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I’ve had some time to pick up my reading again, so I’m back to reading and journaling on “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers” by Karyl McBride, Ph.D.

In part three of the book, recovery and treatment, I came across the term, “the Collapse”. (I’ll be covering other topics that relate to “the collapse” in future entries.) It was described as follows:

“…they feel as if they just popped their self-esteem balloon and all the air rushed out and they need a bit of time to restabilize and refill that balloon.”

“The daughter’s collapse is due to her internal sensitivity caused by being insulted and invalidated as a child, adolescent and adult by her narcissistic mother. When it (collapse) happens during recovery, it is as if it triggers a momentary regression back to childhood; old memories make the current situation feel much bigger than it really is. This “Domino effect” leads to the feeling of internal “collapse,” which is also described as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD. The DSM explains this further:

                The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one or more of the
following ways…. Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or
external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event,
and … physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues
that symbolize or resmeble an aspect of the traumatic event.”

“This means that the daughter will feel the collapse when something reminds her of early childhood wounds. At this moment, a daughter is most tempted to reach out for external validation and ask someone else to make it better for her, and she may act needy.”

This perfectly explains and gives a name to what I experience.

As I read this, I was taken back to the emotional ‘ambush’ we experienced at my mother-in-law’s apartment in mid-September. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law, supported by my brother-in-law verbally attacked me as a result of having read previous blogs I’d written on another site I thought I had hidden from people I was afraid wouldn’t understand.

They had demanded that no further family issues be written about on the internet, that I’d exposed the family’s dirty laundry. They took exception to my thoughts and feelings in regard to certain events that had taken place just prior to their discovery of the blog. They berated me, my sister-in-law raising her voice, gritting her teeth, refusing to even look at me, calling me a liar. She and my mother-in-law brought up things about my family, almost as if vindictively trying to say ‘your family is more messed up than ours’.

I had a collapse. I knew they were triggering my PTSD symptoms. I was under attack, I was being reprimanded for sharing my feelings, for having an opinion, for suggesting their actions had caused me pain.

I found myself feeling as though I were being subjected to one of my mother’s accusatory tirades once again. She didn’t allow anyone in the house but herself to express emotion. No one had the right to be hurt, upset or angry, but her. No one had a right to express their opinions, but her, unless your opinion supported hers. She was very secretive about the dynamics in our home and protective of the facade she’d created to present to people outside our home.

I fell into a familiar pattern, trying desperately to explain my actions, explain why I write, why I chose to create a blog to write about my emotional turmoil, to ‘plead my case.’ I found myself making eye contact with my husband, pleading with him to intervene, to defend me, to protect me from the verbal onslaught and vicious accusations.

In my mind I knew I had every right to express my feelings, that I had not used any identifying information that might compromise the ‘facade’ of the family that they present to their friends and the public. No one who was able to read my blogs had any way of ‘connecting the dots’ to discern who I was talking about, as I was very careful not to provide any ‘dots’.

My husband and a handful of my closest friends have had a hard time understanding why these things upset me so much, why I can’t just ‘write it off as them being selfish and insensitive’ and just put it behind me and move forward. I’m often told I should expect as much from people and not give it a second thought.

My husband, after this verbal assault by his family, confided to me that he didn’t intervene because he thought I would tear them apart and educate them while doing it. He failed to realize how traumatizing the attack was.

When I’m triggered everything inside me ‘collapses’.  I feel as if my strength collapses; the few walls I’ve established that offer me a modicum of ‘protection’ against abuse, whether inadvertent or purposeful, collapse; my self-esteem and self-confidence collapse.

During a ‘collapse’, I don’t feel able to rationalize, I feel victimized, vulnerable and needy. Thankfully the book talks about strategies one can use when they recognize a ‘collapse’ happening.

I feel a sense of ‘relief’ to have a ‘term’ to associate with what I have experienced.