Friday, March 02, 2007

Good Grief!

Who knew grief could be so good?

Certainly not plesant, but liberating.

So here's what happened:

Two weeks after meeting my birthmother I woke up sad. I mean, REALLY sad. It seemed to come out of nowhere. One day fine. Next day, so down in the dumps I didn't want to talk to anyone and in the middle of the day burst into tears and had a good, hard long cry. Very dramatic. For me. The sadness lingered for days.

The gloom finally lifted. And then I realized I'd never felt that way before. Ever.

And then came the anger. Okay, rage. Pissed off at my mother for using her sick 15-year old daughter as an excuse not to keep me (learned my mother hadn't taken care of her in years as she'd moved in with an aunt), pissed off at the social worker who didn't do a better job screening my adoptive parents, furious with my self-absorbed a-parents for stealing my childhood and making me their emotional caretakers.

Sadness and anger.

Two emotions I was NEVER allowed to express in my adoptive home.

Once I allowed myself to experience the grief that my mother did not keep me, to feel the utter sadness and bleakness of this fact, I realized this was a totally new emotion. I don't think I ever felt sad before. Not in a real, honest, visceral way.

When the worst had passed, I was able - in stages - to feel better until I was finally happy. Really happy. The sun came out and the air smelled fresh, met a friend for lunch and we enjoyed a great gossip. Later, I'm going out with my 14-year old daughter and friends, then I have a hot tub date with my husband. I mean, what a great day!

So why why why was I so cut off from these two emotions?

Two reasons:

1) adoption related issues; no need to explain, right?

2) Narcissistic parents.

Since I've picked on my Dad so relentlessly in this blog, I'll use my mother as an example. Besides, I can remember it so clearly, probably because my oldest daughter is the same age as I was when this happened: 16.

My steady boyfriend broke up with me, triggering major abandonment issues. Of course, I didn't realize that's what it was at the time. But I was distraught and panicked.

Where does a boy break up with a girl back in the late seventies? His mustang, of course, parked at the curb. I run inside my house, choking back the sobs. And then, just as I was winding up to let loose, my mother sees my face. Her eyes widen in alarm. She asks what happened.

At this point, I can't keep it together and can hardly get the words out because I'm sniveling and hiccuping and gasping and flailing about.

So she slaps me. Not really hard but enough to get me stop. "How dare you scare me like that!" she yells. "I thought something bad had happened to you, like you were raped or something. Don't you know what you did to me? Scaring me like that? How dare you. For Gods sake, he's just a boy. Who cares. Get over it. He was just using you anyway."

So much for a shoulder to cry on.

To keep the peace, I had to swallow my tears and go to my room and be quiet. If she saw red eyes or kleenex, she'd launch into a lecture about what I was putting her through with my dramatics.

As I've mentioned before, she had a similar reaction to questions about my adoption. "Why do you want to know about her? She's not your real mother. I am. Don't you know what you're doing to me?"

This was my mother's favorite refrain: "Don't you know what you're doing to me?" It was said every time I showed the faintest signs of pain or anger or, God Forbid, disagreement.

To survive, I had to be if not happy, at least compliant and devoid of any scary emotions that might upset my mother. Did I mention I was lonely? An only child stuck with parents who were incapable of empathy.

One has to realize one's parent(s) are narcissists before one can even begin to get in touch with the person trapped inside. Where else did she have to go except underground?

And here's one of the most disturbing things. That narcissism isn't some rare, pathological affliction. I think we could form armies and take over the world if we children of narcissists ever decided to get together. And what would our war cry be? "Empathy for one and all?" "Death to narcissists?"

Labels:

23 Comments:

Anonymous Mom2One said...

Wow. I'm glad you're able to start really feeling these days, Nina.

We had some of the stuffing of "negative" feelings in my family of origin, but not to that extent. Not nearly to that extent. That had to have been horrid.

No, unfortunately narcissism isn't all that rare. Once upon a time I was married to one. Yuck. But, past tense. I've got a good one now.

Hope you're enjoying your evening with your daughter and the hot tub date with your husband. :)

~ Judy

7:20 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

It is good to hear you expressing yourself so well Nina. Your aparents are sooo not parenting material. I would like to believe that they would not pass an adoption study today, but I wonder! *sigh*

Have a super weekend!

8:27 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

I hate narcissism just as much as I hate adoption.

I understand Nina. Hugs to you.

9:36 PM  
Blogger suz said...

i find myself wondering if narcissism is a requirement to adopt or a resulting behavior or completely unrelated. i read this so much with adoptees. does the sense of entitlement, all about me, attitude (and not the adoptee and not the natural family) come before adopting or after?

i anm so sorry your amom dismissed your feelings.

and i know all about that sad feeling...that being hit by a tidal wave. have lived in that place now for several years.

6:37 AM  
Anonymous Paula O. said...

Ohmygosh, Nina. I am so sorry. How gutwrenching and emotionally painful it must have been to have your feelings be so discarded - so blatantly refused to be allowed to even surface.

And I'm so glad you are letting the real you have the very real feelings you deserve (and always have been deserving) to express.

(((Nina)))

8:57 AM  
Blogger Mom2One said...

Well, I don't think all adoptive parents are narcissists. Ouch.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

MOM2ONE, Glad you jettisoned the first husband and that you have a lovely one, now! MUCH better for you and your child! It seems nearly everyone has been touched by a narcissistic person...someone they married, worked with, worked under....yuk. And definitely, not all a-parents are narcissists but to some of us, maybe it feels that way because it seems their voices are the loudest and most strident when it comes to talking about adoption issues. You take the trouble to listen and learn and we adult adoptees soooo respect that.

LEROY, I hope for the same, too. That such parents today would fail a screening test. The trouble is, most self-centered people who lack empathy are also charming - as you've pointed out before - and it takes awhile to catch onto them. Also, not even my mother's closest friend would have guessed these behaviors, although she was not surprised because she did say HER mother disregarded her feelings and was cold and conditional and domineering. I mean, my adoptive mother was fully capable of parenting a cute, compliant baby and keeping a young, compliant daughter fed and clothed and supervised, but it's another thing to parent under more stressful situations that occur in the older years.

Elizabeth...If I were a game designer I'd create one just for you so you could hunt down the narcissists and blast 'em into oblivion while wearing a cute little outfit.

PaulaO....You know, back then, I didn't think these experiences were painful. They were just, well, typical. It's only now I understand how awful and cruel it was. My a-parents both had abusive parents and were raised poor and didn't have an education beyond 9th grade. I believe they had no idea they were lousy parents. In fact, I bet they thought they were absolutely terrific and that I was the bad, ungrateful one who disappointed THEM. Ignorant people can be unintentionally cruel. Thank you for being so kind and supportive!

Suz, Oh no! For several YEARS you've lived with The Sadness? The qualify of my grief seems more intermittent...but I guess, for a mother who is in tune with her feelings, it's a daily burden. I'm sorry.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous mia said...

Oh my, I am going to have some FUN coming up with our war cry!!!! We should have a contest and see who can come up with the best one. Seriously, laughter is the best medicine in the world.I can't think of anything more entertaining than coming up with a slogan!!! ;o)

5:43 PM  
Blogger Erika said...

being raised by a narcissistic is like emotional blackmail - a hostage situation & guilt trip all rolled into one.I wonder how I got to be so empathetic and have such a big wounded heart.(ha)

btw/ a friend of mine is contructing a video game that is based on surviving fostercare.it's kinda like grand theft auto, only on this game the mission is to survive for five years and live long enough to escape care.you can choose your character, beggar, prostitute, theif,shelter dweller. I am totally loving this idea!!They should make one for adoption too!

11:30 PM  
Blogger momseekingpeace said...

Nina
I am a mom in reuioun but I had that same sort of thing happen, where I finally felt all the pain that was trapped inside. I am glad you got to release some of it, I would imagine that you did feel lighter.

I'm sorry you had so little empathy growing up.
MSP

3:19 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Erika, I've been thinking A LOT about growing up - feeling like you're a hostage. Have done a bit of research and I'm working my way toward an eventual post about it. I used to think I'm one of the few who feel that way: a prisoner. But now I'm not so sure. Please tell your friend what a great idea he/she has in that video game. I can only imagine the uproar it will cause when released and I can only imagine someone in the system will file a lawsuit...hope video games are covered by free speech in Canada. And yes, he/she SHOULD develop a video game for adoptees. In fact, it's a brilliant idea! Could even do a special edition for the Closed Era! Can't you imagine it? Full of mazes and entering secret doors and trying to hunt down our birth certificates in dungeons guarded by leather clad ogres? !!!

MomSeekingPeace, I hope you felt a little lighter, too! It seems many of us adoptees and mothers have something in common: that we experience this trauma, then stuff it away for as long as we can, then one day we wake up from a state of amnesia and look back on our lives and wonder, WHAT? And then it all begins to trickle out (or is it ooze?) or pours out. I used to read Betty Jean Lifton and it was all sort of theoretical. Then I actually experienced it and finally really get Grief.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Janet Shaw said...

Nina, I know that incredible feeling of grief only too well. I'd stuffed down my adoption issues for years, but they all came out when I finally went for counselling with someone who understood. I never let myself believe that adoption was a loss, and that I needed to grieve that loss. I didn't need to have any family problems to feel that overwhelming sadness. It's hard to describe, isn't it, if you haven't been through it? But I needed to go through and luckily, I found someone to take me through. You had more to grieve than I did, I do feel so sad for you. But as an adoptee, I can honestly say that I understand, I've been in that pain. The good news is that once you've expressed that grief, it really does make a difference. No, the pain will never go away, but it isn't sitting there waiting to explode.

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Mom2One said...

Nina,

You're right, the narcissistic a-parents voices are loudest and most strident, probably because that's how narcissists are, aren't they? They're always right, have to have the last word. I work for one and sheesh, don't get in an argument with the guy. It could take hours unless you just give up and walk away. So yeah, they are. The rest of us are just saying, "Come ON, get over it, don't you have LIFE or something?!!" Heh.

Speaking of . . . back to workity work for me. I guess I really have to do something for what they pay me. THE NERVE!!

7:54 AM  
Blogger Celera said...

Nina, I know you wrote this post a while ago but I only got to reading it now, and it made me so sad, because I know just how you feel having a mom like that. My mother would have said much the same things to me in the same circumstances. And, it's late, and I don't know what to say, and anything I think of to say you already know anyway. But, to have parents who are so incapable of empathy is just incredibly painful, and I'm sorry that happened to you, and to me. Apart from being adopted, that is just a tough thing to get through and for you to be a kind and healthy person in spite of it is a great achievement.

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