Written by Jamie Lavery.
Dear Mom, if I can even really call you that anymore. A mother should be responsive, protective, caring, and kind. They should be supportive, understanding, attentive, honest, and willing to listen. You were none of these. Instead, you were defensive, combative, mean, and avoidant. You rarely had the time or patience to listen to what I had to say. You constantly told me you weren’t interested in hearing about my interests. You would visibly roll your eyes if I talked passionately about something I loved doing. That is one of the many reasons I left and won’t be coming back.
You think that you are the victim here, but you’re not. You have never been. The only thing you are a victim of is yourself. I don’t choose to identify as a victim. Even if that’s what people like me are called. “Victims of Narcissistic Abuse.” People with parents like you suffer. Truly suffer. And not for a short-lived period. We suffer most, if not all, of our lives. One of my earliest memories is of trying to leave for school without perfectly brushed hair. You stopped me and scolded me while aggressively running a brush through my hair. It hurt. I wanted to cry, but I knew I couldn’t. I could never cry in front of you if my pain had been caused by you. It wasn’t safe.
You would visibly roll your eyes if I talked passionately about something I loved doing. That is one of the many reasons I left and won’t be coming back.
I remember you telling me that morning that I could never leave the house or go to school looking like that. After all, what would people think? Not about me, of course. What would they think about you as a mother? People would obviously think the worst, that I wasn’t taken care of…I wasn’t, but not because my hair wasn’t brushed…. They would look at you as a failure. That’s a lot of pressure for an eight-year-old. I always have to look perfect, so people don’t think ‘Mommy’ is a bad person. What people believe about mommy is my job, my responsibility. That night I started obsessively brushing my hair, ten minutes every night, to make sure I would never embarrass you like that again. And that’s how it went. I molded myself into the perfect friend, guest, student, niece, and daughter to protect you. I didn’t need to do that; you were already protective enough of yourself.
I need you to know how difficult it was growing up with you. Nothing was your fault. We were afraid of you. We were constantly walking on eggshells. Afraid of what small inconvenience would set you off next and how big your next blow-up would be. I was too afraid to be my own person. Too afraid to show emotions you would disapprove of. Afraid to talk about anything negative you had done. It was not emotionally safe to live with, talk to, or be the real me with you. Everything we did was to protect ourselves from you by sparing your feelings. I can’t even count how many times we would hint that you might be overeating or misremembering something, and you would start screaming, crying, yelling, gaslighting, and positioning yourself as the victim before storming out of the house and disappearing for hours.
After all, what would people think? Not about me, of course. What would they think about you as a mother?
I learned so many lessons from you. I learned to bury my feelings. I learned that every bad thing that happens is my fault. I learned that I’m only lovable if I’m a digestible version of myself that you approve of. I learned that all love, even a parent’s love, is conditional. I learned that if I’m suffering not to complain or ask for help because it makes me self-absorbed. I learned that none of my successes are my achievements because I’m “just lucky” and “everything just comes so easily for me.”
I learned that I can’t tell anyone about the things that I love and enjoy because I will either be mocked and told that I’m stupid for loving them or that I will be exploited for other people’s enjoyment based on my hobbies and talents. You always wondered why I stopped playing piano and singing? You are the reason. When I finally came out to you, you not only dismissed my identity telling me that I was “just trying to fit in with my new big-city friends” you called me a freak and that you regret the moment I moved away because my new city stole your “nice, normal daughter” from you. That was when I learned that your love had always been conditional.
I learned that I’m only lovable if I’m a digestible version of myself that you approve of. I learned that all love, even a parent’s love, is conditional.
Luckily, after decades of these lessons from you, I am now healing and unlearning everything your narcissism taught me. I now know that I can be me. I don’t have to mold myself to anyone’s expectations but my own. I know that I am lovable. I have people that love me the way that I am. Unapologetically me. The incredible, talented, attractive, intelligent, caring, unique, gender-fluid, lesbian freak you once called your daughter. My true family loves that version of me.
Now it’s your turn to learn. To learn that who I love, what my gender is, how I style my hair, do my makeup, dress, and the name I choose is none of your fucking business. Learn that who I am now is not a reflection of you. I could never have been this happy under your thumb. Learn that I am who I am in spite of you, not because of you. The state your home is in is because of you, no one else. Learn that you will continue to be miserable until you get professional help.
About the Author
Jamie (They/Them) is a self-taught author and artist that writes an honest re-telling of their life experiences as a method of healing. Jamie was diagnosed with cancer at 16, a late-in-life lesbian and non-binary individual. This, plus a master’s degree in sociology, informs their writing content and style to destigmatize topics they struggled to understand in their youth in the hopes that others will feel seen and less alone.