Open A Vein: Writing, Narcissism and Loyalty

Natalie Goldberg gave me the phrase “open a vein”.

I mean, she didn’t make it up or anything, but she gave it meaning for me.

Writing is easy, just open a vein.

Sometimes, when I write about parental narcissism, I get an idea and start, but then run away from the story.

Writing this shit is hard, yo.

I don’t like thinking about ways I was injured as a child.

I will recall a memory and consider writing about it, but then all the other memories tumble in as well. There are some memories I will probably never write about, but I still have to think about them. They hurt.

I do write about painful issues, though, because I can.

I know my way down every twisted corridor and the journey sucks, but I understand that space. I am not a confident person. Hahahahah holy shit that is an understatement, but I do know my way around life as the child of a malignant narcissist.

Life continues to be difficult as people in my country have to live under the toxic orange cloud of the president. I read over and over the shock and dismay people express over 45’s words and deeds. I am never shocked. Trust me, he can go much lower. There is no depth deep enough. Nothing will make him say “Maybe, I shouldn’t do that.”

There are parallels. My father and the president are two very different people, however, their behavior is sickeningly alike.

My father demanded loyalty. My father demanded we protect his lies.

Like the orange psycho puff, my father was not a drinker. Except for when he drank. Haha. It really wasn’t often at all, but when he drank, he drank until he blacked out. Fun times. 

My father’s vice was gambling.

I spent a lot of my childhood hanging around a racetrack. My dad loved betting on horses. He was terrible at gambling, but he loved it.

It was never his fault when he lost.

The jockey threw the race, and to hear my father talk, the jockey threw the race just to spite him. Or, someone gave him a bad tip because they envied him and wanted him to fail.

The problem was never that he was throwing grocery and rent money away. He wasn’t the problem. He was never the problem.

And those days always ended with “Tell your mother we went to the park.”

I was lying for my father before I learned how to read.

This is a huge trigger for me. Not that I’m often asked to lie for someone, but it happens. When it happens, I feel sweaty, narcissism and loyaltyangry, and betrayed.

In the past, because my job was to be loyal and protect lies, I would do it. I would lie for someone if they asked. I won’t do that anymore, though. I am not mean about it and I don’t express how bad I feel to even be asked to lie for someone, but I won’t lie for anyone anymore.

I don’t like working through these issues this late in life.

I don’t like when situations I find difficult are also comforting because they are familiar.

I wish my life were different. I do. I wish when I went to a place where I felt comfortable, a familiar place where I knew every corner, that my internal place wasn’t created through parental narcissism.

But this is my life. This is who I am.

I don’t have many childhood memories that aren’t punctuated or turned sour due to my father’s emotional abuse.

Sometimes, though, I am grateful for those dark, murky alleyways I have to travel. Sometimes, I am grateful that I can open a vein.

Because sometimes, I get an amazing comment on an old narcissism post, or an email from a reader telling me I have given them comfort. They feel relief at not being alone or they’ve gained understanding of themselves by reading someone who experienced something similar.

I’ve found, through this journey, understanding root causes goes a long way toward healing.

I’ve learned self-acceptance helps close some wounds. But nothing, and I mean nothing, has helped me more than knowing that I’ve comforted others.

I don’t know who I would be right now if my life had been different. Probably not writing this blog.

Not that it matters, my reality is what it is.

  • I don’t want to be sad over my past anymore.
  • I don’t want to feel resentment anymore.
  • I don’t want to give loyalty on demand anymore.

I think I’m the one who gets to decide that.

I  might feel different tomorrow or next week or after the next time I have to spend time with my dad, but right now, I am content that my life has played out as it has.

I love my family and my friends. I love all of you guys.

It’s not easy, and I may never resolve everything in my head, but I’m cool with opening my vein for as long as I can.


Photo courtesy Screamenteagle

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  • Your posts, especially on this subject, often leave me speechless. I will be processing this one for awhile. I am commenting because I want to thank you for that. For making me think.
    I am at a place where I’ve stopped thinking about my situation. Part of that is loyalty (which is not something I thought about until you just pointed out your own situation). Processing.
    Thank you!

  • Hey friend,

    You have definitely helped me, not only to recognize narcissism in past relationships, but bc you were one of the first blogs I found when I started “opening a vein” publicly.

    I’m always amazed that you, although I know you struggle where I can’t see it, are always so kind and caring and funny after a childhood like that.

    I’m proud to call you my friend. xoxo

  • This:

    “I don’t want to be sad over my past anymore.
    I don’t want to feel resentment anymore.
    I don’t want to give loyalty on demand anymore.
    I think I’m the one who gets to decide that.”

  • Thank you for the thought provoking post.
    I am now thinking about the more specific things that the orange turd of misery is triggering in people.
    It sucks hard to be stuck with all this crap we have to live with every day.
    Thank you for reminding me that we are legion.
    My heart goes out to you!

  • Michelle, I can’t imagine how the Orange Creature must trigger you. He sounds a lot like your father. Stay away from the news as much as you can, although I know its easier said than done.

  • You ARE absofuckinglutely the one who decides the sad, the resentment, and the “loyalty on demand”!!!! I thank you for being here. You are an amazing woman with an awesome family and some pretty damn cool friends. I respect the blatant truths in your writing. Have a great weekend, because you deserve it! And I’m not lying!

  • Michelle, I can relate on so many levels. I didn’t really know my dad until I was married with 2 babies. I had a few memories and they were not good. He is a narcissist and so is my mother. No wonder they only lasted 2 years together. My mother would manipulate me in every way she could but, she never went too far because I was her built-in babysitter. Here I am, 67 years old and finally understanding narcissism and the holy fucking hell it can create for those around them. Writing my memoir has helped me understand it and overcome all the muck it created in my head and my heart. Things are clearer now and, I am grateful for the written word.

  • Some things scare us for a good reason. Maybe someday, if you ever decide you want to, you will tell some of those stories that you run away from, that you don’t want to tell now, but for now maybe the fear is right that you’re not ready to share them.
    I’m happy, though, that you’ve reached the point you have, and also happy that you’ve found a way to help others and to surround yourself with people who support you.
    Yes, you are in control, and, yes, you are the one who gets to decide, but it helps to have people around you who will help you tell the truth.

  • Goddamn, Michelle. That was a good post. Remember how I sometimes come up with song lyrics appropriate to the subject? While I was reading your post, my head was screaming “MEAT PUPPETS” and I remembered the mention of opening a vein in the song “Backwater”:

    And when I wake up in the morning
    To feel the daybreak on my face
    There’s a blood that’s flowin’
    Through the feeling, with a knife
    To open up the sky’s veins
    Some things will never change
    They stand there looking backwards
    Half unconscious from the pain
    They may seem rearranged
    In the backwater swirling, there is
    Something that will never change

    I know what you mean about lying for people. I’ve really grown to hate it, but there are still times when I will do it anyway. I’ve managed to all but eliminate those situations from my daily life, but I will still lie for someone I care about if their freedom depends upon me doing so.
    Drugs are still illegal (or a lot of them are) and can still get someone thrown in jail, and many of my friends still do the illegal variety, although it will be ten years since I have done so on Saturday.
    As a former motorcycle racer, I have held onto the philosophy that control is an illusion but
    “I don’t want to be sad over my past anymore.
    I don’t want to feel resentment anymore.
    I don’t want to give loyalty on demand anymore.
    I think I’m the one who gets to decide that.”
    seems less about control, and more about the basic decency and respect that should be shown to any living creature, and yes, you do get to decide. Determining what your options are for those decisions feels like the hard part, at least to me, and I have never been very good at getting those options in place ahead of time, like I have been told over and over is the smart way.
    Your story is yours, and thank you for sharing it with us.

    • I fucking LOVE that song. I loved it the first time I heard it. I wasn’t thinking about it when I wrote this, but it is appropriate.

      Yes, I WILL lie to protect people, but it is on my terms, not anyone else’s.

      And thank you. Thank you so much.

  • I often share your posts to folks who only have to deal with the Narcissist in Chief. Your writing is so clear. There is no room for questionable logic, like, “maybe this is all really just a clever strategy” or “he can’t be what he seems.” It makes taking him and his cronies on a simple matter of defending human decency.

  • I am trying to figure out how to tackle my NPD mother and the general fog that is my childhood in writing/journaling and it. Is. So. Hard.

    Because of the fog, because of the beige, because of the tears (which I still have a hard time producing AND dealing with)

    Thank you for opening veins. Thank you for the reminders that we are not our past, we are not our parents.

    Also, here’s some fucking hugs. <3

    • Thank you for the fucking hugs! I can use all I can get. XOXOXOX

      You are wonderful. I’m sorry that it is hard, I wish it were different. You are not alone.

  • Your struggle has opened my eyes to issues in my life for which I had never connected the dots. So sorry for your pain but so grateful you are making the best of it with us.

  • Wow. Your words cut close to the bone. My stepfather, the man who was more or less around when my mom clumsily attempted to raise me, reminds me so much of Trump. My stepfather died years ago, but Trump just triggers so much in me. I suffered emotional and sexual abuse from my stepfather. I thought I had it all worked out of my system until America elected the Cheeto-in-Charge and all the ugliness came roaring back. I’d like nothing more than to vomit it out all over Facebook and my website. When my mom is no longer alive, that’s exactly what I will do. It will feel so great to get it all out, once and for all.

    • I am so sorry you are triggered and I am more than sorry that you were abused. I wish I could take that away. But we are who we are and we lived through what we lived through. I am here and when you are ready, I will read all you have to say about your past. xoxoxoxoxo

  • Wow. This really resonates. I don’t comment often but I read every blog/post? It is really difficult for separate the other crazy from your own crazy. I live this every day because some of my closest family never acknowledge any wrongdoing. Ever. The one time that immediately springs to mind happened when I was about 10-11? I had a terrible flu- congestion, nausuea, coughing till I puked and puking until I literally had nothing to give to the porcelain god. My ribs were sore and I told my mom. She said: I don’t think you’re that sick. I think you are trying to get out of school. (TBH, I did feign illness a lot to get out of school because I effing hated it.) two days later she of course has the same illness. Coughing, congestion, puking, etc. three days later she says to me “Oh, my ribs hurt.
    Anyway. Loves and hugs.

  • I don’t believe I recognize Malignant Parental Narcissism within my family. Even among my siblings now that we’ve grown. And I was certainly never asked to lie for someone… in fact, I can’t lie, to this day. I am very, very good at evading a subject if I don’t want to answer, but I can’t lie.

    But there certain ancient episodes from my life that sort of fester every now and then. Wounds that were never fully closed and the scab that’s there goes unnoticed for years, sometimes, until something causes me to pick at the scab. I guess everyone must have something from youth that bugs them as an adult. It seems the trick, as you’ve found, is to be true to yourself, and not bring harm to others in return to the harm done to you. Thanks for this.

  • I love these posts; as painful as they are for you they’re therapeutic for me. Selfish, maybe, but you’re your own person and you’ll stop writing them if you ever decide it’s hurting you more than it’s helping you (and I’ve got my own therapist on me about not being the keeper of other people’s feelings… we all have our work to do after we emerge from hell.)

    • I feel this. You never ever have to worry about my feelings. I’m good. I share what I can. It might not be easy, but if it’s too hard, I back off. I am thrilled they are therapeutic for you. I appreciate that you care, but I promise, I am fine. xoxoxoxoxo

  • Michelle,

    Have I said this before? If I have, just ignore me.

    In a religious introspectional book called “A Course in Miracle” there is a phrase that has healed me in so many way. It is simply, “The past does NOT exist.” For so many years of my adulthood I was haunted by “what if” or “if I had” or “why did he do that”. The day that I read “past does not exist” phrase, I knew that I was reliving what did not exist anymore.

    Memory/emotion link is so strong but I truly believe (now) that the voices in our head, the ones that leave us cripple, can be quieted when they know that they are talking about what is not and, if we have our way, never will be again.

    From what I sense here, you cannot divorce yourself from your father and he is still living. That is very hard. You are awesome though and YOU CAN DO IT! 🙂

    Have a wonderful day.

    Retire in Style Blog

  • As I’m sure I’ve commented before, I don’t have first-hand experience with narcissism in my own life. Not that I don’t have childhood trauma and sexual abuse and adulthood Depression. So even though I don’t SPECIFICALLY relate, I DO relate to childhood trauma, so I appreciate when you’re able to open your veins and let yours spill. I don’t blog about mine *much* simply because I’m lucky to not have a Pedophile In Chief triggering my own traumas. I’m grateful that when the need arises, I’ve reached the emotional maturity to go ahead and open that vein into my own blog… or on Twitter.
    I think I would absolutely loathe being in a position where someone I was employed by asked me to lie on their behalf. That is a completely unfair situation, and I’m glad you’ve moved out of that position. It IS your choice.
    Also, I really like that “the past does not exist” mantra…

  • Sad but great to know others are hurting and burying a lot within.
    I had a painful childhood , my mother was killed in a car crash leaving us devastated. My father was left with 5 of us ranging in age from my oldest brother of 15 to my youngest sister of 18 months. He lost his wife and discovered on the same night that she was having an affair with the man who was driving the car.
    There lies the start of a very different life. Still trying to understand myself at 57 years old but reading this helps and also helps that no one knows me. I am frightenened of poking inside in case I unravel.

By Michelle


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