Authors: Danu Morrigan
You’re Not Crazy – It’s Your Mother
Understanding and Healing for
Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers
Danu Morrigan © 2012
Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd
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140 – 142 Wandsworth High Street
London SW18 4JJ
© 2012 Danu Morrigan
The right of Danu Morrigan to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998.
Printed and bound …..
You are not broken and in need of fixing.
You are wounded and in need of healing.
Please note that the stories of women shared here are either reprinted by permission, or are composite sample stories rather than direct quotes.
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You're Not Crazy
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Part One: All About Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Part Two: How to Heal
Claim Your Truth
What About Forgiving Her?
EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique
Appendix I: The DSM IV Definition of NPD
Appendix II: Other Personality Disorders
This book is dedicated to ‘Light’ who has been my mentor, ally, friend, soul-sister, challenger, colleague and wonderful fun on this amazing journey.
To Maggie, my dearest friend and soul-sister, who has supported me in every way and been my rock.
To David, my son, who helped me heal as I discovered, through parenting him, what a healthy parent-child relationship could be. And who is just all-round awesome.
To all the DONMs who have made the forum the wonderful place it is, filled with the vibrant energy of healing, of tears, of laughter, of support, of strength and determination.
And above all, to all the DONMs who did not survive being raised by a narcissist.
If you were drawn to the title of this book, then I suspect that the information here is exactly what you need.
The fact is that it’s more than possible that you are
as crazy as you always felt, but rather that it’s
causing all the upset and angst and confusion and doubt that you live with throughout your life.
And it’s possible that she is doing that because she has something called Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD.
In a nutshell, people with NPD have an overblown opinion of themselves. They consider that they are perfect, and (crucially) have an absolute need to
thinking of themselves as perfect. They also have an insatiable need for attention from others. They have no empathy for anyone else as a real person, only as a source of the attention they crave.
Being raised by a narcissist is a special kind of crazy. It is a pure and laser-sharp form of psychological and emotional abuse. But even more devastatingly, it is an invisible abuse. Neither the perpetrator nor the victim even knows it’s happening. The perpetrator, the narcissist, doesn’t think she’s abusing anyone because, by definition, she’s perfect, remember, and perfect people don’t do imperfect things like abuse people. And the abuse victim, the daughter – this would be
– doesn’t realise she’s abused because she believes her mother’s lies and thinks that everything is her fault, that she is the one who is broken.
And so, there are two layers of abuse and dysfunction going on. There’s the first layer, which is the original bad treatment, about which we will talk a lot more. And there’s the second layer, which is the denial that the bad treatment ever happened! And that’s the bit that leads to you thinking that it’s you that’s crazy, and hence the title of this book. (Actually, there’s a third layer too, which we explore later.)
So, who am I and why am I writing this book?
My name is Danu Morrigan and I believe I am the daughter of a narcissistic mother. I don’t know, of course. She was never professionally diagnosed, and it is only my totally unprofessional best guess to explain the crazy that I experienced. But it fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.
I always had a difficult relationship with my mother. There were good times for sure, but I could never relax even then, because I was only ever one wrong word or expressed opinion away from her disapproval, her snapped, ‘That’s enough, Danu!’, and me being put back in my box.
I used to think of it as her pulling rank – that she always held the power in the relationship and we could be friends all right, but only ever on her terms and as long as I remembered my place, which was subordinate to her. It was like walking through a beautiful flower-strewn meadow, but the path was on a cliff-top and one wrong step would send me plummeting. The eternal vigilance meant I could never relax.
I just accepted this, though. You do, don’t you? It’s your mother after all. I just endured as best as I could. My husband was used to me ranting in upset and hurt after every visit, but neither of us questioned why I was putting me (and him, and my son) through this agony. I did often wish I could just cut off contact with her and my father (more about fathers later), realising that if they were friends rather than family I would have done that years ago. But again, you can’t, can you, not when it’s your family? (Hint – yes, you can! I realise that now and am going to share this information with you. I wish I had known this
This was the situation until September of 2008. I was usually pretty adroit at keeping my friends, and anyone else I respected, well away from my parents, but on this occasion my dear friend Maggie came to lunch with them.
It was fairly standard stuff: my mother talked non-stop at us; no-one else got a look in. She and my father had just come back from holiday and she talked non-stop about that. We were at the restaurant for 2 hours and 25 minutes exactly, and apart from ordering food and such essential conversation, she spoke on and on. And on. No detail was too obscure to include.
It was funny nearly. I took pity on my then-12-year-old son, who was just languishing totally ignored, and whispered that he could go out to the car and read his book. He disappeared with an enthusiasm that would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad. Neither my mother nor father acknowledged, nor even seemed to register, his disappearance.
Then Maggie had had enough, and excused herself and left, ostensibly for a cigarette but really (I guessed and she later confirmed) because she could not bear it any more. My mother did acknowledge her disappearance with a sneering comment about smokers, but that was it.
All these lunch guests disappearing, like a murder mystery, and it didn’t faze my mother at all; she just kept talking, going on and on like the Duracell Bunny.
Afterwards Maggie was full of a combination of shock and apologies. Shock at how bad it had been, and apologies that she hadn’t realised before. She acknowledged that I had told her that my parents were difficult, but she had had no idea how bad it was.
She pointed out elements about the encounter that I hadn’t really noticed, accustomed as I was to this treatment. Such as the fact that neither of my parents even spoke to my son. Not once, after the initial hellos. They totally ignored him. And this was effectively their only grandchild. (They were already estranged from my two siblings who are the parents of the other grandchildren and to my knowledge have never met them.) They ignored my sister who was there, too. And neither of them had had the manners to speak to Maggie at all, despite not knowing her. She didn’t mind for her own sake, she said, but it just was so rude.
It was a revelation for me. An epiphany. You mean this was
bad? I knew I didn’t enjoy it, but it was bad by any standard?
In that moment I just knew I didn’t want to see either of my parents ever again. I knew I wasn’t going to. Maggie’s perspective somehow gave me the permission I thought I needed, and that I had been craving for years.
(I am hoping that this book can do the same for
Give you the permission you think you need. In truth, you, like me, do not need any permission to remove yourself from an abuser’s clutches.)
But how would I tell my parents this? There would be
All my life the simplest complaint or request for better treatment had ended very badly. Had ended, indeed, in me being royally abused, invalidated and gaslighted (of which more below).
All that for a mild complaint. All part, as I now know, of the unhealthy abusive, narcissistic dynamic. How much worse would they react to me cutting off contact? I was terrified. How would I broach the subject with them? Or did I have to? Maybe I could just not say anything. But that’d never work. Around and around went my thoughts.
Two weeks passed with me fretting over this, feeling physically nauseous and terrified the whole time.
And then my father rang. They had had such a good time at that lunch, he said, that they’d like to do it again. Would I be free that day?
Shaking I said that I would not meet them for lunch. ‘Why?’ he asked, in the low, dangerous tone which, all my life, terrified me.
‘Because,’ I said, ‘the last time was an ordeal and I’m anxious not to repeat that.’
Why was it an ordeal, he asked, still in that dangerous tone.
Still shaking, my stomach heaving, my voice quavering, I told him what had been wrong with the day. I was careful to use ‘I’ words and state things calmly and talk about undesired actions rather than talk about them personally. But that was not enough to save me.
He took a slow, deep, shuddering breath during which I thought I’d have a heart attack, and then said what he always said if I dared complain about anything, ‘Well, you think
There then followed an hour or so of abuse by first him and then by my mother as he handed over to her for the second shift. It was hell. They eviscerated everything about me, trying to shred and diminish me rather than sort anything out.
Eventually I got off the phone, nauseous and shaking, with nothing resolved.
Two weeks of silence passed, and then, out of the blue, the thought came to me, clearly and calmly: ‘She has Narcissistic Personality Disorder’. I have no idea how that thought occurred – I wasn’t even thinking of her at the time. And while I did know about NPD, having researched it for another project, I had not made the connection until that moment.
That epiphany started me on a long journey which has led to this book, and to sharing this information with you.
I now run a website and forum for daughters of narcissistic mothers (or DONMs as we call ourselves):
. In the three years I have had this website and forum I have been privileged to hear of many DONMs’ experiences – most of them a
worse than mine; I realise now that my mother is mild on the spectrum, and yet the havoc even that caused was huge. I have therefore learned a lot about narcissistic mothers, narcissistic abuse, and the effects on DONMs, and this is what I am sharing with you now.
Please know that I have no professional qualifications in this line, and I do not claim any. What I am is a fellow-traveller, like you, a survivor of the invisible and horrendous abuse that is narcissism. But I am a traveller who has travelled far along this route, and spoken with many other journeyers, and who knows and understands what it is like. It is in this spirit that I share the rest of the information in this book with you.
The book discusses what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is, how it manifests in your mother, and the effects on you as her daughter. We then discuss what your options are regarding relating to her in future, and the impact of knowing the truth. And finally, and essentially, we discuss how to heal from this dysfunction. As part of the healing I share an amazing technique called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). I came across this about ten years ago when I was on my journey to fix all the things I thought were wrong with me. It involves tapping on acupuncture points and is so, so good at removing negative emotions and limiting beliefs. Much more about this in due course.