Tag Archives: trauma

Lost Relationships -Amanda Robins

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Growing up in a Narcissistic Family

The mornings were the worst. My sisters would be fighting, screaming, throwing the odd hairbrush or lipstick, pulling hair or ripping fabric. Blaming one another for missing makeup or the state of the bathroom.

There was no mediation in these epic before-work duels.

Growing up in a narcissistic family wasn’t peaceful.

Our parents were far more interested in themselves and their own problems than in their children’s ability to get along with one another or their emotional needs.

Their intense self-absorption left little room for empathy and validation or, well, parenting.

Our mother was highly anxious, obsessed with her children’s ability to reflect well on her. Any mistakes or imperfections attracted her immeadiate attention. Like a heat seeking missile, she would then become intrusive and controlling, her anxiety around appearances and social acceptance motivating intense criticism and judgement towards us.

The sibling rivalry that is a normal part of family life was exacerbated and exploited by my mother to prop up her fragile sense of self. She pitted us against one another in competition for her approval and affection, so that she could somehow feel better about herself. There was always a battle between us for the crumbs of affection she distributed sparingly.

Because of this, we never got the opportunity to repair our relationships.

We grew up in a household where there was no room for vulnerability, empathy or collaboration. Our early template for relationships was based on competition rather than caring. Even today as adults with our own lives, we are wary and distant, not able to grieve what was lost to us in childhood, or to make amends.

For myself and others who have been raised in narcissistic families, it’s an arduous pathway towards healing.

In their book on narcissistic families, Stephanie and Donald Pressman argue that children of narcissists might manage workplace relationships and setting boundaries at work, but at home it’s a different story.

According to the authors, those who have grown up in narcissistic families are often “people pleasers” trained to ignore their own boundaries so well that they don’t actually know where they are.

“Comfort in setting boundaries develops in children who have their feelings respected by their parents.”

Narcissistic parents do not respect other’s feelings, and children growing up in an atmosphere of repression, shaming and tangential communication never learn to ask for their needs to be met. In families like these, withdrawal of affection and approval will be used to control children. Parents will threaten children with rejection and anger when they don’t behave in ways that meet the parent’s needs. For young children, this is terribly destructive and teaches them to ignore their own needs.

As adults, children of narcissists are usually out of touch with their own needs.

Decision-making for those who have had their feelings invalidated as children is fraught.

Friendships and intimacy require us to make decisions about what we want to do, when and how, and this requires us to understand our feelings. Without this ability, relationships are either all-consuming (and exhausting) or cold and distant.

The Pressmans argue that children of narcissists often have an “all or nothing” approach to relationships. If survivors of narcissistic families cannot have a perfect relationship, they would rather end the relationship than negotiate or compromise. “They genuinely cannot fathom the possibility of sitting down with a spouse, friend or colleague and having a reasonable discussion to set boundaries so that those feelings and needs can be accommodated.” Having been consistently invalidated as children, they hold little hope for getting their needs met in relationships.

They often seem to expect that others will be able to read their minds. When they discover that their friend or spouse can’t do this, they are likely to become angry, disappointed or sullen, sometimes ending the relationship in disgust. And leaving their partner or friend puzzled and hurt.

The healthy give and take of normal relationships is not something that comes naturally to survivors of the narcissistic cauldron.

Attracting the right people into our lives and having healthy relationships is a challenge for those who have grown up with abusive parents.

As children of narcissists, we have been trained not to value or even acknowledge our own boundaries, because boundaries were not convenient for our narcissistic parents. We have also been trained to view relationships as mutually exploitative rather than opportunities for intimacy and connection.

Our friendships and intimate partnerships are often difficult and unfulfilling, fraught with danger and frustration.

Healing for the children of narcissists can take a long time. Self-awareness through therapy and reflection can help us change. Repairing our relationships and creating better ones is part of the journey towards growth and fulfillment.

Quotes are from The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment by Stephanie and Robert Pressman Jossey-Bass 1994

Amanda Robins, M.S.W, PhD.

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I am a writer and psychotherapist based in Melbourne, Australia. After a successful career as an artist and academic, I decided to retrain in order to work therapeutically with young people and studied Social Work at the University of Melbourne.

I now specialize in working with people with a history of trauma, especially those who have grown up in narcissistic families. I love writing about mental health and relationships from my own experiences and from my work with clients. I currently have a blog where I write about mental health and well-being, attachment, parenting, relationships and creativity.

My articles have been published on The Mighty, Therapy Route, PsychCentral and This Woman Can.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

https://www.amandarobinspsychotherapy.com.au/articles

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https://www.linkedin.com/in/amanda-robins-a861a782/

GUEST BLOGGER: My Darkest Hour: Helping Others Find the Light – by Finding Inspiration in the Chaos

A huge thank you to Lana for sharing this with all my readers and especially me. You go girl; you’re better than you know. I respect and love that people are sharing their stories with me and being 100% honest and true about them, even if they have never told another soul. You can find her blog here for more information and storytelling. 
TRIGGER WARNING: This post talks about the attempted suicide of a teenager. Please be aware and choose wisely before you continue.
 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“When people kill themselves, they think they’re ending the pain, but all they’re doing is passing it on to those they leave behind.” -Jeannette Walls

“The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die.” -Juliette Lewis

**I want to start by saying this post is not easy for me to write. My anxiety was triggered by this post multiple times while writing, but I kept coming back around to the feeling that it needs to be shared. Honestly, some of my friends and family are unaware of this and it has been 17 years, but I guess they will find out now. But this post is not just about me. It is so much bigger than me. I pray this reaches someone and makes them, at the very least, reconsider or reach out for help. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 

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It was September 7, 2001, I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was 15 years old and I felt like my life was over. I look back now and I can see that my life was not horrible. I was blessed more than some kids my age. I had a roof over my head, lots of people that loved me, a good relationship with my mom and dad, and I wasn’t being abused in any way. However, we had just moved and my world felt like it had been twisted upside down. I had to quit Varsity cheerleading and leave all my friends behind. We were only moving about an hour away, but I wasn’t driving yet so it wasn’t going to be easy to see my friends on a regular basis. The new school I was attending didn’t have cheerleading and I just felt like an outsider. I never felt like I fit in there.

Like I said it was September 7, 2001, and my family and I had just gotten back from a football game in the town we had just moved from. I was so excited to get to see some of my friends and a friend of my moms even offered to let me move in with her to finish school, but my parents said no. I think seeing everyone that night actually made it harder. I still missed everyone there, but at the same time, I felt like I didn’t fit in there anymore either. I felt lost and defeated. I felt completely alone. I’m a believer in Christ, and with that belief comes the belief in evil. I believe that Satan took advantage of my loneliness and tried to steal me away from God and my family that night. I remember getting back to the house that night, after crying the entire way home, and I went up to my room and I literally hit my knees and prayed, “LORD, take me home. I don’t want to be here anymore.”

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Later that night, my mom asked me if I was going to bed and I told her that I was going to stay up a little while and watch TV downstairs in the living room. She has since told me that she wished she would have followed her “mom gut” that night and stayed up with me. She just felt wrong about me staying up alone that night.

After my parents went to bed, I went to the kitchen and got 3 water bottles out of the refrigerator and I climbed on top of the counter and proceeded to pull the Zoloft, Tylenol, and IBProfen out of the medicine cabinet. I remember this night in detail, but it was almost like an out of body experience. It was like I was watching myself from above doing all this and part of me wanted to scream out, “NO! NO! What are you doing?!?! STOP!” I felt robotic. I felt numb. I had made my decision and I was going forward with it. Let me just state, I had not been planning this. This was a split decision that came from a very dark, dark night of loneliness. I went back to the couch in our living room and as I watched Three’s Company on TVLand, I began to take one pill at a time. From there, it begins to get a little foggy, but I remember something very, very clearly. God was watching out for me that night. I remember looking over to the other side of the room, and leaning up against the wall was my grandmother, my step mom’s mother that had recently passed away. She looked at me and shook her finger, almost like she was telling me, “no, Lana. It is not your time yet.”

The next morning, I vaguely remember my mom coming down the stairs, seeing me, and then yelling up the stairs to my dad, “Lana tried to kill herself. Call 911.” I was in and out of consciousness at this point. My dad carried me to the car and we drove to meet the ambulance on the main road because we lived about 10 minutes out of town. Come to find out later on, I must have thrown up during the night at some point, and that was the only thing that saved my life. The doctors said I took enough medicine that I shouldn’t have survived. I do remember getting a tummy ache and feeling very full. I think it was because I drank so much water to get all the pills down, but whatever it was it saved my life.

I won’t go into detail about the next few days. I was in the ICU in San Antonio for a few nights. I will say this, I am loved. I had grandparents from all over Texas drive all night to get to me. I even had a grandpa from Louisiana drive 10 hours to get to the hospital to see me. No one made me feel like I had failed. No one made me feel like I was a disappointment. They slept in chairs in the ICU waiting room and took turns coming in to sit with me through the night because only one person was allowed in at a time. I was reminded that I wasn’t alone, that I was loved, and that no matter what I had a family that would love me unconditionally.

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How did I heal? Well, strangely enough, my little brother, who was 9 at the time, had a lot to do with my healing process. He and I had always been close growing up and I took solace in that. I slept in his room for the first two or three months after I got out of the hospital. We would stay up and watch movies on nights that he didn’t have to go to school, I would read to him, and we would play make-believe with his cars and horses. I will never forget how my little brother would watch over me, even when I moved back to my room, I would wake up some mornings and he would be curled up at the foot of my bed or on a blanket on the floor next to my bed. To this day we have never talked about my attempted suicide, but he did tell my mom a few weeks after it happened, “Mom, I am so glad my sister didn’t die.” Love really can heal all wounds, especially love from your little brother.

I stayed home from school for a couple of months, taking part in a home-bound program. I had a teacher come to my house daily and we did my lessons. My mom and I got to spend a lot of time together during those days before I started back to school. We made a point to laugh every day. I started seeing a counselor and open-communication became even more mandatory in our house.

I lived that night because God wasn’t finished with me on earth. A few days after my attempt, my mom told me that her sister and my grandmother had woken up that night and felt like something was wrong and they felt an urgency to say a prayer for me. I truly believe that Satan reached into my darkness and whispered in my ear “this is the only way.” But Satan is a liar and I am here to tell you that God still has the ability to perform miracles and spit in the face of Satan because I am still here today. I vowed from that day forward to do something with my second chance. That is why I am writing this blog. I hope that I can change the life of some lonely child or adult out there that is contemplating taking their own life. Stop for just one moment. Breathe. Ask for help.

There is light at the end of the dark tunnel. You can make it through this. You can fight out the darkness. As a parent of two boys, I also want to speak to the parents out there. I can’t imagine losing a child. I asked my parents if I had given any signs. They both, sadly, said I didn’t. I was still smiling. My teachers were shocked because I was “always smiling” at school. My dad did say that you need to remain connected with your children. That sometimes we get caught up in the day to day of trying to provide for our families that we forget to check in with them. Be vigilant of your children if they are dealing with huge changes, like a move. My mom said, “trust your gut.” She felt like something was off that night and she didn’t feel comfortable about me staying up alone to watch TV, even though I did it all the time.

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According to the CDC website, ” Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24 and results in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year.” Here are some things to look for in your children:

  • Thinking or talking about or threatening suicide
  • Feelings of purposelessness, anxiety, being trapped, or hopeless
  • Withdrawing from people and activities
  • Expressing unusual anger, recklessness, or mood changes

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This to shall pass. Have faith that you are stronger than the situation you are currently in.

YOU ARE LOVED. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Send me a message if you ever feel like talking to someone. I will always answer.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

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National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255   https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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