This is the last photo I have of us all together. It’s of my two half-sisters and half-brother on my mom’s side. The man next to me is my dad. He adopted me at birth. I’m the baby from an affair my mother had with a well-known (and dare I say respected) minister.
In order to be a member of this family as an adult, the following was required of me.
1. Put up with how they treated me. No boundaries allowed.
2. Believe in conspiracy theories and actively talk about them.
3. Be okay with my own birth story being kept a secret for 42 years.
4. Don't have any feelings other than happy - and never be too happy.
5. Pretend. Pretend everything is fine all the time.
6. Engage in superficial conversations only.
I am the only person in my immediate family to ever seek therapy. My first words to my therapist were, “Help me!” The first step in therapy was taking a test. It revealed that I had PTSD and that my family dynamic was entirely narcissistic. I didn't even know what that meant at the time, but after I learned it all started to make sense. This was a huge blow and also a huge relief. I could fix my side of the street. That felt amazing.
It was a long road.
Even in therapy, I longed for my family. I wanted us to share love and be a huge support for one another. That’s hard to do when family members are struggling with addictions, involved with paranoid conspiracy theories, and tell you constantly to your face, “Be glad we love you. You’re a drama Queen and a brat!”
The last time my oldest sister called me “Drama” was at my dad’s funeral. I was upset, angry, devastated to say the very least. I wasn’t allowed to be upset that they’d kept me from saying my goodbyes to him. I wasn’t allowed to grieve. I was supposed to be still, silent, and “obedient" according to my mother and siblings.
This is narcissistic abuse.
Do you see yourself in any of this? Are you free to be you? Or, do you walk on eggshells?
After my dad’s funeral, I hired a coach who I’d been observing for years, and got to work. Then the pandemic hit which allowed me to take an even deeper dive into my childhood and slowly removed the last of the blinders. I had no distractions anymore and I could see clearly for the first time ever.
It was painful. It was freeing. It was necessary.
They’ve all drifted away because I don’t conform to what makes them comfortable, which made me realize they never really loved me. They may have had love for me in an obligatory way, but that unconditional, unbreakable love just wasn't there. This is also a narcissistic trait. That stung - a lot - but it also set me free.
Freedom comes from seeing the truth. Personal power comes from acting on that freedom.
It can be scary as hell sitting on the shore of life watching your family, and your reality as you know it, drift away. Promise after promise that they’ll visit only to have it never happen. Promise after promise to share calendars. Then nothing. But, it’s also revealing and freeing to finally understand that if you’re one-hundred percent yourself, you’re no longer a member of the narcissistic club.
I’m okay with that.
Narcissism is one of the things we will be exploring at Behind the Power. It’s a chance for you to understand it, and if you’re in this type of relationship, some skills to dealing with it.
Being in a narcissistic relationship can feel confusing, disempowering, and lonely. Behind the Power offers safety, validation, and community. Come be with us and find yourself again.
All my love,