As the holiday season approaches, many people begin to celebrate with glee and joy. They look forward with anticipation to their special holiday traditions and opening gifts. This is a special time of wonder for children and for adults that still have their inner child within them.
But for those that have had dysfunctional childhoods, for those who have been in abusive relationships and for those whose parent(s) or significant others trashed that Christmas tree (if you even had one), the holiday season is most definitely not a time of wonderment and joy. It is a period of a few weeks where people would just like the calendar to skip the month of December, television commercials would stop focusing on how many special gifts we could buy for our loved ones and haven’t we all seen just one too many happy family sitting in their living room enjoying their absolutely beautifully decorated christmas tree enjoying their baked Christmas cookies?
No, I’m not a descendant of Scrooge. I’m just a graduate of The School of The Dysfunctional Family. A school dedicated to preserve life-long triggers of memories of unhappiness, feelings of yearning for an All-American family that does smile and really does open Christmas presents that were waiting for them on Christmas morning.
The mission statement for The School of The Dysfunctional Family clearly states a graduate must a) Not enjoy holidays due to past familial stress; b) Wonder why they were the “Chosen Child” of the family to be denigrated; c) Be familiar with the knotted ball stomach syndrome; d) Be fully aware of the ramifications of the term “self-medicate”; and d) Have attended therapy sessions for a variety of reasons never realizing they were a Victim (until their own Day of Reckoning). Attaining Cum Laude status or higher upon graduation is attainable with documentable proof of childhood amnesia.
Those of us who deal with a dysfunctional family or who have dealt with a dysfunctional family setting know exactly what my words mean. They know the cruelties of a Narcissistic parent, an alcoholic significant other/parent, or an abusive parent/partner. I do not make light of the atrocities these situations play on a child’s development, a human being’s self-esteem and self-worth. These are very serious situations that simply put, put someone’s thoughts in another universe so far away that they believe they will never connect with today’s world. They are made to feel alone, to be alone, to be traumatized. The stronger ones will become Survivors, the lesser ones will suffer more pain, more atrocities in their lives.
I have childhood amnesia. There is very little I do remember, and what I do remember is from photos that I look at. Photos that I keep locked away in a box that I almost never take out to look at.
When people talk about the games they played with as children and ask me if I remember them, I look at them blankly. I don’t remember my childhood toys. I do remember one doll that I had as a little girl that had to stay in her box. I was not allowed to remove her from the box. I could look at her, touch her in her box, but never take her out. When I was finished looking at her, back to the attic she went. That’s where my toy doll lived. In the attic. To this day, I think dolls are creepy. Easy to figure that one out.
One of my aunts bought me a Barbie and Ken fashion case for Christmas. I remember opening it up and being so disappointed. My aunt, who I loved dearly, was staring at my face, very kindly. All of a sudden, she whispered to me, “You don’t have a Barbie or Ken, do you?” I shook my head no, and tried to hide my tears. She winked at me, and whispered that she would take care of that for me. I was literally so frightened at that moment that my mother would find out that I was going to get another present, another doll that she would hide from me. I was petrified. My aunt saw that look in my eyes, too. She told me everything would be ok and she announced that the store had made a mistake. She said that she had told the store to surprise me and put Barbie and Ken inside the dollcase along with some clothing but they hadn’t, so she was going to have to go back and take care of it herself. I was so relieved at her quick thinking.
Growing up, I was surrounded by loving aunts, loving uncles and a beautiful, loving, warm Gramma who adored me. It was the short straw in mothers that I had. She did everything in her power to make my life miserable, and she succeeded for far too long. She blamed me for her life, used me for her accolades and constantly threatened suicide when she was at her lowest.
Christmas at our home was always a questionable affair. We never knew if it would happen. Would she want a tree? Maybe. Maybe not. I couldn’t talk to her, for fear of reprisals. My brother could, because he was her shining light. My father could try and reason, but usually, to no avail. The trees we would have ranged from real 6 or 7 foot trees, to 1 foot ceramic trees, depending on what she wanted up that year. Decorations? Maybe. If she was in the mood. Christmas dinner? My Gramma prepared that and I was fortunate to be able to eat at her table if my mother was so inclined that year.
Gifts for my brother were always spot on for a boy his age. He loved his gifts. I don’t blame him at all. He was just caught in the middle. Gifts for me were non-existent or something she bought that she knew I would dislike. Because my brother was my Protector, he would always ask me to play with his new toys every Christmas, and she would say to him, “Why are you asking her to play with your toys? She’s a girl, they’re for boys only!” But he would tell her that he needed my help in putting something together or make some excuse to have me there with him. Because he sensed something was wrong. And, he loved me and wanted to help me.
But, those words and actions from her only happened in the sanctity of our home away from the prying eyes and ears of others. Out in public, she behaved like another woman. The smiling, perfect mother. Only I knew better. I knew who she really was. The Narcissistic Mother That Destroys. The Narcissistic Mother that destroys families, holidays, self-worth, self-esteem, emotions and anything else that might come her way in the child she wishes to crush, demolish and pulverize.
She is a force to be reckoned with and one that hides herself from the world with great manipulation. The child knows but cannot tell for fear. Unfortunately, by the time the child realizes they are an adult and the damage has been done. Damage that pervades so many areas of their life. The one most important realization the child of The Narcissistic Mother must come to terms with is that they are the Victim, it was never their fault. From there, they can build a foundation for a successful life after. That is when they become Survivors.
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