Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Churning

Once again, the topic is my narcissistic adoptive father.

(One of these days, I'm going to get back to the subject of my first mother, post reunion. By the way, I'm liking the term "first mom" more and more because I ended up with a second mother picked out by a social worker who spent all of twenty minutes with my a-parents, more concerned about proper ventilation of the house rather than the psychological health of its occupants.)

Specifically, my reaction to my a-father.

Try as I might to set boundaries, they are hard to enforce. Mostly because I feel GUILTY. Then I seethe with resentment. Finally recognizing the pattern, I set out to change it. A simple phone call with him makes me feel invisible and bad in ways too numerous to list. I decide I can't talk to him every day, even if we do keep our chats short. All day I dread the phone call, then afterward feel upset and churned up despite my best efforts to emotionally detach.

My husband and therapist (two separate people) strongly suggested to talk to my a-father every other day or several times a week to give myself time to recharge. (He's 80, has frontal lobe dementia which doesn't really impact his memory and my husband says he not much stranger or self-centered than before he became demented).

So I try it. I manage a (wonderful!) one day break and then, sure enough, he thinks he's having a heart attack and the phone starts ringing. I let the assisted living facility handle it, as the head nurse suggested. He's had these anxiety/fake medical emergencies for as long as I remember...mostly for attention or because things haven't gone his way. The next day, he catches me offguard by calling in the morning. He says, "I just wanted to hear your voice. I'm so lonely. I miss you soooo much. I love you soooo much."

"I just talked to you last night," I say lightly.

"But I love you and I just wanted to hear your voice."

My stomach turns. I feel nauseauted. Claustrophobic. The whole thing smacks of manipulation, mostly because he's never been expressive in that way. There's also something wrong about it. He's using a lover's voice. Or something. I can't get off the phone fast enough. And then the GUILT sets in. He's all alone in the world. I'm his only child. He doesn't know a single other person. Then I think, wait. I didn't ask to be an only child. He's alienated every person he's ever met, including family members. He refuses to take part in any of the assisted living facility (which is very nice; private room w/a garden view) activities because he can't be the center of attention, which makes him furious.

See? Off to the races. The debate plays in my head, an endless loop.

I don't want to deal with him, but it's my (legal) duty and responsibility to do so.

The question? Is that reaction within the realm of dealing w/a narcissistic parent? My therapist has suggested it may indicate something more...that the body sometimes remembers when the mind can't. Or won't. Of course, she's talking about sexual abuse. I can't remember any such thing. But I'm wondering about that nauseated, claustrophic feeling I get when he becomes clingy. Have I mentioned that I hate him to kiss my cheek or hold my hand? I've attributed this to the fact that I don't like him or feel comfortable around him.

Open to any ideas.

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't want to deal with him, but it's my (legal) duty and responsibility to do so."

You put legal in parent-hesis!

"Is that reaction within the realm of dealing w/a narcissistic parent?"

Yes I think so. When I see my mother or even talk to her on the phone I get physical symptoms and I wasn't sexually abused physically. But still in my relationship with my mother my *sexuality* was abused and my integrity as a child was compromised and the whole parent-child thing was perverted. So I get all the symptoms of suffering from sexual abuse without having been physically sexually abused (avoidance, triggers, anger, etc). One therapist wrote that even one single word or an attitude can be a form of sexual abuse
if it is a violation of the childs integrity.

-bob (anonymous)

5:41 AM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Hey Nina...I am not sure that you expressed in your blog enough indicators that send up red flags that you were sexually abused - at least to me. That is not to say that there were not risk factors present. I believe adopted children are more at risk of abuse, especially sexual abuse, than those unadopted and I will tell you why. The taboo of not having sex with your own child is likely stronger than having sexual contact with a child you are not blood related to. I use step-parents as an example where maltreatment of stepchildren is many times greater than that of bio-children in the home.

The fact you were adopted, female AND an only child coupled with parents who had major personality disorders, especially your adad who is narcisstic - makes for sufficent risk to warrant questioning about sexual abuse. Yet, what I haven't heard from you is that you have periods in your past that are lost. In other words, periods similar to blackouts where you cannot remember what happened because what happened was so horrible that you disassociated from reality just to cope and that can create black holes in your memory.

If I heard from you that you did have those, then I would definitely be questioning you about what was going on in your life and the life of your parents at that time.

The nauseated, claustrophic feelings you get when he becomes clingy is because he never was affectionate and never knew how to be appropriately. So when he feels you pulling away, he "comes on" to you in an inappropriate manner. It would cause any female to feel the way you do I think. If there are no time lapses in your memory (and I realize this would be hard to know because how are you suppose to remember something you can't remember happening?), and what you do remember is that there was no sexual contact, then it is likely you are just weired-out by any contact or thought of physical contact with him. And to me given what you have gone through - that is a completely understandable reaction. Just my 2 cents for what it is worth.

5:56 AM  
Anonymous Mom2One/Judy said...

I don't know.

Interestingly enough, I was getting the feeling, even before your last paragraph, that he sounds a lot like my maternal grandfather. My mother wasn't adopted, but she was an only child, and her father was very manipulative. In her case, she doesn't remember large periods of her childhood so I do think there may have been some sexual abuse.

Anyways, my grandfather was "dying" a lot during many of the last years of his life. He lived with us for 1 1/2 years and then my parents put him in a nursing home. I thought it was because they couldn't take care of him properly, but came to find out many years later (family secrets, yanno) that he had molested my oldest sister -- not to the point of actual incest but most likely because she stopped it before anything could happen.

Anyways, he never did anything to me, but I was creeped out by him because of what I would call inappropriate behavior even though it wasn't sexual abuse. Even as young as 6-years-old, he was calling me his "girlfriend." I remember that because my mom actually put a letter from him in a scrapbook she put together for me that included a sentence in there calling me his girlfriend. Which just goes to show that to her, it was normal. When my oldest sister was being treated, finally in her late 40s for PTSD resulting from the molestation from him, I sent the letter to her therapist so her therapist could see if that was behavior that crossed the line and she said, yes definitely. He liked me to sit on his lap, even when I was too old for lap-sitting, he gave big sloppy kisses that I hated.

So, I don't know. I guess what I'm saying is that maybe there was sexual abuse and maybe there wasn't. I really don't know, Nina. I do know that for me, there wasn't, but there was plenty of inappropriate behavior that make me feel really nervous and "icky" around him. And the fact that he did molest my oldest sister -- well, it's possible that my other sister and I would have been next if he hadn't gotten out of the house.

I hope you get some answers. *sigh* Whatever, your dad was and is definitely a sick man. Not excusing him at all, just saying that it's gotta be hell dealing with him day after day after day . . .

*hugs*, Nina.

~ Judy

8:48 AM  
Blogger Aurelia said...

Nina,

You have no legal obligations towards him. He is a grown adult.

And even if someday he sued you for financial support, you still would never have ANY obligation to speak to him personally.

If you feel you must speak to him, limit it severely, and order the nursing home to get him a psych evaluation. They can put him on antidepressants or antianxiety meds, and his behaviour when you do speak to him, will be remarkably changed.

What's the point of having power of attorney if you can't force him to get medical help that will make his life & your life better?

As for abuse, you can still have these reactions to someone who emotionally abused you. Only you know down deep if he sexually abused you, but even if he did, does it make a difference? He abused you, period.

Time to take care of YOU. Stop worrying about his feelings.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

ANONYMOUS BOB: Thank you for the insight. Very thought provoking and seems dead on. While I'm saddened to read that you have pretty much a physical response after talking w/your N. mom, it is comforting to know that it's a common reaction and doesn't necessarily mean one was sexually abused.

LEROY: Great info. about the significance of blackout periods. I don't have any of those. Thank God. And I don't have the SENSE that I was, either...just the "weirded out" feeling as you put it. The head nurse at the assisted living facility actually laughs at how manipulative my father can be. Argh.

JUDY...Your maternal grandfather sounds like an absolute nightmare! I'm sorry to hear about your poor older sister. As I read your comment, I was reminded of Jane Smiley's book, A Thousand Acres. Have you read it? Incest in the heart of farmland. HUGS back!

AURELIA: Yeah, I DO need to buck up. BADLY. Part of my duty as POA is to make sure he is being properly taken care of, etc. Before the POA, I maintained more distance and was much saner as a result. Taking over his affairs has been a great challenge, although I did get him several psych evaluations, this is when I found out about the whole NPD thing. He is on anti-d/anti-anxiety but not as much as he could be because it can make his dementia even worse. STOP WORRYING ABOUT HIS FEELINGS. YES. THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT I NEED TO DO. THANKS FOR THE REMINDER. TONIC FOR THE DAY!!!

6:46 PM  
Blogger BB Church said...

Dear Nina,

Narcissistic parents commit chronic emotional abuse since they are incapable of acknowledging, let alone nurturing, a child's self. Whether you have experienced sexual abuse is up to you to discover, but I think that your writing illuminates the emotional abuse your father to which your father is still subjecting you.

IMO, your reactions to your father are "normal". His narcissistic self has an enormous field of gravity to those who open themselves to him emotionally. As you feel yourself being pulled into his self, you're experiencing vertigo, fears of annihilation, and fight/flight reactions.

Just remember, YOU aren't the crazy person, HE is.

Caring for a narcissistic parent can trigger all the old childhood crap. Go easy on yourself. Love yourself.

Ron

9:29 AM  
Blogger Third Mom said...

I know absolutely nothing about narcissism, so you probably shouldn't listen to me. But here goes anyway (and I think it's already been said):

Because he's in an assisted living arrangement, his health won't be in danger if you don't respond to him. Additionally, you know his dementia is making things that much worse. So stick to the break plan and find a way not to pick up that phone or to keep the calls very short when he calls.

And although it's easier said than done - no guilt. Nina, from what I read here, you go above and beyond for your a-father. Above and beyond. No guilt necessary.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Mom2One/Judy said...

Yes, I did read A Thousand Acres and loved it -- the movie too. No wonder; probably identified with it to some extent. Maybe I'll re-read it someday.

My mother, interestingly -- if any of us criticize my grandfather, she'll defend him. It really creeps me out that she still does that, to this day.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

BB CHURCH: Wow. What you wrote, "His narcissistic self has an enormous field of gravity to those who open themselves to him emotionally. As you feel yourself being pulled into his self, you're experiencing vertigo, fears of annihilation, and fight/flight reactions," blew me away. You put it so well. In fact, much better than some books I've read. THANK YOU!

THIRD MOM...Thanks for the encouragement! You're right. He's in perfectly good hands at the very nice assisted living facility...especially the ward that he's on because all sorts of visitors pop in and out unannounced so the staff is always on its toes. Knowing I don't have to talk to him today has already made me feel much, much better!

JUDY...Okay, that IS creepy, but according to Alice Miller who wrote Thou Shalt Not Be Aware and Drama of the Gifted Child, etc., it's not surprising...the whole bit about children idealizing their parents despite really awful experiences. I haven't seen the movie A Thousand Acres. Oooo. I'm gonna Netflix it.

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