Raeyn at The Scarlet B blogs thoughtfully & consistently about all kinds of things, including family/life balance and managing the ups & downs of Bipolar 2, but recently she’s been posting about narcissist parents & terminating the relationship, with helpful links to different blogs, including this one at The Invisible Scar.
It’s a subject I’m all over the place about, and still feeling raw & aswirl when I try to write something down. I’ve gone no-contact with my mother before– and am in the middle of a pretty no-contact phase now, except that I did send her a present for her birthday because she isn’t well off and the stuff I sent her was practical and can be exchanged to the catalog for lots of other practical things, if that’s what she wants. The feelings I can manage to cohere are: I don’t want to talk to her. At all. Right now or for the foreseeable future. I don’t want to just give her money at her birthday– and I am not going to send her anything for Mother’s Day– because my feelings about my mother and the way she acts about money and the way that it’s affected me, my brother, my father, our relationships with each other– all those feelings can be summarized as: irreconcilably furious & deeply fucked up.
I don’t want to send her a letter explaining why I am not talking to her, because it will be a repeat of conversations we’ve had in the past and the effort on my part doesn’t stick with her– doesn’t matter versus the story she needs to tell to herself. It will also be a repetition of passive-aggressive ways she would “communicate” with me when I was a kid and I had done something to “hurt” her. When I think about her, I feel angry, nauseous, anxious, defensive, worried for her and worried for me, guilty, and angry. When I think about telling her anything at all about anything going on in my life, I start to get tongue-tied– both because she will only be able to listen for a few minutes before she will need to turn the story into something about her, so what the hell is the point, and because I never know when something important I’ve told her that anyone else would understand was in confidence will be used against me to get something she wants, either as a monetary or emotional payout.
It bothers my father that I’ve shut her out, even as she will have nothing to do with him for the sake of preserving her story, even all these years later. He recognizes she’s crazy, but he thinks I ought to forgive her because she’s crazy, or for family’s sake, or because– who knows, maybe he’s afraid that at some point I will do that same thing to him. The fact is, though– I can tell him, don’t do the thing and I might have to repeat myself, loudly, a few times to get the message across, but his crazy isn’t so bad that he can’t listen, and, more importantly, he wants to. He’s not a narcissist, simply human, and the fact that he has screwed up in the past & will screw up in the future doesn’t change the fact that he at least tries, and that the story is not 100% All Dad, All the Time.
What I haven’t finished chewing over inside my head to spit out here is that yes– I may indeed feel guilty forever about shutting out my mother, since she won’t ever get it and will always be hurt by my being “cruel.” I may never get closure, because we can’t have a conversation. And I may never forgive her. But I don’t know that 1) I want to or 2) that I have to in order to be an okay person– I don’t hate her, and I don’t wish her ill and when she needs my help in an emergency way I will give it– but I think I am allowed to be angry at her until I’m not, and that the best way to not be angry at her is to not have any contact with her and therefore no provocation. I cannot forget all the harm that she’s done, whether she “meant” to or not (and I know she didn’t mean to, she’s just damaged beyond repair)– I can’t forget because all my kneejerk behaviors and habits are built on the responses to trying to keep her stable and compensate for her crazy as well as mediate between her and my dad & his crazy when he was drinking. I can’t forget, and I’m working hard to overcome the worst of those habits & behaviors– and so, if I’m going to keep doing that, I don’t think I “have” to forgive her. If I were a better person maybe I could, even with her inability to express authentic understanding and remorse– but I’ll take calmer and saner over “better” or “kinder” for now and maybe, with grace and no contact, I’ll find forgiveness at some later point.