I was a crazy person. Especially in my late teens. I obsessed over a boy in the most unhealthy way possible in the name of friendship. I poured out all my generosity on my friends and made them feel bad at one point or the other. I moulded into whoever the other person was and hence had a wide variety of friends. I wanted to be the saviour in everyone’s life. I used my listening skills with people. I listened with such earnestness that they end up feeling very special.
I called all of the above actions as unconditional but it was all conditional. I wanted people to feel good but at the same time I wanted to feel irreplaceable from their life too. I valued myself based on how much the other people around me needed me and liked me. I boiled with jealousy when someone called anyone other than me as a good person. I was obsessed with becoming the nicest person ever.
Of course I didn’t realise any of these back then or for a decade after that. It was too late of a realisation because I had long forgotten to have my own personality by then. I was nothing but a good person. I had no character quirks and I felt very much exposed. I carried shame around the fact that I moulded myself into a person that borrowed or copied “the good” from everyone around me and did not have anything innately good within me. That was again my obsession with becoming the good person but it was for myself.
I wanted to genuinely feel good about myself and not just seen as good person by others anymore. I stopped bothering about other people’s opinion about me gradually and stopped pleasing everyone around me. I worked on setting boundaries and I also did let go of some people with whom I had no real connection but stayed connected anyway because I didn’t want to come across as bad. I was able to feel a little bit more authentic everytime I did something because I felt like doing it and not to just come across as good. Still have a long road to recover fully though.
I will be continuing to record my thoughts on this theme as to why I became obsessed with becoming good in the first place and how it affects various aspects of my life even now etc.
Covid-19 pandemic and the social changes made me realise a lot about myself and my isolated life. In the initial days of the lockdown, I read a lot on how people are finding it difficult to stay isolated. Some people were caught in all sorts of unwanted situations like staying with abusive partners, narcissistic parents etc. The whole world was somehow connected and ideas to stay connected were everywhere. Podcasts were advising people on managing loneliness, keeping fit, keeping your mental health in check, eating healthy and so on.
None of the above things mattered to me. “Why didn’t I get any help or have awareness on all these when I had been living in isolation for so long?”, was the only question I kept asking myself. I kind of felt betrayed and angry. On whom, I have no idea. Mostly on myself for not being aware at all as to how deep I was sinking and that I didn’t even realise that I was isolated. I felt relieved when I finally had enough validation from the world that it was indeed difficult to live like I did. I was able to hate myself a little less.
But the isolation wasn’t something I wanted or did with an intention either. It just happened. I moved out of my parents house and moved in with my partner five years ago. I wanted to get out of my parents place for some reason. I had not realised then as to why I couldn’t stand living with my parents. Now I know better. I was fine during the first year after I moved out but then things started going south after I failed in an exam in the first attempt. It usually takes at least 2 to 4 years to clear this exam but I was made to believe that I was done for.
My self-esteem plummeted. It has always been low but I managed all these years. Now I was faced with the reality for the first time ever. I felt immense anxiety about everything and anything and literally had no confidence to do anything with my life. I fell into deep depression and I did not realise that I was suffering from all these mental health issues. I just stayed like a zombie for three long years. I blamed myself for everything and I struggled with suicidal ideation too. No one came to my rescue and when I shared something I was blamed for it too.
I was not accepted by my parents (though they will never admit to this) because they acted as if the failure hurt them more than it hurt me. They did not value me without a proper job. For them,trying after a failed attempt did not matter. I stopped visiting them for my own mental health. When I told them about my depression, they refused to believe me. So I totally avoid talking about anything with them nowadays. Living together with your partner before marriage comes with its own isolation in a country like India. My parents pretend like I don’t have a partner and lie to my relatives that I refuse to get married to save their face. So it created a deep sense of shame in me.
The only person I relied on in all through this was my boyfriend and it has taken a toll on the relationship too I believe. I recently got to know that he never felt attracted to me. I have no idea as to why someone will go through life with me for five long years and drop this bomb. The loneliness I felt after that was immense. It was as if the five years were a blur and did not mean anything at all.
So yes, when covid-19 happened and people felt isolated, I felt relieved because I was not crazy for feeling the way I did and that now my experiences were shared by all. I am now preparing myself to get out after this lockdown and figure out life for myself. Facing all my insecurities and living comfortably in my own skin and if possible with the right people is the thing I look forward to in life.
When I started my healing journey, I was unaware as to why I went on doing many things in my life that don’t add any value at all. I didn’t even realise that I was distracting myself from facing the pain the reality causing me. Nothing has a singular cause I believe. My distractions and addictions were an act of escaping from reality. But they were also due to from many other reasons like self-hate, sabotaging behaviours you learn due to the hate, coping mechanism from childhood etc.
My major way of distracting myself from a task at hand is to watch mind numbing amount of television or any show on the internet. When I say mind numbing, it literally was at the peak of my addiction. I lost my brain cells from doing nothing. But I couldn’t stop. By then I had spent years doing that. It was and still is, difficult to stop all together. The other thing I was addicted to was junk food. Food was a major comfort for me because it was with me when I was sad and lonely most of the times in my childhood. I can handle this addiction a lot better now but still struggle at times. Nowadays I tend to treat my addiction equivalent to any other substance abuse like alcohol or drugs. They do harm me in ways the other drugs do. And I got to be better in beating them.
I know what to do and how to do even, to beat these addictions and distractions. Still I don’t. I am still stuck in the phase of blaming things around me. I still have a lot of self-hate left in me. I don’t have the self-esteem that loves to see me succeed. It’s like my inner critic takes pleasure in seeing me fail. So before turning to beat my addiction, I have to accept myself, love myself and show compassion towards myself. I have started my journey towards those goals now.
It never leaves you. It paralyses you. You start something and never finish, giving thousand different reasons as to why you don’t want to do it anymore but deep down you know the only reason. Self-doubt sucks the life out of everything you do. You cannot enjoy the process because it makes you worry about the result already, which, in your case is always a negative one. It need not be a hard task even. You can even mess up things like saying ‘hello’ to someone.
Growing up I never had very big ambitions or goals because I believed I am going to fail at it anyway. I never learnt that failing is okay and that trying matters too. That kind of self-doubt was gradually built into me over the years by my narcissistic parents. I could never be right with them. They always had some better way of doing things and I always was one step behind. That kind of built a perfectionist attitude within me. Then I didn’t bother with trying even because being perfect at something was tough and felt impossible most times. My experiments with new things were subtly put down by them. They always acted like it was beneficial for me but looking back they allowed me to do something only if it was in their comfort zone.
All the important life choices were made by them. But I was gaslighted into believing that everything was my choice and that made me doubt myself much more. I blamed myself when I failed because after all it was chosen by me and that why couldn’t I do better. For a long time I forced myself to do things to please them without even realising. The act of seeking validation from them is many layered. I still have a long way to go.
The consequences of this self-doubt were many. I could never hold a proper job. When I held a job, I was anxious that I could not do better. I struggle with job anxiety even now. I sometimes feel I am too late to make something out of myself and that this emptiness is something I will carry on forever. But gradually I am rediscovering my real self that was lost and I find that to be a tiring process too. Most times I want to fall back into the old ways and not bother looking for my real self because I don’t even know if it exists. There goes my self-doubt again!
I binge eat. I have tried and failed all the time before knowing why but now I am getting better. But it is a lot of effort to not overeat. It is a vicious cycle. It primarily stems from the deeply embedded self-hate. The self-hate comes from the narcissistic abuse. I try and overcome the hate by pacifying my inner critic but it wins sometimes. The victory ratio favors me nowadays compared to those days where it was not even a battle worth fighting.
I never had a decent relationship with food. I had zero awareness as to what I ate in a day till the age of 25 even. I still don’t understand as to why I did not eat enough vegetables growing up or why I did not realise they were healthy. I struggled with obesity from the age of 10. I always had an on and off relationship with healthy weight. Even if I did manage to maintain a decent weight, I had more fat than muscle. I binged whenever I wanted to self-sabotage. Eating junk is still my way of comforting myself when things get complicated. I don’t know how to look at this dynamic of overeating and my narcissistic parents. I am still processing the events from childhood regarding the relation. So eating disorder will be a recurring topic in my healing journey.
I do remember that growing up we had to make sure that my father had enough vegetables to eat because he never bought vegetables enough for all four of us. It was an unspoken rule that vegetables are for dad and that we should eat less. It is not like we were poor. He spent more than enough on snacks. He was even proud that he learnt that from his father. Or maybe he never got to have enough snacks growing up that he fed us a lot of snacks. I never once realised that they were unhealthy. I ate junk like they were proper meals. It was like his way of taking caer of his children rather than teaching them proper ways of eating. My mother binged on snack as soon as she came from office because of her stress. I binged on junk after school. No one told me that what I was doing was unhealthy. Also I had no sense of control as in when to stop. I used to overeat till I felt queasy.
I struggle with serving size till date. That’s why I make it a point to not have snacks at home nowadays. I cannot just control myself. Learning about proper diet at the age of twenty seven was a huge revelation for me. I manage to eat well most days nowadays though I spend a lot of my brain space in controlling cravings and avoiding junk. What and how to eat still takes up lot of my time. I just hope I will reach the point where I have a healthy relationship with food soon.
Before I go on elaborating, I will claim the general disclaimer as in, this might not be the case with all Indian parents. I am really happy for those of you who got to have really mature and loving parents. This is about the majority of parents that I was surrounded by growing up and who were hell bent on driving their children crazy.
Children in my family were sad little souls who had to deal with all kinds of immature behaviour from their parents. We grew up with adults who saw their children as an extension of themselves and never as separate souls with an unique agency. When a child failed in something, there was hardly any consolation offered but criticisms raked in. Children of same age group in the family were forced to compete against each other in academic performance and when one kid outperformed the other, it was seen as a victory for their parenting. It turned the relationship sour amongst the kids. Till date, I can hardly hold a conversation with my same age cousin though we like each other and used to be pretty close when we were kids.
The adults in my family were constantly on edge. You can never finish a sentence in front of them. They do it for you. They never listen but complain that the children never talk to them. It was a common theme growing up. They always cared about external appearance more than genuine connections. They literally drove one of my cousin sister crazy. She was the super smart one in the family and I admired her growing up. Now she is alone in USA struggling with mental illness and no social support but still refuses to come back home because she knows that those at home are way more hard to deal with than her illness.
It was not just in my family that the adults were this crazy. I have friends whose parents were the same. Authoritarian parenting was a common theme in the many families around me. We never understood the immaturity of these adults who were supposed to guide us and love us. We all grew up in a shell. We never got to explore our full potential but only satisfying the needs of those immature idiots. We studied what they wanted,worked where they wanted and some married whom they wanted too. It is a cultural phenomenon that created so many unloved children with unexplored potential.
The children I grew up with (including me) are all adults now. The resilient ones are fine and get on with their lives just fine. I see them mastering the parenting unlike their parents and they are genuinely in love with their kids. They are giving them everything they failed to get as children and that is something that gives me immense joy. But the broken ones (which includes me) are still wandering, searching for our authentic selves that was broken over the years.
For sometime after I figured out that both my parents were emotionally immature and narcissists, I just wanted to wallow in self-pity and hate them with all my might. It was the first instinctual thing for me to do because all the nonsensical emotions I carried with me all these years made perfect sense. I was so elated with finding an answer that I did not want to move on from that and think about what happens next. As you might know, this stage doesn’t last long if you truly want to recover from the abuse and heal yourself.
The obvious next step for me was to confront them. Again, as you might have guessed, that did not go well. I did not try much either on that front because by then I had read enough about how the confrontation with narcissists never works. So I decided to leave that altogether, though I do lose control and ask them when some situations provoke me. I cannot be always so in control around them. At least not now.
So the next step and the only sensical step for me was to understand them. Forgiveness was not part of the process. Just understanding them as to why they turned out that way. The answer was simple as in any psychological trauma do get carried through generations. My parents did not have a good childhood. Especially, my mother, I would say. They both had absentee father figures. My dad had to deal with the loss of his mother in his teen years and was deeply traumatized by the world when there was no other adult to replace her. He was never cared for. My mother, on the other hand, was one of the last in the many children my grandparents birthed and was least cared for based on her accounts. She was ignored, she was teased for being ugly, she was not listened to and she had to care for her sister’s children when she was figuring out her life. She grew up feeling she was not valued.
Even the glimpses of family history were enough to make me realize that my parents did not know any better. But I could still not forgive them because they could have stopped the abuse with them. It was not like they intentionally carried forward the abuse but they did not try enough was what I feel. Maybe I will be able to move past it completely one day. That day is not here yet. I do feel a lot lighter nowadays having found the heart to understand them and not be angry. That is mission accomplished as of now.
I had a major depressive episode that lasted for years starting from my mid twenties. I was at the lowest point in my life. It was the cliche, hardly could move out of the bed kind of depression. My health took a beating. I isolated myself from everyone. I didn’t want to fight it. Suicidal ideation was the norm. Then I gathered myself slowly. Starting with healthy eating. Even now I am not fully recovered. I managed to sort certain aspects of my life but it is majorly unsorted. Through all this, one thing that I am grateful for is getting to know the actual reason for my depression. I used to blame my incapacity and failure to be financially independent as the reason. I had low self-worth and self-esteem. So I thought my confidence was the reason too. Nope. Now I know for sure why I was depressed.
Before exploring that reason, I want to state that this episode was the first major one but looking back I have always been depressed. Even as a little girl! I don’t remember being happy ever. I have always felt lonely and I used to pride myself that I am capable of being this alone this young. Not now though. I wish I had my own people. I precisely remember two other depressive episodes in my life. One started at age 13 and lasted for a year or so. Another one was at age 20 and that too lasted for a year or so. I didn’t think much of them then or even till very recently. I blamed my age 13 depression on schooling and age 20 one on rejection from a guy I liked. But looking back, these two reasons were not enough to explain the stillness and sadness I felt all through life. I always longed for genuine conversations. I vowed to become a great listener because I never felt heard. I always felt an intense amount of shame and unworthiness. So I made sure I never treated anyone with disrespect. Even then I felt like a burden to everyone and I felt invisible all the time too. What can explain this lifelong emptiness I felt?
That’s when I accidentally read about immature parents and narcissistic parents. The more I read on these topics, the more sense my life made. All the unanswered questions finally found a guide book. I was amazed at how much perfect sense those answers made. But at the same time the answers scared me. I went into denial at first. I never felt that way about my parents. In fact, I used to be proud of them. But more and more memories and instances of my life came back and it perfectly matched with the situations I read in all the books. I could no longer deny their role in my emotional trauma. I am now at the stage where I can accept that as the answer for my depression and work from there.
As part of recovery, I cry a lot nowadays. I embrace my inner child that was left alone all those years back and try to make it feel loved. It is a very gradual process I feel. I am reading on those lines a lot. I am part of groups online where my emotions feel validated. This is just the beginning of a healing journey that could last forever I feel. But I am glad I started at least.
It has not been long since I figured that my parents are narcissists. Since then it has been a revelation for me on many fronts. I used to (still do) walk around with such intense shame and self-blame for anything and everything. But the intensity has come down a lot and I have begun to treat myself with so much more love and compassion whenever the negative voice takes over.
Anyway, one such huge revelation has been about whether I am a narcissist or not. I used to firmly believe that I am one because the way I behaved sometimes scared me. I saw the reflection of my parents in me and it repulsed me. The feeling of shame didn’t help here either. It came as a relief when I got to know that many victims of narcissists carry around this doubt of whether they themselves could be a narcissist too. I took it as part of my healing journey. Also the fact that I worry about being one, should mean that I am not one because narcissists precisely lack this self-reflection. I constantly worry about hurting others because of my actions/behaviour. So I took that as another proof that I am not one.
But the most helpful of all has been my exposure to the term “Narcissistic Fleas”. Things made much more sense and it sealed the answer for me that I am not a narcissist. The term literally means the characteristics you pick up from being around the narcissists. These fleas doesn’t in anyway mean you are a narcissist too. It is as simple as the fact that you tend to become like someone with whom you spent your developmental years with. You pick on their way of behaving, you learn their ways of dealing with the world, you learn their defence mechanisms etc.
Knowing this simple fact saved me from so much mental agony. Wish I had come across it sooner. Now I am off to ridding myself of the fleas! Is there a Nshampoo for that?
My name is Arthi. I am a 30 year old living in Bengaluru. I always wanted to write but never had the courage to write publicly. Also I feared my consistency in sticking to it. I was all over the place until now with what I should write too. Finally, I have taken the leap this year to go public with a topic that is near and dear to me – mental health.
I have not been diagnosed for any mental illness because I could never afford to go to any therapy. Also the times I suffered from depression, I didn’t even realise it myself. But I went a personal healing journey that continues till today and will be my lifelong journey because I realised mental health is not something you fix and move on.
So I wanted to use this space to share my struggles, how I overcame them and also mistakes I continue to do to this date. Hope we can all heal together! Thanks for stopping by.