I’m in my mid-40s and I still fight my inner thoughts that tell me I am worthless, unimportant, insignificant.
It doesn’t help that my parents still remind me, if not so much in the words they used to use during my childhood and youth, but in their action, inaction, criticism of myself and family, my parenting choices and lifestyle. They mostly just ignore me and my children. They’re uninterested in what we do. I don’t bother to share our triumphs with them. I rarely call them and when they call me, it’s only to list their medical appointments and complain about everything.
As an only child, I didn’t know anything different than my life with my dysfunctional parents. Since I wasn’t sexually molested or physically beaten, I didn’t realize I was being abused verbally, emotionally, and psychologically. I think many of us just wave away abuse and think others have it so much worse.
I often didn’t eat lunch at school. I remember sitting at the dinner table many nights, refusing to eat. I had frequent migraines for many years. I remember having painful digestive issues. I don’t have many memories of my mother comforting me or caring for me when I was sick or not feeling well. I remember my father with cold, wet washcloths and massaging my eyebrows.
I felt like a burden whenever I was sick, like I was inconveniencing my parents.
I struggled to make friends at school. I struggled with school, but I managed to make good enough grades and stay out of trouble for the most part.
I didn’t know other families were happy, loving, accepting while mine was demeaning, humiliating, intolerant.
Kids can’t be expected to recognize dismissal, emotional neglect, narcissism. I just learned to cope and avoid and cater to my parents’ sporadic moods. I woke up every single morning with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, worried what tantrums my parents might have that day and over what minor inconvenience or misspoken word by me.
I had a lot of freedom as a kid in the 1980s.
But it was mostly neglect.
I had no escape, no safe spaces.
We didn’t attend church. I mostly felt lost and alone at school. I was sent outside to play if I was home.
After school and during summers, I ran the neighborhood, often having lunch at a friend’s house and not coming home until the street lights came on.
My dad traveled a lot and it was more peaceful when he was gone. I wasn’t allowed to have friends over if he was home. I didn’t know this was unusual. I always accepted an invitation to a friend’s house to get away from my own home.
I avoided most of my friends’ parents while also silently begging for attention. They probably thought I was weird. I feared all adults, all authority.
My jack o’lantern was always smashed in the street on Halloween. The yard was often TP’ed and the house and mailbox egged. I didn’t know what this meant, but I realized much later that my dad was hated in the neighborhood for years for his outspoken intolerance and criticism. My parents didn’t have any friends.
My bedroom door didn’t close; the hinges were warped. I wasn’t allowed privacy. Closing the bathroom door never mattered; my parents would walk in without knocking.
I was encouraged to try many activities, but they never lasted long. I longed to do ballet and learn piano, but it never happened. Ballet lessons were “too expensive.” We had an old, out-of-tune organ and I got lessons for a few months when I was in fourth grade, but it was hard to practice. They wouldn’t pay to tune the organ or get me a piano keyboard. I didn’t know there were recreational sports, but I’m sure it was also too expensive.
I was a cheerleader in eighth grade and I can’t remember a single game where my parents attended to watch me cheer. They didn’t even pick me up from games. I had to bum rides from other parents to Pizza Hut and my parents would pick me up there. It was embarrassing to be the only kid without parents.
I tried basketball and tennis in school but I felt very out of place and didn’t know all the rules of the games.
I wasn’t allowed to take art in high school except for one semester as an elective. It was a tiny victory.
When I became a teenager and expected to do teenager things, my dad criticized me for wanting to hang out with friends or date. He acted jealous and irrational. I had no privacy. There was no trust. I’m surprised he got me a car – a 1974 VW Bug for $650. I’m surprised he let me have a part-time job and keep all my money. I had to lie and deceive just to go meet a friend at a store or restaurant or the library. He acted jealous I wanted to have other relationships.
I was never a bad kid. I was too scared to ever really do anything. I was always home on time, but I was yelled at if I was even one minute late. There was never any grace.
It hit me hard the other day that my parents told me I was unlovable and made me break up with my boyfriend when I was about eighteen. He was a lovely boy and his family were great. They loved me. They were kind and good to me.
Who knows where it could have gone if it had been allowed to progress naturally? Would we have grown apart during college? Would we have grown together? I will never know.
My parent’s selfishness and unwillingness to relinquish control broke both me and him. I never got to apologize to him. I found him on social media and he’s divorced with a couple kids and remarried. I won’t contact him to dredge up anything because why should I now, so many years later. It would be selfish of me. None of it was his fault.
My parents also gaslighted me after my suicide attempt when I was 21, that I was just being used by the man I was seeing. Again, they told me I was unlovable and stupid to put myself in this vulnerable position where they continued to control me.
My parents found therapists and doctors to tell them what great parents they were and how childish I was. I hadn’t reached individuation. I had no autonomy. I mean, really? I was 21, being treated like a 12-year-old.
A child that’s being abused by its parents doesn’t stop loving its parents, it stops loving itself.Shahida Arabi, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself
I was weak and hurt and fragile. I felt trapped.
This pushed me over the edge to run away and marry him.
I regret this, but it is what it is. What if I had been stronger? What if I’d had any support from anyone?
After I ran away, my parents found another therapist to tell them what a bad daughter I was – selfish and childish and ungrateful.
But I wasn’t a bad daughter. I was a desperate daughter, seeking connection.
My parents love to remind me all they did for me. They bought me clothes and kept the groceries stocked and paid for the house we lived in.
They provided for my basic needs.
They bought cars and paid for the insurance until I ran away. I never really asked for or wanted the cars that they traded in every couple years. It was like a weird game for them. They claimed newer cars were safer. Obviously I needed a way to get to school and work and I appreciated not having the bills.
They paid for my divorce. My parents co-signed for my apartment. Then my father co-signed on my home mortgage.
But, they never paid for my education. I did that with scholarships for my bachelor’s and a loan for my master’s. They maybe paid some tuition when I dual enrolled as a high school senior and paid for some books and admin fees.
Oh, how they love to remind me about every little thing.
Everything had strings attached.
They don’t value emotions or struggles or triumphs.
They refuse to discuss anything they don’t like.
Moving away was probably the best thing I ever did.
I had panic attacks the first two years. Then I spent a few years trying on personae to see who I liked. I didn’t know who I wanted to be. I couldn’t remember what I had ever liked.
It took many years to learn how to be myself. Sometimes I still forget.
Yes, I have been to various therapists. Yes, I have tried various medications for depression and anxiety. It’s been a long, hard road – to nowhere.
I am healing myself.
My parents have never expressed interest in maintaining contact with me or my children via snail mail, social media, or any communication technology. They just don’t want to. They sometimes complain that my emails go to their spam folder, but I don’t understand how that would happen.
My parents only visited us a few times times during all these sixteen years. They always stayed in hotels, which is a small blessing.
My parents drove out to San Antonio, Texas, twice, for the births of my middle girls. They were no help to us during that time. I had to entertain them and go out to dinner with them – all sooner than I should have left the house.
They flew to Hawaii for a vacation during December – the rainiest dreariest month. My father was sick almost the whole time and the plane ride for hard for him.
He couldn’t be bothered to come back out for the birth of my son a year later. My mother came alone and it was stressful. I had to rely on her for help. After all, wasn’t that why she was there? She was cruel to my daughters and I was unavailable and didn’t know until after she had flown home.
Then they visited me and the kids in Utah while my husband was deployed. My kids’ schedules were greatly disrupted and my parents wanted me to cater to their needs – to the detriment of my children. They got mad at me and left early, then sent me hate mail about what a bad mother I am and such a disrespectful daughter.
They never visited us while we lived in Germany.
We stayed with my parents before PCSing to Germany and when we PCSed back to The States. It was stressful. My dad had tantrums and left for an entire day, disappointing my son. Promises were not kept with my eldest. Everything was performance-based and we were all so confused.
They came up to Ohio for Christmas when my husband was deployed the second time. It was mostly ok. They stayed at a hotel and my kids are older and busier and less bothered by them.
They surprised my husband by driving up for his promotion ceremony in spring. They adore my husband.
Over the years, my relationship with my parents is superficial at best.
I reply to their emails every day or two. If I don’t email every day, I get criticized for not caring. They use Yahoo email like the rest of us use Messenger and they think my replies should be instant. My dad still has an ancient cell phone that only makes and receives calls. My mom got a newer Android phone but she doesn’t really know how to use it.
It’s been a lot. I’ve spent years trying to heal myself and this generational trauma.
I’ve struggled to make healthy relationships with others all my life. I worry my kids don’t know how to make and keep friends because they don’t see me or their father succeed in this. I feel alone and lost.
My parents have ignored me since January 6 and I really don’t know why this time.
They periodically do this and I always contacted them to apologize – for nothing, anything, just to make amends to whatever imagined ill they felt I inflicted.
Perhaps they’re mad that I voted differently and have different political views. My father emailed my husband, telling him he bought a gun and carry license.
I carry all this heaviness around with me all the time. My kids and husband don’t have these weights. They will never understand.
I am not insignificant.
- Mothers Who Can’t Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters by Susan Forward
- Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters: A Guide For Separation, Liberation & Inspiration by Karen C.L. Anderson
- I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality by Jerold J. Kreisman
- Recovering from Narcissistic Mothers: A Daughter’s Guide by Brenda Stephens
- Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride
- Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself by Shahida Araby
- Recovering from Emotionally Immature Parents: Practical Tools to Establish Boundaries and Reclaim Your Emotional Autonomy by Lindsay C. Gibson
- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson
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