***TW mention of suicide***
Being raised by a narcissist is the absolute worst. It is crazy-making, stretching the fucking tentacles of self-doubt around everything, for years and years and years, even when they are not in our lives any longer, they are still there, ruining everything. I cannot work out what is real about me and how I’ve lived and parented. The shame and despair and panic in me over what I am, how bad I am, what I’ve done and how much I’ve broken Nina is just never ending sometimes.
This lockdown is breaking me. It is still 10 weeks till Nina goes back to school. I am working all but 3 of those weeks so she will be home, pranging out about things and provoking me. She is ‘off school’ for 7 of those weeks, officially on holiday, and I don’t know how to cope. I’m so scared I’m going to break her this summer and that all my hard work not to be an out of control, dysregulated, abusive parent will be obliterated.
Being in lockdown with a teenager on my own is fucking hell. Honestly. I cannot do this anymore. I wish she was still little and I was enough for her, so that even if I was tired out, at least I could make her happy. Nina’s teen brain, that reads everything as threat even where none is meant or intended, means she is constantly freaking out that I am angry with her, that I don’t like her, that I wish she wasn’t here. Apparently this is ‘normal’ for teens, they read every facial expression as anger, but it still triggers me into spirals of self-loathing – what have I done to her? I cannot bear that she would think I am angry with her all the time, that I hate her, because I love her so much and she is growing up to be someone so amazing. And then I lose my temper so badly that it must completely confirm to her that I really am angry with her all the time.
Every time I ask her – nicely – to do something she flips out in defensive anger at me. And I expend so much energy on not reacting, staying calm, but then I flip out back at her and all the hard work is wasted. In those moments I’m just like my mum, for minutes not hours like she was maybe, but it is enough. The damage is done. I don’t know how much damage and it drives me mad not knowing how badly I’ve fucked her up – ‘when will we know?’ I ask K. And her words reassure me for a few minutes and then the self-loathing and shame engulf me again, and voices whisper that she’d be better off without me. Maybe she would.
K reassures me she’s fine, a normal teen, not damaged and traumatised but how does she know? She doesn’t see me yelling. She doesn’t see me swearing. She didn’t see me in the middle of the night last night when Nina had woken me up AGAIN going to the loo at some stupid time (because as far as she’s concerned this is a 6 month holiday and she is totally self-absorbed at her age and has no concerns about me beyond whether I will shout at her), when I was trying to sleep ahead of another full week of work, when I yelled and slammed my door and left her crying in her bed because I couldn’t deal with the fall out of my anger, didn’t have time for the repair because I needed to sleep. She didn’t see Nina in tears this morning because she couldn’t sleep after that. And yes I repaired it, apologised without making excuses for myself, explained the pressure of the pandemic, the stress and worry over money and job safety, and everything falling apart, how hard it is to work in a demanding job like mine when I am tired, distracted, stressed. But the repair wasn’t enough. She is still mad with me. We couldn’t make it right today. It needs to be left and not forced.
I have spent hours and hours and hours trying to be a good parent, and I know in some ways I have been attuned and empathic and fun, but I don’t know if it’s been enough to save my daughter from going through what I have been through and I am scared. I try so hard but all it takes is a few fucking angry words, a few sighs and eye rolls, and I’m in the territory of my own mum and it honestly makes me wish we were both dead. And she will never see or know or understand all the good I’ve done, all the ways I’ve not been like my mum, all the ways I’ve not fucked her up and broken her. All she will see is the damage, the shouting, the tears.
I’m scared I’ve given her too much information about her grandma, that she has that to use against me, that she can tell me I’m the same because she doesn’t know how bad her grandma really was. But maybe I’m just trying to reassure myself when really I am just as bad. I can see that she thinks it is never okay for people to yell, and really it isn’t but we are human and living through a global crisis, and she conflates this sense that people shouldn’t yell with the idea that I am mean and shout about nothing and that she is always in the right. It is like her normal teenage feelings about me, about being unwanted and misunderstood, get all tangled up with the narcissistic/borderline legacy and she gets it all out of proportion too, thinking I am always in the wrong, thinking I should never raise my voice when she has been reminded for the tenth time to do something. I feel like I’ve over-reacted so many times during this lockdown, when she’s been having a meltdown over clothes or her hair or her eyebrows when I’m trying to work, or yelled in the car when we’ve tried to go out somewhere because my window of tolerance has shrunk even smaller than a letterbox lately, and that has just confirmed for her that I’m an utter fuck up and that every time I shout I’m like her grandma, rather than a normal parent doing their best through a fucking pandemic.
Earlier I found something she wrote last night, after I shouted, saying how scared she is of me and that she never knows when I’m going to shout and it is not okay how I treat her. And I know the teen brain splits people, wipes out all the good and can only see the bad when it is under threat, but what if she really is nervous of me all the time? I want to say it’s not all the time, it can’t be, that there are times, lots of them, when we are relaxed and happy and laughing, but maybe it is that bad for her. I know that parents can do a lot of damage without meaning to. I don’t know how bad my mum was because I can’t remember, but I know it was bad enough that I fragmented into 23 different parts (at least) and that 5 years of therapy hasn’t been enough to untangle what she did to me, let alone heal it. I can’t believe Nina, who says until lockdown she felt happy nearly all the time, is broken like me, but no one knows. K says she would know by now, but what if she only wants to see the good in me? What if she can’t imagine what I’m really like?
I feel like I’m going fucking mad. For years when I felt suicidal I knew I’d have to take Nina with me because I couldn’t leave her alone with our fucked up family. For the first time tonight I really am wondering if she would be better off without me. I’m not going to act on this so please don’t worry, but it crosses my mind more than it should that I should leave her now when there is a chance of her being okay still.
K and I talked earlier about me at 13 – already smoking, anorexic, beginning to purge, self-harming, getting really very drunk and kissing older men. I told her about New Year’s Eve when I was 13 when I threw myself down a really steep flight of stairs because I knew it wouldn’t hurt because I was so drunk. I could have broken my neck. K said it is no wonder Nina is triggering my system all the time at the moment, when the parts have no space and were so broken and reckless at that age. I said I feel invisible when Nina wakes me in the night or refuses to help at home or argues with every single thing I say, and K says I was invisible to my parents at that age so it’s no wonder I am finding this so hard.
Nina is not invisible to me. But she will never see all the good. Only the bad. And I can’t fucking tell what is real. I don’t know what is normal. I don’t know what ‘good enough’ parenting is since I clearly never had it. And I don’t know how bad I am. I don’t know if I’m splitting myself, if Nina is splitting me. I don’t know if her love for me is trauma bonding. I know my mum wasn’t crazy and abusive all the time, if she had been it would be easier, because it is that which makes me utterly crazy as I cannot work out what is real about me and others and the past. I constantly doubt myself even when I’m good enough so I have no idea now if I’m doing an okay job with this, and there is no way of finding out, no way of reassuring myself, since my mum reassured herself by denying all the fucking awful abusive shit she did and so maybe I am just like her and doing that too. I don’t know if I feel like I’ve really fucked up badly as a parent because I’m finally facing the truth about myself, that I’m a really shit, selfish, angry, abusive person, or if it’s because my parents fucked me up so much that I still split myself and end up unable to see anything good about myself. And if Nina is splitting me is it normal for a teen to do this, to speak in all-or-nothing always/never statements, or is it because her brain is fucked up too?
I honestly feel like I’m losing my fucking mind. I never, ever want Nina to feel this way, ever in her life. Not now and not in 24 years time when she is my age. I want her to know what is real and what isn’t, but how can I teach her that when I don’t even know myself.
9 thoughts on “Bad blood (2)”
CB you are a great parent. And I’ve seen it. N is a wonderful girl. And sure she’s going through the teenage hell years now but the difference is you are self aware and you make repairs and you give her space to be herself. None of us had that. Life is never going to be straightforward but how you manage bumps in the road is really a testament to you. Especially given what you’ve experienced and still struggle with. It doesn’t feel great when we know we’ve lost our shit but I think the guilt we carry is often more than the impact we have on the kids themselves due to the nature of our traumas. So long as you keep dialogue channels open and keep repairing bit by bit it’s all gonna be fine. And remember we’re only looking for ‘good enough’ parenting … and I’m telling you you are more than good enough. Take care of yourself x
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Thank you for this lovely comment RB, it was and is so appreciated. It really pushed me to remember that I’m not damaged like this because my mum shouted too much (though that was part of it) but, as you say, because we don’t have a sense of self because of narcissistic and engulfing parenting and we were emotionally neglected right from the start. I think the bit I find hardest is that all the ways I’m not like my mum are invisible to Nina – that’s how it should be, but because narcissistic abuse and gaslighting is so insidious she can’t possibly understand what her grandma was like, so as far as she’s concerned when I lose my shit I’m just like her grandma (my biggest fear, obviously). I’m trying to hang on to all the ways I’m NOT like my mum and all the ways I validate and really hear Nina, and let her be who she is without judgement or criticism.
Jeez, this stuff is so tough. I’ve honestly never been as triggered and full of rage in my life as I have been since Nina turned full on teen – definitely make sure you have support for it when it arrives for you!! Nothing could have prepared me for what it is like to have someone almost constantly challenging and criticising and being confrontational, or what it is like for teen parts to be around a teenager who mostly has everything they needed at that age but couldn’t have! xx
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Ouch. This is painful for you… and makes so much sense for you to feel this way and question.
Re teens, yes it is normal. They split and can only see a full picture years later.
If you can, try believe in Ks belief in you.
I hope and pray that as you can get out more it’ll be easier for Nina, and thereby you, to handle.
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Thank you so much for understanding why this is so difficult and why I feel this way. I honestly felt like I would go mad last night. I think you’re right that it will ease as Nina is with me less – at the moment she is witnessing and observing every fluctuation in my mood and emotions pretty much, whereas normally so much more would be hidden from her and her focus would not be so much on me (and it is so much easier for me to contain things when it is just 45 minutes in the morning and a few hours in the evening that I am with her!).
Thank you also for what you said about teens and splitting, it really helped. I also managed to find a website which said it is a process that resolves after adolescence (which I guess is why BPD is rarely diagnosed before adulthood, because a lot of the behaviours are on the spectrum of ‘normal’ until that point). It’s really hard seeing Nina behaving like my mum, till I remember it’s because my mum basically never grew up and I was parented by a toddler/teenager most of the time!
I spoke to K this morning and managed to calm down a little – she reminded me I started therapy 5 years ago because I was scared of turning into my mum and that I’ve done everything in my power to not be like that.
Hugs gratefully received. I hope you’re okay and hugs back at ya xx
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I’m glad it helped speaking to K.
And totally re splitting. Although I still relate to a lot of aspects of BPD, a lot of them I feel like I’ve just outgrown as time went on- not just changing and learning, just naturally. And my nieces and nephews, I see their behaviour from when they turned 9 and became teenagers. N really sounds like a pretty normal teen for reacting that way. Just really tough for you…. (and her too).
I’m glad for this that lockdown lifts a bit and she’ll get more space. Will she be seeing her friends at all when it lifts more?
I hope today is a good night for you… 🤗🤗
Love, light and glitter
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Yeah, she is quite a nightmare at the moment even when I’m not stressed and snappy! I’m really trying to employ my wise mind and observe her reacting angrily and defensively to every single thing I say, even when I’m not cross/angry/harsh/nagging – it helps to see that our communication issues are not just me. And I guess the more I manage to stay present and calm myself, the more I can reassure myself that I am being fair and kind and she is still over-reacting.
She has been seeing friends at weekends again and tonight her swimming squad are starting land based sessions outdoors. So hopefully this will ease things for her a little, even if it makes me busier… xx
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I’m glad! It will make you busier but worth it…
I really liked what I saw about NVC – nonviolent communication.
I hope tonight is okay for you…
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That’s so interesting you mentioned NVC – it’s a big part of the extinction rebellion movement and I was actually noticing today I was using similar skills with Nina as we do for de-escalating to keep protests peaceful. It’s a big lesson for me with her right now around not always needing to be right or heard or needing to correct someone on their perception of me and what I meant or said. Just trying to step back and disengage more from her, and accepting we perhaps won’t have lots of lovely times together like we’ve had in the past for a while now. Thanks for your support and insights and giving me space to work through some of this is in the comments, I really appreciate it 💛✨🌙
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You’ve got this….