My mom doesn’t have a clinical diagnosis that I’m aware of. Although, I wouldn’t know, I haven’t talked to her much in the past 5 years. But, the signs are all there that she has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Diagnosis or not, having a narcissistic mother was hell to live with growing up and toxic to have a relationship with as an adult.
There were signs, of course. But growing up with them as my normal, it took a lot of distancing and therapy to see them as a problem. Until then, I thought I was the one who had the problem.
These aren’t official, diagnosable signs of a narcissistic parent.
But they are signs that I needed to distance myself from my mom, and seek out some good, healing therapy long before I actually did.
She’s excessively needy.
She’s a moocher. She sucks away your time, energy, attention, and resources. Everyone owes her everything. She’s offended when someone gives something to someone else and not to her.
She once wrote a letter to a well-known wealthy person to ask them for money. And she had the audacity to be offended when they responded with information about job opportunities.
She lives for drama.
She gossips. She overshares. She cries. She asks personal questions, and isn’t satisfied until you’re crying too.
She has no boundaries.
None at all. I was coerced into telling her EVERYTHING as a kid, learned to be sneaky as a teenager, and flat out lied to her as an adult. Because “it’s none of your business” isn’t a good enough answer for her.
When he was 13, she asked my son how puberty was going. He was obviously and understandably mortified.
She’s a terrible gift giver.
She’s seriously the worst. I know this sounds whiny and selfish at best. But it’s honestly the one that bugs me the most. She is literally incapable of giving someone a good gift.
I used to think it was just because she was always poor. It’s understandable to give simple gifts when you’re low on money. But my mom actually spends good money on something that I would never want.
Something that no one would ever want. She’s painfully unaware of what would make someone happy.
One Christmas she gave everyone in the family a trash bag full of various thrift store items including, but not limited to, a petrified blowfish, Velcro curlers and a lasso (made of…is that hair?). One Christmas we received a family gift, a 12-can case of canned raisin bread, with no explanation as to why. One birthday she gave me leftover frozen keto snacks. It would have been a nice gesture, except that I am not, nor have ever been on a keto diet.
The fact is, I don’t expect gifts at all. It would be a relief to NOT receive something from her. And something free, like a heartfelt note would mean the world to me.
Instead, every terrible gift is like a slap in the face and a reminder that my mother doesn’t know me, and she doesn’t seem to want to.
I’m triggered by Disney movies
Rapunzel is the most relatable Disney movie I’ve ever seen, because I was basically raised by Mother Gothel. I mean, there was no magic involved, and I wasn’t kidnapped as a baby. But I sure know what it’s like to be raised by the scariest of all villains, the Narcissistic Mother.
When she sings to Rapunzel and insults her and soothes her in the same breath? Triggered.
It takes me right back to 15 years ago in the produce section of the grocery store when my mom told me that people thought I was vain. But SHE didn’t think that. “They” thought that.
How was I supposed to respond to something like that? No wonder I’ve spent the past 5 years like Rapunzel when she finally left the tower, vacillating back and forth between feeling exhilaratingly free from my mother’s clutches and degradingly shamed for abandoning her in her old age.
She makes me self-conscious.
She picks on your insecurities. And she helps you create new ones. She gives you a complex about everything. As a 14-year-old girl I wasn’t self-conscious about my eyebrows. Until my mom started analyzing them. Now, 26 years later, I can’t stop worrying about them.
One Christmas we travelled out of state to see her and other various family members. We asked her if she’d like to spend New Year’s at my brother-in-law’s house. She said yes. She came over for new years and we had a nice time.
Until the next day when she called, enraged that we had “changed her plans” and didn’t come to her house. When I came over to say goodbye before we left for home, she refused to talk to me. She still holds onto the fact that I “owe” her a New Year’s party.
She makes me second guess myself.
I was freshening up my hair and makeup in the car between my dad’s funeral and graveside service and her comment was, “Wow. You sure put a lot of work into that.” When I said, “What?” She immediately said, “Oh, I meant it as a compliment.”
What’s sad is that I tried to believe her, even though it stung (especially after the “vain” comment). It took a therapist, a psychiatrist, group therapy for codependency and severing ties with her to realize she was really insulting me. Just like she always did.
None of this is meant to diagnose her or bash her or give advice to people who think they see their own mothers in her. This is just a snippet of my life with a possibly narcissistic mother.
And a plea for understanding next time you hear of someone that no longer talks to a family member. It just might be for their own sanity.
Editor’s note: The author of this article has chosen to remain anonymous