Have you ever try to solve a mystery? What if that mystery involved your life and relationships? What if that mystery interfered with your ability to do self-care because you had this feeling you were not good enough? While no one likes to discover narcissism, understanding narcissism solved my mystery and gave me peace.
I’d had warning signs for years but I never quite connected the dots. Like the time I was going to stay with family and my brother recommended I read M. Scott Peck’s “The People of the Lie.” As I read it, I began to recognize patterns from my teen years and decided to stay in a hotel, but once I read the book I moved on and forgot about what I discovered. Perhaps I was just in denial. I caught a glimpse, but I wanted my parents’ love so badly I just couldn’t admit it.
A few years later, I was reading Henry Cloud’s book, “Changes That Heal,” in another hotel room and I let out a primal scream at 4:00 am because Bible verses quoted in that book suddenly made sense. Once again, an epiphany occurred–that I have a right to spend my own money, vote for my choice of candidate and worship however I choose, but I still rationalized my parents’ behavior.
Then there was the loving father-like church friend who gave me an entire box of tapes by a man many say reflected God’s love more than anyone they know–but I threw the tapes out without listening to them because my father thought he was a false prophet.
I spent fifty years trying to solve this mystery. The path of my life was strewn with warnings and lifelines, but I never quite connected the dots. I believe God was answering my prayers, but I never fully woke up to see it until the day before my fiftieth birthday.
That’s the day two well-meaning friends each invited me to join a group for Adult Children of Narcissists. I really wasn’t interested, but both were good friends, so I accepted.
In my first visit to the group, the scales fell off my eyes. All the years of pain. All the questioning why my parents never loved me enough to call me unless they wanted something. All the years of being told I was too sensitive because I wanted answers to what happened in my childhood and teen years. All the times I felt not good enough because my parents treated me like I was not even good enough to go to high school. All the times I was belted and yelled at and called selfish for simply wanting to stop moving and have friends. All the times I was accused of digging up the past to hurt their feelings because it hurt them to remember how much they hurt me.
For most of my adult life I have tried to be a peacemaker and a good daughter–but it came at the expense of my own self-care. I felt not good enough because no matter how much money I gave or how many family birthday parties I planned, it was never good enough and all these decades I simply thought it was me. When I thought it was my fault, I punished myself by refusing to exercise or eat right. I punished myself by isolating and refusing to do the things that would set me free.
So if you are new to understanding narcissism, I welcome your voice in this dialog. And if you need to find a group I can point you to one. I am not a professional, but I am an avid reader of all books about relationships. I’ve bought hundreds of books trying to solve this mystery in my life of why my once doting parents became critical, judgmental and eventually cold and non-responsive toward me. I thought it was just me, but I finally discovered the answer was narcissism. If you want to read more, I will further explain in my next blog.
Meanwhile, let me just share my cautionary tale, the first step in self-care is to be awake–awake to the signals, awake to the abuse and awake to the answers. Teachers appear when the student is ready. If you wonder if you were raised by a narcissistic parent, don’t put your fears in a box and try to go on without resolving this mystery, because it will only get worse.
The first step to self-care is awareness, without waking up, we’ll continue to sleep on having nightmares about our pain, wondering what possibly could be wrong without fully waking up to do something about it.