American Carnage

Photo credit Reuters

My mother was a narcissist. 

When I was 7, she married her second husband, my first step father. Starting almost immediately, my brother and I were abused emotionally, and eventually physically, by my step father. When I was 12, he began sexually abusing me. It started with him masturbating while watching me, first through a bathroom window and then in person. It escalated from there.

My mother did eventually leave him when I was 14 (the day before I started high school), after his physical abuse had escalated to frightening levels. He threw me through a closet door because I fought him when he went into my brother’s room one night. I was afraid he would start molesting my brother too.

I told no one about the sexual abuse I suffered. No one. Not my mom, certainly. Not friends, not the woman who became my wife. No counselor or pastor or teacher. The one time I kind of suggested what had happened to an adult, my high school basketball coach brushed it off and assured me that my step father was a “good man.” 

The fall out from that abuse lasted for decades. I started drinking heavily at 13 to escape the abuse, and later the nightmares. I was angry and unstable. I looked for fights. And I don’t mean metaphorical fights. Actual fistfights. I yelled constantly. I made bad choice after bad choice.

When Justin was born, I was in a pretty good place. I was stable and under control (mostly). But as I would hold him when he was a baby, I began to suddenly become very afraid of myself. I was scared that I might hurt him somehow. What if I became my step father? I began to believe I could not be trusted, and that Justin and literally everyone else in my life would be better off without me.

In April of 2016, I acted on those feelings and tried to end my own life. I failed. I have spent the nearly 5 years since on a path of growth and healing. 

A huge part of that healing journey was to speak to my mom about what my stepfather had done. Not in a spirit of conflict or blame, but to simply let her know that I had been hurt and taken advantage of as a child by a monstrous man. I guess that what I wanted was something approaching sympathy. Love. Commiseration. I wanted her to tell me it wasn’t my fault, and that she loved me.

My mother was a narcissist.

She was unwilling, indeed incapable, of giving that kind of support and care. She immediately denied that anything like that could have happened. She accused me of making it up to hurt her. She called me selfish. She said I was being dramatic and that my stepfather hadn’t been that bad. She gaslighted me.

She made me doubt myself. She made me wonder if I had made this up in my mind, if I was misremembering. She played on the fact that I had a brain injury and combat PTSD and suggested I was just confused. She refused to accept that it even happened, much less any culpability.

Through therapy and a lot of hard work I began to see her for who she was. I began to live unapologetically in my truth. I am not a victim. I did nothing wrong. I was a fucking kid. I never asked to be treated like that. I am a survivor. I am strong.

My mother was a narcissist. 

I told her that I would no longer speak to her until she could acknowledge what had happened. I told her that I didn’t even need her to admit that it happened, just that I *believed* it had happened. That was it. That was all she had to say. 

She refused. 

She was simply unable to see or acknowledge any reality that challenged her own narcissistic self-image that she was a great mother who loved her children. She was willing to see our relationship end, to walk away from her son, rather than admit that something happened that she didn’t believe happened. 

Rather than admit reality, she was ready to watch the world burn.

I have thought a lot about my mom and the parallels with Trump the last 4 years. It is one of the reasons Trump has been triggering as hell for me.

Narcissists do not care. They are incapable of considering anyone but themselves. They will burn the world and everyone in it to the ground rather than admit they were wrong. They do not change. They do not grow. There will never be a cure.

What Trump has wrought will never end unless we cut all ties with it. Unless we demand that he and everyone who enabled and supported his malignancy repudiate it completely. There can be no healing, no reconciliation, until that happens.

This can end. There can be recovery. There is a path to the future.

But healing is not possible until the ties that bind us to malignant narcissism are cut.

It was true for me. It is true for all of us. 

Let me be clear. Trump’s narcissism is only one part of what happened yesterday. There are so many more - structural racism, our country’s deluded vision of itself, our systemic failures. His narcissism is simply the one that resonates the most clearly with my experience. It is certainly not the only thing that we need to collectively un-fuck.

Hold your loved ones close. Be the source of care for one another that our leaders have shown themselves unable to be. 

WE take care of us. One day at a time. One call and text at a time. Love will win. But love only wins when it works. Work that shit. Love on some people. Keep pounding the rock.

Be well all. I appreciate each of you and I will be back next week.