Practice breaking contact with toxic parents in this

“Choose Your Own Adventure”-style story.

Based on events experienced by the child of a narcissistic parent.

Photo by Kevin Butz on Unsplash

Going NO CONTACT isn’t the silent treatment. You’re not PUNISHING your parents, you’re PROTECTING yourself by setting a healthy boundary.

Your therapist reminds you that you’ve been telling them for years how you feel with no change. You’ve written letters, had long conversations, arguments. They never listen or respect your boundaries. Your therapist suggests writing a letter that you don’t send to help release your feelings.

If you follow the therapist’s advice, scroll to section 2

If you contact your parents, scroll to section 3


Section 2

You write an eloquent letter explaining the difficulty of your decision and why you can no longer be in contact with your parents. It’s painful, cathartic, and really scary. You put the letter away and begin the process of blocking all communication via phone, text, social media, and email. You remove all tracking from your devices and you change your passwords. 

TRAUMA BOND chemical withdrawal is strong. Just like drug and alcohol dependency, your body is in detox. With a lifetime of trauma stored in your muscles, a brain that grew around trauma, and Complex PTSD symptoms that cause physical and emotional flashbacks, panic sets in. You crave the familiar, almost missing your parents. Was the abuse really that bad?

BING! Your voicemails are full. As you erase pharmacy reminders and car warranty ads, you notice a “blocked messages” category on your phone. It has more than 30 messages from your parents.

If you erase the messages without listening, scroll to section 4

If you listen to the messages, scroll to section 5


Section 3

You write an eloquent letter explaining the difficulty of your decision and why you can no longer be in contact with your parents. It’s painful, cathartic, and really scary. You send the letter to your parents via email and text then wait in panic for their response. They won’t understand, that I’m bad, I’m disrespectful, I’m hateful.

Minutes then hours tick by as you check and double-check your phone and email. Why aren’t they responding? You finally fall asleep and wake in the morning to an icy, venomous response. You can’t reject them. They reject you. You don’t want to see them, FINE, but they have Grandparent’s rights. They write their list of demands including being able to see your child, taking back any gifts they gave you, and they write you a bill for the money it cost to raise you.

You begin bargaining in your mind. How will you meet their demands?! What are Grandparent’s rights? Can they take your child?

You promised yourself that you wouldn’t respond, no matter what, so you begin the process of blocking all communication via phone, text, social media, and email.

The TRAUMA BOND chemical withdrawal is strong. Just like drug and alcohol dependency, your body is detoxing. With a lifetime of trauma stored in your muscles, a brain that grew around trauma, and Complex PTSD physical and emotional flashbacks, panic sets in. You crave the familiar. You almost miss your parents. Was the abuse really that bad?

BING! Your voicemails are full. As you erase pharmacy reminders and car warranty ads, you notice a “blocked messages” category on your phone. It has more than 30 messages from your parents.

If you erase the messages without listening, scroll to section 4

If you listen to the messages, scroll to section 5

________________________________________________________________________________

Section 4

Setting Healthy Boundaries with Flying Monkeys You take a deep breath and hit “delete all.” Your phone wants to know if you’re sure. No. Yes. No. YES! Deleted. You feel sick to your stomach, but you know you’d feel worse if you heard what they had to say.

Over the next few weeks, “flying monkeys” appear. Aunts, cousins, friends of your parents, and even siblings contact you out of the blue. Some are curious. Why won’t you talk to your parents? They love you so much. Some are venomous. You are ungrateful. You are breaking their hearts. You begin to decipher who you can trust, and who is caught up in the toxic narcissistic mess.

If you respond to flying monkeys with a simple statement, scroll to section 6

If you explain your parents’ wrongdoing to the flying monkeys, scroll to section 7

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Section 5

With trembling hands, you listen to the first message. Just hearing your parents’ voices sends a cold panic through your nervous system. You haven’t missed this feeling. Each message is like a punch to the face. They start the same as always “Just checking in, call me back immediately” then they escalate as usual, tearing into who you are as a person, blaming you for every problem, then threatening to take away your child and have you declared incompetent.

Trauma response. Racing thoughts, panic, fear. Reality and fantasy combine as one. What if they show up at my house? What if they try to take my child from school? What if my partner leaves and I have to move back in with my parents? Can they have me declared incompetent?

Then fury. I’m their child, how can they treat me this way? You want to call them and tell them everything they’ve done wrong. You pull out your phone.

If you research your legal rights go to section 8

If you call your parents and yell at them, go to section 9

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Section 6

You decide that the “gray rock” technique works best with the flying monkeys. Keeping interactions simple and clear with as little emotion as possible. You avoid sharing personal details and address the issue directly. You reply to each flying monkey with a prepared statement:

I’m prioritizing the health and safety of myself and my family, which includes no contact with my parents. I realize that my actions may be confusing to you, but there are factors at play that you may not be aware of. You and I have a relationship that’s independent of my parents. I’d love for us to focus on that relationship. I realize that my parents may try to send me messages through you. I ask that you remove yourself from the middle by not accepting or relaying these messages.

You’re proud that you’re drawing a healthy boundary and nervous that not everyone will understand. You get mostly positive responses. You share your reasons with the people you trust and they become a support system for you. Some try to make excuses such as “your parents had hard childhoods.” You’ve heard this before. Your childhood was also hard. That’s why this protection is necessary. There are a few people who lash out saying things like “you don’t turn your back on family.” You realize that they are not healthy people for you to be around and limit contact.

Life becomes more peaceful and routine. You’ve read several books and are sleeping better. When your parents make new accounts to try to contact you, you simply block them.

An invitation to your cousin’s wedding arrives. At first, you feel the cold panic. Your parents will be there as well as the relatives who are mostly flying monkeys. You stop, and think “what is this panic I’m feeling?”

After some reflection, you realize that you feel you “should” go because it’s family, but you don’t want to.

If you decide to decline the invite scroll to section 10

If you decide to attend the wedding scroll to section 11

______________________________________________________________

Section 7

You’re frustrated that people are defending your parents but aren’t defending you, so you respond with details of the narcissistic abuse, asking “how can you defend them?” Your Aunt responds with “Your parents always said you were good at making up stories.” Soon more flying monkeys emerge and you find yourself engaged in a fight. Your nervous system is in full fight or flight mode and it’s affecting your sleep. You stress about what people are saying or thinking about you and you feel completely misunderstood.

Your therapist helps you realize that you are still engaging in the abuse. Not only are your parents sending messages through these flying monkeys, but you are playing right into the story that you are the one who is unhinged or crazy. You realize that you need to draw stronger boundaries and limit contact with those who are toxic.

Scroll to Section 6.

Section 8

Once you find out the facts about your legal rights regarding your child and yourself you feel much better. Even though you know your parents lie and exaggerate, somehow they always know how to panic you into believing them. Now you feel prepared.

You realize that it’s time to delete the blocked messages because they are filled with lies. Scroll to section 4.


Section 9

As the phone rings, you grow more furious. How dare they treat you this way! They answer coldly and it stops you at first. The panic of “I’m doing something wrong” is soon overridden by anger. You tell them all of the reasons you’ve blocked them. They scold you for speaking to them this way. They tell you they’re recording this conversation and will use this as evidence of your erratic behavior. You panic and hang up.

You scold yourself. How could I be so careless? Now I’m going to lose everything. You realize that you’ve taught your parents that all they need to do is fill up your voicemail, and you’ll call them back.

Your partner walks in and finds you shaking. You share everything that was said. The two of you decide it’s time to look up your legal rights. Scroll to section 8.

Section 10

You realize that your “should” is based in fear. What will people think of me? I’ll be punished if I don’t go. But punished how? You’ve drawn strong boundaries and protected yourself. You suddenly realize that as an adult, you have a choice. You decline the wedding invite

Throughout the healing process, you’ve been experiencing grief, usually the result of wishing. I wish I had supportive parents, but I don’t. I wish I didn’t have to block them, but I do.

On your birthday you feel nostalgic. Trauma bond takes hold and your mind drifts to the fun and traditions you had on birthdays. Your dad singing Happy Birthday like Elvis, your Mom chiming in for the last few notes. You question, was life really that bad with my parents? How sad they must be trying to reach me. You almost unblock them, but you stay strong.

After dinner and cake, the doorbell rings. Your child rushes to the window and “It’s Grandad!” and before you can stop her, she opens the door and jumps on him for a hug. When he sees you, he acts as if he’s in a 50’s TV show “There’s my birthday baby.” When you don’t budge he suddenly becomes dizzy and “must sit down.”

Your partner brings him water while you’re frozen in the corner. He works up some tears and says how sorry he is that it’s come to this. If you can’t get past your petty hatred for him, then do it for your mother. You stammer out that it’s time for him to leave, and you see the familiar “how dare you to speak to me” look on his face. He quickly hides it when he sees your partner and says “I’m still feeling so faint. I need a few minutes. Get me a piece of cake, would ya?”

You leave the room. He’s not getting cake. You suddenly remember how birthdays really were. A day of torturous photo ops. If you did not pose and smile just the right way you’d be punished. Fury replaces fear. You rush into the living room to confront him, but when you get there, your child is sitting on his lap. “So do you want to come to Grandad’s and play on our new slide?” “Yeah!” Says your child emphatically. Tricky, old man.

The guilt settles in. Your child has been asking about your parents. You’ve explained that “Grandma and Grandad make bad choices and you or your partner need to be there to protect them.” You don’t want to deprive your child of their grandparents, so you talk to your partner.

If your child WON’T see your parents, scroll to section 12

If your child WILL see your parents, scroll to section 13

Section 11

The familiar faces of your extended family swim in your head and you’re overtaken by the idea of disappointing them. You have to go. They’re expecting you, but you don’t want to! You reluctantly reply YES.

In the days leading up to the wedding, you’re a ball of nerves. You imagine every scenario and how you’ll defend yourself. On the day of the wedding, your partner gets a migraine. The feeling of obligation is so strong, that it doesn’t even occur to you that you can stay home. You’re almost mad at your spouse for not feeling well and leaving you alone to face the lion’s den.

During the ceremony, you manage to sit in the back, but you’re assigned to sit with your parents at the reception. You decide to hang out at the bar instead. When you congratulate your cousin, she pulls you aside and says “It’s my day. Can you please, just make up with your parents? For me?” Flabbergasted, you stare at her when suddenly your Aunt grabs your arm and pulls you to your parent’s table for a “family photo.” She insists you sit next to them and smile. Then she traps you in your chair and tries to play mediator as your parents play the victim. “All we’ve ever done is love you.” It’s your nightmare.

If only you could go back in time and make a different decision…wait! You can. Scroll to section 10


Section 12

You and your partner agree that there’s no way your child is going to your parent’s house, especially after they threatened legal action. As you’re shooing your father out the door, he hands you a birthday card with a check and says “We’ll never stop loving you.” You keep the card, but destroy the check without depositing. You can just hear “you can take our money but you can’t bother to talk to us.”

For the next few weeks, your parents send balloons, gifts, and candy, all with “We love and miss you and will never stop trying.” You’re confused. Are they sorry? Are they changing?

The guilt creeps back in. Are you making a mistake keeping your child from them? During tuck-in time your child says “thanks for not making me go over to Grandma and Grandad’s house.” You’re confused

“Didn’t you want to go over there?”

“No. I just didn’t want to hurt his feelings. They’re always trying to take my picture but never let me just have fun. I don’t like the way they talk to each other, and I don’t like the way they talk about you.”

Just then your friend texts you a picture of your parents’ social media. It’s pictures of your front porch with all of the gifts they’ve been sending captioned “In our family, birthdays last all month. Having too much fun with our grandchild to take any photos.”

You suddenly realize nothing is as it seems. The gifts were the Love Bombing tactic to get you to return to their abuse. You aren’t keeping your child from them. You’re protecting your family and yourself, and you’re doing a great job.

Ready to go NO CONTACT with a toxic parent?

Click HERE for “Tips for Going NO CONTACT with a Toxic Parent”

 


Section 13

Your partner brings your child over to your parent’s house a few times over the next month. The “new slide” it turns out, is not at their house, but at a park that is driving distance away. Your parents keep trying to convince your partner to let them take your child alone.

One day, your partner’s car breaks down on the way to your parents’ house. You drive over to help, and when you get there your parents are waiting with your partner. Your child is crying about having to go potty. You’re only 2 miles from their house, so you agree to let your parents take your child to use the bathroom while you and your partner deal with the car.

When you get there a short time later, no one is home. They’re not answering their phones. Frantic, you drive to the park, nothing. Your partner waits at the house in case they come back. You go to the zoo, the ice cream shop, anywhere you think they’ll be. Finally, your partner calls. They’re home.

You rush to find your child, sopping wet and covered in tears. Your parents have angry scowls. “The kid wanted to go swimming, and then complained about being cold.” It’s not swimming weather and your child doesn’t have a bathing suit. You wrap your child in a coat, put your family in the car and drive away.

When you get home, your child gives you a big hug and says “Thank you for saving me. I made Grandma and Grandad really mad.” Horrified, you say “No you didn’t. They were already mad, they just took it out on you,” and you realize that’s also what they were doing to you, and the real grief begins.

Ready to go NO CONTACT with a toxic parent?

Click HERE for “Tips for Going NO CONTACT with a Toxic Parent”

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