I really hate writing about my mother. It feels like I’m breaching the bounds of loyalty — an agreement I never made, but had somehow felt obligated to uphold. She died in 2012, and so she’s not here to speak for herself or refute anything I may say. So for the sake of my own integrity, I’m beholden to be as factual as possible. I ought not feel compelled to keep her “secrets,” because she did the things she did, and many of her bad choices were directed at me. So her story has become MY story to tell. I own it as much as she does.
Once a survivor finally, finally, finally realizes s/he has been targeted by a psychopath, the next inevitable question becomes, “What was it about me that made me a target? How did I let this happen to me? What role did I play in the psychopathic relationship?” Some of us will discover that we had a long pattern of psychopathic relationships, or just toxic relationships. If so, we will ask, “Why did I fall for this again and again and again?” Eventually we go back to our family of origin (FOO). In my case, I believe my mother may have been a psychopath. Not 100% certain about pinning the label, but I’d say a narcissist or a near-psychopath at the least. It’s hard to say for sure, because while I was definitely aware of the hurt I was feeling, I was mostly oblivious to how she might have exploited others. I can go back and see the signs, but I wasn’t “seeing” the signs contemporaneously because I was mired in my own pain.
There are reams of stories and examples I could give, but for now, I will stick to the “dog theme” of my blog. A wee bit of “circumstances” first… Some of this repeated (and re-repeated) from past blog posts. My dad was the sweetest, most nurturing person I’ve ever known — full stop. Even though he died when I was only 5 years old, I have many, many positive memories of him. He hugged me, he read to me, he played with me, he gave me his time and his attention, he never failed me, and he did everything a loving parent should do. But he died. And he died leaving me an only child in the care of my mother. My memories of my father are so INTENSE, they could have happened yesterday, or 5 minutes ago.
On the other hand, my memories of my mother are patchy, scattered, scary. I do not recall her hugging me as a child. I remember the one time I begged her to hug me, and when she finally complied, she made fun of me. As an adult, the ONLY time there was a hug between me and my mother, it was initiated by me, and she felt like a stiff board and didn’t hug back.
My mother never cried. She didn’t cry when my daddy died. She didn’t cry when her siblings died. In fact, I only heard her cry TWO times my whole life. One of them was after her second husband died — and she wasn’t crying out of grief, she was crying because she no longer had someone to take care of her. Later, she cried when she was placed in an assisted living facility. And it seemed to me that she wasn’t crying because of being lonely — she was infuriated that she had so little control over her environment and could not manipulate and exploit to get what she wanted.
If I have any positive memories of my mom, the only one would be when I was 2 years old, and she taught me the Mother Goose rhymes and such. It’s the only bit where she gave me a crumb of her attention.
Hey diddle diddle,
The Cat and the fiddle,
The Cow jumped over the moon.
The little Dog laughed,
To see such sport,
And the Dish ran away with the Spoon.
That little bit of investment taught me to read well before I started kindergarten, and perhaps inspired my love of language. But she didn’t do it FOR me; she did it because I was her show-piece. “Look what a good mother I am! Look what my daughter can do!”
Okay, I’ve written so many blog posts by now, it’s hard to remember what I have included and what I have left out. I plead indulgence for repetition for anyone poor souls who have followed me closely.
When I was 1 year old, my Uncle Julian gave me my first dog. He was a collie mix I named Fuzzy, and you can see him pictured above (with my Uncle Julian, and my little toes to the right as well). I ADORED Fuzzy. I used to repeat this children’s rhyme to him:
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair
So Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?
Another photograph of me and Fuzzy:
I was obsessed with cowboys. I wanted to grow up to be a cowboy. Cowboy Copas resonates in my distant memories, and I hardly know who he is / was. But him, and the Lone Ranger, and Davy Crockett…. Poor Fuzzy gleefully accepted my wayward attempts to make him my cowboy’s horse. And when my daddy died, my mother did not hold and comfort me. I cried my lost tears to Fuzzy, burying my face in his welcoming fur.
It’s hard to go back and calculate the years, but I *think* Fuzzy was 9 years old, so I must have been 10 years old. Out of the blue, my mother proclaimed that Fuzzy was getting out of the yard, and she wasn’t going to risk him biting someone. I never saw him escape the yard ONE time, but maybe? He was certainly far too gentle to bite anyone. But instead of repairing the fence to the yard, or however my mother imagined he was “escaping,” she chose to take Fuzzy to the dog pound — certain death in those days, and most certainly for a dog of his age. I begged, I cried, I pleaded, all to no avail. Fuzzy was taken away from me, and now I no longer had his warm fur to take my tears, but I had even more tears for him as well.
In retrospect, I can see that this poor innocent dog threatened my mother. I loved Fuzzy dearly. I suppose if I’d been forced to pick, my mother or my dog, I would have picked Fuzzy because I KNEW Fuzzy loved me. I did NOT believe my mother loved me. I was nothing more than an “object” to her.
Inexplicably, shortly after Fuzzy was thrown to the wayside, my mother allowed me to have another dog. A black-haired mix who might have been part dachshund. I named her Sheba.
Well, Sheba was pregnant, and she gave birth to a litter of puppies. I do not remember the puppies being born. Dogs were always relegated to the yard, except on rare occasions. So they were born unassisted in the back yard, and without veterinary attention. They just “appeared.” Thank goodness they survived, and Sheba was a good mother. Every day after school, I went into the yard to play with them and care for them. I knew my mother wouldn’t let me keep all of the puppies, but I hoped she might let me keep one in addition to Sheba.
When the puppies were almost but not-quite weaned, my mother announced that she was taking them all — including Sheba — to the dog pound. Again, I wept to no avail. My mother said, her verbatim words, “I’m not going to be having a dog that’s getting pregnant all the time.” Didn’t matter to her whatsoever that she was breaking my heart and sending Sheba and her pups to their most-likely death. Why didn’t she take Sheba to a vet and get her spayed??? It’s not like we were lacking for money, as much as my mother seemed to want to give that impression. She was perfectly able to afford a new dress from the Dixie Shop every weekend!!
So, now I’d lost Sheba as well. How much grief and loss can a child take? But my mother wasn’t done… After Sheba, she let me have another dog, a mix that looked to be a Scottish terrier, and I named him Scottie. Unfortunately, I don’t even have any photographs of Scottie, but he had the tell-tale beard and the wire-haired coat. I quickly bonded with Scottie and he with me.
I had Scottie for roughly a year, when my mother decided he had rabies or distemper. But there was NOTHING wrong with him!!! Instead of taking him to the dog pound, my mother called the dog pound to come and get him. A “dog catcher” materialized at our front door in pressed uniform. The man asked to see the dog. I let Scottie inside. Seared into my memory forever and forever…
The man took one look at Scottie and said, verbatim, “There’s nothing wrong with this dog.” But I already knew what was going to happen. So while my mother argued with the man, Scottie and I went back outside. It was autumn and the oak leaves covered the ground. We played tag, chasing each other, kicking up leaves, tumbling about. I wanted to give him the memory that he was loved….
I went back inside the house just in time to hear the man say, “Well, if you insist, I will take him.”
What could I learn from all of this except that anyone and anything I loved would be stripped from me? That I’d darn well better tow the line, or I’d be sent to the “dog pound,” too. My wife knew this stuff, and it went full circle when she “destroyed” my dog, Otis.
If you are a survivor who had the misfortune of being raised by a psychopath, there is no possible way for you to approach healing if you do not go back to your FOO. Most survivor resources are geared toward romantic relationships. Virtually none are available for GLBT survivors. A handful address FOO. On my blog, little and feeble as it may be, there is space for everyone. Just a couple of short pieces you might or might not find helpful on your own journey:
- The Psychopathic Mother, from Psychology Today
- How psychopathic parents affect children, from Donna Andersen, author of LoveFraud.com
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