Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Acceptance...or Avoidance?

Have reached an interesting phase in dealing with my adoption:

Calm, yet detached.

Grateful for the life I've built for myself, despite odious adoptive parents.

No longer feeling guilty about not calling my first mother. I just don't want to. It's simply not safe.

Spent 1.4 years dredging up the past, dealing with it, writing about it, met my mother, dealt with what that meant...and then lots of grief and anger.

No longer have anxiety attacks.

No longer people please. As much.

Insecurity and abandonment issues are much improved.

Actually go days without thinking about adoption. A sort of numbness has set in. Am not feeling much about it at all.

Was it all just getting too much to handle so I'm pushing it down? A new coping mechanism?

Or is it - finally - acceptance?

1.4 years After Adoption Fog Lift is a rather short time.

If you've been dealing with it longer and recognize these "symptoms," please comment!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And the Narcissist Said....


This blog may have started out as a way to explore my experience as an adoptee, but it seems what draws many visitors is the grim subject of dealing with a narcissistic parent.

This according to Blog Patrol.

While being given away by your own mother blows, the wind blows just as hard for those raised by a narcissist.

I know at least one person whose first mother not only relinquished her, but in reunion, revealed herself to be a narcissist to boot.

Then there are adoptees like me, who were given away as infants, only to land in the clutches of a narcissistic adoptive parent. Being an adoptee makes it even harder to escape or detach from the narcissistic parent because of all the traits we adoptees collect as we grow up among genetic strangers: the people pleasing, the false self and the ever-present expectation, subtle or not, that we be grateful to our new set of parents, capable or incapable.

Did Christina Crawford, that most famous of adoptees, describe her adoptive mother as a narcissist? Or just as a disturbed, lonely, alcoholic actress? I must go back and reread it.

Which raises the issue of celebrities adopting today. It seems to me that they didn't get that way because they were simply artistic, self-effacing people. Sure, some of them wanted to act or sing or perform. But some were driven by the need to be the center of attention. One way to get it is to bask in the glow of the public's approval of the celebrity adopter who has "saved" an orphan. Another way is to turn that child into narcissistic supply. No doubt some of these adoptees - when grown up - will discover the work of Alice Miller and declare themselves to be prisoners of their own childhoods. No doubt we can expect to spend future decades reading and weeping over the tell-all autobiographies of these "rescued" children.

But back to the garden variety narcissist.

I must admit I'm FASCINATED by the things they say and do.

They are not quite human. Or maybe just too human.

It's a good thing I'm not so angry lately because my a-Dad's most recent comment would have really upset me. It just stings a little. But it's so revealing. So I'll share it.

He called asking me to send him something. ASAP as usual. I agreed.

Then he said, "I really depend on you. I guess I have to be nice to you."

True. I'm an only child and the only person in his life.

He COULD have said any number of things, like: "I appreciate all you do for me," "I'm lucky to have such a good daughter," or, simply, "Thank you."

But no. Just a gruding admission that circumstances are forcing him to be nice. Which also means he wouldn't be nice if he didn't have to rely on me. The manipulation is revealed in this simple statement. It sums up our entire relationship. A narcissist isn't completely stupid. They can't afford to alienate everybody.

As I mulled this over last night, driving in my car, I listened to a new song by Nick Lowe, "I Trained Her to Love Me." I found it profoundly upsetting. In an interview, he said he intended it to be provocative. Lowe succeeded by that measure. I wonder....did he unintentionally compose an anthem for narcissists everywhere?

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Monday, July 23, 2007

After Anger...the Calm

Message for the person who Googled "frontal lobe dementia assisted living facilities in Southern California:" look into Front Porch, a Lutheran non-profit. It has several locations operating under various names. Highly recommend. As you know, frontal lobe dementia progresses quite differently and wandering, etc. is less of an issue than repeated falls, loss of mobility, incontinence and challenging, unpleasant behaviors. Please feel free to email me at ninadlf@yahoo.com.

Just got back from a one week vacation feeling calm, relaxed and, most importantly, much less angry. This vacation was a bit of a test. Before I left, I did everything I could to make sure my narcissistic father would not ruin this vacation...as he did the last one. Sure, he left TEN highly emotional phone messages begging for a fix of narcissistic supply (me). I even listened to the messages before heading out for the beach. Which I quickly forgot about as he was in no real distress.


It's taken more than a long year of dealing with my adoption related issues and the Deep Impact of being raised by a narcissistic adoptive father...after four decades of minimizing their consequences.

Working through these issues have meant some trade-offs. People-pleasing and anxiety attacks have been replaced by grief and anger. At least the last two are real, authentic emotions and not by-products of denial.

Which brings me to this comment...left by Julie (aka Celera):

"You don't have to dwell on anger or grief or pain -- you don't have to nurture it and hide in it and make your whole life about it. Some people make that mistake. You have to let it run through you so you can come out the other side eventually."

Very well put. I came back no longer angry. Maybe I've reached the acceptance phase. But I couldn't have got to this point without digging it all up, examining it and taking it seriously, and certainly not without blogging and the support and validation of fellow bloggers and a steady diet of Alice Miller.

An entire year of grief and anger is a long time. To be honest, I was getting tired of being all stirred up. It was getting exhausting. All consuming. No doubt I'll dip back into anger the next time I'm "triggered" by an adoptee related issue I haven't dealt with yet...or by some new manipulation of my narcissistic a-dad.

But for now...I'm going to enjoy the Calm. For however long it lasts. Besides, it's an incredibly beautiful summer day outside in Northern California and the dog needs walking.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Phone Message From A Narcissist

My therapist was onto something.

I'd been so busy reading self-help books on HOW to emotionally detach from my demanding narcissistic parent (adoptive father) that I'd skipped an important step: the grief stage.

Added to the fact that my a-dad IS a narcissist is the knowledge that some social worker actually PLACED me in his home. (Almost everybody notices there's something OFF about him from the start...you can watch them back away). Once there, I was fed and sheltered until I was old enough to become his new narcissistic supply. I suspect my a-dad tried this out on a-mom, but failed to understand that she was both domineering and self-absorbed, so she won that battle.

When I woke up from my Happy Adoptee Fog, I woke up to lots of other things, too.

It was like opening your eyes one morning, hung-over, only to discover lots of really ugly guys in your bed.

One of them was the realization that I'd spent most of my life in quiet, compliant service to my narcissistic father. That, in four decades, it was possible that I'd never been allowed to finish one sentence, one thought. That, in his eyes, I existed not as a unique individual, but as just a warm body with a set of very patient ears.

Upon waking up, I went straight to anger.

Then read like mad about narcissism until it became an obsession.

And after all that, I'm feeling a bit frustrated why I haven't made more progress.

Why can't I find true emotional detachment? Why can't I let go? I'm better. Lots. But not quite there yet.

Could it be that I missed a step? Like my therapist suggested? My therapist said the reason I often feel so churned up, unsettled and, well, utterly chaotic after an encounter with a-dad is that it probably triggers feelings I had as an isolated, only child, when my needs were not being met and I had no idea why, and that there I was, imprisoned with this incapable person. Which is scary.

And then she said I get to feel sorry about that. To allow myself to "grieve the loss." Instead of repeating, "I do not care" a hundred times after I hang up the phone, drained, to sit down and let myself feel the pain. So I did. And it was sad. And so pathetic.

As part of this exercise, I thought I'd transcribe and post a phone message a-dad left some time ago. Today, it's almost funny. (Equally funny, I actually SAVED it).

"Nina, this is Dad.
I was in the bathroom when you called and when I finally got out, you hanged up on me.
I can't get to the phone because you call TOO DAMN EARLY!
Six O'clock! MY GOD! Call about Seven O'clock. That would be more like it!
I'm trying to call you to get things straight with these damned phone calls.
You call too damn early. My God. I'm still in the bathroom when you call. For God's sake.
Call at seven like you used to do it.
Dad. "

Never mind that over the years I've tried to tell him that seven o'clock in the evening is a bad time for me because I'm cooking dinner or I'm driving the girls around or on homework patrol or going out with my husband or seeing a movie. He doesn't get it. God forbid I disrupt his bathroom schedule. My schedule doesn't matter. His granddaughters don't matter.

Only the narcissist matters.

And I'll tell you one thing the narcissist does EXTREMELY well.

Train their children.


Monday, July 09, 2007

There's something finally wrong with my aging, narcissistic adoptive father.

After twenty five years of quarterly trips to the emergency room for a variety of imaginary ailments, he's actually sick: all the most important arteries to the heart are more than 70% blocked and he's too old for surgery. So that explains the chest pains.

I'd always wondered, would I have any sympathy left if he were truly sick?

And it turned out I did. Turns out there were a couple ounces of untapped sympathy left...but the reserves are getting low, folks. Vapors.

I actually thought...Gee, now that things aren't looking so good...he actually seems nicer and we're getting along a wee bit better and ain't that nice.


Now that things have calmed down and he's out of the hospital and out of the woods (for now)...and I'm slightly less solicitious...BAM...he's getting nasty.

And that's when I realized I'd fallen into the narcissistic web. Again!

IF he's getting lots of attention...
IF he's getting lots of sympathy...
IF I listen and do not attempt to impose any bit of myself, my views or my life...
IF I just make every conversation about him....


But the moment - like last night - that I act the least bit distracted because I'm dealing with other stuff, he immediately turns on me.

Age does not soften the die-hard narcissist.


Emotional detachment still required.

And the nagging question that STILL won't go away.

Is someone like my a-dad capable of love? Did he love me? Or did he just NEED me? He could never SEE me...acknowledge me and my needs. And if a person can't do that, do they really love you or are you just being drained or cathected or whatever that scary word is?