A big thank you to Michelle at Rubber Shoes In Hell for this great article! Thank you for sharing your story!
— The fury was primal. There was no fear, only determination and palpable love.
The little neighbor girl had been running through a sprinkler in her front yard. Her saggy swimsuit dripped while her hair spiraled out in wild corkscrews.
Moments earlier, little sister went down hard on the muddy, slick ground. I waited for the piercing scream one would expect from a 7 year old. But she shook off the spill and went back to jumping back and forth over the sprinkler, laughing as the water bounced off her forehead.
I don’t know her name, but I know her cat’s name.
Boris and another neighborhood cat fought in all out kitty thunderdome and Boris was getting his ass kicked.
Boris shot across the cul-de-sac, a black blur of fuzz followed by an orange blur of fuzz.
I had been prepared for an ear-splitting scream when the girl fell. I was not prepared for the deep, guttural demand from the little girl with mud streaked legs. There was not a moment of hesitation. She ran toward Boris and screamed again at Boris’s tormentor. She jumped between the two cats, her feet planted and arms flung out wide.
What a beautiful image.
What an amazing human.
Her immediate action to protect Boris made me smile. If she ever becomes a mother, she will make a formidable momma bear.
The orange cat must have heard the same thing in little sister’s voice as I did. He made a sharp left and ran under the camper parked at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Boris sat on the steps, groomed himself, and his protector went back to following the path of the sprinkler. Her giggles sounded like a little girl again.
I knew what she was capable of, though. She was capable of bringing forth a sound you might hear erupting from a hellmouth to protect her loved one.
Boris is a lucky kitty.
Was I ever that bold and brave? Was I ever brazen?
I can reach back pretty far over my 55 years and mostly, what I conjure is pinched face little girl who stayed behind her fear.
I am the daughter of a malignant narcissist. My father.
Having a toxic narcissist as a father means I grew up without the love I needed. I grew up not being able to live up to his expectations. I grew up quiet and furtive as to not incur his wrath.
Fear became my constant companion and stays with me today.
When I was a child, I was afraid to reach my arms out like my little friend in the saggy bathing suit. I was afraid to ask for help when I needed it. I was afraid to be wrong. I was afraid. Just afraid.
My arms stayed close to my side. They weren’t held there by physical straps, but the straps my mind created were just as binding as leather straps and strong as titanium.
I spent most of my life with my elbows pressed against my ribs.
When I learned about parental narcissism, I had questions answered that had plagued me for decades. I understood why I suffered from anxiety, depression, and feeling like a fraud. I understood why I am afraid all of the time.
Finding understanding isn’t an easy journey. I fought through a lot of pain. I had to examine and accept that some of my behavior reflected my narcissistic father’s behavior. I had to make changes to become the person I want to be.
I also found freedom.
Not total freedom. I don’t know that I will ever shed the mental health issues that stem from being a child of a narcissist, but that is okay. I accept that.
I also found those straps weren’t made of leather. Those straps weren’t made of titanium.
They were wispy, like smoke with the strength of wet tissue paper.
It is not easy to stretch my arms out and scream at the world. But I have.
I found my voice and I use it.
I am loud and messy and sometimes I fall down, but I don’t stay down. I locked my brazen girl away many years ago. But she waited. She was still there. She stood beside me when I performed on stage and she cheered me on. She holds my hand and tells me I will be okay when I have to be around large groups of people.
She doesn’t always win. Sometimes, I still hide, but she is patient and is there for me when I don’t have to hide.
I know I am not alone. I know there are many children of narcissists out there, trying to find their way. I am sorry for anyone who understands the pain of having a parent incapable of loving them. I am sorry for anyone who suffered the abuse and neglect of a narcissistic parent. But I am grateful to not be alone.
If you are the child of a narcissist, you are not alone. When you are ready, you can stretch your arms out. I promise you can. Those straps that have bound you? They aren’t as strong as you think.You are not alone! Click for additional help 🙂
There is still a child within you. A defender of kitties. A protector whose voice commands compliance. That child is also the oldest part of you. That child knows all your secrets and your dreams and fears. That child, the one who was fearless at some point in your life exists. You should get to know this child. Ask them to help loosen those straps that keep your elbows glued so closely to your ribs.
You can reach out. I promise. Your arms might creak and groan, but you can reach out. You can stand with your legs akimbo and your arms thrown out wide and you can be the defender.
Start with defending yourself. You are worth it. You always were.