Leading up to every visit with my mom, I feel a lot of anxiety. Even though she lives on the other side of the country and we only see each other a couple of times a year, I still seem crippled by her visits. Last time she came, I realized how hard it is to love someone who triggers your anxiety.
The weeks leading up to her visits — or let’s face it, even phone calls from her — are torture for me. I find myself playing out how scenarios will go in my head, from how she’ll react to something as simple as where I moved the trash can in my house, to the way I’m parenting my kids.
I lose sleep. I lash out at my family. I find myself apologizing to my spouse, saying things like, “I’m sorry. I’m just so stressed with my mom coming into town.” I clean everything — and I mean everything.
My mom is a narcissist. Or, at least I think that’s what she is. She doesn’t last long enough in any good therapist’s office to get a real diagnosis, because as soon as she hears something she doesn’t like, she’s done. But I’ve done my research. I know. It’s the diagnosis that seems to fit better than any other diagnosis she’s received.
When she visits, I find myself seething inside from her critical comments and biting my tongue at the inappropriate things she says to my kids. She bashes my father constantly and talks bad about my siblings who aren’t present. Her visits exhaust me emotionally and physically.
Once she’s gone, I feel nothing but sadness. Sadness for the mom I wish I had and the mother-daughter relationships I envy. Sadness that my mother visiting is one of my biggest anxiety triggers. Sadness that she triggers self-loathing and depression when she leaves.
Sometimes I tell myself that it would be easier to cut her out of my life, but she’s my mom and my kids wouldn’t understand. Still, it’s hard to love someone who triggers the ugliest part of you. And I ask myself if it’s really worth it.
It feels shameful when I tell people my mom is visiting and they respond with, “Oh, how fun!”… while all I feel is dread.
I feel guilty for not being kinder or a “better daughter” when she’s constantly reminding me that I could do better.
I feel pain at the way she talks about people in our family whom I love dearly. The way she talks about them makes me wonder what she says about me behind my back.
I feel anger that she manipulates me so easily when she’s here — the way she tricks me into having conversations I’ve repeatedly told her I do not wish to have.
As much as I long for a mother who’s easy to talk to and trust, a relationship with mine involves a constant barrage of baiting tactics and gaslighting. When you love a narcissistic parent, it feels like a helpless situation. It feels like I’m stuck in a pattern with someone I might never escape. It feels like I’m in a relationship that should be so much easier, but know will never be.
I feel a tremendous loss for the mother I wanted, even though I have a mother right there. I feel a loss for shopping trips together where comments about my weight and size aren’t mentioned. I feel a loss for lunches together where for she doesn’t comment on how fast or how much I’m eating for once.
Because I love my narcissistic parent, I feel a lot of anger that I can’t just write her off. I’m disappointed that I still subject myself to the abuse. It’s hard to walk away from someone who is supposed to be your biggest fan and strongest ally when you just keep hoping this time is going to be different. And I feel deep pain when I realize my mother views me as competition, and always will.
For some reason, I continue to hope for change. But when it doesn’t happen, I’m that little girl all over again waiting for validation in the form of “Good job,” “Well done!” or “I’m proud.” Occasionally, she will say she’s proud, but when she does, I find myself questioning her motives, her intentions, and even my own sanity. Because I don’t believe her. A lifetime of emotional scarring has made sure I’ll never believe she’s being sincere.
It’s a difficult thing loving a narcissistic parent, because those of us who do often suffer in silence. I find myself talking to my siblings about it because they are the only ones who can understand. But if I’m being honest, I hate how our conversations always seem to lead back to her. It’s just another way she’s controlling all of us.
Since therapy, I’ve come a long way. I’ve learned to set boundaries and remind myself that it’s more about her than me. Still, the pain will always be there. I think I’ll always wish for something that won’t ever be.