"perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?

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JenniferSmith

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"perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« on: February 04, 2016, 04:13:02 PM »
I'm betting a lot of us here had families that mostly looked "perfect" on the outside.

In my case, "perfect" looked like stable middle class family, house in suburbs, dad has PhD/very stable career, mom - went to college/worked various jobs, lots of travel, lots of sports, after school activities, stable relationships with all of the neighbors on our street, BBQs, parties.  No major health problems, no financial problems, no drug or alcohol, no legal problems.

Pretty much if anyone had looked at our family from the outside, or even somewhat close-up, there would be no evidence of the deep emotional dysfunction inside. We probably even looked like a good family in many ways.

My mom did her physical abuse behind closed doors and while I don't know if my dad was ever present when it happened, he definitely stuck his head in the sand in all other ways regarding her anger problems in general.

So there was this deep dysfunction going on - each of my parents is fucked up in different yet similar ways (no empathy). But they provided a stable home environment and many opportunities in terms of travel, etc.

I'm just curious if others here have a similar background.

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footprint

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2016, 04:43:42 PM »
Yes. Yes. Yes!  This is a very important topic and thank you for bringing it up.  "On paper" our family looks very functional, successful even.  I think that for my NPD parents, it's all about the degrees, jobs, etc. that we have---what we "do", not who we are---that matters. And unfortunately, our culture tends to see these superficial elements, uphold them and validate them, questioning the dissenting children when we say that the family was not so normal.  I have a lot to write on this topic but must go at the moment.  What I will say is that my father has a PhD and a JD and ended up being a law professor.  My mother has an MA in counseling (the irony!). My GC brother is a lawyer, and my other brother (who I think is also NPD and probably a psychopath too) has a PhD and is a university professor. I am the scapegoat but also have a PhD and am "successful" on paper. So we have all these things that from the outside make us look good, but the family is rotting, cruel, and highly dysfunctional.

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biggerfish

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2016, 04:45:26 PM »
Yup. I'm in my fifties now. In the past few years I've reconnected with two different friends from my public school days. Both of them emoted about how wonderful and involved my mother was. They also commented on how their own mothers, in contrast, were toxic, dysfunctional, and uninvolved.

I realized in the moment of these conversations that there was no point in explaining. But it was an eye opener for me about how hidden the poison was. Both my parents were anxious, insecure, angry. My dad was an active alcoholic; my mother ate all her feelings. My mom knew how to put on a good show for the outside world. And when my dad died (he eventually did get dry but not sober) the wake was filled with members of AA who seemed to worship the ground  he walked on. He had dozens of sponsees.

They were so insecure that they put all their energy into defending themselves and always having to be right. My mother focused entirely on fixing her marriage, telling anyone interested that "if the marriage is okay, then the kids will be okay." That was her excuse to ignore us, except when she berated, criticized, and controlled us so we wouldn't make dad mad.

They had an emotional quotient of zero. No self-awareness. They thought little of themselves, and little of their kids, especially me because I "rocked the boat." All my siblings except me grew up to have substance abuse problems.

To this day, people my mother lives with in her facility think she's the cat's meow.

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JenniferSmith

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2016, 05:21:29 PM »
Sad to see posts here already, but good to know we can share these things with each other here.

As I read the posts by biggerfish and footprint, what came to my mind was my Nmother. She was the extrovert life-of-the-party type- the dominant female- very concerned about outward appearances above all else - had to have the right clothes, etc.   Very cold and also shallow/superficial- but very intelligent and funny, so she always had tons of friends who liked being around her.

I have lots of memories of the parties my parents threw when I was a young kid. I am certain it was nearly completely my mother's doing, as my father is a passive introvert to the core.

Anyway,  just adding more deets to our theme here.....

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protea

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2016, 01:28:28 AM »
I could go on and on about my FOO, but I will instead tell the story of a friend of mine who is currently NC (alternating with brief periods of LC) with her parents. (She is not on this forum). When she was a kid, her parents used to buy a truckload of presents for coworkers every holiday season, and it was her job to wrap them. If she did a "sloppy" job (and come on, what child knows how to wrap a gift well?) she was punished by being tied up and locked in the closet.

That obsession with keeping up appearances seems to be a hallmark characteristic of abusive families. Closely related is the almost paranoid obsession with "not airing dirty laundry". It took me several years of grown up life away from my parents to realize that most families don't hide their dirty laundry, they just don't let it pile up.

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Liz1018

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2016, 10:01:30 AM »
I am so glad you posted on this subject! A resounding "yes" from me too. To this day, my FOO exists inside the "bubble of denial" that we have this close, perfect family. Which couldn't be further from the truth.

My parents (both uNPD) grew up rural poor and were the first in their families to go to college. They eventually both got Masters degrees and earned a middle class living as teachers. My NM especially seemed obsessed with appearing like she had more money than she did. She hated the people who lived on the "rich" side of town but secretly wanted the country club life. She and my GC uNPD sis still shop at "upscale" consignment shops and buy designer clothing and lots of jewelry. My NM is always perfectly made up (I haven't seen her without makeup in over 20 years) - even at 7am when everyone else had just crawled out of bed with dragon breath and crazy hair, she was in the kitchen preparing breakfast in full makeup, coordinating outfit, perfume, and manicured nails.

The kids always had to reflect well on the parents. We were lucky enough to have opportunities for piano, dance, and art lessons. We were lucky to get to go to college and get student loans - they paid for half. 3 out of 4 have college degrees and the SG brother who didn't finish college certainly heard about it.

She thought all the women my brothers dated were trash. Especially my GC brother's ex-wife (who was a sweet girl who ironically came from a rural, farming family).  I figured when I married a lawyer from a "good", educated family she would be pleased. She was pleased with the money, but never warmed to my DH. And our elopement was a big embarrassment for her I am sure.

Both parents taught at the schools we attended from ages 6-18. They were well-loved and respected. Kids told me for years how lucky I was and how they wished they were a part of my family. My parents had favorite students and treated them better than they treated us. It was disgusting- but we kept our mouths shut and played our roles.

I also think utter hypocrisy is wired into these people. My NM used to gossip about how "weird" it was that our neighbor's single, 40 year old son lived at home. But saw nothing weird about her 3 grown children living at home on and off up until age 40+. She always talked about how others suffered from mental illness but saw no mental illness in herself, my NF (who did some Bat shit CRAZY stuff over the years - some alcohol fueled).

And the dirty laundry thing - yes, keep that to yourself. The pressure of keeping the family secrets is a lot for a kid to bear. I was told to not tel anyone anything too personal because nobody would care anyway. No wonder I had trouble making friends!

Crisis was another way to enable the false story to continue. They would always "be there" for a neighbor or "friend" who was "going through a hard time" but if the kids were suffering we were told we were just trying to get attention. My brother's and my depression was all but ignored, and God forbid they encourage us into the DREADED THERAPY, where no doubt their perfectly-spun family yarn would unravel.

I think that is why some of us held on for so long. We were the problem, right? Our families were fine - the validation of the community further sealed that we were the crazy, selfish ones. But year after year something didn't add up. And when I finally moved 700 miles away, things got clearer for me. I am sure that my 2 months of NC is really putting a cramp in her perfect family story.

As a result of all this phoniness, I have an extremely low tolerance for superficiality, posing, social status climbers, and certain types of women. I am wary to ever believe the "perfect" narrative of anyone's family. The more perfect it seems, the more "rotten" (as footprint said) it probably is.

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daughter

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2016, 11:17:05 AM »
My NBM and NF have two daughters, who grew up as 99% "dutiful daughter/good girl" high-achieving steadfastly obedient reliably compliant daughters.  We were remarkably easy children, self-directed, motivated, obedient, then likewise as adult-daughters who still abided by 99% of their parents' demands and expectations, even if it entailed ostracizing the inlaws, joint-vacation and weekend plans, and putting "what mom wants, mom gets" as our 1st priority.  My parents could "bask in the glow" of having two exemplary daughters, a successful business, unusual good fortune (no medical, weather, political, or economic disasters).  They did little to actual "work for it", much of their success/achievement was happenstance good luck.  Yet NBM and NF expected people to perceive their "extraspecial specialness", acknowledge their superiority, bow to their superior self--entitled personalities, and abide by their expectations and demands.  NBM and NF insisted upon "perfect", of that "perfect family" image too, and whatever I was ever "in trouble for" at home, it inevitably resulted from NBM thinking I'd "tarnished her" from the perspective of "what will people think", punishing me for "hurting her" over very trivial matters, taking offense over perceived slights where I hadn't first considered how she'd view herself in matters that didn't concern her as "front-and-center".

Given that "perfect" facade, that glow of success and good fortune, you'd think NBM and NF would be happy - but no, my parents have been unhappily married for six decades of marital unhappiness, personal unhappiness, and narcissistic need to control and blame everyone else for their unhappiness.  For a long time, my parents used me, their parentified SG, as their "emotional punching-bag", to absorb their rage, their neediness, their frustrations, their need to complain about each other, their need to both control and abuse me to feel better about themselves.  My nsis, the "princess" GC, the pampered BFF of NBM, though experiencing that dysfunctional from blatantly-favored GC role, nonetheless is trapped by NBM's crippling enmeshment and engulfing overt self-identification w/nsis.

Both my parents expect the fawning admiration of "people", the willingness of people to indulge them and abide by their expectations and demands, without consideration of any agenda beyond fulfilling my parents' perceived needs and expectations.  But "perfect family" we're not, never were, and in reality, we were/are something altogether more malevolent and dsyfunctional.

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unnamed

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2016, 03:41:22 PM »
I realize now, that my adoptive NM fooled all the right people in all the right places.  But those who know her best, always knew our family was anything but perfect.

She’s uneducated and never worked [except for when she was a young girl, during WW2].  NM was 40 y/o when she adopted me in 1964, 44 when she adopted the baby boy who became my little brother.

NM and ENdad had been married for 16 years prior to adopting.  Both of them were set in their ways, and not the happiest couple either.  NM has an undeniable sense of entitlement, and ENdad was just the kind of man to let her get away with it, that's a fact that a few people were well aware of.

ENdad was a hardworking, self employed, carpenter, who earned a modest living at best.  Almost every weekend, he entertained himself by socializing [i.e. getting stupid drunk], down at the local Legion with his old pals. 
NM was a full time stay at home housewife.  She spent her days puttering around the house.  In the evenings, NM went out to play her favourite game ever — Bingo!  She went as often as she could get away with, at least 5-6 times per week.

My brother and I weren’t encouraged to do anything in particular.  For us, life was about going to school and making our own fun…without getting into trouble.

NM is the type of person who sees the negative over the positive.  If she doesn’t like something or someone, no one else should either.  And that was true for so many things…such as, camping, swimming, skating, birthday parties and family vacations, just to name a few.  NM wasn’t interested in those things at all, she has an excuse for everything and she blatantly refused to do any of it.  If my brother and I did any of those things, NM simply wasn’t involved.

And then there’s NM’s short fuse and vile temper.  She used to lose her mind on ENdad when he was drunk, she smacked his arms and face, and threw a plate of dinner at his head once.  She’d swear at him…always called him a ROTTEN BASTARD!!!

One of NM’s longtime frenemies told me that she’d also witnessed NM in action.  She’d seen and heard NM raging at ENdad long before they ever adopted us, but she chalked it up to frustration.  She said NM [was bored] and wanted children of her own but she couldn’t get pregnant, so she took it out on ENdad because he was an easy target.  The frenemie felt that becoming parents, would put an end to the problems between NM and ENdad.

But of course, that wasn’t the case.  Not only did NM continue to rage at ENdad after they became parents, she was also verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive, towards my brother and I.

So NM was clearly cunning enough to trick the adoption agency into believing that her marriage was "perfect."  And friend's who supported them through the adoption process, were also sure that NM and ENdad would put their differences aside, in favour of becoming parents.
 
Am I angry?  You better believe it…I’m livid!  Not only was I given up for adoption by my birth mother [who I know nothing about], I was raised by total strangers, who basically used me as a tool to fix their dysfunctional relationship.  And to add insult to injury, my adoptive NM has it in her head, that I’m eternally indebted to her because she CHOSE to become “my mother."

During an extremely heated argument between NM and I when I was in my 30's, she actually told me that ENdad never wanted to adopt us kids.  She said, but for her, we never would have been adopted.  Sadly, ENdad passed away from cancer when I was 21, so I have no way of confirming what she said.  Was adoption ENdad's way of appeasing NM, was it a [failed] attempt to make her happy?  One more question that will never be answered, I'll never know the truth.

It's now been a decade since I went NC with NM.

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Claudia

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2016, 06:28:21 PM »
What an interesting topic  ;D

I don't know how others saw my FOO to be honest.  I never really spoke about my family dysfunction when I was younger I guess its only now that I know how bad it was.  I know there were friends of mine growing up who wouldn't ring my house in case they got my NF as they were so scared of him so they would tell me in advance what time they would ring so I would answer the phone.

I have never really asked anyone what they thought of us.  I would guess that anyone who knew us or my NF would have thought we were pretty dysfunctional as he was always very abusive.  I don't think they would think that of my NM though.  I think they would have seen her as the victim of NF but I know now that that she is almost worse in a lot of ways than him.

None of us grew up to be successful careerwize.  I would consider myself a success in my relationships and being a good mother and having a great FOC but I believe that's because I escaped them. 

I don't really know to be honest.  I might ask around and see what the people who knew us then thought of us as a family.  Although I don't really have anyone to ask because all my extended FOO are close to my FOO and have never been to me!  They are all reasonably normal though so it would be interesting to know what their real opinions of them are.

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alonenow

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2016, 01:53:29 AM »
       I never gave it much thought. I know my father was obsessed by how things looked   I remember as a small child we were taken to nice restaurant and expected to  be perfect angels all while eating things NO child would order or want.  after his death my mother kept up appearances but was not trying as hard as my dad did.   
              I remember as a teen, I saw how the "perfect" family from up the street had hidden issues I realized the true meaning of "don't judge a book by its cover"  I wish more people are able to put that saying into action. Maybe there would be more acceptance of NC and less willing would be flying monkeys.     Even past families with this problem,  the world would be a much better place if character and real action was valued more then appearances. 

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thebutterflyeffect

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2016, 10:22:44 AM »
Yes yes yes!!! This!!!!

My parents are wealthy and have made sure I paid dearly for being a whistle blower. They are determined to ruin me into damnation now, that is for sure.

It's so hard talking to other people, because they seem to have it in their heads that dysfunctional families are poor uneducated families. Nothing could be further from the truth! I have a stellar education. And a huge trainload of trauma to carry around with it.

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Packy

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2016, 05:33:55 PM »
My NPD sister had to be perfect, but she didn't care what others thought of her family because most of them knew little about it. She was always well-groomed, though her taste in clothes was eccentric, and she always had to be seen as the most witty and clever in the bunch, as well as smartest. That was her claim to fame, and she was out doing her thing (teaching music and running around with friends) while her kids were being neglected emotionally and basically raising themselves (her husband traveled with his govt. job and wasn't home much). My mom used to get furious with her and go take care of the kids herself. My N sister's students and friends thought she was just wonderful while the rest of her family basically hated her.

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footprint

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2016, 02:21:14 AM »
I think that there are different layers of abuse we go through as children of PD parents.  With uNPD parents, a lot of the abuse is covert.  From what I've read, there are many children out there who have been emotionally and psychologically abused by uNPD parents, and this abuse is truly lasting (here's the great article on the trauma of emotional abuse for anyone who hasn't read it yet http://www.outofthefog.net/forum/index.php?topic=13369.0)  and we deal with much of it behind closed doors.  Then there's this other layer of abuse that comes from society--people who invalidate our experiences and all of our pain because they just can't believe that the "perfect family" we come from really had problems, especially problems to the degrees that some of us encountered.

My extended family is very large.  NPDF was the GC in his family of 11 (firstborn son in a very sexist family with 9 girls and only one other younger brother), and they all had kids, so I have many first cousins.  Pretty much the whole family has ostracized me at this point, stood behind NPD parents and PD brothers regardless of what they've done, and made me feel the part of the outcast.  I have done a lot of research and think that the extended family is also highly dysfunctional (more of a cult than a family), and many of the patterns in that family are similar to the ones in my nuclear family.  However, this aspect (in addition to coming from "the perfect family") makes it even harder to explain my situation to other people from the outside, who commonly ask, "what about your aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.?" From the perspective of others in society, I do probably appear to be the common denominator problem since nobody is standing up for me...and I have seen some people's eyes glaze over when I try to explain that the whole family stems from toxic roots. 

So now I don't explain much anymore.  I live so far away from all of them that I generally don't encounter people I knew from my previous social network.  With new people, I say as little as possible. 

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JenniferSmith

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2016, 03:17:39 PM »
Pretty much the whole family has ostracized me at this point, stood behind NPD parents and PD brothers regardless of what they've done, and made me feel the part of the outcast. ...However, this aspect (in addition to coming from "the perfect family") makes it even harder to explain my situation to other people from the outside, who commonly ask, "what about your aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.?" From the perspective of others in society, I do probably appear to be the common denominator problem since nobody is standing up for me...and I have seen some people's eyes glaze over when I try to explain that the whole family stems from toxic roots. 

So now I don't explain much anymore.

This is true for me as well. There are very deep toxic roots on both sides of my family, and they go back generations.   My Nmom's side of the family seems bonded to each other in very unhealthy ways, as well as emotionally disconnected in others. My decision to go NC led to all of them siding with her, and I am the odd one out.

It has been painful, but I've realized that these people are trapped in their own unhealthy patterns, and aren't willing to change them. My decision to go NC with Nmother has undoubtedly been very anxiety provoking for them. I have completely broken from the family script that goes back generations, which is that no one stands up to abusers.

The relationships weren't nurturing or healthy when I was in contact... but I have to remind myself of that when I find myself wishing I was back in contact with that whole extended network. 

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biggerfish

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2016, 06:56:39 PM »
I have completely broken from the family script that goes back generations, which is that no one stands up to abusers.

This is enlightening for me.  It makes sense that families would have scripts. Maybe it's why I've always been disinterested in my genealogy. I just want to be myself.

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Flighinthe sky

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2016, 10:02:44 PM »
I'm joining the convo a little late but thank you.It's a relief to hear stories of middleclass horror similar to mine. I could never convince people what went on behind closed doors.

Perfect on the outside. Both my parents had PhD's & excelled professionally, NM a clinical child psychologist. She excelled in every area of life very publically (sports, hobbies, social), all always widely advertised. My NM had only violent boyfriends who she enjoyed to watch assault us. How my teachers ignored facial bruises I don't know. Most nights my NM provoked me for hours into screaming rages of protest because I hated her misusing Freudian child psychology on me (she diagnosed & pathologised me with the worst thing any kid can be, different each time) and because I was hungry and thirsty and she wouldn't let me eat or drink. Instead she had me wait on her & see to all her needs. At private school my drastic underweight was gossiped about as me having a problem whereas I was hungry because my mother didn't let me eat. And the sex stuff, don't get me started. Everything in that house was unwholesome, perverse  Yet on the outside, she was the envy of all her huge following, When I reached out for support was always told I was an ungrateful daughter.

My NM told me I was spoilt, ungrateful & evil and that the bad things I claimed she did to me didn't because they only happen to people who struggled in poverty & I was extremely lucky to be middleclass. I was always wearing my friends' spare uniform & scrounging meals at their houses, my sibling even wore her school uniform on the weekend by necessity and I was always freezing cold for lack of appropriate clothing. No-one believes 'Neglect' when you're in a private school uniform! I grew up believing my NM had it tough growing up and worked hard, long hours of self-sacrifice as a single-mother to be the family bread-winner. That she was the brave rebel who broke from her FOO and paved her own way.

I'm in my 40's now and Out of the FOG. My NM in reality: grew up in way more affluence than me; only worked part time pretty much at her leisure & just never came home till late because she hated her kids; got the highest possible level of child support ($) income from my father which he'd elected to pay voluntarily (he felt guilty for leaving us with her) and she had her own money, she only spent it on herself always buying the best of everything; her FOO supported her heaps, financially, practically (thank goodness did lots of childcare of me otherwise I don't think I'd be alive) but hated her destructive personality and had tried hard to convince her to choose a life other than motherhood because they feared what she'd do to kids.

I'm still feel angry at the gullibility of people, believing her lies and not believing me. Not feeling believed continues to be a problem for me.

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footprint

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2016, 02:41:17 AM »
I'm still feel angry at the gullibility of people, believing her lies and not believing me. Not feeling believed continues to be a problem for me.

I am so sorry for what you've been through, Flightinthe sky, and can only say that I totally relate and your words speak very closely to my own situation.  Basically, I offer condolences but don't know that I have the solution to the problem since I'm in the same boat and dealing with the same issues.  Not feeling believed is at times a huge problem for me.  What happens is that sometimes I'm ok and go awhile without thinking of all the history, the cruelty, the unfairness, etc.  But then something triggers me and I'm thrust into this dark vortex of memories, which bringsup a lot of anger for me, anger that is fueled when I think about all the duped people out there who believe my FOO.  Trying to make FOC, but it's a long and sometimes difficult process.  I am also in my 40s and feel blown over by everything I've been through...but also happy to have survived and have cut the toxic ties off at the root (I'm NC with NPD parents and the bulk of FOO now).

Sending hugs your way,
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kirarowan

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Re: "perfect" on the outside - was this your FOO?
« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2016, 11:56:09 AM »
I needed this thread today. This is exactly what I am going through. My family has been a nightmare my whole life, but my community has this one mindset that overlooks a lot of what was done to me as normal (physical abuse, no matter how extreme is just "spanking" and "discipline", etc.). After going NC (this week!) with my family but still unable to move just yet, I am getting a lot of questions about why I am not doing things with my family and a lot of gossip already. I've been able to reflect a lot this week and realize that there was a LOT of painting a picture of perfection and when things did leak out, my mom playing the martyr. I feel so lost and confused because while I feel this huge sense of relief blocking and hiding this poison from my social media and my life and not having to deal with any of their horribleness for a week, I've had a few comments about how great they or my mom is here and there. It makes me think about all of the times she tells me that I am the crazy one. You're not alone and thank you for this post today.