“Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth” -Author Unknown
Hi, my name is Catherine and I am a survivor of a narcissistic, manipulative mother.
Those words took me almost 47 years to type and a lifetime of trauma.
I grew up in a family of four. The perfect blend of having a mom, dad, and brother.
Yet we were dysfunctional in so many ways. Although, of course, at the time, I didn’t realize it. I just thought I had to try harder, be better, and earn my mother’s love more and more each day.
As a mother of six myself now, I am acutely aware that no child has to earn the love of their parents—ever.
I thought all children were the same as me. That having an opinion or a voice was frowned upon. I was used to treading water around my mom, ducking and diving, twisting this way or that, working hard to ensure the water stayed smooth. Don’t make a ripple, don’t make her angry, don’t show you are upset, definitely don’t have an opinion. I learned to pretend, smile, and keep my eyes focussed on the prize . . . making my mom happy.
Because then, maybe, I might catch just a small nugget of love and kindness for a while, maybe even a few hours. And that would feel, well, good—until it was taken away again.
I didn’t realize that manipulation and control can be disguised as love. I thought that in order to be loved, I had to earn it.
And a mother’s love? That is a powerful kind of love! One we all want. One we all need. When it is healthy.
I quickly learned that any of my decisions that weren’t my mom’s decisions would wound her, and that hurt was all on me.
I didn’t realize that healthy relationships celebrate alongside you, cheering you on, urging you forward with encouragement and kindness.
And any big life changes—such as marriage, children, moving to another country—in many families, are cause for celebration. And the fact is life looks different for each and every one of us, and that’s OK.
Different is OK, it’s just different.
But instead, when I sought celebration and hoped expectantly for approval, I received a withdrawal of love and radio silence. Lots of silence.
I didn’t realize other children weren’t playing the role of trying to fix everything in their families. That the veil of fragility in our home wasn’t what many of my friends experienced. They weren’t shrouded with a backdrop of fear. Or didn’t hold the overwhelming responsibility of keeping their mom happy.
I didn’t realize that other moms weren’t a closed steel door, shrouded in a room full of spikes, which one had to frog-leap over, navigating the way forward in the darkness.
Because they were too busy being children while I was too busy trying to un-crease the complexities of my family’s emotions.
Now I am older and hopefully wiser. I understand now that my mum parented to the best of her abilities. While my basic needs were met, my heart and mind weren’t. She couldn’t give what she didn’t have.
“God’s most extraordinary work is most often done by ordinary people in the seeming obscurity of a home and family.” Neal. A. Maxwell
I was fortunate to find my forever love at 18 and married by 19, which slowly taught me the truth of unconditional love.
My husband and my faith in God healed my traumatic upbringing and showed me what true, unbridled, and free love actually was. The sort of love every child deserves, regardless of their character or behavior.
I spent many years confused about love and when it finally dawned on me that I had actually grown up with an emotionally unstable, abusive mother, I was free to be the person I was always meant to be. I realized that being in my mom’s presence sucked all the air out of the room, and me. And one day, I took a deep breath and inhaled my future self, full of life, love, and endless possibility.
I became the very woman God had always called me to become. Like a small bud, gently unfolding, I too, grew and blossomed into me.
All thanks to being a survivor of a manipulative mother.
Giving, kind, empathetic, compassionate, and gentle—this is who I am now, and I can say with confidence I am nothing like my mother.
After feeling confused and lost for many years, I am now grateful. Yes, I am grateful because everything I learned growing up, which was in fact wrong, has been made right for my family.
We all have hurts in our past that can, if we let them, cast a shadow over our present.
You have a different story than mine, and I have no doubt there are lessons you have garnered that have enriched you as a mother to your precious children. Let the experience of your past, shape and mold the golden treasures that lie ahead in your future.
I now know there is no such thing as perfection, and every human being is deeply precious and beautiful, which goes way beyond the outer shell.
That a heart of kindness and acceptance of others is an utterly enchanting quality to possess.
I know that to love with wild abandon is an invaluable character trait that can be born from trauma.
Just like beautiful cracks in a china bowl that have been filled with gold, my cracks are now strong and shine with restoration.
My best work sweeps through every ordinary moment within our home, which, for a long time, was hidden beneath layers of guilt, uncertainty, and shame.
I finally like what I see. In fact, I like it very much, and I am grateful to my mom for my life now. Because I have the strength and clarity to fly high and build a healthy and happy home.
And that is very, very precious indeed.
If you are a victim of a manipulative/narcissistic parent or partner, know you are never, ever alone. Reach out to me. Reach out to a friend. Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence. Help is right around the corner and there are people, just like you, who share the same story.