The buck stops here.
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
by Brianna H
I knew my childhood hadn’t been normal or even joyful, but I didn’t connect the dots in terms of it being abusive until I joined a wonderful network of survivors after working through the aftermath of an abusive partnership. These survivors helped me gain strength and also encouraged me to be honest with myself. They are the ones who inspired me to share my story.
Unlike others I have very few happy memories of my childhood. I felt alone, controlled and at the mercy of others. While others would happily reminisce of the days when they had nothing to worry about, for me my entire childhood was filled with worry. My mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and is not like other mothers. While my father is not as emotionally damaged as she was, he wasn’t exactly an example of compassion and empathy either. My sister fitted in perfectly with them, often being violent and physically aggressive with me in our childhood. I felt alone, alienated and misunderstood. At times I was convinced I was adopted, not just because my sister told me I was. I fundamentally felt like I had nothing in common with the people who were meant to be most like me. Love had not much to do with our arrangement.
My mother had a knack for hurting me. Whether holidays, birthdays or special occasions - I dreaded them as I knew she’d act out. Sometimes it was just the mere act of coming home from school and asking her “How are you?’ and she’d walk to the cupboard and start taking out plates and smashing them. At other times she’d promise to support me or pick me up from school and she’d show up 4 hours late insinuating it was somehow my fault. Sometimes she didn’t show up at all. I quickly learnt not to rely on her. Anything wrong in her life was my fault, yet she owned my achievements. It felt like there was a constant noose around my neck.
She was often mean and whenever she didn’t get exactly what she wanted, whether that meant ensuring the house was absolutely spotless or cancelling my plans to tend to her every whim, she’d start spouting her venom. She’d scream, threaten me with every possible threat, at times get aggressive and violent, and tell me what a horrible disappointment of a daughter I was. She’d call me names, tell me how fat and ugly I was, and would go out of her way to hurt me. She never apologised and would withhold money or anything she could to force me to apologise to her and admit I was wrong. I knew I wasn’t but I had no choice as I was financially dependent on her. My sister often asked me ‘why don’t you just play the game and go along with what she says?’ but I couldn’t. Despite how much she set out to hurt me I knew she was wrong and I would rather die than stop standing up for myself. Anyone who witnessed her behaviour was either to scared to comment or made excuses for her, saying she's stressed at work or didn't mean it.
After the age of 11 I was often left alone while both my parents would leave, sometimes for months on end. It was lonely and I was often scared. None of this mattered to them or seemingly to anyone. Because I excelled at school and continued to behave well nobody noticed how sad and alone I felt. I often just wished I could fade away, wishing myself elsewhere. The only thing that helped me was my drive to succeed and get away. To get away from her, get away from this horrible set-up and the people who say they care but in reality do not.
My mother would often tell me that one day when I grow up I’d realise how horrible I was and what a disappointment of a daughter I was. She said this once as she dragged me out of bed while I had the flu to do the hoovering. I had dared to selfishly rest in bed while sporting a 40C fever. Not only did she not care, she accused me of being selfish and arrogant for wanting to rest. It took me a long time to learn what it was like to care for others when they were unwell. I had not experienced it while growing up.
When I look back I am speechless at how she behaved. Now that I am a mother I am truly confronted by how abusive my childhood was. I would never ever consider treating my child this way and love being a mother. I don’t hold my children responsible for my failings. I apologise if I make mistakes; I hug and love without condition, and go out of my way to make them feel loved. I am grateful for the time I have with them. It is not their job to fulfil me and they don’t owe me anything. Nobody does as I am responsible for generating my own happiness and I am grateful to my mother for teaching me that.
Based on my experience abusers often say these sweeping statements trying to convince you that you are somehow worthy of their treatment. They insinuate that you made them behave like this. That their behaviour is a normal response and they are not at fault. There is always some kind of victim story on their end. My mother is the queen of victim stories. She had been mistreated by her own parents, and therefore she was never accountable for anything she did. She is incapable of understanding how she makes others feel, how emotionally manipulative she is and how hurtful her actions are. While her behaviour has improved considerably since I became financially and physically independent of her, she is still a narcissist and that won’t change. Whether it’s my wedding, birthday or any other event that beares significance to me she will happily hijack those days to create drama and problems for everyone involved. Her needs are superior to the wellbeing of others. She has limited awareness of her behaviour and thinks she stands above others in some way. The world owes her. For what we are not quite sure of. But in her eyes she’s entitled to special treatment and I’ve given it to her for far too long.
As a mother I now consider my children. Is this the legacy I want to leave them with? Is this the behaviour I am willing to settle for? Is this the pattern I want them to take on when they build relationships of their own. And the answer is NO! The buck stops here. I won’t stand for this behaviour from anyone anymore.
I am grateful to be able to share my story and to be honest with myself for once. My childhood experience created a precedent for my future relationships. I ended up accepting abuse from others, often under the misguided view that I could somehow change them, as I had wanted to change my mother.
Today I understand that I’m a survivor of parental narcissistic abuse. It took me over 40 years to be able to admit this. And with admitting this to myself I am also done making excuses for people who behave like this. This behaviour is wrong - whether it comes from a parent, sibling, friend or partner. Abuse is abuse - don’t stand for it.