Narcissistic Personality Disorder: I Need Five Minutes

I have a fragmented child living inside me. She never learned to grow and never stopped grieving because she was left behind. When a child doesn’t get the love, support, and security she needs from a parent, then she is forced to enter adulthood with missing pieces. Her coping mechanisms are sprained and ineffective. Oftentimes, her damaged coping methods create larger problems than the ones she tries to mask. Self love and self confidence don’t exist. Her emotional maturity is dull and stunted. She grows anyway, but follows a distorted path. Part of her never gets to be an adult because of these missing pieces. The child inside lets go of trying to be an adult and remains an internal, eternal child.

Even though narcissistic personality disorder isn’t new, we are only now starting to collectively recognize NPD on a grand scale.

Those of us raised by a narcissist did not come to this party late. For us, narcissism became part of our fabric. Maybe we didn’t have a label to put on it, but children of narcissists recognize narcissism in other people.

Even if our narcissist disappears, the narcissistic demon remains whispering in our ear. As a child, I listened to my father as he tended a running commentary. “My life would have been better without you in it. You should have been a boy. You embarrass me.”

I listened to him for years until I was able to remove myself from his daily abuse in my late teens. His voice lingered on as my own demon, pouring a stream of poison in my ear. The little girl who lives inside of me twisted and morphed into a contorted ball of springs and twine. She looks like a child created from a crayon scribble.

As the oldest part of me, she is also my anxiety tribal elder.

This little girl is not my devil. I feel compassion and even love for her. A little. I feel sadness because she will never be okay. She is the oldest part of me and she is a child. These two facts will never make peace with each other. I am not saying that there is no hope for the near hopeless neurotic .It seems that most of us have options. Therapy. Rehab. Drugs. Friends. Life. Age.

I know those of us damaged by parental narcissism can get better, because I have. But that little girl who still resides in me? That old woman who lives in me? She is a fixed point in time. She will never get better. She will not stop being afraid. She will not stop being ashamed. She will not stop running away. I accept this. I accept that she and I have to make our peace.

I spent years alternating between ignoring her and loathing her. Now, that I’m on the other side of time, I feel compassion for her. I kind of dig her. I love her a little. Why did I hate her? Why did I ignore her? Because she was stupid. She was ugly and should have never been born. She was a failure, threw a baseball like a girl, and her hair was matted and messy. I didn’t just hate her. I was repulsed by her. I found her to be a sad, pathetic waste of a human child.

My father molded that child. She tried to be who he wanted her to be, but she couldn’t and she became someone else instead. When he said his life would have been better without her, she believed him. His statements defined her.

She cried, worried, and drank antacid as a bedtime snack.

Her stomach pain meant she was wrong, defective, and not worthy of existence. As I grew, I ran from my family. The little girl inside came with me and I hated her. I hated that I still cried too much. My tears were “her” fault. I hated that I was afraid, just like her. I faked being a functioning adult, though. I ignored that child, except for when I couldn’t. Then, I hated her more. The memory of her made me cringe and brought the chalky taste of my bedtime snack to the back of narcissistic-personality-disorder-childmy throat.

I grew older and even my harshest feelings began to soften.

I became a mother and loved my children. I loved them imperfectly. I made mistakes learned from my father. I am not him. I never blamed my children for my mistakes. When I was wrong, I told them I was wrong and apologized.

When I became a grandmother, I learned I could accept my own children and their children. I considered the possibility that I had been too hard on the little girl that was me.

Perhaps, I have been too hard on the old woman who knows every moment of my history. Even the ones I don’t think about, the memories that I still hide. I considered who I am now. Am I a person who would be repulsed by any child? No. No, I am not.

I considered that little girl who was me. I tried to dredge up feelings of revulsion or shame and found those feelings are long dead. She deserved to be loved then, so I try to love her now. I am not always successful, but am diligent. I don’t know if I comfort her or not. She is ash. She is fixed in time. She is a ball of jagged wires and knotted twine.

I don’t hold this child to blame for who I am today. I don’t hold this child to blame for not being able to grow. She cannot be anyone else. She is blameless. I understand that she has both been ash for many years and will also always be close by. I know her nature is to fret and cry and to need constant reassurance. She is me. She is mine, and whether she feels it or not, I will try to comfort her. I will continue to grow my love for her. I will cultivate patience for her. I will find ways to let her know that she is valid and real and deserving.

I accept this child of mine, but I have a need.

I could use a break for five minutes.

I need a sitter.

If someone could, just for a few moments, hold her close and promise her that everything will be okay, then I could get a break. She will need her hair stroked and she needs to be told that she is funny and pretty and that the world is better because she exists. She won’t believe what she hears, but tell her anyway.

If I had that five minutes, I could find out who I am.

I could feel what it would be like if my reality weren’t always cloaked in fear.

I would know what it feels like to not have a stomachache.

I could see with clarity who I could have been.

I could see with clarity who I still might be.

I could see with clarity who I am now.

There would be no scream in my head. I would know, or at least have an inkling, what should happen next.

I could take a deep breath and stretch my arms over my head.

I would know that the years and months and weeks and days and hours and minutes and seconds that haven’t happened yet aren’t scary.

Or maybe I would find that she isn’t the one holding me back, keeping me mired in fear. Maybe, I would find that it’s been grown up me all along. Would I resent her all over again if that is true? Do need her so that I have someone to blame for my shortcomings?

Or maybe my five minutes would pass as five minutes do. Nothing new, nothing discovered and nothing gained. I would find myself 300 seconds older and no wiser.

No matter what I learn, I will take her back when my five minutes are up.

I owe her. I used to think that I had forgiven her, but I have since realized that she had done nothing wrong.

Instead, I am learning to forgive myself for turning my back on this child for so many years.

I will take her back when my five minutes are up because I haven’t given up on trying to take her pain away. Do I think I will succeed? I am nearly certain I will not. Her time is over. I can’t go back and make her life less painful. I am not ready to stop trying, though. I know she sometimes laughed. I know that she had moments of brazenness and fearlessness.Those moments weren’t many in number and I so badly want to give her more.

I will take her back when my five minutes are up because I want to take her back. I would fight to get her back.

She is mine. I don’t love her a lot, but I do love her.

She is mine.

Photo courtesy of kai Stachowiak

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  1. Cole says:

    That brought a tear or two. The little child who had to survive and battles with life every day. Thanks for sharing your little inner child’s story.

    Reply
  2. Michele says:

    Narcissists. The root of all evil. I fucking despise them.

    “How starved you must have been that my heart became a meal for your ego”
    ~ Amanda Torroni

    I believe that recovery from narcissistic abuse is possible.

    http://ubnradio.com/shows/dr-judy-wtf/

    Reply
  3. Cecilia Leon says:

    The way I found out about NPD was the day I did a search on google for “why do I always feel like a little girl”. I’m 59. Coming to terms with the fact that I may never be cured is ongoing.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I found out about it completely by accident and it was like I fell down a rabbit hole that was specifically built for me. It was so weird. And I think we will always have issues to overcome, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not awesome. XO

      Reply
  4. Kim says:

    It filled me with sadness to read but this is beautiful. You are beautiful. Thank you for being and sharing you.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Thank you so much for this. I appreciate it more than I can tell you. I am also terrible at receiving compliments..I want to deflect, deflect, deflect..I am going to be gracious instead. XO

      Reply
  5. Sue says:

    This made me cry. I think I identify more than I realized.

    Reply
  6. Julie says:

    Your words touched my heart. I wish neither I nor anyone else could relate to these feelings. Please keep telling yourself you are awesome because you are.

    Reply
  7. Natz says:

    His words are not you. You are free my love. You hug that beautiful little girl, so innocent and perfect & you tell her its not her. Its not her & it never was. You say it loud.
    His dysfunction dies with him, you be proud of who you are and how far you have come. When I look at some ACONS (Adult Children Of Narcs) online it horrifies me how much damage the Narcs create but boy do I feel grateful for how far I’ve come. We could have married into more Narc abuse. We could have died of Alcoholism/drug addiction/Suicide. We did n’t. We are survivors.
    I have ceased to look back. It does n’t exist anymore. The only reality is this moment. I have bumped into so many strangers today and had the most wonderful interactions. The joy I feel just being loving and getting love back is so beautiful. My Father will never know how that feels.
    Oh there that little ear worm goes….”All you need is love, dan dan da da daa, all you need is love, love. Love is all you need”
    Aint that the truth? You’ve changed your family history just by being you. Who knows how long this Narc thing has been going round and round and round, passed down from generation to generation. It could have continued but it did n’t. Because of YOU!
    I reckon Love is the Narc equivalent of Kryptonite. HA HA up your bum Daddio! xxx
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      THANK YOU for this. Thank you so much. I actually DID marry a narcissist. I had a terrible track record with relationships..until I met Randy. We’re going on 22 and I am so very grateful.

      Reply
  8. Ann Koplow says:

    Amazing post, so beautifully written. Many thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  9. Barbara says:

    This was beautifully written.
    I truly loved it. Although I truly wish none of us had experienced the horrors that a narcissist can wreak on the life of a child. I continue to pick up the pieces on a daily basis.
    I found strength in the comments as well. It is good to know that someone else actually understands.
    Thank you for sharing! A big hug to that little girl.

    Reply
  10. Peggy says:

    Tears on a dreary morning, but a feeling of joy, confirmation, too. Survivors are badasses.

    Reply
  11. Liv says:

    True story: my ex suggested I was a narcissist.

    Reply
  12. Susan says:

    This was just so moving. I wish you ever more enlightened days as you keep that little girl close enough to hear your voice above all the others.

    Reply
  13. Shawna says:

    Fucking hell.

    Don’t we have a love/hate relationship with the fact that there are others out there who suffered like we did. It is so comforting to finally find out that you are not alone, and at the same time, it is horrifying to find out that others had to go through the same hell.
    Like you, I stumbled on the discovery of the term and was astounded that there was a name for it. In the past 20 years I have slowly discovered that all that I held as normal, was anything but. All I knew was that I refused to parent as my mother did, I didn’t know what was the “right” way, but I sure knew that I could never say the things to my son, my precious, vulnerable, trusting, loving child that were said to me. This was all discovered well before I had a name for what was going on.
    It was only a couple of years ago that I finally went to a therapist because I couldn’t fight the hateful voice in my head that was constantly telling me that I was shameful, a failure that didn’t deserve to live. When she explained what a narcissist was, it all clicked.
    The voice in my head hasn’t gone away, but most days I can ignore her, and on the days that I can’t, my husband now knows how to keep me safe and help me crawl out of the abyss.
    Thank you for your words, it is comforting/horrifying to know that we have a tribe that knows what we are going through.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      omg I know exactly what you are saying. It IS comforting to NOT be alone, but then you feel guilty for the comfort because that means someone else is going through the same shit. I have decided that I am NOT responsible for other people’s misery (which is hard, because part of me feels responsible for fucking EVERYTHING) and that I will accept that I am comforted and in return, will try to offer comfort. It’s the best I can do. I am so glad for this tribe and for you. Thank you.

      Reply
  14. This was so amazing and makes me want to take that little girl for a couple of hours–or a couple of days, or a couple of months. Maybe a couple of years.
    Both of you could use a break.
    The fact that you’ve shouldered the burden of trying to help that little girl by yourself is beyond admirable. It’s fucking heroic.
    More important though is what it means that you feel comfortable asking for just five minutes. That you feel comfortable asking for any time at all means you’ve accepted that you didn’t make that little girl who she is and while you’ve taken on the responsibility of trying to undo the damage you are secure enough to also accept that you can’t and shouldn’t have to do it alone.
    I hope in writing this you and that little girl did find five minutes–or even five seconds–of peace and happiness.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Thank you so much. I get glimpses. Like when I was in the sensory deprivation tank. Total peace. I don’t feel that often. Hardly ever. I’m definitely going to do it again. I am still working on looking back and not seeing her as broken and flawed and less and I still blame her a little. Not as much. But I don’t hate her and I don’t feel sorry for her. I feel compassion for her. I suspect she was pretty awesome all along.

      Reply
  15. I was incredibly fortunate in that my parents loved me and had most of their own demons in order by the time they had children.

    I’m not sure I would be. I am very selfish and have no interest in changing my life for children. So I’m not having any. I know enough to know I need to avoid it so as not to subject them to… me.

    Powerful writing like this, from the perspective of someone who has had to live with parents’ issues and foibles, convinces me even more that I’m making the right decision.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Thank you! I think it’s awesome that you know what is best for you. I love my children and I would never wish any of them away…but I fully understand NOT wanting to have any.

      Reply
  16. Katnap says:

    Good on you for keeping up the effort to deal with it, and to help educate. Like I’ve told you before, I wasn’t even aware that my ex was one until I started reading you (talk about denial!). And how timely, as just yesterday he contacted my youngest (after a very long silence) with a cryptic message about starting to send her money via a stranger. WTF? He hasn’t supported our kids at all for years, so naturally I’m waiting for his self-serving plot to unfold. Is it a coincidence that she’ll turn 18 in 3 months? I have to say, while reading and feeling so sad for what you’ve had to endure, I also feel anxiety about my own kids’ mental health. Their father isn’t physically present in their lives, but he’s always lurking in the shadows, and he’s just stepped forward again. It makes me feel sick just thinking about it.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Just keep loving and supporting them. And remember, not a single human gets through life without dealing with difficult shit. Even our children. That’s hard, but it’s a fact of life. Just keep loving them.

      Reply
  17. Eleanor says:

    Very raw and real. You lead me into epiphanies. Fucking fuck!

    Reply
  18. I think we’re all just a collection of fragments of the people we might have been, could have been, should have been. Like one of those mosaics made out of broken plates. There’s beauty in being broken. And I love all of you, even the most damaged bits.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      There IS beauty in being broken. I think that is what attracts us to other people..the places where our broken places are the same. There is comfort and understanding in that. And thank you, I love all of you, too. XOXOXOXOX

      Reply
  19. Brooke says:

    Thank you again, Michelle. Once again, you have touched my soul. I so appreciate that you are here and willing to share yourself with all of us (especially those of us who can relate).
    Love and hugs to you and that little girl. I would take her for 5 minutes if I could.

    Reply
  20. Marisette says:

    Your posts help me understand my father better. He was the child of a narcissist. They also help me understand my husband and son better. They have anxiety disorders. My father did not have anxiety, although he definitely did have an inner child who sometimes came out and threw tantrums. I think you may have been hit by a double whammy. I feel for you, I respect your efforts to heal yourself, and I learn from what you post here. Big hug. <3

    Reply
  21. Right in the feels, damn you.

    Ooof, every word of this is so painfully familiar. My own family is a melting pot of personality disorders, but I’m several steps behind you on the path of Accepting That Little Girl. I do shush her and stroke her hair, but I’m still also stuffing her in the nearest closet and determinedly ignoring her screech every time I take the first cookie at a party, or the last, or ask where the restroom is anywhere (no idea why she’s got such a hangup about that, she just starts howling). And sometimes, unfortunately, I’m still stuck listening to her – when she whispers that the reason I haven’t heard back from someone is that I upset them, that I did it wrong and now I’m going to get in trouble, when she insists that I have to do more than everyone else and make it better than everyone else or nobody will love me – because in some ways, she’s still too big a part of me.

    So… if you find a sitter, give me their number? I need someone who can handle a broken child who also bites, though – this one is really determined that I never again make the “mistakes” that got her locked in a room until everyone forgot she was there, so I don’t think she’s gonna go anywhere willingly.

    Reply
  22. Shani says:

    Whenever I read the posts you write on this topic, I usually just wind up with. “Wow.” And that “wow” encompasses so many feelings I cannot express or even identify. But I think about them for days, and really they never leave me, because I go back and re-read them when I get triggered.

    So, let me just say. Wow. And hopefully you know what I mean

    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  23. Doug in Oakland says:

    Damn, Michelle, now I admire you even more than I already did. I don’t really know what to say, except that even though I’m not a good babysitter, I would cheerfully hang out with that little girl who grew up into the unmitigated awesomeness that is you. Does she like bananas? Because that’s what we have for breakfast around here today. There’s an adorable cat sleeping on the clean laundry in the basket for her to play with, and someone just mowed their lawn, so the smell of fresh-cut grass is in the air, and she might find that comforting. Briana has hung crystals in the windows, and they are blowing streaks of rainbow across the wall that shimmer when someone opens the door and disturbs them a little. I don’t know much about children, but that seems like something a child might enjoy for a while. I’m sort of out of my depth here, but at least I’m trying…

    Way off topic, have you seen the new OK GO video “The One Moment”? It’s so good that you and the little girl might like it.
    Then there’s this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qROQ0XYP4Ck
    It’s Aimee Mann, who I adore anyway, singing a song she wrote from the perspective of Donald Trump. This is the chorus:

    Isn’t anybody going to stop me?
    I don’t want this job
    I don’t want this job, my god
    Can’t you tell
    I’m unwell

    Reply
  24. Linda G says:

    Someday maybe I will share my abandonment story – brought on by my father’s early death.

    For now – you are proving there is life on the other side. You go girl!

    Reply
  25. Carol says:

    Crying. Beautiful. No words. Thank you. Sobbing now.

    Reply
  26. People with average childhoods usually can’t write with the pain and passion you so eloquently describe. The clouds broke for me when I finally visualized reaching down, picking up my battered five-year-old self, and rocking her.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      What a gorgeous image. I think I need to work on that one myself. But not at age 5. I was still treated like a princess at age 5. Age 10, though? I was an embarrassment by then. I just want to go and get her and cuddle on the couch and watch funny movies until she feels good.

      Reply
  27. Spiked Lee says:

    I cried when I read this. I cried for your little girl, who is perfect the way she is. Her sensitive, sweet, strong self is perfect because she gave you you, the way you are, and you are perfect. I cried for my inside little girl, who is so much stronger than she used to be, but still has hard days. I cried most for my real little girl, that beautiful young adult who is working so hard right now to be sane, to make it through each and every day and each and every hour. The woman girl who is so gentle and kind and smart and generous but is somehow badly wired and has to struggle so hard just to stay in her own skin. It’s been a hard couple of weeks, and so heartbreaking to feel that girl woman, to know that no matter how I hug her or stroke her hair, it will not cure her or take away whatever wiring defect that gives her so much pain. Thank you for being there and letting me FEEL because if I feel I might have hope of better than this.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Please believe me when I tell you that you’ve made my day with your comment. It’s also very dusty in here. I am sending peace and love and light to you and your daughter. And the children who live inside of both of you.

      Reply
  28. Fiona says:

    This is beautifully honest and clear.
    I’ll take her for five minutes. She can play with the little me in me, and the big fluffy gentle cat, and the wee lively dog. There’s a garden and pizza and (fake) fur blankets piled up for napping on. Late teenage me keeps an eye on everyone and cuts the pizza and drinks beer and puts plasters on grazed knees. And everyone can play dress up as much as they like. And shout, just for fun. And she can come round more than once.

    Reply
  29. That was so sad yet it moved me so much. You are so brave and strong to accept and heal that way. Am a great babysitter so will be more than happy to sit and hold ‘your’ little girl. Got lots of hugs and kisses to give away.

    Reply
  30. Billie says:

    This is so beautifully written and so moving- thank you Michelle.
    I would happily babysit for a while for you, give you a well- earned break. I’m sure it’s never really too late, as the child is a memory, and memories are being made all the time. Happy ones too!!
    My NPD mum took great delight in telling me in insidious passively aggressive ways how unwanted I was. Her favourites? Well, when I was born apparently my grandad said, Never mind, (ie that she’s a girl) at least she can help you with the housework. WT actual F? And lovely grandma said how 2 girls are worth one boy when I came along Guffaw guffaw. Or how she had a miscarriage before I was born, and how she was sure it was a boy ( said in a longing, pitious voice). Etc etc.
    Hey ho.
    Still, it really is never too late to send positive vibes to the fucked up inner child, esp. at Christmas time, when so many of us were left feeling more unwanted than ever!! And let’s not forget that none of us was actually destroyed despite their best efforts. Yay to the strength of the human spirit.
    Peace and love to you all. 🙂

    Reply
  31. Karen says:

    Michelle, I so related to this post. Thank you! It’s a journey. Keep on writing … you’re a gift.

    Reply
  32. You really broke yourself open for this post and it must have been so difficult. Perhaps cathartic (I hope) but difficult all the same. If I lived near you I’d hug you, bring you a box of chocolate (or whatever you love) and sit and chat with you. That’s what friends do. Hold each other in our hearts.

    Big healing hugs. You are a beautiful soul and don’t you ever, EVER forget that. Ever.

    Friends from afar…

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      This made me a little teary. Thank you. It wasn’t real hard to write..I mean, a little..but I disassociate a LOT which is frustrating because I often detach from good emotions as well as difficult ones…any strong emotion makes me shut down a little and I feel like I’m looking at life through scratched up plexiglass. However, that DOES make it easier to write about painful shit. Might as well look for that silver lining. Haha.

      Thank you again, this makes my heart happy.

      Reply
  33. Linda says:

    I am very protective of the little girl inside, raised by an abusive narcissist from age seven, a child who who remembers the life before. That saved me a bit. I made it my mission to get out of the household as soon as I could but, unfortunately, I married another narc. Left him after decades of trying to make it all work. I’ve made a decent life since then and can look down my nose at those narcs, visibly ignoring them as I wait for them to self-destruct. It’s fun, although the pain, as you know, never goes away.

    This is a very brave and beautiful post. I wish all good things – love, health and laughter – to grownup you and to little girl you.

    Reply
  34. Michelle, this very tragic and emotional post certainly speaks to how much damage a parent can do. Horrific messages about your worth entrench themselves in your mind and heart, and can, without a lot of self-understanding and compassion, grow even stronger. I’ve often asked people, either in hypnosis or simply as a part of therapy, to go back and find out what that little girl or boy needs. To hold her just as you envisioned a “sitter” might do. Some people even decide to carry her with them into their sense of adulthood, so she won’t be so alone. It has been a powerful healing tool for many.

    I hope your own healing is ongoing. I’m sure the writing helps, as you cheer on and help others (including me!). Am posting this for sure. Thank you.

    Reply
  35. Doctear says:

    Hey Michelle,

    Always remember that you are beautiful and strong. I know someone close to me that has been battling with a very traumatic childhood experience and she found peace and healing in arts (painting and music). You are artistic and talented. I wish you all the best! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story.

    Reply