Managing a Narcissistic and Abusive Mother
by Linda Latto
(Irvine, California USA)
My mother is a controlling, abusive Mother. Before my brother was born, 4 years after I was, her treatment of me often made me feel bad. I did not feel loved by her. When my brother was born, I remember my heart sank, because at the age of just 4, I felt that it would be even harder for her to love me. Yet, I loved my brother and still do. I doted on him (and teased him a good deal too).
As we grew, my mom treated him with such favor and me with such disdain that I often fantasized that I was adopted. I felt so rejected and worthless that I often wished I had never been born, and as a coping mechanism, I used to lie on my bed as a girl, close my eyes and try to transport through to the future when I was an adult, living my own life away from home and that I was happy and free.
When I became a teenager, it was harder. I walked around and hung my head. My mom would treat me like a slave. Throw things in my direction, talk to me as if I was worthless.
At the same time, she would praise my brother and treat him with obvious affection and love. This made me feel even worse. Like there was something wrong with me. How could my mother not love me - or even like me? This made me want to kill myself at times and run away at others.
I thought I would leave home when I was 16, but I got my license and was able to drive, got a job when I was 16 and was hardly ever home, so the economic security of continuing to live at home kept me there. I wanted to finish high school (almost straight A's) and go to college.
My Dad? He did love me and I knew he loved me. But, he had remote jobs. He sometimes would be working 3 weeks on and home one week. Or he would work in a location and we would visit him.
One summer we lived at his job location until school started. This was his line of work. I looked forward to my father coming home and being home even though it often felt like getting to know him again and that felt awkward. I looked forward to my father being at home because he was a parent to me ... and when he was home, my mom's poor treatment of me was kept in check. She didn't behave so poorly when my dad was home.
A significant thing happened when I was 13-15 years old. My best friend lived across the street and I was at a sleepover at my best friends house when her mom made a comment to me that froze me in my thoughts and in my steps.
She said something to the effect that she didn't like how my mother favored my brother over me and how she treated me and that it just wasn't right. This woman saved me. I know I was so shocked that I probably said nothing at all in that moment, it was that significant.
That comment made me realize early on that my mother was what I suspected all along. Unfair, mean, cruel and abusive. Another adult saw it and commented with such distaste, there was no mistaking it. Maybe I was worth something.
My mother never praised anything I did and acted like everything I did or accomplished was bad. I went to college - I should just get married and have kids. I couldn't live my life right. I wasn't going to the right church. Criticism and judgment were constant. She would blame me for anything and everything. My mother often used her hands on me to spank me or slap me, but most of the time, she used a belt to whip me into submission. I often thought that it seemed like she enjoyed it.
My mother is also very religious. Non-denominational, charismatic Christian. She forced me to go to her church. I hated it. The sermons were dripping with hypocrisy. When I was 13, I attended a sermon where the pastor told us we were to love everyone, yet, there were all these exceptions.
People who were not married and living in sin - they should be cast aside. People who were gay or lesbian - pure evil and should be avoided and not embraced. Then he started segregating people who were heathens and then people who went to churches that were not really "on track". I was livid.
Sunday rolled around and I refused to go and support the hypocrisy being taught in the church. It was a heated exchange. She raised her hand up to slap my face. Shockingly, I reacted out of instinct and raised my hand up before she had a chance to slap me. We both stood there with our hands raised.
I knew at that moment that if she hit me again, I would hit her back. Just like it was yesterday, I remember looking her in the eyes at that moment. There was a part of my brain that was screaming "What are you doing!?!?!? You are REALLY going to get it now!" but the other part of my brain said that I would never be hit again by my mother, and if she ever tried to hit me in that moment or ever, I would fight back with everything I had and I would beat her up in my own defense.
I think at that moment with our hands raised and eyes locked that my mother saw in my eyes that I would fight back. She didn't see the part of me that was screaming at myself "What are you doing!?!?!?" She saw the instinctual defense, the warrior in me that raised up out of nowhere. I don't remember getting disciplined by her hitting me with her hand or the belt again after that day. And, I never attended her church again. That was the first time in my memory when I overcame my mother's abuse.
For a long time, I didn't attend any church. My mother had ruined that experience for me. I actually don't believe in Hell. Except perhaps that hell is right here - having a toxic mother was hell enough.
When I was about 25 she came to visit me and I found out she was sending money to a television evangelist. It wasn't a little donation here or there, it was a significant portion of my dad's income. My mother was a stay at home mom mostly and my dad was still working remote jobs. I became concerned because she wasn't always honest (even as a Christian!).
Before every visit, I used to "purify" my house. I would hide anything that might be a lightning rod for criticism. I wrote my dad a long letter telling him that I would never speak to my mother again or visit again.
He put a stop to my Mother's donations and that made her hate me all the more.
In the interest of time, I will fast forward.
I am now over 50. I have three kids 18, 16 and 6. My mother and I recently got into it again after a visit. She behaved disrespectfully to me but this time looped in my husband into her disrespectful treatment. She immediately blamed me for someone else's behavior and my husband corrected her immediately.
Then she kept coming back over and over again with him, then when she looped me in, she was way, way over the top and while my husband was ready to just walk away from our visit, I was livid and I confronted her. In this confrontation, I told her many things in a respectful, but firm tone. And I made it clear - she would not disrespect my husband again - nor would she disrespect me. I have demanded respect before, but this time it was different. It was the same part of me that raised my hand. I reacted like a mother bear when it came to my family and now I included myself in that protection. I also outlined for her how she was to behave in the future (not that she will, but I set it down for her).
The very next day, she took two female cousins to breakfast who were also visiting. I was already on a plane home. She knew that I had gotten close to these cousins and probably wanted to poke at them a bit for that. In any case, she said things about their family that made one dash for the bathroom in tears and the other sob uncontrollably at the table with a napkin over her face. She blamed me for their response to her cruel words. Yes. I am also a scapegoat.
I view and have viewed for a few years now, my mother as simply "my dad's wife". It is like having your Dad be married to a bitch who you have to tolerate a couple of times a year. And I tolerate.
The nice thing is that she no longer really has a hold on me. What I didn't realize with this last visit is that my confrontation with her opened the lid on all these memories and I am really pissed. There is a lot of anger there. I have no tolerance for her abuse and I don't take it. She is a bully and I throw it back to her and tell her to stop.
My Mother has raised herself to a high authority level because she is "filled with the holy spirit" and she "speaks in tounges" and therefore, she is some anointed person who knows "God's will" and is a spiritual authority.
Recently in a text exchange she said that she was allowing me to make my own choices! Even now, thinks that she can control me and that by her good graces she is "allowing" me to make my own decisions!
Someone might say - She is 79 years old, just let it go. I say she has treated me like shit for over 50 years, I won't have one more year, one more month, or one more day of being treated disrespectfully or taking her abuse.
Someone might say - She is your only mother, after all. To that I could say lots of things. She may have provided for my physical needs, but she was never, ever a mother to me. She has damaged me enough. She is anything but a mother. I would have been more loved in an orphanage. The only kind of mother she acted like was a Mother F____er.
And this is the first part of the next chapter of my journey of having a mother that didn't love me. A toxic mother. A narcissistic mother. This journey is about remembering the details. About giving voice and standing up for what is right. This is about telling my kids why I never talk about my childhood.
Yes, Mother. I may not hit you back with my hand, but I will not tolerate abuse, criticism, disrespect or scapegoating without shining the light on who is really behind things.