The Nazi-Cystic Mother
There has been much talk, in recent years, of narcissistic mothers, and the effects they have had on their daughters. I’ll dare to go one louder; I’ll call my (thankfully late) mother, the Nazi-Cystic Mother - understand that the reason I do so, is because she was.
My mother was a very correct, strict German woman, with whom there was absolutely no opportunity for compromise, or discussion, ever. I first realized something was distinctly off with her, when I was about 4 or 5. It wasn’t just the tantrums she threw, or the looks and words of hatred directed at me, or the fact she wouldn’t talk to me or my father for weeks on end, which made me very upset, and wonder what the hell I’d done wrong; the fact that, even when I was 5, she would throw my gifts of Mother’s Day and birthday drawings out of the window, or down the stairs (all my father’s gifts, usually glass or china ornaments, also got smashed); the fact that she never sat down to dinner with us (she was chronically anorexic); the fact that she would take me to school, then come home and lie in bed all day with depression, until it was time to pick me up from school again; or the fact that she kept a wooden spoon by her side during my daily piano practice, in order to beat me, a 5-year-old, with.
Some women categorically don’t like their children, and this has absolutely nothing to do with what the child is truly, actually like. Some women say, “my child is the nicest and most perfect child in the world, and evenso, I still don’t like him/ her”. These are the women who blame the fact that apparently, they “never accomplished anything (they) wanted to do in life”, because of having gotten married, and having children. In my mother’s case, nothing could have been further from the truth.
She did not have to go to work, or look for work; she was kept like a queen by my father, with an incredibly affluent lifestyle, which most could only have dreamt of (we lived in a huge Victorian mansion at one point - a huge pile south of Bristol, built by a sugar baron halfway through the 19th century, and surrounded by 4 1/2 acres of landscaped gardens), and he, pretty much allowed her a free rein, to do whatever she liked. She could go walking the dogs, do her fitness, garden, go on painting holidays by herself. She never got up, until 10am, every day. Yet, despite all this luxury, she was still desperately unhappy, and nothing was ever good enough, or could please her, or make her happy.
Having done a little research, I found that girls named “Christina”, have often ended up with mothers who have been completely unhinged. Perhaps the most prominent case, is the 17th-century Queen Christina of Sweden; she was injured in several mysterious accidents as a child, before an intervention was arranged in order to keep her safe from her (curiously, also German) mother. Christina Crawford was another Christina, who was able to substantiate events of systematic abuse by Joan Crawford, with the help of her brother, Christopher. And here I am, yet another Christina, having had a mother who was clearly clinically insane, though never diagnosed as such, since she was an almost total recluse; it would have been too much, for her actress spirit, to bear.
Quotes, from my mother:
“When you turned out to be a blonde baby (like my father - not her), it was the greatest shock of my life. When you turned out to look like your father, it was an even bigger shock.”
“You need me. I don’t need you. I’d rather have animals, than have you.”
“One day, you’ll lose me as a friend.” (Is that so? Sounds like you were never a friend, in the first place!)
(When she told me of the infidelity my father had committed when I was a baby, when I was 16 - when I broke down, sobbing, and she smirked) “Oh well. Everyone has their cross to bear, and that might as well be yours.”
“If you want a boyfriend so much, you should become a whore.”
“Oh, you’ve got fibroids! I’m so PLEASED! That’s one thing you’ve inherited from ME, and not your OLD MAN.” (Fibroids are pretty serious things, which can impact your whole system. They’re not exactly something to be cheered about.)
There was violence in the family: she expressly told me that she had tried to drive a wedge between my father and myself, as she was jealous that I looked like my father, and also, because he and I had a better relationship than me and her. This wedge-driving process, would usually take the form of her relentlessly goading me into an argument, to a point beyond which I would inevitably explode. I was being bullied in a similar way at my girls’ school, and having to also come home to the same treatment, was too much. She would then go to the telephone, cool as a cucumber, and tell my father to come home and beat me. I suppose, since their own relationship was so violent, it was one way of transferring the violence that would otherwise have been meted out to her, onto me.
I was sent to school early, at age 4, in order to get me out of the house. As she had no family or friends close by, a small daughter was clearly too much for her to have to deal with. Despite the fact that I could count in 2 languages, other developmental milestones, such as bladder control, and tying one’s own shoelaces, had not been reached. Laundry was done rarely, so that my school uniform was something of a disgrace. My mother did not seem to notice this. Others did; and, I guess, they thought that since my mother appeared to care so little for me, they shouldn’t care, either; it's led to my feeling like an outsider, all my life.
I was with class peers who were 2 years older than me; and further distinguished by the fact that I had a restricted, vegetarian diet; wore glasses; was half-German (WWII, was still alive and well in the 1970s/ 80s), and my mother would dress me in a dirndl, for mufti days. It seemed to me that every effort was made to not integrate me with other children; this further underlines the pattern of the typical Nazi-Cystic Mother’s setting her daughter up to fail.
When I reached early puberty, at age 7, this was somehow a trigger for both her, and the other girls at my girls’ school, to molest me. This isn’t something that’s often talked about -or which it is admitted, goes on, but I’ll talk about it anyway. It’s been estimated, by a psychiatrist, that I will need at least 6 months of professional, specialist psychotherapy, to enable me to live normally as a human being. At this point in time, I have no close female friends. I don’t know if I will ever be able to trust women, fully; it should come as no surprise that I have been diagnosed with bipolar, and PTSD.
The violence, and violations, directed towards me started at about age 5, and escalated through my teens and 20s. At 16, my nose was broken in a domestic row. Even though I indignantly put my case to the medics, it was all hushed up by the powers that were, and the police were nowhere to be found, even though there was concrete proof of assault of a minor. I tried talking to my German aunt about it; the answer that came back, was a polite suggestion that, as a family (i.e. my mother, father and myself), we should all try to work together. In fact, this is the pattern I found with all my relatives, over the years; they only cared about the surface gloss. They were not interested in solving problems; in my experience, wherever there has been a pressing problem, they haven’t wanted to know, haven’t listened, and haven’t cared.
The root of the problem, I believe, was in existence long before I came on the scene, and had been boiling beneath the surface, for some time. When my parents were married in the 1960s, my father’s mother did not approve of the union at all. The deprivations of WWII were still too fresh in her mind, and my by then deceased father’s father had come from French-Jewish stock. I was too much of one, and not enough of the other, to be accepted by either side of the family; not German enough to be German, and not British enough to be British.
Neither of my parents cared much for either of their own mothers, and so we rarely went to visit, or saw, extended family. Since my mother hardly had a social life, discouraged friends from visiting the house, and scoffed at any sort of congenial social behaviour, I had no adequate female role model; I felt very alone, and isolated, much of the time.
I was not allowed to have any of my own ideas. If I had an idea, or accomplished anything, it would be met with “don’t be so stupid - you think this (what she thought I should think) - you don’t think that”; “that never happened”; or, a nice backhanded compliment for good measure: “well, that was very good - but you could do (xyz) much better, next time”.
The way people treat us in life, I believe, starts with the quality of attachment to the mother, and vice-versa. I always found that, compared to others, I was harshly criticized, not just at home, but in the wider world, especially with regards to my ideas, and work. I have had to grow a thick skin, and defend my right to my own thoughts. I have learned that originality comes at a price, but that feeling the fear, and following your passion anyway - your own inner compass - will ultimately lead one less up the garden path, than if one constantly attempts to people-please.
My mother, I believe, was pathologically jealous of my artistic and musical pursuits. When, by the age of 30 (I was a late bloomer, in the career department), I was able to present to my parents a beautiful book which I had written, Drawing and Painting Plants, she said to me: “Very good. At least you can say you’ve done it - even if you NEVER DO ANYTHING LIKE THAT AGAIN!” It was almost like a curse; I’ve only just now, after some years out of the writing loop, and 2 years after her death, got back into the swing of what I do best - writing art books.
She was always impossible; she was having tantrums ever since I could remember - but things took a turn for the worse when she hit 45 - perhaps the start of the menopause. When she hit 55, and lost her own mother (whom she had never in fact got on with - she was her mother’s least favourite child, though paradoxically, I was my grandmother’s oldest, and favourite grandchild - a fact not lost on my mother) - she totally lost the plot. I have never, in my life, experienced anyone who screamed constantly at people, the way she screamed at my father and myself. She threatened to throw us both out of the house; when we eventually left, she was screaming even more, because she had no-one to scream at.
She and my father split up 2 weeks after I got married, due to yet another of my father’s infidelities. I was furious, at the selfishness, and the lack of acknowledgement, of my path on a new life. Once again, I tried to voice my concerns to my German relatives (who listened with half an ear, and were conspicuously absent, for a number of years), but all they said, was that I should help my mother. It didn’t matter one iota to them; I was hundreds of miles away, out of sight, and out of mind.
I listened to my mother for 3 hours on the phone each night for 5 years, attempting to calm her, placate her, comfort her, and do whatever I could to help, whilst attempting to settle into my new married life, working a full-time job and commuting for a total of up to 3 hours each day. At the end of the 5 years, she got into one of her screaming rages, and yelled down the phone that I had never, ever, done anything for her. At that point, something snapped inside me, and I didn’t talk to either her or my father for 3 years. I had had enough.
Not content with ruining her own marriage, she had also partly succeeded in ruining mine. I think, that with the constant, ongoing bedlam, drama and acrimoniousness between my parents, my now ex-husband didn’t think there was much point in making any effort with the marriage. He had his own problems, which eventually materialised in violence towards me, and a whole host of other issues.
Though I reported this, the police were, again, nowhere to be seen, and claimed they couldn’t do anything - as has been the case in still another situation since, where I have experienced domestic violence. Following these experiences, I am of the firm belief that they are not my friends - but that’s another issue, for another time. The refusal to address or deal with actual crimes, such as domestic violence towards women and children; but the tendency, manifested strikingly in recent years, to create strange situations - in order to fabricate reasons to approach people, for the purpose of maintaining certain quotas. It’s disgraceful, and incompetent.
Even though we finally got back in contact, my mother cut off all contact with my father and I, 4 years before she died - which my father was furious about, as he had paid for her house, and had also been paying her considerable maintenance. It was ironic that she had come over to Britain in the 1960s, in order to get away from her relatives, as she hated them all - but that, eventually, she attempted to worm her way back into their circle again - albeit, on the condition that she, as usual, made a minimum effort.
She was anorexic her whole life, from the age of 13. When she did finally begin to eat a bit more, in her 40s, she would eat a large salad, and then overexercise, to the degree where she developed chronic joint problems. She would take about 30 supplements a day, yet not consume much food besides, which gave the impression that she had so many vitamin pills rattling around inside her, that one could have used her as a maraca.
According to her, all her relatives were fat and unhealthy, and she was determined to outlive them all, and live to 100. In the event, that didn’t happen. She passed at 78 - albeit, that wasn’t a bad innings - from bowel cancer. Knowing what I now know - both from reading and experience - that vitamins in excess can seriously upset the stomach and other organs, in extreme cases even causing bowel cancer - I am in no doubt that her anorexia, and extreme food fads over the years, were contributing factors. Put it this way: it’s better to get your vitamins from food; only in extreme cases should you be prescribed vitamins, and even then not longterm (I’ve had my own experiences with vitamin toxicity).
One thing she did mention, before cutting contact, was that some great-uncle of mine on the German side, had been an SS officer. This perturbed me somewhat, as I had always, previously, been told that our family had never had any Nazi involvement (although, on reflection, I suppose this would have been difficult to believe). I contacted the German side of the family, and asked them, quite reasonably, if this was true. No answer was forthcoming, so I presumed that the tacit "answer" was in the affirmative. Now, people who know me well, know that I detest being lied to, or having people attempt to pull the wool over my eyes. I will ensure they don’t forget it, in a hurry.
I considered the respective career positions of my various relatives. One great-grandmother, on my mother’s side, had been awarded a medal in the 1930s, by the Nazi Government - for raising 9 good Germans to adulthood. One of my uncles went on to work for an engineering company which had previously had Nazi connections, before transferring to a prestigious position with the EU. Another uncle had a senior position with an international company producing flight maps, which has connections with a certain US airport notorious for its apocalyptic artwork. Another uncle, by marriage, had a very stable position, as a government civil engineer; his daughter is now a medical consultant. The question, that remained in my mind was: how did all these people manage to get into all these high-ranking positions?
When my mother died - having lied to the courts and my father for years, about how she had no money - she was found to have 22 bank accounts, and Premium Bonds totalling 1/4 million, in addition to her house value of 1/2 million. As her only child, none of it was left to me.
I did, however, recall that many years ago, when she complained to an uncle of mine that my father wasn’t giving her enough maintenance, he told her to take my father to court, and use him as a milch cow. Looking back, it seems this was exactly what happened; it seems they both hatched a plot to extract as much money from my father as possible, so that if and when my mother died, it could be shipped overseas, or wherever. To my mind, then, since there were obviously a number of lies told to the courts by my mother (a liar, and pretender, by default), this could be considered to be fraud by false representation, which my mother and uncle had both colluded in.
By then, she had completely poisoned my relatives against me, but by now, I was wise to her game-playing. It was, of course, the game she had always played; her last spiteful act, and desire to twist the knife in me one last time, for no other reason than that I had been born.
My relatives were, of course, in denial about her behaviour, in a desire to toe the official party line. Frankly, I don’t give a damn about them anymore; that horse has bolted. I made enough effort to engage with them over the years, although they seemed to consider me as the outsider: i.e. “not German enough” - and if they don’t want to know me, that’s just fine.
My mother was haunted by the fact that she never accomplished anything in her life, for the simple reason that she was darn lazy. Conversely, when I think about my own achievements, I consider that I have at least exerted my creative muscle with love, originality, and the desire to give the world good things: good books, good songs, good art - my legacy. I have not exactly been sitting around, doing nothing. However, what had my mother achieved, to benefit the world at large, that I could think of? I racked my brains.
Yes, sadly - the only way in which she could achieve some sort of importance - and have people talking about her after her death - was to create conflict and discord in the family, and ensure that the conflict went sufficiently nuclear, that, as usual, the talk would be all about her.
My father’s words, upon seeing the proof of her machinations, were, “Didn’t she do well. Having hardly ever worked in her life. Now I know the value of my graft. Go for as much of it as you can.”
Am I sorry she’s gone? No. Sadly, no. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person; as most daughters of Nazi-Cystic mothers, whom these mothers have all but tried to destroy, will be all too familiar with. Why do these women seek to destroy their daughters? What on earth do they think this will do to benefit people?
As usual, I’m afraid, it all boils down to the old cliche: unrealized ambitions, and jealousy. In an ideal world, I should have been able to hope for a mother I could love, trust and rely on; however, I got her. I was lumbered with her - rather than, as she would have said, quite incorrectly: “I could have done all sorts of wonderful things - however, when you’re lumbered with a child, you can’t do any of these”. (In her case - Rubbish!)
Could I expand this essay about Mama-Monster into a book? Yes, I could; I have sufficient material - but for now, we’ll just leave it, as is...