‘My mother said, ‘We need to have a talk.’ She placed me in a trance. She kept me close, controlling all my decisions in the name of ‘love.’: Narcissistic abuse survivor urges ‘you deserve to be safe and happy’

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“I keep trying to write this and tell a story… but every time I type this out and try to paint a picture, the emotional and psychological abuse gets covered up by the mundane experience.

Here’s a brief breakdown of my life. I am the adopted only child of a covert malignant narcissist. She gave me a privileged and sheltered life. She bought me nice things and private schools. She took me on trips and tried to make sure I knew how special I was. She frequently pointed out how our relationship was founded on ‘love and respect.’ And being the impressionable and trusting son I was, I believed her. I never thought anything was out of the ordinary growing up.

Courtesy of Michael Peterson

My parents got divorced when I was 13, but so were everybody’s parents. I spent time with both parents equally through high school, and then more time with my mom as I attended college. I struggled with being overweight my entire life. I was overweight in high school and obese by my first year of college. I lost 125 pounds over the course of 3 years. Right before I graduated from college, I met my wife, Brianna. We quickly fell in love. We lived at my mom’s house for a couple of years and then shortly after getting engaged, we got our own apartment.

Courtesy of Michael Peterson
Courtesy of Michael Peterson

Another year later, we got married and decided the best thing for us was to move across the country so we could start our new lives together. I started going to therapy regularly and my therapist validated my experience and helped me to further understand the careful measures my mom took to try and make sure I never realized I was being abused. It’s been 5 years since we moved, and I went No Contact. We have 2 beautiful boys and a lovely home to raise them in, and we are truly, very happy.

Whew! Now that’s out of the way, I can reflect and detail just where the twists and turns occurred on this journey that caused me to end up here.

My experience growing up with my mother has led me to believe she is a Covert Malignant Narcissist. Someone who craves admiration and importance as well as lacks empathy toward others but can act in a different way than an overt narcissist.

Malignant Narcissism combines characteristics of NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), APD (Antisocial Personality Disorder), aggression and sadism, and paranoia. My mom shows many, if not all of these traits.

She makes me feel bad when I’m around her. My mom frequently reminded me our relationship was based on ‘love and respect.’ For a long time, I believed this to be true. But after creating distance with her and eventually going No Contact, I realized the emotions I actually felt toward her.

I was always in a state of FOG (Fear, Obligation, Guilt). I was afraid of what she was going to convince me to feel or think. I felt obligated to allow her to visit and to let her continue to provide things for me and my family even when I didn’t want them, and more specifically when I asked her not to. I felt guilty I didn’t want to see her or talk to her because that makes me feel like a bad person.

My whole life she controlled what decisions I made. It was subtle when I was younger. What clothes to wear, what friends to have, but it got progressively worse the older I got. She told me not to go to a college in another state, but instead, she paid for a private college close to her house. After I graduated from college with a degree in kinesiology (the study of the human body in motion), she told me to work for her friend who was also an attorney. No doubt with the hopes that one day I would go to Law School. When my wife and I decided to get married, she told us where the venue should be. When we hesitated because of the cost, but she told us she would pay for it.

It all sounds like nice things a mother would do for her son, but the reality was all she wanted was to be able to show me off to our family and friends. It was never about what I wanted. She never let me make my own choices or let me learn from my mistakes. As a result, I have a very difficult time with decision making still today. I defer to my wife’s preferences. I will withhold my opinion from others in a conversation lest I be scrutinized. I struggle with confrontation and taking chances because I am so conditioned to being told where to go, what to say, what to do, and how to do it.

My mom constantly made me feel insecure, and if I tried to stand up for myself, she would play the victim. She had emotional highs and lows and refused to communicate. Eventually, she would tell me, ‘We need to have a ‘talk.’ This ‘talk’ is something I need to highlight because it stands out as the most significant source of her manipulation and emotional and psychological abuse. We would always have this talk in her room. She would always be sitting propped up on her bed. I would always be standing just inside the room. She would begin by asking me to tell her what I thought we needed to talk about.

I’ve had hundreds of these ‘talks’ and I never once have correctly identified the reason. I never caught on to the game she was playing. I thought I was in trouble, maybe I didn’t do a chore she asked me to do, or I hurt her feelings because of something I said or did. Even if it were true, that wasn’t the point of having a talk. She wanted to gaslight me, manipulate me, and make me question my own sanity so she could continue to control me. She would make sure to always highlight that our relationship was founded on ‘love and respect.’ And the conversation was never over until I issued a heartfelt apology.

As I mentioned, my mom enjoyed affording me nice things and making sure I was taken care of. However, this came at a huge price. She never named the price and, in fact, would go out of her way to make sure I knew the gift had ‘no strings attached’ and was ‘from the bottom of my heart.’ For most of my life, I believed she gave me things because this was true. After Brianna and I had started dating, it was becoming more apparent there was a price to be paid for each and everything she did for me/us. We’d be asked to attend a special event, or a dinner, or a fundraiser for her friends or colleagues. We wouldn’t necessarily be reminded of prior purchases as to why we should agree to go, but it was hinted pretty strongly that we ‘owed’ her.

I had been doing things like this for my mom all my life, so it wasn’t a surprise to me. Now that it involved Brianna and me, it was starting to become more obvious to me that my mom kept a tally. But one day, she messed up. One day, she revealed her hand and in so doing, confirmed 25 years of confusion and insecurity. Brianna and I were living on our own at this point. I had an appointment to see my personal trainer who lived across the street from my mom. He was one of the reasons I had lost so much weight and got my health on track and was yet another thing my mom ‘afforded me.’ She had always shown she was happy to do so because it meant I was getting healthy, but that day she indicated otherwise.

I finished my work out, and as usual, I went over to see my mom and to ask if she needed help with any light chores before I went home. After helping with a few things, she offered me some of the breakfast she was making. While I enjoyed it, I said, ‘Mmm, equal payment for a hard day’s work.’ My mom paused and then retorted, ‘I thought your trainer was equal payment.’ This small interaction was the catalyst for my wife and me to not only move across the country, but it initiated me to decide to go No Contact with her.

I hope this details just some of what I experienced in terms of emotional and psychological abuse, but believe me when I say there are countless other examples that happened over the 28 years before going No Contact.

After moving away, I decided to see a licensed therapist to see if I could get more guidance. My therapist not only confirmed everything I experienced but after I told her my story, she indicated my mom had carefully and meticulously placed me in a trance, not unlike a magician can hypnotize their volunteer. My mom had spent years replicating the same manipulative behavior, reinforcing the same insecurities, highlighting the same expectations, and rejecting all accountability. Decades of this abuse caused me to distrust myself completely.

Even though my therapist was doing a wonderful job of helping me understand everything that happened to me and coming to terms with it, I was struggling with the stress and anxiety involved with actually going No Contact. I was thrilled to be getting help and it lifted a huge burden off me, but I still needed something more to help with the stress. I struggled with being overweight my whole life as I mentioned. I ate too much and I used food as a coping mechanism during all those years.

Courtesy of Michael Peterson

Unfortunately, I decided to allow drinking alcohol to become that new outlet. At first, the drinking allowed me to relax and just unlock some of those dormant thoughts. It allowed my wife and me to share and connect over something that had affected us both very deeply, but it quickly spiraled for me into an uncontrollable urge to block out the pain. I drank too much, too often, and I put myself and my family at risk. I woke up hungover one morning and realized if I didn’t stop, I might not wake up next time. I’ve now been sober for 3 years.

But here’s the good news. While I may have hit my rock bottom AFTER going no contact with my mother, if I had never done so, I know my mom would have enabled all of my addictions just like she had with my food addiction. She would have found any excuse to keep me with my vices if it meant keeping me close to her. I hit my rock bottom, but I pulled myself back out. I made bad decisions, but for the first time in my life, they were my own choices and not ones my mom made for me. I learned my own lessons and chose to do things differently.

My wife has supported me tirelessly through this entire process. She’s been there for the ups and all of the downs. She initiated awareness about narcissism and never let me doubt I was being abused and deserved more. Don’t doubt for a second you owe anything to your friends and especially not your family. It does not matter what label they try to place on it, abuse is abuse. You deserve to be safe and you deserve to be happy.”

Courtesy of Michael Peterson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Michael Peterson of Raleigh, North Carolina. You can follow his journey on Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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