As I enter my fourth year of recovery from narcissistic abuse, I find myself exhausted and bitter because of the layers of damage I have to peel away.
I thought I was in a really good place because I’d been feeling really good about myself. One nagging issue though, had me wondering how well I was really doing. That issue is my son. He is struggling. If you are a parent you know – if your child is struggling, you are struggling.
Since I couldn’t put my finger on what the issue really is, I decided to take a meditation class titled “The Power of Self Compassion”. The 1st class was really interesting, and, after the lecture, we did a 20 minute guided meditation. At the end of class I was exhausted. I spent the rest of the day on my sofa. I messaged the teacher and asked her what she thought was happening. She said that either I was severely sleep deprived or I was resisting something. To quote, she said “Is there something that is ready to come forth that you are trying to control?”. When the tears started as I read this I thought Bingo.
Crap. I have to admit, I am so tired of this recovery process. Every time I think I’m done I find a new level of dysfunction that I need to work on. Exhausting. Yesterday though, I figured out what this next issue is.
I’m a single mom, and I’ve moved into a townhouse that needs serious upgrading. One of the most pressing issues is my sons room. He is in the loft. There is a bump out that has two windows, topped with an arch window. It is lovely, but not in the morning when he wants to sleep in. Unfortunately the ceiling is sloped, so curtains will not cover the entire window. Over winter break I decided to cover what could be covered with a blanket to see if it was helpful. He said it was, so I ordered blackout panels. While shopping for them I found this nifty blackout curtain rod which allows the curtains to wrap around and lay flush against the wall. Great, right? I ordered it.
Yesterday, with all of the our supplies in hand, we trudged up to his room to hang these curtains. I’ll admit – as soon as I opened the packaging and saw anchors, I had this nagging thought that I needed to walk away and hire someone to do this. I ignored it. My son sensed it, because before we even started he asked me to wait and let someone else do it. I refused. To make a long story short, by the end of the night we were looking at a wall with 6 holes, 2 rather large, and a screw that I’d pounded so hard with a hammer it might never come out. & FYI, I know that hammering screws is the same as bashing your head against a wall, but without the blood.
I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s “The Gift of Imperfect Parenting” and one of her major points is this: Parents can not give their children what they don’t have. It doesn’t matter what we say, all that matters is what we do. So when, later in the night, I apologized to my son for carrying on, I knew it was a hollow apology. I went on to say that I knew it was crazy of me to think I have to be able to do everything, that I shouldn’t care that I’m terrible with power tools, because I am good at many other things. He agreed but we both knew, I do care. I care a lot. The question then, is why?
Before I moved in with my ex-narc I was very independent. I painted an apartment, hung many a curtain, repaired broken toilets, hung pictures and shelves, built Ikea furniture, even changed the spark plugs and alternator on an old Ford. I was competent. When my ex and I first moved in together we decided to paint the living room. I intended to help. As we got started my ex was quick to point out that I was painting “wrong”. Everything I was doing was wrong. The more I tried to do it “right”, the worse it got. I walked away after a half an hour.
Thus began my journey with my ex down the rabbit hole of incompetence. For the next 25 years everything I tried to do was wrong. I’d hear either “great job but this is wrong – I can fix it” or “can you just not…..”. Eventually, I just did not. I did nothing.
Now in my own place, I approach each project with a mixture of gleeful anticipation and dread. Unfortunately dread is more powerful than glee. With an underlying sense of dread I am usually doomed before I’ve gotten started. I’ve messed up many walls in the past 5 months in my beloved townhouse.
All of this would be fine if I accepted the fact that I’m not good at home repairs and left it to someone else. Instead, I have this persistant voice in the back of my head that says “hey dummy – you should be able to do this stuff; what is wrong with you”. So much for self compassion, eh?
What I (& my ex) taught our son is this: You should be good at everything. If you are not you are worthless.
No wonder he is struggling! He is as paralyzed at his schoolwork as I am with home improvements. Having failed several times, I imagine he approaches each assignment with that unrelenting feeling of dread, that voice that says “you can’t do this dummy”. And guess what? He fails. Each failure adds credence to that voice, making it louder and stonger, until it is all that is left. Poor kid.
I am off to paint my bedroom. I kid you not. Despite the certainty that I will screw something up, I am going to do it. He is at work right now, but I imagine he’ll come home to some type of mess, and rather expletive language. Yet I can’t stop myself.
All I can think is this: Brene Brown is a brilliant speaker, writer and parent. Brene – can you finish raising my kid??? Please?