The experience of living with someone who is narcissistic and bipolar is impossible to explain. Chaos, maybe, is the closest word to describe it, but what does that even mean? What does it mean to someone who hasn’t experienced the chaos of daily life with a narcissist?
Mental illness is nearly invisible unless you know what you’re looking for or unless you’re in close contact with the person who is mentally ill (ie. daily contact). Even my father’s closest friends would defend him because he’s so good at hiding his mental illness from them.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is even harder to see because NPD sufferers are excellent showmen. In the mind of a narcissist, he is never wrong; he is the greatest, the most worthy of admiration and respect and will do whatever it takes to maintain that reputation. Anyone who disagrees is defamed and smeared, made out to be the villain. And so I am the villain (though I wear that badge proudly).
For my dad, here’s what that means…
- Being overly involved in church to appear religious — men’s groups, volunteering, teaching Sunday school (even though he’s not allowed to be alone with his own granddaughters)– but refusing to have a job or do any work in and around the house;
- Talking with his friends and the pastor about my mom and smearing her name as an “unbeliever” and a “faithless woman” because she doesn’t have faith in him after he went behind her back and spent thousands of dollars (forgive me, I can’t recall what it was he spent the money on that time — there have been dozens of times he’s spent hundreds or thousands without her knowing);
- It’s telling his child that his new MLM business that he’s hiding from his wife (after several failed attempts at others and thousands of dollars down the drain) is more important than being that child’s father. So he chooses the business over his child and refuses to tell his wife, again;
- It’s tearing up my mom’s favorite flowers to build a worm bin and a new compost pile in it’s place while she’s away on vacation, then telling her he did it for her even though she told him she didn’t want it. She mourns the foxgloves along with the rest of us;
- It’s telling his church community in front of his wife that he’s retired, without having discussed it with his wife and while being nearly $100,000 in debt. It’s forcing his wife to work well into her 70’s because of his failed businesses and selfishness in choosing not to work;
- It’s denying all of those things to everyone so that his name is still revered. If I were to read this list to him he would deny every last thing. He would say it’s all lies. But the lies in fact are his. It’s lies on lies on lies.
It’s those things over and over and over again, every day of my life, never knowing what each day will bring. I wish I could say that was all he’s done, but I hardly scratched the surface with those few examples.
You can’t truly understand what it’s like unless you’ve lived it — to wake up every day and not know if your life will be turned upside down by a choice that he makes, to anxiously listen in on phone calls hoping to hear of how he plans to deceive you and your family next so you can stop it before it starts, to be afraid to speak up because of his rage, the anger that once paralyzed you.
Though I’ve learned to find my voice and to not be afraid of speaking up (more on that next week), the new challenge is being heard. Perhaps the reason that it’s taken me so long to speak up is because I’m afraid of being the villain. I’m afraid that my words will be met with criticism and disbelief. And to be honest, I won’t be surprised when they are. When a narcissist silences you for most of your life, it becomes nearly impossible to dispel the lies. They keep coming and coming and coming.
It’s complete chaos.