Growing up, we were always told not to hang our dirty laundry in public. It’s a good rule, except when what’s going on at home is more sinister than the run-of-the-mill messes that most families work through.
Sometimes, it’s what bullies tell their children so that they are never held responsible for their abusive behaviors, and when that is the case the victim’s silence is reinforced in other ways, too. Speaking up against physical abuse can lead to worsened abuse. Challenging a narcissist can lead to love being withdrawn. Say “boo” about an alcoholic and you can pretty much count on paying for it once the next bottle is cracked open.
Hanging dirty laundry always seems so undignified to me, and yet what if the other choice is holding that abuse inside until it festers? Until you believe your abuser?
And so I’m going to hang my dirty laundry. Lord knows I’ve tried to be heard a million ways and times. If my voice doesn’t matter- which is what I’ve been shown and told again and again- then it shouldn’t matter if I speak, should it?
And so, let me tell you about my anger. I need someone to hear me, because being treated like I’m invisible because of my anger is making everything so much worse.
As the ptsd symptoms have lessened I am suddenly filled with such anger that I’m vibrating. It’s like a cyclone of rage inside of me and I don’t know what to do with it, but I know that I need to do something to let it out.
At the moment I’m so furious with my mother that I’m practically shaking. She knew what my husband’s abuse had become, knew that I’d long been isolated and trapped by his financial abuse, and wouldn’t let me stay in either her spare room or an empty house in Maine when I asked for help. When I turned to her the morning of the rape she blamed me for his actions, saying that I must have done something to cause it, and accused me of lying when I said that I hadn’t “done” anything, becoming angry with me when I “accused her” of saying that I had caused the rape. Within two weeks and because my husband was harassing me and threatening to come back to the house, I told her that I planned to try and rent an apartment so that I could leave the marital home. She insisted that she help me buy a little house which I could then pay her back for (so that I could have a studio to continue working in). After we’d found a house for me to rehab and the contract was accepted, she said that I wasn’t appreciative enough and pulled the contract. Then lies and more lies and so much gaslighting until I finally got angry, only for her to claim -as she always has- that my anger was abusive, a sign of mental illness, and the justification of her own behavior that preceded my response.
This is what she’s done my whole life: she finds something to be self-righteously angry over to justify not being compassionate or kind. She behaves cruelly when compassion is desperately needed, and then explains that my response to her cruelty is why she must be cruel. This is narcissism.
I’d just been RAPED, for God’s sake, and this is what she did to me. Since then, she’s told anyone who will listen that she’s heartbroken that she can’t help me, but that I’m too abusive for her to safely help. She’s told my sons multiple different stories, and when challenged on the truthfulness of her statements she has found ways to blame and dismiss them and their hurt as well.
Our relationship has always been difficult, but I only realized when I saw the exact same traits and heard the exact same words from my husband that the consistently inconsistent behaviors I’d experienced with her all of my life added up to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Questioning the similarities between them (about a year before the rape), I started to communicate with her primarily via text so that I could see whether she, too, was gaslighting me.
Since I was young she has always told me that I don’t remember things correctly and that her version was the right version. Why was her version correct and mine wrong? Because, she says, I’m lying in order to manipulate her. Because, she says, I’ve had bouts of depression and I’m not stable if I’ve struggled with depression. Because, she says, I’m in need of psychiatric help if I blame her because that shows that I have issues within myself that I need to fix. Throw in my sister’s parroting of the party line that insisted I play the family failure, and you can understand why I doubt my own sanity at times. And even though a deep primitive part of me has always believed every foul thing that my mother has said to me, another part of me believed ME when she’d then deny saying those foul things; when she treated me as if I’d done nothing but screw up. Through years of therapy, I’ve come to have faith in my own memory. Although it takes constant work, I learned long ago to hold my head high and to base my self-esteem on quantifiable facts and not upon a ranking system created by and for others where I would always rank as “lesser than” no matter what I might accomplish and be. Yet despite the hurtfulness of her maternal instincts and the way she played my sister and me off each other, I’d never felt that my mother was actively lying. Misremembering? Remembering differently? Sure. Exaggerating? Probably, but I’d have sworn that my mother was an honest person who actively tried not to hurt me, but just viewed me in a way that wasn’t realistic or good for me.
Restricting communication to writing would clarify what was or wasn’t said, wouldn’t it?
Almost immediately our written correspondence showed dishonesty and narcissistic patterns: Picking fights when help or support might reasonably be expected of a parent; spiteful nastiness when attention that she felt was hers was given to someone else; twisting the truth until it wasn’t recognizable, gaslighting. But it truly shocked me when she responded to my rape with purely narcissistic patterns of blame and accusations, only to lie moments later about having said those things. It defied logic- it was a text and the words were RIGHT THERE- and knowing what I’d come to learn about narcissism, her reaction clearly spoke of not wanting to be inconvenienced or eclipsed by whatever had befallen me.
Understanding that she is a narcissist and being able to see her behaviors more clearly for what they are has helped me make sense of so much, but it’s still been excruciatingly painful and at a time when I feel like the only thing left of me is pain. I now understand the decades of my only sibling’s bizarre accusations, anger and jealousy of me; she’s been used, lied to, and manipulated, too. I understand why the 5 year period when I thought my mother had changed- when she was kind to me- coincided with my writing a blog that’s had tens of thousands of viewers, and where I wrote flatteringly about her. Knowing that a narcissist is a narcissist clarifies so many, many things that she’s done, but it certainly doesn’t make her latest narcissistic viciousness hurt any less.
This reaction to my abuse and rape, is, perhaps, on the top of the list of heinous things that she’s done. I vacillate between disgust that a mother could treat her child like this, rage that I don’t matter and I never have unless she has something to gain, shame that there’s something wrong with me that my own mother can’t love me, and such deep sadness that I’ve trusted her and given her the benefit of the doubt my whole life instead of giving that trust to myself. I know I’m the scapegoat, and I know that this isn’t my fault and that she’s sick, but right now it pushes every button I have and I feel so lonely and abandoned and like a piece of garbage that isn’t even worth my mother caring about.
I’ve long been so baffled by what seemed to be my mother’s jealousy over my artistic abilities, and that also now makes sense: my talent and abilities are at the core of who I am and perhaps the only thing that has kept me from becoming nothing more than what’s referred to as a Narcissistic Echo. I AM something, I’m an artist, and while she might be able to dimish me in so many other ways, she can’t take that from me. I think of all the beautiful things I’ve made for her through the years, trying to make her proud of me, trying to show her that I was worth respecting and worth valuing and worth compassion and pride. She was never going to value or respect me, and those pieces of me that are in her hands feel like another horrible violation. I want these pieces of myself back, I’ve asked for them back and not even had my request acknowledged. I don’t feel like I am anything anymore, and gathering up lost bits of myself might help in some way, might help me remember that I am something for my own sake and not just something emptied for someone else’s gain. I am not a farm to be harvested for the sake of my mother’s decor and adornment, and I feel so incredibly violated to have these bits of myself in her hands.
I can understand why therapists might say that parents need to cut off an addicted adult child, or a violent adult child. But I’m not either of those things, and I’ve tried so hard to be a good, loving daughter. There isn’t any reason, EVER, to cut off your daughter who has done nothing more than to become angry over your lies and gaslighting at the moment she’s been raped, is there? That is sick, isn’t it? I can’t imagine responding to one of the boys’ anger in this way; to not hear them and respect them when they have a problem with me. I can’t imagine doing something like this to them, let alone when they needed their mother and family the most.
All these feelings are on top of me now, and I can’t even breathe. Thank you for listening. I truly don’t know how to get this pain and anger out of myself any other way. I just need so badly to be heard by someone.