Honest Arrogance: Accepting and Rejecting This Limitation – by Claire Roberts

“Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance and have seen no occasion to change” -Frank Lloyd Wright, Michigan Daily, 1998

After figuring out that my mother was a narcissist, I felt immediate peace. I had been surviving in a battle for so long. I was relieved to know that there was a real problem, an identifiable diagnosis, and a possible solution. However, since the weeks and months that have passed since my discovery, I still feel like I am back in the quagmire. Setting boundaries has been hard, but very effective. Knowing always what to do next doesn’t come so easy. But living with the limitations that will always be present is still very excruciating. I had hoped that the original diagnosis would be a panacea to the problem. Yet, there is still a void and many limitations on our relationship.

Again, the biggest problem that I am faced with is accepting the limitations of my mother, and frankly, myself. In asking the question of living with someone else’s limitations, don’t you have to fully and objectively audit yourself? Where are my blind spots?

“Processing or grieving is different than merely describing or telling your story. In order to grieve first you have to stop denying reality and begin accepting the truth.  Accept that your mother lacks the capacity to offer the love and nurturing you need” ( Dr. Stephanie King: Acceptance, The First Step Toward Healing for Children of Narcissitic Mothers, www.drstephaniekingpsy.com, July 19, 2016).

Is my mom secretly writing a blog about me? What am I good for? What am I especially good at? (Sorry, I know I am not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, but it just sounds better).

I have learned that my mother’s specialty is criticism. Her power comes from domineering. She is kind, considerate, and compassionate, especially if someone is watching. She is horrible at listening.

“Often the narcissist parent will mock the child, as they are having feelings, or interrupt the child as they’re speaking, so the child never gets a word in edgewise, they can never feel heard, they can never feel seen” (Victoria Lorient-Fabish, Visualization Works Narcisstic Parent: Collateral Damage Aug 8, 2010 Moving Beyond the Childhood).

She is untrustworthy, and she uses guilt to manipulate. Yet, if you were to ever confront her, challenge her, or provoke her … watch out! That’s one beast I would rather not fight.

Now to me. What am I good at? I am good, or at least better, at listening than my mother. I consider trust to be the currency of any relationship. My worst fear is that someone would lose confidence in me or feel like I betrayed their trust. I feel that the only way to manipulate is really through persuasion and long suffering, constantly pointing out my counterpart’s agency and their free use of it. If I am offered criticism (constructive or otherwise) I try to really do my due diligence and see if there is truth to that person’s claim. I try to ask for feedback or for other’s opinions on how I can do better, or succeed faster. Sadly, I have found most people’s honest, frank evaluation of me to be less hurtful than my own mother’s. If service is rendered by me, I wish it to be secret, or anonymous, so that it can be accepted for merely what it is instead of other people’s perception of my service. I guess in honestly evaluating another’s weakness and limitations, I have to be willing to learn from their mistakes and avoid them at all costs. (Paraphrased by Brain Tracy, No Excuses: Relationship chapter).

One of the biggest turning points in accepting the limitations of a narcissistic mother is realizing that I will never receive nurturing from her in the way that I would like to have it. I do and can receive it from other family members and friends. But I will never receive it from my mom. This is both healing and hurtful. Since I can’t be truly nurtured from my own mother, I have realized that my own mother daughter interactions are really more like a quilt—patch-work to be exact. There are holes, rips, tears, and batting flying out of my motherhood blanket. I have done my best through the years to find the right pieces of eclectic mothering through pseudo mother mentors. Patching in the pieces, sewing memories, examples, and principles I would like to have one day with my own daughter.

Here are some of them:

Grace Kelly- Gosh I love her. Or at least what I think I know of her. She was always so glamorous and made everything so simple and yet elegant. She is quoted as saying that a dress should be short enough to show you’re a woman, but long enough to show you’re a lady. Where were you when I was growing up??? I really could have used your example of classiness and elegance. A true Lady. Or as my Scottish heritage would call her, “A Classy Lassie.”

My Best Friend-. She and I share so much. She is some sort of a genius, so I always depend on her for intellectual stimulus and great conversation. She provides an honest counterpoint to my most vexing issues. And she somehow knows when to be silent and listen. Most of the time, she somehow manages to do all of these traits simultaneously. It’s like she knows my mind, heart, soul, and spirit. She gives me confidence in every place where it is broken. She’s a real friend. Probably will never find one like her here or in the hereafter, she’s just that good.

The last professor I had in graduate school– He was truly a brilliant man. I am so thankful our paths crossed. He wrote on one of my papers that I should go to law school or pursue a PhD. I have saved that paper and memorized the scribbled note. He didn’t always agree with my work or my writing, but when and where I did something worthy, he praised it. Again, probably one of the first times I had a relationship with someone who was consistent and objective. If I gave him a crap paper, he’d call me out on it citing, “you can do much better.” Other times he said I should go to the next level, he even invited me into his seminar class with other doctorate students to present paper at a seminar. I hope someday I will get to make him proud with a law degree or a Phd. But for now, his words mean so much to me because of their authenticity and their honesty. It made it safe to revel in, and even enjoy praise when it came. I truly felt nurtured, praised, and like I made progress.

My 6th grade basketball coach– She happened to be my Latin teacher and I can still conjugate some Latin verbs, to this very day, due to her positive influence. The thing I most remember about her was she ran down the court, her infant in one arm, and she jumped up, caught the basketball with the other hand to complete a layup. I remember at the time thinking, WOW!!! Can I be you when I grow up? She taught me that it’s ok to be you, even through motherhood. And it’s ok to be both athletic and a woman, there should never be shame in being both. Her quote was always, “Confidence is the Key!” before any game you would find her shouting it.

Penny and Sonny Wren– These two are proof that guardian angels truly exist. They have offered to watch my kids (something my own mother detests) they have offered to help me, they have supported me, they have buoyed me up when I swear I about to go under. They have prayed for me, counseled me, and encouraged me. These people have no blood relation to me, and yet they have treated me with kindness I have never known. We became better friends through our mutual sorrows, and if that’s the only reason I was meant to have those sorrows, it has totally been worth it to have their friendship. I would pay that price any day to have them in my life in any form or association. They have helped me make a better quilt for myself, and they have not only patched up the holes, they are the very seams that run throughout.

All of these mentors and nurturers have helped me complete a better way for myself and my daughter to interact. They have shown me that is a better way. This new found hope has inspired me to do better than the pattern I was given. Hopefully I can be as honest with myself, as I had once wished my own mother could have been with herself.

‘Becoming The Fire’ by Claire Roberts

Claire Roberts Picture

“Some women fear the fire. Some women simply become it.”
R.H. Sin

(Dear Mom, If you ever read this, it is not me.)

After years of feeling inadequate, guilty, selfish, ugly, untalented, overlooked, and undistinguished, I gave in. Not into believing the lies, but in fully dedicating myself to defying those lies. I don’t remember when it started, I only know it has never ended. If I were to tell you that I had a narcissistic mother, you would never believe me, I didn’t even believe it at first, myself. She is running everyone’s lives, including mine, for a time. She is front and center of every Church duty, civic engagement. She is the “hostess with the mostess.” Her garden: sublime, her home: immaculate, her friends: near and dear and many look up to her respect her—except for me.

It’s hard to recognize a monster when that’s all you’ve ever known. It’s difficult to disassociate from pain that you’ve always believed to be true care and nurture. Psychology Today’s blog describes it accordingly, “Narcissistic mothers may tend to their daughter’s physical needs, but leave her {the daughter} emotionally bereft. The daughter doesn’t realize what’s missing, but longs for warmth and understanding from her mother that she may experience with friends or relatives or witness in other mother-daughter relationships” (Psychology Today Blog, Feb 19, 2018).

I know what she really is, and it’s taken upwards for three long decades for me to pinpoint the real problem. After years of trying to “reconcile” which basically means I was trying to repair the relationship by taking all the blame and responsibility, I still found I was very depressed, very angry, and mostly hurt by the one person in life for whom you should never have these types of feelings.

I hate people who always tell “their version” without so much as a glance or a concession to the other side. She is a good person. She has gone through much in life. I still respect her and honor her. But as a parent, as a mother, she should have and could have done better by me.

Focusing on moving forward rather than dwelling in the past, I’m trying to pinpoint specific lessons I’d like to pass down to my own daughter.

1) You are always beautiful to me;
2) You can always come to me and I will love you unconditionally;
3) There are few, if ever, things that are more important or come before my care and nurture of you;
4) On your darkest day, please consider me someone who is your best friend;
5) I will never force a confidence, if you confide in me, I will take it to the grave.

These are things I wish my own mom had done for me. To give me a better base of self-worth, and to also allow myself the dignity of enjoying my own hard won success, rather than having her jump-in to take credit.

Unfortunately, now that I know that there is a name for this sort of behavior, our relationship can’t possibly be the same again.

Most research on narcissists indicates they are almost incapable of change—one of the biggest reasons why it is difficult to associate and relate with them. Another factor includes the failure to empathize on the part of the narcissist. So as long as they are not changing, and we know their hallmark qualities, let’s explore how we can better interact with them as adult children.

Narcissists respond to respect and power. They do not care for people who are empathetic, caring, and willing.  “Parents with NPD are myopic. The world revolves around them. They control and manipulate their children’s needs, feelings, and choices when they can, and take it as a personal affront deserving punishment when they can’t” (Psychology Today Blog, Feb 19, 2018).

If you want to give a narcissist a wakeup call, try telling them “no” and offer no explanation. Or better yet, just don’t even tell them that you’re not coming to said meeting or family function. This will very surely get their attention.

Once a very definite line or boundary is set, it’s so much easier to be just as fake to them as they are to you. Is easy to be fake, phony, and at the very best, civil. Now you have just shown that you have:

1) power by not responding or offering explanations;
2) they will now have to respect you because you have asserted your power against them. In essence, fight fire with fire.  Or better yet, become it.

I did this with my own mom. I was supposed to be somewhere at a certain time and place. I am usually very acquiescent and try my best to be on her good side. Heaven knows after all these years, that doesn’t work! But just try not coming, no text, no phone call, blatantly showing you don’t care about her, her ideas, her projects, etc.

It sucked, it was really hard at first to set a boundary and I wasn’t even sure I had made things better… but then guess who is calling me every so often to make sure I’m okay? Guess who is more than happy to help me out from time to time? Guess who would come at the drop of a hat if I wanted her? Guess who is responding to my new found power? The narcissist mom has just met her match. I am happier, she hasn’t fundamentally changed, but I have.

The best news I had received in doing this research is that I am not alone, there is an identifiable problem, and there are so many resources to help guide children of narcissistic parents.

The thing about being the child of a narcissistic mother is that it often contributes to something known in Shamanic terminology as soul loss. Soul loss is the inability to contact or experience our souls due to the unresolved wounds, traumas and fears we’ve accumulated over the years. The first step in healing the soul loss is to be willing to explore what you went through as a child. This process of exploring the narcissistic actions of your parent isn’t to condemn them or to victimize yourself. Instead, this process is done to help you understand the root cause of any pain you’re still experiencing, to learn how to release it, and move on with your life (Mateo Sol- 19 signs You Were Raised By A Narcissistic Mother or Father).

In the spirit of not condemning my mother and not victimizing myself, I am starting the journey to recover my lost soul. I offer good wishes and congratulations to those out there who are doing the same.

Claire Roberts Signature

‘Relapse’ by Luke Martin-Jones

These times were sent to test us! Should I fail my conscience, I will forever know that I did what I could, to stop the enduring pain that now engulfs my memories, all my thoughts and reside permanently in a place, I never want to revisit, until my final few hours on this Earth.

These words are words that will never be spoken of again. They are difficult sentences to write and even more difficult to recall. Recall them I will. Every night, I close my eyes, the darkness that spreads through my whole existence, will descend upon my dreams, a recurring nightmare, that has haunted me every day, that try and rest my broken mind.

To reconcile the terrible, unbearable, incomprehensible series of events, that now dominate my life, with the aspirations of the child I once was – with hopes and ambitions – will always cause a wound that will never be healed. Changed forever, emotionally destroyed and wrestling with pain, that will never go away. Rejected by friends and family, never understood by most, accepted by a few. But the pure truth, the words on my heart, chizzled on the grave stone, that will sit as a reminder, of just what happened to myself and others, who did no more than help others who needed to be empowered to do all the things I thought I would. The biggest, uneasy realization of my life now and forever!

I was always so full of ambition. There was so much I wanted to do. As a young boy, I was focused and knew where I wanted to go. Not one of us believes we will ever end up, in a situation, so obscure and heinous that a drama, could never pay justice to it.

This is the first day I am able to sit quietly, put words on a page and really accept, that what I am seeing is true. Until today, my thoughts were so jumbled and misunderstood, even I doubted them. To place doubt in oneself, is an awful thing. For others, perpetuating that doubt, even worse.

This Sunday, after five days of understanding, I can now piece together the scraps of evidence that only I could have collected. Not on paper, but in my mind, that, although tired, will always be lucid enough to recall these events. After all, they have been with me, for what seems a life time, yet in reality, they have only been confirmed within my soul for ten months. I have spent this time, searching for the truth, explanations and closure. Today, at least, I can close this last open door, behind which the reality of my situation lies.

In 1998, after suffering, from what I thought was depression, something clicked inside of me. I wanted to be happy again. I wanted to experience a level of self respect the years had crumbled away. I applied for a job within a charity, as a Book Shop Manager. I loved books. The touch and feel, the smell, the words of people, many people, now gone, but the books a reminder of who they once were, a living memory of lives, no longer there. Books telling stories, of bravery, love, anger and pain, books with a past and permanent future that we can always dip in and out from, at will. Taking a little bit of someone we never knew, with us, on our journey through life.

I had no expectations. If anything, I believed it would be the first of many applications, before I could achieve my goal of working again. I had a chequered history, where work was concerned, always achieving and failing at the same rates. No middle ground, just muddle and confusion over another failure in life, when I so wanted to succeed. I just wanted to do something in my life that I was finally a success at. I wanted to prove to myself and others, that I could be an achiever and not that constant failure, I was always reminded I was by others!

It was Saturday morning, the alarm clock wasn’t working and I was running late for work.  I had timed things right to the last minute.  It took eight minutes to walk to work and twenty minutes to do everything else.  Breakfast, bath and sandwiches.  I couldn’t stand working on weekends at the best of times and had a feeling, Saturday would be one of those days.  Little did I know, just how bad that Saturday at the end of March would be.

I rushed along The Avenue, across the dual carriage way, past The Courts and onto Brighton Road, where the second hand book shop, I had managed for seven years was situated.  It was a small, well kept and a lovingly run establishment, staffed by an army of volunteers, all dedicated and working for a good cause.  It was a part of the local community in every respect.  Every second person knew your name, everyone said hello or waved and I was happy to be a part of the life of a community book store, with character and purpose.

As I rushed past Starbucks at the end of the road, I noticed a familiar face sat outside Bahini’s Cafe.  It was Richard, another Manager, old friend and colleague, who was running the local Music Shop, further into town, in the centre of Manchester.  As I placed the key in the door, Richard brushed past me, nearly knocking me over.  He didn’t look right and had rage in his eyes.

‘You are under pricing CD’s.  I will not have you taking away my business!’

Perplexed, I walked into the back of the shop, hung my coat up and took five minutes, just to gather my thoughts.  My hands on the desk, body bent forward, I shook my head, this really was not going to end well!

I turned to face the office door, sighed and headed out into the shop again.  I do not like confrontation, especially when I know the person well and have no idea why they are acting in the manner they are.  As I walked down the small set of stairs towards the shop floor, I noticed Richard removing all my stock from the shelves.  He was aggressive, noisy and confrontational.

‘What do you think you are doing?  This isn’t your shop, why are you removing stuff from my shelves?’ I said bluntly.

‘You are trying to undercut my shop and I’m not having it.’ Richard replied forcefully.

‘I have no idea what you are talking about Richard.  This is my shop and you are not my Manager, what gives you the right?’ I asked.

We argued for about ten minutes.  I was exhausted, felt bullied and intimidated and just wanted to walk out.  No one had ever spoken to me like it, not even my partner or line Manager, come to that.  When I tried to speak, Richard just smirked, pointing his finger towards his head, to signify my Bipolar.  Richard had known of my condition for many years, had always been empathetic, was a socialist and campaigner and this was out of character and unacceptable.  I was not a battering ram, sounding post or kids toy to be abused.

As I tried to justify my pricing strategy, in an area, that was essentially catering for a different market to his, he got up like a petulant child and stormed out of the shop, saying he wasn’t going to listen to me any further.  I didn’t know what I was talking about.  I was an idiot, stupid and a fool.  He swore, sniggered and made offensive gestures.  To be honest, I was shocked and left speechless!  This was the day I had predicted and it was about to get far worse.

I shut the shop for half an hour, just to recover and to take some time out.  I had just had an altercation with someone who used to be close, and this was not the person I knew.  He had changed, almost over night and I had no idea why.  The rest of the day at work was horrendous, as I kept on recalling and reliving what had just happened to me.  I was bullied at school and this just smacked of the same thing.  I had been verbally attacked, by someone younger than me, like no one had done since I was in secondary school.  Those feelings, I had experienced back then, just came flooding back, and that weekend, I broke down.  This was the beginning of the biggest relapse in my life.

I arrived early at work on Monday morning and immediately began writing out a statement, detailing my experiences on Saturday.  I still couldn’t believe what had happened and wanted to put the situation right.  I wanted to express how I felt and just wanted to to get this whole nasty incident off my chest.  I had emailed my boss, explaining the situation and was waiting for her to attend the shop, so we could discuss events, after all she would understand exactly what had happened and would put it right, wouldn’t she?

My line Manager, Louise, arrived at mid day.  She was her usual happy smiling self as if nothing seemed to phase her.  Like water off a duck’s back, that would be the term I would use, to describe Louise.  Even when all around was crashing down, she was always cool, calm and collected.  She had always seemed warm enough towards me, even excessively so sometimes.  She had always been approachable but in recent times, these traits were becoming less and less obvious, so I had no idea what to expect.

‘Do you want to go to a cafe, to discuss this Darren!’  Louise said.

Now usually I would agree, but this time I refused.  This was an important issue and should not take place in a public place.  I felt safer at work, with the support of volunteers and for once I wanted control of a situation that was unusual and deeply disturbing for me.

The office is small, no bigger than a cupboard, so it was a bit of a squeeze, but we both managed to accommodate ourselves and she began her investigation.  Her first comment was strange, laughable and ridiculous under the circumstances.

‘We don’t have to do this, do we?’ Louise inquired.  I remained silent for a brief second, then replied.

‘Yes we do!, I have been bullied and insulted, that hasn’t happened since school.’ I continued!

I thought the discussion would be about my grievance, instead she immediately discussed my Bipolar.

‘Tell me about Bipolar, how does it affect you? How does it affect your work?’ she asked

I answered the best I could, then stopped!

‘What has this got to do with this grievance.’ I said firmly.

She talked about my health, my reactions and my working relationships and although we discussed the incident with Richard briefly, she continued to interrogate me about my Bipolar.  In fact, as I later found out, she even asked one of my team what Bipolar was.

I had disclosed my Bipolar status, two years before, during a meeting which had discussed my lifestyle, sex, drugs and rock and roll, as Louise put it at the time.  A volunteer at the time had informed Louise of a recent suicide attempt, and made disgraceful allegations and assumptions, about both myself and my Deputy Manager.  I answered for those allegations and a disclosure about my illness had been made.  At the time, I assumed that was the end of that, but as I later discovered, that should never had been the end of it.  Risk Assessments and safeguards should have been put in place to ensure, I did not relapse and would have the full support of my organisation.  None of these measures had been instigated and I was at the point of relapse and suicide again.

Louise asked my new Deputy Manager, Margaret, what Bipolar was, just after our meeting, that Monday morning. She didn’t understand it.  She had known of my condition for two years, yet here she was, today, just today asking a member of my staff, what my condition was.  That was beyond belief and not normal or indeed ethical.  At work, I had been classed as disabled, immediately after disclosure, and as such was covered, at work, under The Equality Act 2015, yet nothing had been done to protect me, my volunteers or indeed my shop.  My work load increased dramatically over the time. She had known. My stability had faltered and I had even asked for help, frequently, yet nothing had been forthcoming!  As I know now, this was probably illegal and was responsible for my deterioration in health over a long period of time!

When Louise left the shop, I broke down, dramatically.  I couldn’t continue working at a time, when I was suffering, my voice was unheard and my please were ignored.  The absurdity of a situation, where my mental health diagnosis, had become the issue of concern, out of an incident of bullying towards me, was too much to bear.  Not only had I been bullied by Richard, but now Louise was also doing the same, even if it was being done in a more subtle way.  I felt alone, isolated, and without the help or care I had needed to insure that my safety was paramount!

When I got home from work that night, I broke down again and again.  Why was I being ignored?  I just didn’t understand what the hell was going on.  I was in a confused state and in all but name I was relapsing, but didn’t yet know it.  I phoned my Deputy straight away and said I would not be attending work and didn’t know how long I would be off.  I was ill, borderline Manic and on the verge of collapse.

The next week was hard.  I had become unstable, was rapid cycling and not sleeping, eating or drinking.  I was getting angrier and angrier, the more I thought about what had ensued, the lack of empathy, the failure of understanding and the complete total and utter neglect.  My partner, Darrell, who worked for the same charity as I, was still at his shop, suffering like me and was becoming alarmed at my decline, as were my friends!  For me however, I didn’t really understand what was going on, I never do, during these circumstances.  It is those around you most that suffer and remember. I can block the memories out, others don’t have that option!

The final nail in the coffin came suddenly.  It was a week day.  Darrell had work in the morning, a meeting if I remember rightly.  I had reached the end of my tether.

First published in Roaming Brit.

You Still Have the Opportunity to Make It Right! – by Olivia Hayward

A couple of weeks after I had found out that I was the daughter of a narcissistic mother, I had a phone call from an old work colleague. We had only really met each other one time although we worked together for about six years.

We had both flown into the States to attend work for a team building exercise one week. Barbara and I were staying at the same hotel. Barbara had hired a car and as we both liked to get an early start, we rode into work together and came home together each day that we were there.

One day, we went out to get something to drink for when we were back in the hotel. Barbara and I got talking about some deeper stuff as we shopped and drove around in the car. She told me that her mother had as good as abandoned her and her siblings. She had no maternal instincts she confided in me. “She was just plain mean and hurtful to us kids”, she said.

She didn’t say much more, but I always remembered what she had said to me. I had wondered often how a mother could not love their children. I adored my children. They were my life. Barbara also adored her children.

Together, on the phone, I asked Barbara if her mother was narcissistic. As I described some of the things I had learned, I could feel the excitement in her voice. I promised to send her some materials that I had read and she was excited to share them with her siblings who had been in therapy but unable to get to the source of their challenges.

Then Barbara said to me, “You are so lucky. Your mother is still alive and you can get some sort of reconciliation. I can’t get that.” At that moment, my heart sank. Not only was my heart filled with her pain of not having her mother around, for all her unfulfilled desires to be close to her mother, and for all the unresolved issues between her mother and her; but my heart ached for myself because I knew that it was not possible to have reconciliation with my mother – not the type of reconciliation that I longed for.

I gently explained to Barbara that because narcissism was a mental disorder that even if her mother was alive, that there would not be the reconciliation that she longed for. “I won’t get it with my mother either”, I said. “We have to accept that is where they are; that they are unable to be where we want them to be. That is the problem with narcissists, they aren’t able to love us as we want to be loved; they are unable to nurture us.”

In her book, ‘Will I Ever Be Good Enough?’, Karyl McBride, who is a therapist and a daughter of a narcissist, wrote about how she had approached her mother about writing the book. She told her that it was about mothers and daughters and how she would love her mother’s input and suggestions. She also asked her for permission to share some personal material. Her mother’s response was ‘Why don’t you write a book about fathers?’

Karyl would have really wanted her mother to ask things like “‘Are there some things we need to discuss or work on together?’ ‘Do you have pain from your childhood?’ ‘Can we heal together?’ None of this happened, but after all those years of my own recovery work, I knew not to expect her to be able to do this empathic inquiry”. (“Will I Ever Be Good Enough”, Karyl McBride page xx).

For Barbara and I, we need to face the facts that:

1. Our yearning for a maternal affection, nourishment, succoring and support is not going to be realized;
2. All our seeking, longing, hankering and desiring for things to be different is not going to change anything.

Barbara was still hoping for change when she said that I still have the opportunity to make things right with my mother. Mother cannot be changed; but we do have the opportunity to make things right for ourselves. The first step is to recognize and understand our mother’s limitations; and then to grieve the impact that they had upon us.

I Am the Daughter of a Narcissistic Mother by Olivia Hayward

Olive Hayward MonogramI am of the opinion that in therapy, one should go from the point one is at and move forwards. I don’t think that dwelling on the past moves one forwards. It has its place, but ruminating on former times can be destructive.

So it was in this frame of mind that I sat across from my therapist and asked her what value talking about the past had. She responded that it can help to find out what the source of our issues are and agreed with me that it can be useful to move a person forwards, but it isn’t a good place to stay.

So feeling satisfied about this, I said ‘Let us go there briefly to say that we have done it.’ I had long felt that I had processed the past and had wrapped it up in a nice little parcel. I didn’t want to waste time or money going through that again when I felt comfortable with my past.

From the time that I was a teenage until I was in my early twenties, I had had a chip on my shoulder about my parents, their behaviours and their treatment of me. I am sure that most children get to an age when they suddenly realize that their parents aren’t the perfect people that we think they are as small children. It came as a great disappointment to me when I got to that age and my parents fell off their pedestal. Moreover, I was dealing with parents that drank two litres of wine or a bottle of Scotch at the weekends; shouted at each other a lot of the time; and were highly critical of us kids and unavailable to us.

As I started into my twenties and I was able to separate myself from them both figuratively and physically, I came to the conclusion that I could still love my parents in spite of their behaviours. I could love them and not what they did. This helped me so much in being able to interact with them more positively. I realized that they were where they were at. We are all on a journey to grow and develop and all of us are at a different point along that spectrum. Understanding my parents within this paradigm helped me to forgive them and to accept them for who they were and to love them genuinely.

I did not want to have to revisit all those painful times in therapy when I had worked through them and felt good with my current perspective. However, I did want to know why I felt so empty and so depressed; so at a loss to make sense of the chaos in the world; why it was so difficult for me to stand up for myself; why I isolated myself from relationships; and why I regularly shut down in conflictual situations.

So the therapist and I started to review the events of my childhood. I spoke in almost a blasé way. As I wound down from my disclosure, my therapist posed the question to me, “Have you ever considered that your parents may be narcissistic? When people drink it can change their brains in a way that they can become narcissistic. Why don’t you check out this website WillIeverbegoodenough.com. “

I didn’t really know much about narcissism. I hadn’t considered it a mental illness. I thought it was when people thought too much about themselves. I never even considered that my parents could be narcissistic. I left the therapist’s office with the intent to look up the website and pushed the idea of my parents having narcissistic tendencies to the back of my head.

About four or five days later, I went onto the website. I found it rather hard to navigate. I read a few articles and then stumbled on one that hit me right between the eyes.

How Does Narcissistic Parenting Affect Children

I readily identified with the child described in this article. (As I plan to look at these traits in more detail in future articles, I won’t go into them at this point in time).

Suddenly the paradigm that I had framed for myself to function within my family started to crumble. I felt like I had had the rug pulled out from underneath my feet. I felt all the emotion that I had kept at bay by throwing myself into busyness descend on me like a ton of bricks.

Although I was pleased that I had finally found the key to my behaviours and the emptiness that I felt inside regarding my life, I was also dismayed at the chaos of emotions that cascaded down upon me. I also felt great guilt in pointing the finger at my mother as the cause of my dysfunctional self. I knew that it was my mother that was the narcissist in my life and my father probably drank as a way of coping. How hard is it to have to talk about one’s own mother in this way? How hard is it to know that the one person in your life who is supposed to support you and love you unconditionally was emotionally and psychologically abusing you?

Karyl McBride said “Being raised by a narcissistic parent is emotionally and psychologically abusive and causes debilitating, long-lasting effects to children. It is often missed by professionals, because narcissists can be charming in their presentation, displaying an image of how they wish to be seen. Behind closed doors, the children feel the suffocation of self and struggle with loneliness and pain. The narcissist is not accountable for their own mistakes or behavior, so the child believes they are to blame and that they flunked childhood.”

It took about three weeks for me start to figure out how I was going to interact with my mother again. I came to the conclusion that as this was a mental disorder, that I should treat my mother with kindness and respect. I was able to draw upon my prior paradigm again. I could still love my mother in spite of her behaviours. I love her – not what she does. She is where she is at.

This is what I shall use as I learn to find alternative ways of interacting with my mother. It is what I shall use when her behaviours provide the stimulus to my anger and to the feelings of not being good enough. Now I can learn to understand with new eyes, what behaviours are destructive, perhaps why my mother uses these behaviours and how I can heal from them even while being continuously subjected to them.

The journey of healing may be long and arduous. At this point in time, I don’t know what this journey looks like. But I am willing to share what I learn even though I feel vulnerable and overshadowed by the feelings of ‘Not being good enough’.

Olivia Hayward Signature

A Poor Management Decision or What?

When this happened, I felt great shame and humiliation.

I took a step way outside the box when I applied for another position at work. Gladys had decided to leave the company. She did the job of two people so there were two positions open. I didn’t have the qualifications to review contracts, but I did have the ability to make sure all the documentation was in place and set up projects and new customers. I got the job and they employed a part-time lawyer to review the contracts.

My boss told me that this job was my baby. As time progressed, my job evolved into more than just setting up projects and customers and I became a glorified coordinator. All contracts were sent to me. If they were outside of our written contract format, I sent them out for review to the lawyer. Otherwise I sent them for signature from both the client and from the signer in our company; found out who was going to run the project; made sure that the credit check had been done on new customers; ensured that we had all the legal documents in place including the purchase orders and continued to follow up on these things until we had them all in hand.

I closed projects out in a timely manner; followed the ‘exception to the rule’ protocol; identified situations where work had started without the proper paperwork; helped set up a way to track the amount used on a blanket purchase order as well as identify situations where work started without a purchase order or where the purchase order had been exceeded. I started to develop a way where we could track our bid estimate on a project against the actual results so that the engineers could see how accurate their bids were and make the required adjustments in future bids.

I made all this visible to management and operations via a Sharepoint list. Management liked it. I worked closely with Sales, Operations, and the Finance Department. I received bonuses and a lot of praise for my work.

Then a year and a half later, my boss called me up. “I wanted to tell you, before someone else told you, Gladys is coming back. They are firing the lawyer and she will be reviewing the contracts. The CFO didn’t want her to come as she had left the company twice, but our boss wanted her to come back because the lawyer isn’t able to look at the operational impact of the contract and so she has to do it and the turn around time is too slow”.

My heart instantly lurched into my stomach. Gladys and I are very different. I am very detailed orientated; Gladys liked to cut corners to get things done on time and hated to have to do anything extra. She also didn’t make the sales people accountable and would move ahead without the proper paperwork in place. I knew this because I had often found myself in a position where a work order had to be invoiced without any pricing in place. Gladys also hated SharePoint.

When I took on the job, I was given instructions to create different processes and to gatepost certain things. This I did. In developing the new processes, I found out from all the departments what their needs were. To do this, I set up meetings to discuss their requirements and develop processes that would worked for everyone and with which my managers approved of. Everyone seemed really happy or so I thought.

My boss said that he would have no trouble saying something to Gladys if she didn’t follow the processes and would keep her in check even though she was going to work directly with his boss and not him. I was really nervous about the situation but thought that if my boss would keep Gladys in line, then it would be manageable.

Gladys was going to start just after Christmas. I tried to forget about the changes that were going to happen over the Christmas period. I was on vacation over Christmas and tried to keep busy so that I didn’t have time to think.

All too soon, I had to return to work and face this new dynamic.

It did not start off well.

Gladys didn’t want to know about the new processes. She started doing the work that I did and I had no paper trail to know what was going on. By the end of the week, I was told that she was going to be my boss. Her boss said that we would make a good team.

It had taken me a long time to get the confidence of my colleagues. Gladys had been well liked. I didn’t do things the same way as Gladys did. I was firm in keeping the processes as I had been requested to do. The processes kept people accountable.

Gladys started to run me down in emails to colleagues saying that I didn’t know what I was doing. She wouldn’t follow the processes. She told me that Sharepoint sucked.

She and I were duplicating the work and it was annoying the departments. I lost my authority as everyone paid more attention to what she said than following the processes.

She called me up and asked me to talk to her about the friction that I was feeling. As I started to explain the processes, she talked over me and yelled at me to shut up. ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’ She yelled.

I realized that this was not going to work. She was now in charge of my baby. I was being put back into a position of being ‘just a processor’; to take orders. I rang her boss up and said that this was not going to work. She said that she was aware that there was a problem going on and had an idea about another position for me. She just had to get permission from the CFO and HR before offering it to me.

She received permission and I was offered a job as the Sales Tax Accountant. She asked me to attack the job with my usual enthusiasm. I can’t say that I was very motivated. I was humiliated by the whole situation. I was embarrassed. I was grieving a job that I had enjoyed so much and had put so much effort into. I wondered what I had done wrong. I knew of no other way to handle the situation. I had felt powerless.

I was now in a corner. I was being trained to do sales tax by a bully who was very controlling, wouldn’t answer my questions, wanted me to do things by rote rather than by understanding, put me down all the time, criticized me, talked down to me and demoralized me. I was now on a team that was reactive rather than proactive and didn’t want new ideas or any contribution to improve processes. I was also in a situation where I was micro managed.

I totally understood why the company needed Gladys’ expertise. However, bringing Gladys back totally ruined my career. I was surprised that they created a new position for me. The whole situation left me very confused for over a year.

I am finally over my grief. I keep my head down. Do my job. Don’t interact much with anyone. My writing now provides the creative outlet that I had in my previous jobs.

However, I still wonder, as I did throughout the grieving process, whether the whole idea to bring Gladys back again and the way it was handled, was a poor decision by management or what?

What are your thoughts?

(First Published in Roaming Brit on 23rd May, 2018)

The Bread and all its Terror

This is a little more painful to write about. Fast forward one more year. I am now a third year senior at Fareham Park Comprehensive School which now has some newer buildings. The dance and drama studio is built. The music rooms are ready to go. The gym is built. We have an all weather pitch, a track, tennis courts and many more facilities for physical education. We have a building for art, woodwork, metal work, sewing and home economics. A far cry from the one building and a couple of modular classrooms that we had two years earlier.

Now that we have a home economics room, we have cooking on the schedule. This is definitely not fun for me.

The time that stands out most is the day that we made bread. I have little recall of anything else so I assume this is the one time that we cooked and the rest was book work, but I could be very wrong there.

A prelude to the bread story are the images of crowded hallways and stairwells where all the students of the school were changing classrooms, using the toilets, getting stuff out of their lockers. The stairs in particular were a source of consternation. Those girls would wait for me at the top of the stairs, As soon as I started on my way down, they would home in behind me and start to push me down, all the time laughing their heads off. It was hard to keep upright and not slip. I hated it. I had no idea what to do to help myself and to get out of the situation. It may only seem like a little thing, but I felt helpless. There were no teachers around.

These girls were in my tutor group and they were also in my cooking class. Cooking became a big nightmare. There the girls would use wooden spoons to hit me when the teacher wasn’t around. They would laugh in a mocking way. Any type of reaction exasperated the issue. I felt stymied. Powerless.

So it was in this atmosphere that we had to make bread.

There are just a few things that I remember about this bread-making activity. I remember the mixing bowl. I remember the yeast. This wasn’t dry yeast. This was fresh yeast. I remember that it looked dark and grey and pretty gross. We had to add it to our flour and use our hands to mix the dough mixture together. Then we had to knead it until the yeast was all absorbed.

As I write this with an adult’s perspective, something feels off about that yeast. So I read around and now understand that fresh yeast should look firm and moist, cream-colored and cool to the touch. If it is crumbly, dryish and dark in places it is stale. Apparently to use it, it must be added to liquid and mixed into the dough straight away. Here is what I also found on the internet concerning fresh yeast and the processes to activate it:


In this article it demonstrated that yeast needs to be broken up into smaller parts. I was told to put my yeast and water straight into the bowl. I don’t remember it frothing up. The teacher was hurrying us along. I was taking longer than the others – not a natural cook, I’m afraid. I was kneading away. The yeast was not becoming absorbed into the dough.

I think the teacher was pretty frustrated with me. She didn’t listen to my explanation that the yeast was not amalgamating with the dough but she did come and help knead the dough and got it in the pan.

At last the lesson was over. What a relief. My bread looked really pretty. Despite the events of the day and the ongoing bullying, I was pretty chuffed with my success at cooking this bread.

At home, I was so excited as we were going to eat my bread as an accompaniment to our dinner that evening. I eagerly watched as my mum cut into the loaf.

“Eww! Yuck!” My Mum exclaimed as she cut the loaf in half.

My heart sank. “What’s wrong?” I mumbled.


“Look!” She said. She turned around from the kitchen cabinet where she was cutting, holding the two halves of the bread in her hands. I looked. Inside each half of the loaf there sat a dark gray piece of yeast. My mum started to laugh. I let her know how I had trouble mixing that yeast into the dough and how the teacher had helped me. I then laughed with my mum although my insides were empty.

When I could, I left the room and went upstairs to my bedroom where I closed the door and cried.

My daughter is a master bread maker. She makes the most gorgeous and succulent bread. Her favourite receipe is found at https://weareeating.blogspot.com/2008/01/whole-wheat-bread.html?m=0

Here is the receipe that my friend gave me a few years back. I usually use this one when I make bread now:



10 cups whole white wheat flour;
2/3 cup honey;
6 cups of water;
2 tbsp yeast (dried!);
2 tbsp salt:
3/4 cup oil;
2-3 tsp gluten;
2 tsp lecithin.

Optional: 1/2 to 1 cup ground flax seed substituted for 1 cup whole wheat flour.


I usually use a bread maker these days. I adapt the quantities of the ingredients accordingly (I do like to add the ground flax also) and follow the instructions of my bread maker.

(First published in Roaming Brit on 15th May, 2018)