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.
Bye.
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.

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25 Comments:

Blogger Being Me said...

"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."

This is GOOD. You need to have compassion for yourself, to CARE for you, to keep your caring alive.

I can't imagine what you're really dealing with. I spent 9 years dealing with my demented father who was actually quite sweet to me. And it was exhausting.

I look forward to the day you can look back on that phone message and really LAUGH. He is hysterical from enough distance.

Right now-- ((((((((((Nina)))))))))

10:57 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Thank you! Maybe that's what I should be repeating! "Be nice to me. Be nice to me." Even if it does make me sound a bit crazy. And you know, his phone message is so whacky, that my husband and girls thought it was hysterical, too. It's so weird and I hadn't thought of it this way. Being the child of a narcissist is like being the lone dog who can hear one of those special whistles. Everybody else doesn't HEAR it but you CAN and somehow, you magically obey.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Ooo! Being Me...I forgot to say that I'm sorry you dealt with dementia for THAT long...sweet or not. It's a nightmare and draining and so very sad. And I know there's little support for families caring for those with dementia and what does exist is enough to wipe out any savings very quickly.

11:15 AM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Nina...it took you how many years of conditioning by your Dad to get to the place where you discovered what was going on? I know you would just like things "fixed" so you can be the person you want to be YET to be totally emotionally detached would be just like HIM! Isn't it ironic that what you want to be to your dad is what he already is to you? Or is it really? And that is why there is so much pain because you can't/don't want to be like your adad in any respect. He has no balance in his life because it is all about him. In your life its all about relationships - developing, nurturing and maintaining them. In other words, being human. A narcissist lives for him/herself and expects others to live for them too - which in my opinion is inhuman to be so extremely and totally self-absorbed. Being human is having healthy relationships and that means having balanced ones.

I am rambling a bit. My point was to initially comment that Roman wasn't built in a day and that your self-discovery hasn't been all that long in comparison to how long you lived in the "fog". Even fog doesn't dissapate all that quickly. I think it is great that you can express your thoughts and feelings here...and that you have a good therapist for support/insight. It is very easy to go back into your childhood role when around your adad. Most everyone does to some extent. Your struggle is finding the balance - the right amount of distance over time so that you can maintain your sanity/growth while at the same time your humanity. Some would argue that you cut the relationship off entirely with your adad. Yet I am not convinced that is entirely healthy nor human. There may need to be some gaps (or time-outs), some distancing for yourself and your family yet he is still your adad. I see a lot of progress in you...and the journey continues. We (collectively) support you in anyway we can.

4:11 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Leroy, Wow...you said some really insightful things. Maybe you've articulated - quite clearly actually - why I haven't cut him off entirely. You know, it sometimes takes someone else, with a little distance, to put things into perspective. THANK YOU!

5:48 PM  
Blogger joy said...

"it's like waking up with a hangover and finding lots of ugly guys in your bed"


I can't believe you said that, that is fucking beautiful

5:24 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Anger, grief -- you have to do both, and in whatever order they come to you. I know what you mean, you can't just repress these feelings, you sort of have to let them run their course. God knows I tried long enough to just detach myself from every sort of feeling about my narcissistic mother. It's not enough though. 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.

It's really tough, I know.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Andie D. said...

Thank you for this post. I've dealt with a narcissistic father AND sister. The adad is out of the picture completely. I stopped conforming, and he couldn't handle it. My asis is in and out of the picture.

I might need to allow myself to grieve the loss too. I'm not sure I've allowed myself to really think that my sister should be out of my life. She's the only one in my afamily with whom I still have contact. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I think that if I just tell her my truth in the right way, she'll apologize and all will be right.

Ha. Hasn't happened in 34 years, why would it happen now?

(((Nina)))

6:52 AM  
Anonymous mia said...

I maintain a "relationship" (HA) with my mom for me. I call the shots now though so the communication is brief. My mom doesn't have much use for me since I don't feed her what she needs. Your dad is in the same age and health boat as my mom. At this stage in the game maybe maintaining the connection is something we do for ourselves just so we can say we did? Who knows. The choices suck.
Sigh.....
(((Nina)))

3:36 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Hee, hee...writing IS fun sometimes! Thank you, Joy!

Julie, Your comment couldn't have been more perfectly timed. Will use your quote in my next post.

Andie: One narcissist is bad enough, but TWO? There's always that hope isn't there? That if we stick up for ourselves they will see the light. But they are simply not capable. But I understand your reluctance though - with your sister - sometimes we need certain connections...the trick is managing them.

MIA wrote: "Maybe maintaining the connection is something we do for ourselves just so we can say we did? Who knows. The choices suck."

I think so, too, Mia. Society and family has also trained us to RESPECT our elders and to take care of them when they age. But it's a blind sort of respect that doesn't take into account that these now elderly people may have neglected or abused their children so may not be worthy of respect or the kind of support and attention others receive.

9:52 AM  
Blogger 123 said...

It was very interesting for me to read the blog. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.
Alex
Phone jammers

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