Close Encounter With The Mind Of A Narcissist

Dearest Readers, those of you who have been with me for some time are aware that I am an ACoN, which stands for Adult Child of a Narcissist.  The Narcissist in my life is my mother.

I have never understood her way of thinking, and she has never understood mine.  Therefore, our relationship has always been superficial and unsatisfactory on both sides.

Narcissists, by definition, are unable to think outside their own box.  They are the center of their own universe-no, the Universe. Anything negative that happens is someone else’s fault. Positive things, on the other hand, are clearly their own handiwork.

They thrive on praise and flattery.  The latter is as good as the former.  Sincerity is not an issue, as long as the adulation is centered on themselves.  They will work hard to achieve success and status, for the purpose of feeling important, and hopefully getting publicly honored.

Narcissists see their children as reflections of themselves.  The children are expected to bring praise and adulation to their narcissistic parent.  They must succeed and excel in academics, accomplishments, and anything that reflects well on their Narcissist.

A Narcissist expects, no–demands, respect and admiration from her children.  If she does not get it, she will retaliate with all kinds of abuse, be it physical, emotional, psychological, and sometimes even sexual, if she needs reassurance that she is still beautiful and sexy.

Somehow or other, I ended up with not one (which would have been enough, dayenu*) but two narcissists in my life–my mother, of course, and her sister.  As often happens, I was much closer to the sister when I was growing up, and her two children were my mother’s darlings.

Time has passed and the sisters have suddenly found themselves in the category of the very elderly.  My mother is 88 and her sister is, I believe, 91, although that side of the family has no compunctions about shaving a few years off their true age.  They tend to live to over 100, God help us, so what does it matter, really?

It doesn’t matter in itself, but they also don’t mind stuffing their purses with the packets of sweetener, soy sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, that populate the tables in various types of restaurants.  One time I was sent to retrieve something out of a purse, and had to paw through enough condiments to run a fast food joint.

My mother has no problem using my father’s handicapped placard to get a space closer to the supermarket doors, even if the weather is fine.  No matter that he’s been dead for six months.  I try to explain to her that this is lying–she is in no way handicapped (she said her knee hurt, and feigned a limp for a few steps, then forgot about it and switched into her locally famous confident stride)–and it is also stealing, because she is taking a parking space that a really handicapped person might need.  I had that happen once, when I was on crutches for something, and all the handicapped spots were taken.  While waiting for one to open up, I watched several totally able-bodied people come along to their vehicles parked in spots that I could have used, had they not been stolen by the Temporarily Able Bodied.  So in Jewish Law, at least, using your late husband’s handicap tag simply because you can, is both lying and stealing.  Bad things.  But she doesn’t think it’s bad.  She thinks it’s “getting away with something,” sort of like shoplifting, which she doesn’t really see as a crime.

To get to the meat of this story, now that I have given a dissertation on Narcissistic Personality Disorder: the sister’s life has taken a devastating turn for the worse.  First off, her husband, who has been her landmark in her stormy emotional sea, and whose constant praise has sustained her, got MRSA (Multiply Resistant Staph Aureus, AKA Flesh Eating Disease) in a sore on his leg, and being 97 (although an extraordinarily active, and healthy up till now, 97), his immune system couldn’t fight it, and he seemed imminently moribund.  All the family gathered at his hospital bed, gowned and masked against the horrid disease, to await his demise.

Imagine their surprise when they showed up one day to find him sitting up eating a hearty breakfast!  Miracle.

But it didn’t last too long.  The profound dips in his blood pressure during the critical days of his illness had done their work on his brain, and now he is being cared for by his daughter, who says that he is “in and out of it.”  No telling how long he’ll last.

In the meantime my mother flew to be with her sister, which was a good thing because her sister has florid dementia and can’t be left on her own.  I think she might have had it for quite some time, but her husband kept things together and served as her stabilizer.  But now he was not at home, and to her that means he is gone, no matter how many times they brought her to see him.

But that’s not all, folks, that’s not all.  The sister had a sore place on her leg.  It was red and puffy.  My mother took her to her doctor’s office, but the doctor had no openings, so she saw a PA, who diagnosed her with MRSA empirically, (which was probably correct), did not take a culture (bad), and sent her home on the wrong medicine.  Bad, bad.  Possibly fatal.

In the meantime, my 88 year old mother is reveling in the adulation she’s getting from the rest of the family for caring for her sister.  It was the right thing to do.  But she was wallowing in an environment crawling with MRSA, since it is passed by fomites.  That’s one of my favorite words, fomites.  A fomite is any article that can pass germs from one person to another, like a hand towel.  Let’s say somebody’s sick with oh, let’s say, MRSA, and they touched an infected part of their body.  They went to wash their hands, and they opened the bathroom door with the now-contaminated hand.  The MRSA germs are now on the door handle.  Different germs live for different amounts of time on different surfaces (did you know that the HIV virus can only live less than 5 seconds on a fomite?).  MRSA can live quite a while, especially on damp surfaces like the hand towel they just dried their poorly washed contaminated hand on.

Now we have an infected bathroom.  Door handle, sink handles, hand towel.

But someone else has been impatiently waiting because they have to go to the bathroom.  The infected person comes out and closes the door.  The Someone Else opens the door, getting MRSA on their hands.  They use the toilet and flush–now it’s on the toilet handle.  Wash hands, dry on the infected hand towel…

Now you might be wondering, in that case, why doesn’t everyone come down with it?  The answer is: it’s because of the wonders of the immune system.  If you are a healthy human being with a normal immune system, you’re going to be fine, most likely.  But if you are 90 and have a weakened immune system, you might be in trouble.

How does MRSA get into our bodies in the first place?  Usually it needs a break in the skin, no matter how small, to take hold, and a weakened immune system that can’t fight it off.  So let’s say the person comes out of the bathroom, having been bathing in MRSA bacteria, and scratches an itch.  This causes a tiny break in the skin; and the MRSA germs that have been patiently hanging out under their nails just bail right into the tiny cut.

Under the right conditions, these germs can now have a holiday infecting skin, fat, muscle…whatever they can manage to spread.  Since they are Multiply Resistant Staph Aureus, that means that most of the usual antibiotics used for soft tissue infections will not work.  And the library of resistant Staph Aureus germs is growing at a frightening pace.

MRSA is not something that can or should be treated on an outpatient basis.  Anyone with a confirmed MRSA infection needs to be hospitalized and treated with the few remaining IV antibiotics left in the arsenal.  And, oh yes, they must be isolated, quarantined so that they can’t spread the disease to others.

Back to the present.  My dear aunt is now surrounded by her two terribly dysfunctional children (in their 60’s), who are almost as clueless as she is.  They are ostensibly taking her–today–to live with, or near (in a nursing home), one of them, which involves an airplane ride.  That should be interesting.

So the female cousin mentions, this morning before the flight, that both of my aunt’s legs are swollen up to the knees today.  She’s not eating. Not good.  I get this information by way of my mother, who I’m pretty sure is losing what marbles she had left.  She should have put a halt to the travel plans and had her sister hospitalized right away.  Instead, they took her on the plane (which is now a contaminated plane), with the plan of taking her to the ER when they landed.  Sigh.

As my mother was telling me this sad story, she digresses to mention the ice in her driveway and how she needs something outside (nothing critically important), and she is going to put her ice grippers on and go and get it.

Please, Mom, don’t do that.  I don’t want you to fall and get hurt.

“What, you mean you don’t want me to mess up your trip?” she says sarcastically.

It took me a minute to figure out what she was talking about.  Then I got it!  She was talking about my plans to go RVing, sometime in the near future, when the weather finally breaks.

She was projecting her thought process onto me!  That is what she would have assumed, were she in my position.  For a fleeting moment I understood how her mind works.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

*Dayenu=Hebrew for “Enough for us!”

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39 Comments

  1. and here, at first, i thought you had meant you somehow had met my ex-husband. i realize now that not only is he a narcissist, but my mother was also (in addition to being Borderline), as if that wasn’t enough on its own.

    Reply
    • >>groan<< sorry you had those experiences. I came very close to marrying a narcissist. I had no idea why he drove me crazy until I got the therapist I still have, who pointed out to me that people are attractive to us because they feel like "home," however dysfunctional "home" might be. Ugh. Get us out of here, Chewie!

      Reply
  2. It’s hard to walk through the situation when you know all that is going on,you know what you need to do,and you know where I am coming from,my heart is yours,as I told you many times,I am only a screen away.
    As always Sheldon

    Reply
  3. The Professionally Depressed Professional

     /  February 27, 2015

    Big hugs and I hope writing down your thoughts helped you sort through the “emotional junk” – thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Hi PDP–writing is my chief form of therapy! This blog is my diary, open to the world (or whoever takes a notion to participate). Thanks for stopping by–the Welcome Mat is always rolled out for you!

      Reply
  4. I feel you.

    In my life, i have five narcissistic people. I dont know if it is a genetic problem. Almost every femalr on my mother’So this is what i try to be, family has it. My maternal great grand mother did not have it. But the generations after that are so heavY on it, its so hard to be around them.

    But i have learned something, as you said and i agrre with ypu, they like to be noticed. I try to give yhem time n respect, to keep ek happy 🙂

    Reply
    • It’s good that you have the ability to step back and not take it personally, and to be able to just give them what makes them happy, so that your life is easier. If I could do that, my life would be easier too, but because of other events in my life I have not been able to make that leap. I really appreciate your support! 😀

      Reply
  5. Man. it’s just not fair that narcissists don’t have the tools to be real. I know several. It is unimaginable- the way they think- but I think you mentioned they are just as in awe (if they ever actually consider it) at our own mental process. Thank you for sharing. I totally see how you used her words to see into her perspective. It think THAT is a valuable tool for US.

    Reply
    • You are so right. If we can gather our own inner tools to step back and look at their thought processes, it gives us the ability to understand why they seem so clueless, and how to manage them. Sounds impersonal, but when dealing with a narcissist you have to be impersonal or you will get hurt. Kind of like looking at a beautiful yet deadly poisonous snake–keep your distance, understand their ways, and you will live to deal with their venom another day.

      Reply
  6. Oh, to be the child of a narcissistic mother….
    It’s terrible. But this post is brilliant. I feel so much less alone right now.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much. I’m so sorry you have had the “honor” of being the child of a narcissist… and I’m glad we can be together in this burdensome journey 😦 We need all the support we can get. Do you already know about The Invisible Scar? It’s a support site for survivors of emotional abuse, and ACoNs in particular. There’s a widget in my sidebar, just click it, I’ve found enormous support reading through their site. Take care of yourself!

      Reply
  7. Ouch. I knew the definition of narcissism, just never had it explained in a real life situation. If I was in the same situation, my mouth would be gaping open in disbelief most of the time. .
    I hope you get through this whole thing with bells on. 😃😂

    Reply
    • Hi Ilex…Actually, I have had to install screens in front of my mouth to keep flies and whatnot from flying in and out because my mouth **is** gaping open most of the time. I think I’ll try to find my old fencing mask. That would do double duty: keep flying insects out, and protect my forehead from when I keep smacking it just to make sure this is reality and not some filme noir movie that I can’t seem to wake up from. The good thing, dear Ilex, is that this will all go away soon, one way or another. The preferred way, of course, is for it all to be in my rear view mirror as I contentedly cruise the Blue Highways of the American continent. Speaking of which, how is the weather in the Upper Midwest?

      Reply
      • There you go! You’re million dollar idea! 💰 Take fencing masks and turn them into “Narcissistic Protection Systems”. Protection from smacked foreheads, bug inhalation and a safe place for your eyes to roll out of your head. 😉
        We’ve got a Blue Hwy rolling thru our town, I love the old routes, no one seems to take the scenic routes anymore.
        The weather has been meh. It was supposed to snow last night, but just a dusting. After next week, the weather guessers gave put us in the mid-30’s. I’m skeptic, but know sooner or later Mother Nature will turn us green again. You know March… in like a 🐯 out like a 🐑!

        Reply
        • You crack me up! Where and how do you get those wonderful emoji? I want some!
          One of the great things about Blue Highways is that they go through small towns with slow speed limits, stop signs, traffic lights…all the things the “gotta get there” peeps hate. So, good on ’em, let them take the stupor highway, I’ll tootle along, stop at the diners, gawk at the scenery, generally have a good time.

          “Green green, rocky road
          Promenade in green”

          Reply
  8. Terri

     /  February 28, 2015

    Escape and no contact ASAP……married to one and mother was one. Mind fuck central.

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear that, Terri. I hope you’ve disentangled yourself from the Narco-spouse? Indeed, if we are not insane to begin with, they will make sure you end up that way. Kind of like being the fruits that get chopped up, thrown into the blender, and you come out looking nothing like what you were when you went in. I’m on my way as soon as the weather opens up.

      Reply
  9. I had “diagnosed” my own mother as narcissistic borderline in the past. As I’ve aged, I more and more identify with her, but with this major difference: I try to take responsibility for my own behavior. Never has my mother apologized for anything – ever. How is that possible? Nevertheless, I know that she loves me, and I’ve come to accept her as she is.

    Your description of MRSA and fomites reinforces why my small family (son, husband, & I) have been battling gastroenteritis, URIs, & sinus infections this winter. My poor housekeeping, using each the same bathrooms, handtowels, and door knobs. Even when physically healthy, I do a poor job housekeeping. Now I should be using a bleach solution or disinfectant on hard surfaces and using disposable towels for hands…

    Reply
    • Hi Kitt, you hit the nail on the head when you said that she never, EVER apologized for anything. Narcissists don’t HAVE to apologize, because they are never wrong :-0

      As far as housekeeping hygiene, you really can’t ever be perfect. People are going to go out and touch everything in the world and bring it home. The best prevention is good nutrition, enough sleep (yeah, right!) and a healthy outlook on life. The next best is handwashing. In public places, use a paper towel to open and close the sink handles, and to open and shut the doors after you wash. Many public bathrooms place wastebaskets by the door for that purpose. If they don’t I have no compunctions about tossing my used paper towel on the floor. Maybe that will convince them to put a bin there.

      At home, assign each person their own hand, face, and bath towels, and use rewards, threats, and dire consequences to make sure they use their own. For instance, if they don’t learn after a few mistakes (it takes us all a while to learn new behaviors!) simply remove all the towels and don’t put them back until you have had a quiet talk with everyone about the reason this is so important, and you can quote me on it so that you are not the bad guy! I don’t mind being the bad guy. It’s my job.

      Do keep a canister of disposable germicidal wipes in the kitchen and bathrooms, and wipe the faucets and toilet handles at night before bedtime, and don’t get obsessive about it or you’ll make yourself crazy. I have OCD and have to really discipline myself or my anxiety level goes out the window.

      So that’s my soapbox speech on winter and general health hygiene. Oh, and send everybody outside whenever the weather permits. I am a big believer in sunshine and fresh air as promoters of good health for children, and sanity for parents 😉

      Reply
      • Luckily there are only three of us. Our weather is commonly quite nice, but we have welcome rain right now (we’ve had severe drought). My son gets migraines from sunlight, so I don’t push him to go outside. I’ll invest in some wipes and separate hand towels (I guess that means separate towel rings, too). Thanks! Both my husband and my son get the worst of it since they are most exposed (I stay at home) and they are both skinny. I used to get sick more often back when I was skinny.

        Reply
        • Migraines from sunlight in SoCal–it just ain’t right! He needs a welder’s mask. How cool would that be??? Oh…not so cool….in that case, acupuncture. I have cured, and I do mean cured, many a migraine sufferer with acupuncture. Maybe I’ll bring needles when I stop by to visit….

          Reply
          • That’s a great idea. I wish he would simply wear sunglasses and a hat, but he’s stubborn (plus, can’t see smartphone with sunglasses on).

            Reply
  10. Some love and hugs for you, Laura. And, of course, Peace to your heart ❤

    Reply
  11. Thank you, sweetie! Big hugs back…gonna hit that ol’ highway soon…

    Reply
  12. Hi friend
    As much as the heart breaks sometimes we have to cut toxic people out of our life. If she’s allowed to continue on her path, she continues to abuse and control your life. I know you know this. When we make the right decisions for ourself in order to reman healthy and live a long happy life sometimes you have to walk thru fire. It will feel this way however she has abused you long enough. Time for you to map out your life, future RV plans and how you want to love yourself. Something to think on.
    Hugs
    M

    Reply
    • You are so, so right, and you say it in a way that speaks to me. Thank you for your friendship and your wisdom…sending much love, and hoping soon to be sending love from The Road! xxx Laura

      Reply
  13. And of course, Narcs won’t get help because there’s nothing wrong with them. Sheesh.

    I’m now wondering if perhaps one of the Sisters here with whom no-one gets along well with is a borderline narc… It would make a lot of sense.

    Reply
    • You’re absolutely right. It would never occur to a Narc to seek help. The only way that would happen is if it would make her look more heroic in the eyes of whoever she is out to impress.

      Dear me, it must be difficult to live communally, with all of the different personalities and everyone’s “baggage.” How many Sisters live there?

      One thing that does work (usually) when trying to live peacefully with a Narc is to always tell them how wonderful they are, how well they are doing, etc., not lying, just petting them a bit, because underneath every narc is a poor crying little girl who is putting up such a huge front that she believes it herself, and everybody else better believe it too, OR ELSE!!!

      So all those years that I was nursing my dad, that’s what I did–I was careful to praise every good thing she did, while staying as much out of her way as possible. It worked pretty well (except for when it didn’t), but now I am “out of here.” Praise God.

      Reply
      • There are 15 active sisters (including myself) and 4 in the infirmary (they’re essentially in residential care). The average age is quite high; there’s just myself and one other under 40 and then the next youngest is in her 60’s, and the majority are over 70. It feels like we had an “or else” week last week, that’s for sure. And we’ve definitely all got baggage, and given the age, many health issues. As one of the youngest, I gat a lot of the physical stuff to do and at times it’s very hard.

        Reply
        • “Or else?” Explain, please.

          Sounds like you will certainly have your work cut out for you. You’ll sleep well, I hope! Do they not get a worker to do the heavy stuff? I hope you are not expected to be a very holy donkey!

          Reply
          • We have a cleaner and three gardeners, but the Priory is quite a large place and we also have two donkeys. So I spend a lot of time carting donkey poo around!

            Last week, the one sister was very difficult and it wasn’t possible to offer her any help, she just threw it back at everyone. I got called rude and argumentative for telling her that someone else was actually just coming to do the job she’d ordered me to do.

            Reply
            • Oh dear. I just could not “do” any sort of communal life, for the reasons you have just illustrated. Having to walk a fine line with other people’s “baggage,” I imagine you have to hang on to your faith and mission and be determined. And pray a lot.

              Reply
              • Yes. And hang out in the donkey shed a lot or in the music room practising my flute. If I’m ankle deep in donkey poo I can’t worry about anything else, likewise when practising music, I can only concentrate on the notes in front of me.

                Reply

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