We Believe

It was the year 1982 and Cabbage Patch dolls were all the craze.  And just like any other four-year old girl at the time, I wanted one.  Badly.  And I let my mother know.  Numerous times.  Every time we were out at the store, I would look up at the giant displays of dolls and beg my mother for one.  If a Cabbage Patch doll commercial came on TV, I pleaded with her.  Each time, however, I received the same, ‘no’.

September of 1982, I was enrolled in kindergarten.  I remember not liking school, but not because of the curriculum, other kids, or my teacher.  I didn’t like school because my younger sister ‘T’ was able to stay home with mom.  My mother loved to flaunt all of the “fun” that was had by the two while I was at school. Trips to McDonalds, trips to the park, the store.  I was jealous.

My birthday rolled around in October.  Do you think that I was gifted one of the greatly sought after Cabbage Patch dolls for my fifth birthday?  No.

My mother must have seen the dollar signs that the Cabbage Patch craze was pulling in.  She bought some of the doll heads and fabric and began making the dolls to sell.  They were terrible looking.  The legs and arms were too long, the stuffing loose. No baby powder smell, no Cabbage Patch insignia on the butt.  The only thing that looked authentic were the heads.  But, she did sell a couple of the dolls – mostly to grandmotherly types who didn’t really understand the difference.  But I did.

One day in November, I came home to find my little sister ‘T’ snuggled up with a brand-new, store-bought Cabbage Patch doll.  I was elated!  Surely my mother purchased one for me as well while they were out?  Once again, my friends, that is a big fat NOPE.

I was told that ‘T’ was there and I wasn’t, so she got “dibs”.  Looking back, the favoritism was extreme.  I think my mother actually enjoyed seeing how destroyed I was, over and over again, when she chose one of my siblings over me.

It wasn’t just a Cabbage Patch doll.  The favoritism started in my childhood and lasted well into adulthood.  My sister, and eventually my little brothers constantly got preferential treatment over me. My brothers were angels and could do no wrong, while I took the blame for everything since I “was older”.   I was told that I would have to pay for my own car/gas/insurance after I got my license, my sister ‘T’ was allowed to take out a loan with my mother as a co-signer, and had her insurance paid for.  My mother told me that I needed to figure out how I was going to pay for college, while my sister’s tuition was paid.

I remember crying myself to sleep the night I walked in on ‘T’ and her new doll, holding on to the thought that Santa wouldn’t possibly let me down.

Christmas morning, I awoke to find…. a lopsided, hand-made Cabbage Patch doll under the tree with my name on it.  I was devastated.  And I knew.  And my mother knew I knew.  She put on a show in front of my sister about being one of Santa’s elves, and he had asked her to make me a doll.  Then she grabbed my arm and roughly dragged me into the other room, belittling me through clenched teeth.

I was ungrateful.  I was an ungrateful little shit.  She had taken the time to make me a doll.  She told me that there was no Santa Claus, and to “keep my fucking mouth shut”, that I “better not ruin it for my sister”, that it was “time to grow up and face reality”.

Five years old, and my innocence and belief in the magic of Christmas was shattered.

And yes, there are kids out there who have it way worse, and don’t get a Christmas.  I feel for them, I really do.  But this is my story.  This was my childhood.  This was how I found out that there was no Santa.

There are quite a few years of difference between my three children, ranging 14 years from oldest to youngest.  Obviously, my 20-year-old has been let in on the secret, and most likely my 11-year-old as well.  But never once have I ever discussed with my children that Santa isn’t real.  And I never will.  Maybe they see how important believing is to me?  Maybe it is purely selfish and they know that if you don’t believe in Santa, you don’t get Santa gifts, lol.  Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter.

In this house, we believe.  In this house, there are no favorites.  In this house, we hold on to every bit of innocence and magic and good that we can.

If that means positioning that damn Elf on the Shelf every year until the last of my children move out the house, then so be it.  I will not force my children to “grow up and face reality”.  Especially not during Christmas-time.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving?

My husband and I celebrate our birthdays in October, exactly one day apart.  He’s the older one.  😉

Last month, my mother sent my husband a text first thing in the morning, “Happy birthday.  Thinking of you.  I hope you get this.  Love you.”

My interpretation?  “Happy birthday.  Come to the dark side.  She is keeping us from having a relationship with you.  We love you more than her. ”

Perhaps you are thinking that my interpretation is a bit dramatic?  Honestly, I didn’t even think that my birthday was even going to warrant a text from her.  But, I did receive one about 6:00 that evening.  And given the content, I think I hit the nail on the head.  Her text to me, “Happy Birthday.  I hope this finds you happy and healthy.”

Happy and healthy!?  Given the whopper of a story that my mother has provided the rest of the family about me, then “happy and healthy” sounds about right.  You see, she has conveyed that I am a deranged, neurotic monster that should be heavily medicated.  Her intentions were not good; this text was nothing but a dig at my mental stability.  The funny thing is, it probably took her all day to come up with it.  Something to show the rest of the family that she had taken the time out of her hectic day to send her daughter a text message on her birthday, but nothing too heartfelt.  Oh no, no no.  To do so would appear that she accepted blame.  Saying that she loved me would be an olive branch, and there was no way in hell that she was going to apologize.

I deleted the text message, and didn’t give it another thought.  Until the one I received from her yesterday….

“Happy Thanksgiving” (complete with a wine glass, a turkey, and a balloon emoji)

?!  Like nothing fucking happened.  Like everything is normal, like we’ve talked to each other the past six months, like she hasn’t turned the entire family against me.

The no contact is either getting to her or she was drunk.

Noodle Night No More

My husband and kids are out running an errand, so I thought I would share a few words.  I’m looking around my living room and feeling…. sad.

You see, this will be the first year in over 17 (that we have been home to celebrate Thanksgiving) that we didn’t host “Noodle Night”.  By this time in years past, there would be several card tables set up throughout the living room, with newspapers covering every surface.  Bags of flour and cartons of eggs prepped and positioned in the kitchen.  Rolling pins and pizza cutters on standby.

Noodle Night was born as a tribute to my late paternal grandmother.  The night before Thanksgiving, she would make noodles from scratch, hanging them on every surface available to dry.  It was a tedious, messy task, but those noodles?  Man, oh man… You’ve never tasted anything better.

When I moved back home 17 years ago, my father and I decided to start Noodle Night up again, in grandma’s name.  Noodle Night became more anticipated than Thanksgiving, if you can believe that.

The celebrations morphed from year to year, growing in attendance, the amount of noodles made, and the fun that was had.  Anyone who wanted to participate was more than welcome: the more the merrier.   We had Old Timer Noodle Makers instructing and Newbie Noodle Makers learning the ropes.  We had Most Valuable Player Noodle Maker prizes for those that stuck with the mixing, rolling, cutting, and laying to dry process, complete with trophies.  The snacks were plenty and the drinks flowed even more plentiful.

This year?  I have no family, to speak of.  My father would rather sit on the couch in his crappy little apartment in a drunken stupor, than spend time with his daughter.  I don’t speak to my mother, brothers, or sister.  And more importantly?

I needed a fucking break.  I needed a change.  Everything that I thought I knew about family was just thrown out the window six months ago by going no contact.  Even if I still had extended “family” to carry on the tradition, what does it even mean anymore anyway?!

So, we change.  We adapt.  We morph into something not quite “them”, but more so “us”.

My kids and I are making desserts tonight for tomorrow.  Later, we plan on playing board games then popping some corn and snuggling around the fireplace to watch movies.  And that sounds absolutely perfect.  Maybe it is our new tradition?

… My hubby and kids are home… sounds like it is time to put on a little music and have a dance-off prior to dessert-making, to chase these blues away.

Happy Thanksgiving all!  If your heart is breaking this holiday season due to a narcissistic family, I hope you can find at least one thing that makes you happy, and can hold on tight.  We’ll get through this….

What Hurts the Most

My sister ‘T’ and I did not have the best relationship for a very long time.  My mother saw to that.  She played favorites, pitted us against each other, and growing up was one giant competition.  A competition for her attention, her love, her gifts, her time.  This was my childhood, and it lasted well into adulthood.

My mother nastily gossiped about one daughter to the other; nothing was off topic.  She has told me her suspicion of my brother-in-law being gay, how much she can’t stand my nieces and nephew, how neurotic and OCD she thinks my sister is.  I can only imagine what my mother has said about me.

‘T’ and I only saw each other about once a year.  We never spoke on the phone, and I received a very infrequent email only to show off pictures of some event her and her family participated in. I didn’t know my sister, niece or nephew and this really bothered me.  While we lived over 5 hours away from each other, I don’t think I would have been invited to her house even if we lived closer. That is a really shitty feeling.

For years, I tried to undo the damage that my mother had done to my sister’s and my relationship the only way I knew how: persistence and gifts to show I was thinking of her and her family.  For the past six years, every single birthday or holiday, I boxed up a care package with treats and little gifts.  Every. Single. One.

And it worked.  Our visits became more frequent, twice a year instead of once.  More frequent emails.  Texts from my niece and nephew.  And then three years ago, my sister asked me if I would want to be there for the birth of my second niece.

I was elated, over the moon with emotion.  Finally, I was being allowed into my sister’s life.  And not just any part of her life, the most important part: the birth of my niece.

And my mother tried to ruin that too.  But, if there are readers out there following, you will have to wait.  That is another story for another time.

At this point, my sister and my relationship was solidifying.  And this was a wonderful feeling.  We promised to meet each other for a “girls’ night” once every three months. We called and talked to our nieces and nephews more, and my children were even thought of on their birthdays as well. We were finally planning our times together with each other, not around each other.

… Until recently.  I had a major life event and my husband threw a party to help celebrate it.   This party was “inconvenient” for ‘T’.  She gave every non-valid excuse in the book – the drive was too far, she didn’t know what she was going to do with my niece, she already had travel plans two weeks later for my brother’s fiancé’s bridal shower and didn’t want to travel again.   One of the biggest accomplishments of my life, and it was too inconvenient for my sister.

That hurt.  And I told her so.  She got nasty and went for the jugular.  ‘T’ turned it around on me.  She told me how I was feeling, whatwas thinking, and that I was wrong to be upset, in so many choice words.

Come to find out, my little sister has her own narcissistic tendencies.

We exchanged some very heated emails, but ultimately put a Band-Aid on the argument.  Our relationship was taxed, to say the least.

And my mother picked up on this and made her move.

The Monday after The Last Straw, I emailed my little sister ‘T’.  At this point, I didn’t know how far the lies my mother spewed had spread.  I told ‘T’ that if she didn’t already hear what happened, she would soon.  I didn’t go into details, but promised her that I had stuck up for her again.

I received an email back almost immediately.  Yes, she had heard, and she gave me a detailed, step-by-step account of what went down, according to mom.  She took my mother’s account as gospel and ran with it.

She then proceeded to tell me to “read a book about a holocaust survivor” to “get some perspective.”  She said that my life wasn’t all that bad, and to stop playing the victim.  She said that I needed to be medicated.  That I needed to stop drinking.  That I needed to “move on” with my life.  That I needed to shut up.  She painted me as this neurotic, mentally unstable, alcoholic that should hospitalized and the key thrown away.

I have never once played the victim.  Quite the opposite, actually.  I have survived through some pretty terrible heartache, but I survived.  I have made an excellent life for myself – I have a wonderful husband, healthy, happy children, an excellent career, a beautiful home.  But if I am anxious, I try and find out why.  I work through it, I find the reason for my pain with the help of a counselor, and I write, I run, I create. If something is wrong, I deal with it.

What hurts the most is that my sister, who I know deals with her own demons, could join forces with our mother and attack me the way she did. After all these years of finally getting to a point where we had a relationship again, she was willing to throw it all away.  She hasn’t once tried to reach out after that email she sent.  I guess our relationship was disposable to her?

Either that, or she was too worried about tarnishing her name.

My sister ‘T’ is all about perception.  She strives to maintain an appearance of an always-together house, kids who are in illustrious extra-curricular activities, a prestigious life.  She would never, never admit to everyday struggles: unruly children, blunders in the kitchen, something out of place or unkempt.  There is absolutely no talking about our past, or about anything that could paint her as anything but flawless.  Her marriage is “perfect”, her kids are “perfect”, her life is “perfect”.  Period.  Even at the expense of a relationship with her sister.  It’s sad.

 

The Last Straw

While it would make more sense to start from the beginning, it has to happen this way – with the last straw.  The beginning of the end.  The reason that I am ‘no contact’.

It was the day before Mother’s Day.  My mother had been hinting that she would like to complete a 5K with me for quite a while, so I bought us tickets for a local foodie/drinking/fun 5K to celebrate her day.

I knew something was up early on in the day.  You see, my little brother ‘R’ was getting married in July, and his fiancé had a bridal shower two weeks prior to the 5K.  I did not attend the shower due to previously scheduled plans, however my little sister did.  This pissed off a lot of people.  Apparently, my NM and my little sister ‘T’ did some serious gossiping about yours truly that weekend.

At the 5K, my mother started shouting random words during irrelevant conversations – “Pedophile”!! “Pervert”!!  My conclusion – my past was the topic of conversation during their visit.

When I was thirteen years old, I started having nightmares.  The winding stairwell, the washer and dryer at the bottom of the stairs, the kitchen off the back.  My step-dad ‘G’ pushing my little sister down the stairs, laughing maniacally, telling me that if I wanted her, I would have to go get her.  Flash forward, ‘G’ putting my little sister in the dryer.  Flash again, him putting me in the dryer.  Flash again, standing over a giant hole in the yard, looking down on a bunch of squirming seahorses, him telling me that he was going to put me down there and leave me to be devoured.  I could describe the house perfectly, but could never remember stepping foot inside.  In my mind, that house was a nightmare and ‘G’ was the monster that lived there – a looming, faceless monster.

My mother divorced my biological father when I was a year and a half – my mother was 8 months pregnant with my sister when they separated.  She went through a “single” period, then ended up with ‘G’.  They were only married for a short five months, but long enough to have a detrimental impact on my life.

After the same exact nightmare started coming every single night during my early teens, I finally confided in my mother.  She fell to her knees, crying, telling me that I had told her the same exact stories when I was little, but she never believed me.

That was the one and only time that my mother ever admitted to ‘G’ hurting my sister and I.  (My dad, on the other hand, “always had a hunch”.)

Shortly after the onset of my nightmares, I moved out of my mother’s house to my father’s house (that story to follow). When I was 16 years old, living with my father and step-mother, not having any contact with my mother for over 3 years, I started acting out.  Bad.  Promiscuity, alcohol, reckless behavior.  My step-mother was a teacher and saw the signs.  She took me to a counselor, Ann, who was able to finally pull out my hurt.  Due to specific sexual interactions with a boyfriend, and my past history, Ann concluded that I had been sexually abused as a child, but was blocking all memory of the abuse.  The nightmares at the age of thirteen surfaced due to hormones and puberty.  But my mind had blocked out the really bad stuff.

The 5K ended, and my mother drove back us back to her house.  We were both quite buzzed, and the last thing either of us needed was any sort of serious talk.  But my mother prodded. She finally wanted to talk about ‘G’.

For 26 years, she danced around the subject – making a huge ordeal out of hiding pictures of him from me when we were going through an album, purposely not saying his name when brought up in conversation, that sort of thing.  Twenty-six years, it took for her to finally bring him up, and she was nasty about it.

“What is it that you think that happened?”  she asked.

I explained the void in my memory, Ann’s diagnoses, and the countless other counsellors, psychologists, and psychiatrists that I had seen in the twenty-six years of life after that were all in agreement in the initial diagnosis.

What did my mother do at this point? She scoffed. She called me a liar.  With a straight face, she told me that I made the whole thing up.  That it was the “stupid bitch Ann” who put it into my mind, that my “meddling, bitch of a step-mother” created this drama to make her look like a bad mother.  They were out to defile her name and make her look like a bad mother.  Her.

So, I did what any half lit, extremely distraught person would do at this point – I ran.  I ran, barefoot, as fast as I could, away from that house.  With tears streaming down my face, sobbing so hard that I nearly puked, I ran.  When I finally couldn’t run any longer, I ended up in a muddy cornfield and collapsed into a heap, my chest feeling as it were being smashed under an invisible weight.  I fished my phone out of my pocket and called my husband.

At this point, he had already made it back to the house and my mother nonchalantly let my husband search the entire house for me, before he demanded to know where I was.  My knight in shining armor persuaded me back to the house, but had my kids in the truck at this point, ready to leave.

I remember jumping in the passenger seat of the truck, my mother glaring from the front porch, arms crossed, while my step-dad (step-dad #3, FYI) pleaded for us to stay, to work it out.

As a mother, it was not my finest hour.  I apologized profusely to my children the following day for my actions.  But the hurt, the anger, the hate was released that day and I couldn’t reign it in.  I screamed at my mother out the window as we drove away that I would NEVER, EVER, BE LIKE HER!!!!  That she was the absolute worse mother, grandmother, person in this world.  That I hated everything she was, and everything that she stood for.  And we drove off.

That was six months ago.

In a few short minutes after pulling out of the driveway that Saturday afternoon, my mother concocted a completely different story than what really went down.  In it, she was the victim.  I attacked her. And then, she proceeded to call – my sister, my two brothers, my three step-brothers, a step-sister, and a cousin, and manipulated them all into believing her.

In a few short minutes after pulling out of the driveway that Saturday afternoon, I lost an entire side of my family.

That next Monday morning, I made an appointment with a wonderful counselor, Andrea, who had helped me in the past learn stress-coping mechanisms.   If this wasn’t a stress-coping-worthy situation, I didn’t know what was…

While I anxiously awaited that appointment, I turned to Google for answers. The searches – ‘Mom turned whole family against me’.  ‘Mom called me a liar about abuse’.  ‘Mother pits my brothers and sister against me.’ – all pulled up the same results.

The same trigger words began appearing with every single search: Narcissist.  Narcissistic.  Narcissistic Mother. Flying Monkeys.  Golden Child.  Triangulation.  No Contact.

Andrea justified my reasons for feeling so alone and hurt by my mother’s actions, and as we talked, I realized that ‘no contact’ was going to be the only way to go.  Looking back, my previous ‘no contacts’ only failed, because I let them fail.  I craved a mother figure so bad, that I was willing to bite the bullet and be the parent in the relationship – take blame, apologize, grovel.

No more.

 

Finding Ebba – The Prologue

I was thirteen years old the first time I went no contact with my mother.  The words ‘narcissistic’, ‘no contact’, and ‘triangulation’ had no meaning at this point in my life.   Little did I know, these words would finally propel me into a full-on realization of the abuse that my brothers, sister and I had experienced at my mother’s hands.

Looking back over the years, I had attempted some version of ‘no contact’ numerous times, the silence lasting a few days to a few years.  Correspondence was made only if I initiated, however.  You see, my mother is the ignoring type and is never, ever wrong.  Ever.  I was always required to break the silence.  I had to apologize to her for my actions, and grovel for her forgiveness until she finally “took me back”.

I write to express, and I need to express to heal.  As of today’s date, I am over six months no contact with my narcissistic mother.  Six months ago, I lost that entire side of my family.

Losing your family can have a drastic impact on how you view yourself.  I have questioned everything that I have been taught, everything that I have felt, everything that I am.  I’m alone.  I yearn for ties, for traditions, for unconditional, reciprocated love.

Some days are easier than others.  Some days, I feel the love of my husband, children, and close friends and my heart is so very full.  Other days, the loneliness is almost unbearable.

I gained a thirst for learning my heritage, my genealogy, my roots.  So, my wonderful, supportive, patient husband, bought me a DNA test for my recent birthday.  Come to find out, I have a large percentage of German DNA.

‘Ebba’ is the German female name that means strength.  Finding Ebba… well, it just fits.  I am not who I was, and I don’t plan on ever being that girl again.  But it hasn’t come easy; these past six months have been rough.  I feel now, that it is time to write-through my pain.  I know I have a long road ahead of me.  So, here’s to finding Ebba…

While this blog is utterly self-centered, and meant for healing me, I hope that others out there can connect with my stories and my words can help you find solace.

There will be no chronological order – I plan to write how and when I feel.  Bear with me.

It took 26 years of pain, heartache, and abuse before my eyes were finally opened.  They are wide open now…