Today was surreal and sad for me. It was the day of my father’s memorial service, which I did not attend. As the family black sheep and scapegoat, I am not wanted there. Even if I was wanted there, I did not have the funds to attend.
My son went. My stepmother adores him. All my father’s extended family were there. He saw relatives I haven’t even seen since I was a child. He texted me, “you big brother is awesome.” My “big brother,” really a half brother, is someone I do not know. I haven’t seen him since 1983, when I was exactly the same age my son is now. I vaguely remember him being a funny guy. I remember we got drunk out on my father’s patio after they went to bed. It was fun. That was the last time I saw him.
Later my son texted me about who was there, and told me he had a surprise for me. I was driving so I told him to call back when I could pull over in a parking lot. He kept sending me smiley faces in text. I pulled over and texted him. A few minutes later he was back on and said I was on speaker phone. I guess he’d needed a few minutes to gather all the relatives in the room–the same room I have been in so many times until I was no longer welcome in my father’s home, probably because of my stepmother.
It was awkward and sad. Four of my cousins who I haven’t seen since 1977 and my half brother who I haven’t seen since 1983 and a nephew I have never met were all saying hello to me. I had no idea what to say. I hate phones, but this was too much. All I could find to say to these people was, “it’s been such a long time!” or “sorry I couldn’t make it!” Trying to put a smile in my voice. Trying not to sound hopelessly awkward. Not having any idea who anyone’s voice even belonged to.
The people in my family are different from me. They all have high paying careers, late model cars, nice homes, and money in the bank. They can take vacations and pay for their kids’ college educations. (I had to pay for my own college education, even though my father had a high paying position as an electronics executive). They can afford plane flights to attend a memorial service on short notice. They all know I’m the “red-headed step-child” (no offense to redheads) that doesn’t fit in. I felt like they were just being polite.
My son meant well. I’m happy he gets on well with my relatives; it promises some sort of familial continuity, for whatever that’s worth. But I can’t tell him how awkward, sad and triggering this was for me. He’s told me before he wants there to “be healing in our family.” He is accepted by them but he loves me too. He wants us all to be a normal family. His dream is one day to host a big family reunion.
It reminds me of the time when he was 12 and his father and I were splitting up. He bought a little toy Hot Wheels car and gave it to me, saying, “give this to Daddy. Maybe he will know you love him and you can get back together.” It made me bawl, how innocent this childish request was. Now he seems to be wanting to do the same thing between me and the family that threw me out with the trash. It’s not ever going to happen. There will be no healing in this family. But it’s touching how he tries.
At the same time, I don’t trust my son. He was his father’s scapegoat and was an emotional, sensitive child, much like I was, but in recent years he’s become very good at burying his emotions and putting on a fake smiling front, just like all the rest of my family. His narcissist stepmother has been cozying up to him, even paying for his plane tickets to his grandfather’s memorial service. He puts on a good impression for them. There may be a selfish motive; he knows he’s in the will (most likely, I am not–and my daughter definitely isn’t). My son defends my stepmother’s behavior toward me, which worries me. I’m afraid she might be trying to make a flying monkey out of him. I know my son loves me and is smarter than to fall for that, but the lure of acceptance into the extended family and the promise of money could override his judgement and integrity. He’s apparently in the club. I also feel like my stepmother is attempting to drive a wedge between me and my son. I also worry that he may develop NPD himself. It’s certainly a possibility.
I’ve been very hypervigilant and paranoid ever since my father died, so I don’t know if my worries that she will turn my son against me are realistic or not. It’s doubtful she could have that effect in two short days (the length of time he’s staying) but I know they talk on the phone a lot. He made her a shadowbox of his grandfather’s life. I only sent a card and made a small donation to the Parkinson’s foundation. I can’t be an accurate judge of my own feelings and actions when my BPD is in full bore and I’m stuck deep in the middle of my abandonment trauma like a fly stuck in quicksand.
I called my therapist, crying on the phone. I screamed, “Everyone always betrays me, everyone always leaves me. He will too!” I kept crying and telling him if my son left me too, I would kill myself. “I have no one else,” I wailed pitifully. “He will abandon me, I know he will, everyone always does.”
He tried to talk me down and keep me busy being mindful. He was having a hard time getting me to focus on the present because I simply could not regulate my emotions. I couldn’t think straight. I started hyperventilating and shaking. He kept talking to me until I calmed down some. I asked him again why I was rejected, even though I knew he didn’t have the answer.
“You’re a person with intense emotions who doesn’t hide them well. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re sensitive; you have an artist’s temperament. I do too. Your folks should have cherished that in you but it was not valued in your family. They’re afraid of your emotional intensity because they stuff their own. You remind them of what they’re trying to hide from themselves, and I think that’s why they ignore you and pretend you don’t exist.”
Bingo. Thanks, doc, you’re on the ball. He’s describing exactly what narcissists do to their scapegoats and why they always pick the most sensitive kid for the honor.
I made a lame joke about having been better off if I’d been born to an Italian family where emotions were all out in the open. He laughed at that. “It’s probably true, you should have been. Your family are cold people, people who stuff their feelings, wear a fake smile, expect you to act happy when you’re not, and are more concerned with their image than authenticity. You are a threat to that.”
I’ve talked glowingly about my father before, almost idealizing him, while devaluing my mother–but I’m remembering now how abusive he was too, maybe worse than my mother in some ways. I remember when I was about 14, he told me to “change my personality” because the one I had was “terrible.” Emotions were not to be seen or heard. Whenever I needed to talk about any emotion that wasn’t “positive,” he’d tell me I was being too negative and he didn’t want to listen to negativity.
My mother did the same thing. As an emotional person this rejection was excruciating; it was a rejection of who I was. I’m still an emotional person; I just learned how not to cry. I learned that lesson so well that now it’s very difficult for me to cry, though for the past two weeks I’m doing a lot of it, even if it’s mostly alone. I also learned that it was unsafe to get too close to anyone; I became extremely guarded around people.
The emotions I buried out of shame and were eating me from the inside and turning me into a walking dead person are emerging, but holy hell, the reality of abandonment finally being shoved in your face in all its hellish glory is painful beyond belief. I can hardly function anymore. But I have to; I don’t have a choice. I have to eat and keep a roof over my head. I never had a lot of choices, but always got blamed for making wrong ones. But how do you make a right choice when you’re only presented with bad ones? It’s a rigged game that I’m always rigged to lose. The injustice of it makes my head spin.
It hurts like hell to realize now, after his death, that he was probably every bit as responsible for my disorders as my mother was. It hurts so fucking bad. And he will never be able to say he’s sorry for what he did to me. There’s no closure, there’s no reconciliation, there’s no Hallmark moment with hugs and tears.
My therapist thought I had been cured of BPD, I guess he was wrong. I’m sure he doesn’t think I’m BPD-free anymore based on all the unpleasant symptoms I’m showing that I seem to have no control over and the way I’m going off all the time like a damn 4th of July firecracker. If feeling like this is what is required to be healed from a Cluster B disorder (or even if it’s just the underlying C-PTSD), no wonder so many patients with these disorders quit therapy. I won’t quit, but damn, I feel like I just entered the 9th circle of hell. I hope I don’t lose my mind in the process. I feel like an orphan standing in the center of a tornado.