Sunday, May 24, 2020

One year ago, today


A year ago today, my beautiful niece, Diana, married the man who was absolutely without question made for her: Stuart, and our family and friends looked on with such joy and pride. Which makes it time for me to wish them the happiest of First Anniversaries, and also give thanks that my life didn't end in a fiery car crash on the way home from that wonderful wedding - not that I was in a crash at all, but as you will see when we relive our post wedding wrap up - it could have happened.....

On a beautiful day in late Autumn, nearly Winter, the weather was gloriously kind for an outdoor wedding in the gorgeous parklands at Araluen with a light buffet and beverages provided by bride and groom - and transported by family friend Mick, and me, proud aunt, not without some hijinks and cursing.

When Mick arrived to pick me up for the drive to the park, he was sweating, cursing, and basically freaking out - the catering trays didn't fit in his car fridge and when he opened the door at least one tray of sandwiches and wraps fell onto my driveway. Luckily he came to the right place. Operation Esky came into play. We got an extra esky out of my garage, and filled it with these 2 litre juice bottles that are filled with frozen water and kept in our freezer for emergencies just such as this (only kidding, they are for when we defrost the freezer) the platter trays wouldn't fit in the eskies Mick and I had, so we got all the largest tuppawares in the house and filled them manually with food knowing we had to keep them as neat and tidy as possible and later transfer them back onto serving platters in the park before the guests arrived. Mick literally thanked me a hundred times and said "don't tell Diana until after" and I said "absolutely!"

I hadn't even had time to get my hair and makeup done.... this was me on the day waiting to get picked up... it wasn't exactly what I had in mind but I was stoked to be able to do anything for my niece on her wedding day!


We left in the height of haste with grated carrot, lettuce, and all kinds of scraps littering my driveway in what was surely going to become a carnival for the local birds and dogs, and tried to relax with some light conversation on the way. The definition of light conversation: embarrassing stories about my family and a lot of walking down memory lane.

Mick and I made it to the park in time, and I can't tell you how magical that first sight of the wedding area was with the little white chairs, the arbour, the flowers, the welcome sign... just gorgeous and as every new guest arrived it was all building up the excitement waiting to see, or hear that the bride had arrived and we could witness what we were all just dying to see happen.

This day would not have been complete without the little prince - my great nephew Owen in his suit being carried down the aisle ahead of Diana and her mum, Cheryl (my sister with all of my heart) and for some reason the bridal party were absolutely hysterical with laughter.... its not out of character for them to be laughing, especially if a little nervous or over excited but what, what could possibly be so devastatingly hilarious? Turns out right before they were entering the wedding my sis in law said "I look like a drag queen" the poor love had submitted to having her makeup done as part of the bridal party and the result was incredibly heavy handed and comedic. We couldn't help agree that my bombshell sister was looking, well, like a dehydrated transvestite.

More hilarity ensued in the ceremony which included heartfelt speeches by bride and groom, with Diana regaling us with the story of how Stuart used to carry the dog poop bag for her when they took her dogs to the beach. And we all felt he was even more perfect than we already did.

We laughed, we cried, we celebrated love, we watched as a young mother, father, and baby became formally and for all time forged into a family, and the day is etched into my heart forever as one of the best days in our family ever.

We talked about it for days, and weeks making sure we all filled each other in on all the little things we couldn't possibly have all been party to, but made our memory and experience of the day stronger, brighter, and more complete. And so we get to the part where I informed Diana of my car ride home with the gallant Mick and thank him for not veering off the road or into oncoming traffic when this all  transpired....

It is out there, I warn you that, but it absolutely fits into the gloriously awkward realm in which we live, and I've gone all the way back through a year's worth of messages to find it for you.




Still with me? Cool... so without further ado, I'd like to wish Diana and Stuart the happiest of wedding anniversaries. It is no secret how much I love my family, and I want to make it absolutely clear how much I admire Stuart and include him in that love I feel towards the most wonderful bunch of weirdos you could ever meet... my family.













Thursday, May 7, 2020

Invisible Friends, Imaginary Enemies: what happens when a narcissist has dementia



What I'm writing about today is really hard, really honest, and not a comfortable read but I've been getting a lot of sympathy lately, and not a lot of empathy and when you get sympathy instead of empathy you might as well just disappear - because its empathy that helps acknowledge you and sympathy that for all intensive purposes sweeps you, your thoughts, and feelings under the carpet. The truth is that the cookie cutter sympathy people give the families of dementia patients is incredibly condescending, and very painful when we are lumped all together as if our dementia journey is the same and that we are all witnessing the decay of a brilliant and beloved family member to a savage condition and that the ways in which dementia patients act out or lash out is a new behaviour they cannot help. There are families in which the dementia patient was always abusive and the ill-fitting sympathetic noises the family members receive is adding to a lifetime of being marginalised and unacknowledged. This article is about what happens when a narcissist develops dementia.

In order for you to understand the double whammy that is narcissistic personality and dementia, please allow me to take you on a journey of what it was like to be raised by a narcissist parent and what that parent's baseline was before he developed significant memory and cognitive impairment.

In a nutshell a narcissist has:

  1. An extreme preoccupation with their own importance.
  2. A lack of genuine modesty. When modesty is expressed it is shallow and used as a means of fishing for compliments.
  3. A deep emotional need for things to be about them - and to have attention placed on them. They will dominate conversations and are notorious show offs.
  4. Shallow charm - often seen as charismatic and entertaining their public persona often masks deep bitterness, pettiness, and a quick temper.
  5. They are never wrong and never sorry.
  6. A lack of empathy for others. While it is easy to injure their feelings (pride) they have little understanding and no sympathy for hurt feelings in others. 
  7. Relationships scarred by a pattern of praise followed by disappointment, abuse, gaslighting, and threats.
There are two ways you get hurt by a narcissist. The first is directly - what they do and say to you. The second is indirectly - its by the way other people treat the narcissist or how they treat you in comparison to how they treat the narcissist, or how they treat you because of what the narcissist has told them about you.

Socially, my father has always been praised as good natured, cheeky and charming but few people use the word charm correctly - its actually not a good thing, it literally means control, manipulation, deception a type of confidence trick. My mother and I have witnessed my entire life the way other people respond to my father, as he is coddled, favoured, given preferential treatment, and treated as an endearing overgrown child. 

Behind closed doors he has struggled to exert control and the ultimate power over his family a very difficult thing for him to achieve when he is neither the brightest nor most able person present and the only way he could achieve such a thing is through an extremely volatile combination of threats, manipulation, and emotional blackmail. 


Like all bullies, he works by isolating his subjects. Mum never returned to work after I was born, and I was systematically brainwashed to think that I was "an uncontrollable little monster" and taught to think that "if anyone ever finds out who you really are they won't love you" and that all my family and friends would be horrified to find out who I am and that he was protecting me from their disapproval. But really I was being taught not to trust the people I loved and given no protection from  the emotional rollercoaster he was taking us on. I could not tell anyone what was happening to me for fear that it would backfire on me - "if people find out I have to treat you this way they will think you deserve it and you don't want that to happen"

There were times when I was simply howling with tears saying "I'm good, I'm good, I'm good!" and that was seen as backchat and that in his day children were to be seen and not heard. My mother never defended me or stood up to Dad, so the only thing I could do was try desperately to say that I was not bad. Sometimes he would get the phone book out and pretend to ring a children's home to come and take me away, (now as an adult I know he was pretending to look up a phone number and dial and its a bit embarrassing but he intended me to believe him and I did. I was 5) I was hysterical begging for my life crying "please don't, I'll do anything you want! Please!" and that is the one thing he absolutely wanted to hear, so he'd hang up the phone and I'd get to run off to my room in absolute turmoil between two concepts of myself - my own truth that I was good and had done nothing wrong, and his truth that I was being repeatedly and traumatically exposed to.

Dad was completely comfortable causing that level of distress in a very young child and to this day is alternately oblivious to, or satisfied by, emotional distress in people around him. He experiences only his own rudimentary feelings - mostly pride based - and views hardships in life by how they impact on him.

Late last year when my mother fell and fractured her face, the ambulance hadn't left the street when he said "now we can buy dinner". There was an entire roast nearing completion in the oven, but Dad is in the Chicky Nuggies stage of wanting to buy junk food as often as possible and views Mum as an obstacle to that. When Mum was two days into her recovery from that accident Dad threatened to leave her because she would not let him drive - which he is medically not allowed to do. He screamed at her that she was against him, and that she hates him and that "I can see I will have to leave you"

When I was trying to prevent my dad from having a fall himself, he growled "I wish I didn't have a daughter" a little stung I countered "I'm sorry I didn't die in my infancy!" and he was completely happy to leave me hanging on that. He likes to have the upper hand and he will never reach out, reconcile, comfort, or apologise. That one hurt a little more than you'd think because he used to have a favourite tangent when I was growing up about how he didn't want to have me and had to be talked into it by Mum (who hadn't had any kids when they met)

In one of the more humiliating moments of my life I can remember a dinner when Dad's artist friend and his wife were staying at our house where Dad went into the tangent about not wanting to have me, and going on and on for so long about it and I was frozen in my chair with these tears quietly streaming down my face and the guests were not saying anything because they were horrified but you think he's eventually going to say "but look how great things turned out" but you'd be wrong.... its just a really long, really awful speech about his life and the way he feels and how he was manipulated into having me. Funnily enough those guests never came to see us again.

I think that actually stands out as the only time my father has revealed that side of his personality in public and I think it was an accident - I don't think he realised he looked like an asshole or that anyone was disturbed by it. Normally its good news for Mum and I if people are around because Dad is happy to show off and talk their ears off. His good mood is our bit of relief although it can be trying when someone comes to visit us and he insinuates himself into the visit and takes over the entire conversation. I have a friend who every time she comes for afternoon tea, Dad gets his book out (the definition of his book: a book of poetry written by someone and illustrated by Dad's art work) and he has to show off the entire thing and talk about it for the entire time they come and then the next time she comes he'll say to me "get my book out" and I'll say "no we're not having the book, you've shown her your book" and he'll go and find the book and make her look at it anyway. Or my Mum's cousin from interstate came for a short visit for morning coffee, they hadn't seen each other for 30 years and will probably never see each other again and he has to do all the talking - show off about his art, regale them with his very dramatic and long winded heart valve replacement stories - and every time someone manages to get a word in edgewise and change the topic... well he has the best stories about that topic too!

And the book! And his paintings! My God he'd give the mailman a painting. Every man and his dog gets a copy of the book pressed into their hands even if they don't fucking want it. Any doctor who has ever treated him gets a painting or a book. I can remember when he wanted to write in a card (to go with a gift of the book) to the doctor who operated on his cataracts. First of all he didn't even know how the surgery was going to turn out - we didn't know if his vision had improved or not or if there were going to be complications - and he's already writing in this card.... and he wanted to write this glorious, effusive message to her... a near complete stranger that has no personal relationship with him and kept asking me what else to say and I said "this is really inappropriate this is what you say to someone you know really well. You don't even say this much in a card to Mum" KABOOM nuclear explosion. You'd think suggesting saying "dear Dr ---, many thanks, from -----" on an unnecessary and maybe not even deserved gift was a personal attack on both him and the doctor. Lordy, back away.



So, with narcissism you have a really difficult, troubled personality that is on its own especially taxing to deal with and what happens when you add dementia into the mix is that you have all kinds of chaos. Dementia naturally causes a strong degree of self interest and loss of awareness of other people's feelings but it sends an actual narcissist into frenzy.

In the prime of his power, my Dad was someone who was afraid and threatened by the goodness and ability of other people, incapable of taking on board advice and ideas and hostile to those who offered them. In short My Mother and I have been his invisible friends and imaginary enemies my whole life.

Now as Dad loses his ability to remember, learn, and even reason or follow instructions, he needs to rely on other people - all dementia patients find this frightening but someone who has never appreciated the ability of his wife and daughter finds it extremely impossible to cope with.

He simply cannot believe us when we answer his questions. We can't be trusted to know what day of the week it is if he doesn't know. We can't be trusted to know if the bills have been paid if he doesn't know if they have been paid. He repeatedly asks questions (a hallmark of dementia) but one reason he has to keep asking is memory, but a large part of the reason he has to ask them repeatedly is because if he doesn't believe the answer he ignores it. He won't take in information he does not trust. And we have never been as trustworthy, capable, or good as him.

He has always doubted and ridiculed us. I was called a slow learner when I had trouble with my homework or left the hardest math problems to the last moment because I didn't want to have to sit there with him and be screamed at for an hour. If I were to treat him as he treated me it would be elder abuse. 

He cannot remember being told he cannot drive, or the medical reasons, so with great hysteria and paranoia he battles us almost daily to extreme duress by all parties involved. 

The cute show offy habits he had before? Well now I will be out walking my dog and total strangers will tell me "oh your dad is the artist, he invited me around to see his paintings one day" OH MY GOD. Please do not come to our house!

Now he can't always conceal his real personality - I was in the middle of Bunnings one day with him waiting for Mum to return to our waiting spot and explaining to Dad that we need to wait here so we don't lose Mum and he screams "I don't like listening to you!" in front of all the people. 

I know Dad, I know. Whenever I open my mouth he has two responses - one if, I can see his face, is to pull a horrible face that is bitter rage and irritation that I would dare to speak, and the other if I'm behind him is to screech "Who's talking?" He is reverting to the "children should be seen and not heard" mantra and basically my role here is to be the servant and not have any say in anything. But if he needs an audience he will stagger all the way down the hall and into my office to talk to me, and then get cross at me, end up shouting, and leave in a huff.

One day I had some new photographs taken to be used as profile pics and just in case pics for my business and he wanted to see them. He took one look and said "you've gotten ugly". That stings a bit whenever you hear it from anyone, but from your Dad? When your profile pics look so much better than how you look with no makeup and shitty house clothes on? From the person who even if it was true, would be the one to say "you look beautiful to me?" And then I look up and realise he didn't have his glasses on. I let out this huge sigh of relief and said "you can't see properly. You haven't got your glasses on and you have cataracts" (this was before his surgery) and he screams at me "don't show me any more photos then! Agreed. I wouldn't want to anyway.

And this dementia phase of his life is the final stage of my mother and I becoming completely invisible.



It took me a long time to grow up, learn to speak for myself, learn to enjoy my personality, and I don't much care for being invisible and I definitely don't look kindly on comments that strip me of my identity or feelings. So I don't enjoy the sympathetic response of actual professionals in this industry when they say"it must be so hard for him". All I want to do is scream "he was always a cunt!" He has the same personality he always had and to treat him like an unfortunate victim is to spit in the face of the actual human baggage he leaves in his wake. Dementia patients are human beings, they are not saints. They come from all walks of life. They have all kinds of personalities, and have done all kinds of things to all kinds of people. 

Sympathy is belittling and dismissive and assumes entirely too much. Empathy is finding out what a person is going through and reflecting that back to them in a way that indicates to them that they have been witnessed and acknowledged. Empathy brings someone who feels invisible into the light and warms them with your kindness. 

Ask, explore, nurture... don't assume. Care. 

I wrote this to help people understand dementia in people with narcissistic personalities because I see hardly anything about this online, and to support people who are carers for parents or partners and family members of narcissists. Fight hard not to be invisible. 









Sunday, March 22, 2020

tales of quarantine and demon sex voyeurism



I'm not sure when exactly were the "days of wine and roses" but the days of quarantine and demon sex voyeurism are right now, in the latter days of March 2020. If you're not entirely sure how the two things go together, sit right back and let me tell you how my family and I are faring so far in our preparations for (ideally) surviving the Corona pandemic.

I am a young(ish) adult with autoimmune disease who is shacked up with two elderly parents - one in particular is very infirm and ticks every box for being at extra risk of COVID19. As someone who has worked from home for over ten years, and before that was unemployed from home, and the age difference in my family meant that even with two older brothers I was raised in the same conditions as an only child... I am uniquely qualified to enjoy time in my home as long as I have books, Netflix, and food.

Having explained to my parents the concept of social distancing and also voluntary isolation (different from required isolation or quarantine) and having my Mum say to me repeatedly "if Dad gets the corona virus he'll die" and with me sharing what I know from my overseas friends where the pandemic is more advanced than here (we will soon catch up to them at the rate we are going) I thought it was excellent when they agreed with my plan that we would go out one day a week to shop for food, and otherwise stay home except to attend necessary medical appointments.

I feel tremendous weight upon me to uphold this isolation, a pressure that is coming not just from family, friends, and neighbours but from total strangers (and celebrities) who are diligently choosing to stay home for our sake.

This is how the first week of that plan went down:

Day 1, Monday: Mum and I went to the mall to do our grocery shopping. We were lucky to get food and not encounter the feral bogan riff raff who you will have seen scrapping over toilet paper. There is a joke somewhere in there about this footage going viral on social media.

Day 2, Tuesday: My 88 year old father was taken by his volunteer (who we pay... long story) for his weekly one on one social outing. They went to an art gallery. While Mum went to a hall packed with old ladies for her weight loss meeting (she does not need to lose weight). I stayed home. I insisted that Dad's social outings be cancelled until after the Apocalypse. Mum's weight loss club has been suspended in the wake of more stringent social gathering rules so that helps me out tremendously, thank you Australian Government.

Day 3, Wednesday: Both parents attend the local GP and pharmacy. Okay, not ideal, but better they go now before too many people in our community have been exposed to COVID19.

Day 4, Thursday: Mum goes to have a hair trim. I begin to think I am in a losing battle.

Day 5, Friday: Dad wakes up with a limp arm, we have to check if he has had a TIA or stroke.

Day 6, Saturday: I think, wow, no one has any appointments on the weekend, maybe we will slide into this isolation gently over the weekend.... but no my mother decides she has to go to the petrol station to buy a newspaper because she absolutely has to have a TV guide. And when I ask her what happened to our plan she screams at me "I have to have something to do!" Well she won't be bored when we are measuring my Dad for his coffin.

Day 7, Sunday: I share with Mum the news I have from overseas friend about how people won't get permission to leave their home to attend hospital but have to stay home and die, and how fucking hard it is to get an ambulance. I discuss with mum what options we have for if we need to quarantine one of us from the others within the home. Mum emphatically states that if Dad gets sick she will still share his bed. I begin to think that I am going to be trapped in this house with two people who will not lift a finger to protect me... even though I've been a good little girl and stayed home. I'm pretty sure they intend to take me with them when they leave this mortal coil.

This is seriously beginning to undermine the enjoyment I had at the start of the week for a calm, orderly, and really quite leisurely period of living it up at home. I had a binge watch list, a to-read list, and social media to grow. What else can I do, no one wants me to try and sell them jewellery right now they are worried about finances. So it should be play time?



A nice day of reading on the bed with my sweet, cuddly boy dog should be just what the doctor ordered. Well now, there's just one thing: a book lover like me should not have to share quarantine with a bibliophile's kryptonite aka... My Dad.

I stopped buying books for my 88 year old father after he came into my office and shared his unsolicited review of the last book I got him for his birthday. I had chosen what I thought was a moderately nerdy book about the world's first chess tournament held in the Ottoman Empire in 1546.

My father shuffled up to me when I was at my desk working and said, "I finished that book you got me" Oh yes? "It had lots of sex in it" Oh Dear God! Then he leaned in, delicately grasped the excess fabric of my sleeve, checked left and right for potential eavesdroppers before mock whispering "and FORNICATION"

I have no Earthly idea what my Dad thinks fornication is but I could tell from his voice that it is a great deal worse than sex and that is enough for me. Anyway that is the day I stopped buying books for my Dad. It did not stop him from constantly asking me if I had anything to read, and, Heaven help us all, he recently came home with his latest book choice.

He returned from buying lotto tickets at the mall with a discounted book called Eternal Flame with the book blurb "passion like this will scorch you to the very soul"



A quick scan of the back cover synopsis has me ready to take drastic self preservation measures, and that is why it is time for me to pluck out my eyes, cut off my ears, and incinerate my brain. Oh to be anywhere else when my Dad reads a scorching book about a hybrid demon and a girl who is used to playing dirty.

Yeah I just vomited a little bit in my mouth. Debate in our family raged: people who don't live with us giggle and suggest he is now into erotica. Mum and I are more exposed to his declining cognitive ability and suspect he simply did not understand the words "hybrid demon" on the back cover, and may not even be able to read the back cover as his eye sight is also pretty terrible these days.

It was two weeks ago that he bought the book and very quickly discarded it as "the worst kind of rubbish" which lead to me victoriously emailing family saying "see, I knew he wasn't a demon sex voyeur!" But he has now picked it back up and is ploughing through it whether or not he understands a word of it and God I hope I have heard the last of this book that I look forward to burning when we run short of fire wood this winter if we are still here, in quarantine, in our house of questionable repute.

So in these days of uncertainty and financial strain, I hope it gives you a giggle to think of me, with my 83 and 88 year old children and their sex books in this: our time of Quarantine and Demon Sex Voyeurism. And may God have mercy on our souls.

Monday, March 2, 2020

To Eleanor Oliphant with love - reexamining my empty life

this would be my classified ad, if I were to run one

This post is a follow up on a vintage post I wrote called How's My Love Life? which contains quite possibly the most embarrassing thing about myself I've ever published (although this post comes in a tight second) 
Here we are in March 2020 and Valentine's Day came and went - just a day on the calendar for someone who is single but not really motivated to change that status. Neither a lonely or a painful day, nor one to be rushed through and hidden away from. I don't know what is wrong with me, or if indeed anything is wrong with me. On the surface each day I am doing things that I want to be doing, I have a very solid, consistent contentment in life and I am both cheerful and wickedly funny about the really bizarre moments that life throws my way.

However.... it seems to me, and this certainly occurred to me for the first time when I was reading "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman that I am coasting through life not unlike Eleanor, she had her little routines and I have mine. I mean I am choosing to run a creative small business from home for not much money and little impact on the world, choosing to stay home with the dog and watch Netflix or devour a book + snacks. I get excited about online purchases I make and new music I add to my playlists. I like having friends I don't see too often because I have more time to just chill and be me and put my plantar fasciitis wracked foot up while lounging in my not-very-active-wear.

But then I realised that years have gone by with absolutely nothing to show for them. Where are the life adventures? God knows I don't have any money, so I must have really lived on all that dime, right? But not. It gets frittered away on books, and clothes, and food and that's what I've done... I've consumed time and money and built nothing lasting.

I'm doing what I want to do every day.... but not what I want to do every decade or for a lifetime. The individual moments are all very enjoyable, but the life..... where is the life? Have I published my book? Have I really travelled anywhere? I chose not to marry or have kids - though I am a little bit afraid of being home alone one day when I have my heart attack (because that's the other thing, I'm pretty sure that's only a matter of time too), and after my Mum dies I will have a loneliness that cuts me even now just thinking about how I will be the last person who remembers her family - they are all dead and gone, and when Mum goes I'll only have my Dad's family.

I'm maybe only semi-okay now.

But Eleanor began to expand her horizons and develop meaningful relationships and so can I. Even if I'm not quite convinced I want a love life, I am convinced I need to stop wasting so much time and actually do some real stuff. I might be okay staying single - if there is such a thing as a Spinster Gene it definitely runs in my Mum's family (and some of those ladies were total babes in their day) but I definitely need to allow life to change up on me and stop going with the flow.

So I am saying a massive thank you to Eleanor Oliphant and taking a leaf out of her book, no more coasting, no more wastage, if I can't fulfil my promise to Diane to find love, I promise to find LIFE.