I used to never think of my mother as having an actual mental condition. I would always just refer to her and her behavior towards me and everyone else in her life as crazy, evil, or just plain nuts. But after I wrote my bestselling book, Why Me, I got a lot of emails from people with mothers like mine; selfish, self-centered, vain women who really shouldn’t have had a child in the first place.
So what was my mother like and what was it like growing up with a mother who I believe now, suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder? While there are many more characteristics and traits of someone with this disorder; these experiences are what stand out in my mind.
• My mother was a fantastic story teller. And by story teller; I don’t mean she made up little fairy tales at night for me and my sister. She always had a story in any situation that outdid what anyone else was sharing. For example; someone we knew had just returned from a concert and was sharing their story with us about how amazing it was. But Mom had been to a better concert, had better seats, actually went backstage with the band; and wouldn’t you know that one of the band members actually wrote a song about her?
My Mom’s story wasn’t true of course; I wouldn’t figure that out until I was an adult. But that was just how Mom was my entire life. No matter what anyone else did or had experienced, Mom had it either done it better or had it worse. No one could one-up her and she was a pro at knocking any achievement I had won and making it clear that she was alpha dog and always would be.
• Nothing was ever good enough for Mom and it was everyone else’s fault that she was so miserable. Mom wanted a fat bank account, lobster every Sunday, luxurious vacations, and designer clothes; none of which was possible on my stepdad’s salary and her lack of employment. She felt that she deserved to be a millionaire and would often mock and threaten my stepdad with leaving him and finding a richer man. Every Christmas and every birthday I could see the disappointment written on her face when no present was good enough or expensive enough for her.
It was hell growing up with a woman like this because I was often used as a punching bag when she got frustrated to the point of no return. When we couldn’t afford steak for dinner; I knew that I better hide out in my room for the night. When Mom couldn’t afford to get that new pair of shoes she’d been eyeing for weeks; she would force me to shoplift them for her or suffer the consequences. Nothing – and I mean nothing was ever good enough for Mom.
• Mom didn’t have many friends and even as a child, I could understand why. Mom wouldn’t befriend someone just to have a friend to hang out with, exchange recipes, and chat on the phone. If Mom suddenly had a new “friend”, it was because she found someone that she could take advantage of. If she thought someone could move her up socially or financially; she would slide up to them and put on her fake smile in an attempt to weasel her way into their life and use them for what she wanted.
Mom used everyone in her life; including her children. There was never a sense of right and wrong with Mom – she did what she wanted when she wanted to. If anyone got in her way they got hurt and not once did I see Mom remorseful for the pain she would put me through and the countless other people whose lives she affected negatively. It was all “owed” to her.
• Mom was jealous of everyone; and not a healthy jealousy. The green-eyed monster would take over her life at times and everyone would suffer for it. If we were walking down the street and she saw a woman coming that she thought was prettier than her, my poor stepdad would hear about it for hours afterwards as she would scream and yell and accuse him of checking this random woman out. If the neighbor landscaped their front yard; Mom would have us all out there in the yard all day every day until she was satisfied that her yard looked better. She wanted everyone to want her, envy her, and want to be her.
It was sickening growing up like this because not only was Mom jealous of complete strangers; she was jealous of me – her own daughter. As I became older and began to hit puberty she would refer to me as her sister in public. She had multiple affairs on my stepfather when I was a child and would flaunt her boyfriends in front of me; as if she was showing off how many men she could get. It gave me a very warped perception of what a mother/daughter relationship was and how a woman should act.
I feel like my childhood was a crazy dance and I was moving as fast as I could to try to please someone who was impossible to please. I spent my childhood needing attention and praise from Mom, and she was too selfish and focused on herself to do anything but hurt me and put me down. I don’t even feel like I knew who I was for the first half of my life because I became whatever Mom wanted me to become; I had to – it kept her happy and may have spared me a beating or two.
It wasn’t until I was an adult and had completely cut Mom out of my life that I began to realize who I was, what I wanted out of life, and what was important to me. I couldn’t even focus on myself until I was strong enough to completely leave her and my childhood where it belonged; in the past. I was tired of having anxiety, feeling unloved and unworthy of love, and catering to everyone’s feelings but my own. Leaving Mom and her selfish ways in the past was difficult, but necessary to move forward with MY future.
Don’t be afraid to leave the past behind; it’s your life and you are in charge of it. Once the narcissist is out of your life; maybe you will realize how awesome you really are.