Since this nightmare began in 2012, I’m plagued with flashbacks of memories I’d long ago forced back into hidden places in my naive and desperate attempts to believe the best of people I loved.
Many of these flashbacks seem so silly and superficially innocuous. Hindsight with research and education of malignant narcissists, make it clear how easily this method of abuse was inflicted and how many years it went on, slowly, quietly, chipping away at my sense of self, my faith in my own perception, even my belief that I was intelligent and sensible enough to comprehend reality itself.
Much of it was never as clear as a punch in the face (although there were a few of these, but I typically blamed myself as deserving of those too) and thus, was so simple for me to deny even to myself and explaining it to others just made me look nit-picky, so I took those little vague but incessant yukky feelings as more evidence that I was just imagining they hurt. It had to be my over-sensitivity. Surely, no one intentionally did and said these things to a daughter or a lover! Surely….?!?
Being alone in a state far away from home, sick with pregnancy complications, starving for days, begging your mother to send a few dollars for groceries, does something strange to someone’s mind as your mother refuses to help and instead insults you, all the while saying, I love you. It’s difficult to describe the mind-fuck of this level and impossible to accurately define how it seems to actually erase your humanity itself. Obliterating those little pieces inside that believe you deserve even the basics to live, food, water, shelter; twisting one’s understanding of love into something less even than the very basic necessities. Which leaves a person with the understanding that love and compassion, kindness, and consideration are massive luxuries you could never have, much less deserve, as a human being.
Somewhere among going so long without food while carrying my firstborn, Lexi in the midst of narcissistic abuse from my boyfriend after spending my childhood with the exact same treatment from my mother, I stopped believing I deserved anything good at all and my highest hopes of relationship transformed into nothing beyond wishing for merely the lack of bad. There was no such thing as hoping for happiness or joy or love or kindness, I literally only wished not to have pain intentionally inflicted on me.
After the period of starving was over and my mother had helped me understand that I was too disgustingly pathetic to deserve even food for my gestating baby, my boyfriend and I had moved again to another state where I had no friends or family at all. I still called my mom regularly, lonely and abused in a strange place and utterly dependent on my narcissist. I desperately wanted a mother- not to save me from the daily abuse for she had taught me well that I deserved that infinitely- but for comfort in my loneliness and general fears of a first pregnancy.
I lived in fear and loneliness, but I was grateful when my mother took a few minutes to talk to me at all. I was grateful when I had food to eat. I was grateful my boyfriend provided a roof over my head, utilities, and those occasional pathetic long distance phone calls still begging for my mother’s love. I craved two foods while pregnant: Caesar salad and a childhood favorite-Skyline Chili which was only available back in Ohio. I would wake in the night with a longing so fierce for Skyline Chili it seemed almost tangible.
A few times in those desperate calls to my mother, I laughed with her about my cravings. I was excited that three times while pregnant, my dad had sent me money and I was able to use it to go to Perkins for their lemon chicken Caesar salad, which I shared all three times with my boyfriend of course. I wouldn’t want to be selfish and think I deserved to spend that money all on myself or that I deserved an entire salad for just myself. And I laughed with my mother about how silly it was for me to crave Skyline Chili so badly – a food I knew was utterly unobtainable from this state, even if I’d had the money to spend. I laughed at myself with her for being that pregnant woman who had to crave something impossible! Of course, I’d be that ridiculous kind who’d have craving for something hundreds of miles away…
A few days before Christmas when my mother actually called me (yes, she called ME for once!) and my baby girl was due early January to discuss her Christmas shopping, family gatherings, and general holiday stuff, I was beyond delighted to have received a call from her. My fears for a healthy baby and giving birth grew exponentially each day her due date gained momentum and I felt like maybe mother did care about me. After all, the day was getting closer and she called me! She had actually picked up the phone to dial my phone number and talk to me about her holiday stuff.
I floated with joy just to be on the phone with her as she discussed how impossible it was to shop for my step-dad-what DO you buy the man who has everything?! and her various thoughts on her struggles choosing for my sister and her husband in Florida-Dawn has such eclectic tastes, you know?…
I was giddy to think of family and to be included just to get to hear about these things, not to mention it was a welcome distraction from the impending delivery day fears I battled every day alone in my head because my boyfriend’s work stuff and his fears over the upcoming birth were far greater and more important than mine, so I didn’t dare try to tell him of my silly pregnancy fears, or my loneliness, or how I could never stop worrying that the time I went without food might have damaged her somehow.
So, this lovely conversation with my mother about these general holiday woes were a welcome distraction as well as a flattering gift of attention.
As our conversation came to a close, mother tells me that after all the inner debate and frustration, she finally had decided to get everyone the same thing for Christmas. She had found a way to order Skyline Chili for the entire family and have it shipped cross-country even to my sister and her husband.
Oh my gosh, I was deliriously excited… I WOULD ACTUALLY GET TO HAVE SOME SKYLINE CHILI! MY MOTHER HAD FOUND A WAY THAT EVEN LIVING OUT OF STATE, I COULD HAVE MY INSANELY IMPOSSIBLE PREGNANCY CRAVING FOR SKYLINE CHILI! AND I WOULD HAVE IT FINALLY JUST WEEKS BEFORE MY BABY WAS DUE EVEN!
I said, Oh mom, that is the best idea ever! After all that turmoil deciding, as usual, you thought of the most perfect gift idea of all! I’m so excited to have some Skyline Chili!
The line got quiet for just a moment. I thought perhaps the call had dropped. I said, Mom? Mom? Are you still there?
And I hear her. She’s still there. She says, Oh… I didn’t get any Skyline Chili for you and Mark. I thought I might, but then I remembered you’re a vegetarian, so I knew you wouldn’t want that for Christmas!
As massive as my disappointment was, my confusion actually overrode it. I said, What? A vegetarian? I’m not a vegetarian… I’ve been craving Skyline Chili my entire pregnancy, Mommy!! Were you maybe thinking of six years ago when I challenged myself to eat vegetarian for a month just to see if I could?
Oh, you’re not a vegetarian? Oh my, I’m so sorry! I thought you were! If I’d known you weren’t a vegetarian, I would have ordered some for you too! I ordered it for the entire family except you. I don’t know why I thought you were a vegetarian?! What a shame it’s too late to order any now.
That’s okay, Mommy. It’s the perfect gift idea, I’m sure everyone will love it.
I hung up the phone feeling sad I would miss out on the perfect gift and wondering how I’d been so impossibly crazy as to mislead my mother for six years into thinking I was a vegetarian.
What a silly misunderstanding! Hmmm…!? So very strange that she didn’t know I’m not a vegetarian! It’s my own fault, though. Somehow, I mislead her into thinking that month challenge six years ago was a permanent decision. My lack of clarity has now led to me not getting Skyline Chili, my most fervent 9 month craving, for Christmas.
I’ll have to work harder on being more clear in the future. If I weren’t so confusing, I’m sure this misunderstanding would never have been possible!
And I couldn’t help thinking of all the meals we’d shared in those six years; dinners where I’d ordered- and eaten- meat.
What a strange and unfortunate misunderstanding, indeed…