Letter to My Estranged Mother (Part 1)

I discovered last week that you read my blog. This blog! Although my initial "inner child" reaction was one of fear, after 5 seconds I started laughing at what I imagine your reaction to be when you read about my not-so-private sex life out there on the web. Now you don't have to pick my diary with a hairpin to read what's going on in my life. You don't have to invade my privacy, shame me, or belittle me for being what I was and behaving accordingly.

Who was I?

I was a traumatized child, who became a traumatized teenager and a traumatized adult. That you continue not to fully acknowledge your role in creating, ignoring and erasing my trauma is part of why we don't speak.

This week's post is about my experience of penis-in-vagina sex and how it isn't all its cracked up to be. I hope you enjoy it although I fear that it isn't your cup of tea. Because if there's one tenet that you instilled in me, it was not to wash my dirty laundry in public. Not to betray you or your tell others about your treatment of me. How you think about sex now, I don't know - since we haven't spoken in years - but I know that growing up it was one of the dirtiest things imaginable. My teenage morals were a constant source of worry for you and let's face it, you dragging me down on my knees to pray for them didn't make them any better. If only you could have understood that it was your narcissism and not my adoption that prevented me from attaching to you, from loving you, and respecting you maybe I would have taken your advice.

But what I really want to address in this letter is your experience of my writing about you. Last week you wrote to my boyfriend, the father of my children and a man you have never met and told him that it was "tragic" you could not contact me directly because I have made you a "perpetual scapegoat, a target for ongoing abuse on the internet for all the world to read." You suggested he send me to therapy. I have a therapist, and a diagnosis for C-PTSD, from multiple layers of trauma in my childhood that you and my father participated in, perhaps ignorantly and/or subconsciously. But the harm you both did is real. Yet I imagine that you are referring to the posts where I have described you as suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, and a manipulative ego driven woman for whom I existed only as an extension of yourself. I totally understand why this is difficult to read.

Some people are born into circumstances so heavy with problems that it seems like a cruel joke. But you and I aren't even close to this, even though I know we have both had our share of issues to deal with. Now you have an estranged daughter writing the truth about you on the internet. I share this truth with the world because it's the most light I can shine on it; it gets rid of all the stuff - guilt, blame and shame - around it. I own my story and lead by example. In doing so, I demonstrate that I too have experienced life as a "shameful", "unlovable" person - a victim of a narcissist (and that there is hope for us all!).

It is important to share experience. Narcissism is important. You are by no means the only one to experience from it. Adoption is important. In many cases necessary, but is always borne of tragedy. Authenticity is important. That I do not hide my voice in a society which tries so hard to make us conform. That tries to hide these things.

What does my writing about you mean? That you are forced to confront the fact that I tell my perception of truth to the world and that it makes you out to be the bad guy. But I believe that you and I are equally responsible for our experiences in life. And that's not shared 50-50; it's not about apportioning blame. As an adult I am 100% responsible for my experience of my life. And you are 100% responsible for your experience in life. You are also responsible for the abuse you inflicted on me when I was a child. Contrary to what you always told me, words do hurt. More than sticks and stones, but the wounds are invisible. So now you're the victim. I know all about that.

Because I was a victim. I became an alcoholic on the back of it. I was promiscuous because of it. I was angry, self-destructive and full of conflict. I went through several suicide attempts. It was a horrible way to live. And I consider that this is entirely my responsibility, not because it was my fault, but because it is only by taking responsibility for my life now that I can take back my life from you.

So now I think my experience of being your adopted daughter one of the most valuable in my life. My work is a consequence of it. With my experience I can help others.

The psychologically traumatic games that you and I played together (with our limited resources and capabilities) was one of my major sources of learning which propelled me onto my true purpose in this world of being a writer. It is the way I have discovered myself. Lessons from our relationship (including this letter!) continue to pop up today. Through the context of you and I, I understand how we can both play the victim and the persecutor simultaneously. You have helped me learn this, the only way we ever can, by playing it ourselves. I understand about sex negativity and repression from the inside out because of the lessons you passed to me (those that came from your mother and your upbringing). I now understand about my enormous capacity to make life work and it's not by playing persecutor, victim or rescuer roles.

Our co-created experience has opened a new world for me. I have clients who have also perceived their life experience through a victim position. Clients who have experienced maternal narcissism. They are - like you and I were - stuck into a cycle of experiencing pain and suffering. They hate themselves and each other. Many of them have had far, far "worse" experiences than you and I. But I can only help them because I have myself been the victim for years. I heal them by loving and accepting them, the way I have learnt to love and accept myself. The way you never did.

That my problems exist is undeniable. But now I handle these problems as gifts. Most of them are created by my own head in any case, so it is relatively easy to transform them. They create enjoyment and satisfaction in my life. And since I decided to become master of my experience instead of victim of it, I have relationships that work at a different level. I sleep well and I contribute to life. If you and I have previously co-created our games, you have also greatly contributed to the way that I am now. Thank you.

I think that where you are now, you might appreciate a complete retraction of and apology for everything I have ever written. But that's not going to happen. My experience of abused daughter is true. Even objectively, I'm sorry to say for your sake, it is true. Yet I hear your pain. It doesn't take a genius to step in your shoes and walk a few painful steps in the role of abusive mother. But that won't stop me telling my story.

I don't believe that my writing about you is powerful enough to invalidate you and your life. In fact nothing is that powerful. You are powerful no matter what anyone says about you. But I choose not to have you in my life if you experience it as a martyr and a victim. I don't want those particular passive-aggressive codependent games in my life and I don't want them in my children's lives either. I would prefer them to learn how life works without extra examples of how to be a victim of their life experience.

The example I'm giving them is that sometimes in this life, it is better to let go of those relationships which don't serve you. I believe ours was and continues to be, one of those.

The Maternal Narcissism Trail


Growing up with a maternal narcissist - a mother who views you as an extension of herself - teaches you to suppress your sense of self in order to be loved. It warps you, stunts you, in such a way as you may never recover. It makes you insecure, hypervigilant and highly susceptible to abusive relationships in adult life. It's horrific, but there is hope, recovery and validation together with others who have experienced it. There's far too many of us.