, intermediary. It was stupid, but I never said "I'm not interested" to either one of them when they wanted to pour their hearts out. They were both good friends and people I felt things for. Basically decent people. I still feel that.

Then, they definitely broke up and it was nasty and the guy didn't want to talk to the girl at that moment and called me and begged me to simply inform her where she could leave his stuff, as she'd asked him that when they last spoke.

I didn't want to do this. He begged me and said "If I call her now, I might lose my temper and say nasty things I don't mean to her. This will be easier on her."

It was a stupid idea to begin with. I had no business doing that. But I didn't know any better at the time and trusted everyone's social skills were better than mine, and he knew what he was doing when he asked me to do this. 

I sent a stupid short text to her with just the information. And then it sounded too unfeeling, too curt, too formal.

So I added a smiley.


That was it. It was supposed to be short for "I'm sorry and I love you" or something. Things I was unable to actually say, even in writing.

"You don't have to gloat," she responded. I didn't understand why she'd say that. By no means was I gloating. Really. I wrote back "Sorry, I'm just transferring information." See the lack of social skills? I felt something here, but could only function like a machine.

Then she called me and asked if she could bring his stuff to my place, instead of where he wanted it. I said "OK" and hoped that we were now fine. I still didn't quite understand what I'd done wrong.

When she dropped the stuff off, I asked her if she wanted to have coffee with me. She replied "Our coffee-drinking days are over," turned around and walked away. I didn't ask why. I didn't understand. I just said "All right then."

If she hadn't been so vulnerable, insecure, and dramatic, she might have explained; if I hadn't been so eager to defend myself by easily letting people go and writing them off, I would have demanded an explanation. But we were both too messed up to talk about the issue.

I only learned what the issue was from her ex, years later, recently, in fact.

Her phone had translated my "<:-)" into "he he."


And I was suddenly hurt. Because I understood and could no longer write her off. I could no longer rationalize that "I don't really need a friend who was willing to end it just because I sent a stupid message that may have been misguided, but certainly not malicious."

I wrote my parents off decades ago on some unconscious level. I don't know what it would take for me to be able to feel hurt by them.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I'm now irritated and angry that my therapist expects me to cry and express my hurt over what my parents did and who they were. That he sees my laughing and smiling over my discoveries and memories as a defense from my feelings.

I mean, yes, there's truth to that. But it's also a very real and sincere and only natural way to react.

I don't feel pain when I remember how I've seen the mask slip and the look of pure hatred and disgust in my father's eyes. I don't feel hurt when I remember the gloating glint in my father's eyes when he thought he had the power to frighten and hurt me.

The feeling I have is a pleasant one.

"See?" It tells me. "It's not your fault you feel nothing but fear, anger, disgust, and frustration for this man. He's a sadistic destructive malignant narcissist."

You can't be hurt by someone you have no relationship with, no love or respect for, nothing at all, less than nothing. I mean, you can get angry, or you can laugh at how crazy and bizarre a person is, but you're not going to have your feelings hurt and cry about it.

If a crazy person who clearly hates you for no apparent reason says something critical to you or looks at you in a nasty way, are you going to cry over your hurt feelings? No. You're more probably going to laugh about how bizarre it is.

This is a defense, that's true. We defend ourselves against crazy people who are never going to have a relationship with us and are only interested in hurting us. We don't let them near.

I've had that defense against my father for as long as I can remember. There was probably a time when I loved and trusted him, but I can't access that - this probably ended when I was a baby.

Since then, I've known one thing well, albeit not consciously: if I give him the pleasure of knowing he's hurt me, he'll hurt me more. If I am tough and show no reaction at all, he'll leave me alone. That's the only defense a powerless child has. And that's my power. The only thing I truly know as strength.

The only clear memory I have of childhood spankings is the realization that they're not going to happen again because I've won by not showing any pain or fear.

He almost admitted to me that he could never break me when I was a child, recently. In a roundabout way, and, of course, talking about my mother spanking me, not him, but it was there. An admiring sort of anger in his eyes as he recounted how stubborn I was as a child. How they couldn't break my will.

This went on with words as weapons. 

It's a battle, a war, a concentration camp. If you've been in a war, yes, you're likely to have been hurt and messed up in different ways. But you're not expected to cry because the enemy soldiers hurt your feelings, are you? If you've been in a concentration camp, there surely are many horrible things to recount. But you're not likely going to weep over how the guards didn't like you or how the Kommandant hurt your feelings. You wouldn't be open to having your feelings hurt in the first place. Because you're in the kind of situation where you're trying to survive against a powerful enemy. There's no time or place for having your feelings hurt by that enemy and wanting to cry over that.

So, yes, it's a defense. And it's a damned good one, one that works with sadistic narcissists. And it's one I've had in place since I was tiny. And I'm not hiding anything or even really holding anything back - I don't remember the last time there was anything there.


Sunday, December 16, 2012


The tissues on the desk in my therapist's office annoy me. You think I'm gonna cry? No way. I'm tough.

When he says I had a very difficult childhood and many painful events in my past, I don't trust him to mean it. I'm wondering if he's being sarcastic, as in "Oh, poor you. You whiny brat." (I brought it up at the end of the session and he was able to convince me he definitely means it; that almost made me cry.)

Being vulnerable in front of others is dangerous and stupid. If you admit to any hurt feelings, ever, you will be attacked where it hurts AND you will be called ungrateful, whiny, and weak.

When you're hurt by someone, what you do is grit your teeth, clench your whole body, and bear it and just wait for it to be over. You don't even admit it hurts. You don't give them that pleasure.

My therapist asked me if I was aware of an interesting defense I had: whenever I talk about painful experiences, I smile and laugh. I wasn't aware of it. And I didn't mind I had it. I kind of thought that was cool. I'm aware, rationally, that this is messed up and actually weak, but I don't think I can help feeling this way. I don't even remember talking about painful experiences - just things my parents did. I didn't feel any pain.

I would loathe and disgust myself if I were to break down and cry before this father figure - not that I'm tempted to.

My husband is the only one I can cry in front of - and I loathe and disgust myself for that, too. 

Engulfing to Ignoring

I think I pinpointed the moment my father went from engulfing to ignoring.

To begin with, he never managed to be truly engulfing, just overly controlling on the outside. There never was classical enmeshment in my family. But he was always there, a cold, silent, towering dictator.

This was when I was a little doll, then a stubborn little kid, then a preteen who was involved in and successful at many activities - the piano, ballet, gymnastics, choir, acting - all of which he took me to and talked to the teachers and boasted about it all to others and proved he was an involved father of a gifted child to everyone who'd listen.

Then I dropped all these activities, one by one. I took to reading and listening to music in my room. He was upset and tried to talk me out of it. When this failed, I basically dropped off his radar. There was nothing public left for him to "do with" me - and that was all that existed before, anyway.

Really, when I think about it, he never was engulfing, it just felt that way. He wasn't capable of that. He was just around a lot, getting narcissistic supply from public figures.

And his narcissistic parents, to whom all the diplomas and awards were dutifully and ceremoniously presented for approval.

When that was gone, there was nothing left.


People who never had real parents tend to parentify their children. This doesn't just mean that they want their children to take care of them emotionally (and sometimes physically) the way their parents should have.

This is common, but there are other ways to parentify and mess up your kids.

You can treat them like your messed up parents wanted to be treated, thinking misguidedly that this is simply the best way to treat human beings.

You can try to do anything not to upset them. You can try to leave every decision up to them. You can  allow them to walk all over you (sometimes literally) thinking it's your duty to just bear it. You can fail to have any boundaries. You can treat their every wish as your command.

I've been guilty of this. And then I've sometimes snapped and said "What do you want from me?"

Authoritarianism and permissiveness are two sides of the same coin - a parent who doesn't instinctively feel where sane boundaries lie because his or hers were violated in childhood.

Sometimes even infantilization is actually a form of parentification. My father did many age-inappropriate things for me and sometimes behaved as if I were a princess and he were my servant (but there was sarcasm involved). For instance, he'd ask me if I wanted something to eat in my room, I'd say "OK", he'd bring it to me and I'd finish it and then go on reading or whatever. He'd come in, see the empty plate, and sardonically say "May I remove Your plate now, your Majesty?" or something like that. There was no right response. He was resentful about doing something I never asked him to do. I'd mumble "Yes" or try to take the plate back myself - he'd never let me.

He and his sister had to serve their narcissistic mother as the Queen she was. So he did the same for me, because I represented her somehow. She demanded this sort of treatment, I never did, I was deeply embarrassed by it.

I'm a bit down now and feel like whatever I do with my kids, it will somehow be wrong because I'm broken and can't get it just right. I'll just do the opposite of what my parents did, and the cycle will go on.

The Black Hole Swallows Me Whole

After I learned that I had messed both my children up, my husband was annoyed that I wouldn't stop biting my nails and cuticles, which were swollen and bloody.

So I screamed that biting my nails is just a defense from what I'd really like to do, and that's cut myself, stab myself, kill myself, really hurt myself. Then I slapped myself and punched myself in the face.

Then I shut myself in the bathroom and sobbed uncontrollably for two hours because no one has ever loved me and no one could, because if they feel something for me it's because they don't know the darkness in me, and my husband will never truly understand me and if he does he'll be disgusted at how weak and evil and empty I am, and yes, my children love me, because they're naive and innocent, but they shouldn't, they'd be better off without me.

I know none of this is true. But I feel it now and don't know what to do about it. Telling myself it isn't true doesn't really help.

I'm not sure where to go from here. Now I'm just down. Maybe up is next, maybe what's next is digging downwards through rock bottom.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Still shaking after a whole day

Here's something that still has me shaking after a whole day. I couldn't fall asleep last night. I am trying to figure out why exactly that is - because I'm so terrified of government institutions because I'm an ACoN and my NF was so much into doctors and teachers and all these authority figures; or because I'm so vulnerable and defensive about my parenting because I know at a deep level that I can never be an adequate parent. Anyway, feel free to point out my craziness out to me. This is what I wrote about it on a parenting forum:

So, I live in a post-Communist country. Public schools and certain medical check-ups for children are mandatory (and free, by the way; but still mandatory).

Today I had the pleasure of taking my 2.5 yo daughter for a first check-up with a speech therapist and defectologist AND getting information from them about my 5 yo's check-up that was conducted in her preschool class.

It was a real treat.

I was told my (wonderful, sweet, smart, almost bilingual, introverted) 5 yo is "socially impaired" (because she's shy in large groups and with strangers), "behind" (because she apparently didn't know all the arbitrary things expected from her at that age), and needs help from them.

The (pretty mean-looking, intimidating, crabby) lady told me it was obvious my daughter wasn't used to a "collective" - she'd been at home with us all her life before preschool and never went to daycare, something they obviously saw as neglectful and somehow evil - and she needed institutional help so she'd catch up with other, "socialized" children.

When I asked exactly what techniques and methods she thought she could use to help my daughter adjust to a school setting with more ease, the woman frowned at me and said "That's for me to know!" I replied: "I can't give my consent unless I have information on what you propose to do to my child" and she still wouldn't tell me! So I declined - the lady was giving me, a grown woman, the creeps, I certainly don't want to expose my sensitive child to her!

She said my child had cognitive issues. When I asked for examples, this is what I got:

- "She couldn't name all the body parts"
"I find that hard to believe," I replied. "Which ones couldn't she name?" I asked and got NO REPLY. My kid knows how to name body parts in two different languages and this was absurd.

- "She couldn't count to ten"
"She can count to one hundred," I replied. Perhaps she was terrified of this lady.

- "She couldn't name the days of the week."
OK, this one is true. My kid doesn't know the names of the days of the week. Those are seven words that she can cram by heart in two minutes, but what's the point of it in a 5 yo's life? She's just never been interested. She can tell time, though, but that doesn't matter, because the guidelines say that a 5 yo must know the days of the week or be deemed cognitively impaired. (Added: I actually taught her those seven words yesterday and it took all of 90 seconds.)

I said my child was fluent in two languages, and she reprimanded me for that, as it is bad for a child to be bilingual - a child must first learn her own language well before she's exposed to another one. I immediately got scared and defensive and said I couldn't prevent her - she just picks up languages effortlessly!

(And, only after writing this, I actually find the courage to say that this is baloney! I studied language development in uni and there's nothing wrong with being bilingual!)

Then it was my baby's turn. She was, to begin with, speech impaired - yes, she develops verbally a bit slower, but she's got a good ear and is catching up quickly. She just started showing an interest in learning words later. She's more interested in her motor development. (She speaks more than 200 words at age 2.5, and is learning new ones every day.)

They were concerned and seemed to blame me for not "working with her" enough. See, I have to actively teach my child speech, not just talk to her in a normal way.

One horrible oversight on my part is not teaching my children onomatopoeic words. You see, a child will never learn how to speak and will forever lag behind if you don't drill into her when she's two years old that a doggie says "woof" and a cow says "moo" and a sheep says "baa". Or whatever. I told them I wasn't sure I knew them all and I am a language and literature teacher at a university.

(I just remembered - she does know that a mouse says "click" )

It was problematic that my 2.5 yo was still not "part of a collective" - i.e. at daycare 8 hours a day. (I have no reason or desire to put my child in daycare).

And it was shocking to them when my toddler asked to nurse. They asked me why on Earth I was still nursing her. I answered "Because the WHO encourages it until at least the age of 2, and then further if both mother and child are happy with it," to which I was given a lecture about the bad quality of my milk.

My milk has great quality, by the way. It has just been used to cure conjunctivitis in my toddler and myself, and has warded off strep throat for my toddler.

Then she said I was attaching my toddler to myself by nursing so long, and she won't be able to be a part of a collective and learn well in the future because of it!

I asked her what research she has to back that claim up and mentioned that experiments in attachment psychology (Harlow, Ainswhorth, Bowlby and others) have demonstrated that securely attached children actually do a better job exploring and learning.

To which she replied that I can have my theories, but it was her job to tell me what the consequences of my actions were.

All this time, they were talking to me and asking me questions, never even looking at my toddler. The poor kid noticed toys in a box and tried to get them, which I attempted to bring to their attention, but they ignored it, and she gave up and headed towards the soap on the sink. I got up and took the soap away from her, as it looked yucky, and the speech therapist had the nerve to reprimand me for not listening to her, but paying attention to my child instead!

I've been sad, angry, crushed, all day long. My husband told me we should just ignore it all and keep doing our thing. But I can't help feeling both reprimanded as a bad mother AND afraid for my child in the future, if people like this ever get to her. Trying to turn her from an introvert into an extrovert. Trying to make her into a neat case with all the right boxes ticked. Knows days of the week? Check. Detached from parents and adjusted to the collective? Check. Fully "socialized", i.e. institutionalized? Check.

Really, feel free to comment honestly. Am I being overly narcissistic and defensive? Part of me believes I truly am an inadequate and neglectful mother and that my children really are better off with anyone else; and part of me wants to protect them from these people; then the other part of me tells me that's because I'm trying to keep them for myself and from the people who'd love them more and do better by them because I'm a neglectful narcissist; then I go insane.

Friday, December 7, 2012

For Quercus Garryana - The Black Hole

I owe you several posts, but I really wanted to do this one that I never even promised. :)

It's my list of reasons why I love the discovery of the black hole. The one caused by the absence of parental love that will never be filled.

1) I've always known it was there. I was just never allowed to feel it, acknowledge it, know about it. See, my life and family and everything was perfect. But now I consciously know the black hole is part of who I am.

2) I finally have a right to who I am and what I feel. I've been angsty, dark, cynical, depressed, black, at different points in my life. I was not just being an ungrateful poser. It was me.

3) Pain, sadness, loneliness, anything, feels better than the empty denial of it. Much better.

4) We're all different and have different crosses to bear. We don't have to be happy or fulfilled or fucking perfect. That's what the narcs demanded from us. That's not what being human is all about. I never have to be happy or whole or perfectly content. Just truly honest and human, thank you.

5) Everybody hurts.

It's OK to hurt and feel sad and incomplete and like you're missing something. It's part of being human. I feel like I need to make this point again, even after 4)

Even people from wonderful families have thorns in their sides. It's what being human entails. It's kind of beautiful, really.

6) Finally seeing that black hole face to face, being broken and vulnerable - leaves you open to the really good things in life. You're a Christian, right? Leonard Cohen has some of my favorite lyrics about Christ:

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

only drowning men could see him

he himself was broken

It makes me shiver, every time.

7) My favorite insight: the real me doesn't need or want perfect, non-messed-up parents now. No, they wouldn't truly get the real me. Nor would my actual dysfunctional still-messed-up parents.

What the real me now wants and needs and gets is other ACoNs - the ones who've been there and understand and offer support and empathy.

How I got myself to finally cry: I imagined asking my therapist if he'd been loved by his parents; I imagined him replying, calmly, slightly sadly, but mostly with empathy: "No". And I felt like someone could understand the hell inside and not judge me. Know it's real and I'm not a wimpy liar making it up. That gave me the permission to feel it and own it.

And that's me and that's really OK.