I’ve been having bad dreams about my mother again.
It’s interesting to me that I don’t often have bad dreams about my father–I used to, but I don’t have them often anymore. Now my bad dreams are about hospitals and about my mother. My father was much more brutal, but my mother’s abuse was much more subtle and got under my skin a lot more.
Last night’s was the trifecta: she said my hair was gross, she said I smelled bad, and then my teeth started falling apart and she told me I was disgusting.
It doesn’t sound that bad, written out. That was what my mother’s abuse fed on: people saying, “But that’s not so bad.” My mother was (and probably still is) an emotional abuser. She was smart, and she was cruel. She knew what to say that would make me feel utterly worthless without raising other people’s eyebrows. A close friend who has met my mother told me recently, “The reason I hated your mom so much was how good she was at making me think she was a good mother. She made me wonder if maybe it was just that you two didn’t get along well, and when I realized I was thinking that, I really started hating her.” It’s SO good to have friends who believe me unconditionally.
The doctor I consulted with to confirm my therapist’s DID diagnosis spoke with my family as part of the consult. Referring to my mother, he told me, “We have a shrink term for people like that . We call them pathological narcissists.”
Suddenly things started making a lot more sense. I knew something was wrong with my mother, but I never knew what. She fits some of the characteristics of borderline and bipolar, but neither was quite right. Bipolar and borderline wouldn’t explain her affinity for abusing my sisters and me. I’d always conceptualized a narcissist as someone who thinks they’re perfect, and I’ve always gotten the sense that my mother feels broken or wrong somehow. (Her father was horrible to her–and still is, really.) But when I did more reading about narcissism, I realized I had an inaccurate conception. This list of traits of narcissistic mothers reads like someone just went through all my old diaries–something my mother used to do. It really was uncanny to read because it was such an exact echo of my childhood experiences.
I think the bad dreams about my mother are a message to myself that I need to do some more work around that in therapy. (Once I actually have a therapist again. *sigh*) I don’t want to keep letting my mother be in my head. Though my father’s abuse was, in most ways of thinking, a lot worse, I’ve found it easier to deal with because what he did was so clearly and obviously wrong. Very, very few people will say it’s okay to beat up a small child, threaten/attempt to kill her, and rape her repeatedly. But emotional/verbal abuse is much more of a gray area. It’s a lot easier to say, “Well, she was trying to help, but she just said some things wrong” or “At least she was trying to be a good mother.”
I almost feel like a traitor to the parts of me who survived the horrible things my father did, or to other physical and sexual abuse survivors, saying that. Physical and sexual abuse are definitely NOT easy to deal with, and I still struggle a lot with the effects of it. But it’s my mother’s verbal/emotional abuse that really makes me feel crazy and doubt myself. Then I start doubting my father’s abuse, too, and then I just become a big huge mess. But that’s probably a whole other post.