Developing and enforcing healthy boundaries is paramount to our daily emotional well being, and especially when it comes to dealing with a Narcissistic parent. Even the most experienced survivor, who’s been healing for decades, must always be vigilant when it comes to those who seek to invalidate us.
I thought I would share an experience that happened to me, where my guard was down and in an instant I found myself in a situation that I had worked so hard to avoid for a very long time. First, let’s set the stage of how the events unfolded…
On a seemingly normal Sunday morning, I was getting ready for my weekly Periscope video. I muted my phone, cleared myself of distractions and went on with the broadcast. Everything went well and the healing that was shared was amazing. However, immediately after that I noticed a missed call and about a half-dozen texts. As it turns out my dad was being taken to the hospital for trouble breathing.
I dropped everything and headed over to the urgent care where he was being evaluated. By the time I got there, an ambulance was on the way to take him to the emergency room. My dad seemed relatively calm and relaxed when I arrived (my brother was already there with my mother), but I could tell he was just wasn’t himself. As it turns out, the shortness of breath started before he and my mother left for church that morning.
Arriving at ER, he was taken back to a room where, unknown to us at the time, he would be for the next 7 hours with very little interaction from the staff. Needless to say I don’t have many positive things to say for the local emergency room team at the hospital that day, but that’s a story for another time.
Finally later that evening he was seen by some doctors, given something else to eat, and was moved to a room of his own. The following morning I headed back in, meeting my brother there, as dad was headed in for some heart scans and to see a cardiologist. Fortunately his heart was looking good and there no signs of the stents being damaged, and after some other blood tests coming back negative, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
His dementia is progressing more rapidly here of late, and the stress that comes along with not knowing where you are, why are you there, or what’s going on, is taking its toll in the form of anxiety attacks and shortness of breath. So while we were glad to hear his heart was okay, I was saddened to realize how quickly this disease can progress in later stages.
Enter….the encounter. I was feeling pretty vulnerable, standing there in the room; my brother was there, my mother, and me. I’m always careful to keep a buffer when I’m around her, because I know what can happen when I don’t. Unfortunately, before I knew it I found myself alone as my brother went to check on dad. My guard was down, as I was concentrating on him and remembering some of the fond times we shared when I was a child.
With the opportunity available, the vulnerable door opened just enough, she swooped in:
- “I’ve been thinking a lot lately and praying about what happened to you, and wondering how you are doing.”
- “So I hear you have a blog that helps people.”
- “Do you know where you get that compassion from; and why you have such amazing empathy for others?”
- “I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to thank God that he allowed you endure that abuse so that you can help others.”
- “You need to also thank God that he allowed you be abused so that you could help others.”
Notice how many times she used the word “I”? How her statements were trying to twist me into me thinking that what happened was a good thing, that I should be grateful that I was sexually abused and bullied as a child.
Now, I’m not going to get into a religious debate because that’s not the point of this post. The point is, suddenly a situation that was supposed to be about my dad and the family pulling together to help and support him, turned into why I should include her in my life more, embrace that what happened to me was a good thing, and that I should be thankful to her that she raised me the way that she did.
During that 12 minute conversation, I found myself frozen, dissociated, and under the spell of someone who I had not allowed to gain control over me in such a long time. That old programming that was instilled in me for so long had immediately been resurrected from it’s somewhat dormant state and fired back up, right on cue. Make no mistake, friends, Narcissistic Abuse is brainwashing, and even after working through healing, those programs can still be reactivated in a moments notice.
Through hard work and advocating for ourselves, we learn to what happened and why, and how we can move forward without living in the conditioned state that we were groomed with. (Check out my podcast with Lisa Romano on narcissistic Abuse and Brainwashing).
My enforced healthy boundaries, gray rock strategy, and always having buffers around during family gatherings, had kept me safe and out of invalidations’ grasp for the most part. Those self enforced policies were doing their job, but in this situation, I was reminded that I need to always be vigilant.
I had to resist the urge to shame myself for letting my guard down in that situation. After all, it was a very emotional time, and blaming myself wouldn’t do any good; if anything it could potentially take back down a dark road that I’ve worked so hard to overcome.
Moving on,…a nurse came in and asked if she could call the parking valet for my mother. Thank goodness, a welcome distraction and a way out! Just the break that I needed! After the valet came to get her, the ordeal had passed and I began to analyze what happened and work through it. I reached out to a trusted friend for support so I could talk through the situation and get a grasp of what happened and what I could learn from it.
After doing so, I was able to put it into respective and take some time to recoup, and write out this post. You see, the hard work of healing pays off! Previously, a situation like this would have set me back for days or weeks; feeling depressed, anxious, alone, and going down a very invalidating path that would have me question my faith, my choices in life, and my very existence, everything about who I am.
Thankfully, I’m here to share with you that I was able to sit with those feelings, learn from them, and use this experience to help me in the future. I was reminded of the importance of always being vigilant in enforcing our boundaries when it comes to a narcissistic person. Here are some tips that I’ve learned a long my healing journey, while working some incredible mentors, that have served me well:
- Always look for a safe place to retreat to if you find yourself alone in a compromising situation with a narcissistic person: find a restroom, or go for a cup of coffee, anything to remove yourself from what’s coming and try to do it before any dialogue even begins, if possible.
- If you are caught up in a compromising circumstance, use gray rock to help keep yourself from getting sucked into an invalidating situation.
- Don’t shame yourself for how you feel and what happened, it’s not your fault.
- As soon as you are able too, reach out to someone you trust, so you can talk through what happened. This should be someone who is familiar with your situation and will support you 100%.
- Allow yourself time to rest, give your mind, emotions, and body a break so you regroup.
- Take a step back, look at the events with an open, rational perspective and see what you can take from it to help you in the future.
- Practice self-care, I mean like big time self-care. Whatever you do that makes you feel good, and safe, and relaxed, go for it.
This situation reminded me that what I have been doing is working, but also that healing means being vigilant and prepared to take care of ourselves at all times. Even if it’s been years, an invalidating situation can hit when we least expect it. This doesn’t mean that we should be live our lives in fear of what could happen, because that’s no way to live. Rather, simply remember that your healing journey will have many twists and turns, and that it’s always important to put yourself first when it comes to dealing with a narcissist.
Feature images courtesy of Pixabay. Social Media images created by Matt Pappas with Canva.