A Gift in an Ugly Package

I wrote this several months ago, and didn't publish it for some reason. It gives some insight into how I've been dealing with the family stuff.
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For two years straight I attended therapy.  Once a week or every two weeks, occasionally once a month.  I didn't think it was going to take two years when I walked into Therapist's office asa new mom struggling to figure out why everything was so hard a year into parenting.  I figured that I just was having trouble with the adjustment into parenthood having gotten past the first year of survival mode and major transitions.  Settling down into the routine of parenting X, instead of feeling calming, made me crazy.  Vacations weren't that fun.  My brother's wedding was not fun.  A weekend away with S at my friend's wedding wasn't fun.  I started getting irritated and short with people at work, to the point of actually getting in trouble over one incident because the much older guy was so offended by my putting him in his place that he threatened to lodge a formal complaint against me to the Civil Rights/EEO office.  Things would either briefly ok,  then I would sink into a funk blaming myself for everything that was going wrong.  A friendship imploded prior to walking through that door, and I struggled to recognize that it wasn't my fault.  The only constant positive influences in my life were S and X.  S tried to be there for me as I raged and sunk lower, and was happy when I managed to get my head above water for brief periods of time.  I was drowning.

Part 1:  Figuring Out it's Clinical Depression
While Therapist is not a psychiatrist, and I didn't see a psychiatrist, she is gifted in ferreting out the root of the problem.  Four or five visits with her turned into a suggestion that I go on medication.  It was a suggestion with a little push.  I demurred for a couple weeks, then realized that I wanted to get this all sorted out more than I wanted to avoid medication.  Since then I've been on a half dose of cele.xa, and whether it's placebo effect, homoeopathic effects, or literally the amount I need, I've noticed my mood swings have dramatically smoothed out.  I get low, and G-d knows I've been through the wringer over the last year emotionally, but I haven't bottomed out like I used to.

Part 2:  Rebuild My Ego Strength
I had some self-esteem, that's how I was able to manage to make myself successful.  I had enough self-esteem to recognize one long-term boyfriend was a cad, and maybe that guy I didn't think was too exciting at first should be given a chance (good thing, because that was S).  There was enough there that I made good choices and could stand up for myself when needed.  But not all the time.  I never saw myself as a kind/good/successful person.  I saw myself as constantly failing to live up to my so-called potential.  I'm not a workaholic by any means.  I treasure my play-time/down-time/bad tv watching time way more than I want to climb the ladder.  But, I constantly beat myself up over not being engaged enough at my job.  What I had to realize during this part of my therapy was that I am engaged enough at my job.  Despite the kerfuffle with one person in my office, I've done nothing but get better performance reviews throughout the last several years and managed to get myself promoted in the middle of the sh*tstorm that is building my family.  All while being depressed and fighting through some serious emotional issues.  The one area I didn't feel shaky in was parenting.  It really seems odd if you think about it, because not being able to juggle all the facets of my life was what drove me to therapy.  It was really everything surrounding parenting, not the actual parenting that was becoming magnified. 

This part of my therapy dragged on a bit longer than it probably needed to because while I was working through all this stuff several setbacks occurred.  My therapist got pregnant and took maternity leave.  It wasn't long, but I had several weeks without an appointment.  I could've seen someone else, but I didn't really want to discuss my issues with someone who didn't know me, and I did pretty good during that time anyway.  My relationship with my parents tanked.  I had several fights with my parents that seemingly came out of nowhere and learned that I can't rely on my own mother to take my side or be empathetic when I'm going through a tough time.  The match with Baby A failed and we had to turn him over to cradle care three days after taking him home.  Despite all these setbacks, I finally got the point where I was ready to address the root of all my emotional problems.

Part 3:  No, Really?  My mom isn't a narcissist, is she? 
She is.  Being in any emotionally abusive relationship carries a special burden, and this one is mine.  I danced around this issue from the first month that I entered therapy.  The first major fight with my parents led to the revelation that my parents were having trouble with one of my brothers.  He apparently accused my mom of being a narcissist and the first thing I did was defend her.  How could she be a narcissist when she does a), b), c) for everyone around her? Ultimately, I attributed the fact that my dad yelled at me at the top of his lungs in front of my child, to the stress my brother had put on my parents with some of his more dramatic declarations.  It still wasn't ok that it happened, and I was beyond furious with being treated like a little kid.  But, I found a way to explain it away so that it wasn't them, it was something else.

Imagine my chagrin when I finally realized that my brother is right.   Once I admitted that this must be what has been wrong for 39 years, I was able to start healing.  I think I've grieved the loss of a mother my entire life, because she never was there for me emotionally.  There is some more to work through, and some disbelief that this is really my relationship with my mother before I can move to learning how to limit interactions in order to keep my now-healthy ego intact.

Here's the thing about narcissists, they are so fragile on the inside that they can only feel good about themselves when they get external validation.  They take and they take and they take, they're are excessively needy.  For example, I get random texts that obviously are fishing for compliments.  These days, I ignore them.  Almost every weekend, I'll get a text asking if they can drop by, or watch X while I run errands.  Seemingly innocent texts, but they are incessant, even when I reply that I'll let her know when I need babysitting.  I never get a simple "I love you".  I get "I love you so much, you know that?  Or, "I love you too much to have this conversation right now", or "You and S are the best parents ever, X is so lucky to have you".  None of those are unconditional.  It's always conditional. 

It is not up to me to fill my mother's emotional cup at the expense of draining mine.  

It's really hard to undo 39 years of learned behavior.  Especially because Therapist identified me as very likely the so-called golden child of the narcissist.  I look awesome on paper.  She can brag about me non-stop to everyone around her and they tell her she's an awesome mom.  Ironically,  I accomplished all this in spite of my mom.  Now, the thing that has really brought all this to bear at this precise moment in time is my infertility and adoption journey.  All of the sudden, I am not her perfect child.  I hurt, and she can't take it because it makes me less than perfect.  I'm open about adoption, and she buried mine.  

Three books are helping to identify what's been going down my entire life:  Will I Ever Be Good Enough? , Disarming the Narcissist  and Toxic Parents.

I am an Imposter.  That's my main identifier as the daughter of a narcissist, and likely the Golden Child since I look amazing on paper and I'm bragged about to everyone who will listen.

Consider:

 

  • I was in the top 10% of my high school graduating class, but felt it wasn't good enough.
  • I graduated from one of the most difficult engineering schools in the country. But my GPA fell just short of 3.0.  I must not be a good engineer.
  •  I got my master's degree while working full time.  I was pissed that I didn't get straight A's and I "only" worked 40-50 hours per week.  I must not be a good engineer or student.
  •  I have never read the final copy of my master's thesis.  I'm embarrassed by it.
  • It took me 4 tries to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam.  I felt like an abject failure after each one.  There was relief when I finally passed, but it wasn't much.
  • I passed the Professional Engineering Exam on the first try.  In my mind, that meant it must have been "easy".  Forget the months of studying and review classes I took.
  •  I live in constant fear of my supervisor figuring out how much I've been slacking lately.  Except that I'm actively moving projects forward and generally doing a good job.  It's OK to not be on my A game right now.  But, I don't give myself that kind of leeway.

 

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There's been setbacks because of Baby Z. Since he has arrived, my mom has been laying it on thick with the "helping", and I've been keeping her at arms length. The problem is that she's figuring that out and now she's pushing even harder. I recognize now that it's given me a bit of setback as evidenced by my need to rant on my blog about the sh*t she's pulled lately. 


She seems to be reaching for straws with this news about having pictures of my bio-dad and some contact information. When I asked her straight up for the pictures, she got really mad at my brother, L, for telling me about them (triangulation). She stood there with tears in her eyes insisting that she's always on my side and re-writing history in her head. The conversation got heated, but I didn't lose it, so that's positive. I didn't even feel much of anything after it was done except that it felt like talking to a brick wall. She finally e-mailed the information to us including the scanned pictures, along with a long letter of self-pity and prostration. In the letter, I see a lot of shame. She says she didn't think that anyone needed to know her history, so what was the big deal. The big deal was that she didn't even want us to know our own story. She was ashamed of her perceived failure and still is not matter how much she insists it's ok that we search for family if we want to. Of course it's ok, because it has nothing to do with her and everything to do with us.

I've increased my cele.xa dose to the prescribed dose and so far am keeping reflux under control with pri.losec. That seems to be the worst side-effect I get besides this apparent weight gain that appeared over the last several months that isn't coming off despite the renewed dedication to MFP. Since I increased it just over a week ago, I'm not sure how much it's helping at this point, but I hope that it'll help me get through the holiday season and then I may consider finding another therapist. My therapist moved out of the country, but she chose one for me based on my family dynamic, so hopefully it's a good match. 

S asked how we are going to deal with this and is it going to get better. I don't think it is, and that's a hard truth to face. Unless my parents start to really own up to how they interact with me, it will never get better.  Funny, one of the things my dad falsely accused me of 2 years ago was threatening to keep my kids away from my parents. At that time, the thought hadn't even crossed my mind, and I don't know why he brought it up. I've done my best not to do that, but now, I wonder. 

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Why is all of this a gift? Well, I guess it's because I've become more self-actualized and sought help to become a better version of myself. I know what I don't want for my own family, and I know what I don't want for myself.