Updated: May 2
I've had a lot of time to think about what the subject matter of this blog would be. The "slant" so to speak.
Although "Angel in the Upper Peninsula -- A Memoir" touches on so many topics -- child neglect and abuse, domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, depression, mental health -- there is one underlying theme that runs throughout the book that is never mentioned, yet was at the very root of all the myriad dysfunctions that defined our family. Its name is "narcissism."
For those not familiar with the disorder, the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders) describes the mental disorder as, briefly, "one of several types of personality disorders -- a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others."
According to the mental health website Theravive, "the most important characteristics of NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) are: grandiosity, seeking excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy. These identifying features can result in a negative impact on an individual’s interpersonal affairs and life general. In most cases, on the exterior, these patients act with an air of right and control, dismissing others, and frequently showcasing condescending or denigrating attitudes...even though the typical NPD patient may achieve great achievements, ultimately their functioning in society can be affected as these characteristics interfere with both personal and professional relationships. A large part of this is a result of the NPD patient being incapable of receiving disapproval or rebuff of any kind, in addition to the fact that the NPD patient typically exhibits lack of empathy and overall disrespect for others."
I was in my 50's before I pieced together that my mother suffered from NPD, and that my father, too, had many narcissistic traits. Even though I had worked in the mental health field for over 10 years, during those years I had never made the connection between my roller coaster upbringing and my mother's mental health. As a friend of mine once said, "It's hard to see the water when you're swimming in it." So true.
Some experts say that approximately 10% of the population suffers from NPD. However, many children of narcissistic parents also become narcissistic as well, frequently singling out one of the siblings, i.e., the "scapegoat," creating an extremely dysfunctional family dynamic, particularly for the scapegoat.
Although it is never mentioned, in "Angel in the Upper Peninsula -- A Memoir," you will find the fallout out of my mother's NPD on almost every page. Once you know that the reason my mother behaved the way she did has a name, you will see the far-reaching consequences this destructive personality disorder has on the lives of people close to them, particularly their children.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have figured out the destructive family dynamic that shaped me, and affected every aspect of my life. And I am forever grateful to have had the "aha!" moment that set me on the path to uncovering the many mysteries and questions I had about why things happened in my life the way they did.
Someday I'll write a post about how that "aha!" moment happened.
But for now, I simply want to make it known in no uncertain terms that "Angel in the Upper Peninsula -- A Memoir," is not about Angels, or the Upper Peninsula, or an abusive marriage, or anything else -- it is about the noxious force called narcissism, and how this often insidious mental disorder can set in motion a lifetime of chaos and suffering for those around them, particularly their children.