Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Letter I Had to Write

I recently had to write this letter to a friend who wanted me to stay silent about the sexual abuse and lack of parental protection I experienced as a child. The attempt from this friend to shame me into silence was a complete betrayal of my trust. She was the one person aside from my husband that I chose to trust with my truth and with my heart. I'm still reeling from this experience. I think it will a long time before I'm able to trust another friend again. I am choosing to share this letter because I believe that keeping silent, and being shamed into keeping silent, is hurtful. It is difficult and isolating to be truthful. Some people, even those most trusted, may turn away or react in anger. My hope is that in sharing this letter anonymously, it will not harm those involved in this situation, but could help someone else struggling with walking the path to freedom from past abuse, knowing that they walk it alone at times. It will still be alright.

Dear Friend,

It is good to have support when you have done something wrong.

I have publicly shared that I recently uncovered memories of being abused as a child. What I have not shared are the exact events. Nor have I shared the role my mother played in them. I have been struggling with walking the line of speaking the truth I need to in order to heal without causing harm.

I write this to you for the same purpose. Not to cause harm but to bring healing.

I hope you will read this essay. I wrote this last May and shared with a blogger I trust, who was kind enough to share it anonymously (there is a trigger warning on this post):
Taking the Long Way Home

So now that you have that past, this is toward the present:

Five years ago, I found someone who needed me. And not because he needed someone to act as an adjunct for their will. He just needed me to be his mother. And I was no longer willing to remain wholly subsumed in my mother’s life.

Yet, I did not have awareness of what that meant. For the past five years, I have been setting up boundaries that she fights against constantly. When I was finally able to get her a professional diagnosis, it was of narcissistic personality disorder (which she has completely rejected.) I finally had some answers. I was able to come to terms with what was happening.

I have anger. I have sadness. I have many feelings. I’m not those things at her. I’m feeling those things mostly about the gap between how I wish things were and how things are in my relationship with her.

Still I continued to define boundaries and she began escalating her behaviors. The worst was her taking it out on my sons. DS1 and DS2 would come back from seeing her and say things like, “I’m a bad kid.” “I’m bad boy. I no cry.” This tore my heart out. So my partner and I agreed to limit her time with them while we worked to gently move her toward positive parenting. She still refused professional help. We sent books, articles, and recommended classes, among other things. We got our own professional support specifically for this situation. For a long time, I thought we might get there. I felt, and still feel, that a relationship with their grandmother is important-as long as they were safe.

But things with the kids grew progressively worse until I witnessed her belittle DS1 as a way of lashing out as me for saying, “no” to her. We only allowed supervised visits in our home with the children after that.

Then my partner and I witnessed her have a break from reality. We insisted on professional help and shortened, supervised time with the children. She refused and began lashing out at me. I broke off contact with her and began having flashbacks as I mention in the essay above.

Growing up with a narcissist parent makes me especially susceptible to relationships with narcissists. It’s comfortable for me because it’s familiar. To use the psychological term, I’m entrained for it. At the time of my friendship with [private], and its eventual end, I was not aware of any of the narcissist labels or identifiers. I just knew eventually that I was tired of being manipulated by her. When I refused to do as she wished, the bullying and threats began. Some of which I shared with you in trust. I believed her that it was my fault. I believed her threats and was afraid. So, I remained silent and accepted blame. Just as when I was a child, I took in the pain because I felt I deserved it.

All of this leads me to explain that when you tried to blame me for causing “drama” and that in talking about narcissists, that I was “talking about myself,” the tortured, unprotected 12 year old girl responded. She screamed in pain at you. The utter betrayal I felt in those words I know came from an uninformed, but altruistic place.

What you said was wrong.

It also came from a place of goodness, albeit misplaced. I can understand that.

I felt your anger and disappointment in my lack of ability to respond to your recent reaching out to me in the way you wished. I felt your projection from the experiences you had with such a difficult, heart-breaking family situation that clouded what you read and didn’t allow you to really see the truth in the need for healing. And that you saw rather some form of control or manipulation. Mingle those with the lack of information, and that’s not going to make for a healthy place to be.

You can google Narcissistic Personality Disorder, if you wish. It’s incredibly complex and difficult for me to really fathom how nuanced it is in one NPD person’s life. The pervasive opinion is that it's best to cut the NPD person out of your life. I’ve chosen to keep trying. It’s probably pointless, but I just can’t write her off. I can’t blame her for the protection she had to create with what she had to deal with in her own past (which respectfully is hers to keep private.)

Whatever you decide to accept about this information and whether you are able to really see it is frankly of little concern to me. I expect no response and probably wouldn’t read one from you anyway lest it be more blaming. This letter and anything else I choose to write about this in the future is for my closure.

I wish that you will find peace in the truth whenever you can see it.


Photo from korafotomorgana on Flickr.
Used by Creative Commons License.


  1. Your story breaks my heart. I hope you get some relief from unburdening some of it here. Blessings to you.

  2. I feel for you, I really do and not to turn the attention to me in any way I just want you to know that I can relate wholly. My mother was very manipulative and abusive and I decided eventually to let go. You have to. Your mother will NEVER change, that is part of the whole narcissistic personality. You have to find a way to come to terms with what has happened in the past and it seems like you are on that path. Understanding what has happened and how it has affected you and then at some point looking around you and realizing you are stronger, you are better and one day it will all be a bad dream. Your mother is toxic. In an ideal world everything can be mended however, in reality that is not true and only certain people can ever really understand it. It may take time but you are experiencing this journey in life and do not need to have her pulling you back. For the sake of your sanity, your children and your quality of life I would limit my relationship to necessity. You are right to be angry and sad and confused but not everyone knows how to deal with what you are dealing with. Your friends may not be able to comfort you because they just don't know how. It saddens me that you have to gone through this and you will continue to until it has been worked through. One day it will all be a bad dream, I promise.

  3. What a difficult situation with your children involved! Good for you for protecting them, even from someone who *should* be a confidant for them.


  4. I have cried so many tears for you and for the child in you who had to endure so much that a child should never have to know. How I wish I could make things right somehow or at least give you a hug of total, complete support for who you are and what you've gone through and what you've been so incredibly brave to share.

  5. Your whole story breaks my heart! As a person in the dental community, I cant even imagine this happening. It's a horrible thing you went through. That SOB should be in jail and never be near a child again. You are such a strong beautiful soul!

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