Abuse Effects Personal

Raised By a Narcissist: The Effects of My Childhood Abuse

Raised by a Narcissist - How Childhood Abuse Shaped Me | Hopeful Panda

Being raised by a narcissist created many long-lasting wounds that have yet to heal.

I wrote about many of my childhood memories. However, I didn’t go into how the abuse personally affected me and the long-term effects it had on my mental and physical health.

Early Experiences Shape Adulthood

What we experienced in our childhood shapes and determines our adult life whether we like it or not.

Problems in our present lives are likely connected to our earlier experiences even if they don’t seem related.

Many individuals who have experienced any form of childhood abuse or trauma still live with the damaging effects of child abuse decades later.

It took me a while to acknowledge that my experiences were abuse. I didn’t fully come to terms with it until high school when I learned about narcissism, narcissistic abuse tactics, and how scarily accurate it describes my mother’s behavior.

As I went deeper into the rabbit hole, I started feeling a bit more validated. All of my issues started making sense.

The Lasting Effects of Being Raised By a Narcissist

The Effects of Being Raised By a Narcissist | Hopeful Panda

I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and PTSD by various therapists. But I believe I have Complex PTSD. I think I wasn’t “officially” diagnosed with it because it isn’t part of the DSM.

I also have eating, health, and weight issues that I believe are a result of my upbringing.

Depression

Depression manifested in middle school and continued till now. It was the worst during my teenage years when suicidal ideation was an everyday occurrence.

Wherever I was, the scenario of me dying at that moment, in that place, played in my mind.

I cried almost every day and isolated myself from everyone. I spent most of my time in my room (which I shared with my father and sibling because my mother took my room), watching anime, playing games, and daydreaming that I was a different person living a different life.

My depression improved for the most part. But it still hits hard on some days.

There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed or don’t have the motivation to do anything.

Sometimes, all I want to do is cry and I don’t know why. And sometimes, I just hate living, and again, I don’t know why.

Anxiety

Anxiety came around my teenage years.

My social anxiety was particularly bad and got worse as I got older and more self-conscious. It used to be so bad I can’t even order food.

However, it has improved these past few years due to being put into situations where I’m pretty much forced to interact and speak up like testifying in court and talking to important people like lawyers, social workers, and whatnot.

But I still try to avoid phone calls and answering the door if I can.

On the other hand, general anxiety is stronger now than ever. It’s overwhelming on a lot of days when all I do is overthink, worry, and stress about things, most of which are out of my control.

I worry about big and small things.

Big things like “Should we have a kid?”, “Will my health ever improve?”, and “Can we continue to make ends meet?” haunt my mind every day.

Small things like “Oh no, we’re out of milk” or “I need to work on my next post” take over once the big things quiet down a little.

Sometimes, it’s all a jumbled mess of worries that hops from one thought to another where nothing productive comes of it – just anxiety, panic, and a whole lot of discomfort in my chest.

Sleeping Problems

My brain is constantly running, often to the point I can’t sleep regardless of how tired I am. So I usually can’t fall asleep unless I’m extremely exhausted.

When I do finally manage to sleep, I have nightmare after nightmare or visuals of random worries running in my loud mind.

As if that’s not enough reason to not get any sleep, I get woken up by the slightest of sounds or movements, which could cause me to wake up in a panic.

One time, my brother-in-law’s dog jumped into bed while I was sleeping. I started crying and freaking out before I registered what happened. I assume this is related to having been constantly woken by my mother’s screaming or beating throughout my life.

The panic might only last a few seconds once I realize there’s no danger. But it might also last a while because it reminded my body of something awful I faced before.

I don’t get enough sleep, I’m tired a lot of the time, and I don’t really know what a good night’s sleep feels like.

Emotional Flashbacks & Triggers

So depression and anxiety obviously suck. It used to impair a lot of my life. However, it isn’t as big of an issue for me now.

I would say one of my biggest issues now is emotional triggers. These triggers bring up certain feelings, thoughts, or physical reactions I cannot control.

Certain words, tones, sounds, or facial expressions could make me cry, put me in a panic, and/or remind me of painful memories even before my brain could register what happened or how I’m feeling.

A lot of these triggers are impossible to avoid, so I’m learning to work through them when they come up. I’ve recently learned that these are called emotional flashbacks.

One time, my husband jokingly yelled at an inanimate object. For a second, I thought he was yelling at me. Before I can tell myself it was okay, the panic already set in and tears were already starting to form in my eyes.

This is one of the extreme examples, but it does happen. I’m more sensitive on some days than others.

People-Pleasing

Whenever anyone is upset, angry, or generally in a bad mood, I get this uncomfortable, heavy feeling in my chest.

It doesn’t matter who it is. It can be my husband, who would never yell at or hurt me, but my body would react as if he would. Sometimes, I get this feeling even when someone on TV is angry.

If I see someone that seems like they’re in a bad mood, I would approach them as cautiously as I can or avoid them at all costs. It depends on how brave I’m feeling that day, who the person is, and whether they’re avoidable.

Logically, I know their negative feeling isn’t toward me, but my body and mind can’t help but go into defense mode. It’s like I expect anyone in a bad mood to take it out on me.

What’s worse is if I’m the reason someone’s in a bad mood.

Therefore, I hate asking for help, saying no, or complaining about things. I don’t want to give anyone any reason to be upset with me, even if it’s something minor.

I want to be likable to everyone, even though I know it’s impossible.

Hypersensitivity to (Any and All) Criticism

I hate when someone’s upset with me. Or even worse, yell at me.

A store employee once yelled at me for supposedly cutting the line. I chuckled, apologized, and went to the back.

On the outside, I seemed fine, but that tiny incident bothered me for days. I didn’t know I was cutting the line.

I kept replaying the scenario in my head and questioning everything: What did I do wrong? No one was on line when I walked up to the register. Ugh, I hate this. I hate him for making me feel like I did something wrong. He doesn’t even realize how that one comment completely ruined my day.

Whenever I went back to that store, I get this uneasy feeling, scared that I might see him again, or worse, get yelled at by him again.

This happens every time someone’s upset with me or I feel like I made a fool of myself.

I replay the situation over and over, obsessing over every little detail, wondering what I could’ve done differently. And always, it would bring such panic.

It’s like I’m frozen in time and all I could feel and hear is the heavy thumping of my chest, feeling like the world is ending or that my life’s over. And I hate this feeling. I hate it more than anything.

Those situations were minor things that my mind magnifies and replays them over and over until it becomes something that brings me panic whenever I think about it.

It’s like my brain goes out of its way to make everyday occurrences traumatic for me.

One of my most haunting memories was when I got a lot of dislikes and some rude replies to something I posted online. I know it shouldn’t matter.

But that situation bothered me almost every day for over a year. It still comes up to haunt me sometimes.

I kept repeating what those internet strangers said to me and obsessed over every little detail.

I hate myself for taking such importance on other people’s words, especially people who don’t know me. But I can’t help it. I just have to think about it.

Perfectionism

It took me a while to find enough courage to finally set up my website and write some posts. And it’s taking me quite a bit to write this one.

If I was already so bothered and “traumatized” by the responses to my one internet post, how can I handle dealing with negative feedback here?

My inner dialogue and insecurities keep causing me to read every post I write over and over again to make sure it’s good enough, to make sure people would have nothing to criticize (which I know is impossible).

But even if it sounds good enough today, it might not sound good enough tomorrow. So I keep rereading and updating old posts…

Perfectionism has always been an issue for me growing up. I always beat myself up over making tiny mistakes or not being good enough because I know I could do better.

But perfection doesn’t exist if something could always be better. I keep telling myself that but I still struggle with it.

I tell myself it’s “good enough”, but then I go back to change it. And then I go back to change it again another time.

Eating Issues

Growing up, my mother used food as a manipulation tool. If I was good, I get food. If I was bad, I’m not allowed to eat. But her starving me at times wasn’t even the worst part of this.

The worst part was that she fed me bad food so that I’d gain weight, so she could then insult and mock me for it.

I didn’t realize this sick scheme until I witness it happen with my younger sister. Like with me, my mother got my sister fast food almost every day, then shamed her for being fat from eating so much of it.

I used to intentionally overeat if I don’t think I’ll be able to within the next few hours just so I won’t ever have to feel hungry. I still do it sometimes.

Now as an adult with my mother out of my life, I still fear the feeling of hunger. I get anxious whenever our fridge or pantry isn’t stocked.

I also have trouble telling other people I’m hungry.

I’ve improved, but every time I mention I’m hungry, I feel like I’m doing something wrong. When that happens, I’m always prepared for judgment. It’s like I’m asking for permission to eat.

I am eating much healthier than I used to but I am still struggling a lot with emotional eating, overeating, and losing weight.

It’s incredibly difficult psychologically and physically to reverse all the damage that’s been done ever since I was two years old.

Weight & Health Issues

Unsurprisingly, my eating issues resulted in my weight issues. And my weight issues lead to a multitude of health issues like high cholesterol, gastrointestinal issues, pre-diabetes, and hormonal issues.

I’ve always struggled with my weight ever since I was in elementary school when my weight skyrocketed and then kind of just stayed there.

I’ve tried going on diets, which worked temporarily but the weight always returned. And most of the time, I just have no motivation to keep it up.

I’ve also struggled a lot with irregular periods ever since they began. I can be on my period for weeks or even months at a time.

When I was 13, I bled heavily for three months straight to the point I was severely anemic.

Years later, I was finally diagnosed with menorrhagia and PCOS. The causes are still unknown.

My doctor’s only solution is to put me on birth control – which doesn’t feel like it helps too much. It just adds nausea and bloating to the mix.

I feel nauseous almost every single day. And when I’m on my period, anemic symptoms also settle in. My emotions also feel more out of control during times like this. This only adds to my wanting to lay in bed and do nothing that much more.

I’ve always wanted to experience pregnancy and have children of my own, so the possibility of infertility also weighs on my mind every so often. But I’m trying my best not to worry about it till I get there.

Self-Consciousness & Insecurities

My mother and her side of the family often called me fat throughout my life, constantly telling me I need to lose weight (though to be fair to her family, this is common in East Asian culture).

And back in school, I was somewhat bullied because of my weight. So it’s hard to feel differently about myself when a lot of people and society in general act like my weight and appearance are what define me.

My husband helped me feel better in that regard. But I still feel self-conscious when I’m out with him because I’m sensitive to the stares we get.

And a few people assuming he’s my son only reinforces this insecurity that much more (I’m only 16 months older than him. We’re also different races, but that’s another thing).

I try not to define myself by how I look. But I can’t control feeling ugly, fat, and undeserving of my husband.

It also doesn’t help that his parents and my parents think he’s such a catch. With everyone thinking he’s so much better than me, he must be, right?

Lack of Confidence & Self-Loathing

I was and still am an extremely insecure, self-conscious, and unconfident person. Of course, all of my mother’s insults and criticisms throughout my life undoubtedly caused that.

With all my mistakes and flaws pointed out and all my accomplishments belittled or ignored ever since I was a child, it only makes sense that I struggle with extremely low self-esteem.

I am excessively apologetic. I often apologize for things that aren’t my fault or are out of my control.

Every little mistake I make makes me feel like a failure. Compliments make me happy but uncomfortable. And when I do finally feel proud or confident about something, I feel guilty like I’m being arrogant or narcissistic.

Even as I’m writing this post, I feel like I’m playing the victim and asking for pity, though that’s not my intention. But I can’t help but feel like I’m seeking attention and looking for sympathy.

Self-Blame: Was It My Fault All Along?

Sometimes, I do wonder if I’m the cause of all of my issues.

Maybe if I was a better child, she would’ve been nicer to me. Or maybe if I cared more about myself and lost weight, I would feel better physically and mentally. And people would treat me better, too.

My mother said I’m depressed because I’m fat. What if she’s right?

Despite all of my research into mental health, narcissism, abuse, and knowing that the abuse I endured has shaped a lot of who I am, I can’t help but still blame myself sometimes for everything that has happened to me.

Or somehow, I would justify my mother’s behavior, feel bad for her, or feel guilty when I’m not nice to her.

Occasionally, I feel guilty for calling CPS on her. I know I did the right thing. But hearing certain things still makes me doubt myself and my choices sometimes, especially since the workers and cops the night I called completely sided with my mother.

But I continue to remind myself that my siblings are in a MUCH better place with me as their legal guardian.

Also, it’s not my fault that they want nothing to do with my mother. I’m not the one keeping them from contacting her. It’s not on me.

I still struggle a lot with the internal conflict and blaming myself, or at least parts of myself, for what happened in my childhood and now.

None of what happened to me back then was my fault regardless of my behaviors. I was a child. She was the adult. I know that.

She intentionally hurt me and nothing I did justify that. And I keep telling myself that. But I still have trouble accepting it sometimes.

However, as much as I might blame or hate myself, I’m grateful for how I turned out given what I’ve been through.

It could’ve turned out worse. I could’ve been an abuser like my mother, but I’m not, though it is something I worry about and actively monitor.

I chose to help my siblings when I didn’t have to. And I’ll do it again despite how difficult it is.

Lack of Purpose or Direction in Life

I used to have a lot of dreams growing up about what I wanted to be. But the older I get, the more each dream faded away.

I’m not good enough to be that. I wouldn’t be able to handle the job. I would just fail so what’s the point?

This ended up with me having no purpose or direction in life. I was so lost. I guess I still am.

Before this blog, I was just focused on being a good sister and trying to get custody, ignoring anything else.

I thought it was perfectly reasonable until a previous therapist told me that it’s not, that my life revolves around making other people happy and that’s a problem.

If the people I love and care about are happy, then I’m happy. I don’t see it as a problem.

However, my husband was right that I also had to find something that makes me happy, so… I started this blog. (ta-da!)

Journey Towards Healing from Childhood Abuse

As you can see, the abuse I endured has deeply affected who I am, and how I act, feel, and think. It affects me both psychologically and physically even though my mother isn’t technically in my life anymore.

There are more “issues” I struggle with that are impossible to cover. But you get the gist.

I don’t want to make it sound like I’m blaming every personal problem I’m encountering on my past or my mother.

I simply wanted to discuss how the abuse I endured has played a role in these problems, some bigger than others, caused directly and indirectly.

Abuse can deeply affect someone, especially if it happened when they were a child. But I am still my own person, responsible for my own issues. And I am.

I am not expecting anyone to fix these issues for me or give me “special treatment” just because I’ve had a “hard past”.

Many people struggle with difficult pasts that have created issues for them internally and externally.

Everyone has something they’re going through. I’m not special.

It will be a lifelong journey

Although I’ve improved, there is still a lot of work to do. I am and will continue working on it.

There have been significant improvements so far (and relapses) and there will be more.

My emotional well-being and my quality of life are better than they used to be – I am happier, more hopeful, and more motivated than I used to be.

I don’t expect to ever “fully” heal because my experiences are what made me who I am today. And there’s no such thing as being 100% healthy, mentally or physically.

I can accept my bad days and relapses as long as I can keep going and enjoy all the good things along the way with the people I love.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading this much. I know I wrote a lot so I really appreciate it.

I wrote this to demonstrate how childhood abuse can affect someone for the rest of their life. But I also wanted to let you know that you are not alone.

We might have had different childhoods and the effects of our childhood traumas could’ve manifested differently.

But learning about someone else might help you learn about yourself. Feel free to also check out my younger sister’s perspective on the abuse she faced.

On top of everything, I want you to know that your feelings and experiences are valid. And remember, the abuse you faced was not your fault.

I also wanted to show that it is possible to start healing and feel better even if it may not seem like it. Despite everything, it is possible to still live a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Healing will be hard and will require a lot of effort. But it is doable.

Maybe you won’t fully heal and maybe there’ll be relapses along the way. But that’s okay.

Every little improvement you make will enhance your quality of life and overall well-being, so it will be worth it.

Just take it one step at a time and celebrate each win along the way no matter how small.

Support Hopeful Panda

Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

A lot of time and effort is put into this blog. If you enjoy my content or find it helpful, please consider making a donation or becoming a member. Your support helps me continue providing free content for all. Thank you!


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