I have been No Contact with my NPD mother for over 3 years, but I can’t hate her because I know what was done to her. I choose not to deal with her because of what she became and the devastating effect that had on me, but unlike her, I can leave my psychological prison and maybe even become a whole person. She never can.
There’s a photograph taken of my mother when she was two years old that will haunt me until the day I die. I’ll probably never see this picture again, but the impact it had was so great that every detail of it is etched into my long term memory.
The photograph is one of those color-tinted black and whites that were so popular in the 1930s. She is sitting on some cushions, wearing a pink and white 1930s style high waisted little girl’s dress, holding a teddy bear tightly against her chest with one chubby arm. Her strawberry blonde hair is cut in a short bob, and her big blue eyes stare straight ahead at whoever was taking the photo. She is not smiling.
But what haunts me is how sad she looks in this photo. She looks about to cry, and so very vulnerable. It almost makes me want to cry thinking about this photo, because on the day it was taken, she did not yet have NPD. Her heart hadn’t yet been destroyed but was on its way to being so. She clutched that teddy bear as if it could save her, but nothing could or would.
I’ve never known my mother to be vulnerable or show any soft emotions that weren’t faked. But a long time ago she was this abused little two year old girl in a pink dress, on the verge of tears and clutching a teddy bear close to her shattering heart.
The photograph reminds me how close Complex PTSD is to personality disorders like NPD and BPD. Some people even believe it’s all the same thing and the only differences are a matter of degree. There’s a lot of overlap in symptoms. All these disorders are caused by abuse. Early childhood attachment disorders are the precursors to all the Cluster B personality disorders. Some children with these disorders grow up to develop Complex PTSD and codependency, while others take that a step further and develop a Cluster B personality disorder. NPD is a nearly complete defense mechanism against ever being hurt again, much more effective than BPD. If it’s a choice, it’s a subconscious choice made in early childhood. A little child does what they need to do to survive and someone who develops NPD feels like the world is so dangerous nothing is allowed to get through ever again. Their defenses are so complete it’s unlikely a narcissist can ever be cured. It’s almost always a life sentence.
My two year old mother had no idea that she was about to go forever into hiding behind a massive defense against abuse, a defense so complete she would never again be able to love, never again show vulnerability, and never even be able to recognize her own narcissism. She was a little girl about to die.