My Story - My Truth. The Effects of Growing up with a Narcissistic Father
My Dad was diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder when I was about 25 yrs. old but by then, the damage was done. And even when diagnosed and offered help, he never changed. My father was not only narcissistic but mentally and physically abusive.
I remember as a child always being aware of my Father's happiness. As if my job was to make sure that he was happy. He was not only mentally abusive but physically abusive as well.
I don't remember recognizing that my Mother was abused by him until I was about 7 yrs. old when we moved to another state, away from her parents. My Mother never had her needs met. It was all about my Father and when we were born, we were all enlisted to cater to his needs too.
We were all abused. My Mother, me, my brother and 2 sisters. All of my siblings have issues due to our childhood. One turned to drugs, one turned to alcohol and the other has mental disorders. I have ADD, Anxiety and Compounded PTSD. I think that we all have anxiety and PTSD. I truly don't know how any of us survived what we went through!
The mental abuse ranged from words that put us down to the point that we all have low or no self-esteem to being sabotaged at any step in life that made us feel good or happy about an achievement. We were taught, unspoken, to downplay our achievements, to him raging for unknown reasons literally 5 in. from my face with screaming and spitting not daring to turn my head away, to him slapping and punching me in the face breaking my glasses 3 times, to him giving us the silent treatment for months or even up to a year because of him feeling slighted or disrespected for whatever reason, to the point that I watched him so closely that I thought that I needed to study any body language that he had in order to stay safe.
Any look, any movement that might spell anger or rage. I wanted to see it coming. I wanted to be able to diffuse the anger and rage. My entire childhood was walking on eggshells, to put it mildly. There was never, ever, a feeling of being safe.
I had to read a book in college about concentration camps in WW 2 and the assignment was to write about what the book meant to me. I wrote that I wasn't starved and had a roof over my head and clothes on my back but that my father reminded me in many ways of the SS Officers in the camps. I didn't receive their brutal tortures but in mental ways, I believe that I did.
The physical abuse ranged from him beating up my siblings or Mother knowing that my turn would be soon and for stupid little things that could be worked out easily but weren't because no one would dare point out any faults of his so instead, he hit the girls with his hands and fists.
My poor brother got my father's rage the worst. He was usually whipped with a leather belt and once, at about age 12, my father made him put on boxing gloves and my brother was beaten that way. While this would happen, my mother would try to stop it but couldn't and the remaining children would run and hide. Even blocking our ears because it was so traumatic hearing someone that you love being beaten and there was nothing that we could do about it.
I remember the Police being called by my Mother probably 5 or 6 times during my childhood. When they came, my Mother would just ask them to make him stop. Back then in the 70's, that's what would happen. All would quiet down for a while. We were taught to act as if nothing happened. The abuser never saw any consequences so it never stopped. I now know that this was all about total control.
All during this, we didn't have friends over when Dad was home from work. We hid our secrets from everyone. Family, friends, neighbors and, to be truthful, the Police when they were called. My Mother always downplayed what was really happening in the house.
Looking back, I think that people suspected something wrong but they never said a word to us about it. I used to pray for my parents to divorce but it never happened. I wanted and needed to feel safe.
My teenage yrs. were hell. As all teenagers do, they cut-the-cord from their parents a bit. This wasn't exactly welcomed. I've later learned that I was co-dependent. On one hand, I was urged to know what I wanted to be in life but on the other hand, we all were neglected and were never taught how to become anything other than what we were then which was Dad's caretakers.
We had no dreams. We were always in survival mode. He urged us all to leave the house at 18 but also pulled on us or sabotaged us to stay. His abuse was too much for me and so I married at 25, probably to just get out of that house, but married someone just like him.
Being married to a person just like my father, it was all about his needs, his wants, his choices. I was at best, an afterthought.
I fell into a deep depression that I couldn't leave my bed a year or so into the marriage. I saw a therapist because of the depression and learned that my husband was also was a narcissist and my needs would never be met.
I gave it my all in trying to save the marriage. I brought him to therapy with me but he wouldn't change. I thought of living a life like my mother did and couldn't do it. It was my worst fear. I divorced him 2 yrs. later. In the end, it came down to choosing between my sanity or my husband. I chose my sanity. I left that marriage with a clear conscious.
Since then, my life has had no direction. I think of it as whichever way the wind blows, my life goes. It became clear to me that I can't live like this, I'm not functioning, and sought out professional help.
I've been in therapy for 4 yrs. now and we've been working hard on the issues that I have. I've had EMDR done many times to help with my PTSD. I'm not reliving those episodes anymore so it's working and I'm so thankful for that.
There IS a bright side to my story. I have a good therapist that has lived through similar things herself so she "gets it." I'm feeling a lot better about myself which I'm so grateful for. It's been painful and hard work to get me to where I am today but there's still more work to do.
My father died 3 yrs. ago from Alzheimers Disease. He was 77 yrs. old. From working in therapy, I now choose to remember the good in him. There is good in all of us as well as bad.
If I were to give any advice to anyone out there that has a family member that's a narcissist to be sure to be close to family and/or friends. I think it's a necessity to have support around you. Hold narcissists responsible for their bad behavior. Give them consequences.
I've come to believe that the secrets that I've kept are in direct proportion to the harm it has caused me. Now I don't hide my secrets. I tell the truth to myself, my truth. It's helped me to acknowledge what happened, sort it out with the help of my therapist and come to peace with it.
For the first time in my life, I see a light at the end of the tunnel.