Narcissistic Parents

Several months of recent correspondence, as well as occasional visits during this time, have given me a very good understanding of who Ed is today; the same man he has always been – a child abuser, coward, rapist.  He is also, in my informed opinion, a narcissist who suffers from cognitive dissonance and self-aggrandizing delusions.  He has not changed, but he has become adept at hiding who he really is, rendering him capable of surviving among the good and decent people in his life today.  He, in some ways, is the luckiest man alive; the Teflon-Man nothing ever sticks to, and he is so good at selling himself; there is a different version of Ed for every man, woman and child in his world – past and present.

On the other hand, I haven’t seen or spoken to Pat since early 1983; she attended my wedding in 1986, but the only exchange we had that day was her telling me that she approved of the new me – whatever that meant.  I  kept my distance; I didn’t want to know her anymore.

There was a time when I knew her far better than anyone else, and despite our lack of communication for more than three decades, this, I have found, is still true.  In fact, I actually know her – I don’t think many other people do …

Kind, thinking, good people assume we all share basic values, and our understanding of mothers comes from the precept that all mothers love their children.  We believe that every mother is dedicated to nurturing and guiding her young children, and is desirous of a solid, affectionate relationship with her children when they are grown.  Mothers who do not reflect this archetype are virtually inconceivable to the rest of us.

When my aunt contacted me after decades of estrangement, she was excited to share with her sister that I had responded to her message wishing me a happy birthday.  My aunt thought my mother would be happy and excited too – she thought perhaps this might give my mother hope that one day I would speak to her as well.

My aunt didn’t understand then that my mother is the antitheses of the mother archetype.  She didn’t love and nurture when I was little, and she damn sure didn’t want a relationship with her grown up son who had lived the truth she had lied about for almost three decades.

When my aunt came back into my life, Pat simply shut her sister out of her life.

I may not have recent personal communication with my mother to offer as support, but the evidence is pretty compelling; she is the same abusive, narcissistic drama queen she has always been.

I used to wonder how Pat could possibly be happy, given everyone she has hurt, but now I understand that she never cared to begin with.  She put on a passable face, said the right things for a time, behaved like people she knew who actually did love and care for their family, but it was never real for her – and her love  was never, ever genuine.  It’s easy to be happy, despite the pain and damage you have caused, when you never cared about anyone other than yourself to begin with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Word

 

I have been stable for a long time now – years really.  Oh, I’ve had bouts with insomnia, and cycles in which stress and fatigue caused my Bipolar symptoms to recur, but I’ve caught it early and those symptoms were, for the most part, very mild.  No psychosis, no deep depression, no impulsive behavior.  If you just met me, and didn’t know I have Bipolar Disorder, nothing about your interaction with me would tip you off.

I am not a spontaneous person by nature, and I over think everything; logical almost to a fault, my emotions seldom get the better of me.  I almost never react in the moment.

But when Ed-the-Narcissist sent me the following note – prompting the ensuing exchange – on April 3rd, during the height of my sister’s most recent crisis, something inside me snapped:

Hi Tim,

 

I said I would go and see Elizabeth after Easter, but for got [sic] I had a jury summons for this week and have been selected to be on a jury expected to last up to 6 weeks.

 

I will get over to see her when I can, and wanted you to know my current limitations.

My reply:

Ed,

 

There was absolutely no expectation on my part that you would reach out to Elizabeth in any that matters; you are a coward, you have always been a coward.  You have not changed.  

 

Jury duty?  In what universe are you a representative of another’s peers? Who the hell are you to sit in judgement of anyone else’s behaviour or choices?  Are juries now comprised of criminals?  

 

My God, Ed … for once, just once, really look at yourself.  

 

His defense:

 

Tim

 

I have no answer for this, The court system has privy to criminal records, so between them and the DMV  jurors are reveiwed [sic] and selected.

And I am still in the jury selection process.

 

The last word:

 

Once again, you miss the point entirely.  I was not speaking of legality, I was speaking of morality – very different things. You are able to exist as you do in society today ONLY because of when you were convicted, and expungement.  Nothing will ever alter the fact that you are a rapist and child abuser, Ed.  Nothing.

 

Your daughter is ill, she will likely die, because of what you did to her.  The fact that you feel no obligation to face that within yourself speaks volumes about your character … today.  Your refusal to reach out to her in any way that matters makes you a coward – and far worse.  

 

No decent human being would condone your behaviour, then … or now. 

 

I haven’t heard from him since …

 

His immoral and egocentric choices didn’t trigger me – I didn’t get sick; I didn’t become depressed or manic – just irrevocably resigned to his complete lack of integrity, honor and character.  He no longer has the power to cause me even  a moment’s instability, and that’s a damn good thing for me to know.

I didn’t say anything to him that isn’t true, but I’d like to have been able to say it devoid of anger and frustration; you can’t win a battle, much less a war, with a narcissist – and I understand that now.   Anger and frustration have passed; lesson learned.

He will die without ever understanding …

and that no longer bothers me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obligation

There was a time when I hated my parents.

Then, for the longest time, I was indifferent.

Now, all I feel for them is pity …

and a great deal of nothing.

In recent email with Ed concerning my sister’s current crisis, I have realized a few things – and when I say realized, I mean not only a certain recognition, but also a deep understanding …

He has no idea how to be a father.

I don’t even think he knows what it means to be a father.

He does things – always the wrong things, that would never even occur to me … or anyone else who has even the most basic idea of how this, I am a parent, thing works.

When Rhonda emailed him several years ago, during my emotional breakdown, to let him know not only that I was very sick, but that it was all his fault (along with Pat) I was sick, he did not respond in any way; no call, no visit, no email reply.  Nothing.

When told Elizabeth was ill, his response has been two fold;  “I hope Pat does something to help her.”  was his first response …

and it was followed by his telling me that if she is a threat to herself or others, I can call Adult Protective Services.  He then explained that because he has had no contact with his daughter himself, he cannot make this call.

Seriously, I just had to shake my head.

His child is sick, and in crisis, and he knows exactly why she is sick … knows and acknowledges that his abuse (along with Pat’s) when she was a child is to blame for her state of mental health, and what does he do?

He sends her an email!  He hasn’t seen her in more that thirty five years, she is mentally ill and in crisis, and he emails her!

When I pointed out that this might not have been the best way to approach her, he agreed with me.

If it weren’t so damn tragic, it would be funny.  How can anyone be this daft?

It is his mess.

She is his child.

And still he does not take responsibility …

still he refuses to fix, or even attempt to fix, what he broke.

He lives in a world where nothing that happened prior to his marrying Marie matters;

nothing before 1985 is relevant:

Ed did not abuse his children.

Ed did not rape his daughter’s fourteen year old friend.

Ed did not fail to live up to even the most basic of obligations to his children.

He has hidden and lied for so long he actually believes he is good.

His children create cognitive dissonance – we are a stark, cold reality – a reminder that he isn’t who and what he believes himself to be.

I get it.  I do.

As sick as he made his children …

he has made himself even sicker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgiveness and Restitution

“Forgiveness is created by the restitution of the abuser; of the wrongdoer. It is not something to be squeeeeeezed out of the victim in a further act of conscience-corrupting abuse.”  

 

Upon learning of my sister’s latest crisis, Ed sent me the following note:

 

… “Yes Pat and I are both responsible for what happened to both of you and where you are today.

 

 

I don’t know how to reach out to Elizabeth or even if I should. Hopefully Pat is able to do something for her.”

 

 

Thankfully where I am today is not cause for alarm …

 

 

despite his admission: “Pat and I are both responsible for what happened to both of you and where you are today.”  There is no personal accountability, no need to do what’s right in the face of the destruction he has left in his wake  …

 

 

How does anyone admit life-altering abuse and then leave it all up to someone else to take care of?

 

 

Pat has disowned Elizabeth in every way that matters, there will be no assistance from Pat.

 

 

Ed,

 

 

As far as not knowing how to reach Elizabeth, there is Google.  She is not difficult to find.

 

 

Or, here’s a thought …

 

 

you could summon the courage to ask me.

 

 

Or you could do something anonymously …

 

 

Or you could simply thank Bev for attempting to clean up your mess.

 

 

If it mattered, or if you understood, you would find a way – even  small, indirect acts of restitution have meaning.

 

 

Hoping that Pat does something for her is laughable …

 

 

Pat, the mother who beat her?

 

 

Pat, the mother who abandoned her physically and emotionally for her entire life?

 

 

Pat, the mother who portrays herself as the victim of her adult children’s cold and callous neglect …

 

 

Pat, the mother who still denies she did anything at all wrong?

 

 

Whether or not you should reach out to Elizabeth … ?

 

 

That all depends on what’s stopping you …

 

 

Is it unconditional love for your daughter?

 

Concern that seeing the monster who caused all this would only make her sicker?

 

 

Or is it your own inability to face her?

 

 

Your own fear, weakness and cowardice?

 

 

Once again, you’ve made everything all about Ed …

 

 

when it should be all about what is best for your child.

 

Pat, Ed and Elizabeth

My sister is at my aunt’s house, she arrived there yesterday.  The goal is to give Elizabeth someplace safe to detox while directing her toward treatment and recovery.  I have not seen her yet; she sent Rhonda a message yesterday asking that we not visit as she doesn’t want us to see her as she is now.  It is tragic.

We were never close, but it is hard to know she is so sick, disturbed and dysfunctional.  She has lost everything; her husband and child, her family, her job; her financial situation, as she states it to be, is abysmal – I don’t even know if she currently has health insurance.  This has to be the place known as, Rock Bottom.

She keeps saying she has nothing left to live for.  We keep telling her she has to learn to live for herself now …

Children are fragile.  There is a limit to what they can endure and still become whole, functional adults.  I don’t know where in her childhood – the exact moment in time, Pat and Ed broke their daughter, but it happened, and now she is here.

She believed our parents when they told her she was bad and deserved to be beaten, shamed and humiliated.  She endured our mother’s abandonment, and our father’s sexual depravity.  She lived without parental attention and affection, and she survived their sustained emotional alienation and abuse.

But she has never understood our parent’s abuse was never about her, it was always about them.  She was not a bad child, they were/are bad people.

No matter what she did, she did not deserve to be treated the way she was by Pat and Ed. They were adults, she was a child; the nature of their relationship with each other was created and developed by them, and as adults they bear ALL the responsibility for the outcome …

Just as Elizabeth now bears all the responsibility for the fractured relationship she has with her own child.

I sent Ed a very brief email last week, but I do not think Pat knows how sick Elizabeth is currently.

Ed did nothing …

and Pat’s response would likely be the same.

I’m a father who believes that giving up on your child is never an option.  Never, ever.  No matter what.  I couldn’t do what Pat and Ed are doing now …

anymore than I could have done what they did to cause this.

My sister is critically ill.  She may die.

And yes, her life apart because she refused care.  She refused treatment.  She refused to get well …

she has never understood that our past, our childhood, was not about her, ever.

Ed wants the world to believe he has changed, yet where is he when his daughter desperately needs help?

Pat lives in denial, despite the fact that no one who knows her believes her anymore.

My God, if Ed had changed, he’d make an effort – some sort of gesture.

And if Pat’s story were true, Elizabeth would be at her house, not our aunt’s.

The abuse has not ended …

and Pat and Ed have not changed.

Coping With What They Broke

“If you want to keep a secret, you must hide it from yourself.” — George Orwell

My sister’s current circumstances have me thinking a great deal about self-delusion.  As a child, self-delusion was a tool of survival for her, and as she grew up, she seemed to integrate certain aspects of reality into her life, but she also left many others in the shadows.  She has told me our father molested her, she has told me that our mother knew it was happening, and she has told me that both of our parents beat her mercilessly – the last part, the beatings, I actually witnessed, but the molestation I did not see first hand.

She, unlike me with either parent, allowed our mother a place in her adult life; she hasn’t spoken to our father since just after he went to jail for raping her best friend when she was fourteen years old. My estrangement from both parents came in my early twenties, but Elizabeth never fully closed the door on our mother.  When we spoke of this, briefly, she told me she was afraid to walk away from Pat – afraid if she did that she would someday be left with no one.  This statement left me unbelievably sad for my sister given all our mother had done to her, and all she had allowed our father to do; to believe she was somehow better off with Pat in her life was inconceivable to me.

Ed is also adept at keeping secrets from himself.  He has told me the past reveals itself to him in dreams – dreams from which he awakens tearful and badly shaken.  He has moments now, waking moments, when he is near his young step-grandsons, moments which leave him in a state of saddened and shocked disbelief at what he is capable of doing; these very young children are currently about the same age I was when he was cruelly and brutally beating me with his belt.  The past is dark and full of terrors …

it is easier to keep some secrets, especially from ourselves.

Pat’s recollections of the past are less known to me today than are those of Ed and Elizabeth, but she was always skilled at putting her own spin on life.  I don’t think she is delusional though, I think she knows exactly what she is doing, and has done.  She keeps secrets from others, and always has, and she may even want to believe the lies she has told others herself, but her biggest issue is a life-long lack of empathy and compassion – and perhaps a misconception of events and circumstances as they actually occurred.

And me?  I buried the past deep within and hoped it would never again see the light of day. I walked away, created a life for myself, found happiness and never looked back.  I didn’t forget, I didn’t repress, I didn’t deny, and I didn’t keep secrets from myself – I just got very good at not remembering – not allowing myself to remember … and when, despite my resolve, dark memories would occasionally find their way into my consciousness, I would ignore any and all feelings associated with them.  I set myself up for an inevitable breakdown, but it was the only way to survive.

I understand a lot now – and I have answers I never thought I would have, but there are still questions …

and I’m sure I will never know all of what my sister experienced in childhood …

She, like our parents, is very good at keeping secrets …

and hiding things from everyone, including herself.

Responsibility

“The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life.” — Hal Elrod

I write a lot about responsibility and ownership of personal mistakes, behavior and choices.  I hold people accountable for their actions, especially when they hurt others.

In my own life, I hold Pat and Ed directly responsible for the illness I will contend with for the rest of my life – the illness is, without a doubt, the direct result of their reprehensible parenting.

However, no one – including Pat and Ed, is responsible for my choices, behavior and actions.  I alone own all of those things, and I alone assume responsibility for the good as well as the bad.

Having an illness – be it Bipolar Disorder or Alcoholism, does not absolve me, or my sister, of the pain we have caused the people in our lives.  The choices we make are still our own, despite knowing why we make them …

the bottom line is very clear: there is no one to blame but ourselves.

Knowing why I have Bipolar Disorder was the foundation I needed to get well; we can’t fix what’s wrong until we know what’s wrong.  Why matters, it is important – vital even, to our recovery …

but it does not give us people we can rightfully blame for our own repugnant behavior, bad choices, or the miserable state of our life.

Elizabeth – no one other than you is responsible for your life today; you and you alone bear that burden.   You had terrible parents, and you will carry the scars of childhood for the rest of your life; I will never say, ‘get over it,’ because I know you can’t – I know it is part of you, part of your brain chemistry …

but it does not have to be your life.

If you choose to blame rather than get well, that is ALL on you …

Not on Pat …

Or Ed …

Or Jim ..

Or, most especially, Jacqueline.

The Legacy Continues …

“Healing from childhood abuse is not going mad, it is going sane.

Jan Hawkins

It seems my sister is drinking again – not that she had stopped really, but there had been no crisis of which I was aware for several months.  Last weekend, that changed.

The text message my aunt Bev sent Rhonda asking if we had heard from Elizabeth was ominous; I never know quite how to feel where Elizabeth is concerned, and hearing from her can mean a myriad of things, most of which are not good.

It seems Elizabeth needed a place to detox for seventy-two hours so that she could admit herself to rehab.

This is her latest cry for help; over the years there have been dozens.  Suicide attempts which began in adolescence, alcoholism, misuse of prescription drugs, unsafe and risky behavior, sexual promiscuity as far back as high school – I could go on and on.

And now, she has lost everyone she ever truly loved – her husband and only child.  This was the ultimate cost of her refusal to face and deal with her childhood …

If I – or our aunt Bev, believed she would stay at our house for seventy-two hours and detox, then enter rehab and do the work she must do to get well, we’d have both been there for her in a heartbeat …

but we’ve heard it all before – many, many times.

It’s sad – no, it’s tragic.  I know why she is as she is – I lived the same childhood nightmare she did.

My aunt advised Elizabeth to call her mother, and I understand this; she should be able to call her mother, and find help there.  But Pat was never a mother …

Or Ed, Elizabeth should call her father …

I guess I think Pat and Ed should call her – she is what they made her.  Only and exactly what they made her.  She needs them …

but that doesn’t matter and it never did – if it had, Elizabeth wouldn’t be where she is now.

Yes, she is an adult, and she has to take responsibility for her life, but Pat and Ed alone are to blame for her illness(s).

And in the end, every child should be able to call his/her mother and father and find emotional support, and a soft place to land …

and heal.

After all this time, they – Pat and Ed, continue to fail as parents, and as human beings.

What It Takes To Forgive

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“I remember you being hurt at the picnic and crying. You had done something I told you not to do and got hurt. Instead of comforting you and making sure you were OK, I got furious and literally dragged you across the lenght of the park (Washington Park across the street and down the block from our house), down the block and into the house. I remember people yelling at me not to be cruel to such a small defenseless child and my telling them to “f  * off, you were my son and I treat you anyway I wanted.” That I own completely as being a real A.. hole. You were being just a 5-6 year old kid wanting to be a part of the grown-up games, not some piece of trash on which I could vent my anger.

 

Now the hard part, the violent uncontrolled spankings, these I remember most deeply. I don’t remember the specific incident where you lost control of your bowels; I just remember being told that it happened. I do remember spanking you so hard my hand hurt, not the physical pain I was causing you, and that my hand hurt after I was through, and for several days thereafter. That incident remained so deep in my heart that it was one of the unresolved items I had to face during counseling sessions later- coming face-to face with the horror of what I did to you. That took me a long time to face and accept all that anger in myself and to resolve NEVER again to do anything like that. And I never have!”

 

 

The text above is from an email from Ed I received not long after he first contacted me.  It was difficult to read, and until now impossible to process or respond to …

The incident he recalls from above – the one where his hand hurt for several days following the beating (I will never refer to this as spanking) he gave me is one of dozens such incidents – but he usually used a stick or a belt to beat me, telling me he wouldn’t use his hand because he didn’t want his hand to hurt … so much for the pain deep in his heart.

And the day of the picnic, after he got me home, stripped me naked and beat me with a belt so long, so hard and so violently I actually remember being afraid he was never going to stop – and when he finally did, he left me alone, in the bathtub, sobbing incoherently.  The trauma of that day will never leave me.

And as for his never beating another child – he hasn’t had the opportunity; his own grew up, and his step-son, Jeffrey, had his mother and father for protection.  Not beating another child required no resolve on Ed’s part to accomplish, no personal growth or discipline to achieve.

Ed,

Now …

tell me again how it is you knew you had done all of these things to me, yet you didn’t know why I cut you out of my life.

Or that you cannot recall the many MULTIPLE beatings you gave me just like those you’ve confessed to … or the day-to-day hell I suffered and survived just being your son.

Today – you need to confront this horror with me.  Therapist be damned – you know exactly who and what you were while I was growing up, and you know exactly what you did time and time and time again.

You want my forgiveness, and I want to forgive you, but for that to happen you have to get completely real and honest with yourself and with me.

The time for selective memory has passed, no more seeing yourself through the veil of isolated incidents.  You were a violent, cruel, rage-filled and terrible father throughout my childhood; you beat so often and so hard my fear of you was palpable; you (and Pat) are the cause of mental illness and scars no one can heal.

And for God’s sake, stop with the daft, “I didn’t know, ” nonsense; you were there when it all happened, hell you did it!   You lived the same life in the same house I did – every. Single. Day.  What you recall above should be enough for you to understand we aren’t discussing an occasional mistake made by and otherwise caring and devoted father – we are talking about the fact that you were an angry out-of-control father who heinously abused his children at every turn …

Child abuse, Ed.  Child abuse you committed over and over and over again.   

See yourself as you truly were,

and own your truth, all of it.

 

The Power of Information

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Information and knowledge are power, this is especially true when trying to understand an illness or disease – any illness or disease. Medical professionals, no matter how diligent, educated, competent and compassionate they are can be a limited resource; we get the best care when we ourselves are well informed and actively involved in treatment and wellness.

Long before anyone suspected I was Bipolar, I developed gout – a very painful form of inflammatory arthritis.  I was, at the time, forty years old; fit and healthy.  Even with dietary monitoring, which should have been all I needed, we could not isolate the cause of my acute and chronic flare-ups, so my physician suggested I begin a course of preventative medication.  When I agreed, he gave me a list of possible pharmaceuticals and told me to go home and research them, compare them against my symptoms, and call him when I was ready for him to write the prescription.  I learned a lot through this experience, most importantly to be an informed patient actively involved in my own care and health management.

Information is power; whether you have Bipolar Disorder yourself, or love someone who does, knowledge of the disease is an invaluable asset.  The following links are to some of the best information I have found online – for the patient and his family and friends.

1. bpHope – The single most comprehensive, up-to-date, user-friendly site I have found; solid and useful information on all aspects of Bipolar Disorder.  A great resource.  Follow on Facebook, an easy way to become and stay informed.

2. Mental Health Advocates United – While not specific to Bipolar Disorder, this site is advocacy at its best and most powerful.  Understand and end the stigma.  Follow on Facebook to have daily inspiration appear in your news feed.

3. NAMI – a great place to start your research; broad, general information you can use to target specific aspects of diagnosis and treatment – a spring board for more more in-depth personal study.  Incredibly useful for finding support groups and hospitals in your area.  Legal, financial and social help/tools are just a click away.  Calls for help are promptly returned.  Wonderful, caring people.

Relationships have the best chance of thriving, despite Bipolar Disorder, when family and friends understand the condition and learn to separate the illness from the person they love.  If you love someone with the disease, become informed – for yourself, and them.

If you have Bipolar Disorder yourself, it is vitally important to be informed.  Successful treatment requires your educated involvement – and it means a solid, healthy life for you – and your family.