Once trust is broken, it can be difficult or even impossible to win back.
This is her story.
I really don't want to keep being upset about what happened, but it's so hard for me not to be.
This was a person I was close to, a person I trusted, and who I thought cared enough (and regarded me highly enough) to at least show me the respect I deserve and treat me like a human being.
Instead I was treated like less than shit, in my opinion.
And yet somehow I still am tempted to remain friends. Not much, mind you, but it's there.
I hate the fact that I'm the levelheaded one in my family when it comes to things like this. Any of my relatives would've said "fuck you" and cut them out completely without a second thought, easy. But not me. I have to think things through and consider every side of the problem, any possible solutions, and how my actions could affect everyone - not just those involved - and I hate that too.
Because I have no room in my life for people that are going to treat me that way; I have no room in my life for cowards. So I don't want to keep in any sort of contact other than emergencies. I don't want this person in my life at all right now.
And every instinct I have is screaming at me to listen to these wants, to not have anything to do with them, at least not for a while. But no, my brain whole existence says I can't. I can't do that, what might happen? It doesn't matter if it might be best for me, I can't just let myself be that selfish.
I'm too nice for my own good, I guess.
And it sucks.
I'm an adult child of a mother with narcissistic personality disorder.
I've known this a while. I periodically read what the Internet has to offer on the subject to reinforce myself. When I've explained what that's like to be an adult child of a mother with narcissistic personality disorder to others, I describe her as an Evil Robot.
To me, it seems she has no feelings; her objective is to destroy me. So I call my mom Evil Robot. (That's her contact name in my phone.)
I broke up with my mother in May 2010.
It was a great victory for me, but also, of course, very difficult. In August of that year, she called me for the first time, as a narcissist does not respect boundaries.
I didn't answer.
Just the idea of talking to her sent me into a tailspin, and I spent a weekend in my pajamas.
Things have gotten a lot better for me regarding my mother since that summer.
She's established a pattern of stalking me on the Internet and emailing, calling or texting me every couple of months to tell me what she's found. Occasionally, this can be entertaining; once she believed that a homework assignment I'd given my students was somehow a reference to her.
I read her correspondence, but I almost never answer it.
In the time since the split with EvRo, my life has been mostly wonderful. Maybe that's because I shed the skin with her in it or maybe it was time for my life to be good.
In April, I got married.
It's impossibly difficult to keep wedding registries from posting your name and wedding date to the Internet. She emailed me a hundred times justifying both why she's stalking me on the Internet while chastising me for excluding her from happy events in my life. How dare I keep a good light from shining on her! After the wedding, she emailed the photographer asking to buy pictures without my permission.
The whole thing is very creepy. When I talk about it to my husband, who has never met her, I feel like there's no real way to convey how this feels. How could anyone understand how wrong the whole thing is? Of all people, my mother helped me out with an explanation.
This summer I got a panicky email from EvRo saying she had a heart problem. Panicky fake health problems have, on occasion, been a part of the game when EvRo feels like I'm becoming too independent. Still, she's never claimed that she was dying, so I paid attention. I wrote an email back asking for everything I need if she dies. It seemed fair that if she is going to act like she's dying that I do too.
That was probably a mistake.
You have to hold your ground with a narcissist; everything gets reset when you respond. They don't see what they've done wrong. They see what they did that got you to respond.
My message to her asked her for names of banks, lawyers, credit card companies that I would have to deal with if she died. She provided none of that information, but gave me names of doctors she would be seeing and the date in November that she would be having surgery. She also gave me access to a hospital account to check on her health records.
The sad truth about a narcissistic mother is that a mother is the most pure and wholesome thing. And even if calling your mother Evil Robot is putting it diplomatically, you will worry about her when she has surgery. And the sad truth about this story is that she was going for a strong emotional reaction from me.
I stood strong - I did not call my mother on surgery day, because that was right for me. Even still, I doubted myself, staying up all night, crying. I wrote desperate emails to my best friend at 3 AM because it's difficult to validate yourself in the throes of doubt.
And then I checked the health records.
There. Was. No. Surgery.
The name she provided as her cardiac surgeon was the name of her dermatologist.
Her manipulation still stuns me.
I'm an adult child of a mother with narcissistic personality disorder and I've known this for a while. But this act is more callous than anything I could've imagined. In order to get me to respond the way she wanted, she went all the way to a fake heart surgery.
It's sad, really.
I can't imagine what it's like to have alienated everyone close to you. Both of her children told her that she couldn't be part of their lives any more. If it were me, I would feel like I failed completely as a human being and a mother. But I'm pretty sure she doesn't feel like she failed based on the email I got about a week after the day the surgery was supposed to happen (just enough time to see if I was going to come running).
In true narcissist fashion, she told me there was no surgery but completely ignored the horror of what she'd done. She told me she wanted to me to get over "whatever it is" that's bothering me in our relationship.
She told me that I needed to think about WHAT I AM DOING TO HER.
In the past, I've been okay at dealing with the emotional scars she left. This fall, I started a new job in a new town and the change has been stressful. Somehow the stress makes the scars more prominent.
This evening, I talked to my husband about the difficulty of dealing with her histrionics. I told him about the reactions I've had when she's contacted me at various times and the struggle of knowing that keeping my distance is the right thing for me.
He asked me if I would ever be able to talk to her; if I would ever be at the point where talking to her is meaningless to me and doesn't create an internal struggle.
It was a really interesting question.
I'm so angry with her; about how little she values my emotions that I can't even imagine what that would feel like.
What the world where I'm free from her would look like.
Every once in a great while, someone comes along and changes the way you feel about life, the world, the secrets of love. This is that story, told my own way, with hope and confusion and frustration all around.
My story begins seven years ago; a number I've checked and rechecked this past week. Seven years ago, I was working at a retail-type job with a boy I fancied but barely knew.
It was adorable.
We laughed and flirted and created all sorts of giddy cuteness. Quickly, this coworker and I began dating, but not before I made friends with a customer of ours, Steve. I remember the very first conversation I ever had with Steve. He’s that kind of friend.
There was drama from the beginning.
My coworker and I were each being kicked out of our houses, both seeking roommates, so we moved in together, a process that forced us to become exclusive. Hard not to in a one-bedroom apartment, which was all that we could afford.
Steve, believing he was simply helping me move, helped us move. Steve became friends with the two of us, laughing, having fun being included. He helped us keep our cars on the road, invited us to family parties, and found ways to show me that he had my back - no matter what.
We - The Three Stooges - worked together at a nightclub a few nights a week. I’m sure I was quite a trip – 20, female and not exactly scary. I had my team, though. Who cared? Those were the good times - I felt amazing.
So it started. No, rather, it continued.
Steve and I - from the moment we met - were smitten. We were those people. Meanwhile, I was still dating my coworker. We'd had a fling – though it didn’t feel like a fling – Steve and I, the first time my coworker broke up with me. Alas, Mr. Coworker and I still shared a one-bedroom apartment, our reunion was inevitable.
That reunion changed so much of my life.
Steve, my coworker, and I all worked together, at another retail store. This was the place I earned the nickname "Girly Eyes." Oh, how my eyes twinkled!
Everyone knew. It was hard not to. Even my coworker. The jealousy, the tension, felt GOOD. My coworker knew about the fling. He'd known it would happen.
Then I turned up pregnant – a pregnancy that occurred during my reunion with my coworker. I knew that Steve wasn’t the baby’s father, but oh did I wish he'd been.
I still look for pieces of Steve in pictures of that child.
That son was placed for adoption at birth, and my coworker and I moved across the country. We weren’t happy together, but it was the best I had.
When I moved, Steve was in a pretty bad position himself.
His fiancee was pregnant, still married to - and living with - her ex who was a police officer. Her ex didn't know he wasn't the DNA match for her growing pregnancy. I didn’t know this until later, but we were both living in hell.
One day out of the blue, Steve called. He was now the father of a beautiful little girl. My heart grew that day just as it did when I'd birthed my son. There was a certain pride in his voice I’d never heard before. He finally loved something more than himself. I desperately wanted that baby to be ours.
My joy was hard to hide; news did not make my coworker nearly as happy. The news was hard to share, my coworker was (understandably) biased against Steve.
I had my own frustrations with Steve – for a long time he was the boy no one could pin down: he was here and there and everywhere. Full of fleeting truths and whatever it took to get him what he wanted, still giving me the butterflies. When he had a baby, he wanted a family. Oh that ache - I knew that ache. Steve's voice told me that he did, too.
We talked occasionally that year. I bought clothes for his daughter but couldn't bring myself to send them. He didn’t get to play Daddy anyway, another complication that broke my heart.
We’d talk about his daughter, my son, how much we wanted our kids to be ours. He became one of my best friends, someone that understood what many others couldn't. I'd been dating my coworker for four years by now and I was still unhappy.
Steve and I spoke as often as I could steal the time away. Steve split with the mother of his child and the baby went with her. We fell out of touch, both hurting, both scared.
The next summer we reconnected.
I'll never forget the feeling of the sun on my shoulders, the laughter in the air. We'd talk for hours. We'd daydream, talking about we wanted from life. We talked though his break-up with another woman he'd loved.
We talked about my son, the heartbreak for a child I don't know; likely never will. We planned to meet each others children: he'd meet my son through our open adoption, I'd meet his daughter during his weekend visits. Our friendship glowed.
That, I think, is when I really fell in love.
Contact waxed and waned awhile. I visited home and got a tour of Steve’s new house. I took a third wheel with as I knew I would never leave the state if I didn't.
There were sparks when we touched. He was magic. I was strong; stronger that I could've imagined. I left without a single thing to feel guilty about - I was still dating my coworker, unhappily as ever. He'd previously cheated on me; I didn't want him to feel the way I did after he'd done that.
The desire, the possibilities, the hope - oh how I can still taste them.
We finally split, my coworker and I, in a manner he deserved - leaving in a police car. Meanwhile, my spark with Steve grew forever stronger. He owned my heart, a heart more broken than he realized.
See, my coworker had been abusing me for years. I didn't know how to ask for help from a friend; how to accept the love, how to heal.
Here it was again, dancing in front of me: what was I going to do about it?
Like an idiot, I did nothing. I planned to move - I quit my job, lined up a new one and rented an apartment. The plan, however, was to move home to be with my coworker. What an idiot.
I was in love, yet couldn't shake a bad habit. Looking back, it was probably my last chance.
The move fell through. Time and again, Steve's asked me to move home; to start OUR family. For two years, I've seriously thought of it.
I said something to him, during that first fling, that I tell him now, when he is beyond the walls I built around my heart. "Don't tell me that," I say, "or I just might believe you." It's true. I've given him the chance to wiggle out of our relationship, but he always comes back; still meaning it.
Now here I stand.
He is engaged again. We've both lost all contact with our children - six months apart in age. I'm still oh-so far away.
Last week, my phone jingled.
A text, from a number I cannot forget. Like always, we picked up where we left off. There was no dancing around it this time.
"Marry me" and "I love you." I'm in a relationship now; one that's winding down and away. One I cannot stand to fight for anymore. How does Steve manage to show up when I need a reminder that someone loves me?
Then it happened.
His fiancee found out that he was talking to me and threw a fit. Apparently, he tells women who've never met me about me. Whatever it is that he tells them, they feel threatened.
I can't begin to blame her. His ex, the mother of his child, tried to get Steve and I together when they split. It's obvious. I had to play the friend card; to act like he hasn't held my heart for many years. My skin jumps at the thought of him, yet there I was, telling her how proud I was that he's finally settling down.
That’s what a friend does, right?
I decided upon that I'd have a new role as his friend.
But I'm in love with him. I love the idea of us with a future together. I'd been entertaining the daydream of moving back for years.
But I can't.
Right now, my job is to be his friend, to support him as he he starts a new chapter of his life. They haven't set a date, I don’t believe he will marry her, but (for now) I need to be supportive. For now, love means being bigger than myself.
I say that, I mean that, yet you haven't seen the way my face lights up when I hear his voice. The "girly eyes" are certainly not gone. I simply know that no matter how in love with him I am, no matter how in love with me he professes, right now this is what we are. Friends.
Maybe, maybe one day I'll get to live out our daydream.
After all, he told me (again) that he's not putting a wedding ring on a woman's finger until it is my finger.
2012 - what a year.
For some of us, it was a year of dreams fulfilled, questions answered and our way, at long last, found.
For some of us, it was a year of loss, sadness and longing for what we once had.
For all of us, it was a year in which we learned, loved, and grew.
What did 2012 mean to you?
Two decades ago, it was "funny" that every few years, I had a wild one. I'd have a year where I got married, almost died, and bought a house; or one where I switched careers and moved across the country away from everyone I knew - that kind of thing.
As I get older, though, people are starting to roll their eyes; they don't find it so amusing.
Yeah, well, they can stuff it: I learn hard and I change big, because I can't bear to do the same wrong things once I realize they're wrong. It's hard sometimes; I started from a place of learning that almost everything "wrong," learning to hate myself, to be unhealthy, to sabotage my life.
Today, though, I looked in the mirror and realized that 2012 was not only yet another year of big changes; it was actually a year of big WINS.
This is a strange thing to say, on the face of it, as 2012 may have been the hardest year of my life. My horribly difficult breakup with my best friend of 12 years continued - and may have concluded? - this year. In January, my husband moved out, and months of attempted therapy did nothing to prevent the divorce which is now being finalized (well, soon hopefully).
By September, he had moved in with that ex-best-friend, and they're still together (I'm not sure if it's romantic, but oddly enough, it doesn't matter). I've cut off all contact with them in the last few months because every time I encounter either, it's to face a tidal wave of hate and poison from the two people I used to rely on the most - no, entirely - to be my listeners, lovers, and supporters.
And the job I left my family and moved across the country for a few years back? The politics turned ugly and I got fired, both unfairly and unprofessionally, leaving me wondering how I'd pay the bills and where I'd get the money to support my family like I'd promised. And lonely...lonelier than I've ever been, for longer than I ever thought I could stand it.
But a couple things happened.
I realized, through a long and difficult process, that my former-BFF and my former-husband were, irrespective of the good things about them, not good relationships for me. They were manipulative in the extreme, needy, and graspy and willing to turn on me like wolves when it looked like I might not provide them the support (emotional and financial) they felt entitled to.
Having them out of my life may have left a vacuum, but it also gave me a freedom - an ability to grow, live, and pursue my path, that I've never had. I only have regular-type-friends here - and I'm close with some of them, but not with anywhere near the intimacy as the ones I lost - but they're MUCH healthier relationships, with boundaries and considerations built in for ME.
The process of learning to set up, maintain, and end relationships based on what's good for me has been huge...plus, while I may not have any close partner-types right now, I do have something I never had before: a social network.
A web of people I can rely on for different things, to different degrees, and I no longer feel like my whole emotional and social life rests in the hands of one person and their being happy with me. There are people it would make me really sad to lose...but I know that I would be okay if I did, and I know that I would say goodbye to them if we began to hurt each other, which is something I should have done with my other two YEARS ago, only I was too afraid of living without them.
Well, now I know that I can, and what's more, I'm pretty good at it.
Losing my job may have turned out to be the best possible thing, too. After so many years in offices, burning 50 hours a week on someone else's (often stupid) instructions, working hard on projects only to have big corporations screw them up or sacrifice them (and their engineers, including me) to the bottom line - I decided that, rather than start over in the same damn cycle, I'd go freelance, start my own business, and do what I do for clients, rather than rely on one company with no loyalty to me whatsoever to pay my whole way.
And I love it. LOVE it. It's only been a few months, and I'm not paying the bills with it yet, but I'm bleeding savings a lot slower than I'd feared I would be. Though the future of it is intimidating, it's also amazing. I've wanted to write and travel my whole life, and suddenly it might be possible - in fact, I'm taking a small trip or two this winter, just to teach myself to do it (and cheaply). And I've joined a writer's group and have been making better progress on my art than I did during my whole last marriage.
Best of all, I'm learning to be alone without necessarily being lonely. When I need to reach out and there's no one on hand to hug, rather than folding into a corner and crying, I call my mother or my brother and tell them I love them.
Sometimes one of my just-friends is around, and I've found the courage lately, too, to say to them, "Hey, I need a hug," and to let what they can give me help, even if it isn't the 100%-all-encompassing-love I've been trained to think is the only thing that will do. Sometimes I hug my roommate, and once I asked if I could hug my therapist, and those helped too, much to my surprise.
Sometimes I write a card or a letter to someone - even just a distant aunt or cousin I've barely met; I go online and look for someone who really needs a small donation for medical bills or something and I send them a few bucks and a nice email; or I just meditate on how life is lonely sometimes and that's not a death-sentence - it's just a pain, like having a stomach-ache, and everyone suffers pain sometimes.
And then I get up, and look around and realize that this is MY life and I like it that way. Even if I'd love to have more company someday, I wouldn't want to give up the freedoms I've gained this year, not for anything.
I've got so much to do, share, and be. What looked like a year of hard losses may have been a shedding of exactly the things that were keeping me from doing and sharing and being all those things.
Thank you SO much for sharing 2012 with me, The Band. Your message and your stories have always helped.
I hope mine can, too.
Over 90% of children who are sexually abused know their attacker.
This is her story; a story of an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse:
Recently a friend gently pointed out that the way I write about family isn't exactly... standard. The kind of help I think I'd get is fairly unusual. I couldn't name a close friend who has the kind of relationship with their family I write about wanting. No one has family who just shows up to take care of you - that isn't how things work in America. To this I reply:
"Ah, okay. You think I have a mental model of a healthy family with boundaries. Hahahahaha. No. I come from a crazy codependent family. What I talk about wanting is what I have seen. I long for family from watching the way that people treated my sister after she had kids. Quite frankly, folks worried that she was incompetent and immature, so they showed up and helped. My mom did. My aunt did. My brother did. I did. Sometimes our cousins helped, too."
I've been watching a lot of movies lately: Winters Bone, The Poker House, The Burning Plain, while none of them explain who I am, they're a good reference point for those who want to know me.
If you care about movie spoilers, don't read the rest of this post. That's your warning.
In Winters Bone, the star is attempting to track down information about her father; pestering her extended family in the Ozark. There's a strong presence throughout the movie that the police are the enemy. Drugs. Drugs. Drugs. My family did drugs like that.
In The Burning Plain, there are a series of disconnected stories (that eventually come together) about mothers and daughters, feeling invisible, accidents, hating yourself and running away to cope with your self-hatred. Charlize Theron manages to look as empty as I feel. The way she self-harms, the way she runs away because she is "bad."
I understand that.
The Poker House is based on Lori Petty's Life. While my mother never prostituted herself or did drugs in front of me, hers did - I was similarly neglected. Abandoned in unsafe environments. The rape scene was extremely well done, non-graphic, but accurate. It's the truth; it's how fast; how easy rape happens. I actively dislike Lori Petty's take-away message, "Don't hold a grudge - forgive people for hurting you because they were hurt too."
To that I say, "Bullshit. I have children to protect."
When I gave up on my family, I gave up a lot. I gave up a support network that hasn't worked in years and fucking loves hanging out with little kids. My family loves children under age eight, when they're still cute and fun. Especially little girls. My own little girls are so angelic and wonderful that they'd have been well loved.
However, the price of my family's support is keeping your mouth shut; understanding that "people make mistakes," and ignoring horrifying behavior year after year. If you need the support and you cannot survive without it, this is the bargain that must be made.
I don't fucking need their support that much - I can sit home and cry about being overwhelmed instead. It'll all work out - my kids are less overwhelming by the month. My life is getting much easier every day. Before long, my girls will make my life easier. They want to. They understand that helping leaves me with more energy to do the things they want to do.
Their Mama didn't raise no fools.
However, three of my family members have told me that my sister sexually abused them and I have fairly good reason to think that my kids would be good targets for her.
I know she's a pedophile.
My sister hasn't had a job since my daughter was born, except for babysitting (I hope she's not molesting those children) which she does. She was laid off and lived off unemployment. I'm pretty sure she's waiting for Mom's social security to kick in to live off that, too.
My sister is a pedophile.
How do I know she's a pedophile? I remember how inappropriate she was with me. We didn't have sex, but at age four, she told me how to relax my anus so anal sex didn't hurt so much. It was actually a thing for me for years; I didn't manage to successfully have anal sex until Noah. (I decided that violent sodomy as a small child doesn't count - I didn't relax enough to make it hurt less). He was the first person who could work through that fear. A number of people tried before Noah - it always hurt too much; the hysterical crying freaked people out. I felt bad; like a failure, because I wasn't able to have anal sex with men who wanted to have anal sex with me.
I've suffered intense feelings of worthlessness because I was not able to do what people wanted. I was supposed to.
My sister is probably who taught me this; I think she was the main source for this. She talked about sex all the time, had sex in front of me. Consciously and deliberately, she told me what I should go do.
I can't play the game anymore. She's not okay and my children do not deserve to be exposed to her.
I know I'm losing out on cousins who fix my cars, cousins who know how to help with plumbing, all the free babysitting I want, holidays full of people, a niece and nephew who really need my help.
I simply can't play the game anymore. I'm not at the bottom of the shit hill and I won't allow my family to set the terms of reality.
I just can't.
But it's hard. I moved around a lot as a kid; often staying with relatives. I didn't know them well and I didn't stay long so I never got to know them... but they took me in.
Over and over.
My family takes care of children. They would have been very happy to know my own children.
But it's a trap - all or nothing.
You have to play the game and keep the silence or you are out.
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