I went no contact with my abusive parents many years ago, but my mother, a covert narcissist, still continues to hoover me in. Hoovering is a strategy characteristic of Cluster B disordered people wherein, like a vacuum cleaner, they try to suck people back in to their manufactured drama. It is yet another form of manipulation and control, often thinly veiled as “caring” or “concern.”
When I went no contact, I moved away and left no forwarding address, on purpose. My mother has managed to get hold of my address with every subsequent move. Sometimes she manipulates other family members to get it. At first, she played innocent, as if I must have “forgotten” to give it to her. Other times, she has used the “poor me” approach to gain sympathy from the other flying monkeys in my family, who were all too willing to sell me out. (They are no contact now, too.) The thing is, if there was a real emergency or if she wanted to have a real conversation with me, she had my email and phone number. Getting my address was never about reaching me. Other times, who knows how she got the information, but she makes a point to destroy the simple, clear boundary every time. She sends cards to my children, whom she has not met, as if she were a normal grandma they were close to. She does not do this for any reason other than to control the narrative. I have heard it enough times in my life to know what she is telling herself. “I am just trying to be nice. How cruel of my daughter to suspect any malice on my part. How terrible of her to keep me from her grandchildren, when I am just trying to do what grandmas do…” et cetera. Of course, for all the bunny and kitten cards she sends, there is never once an acknowledgement of the estrangement, or an admission that anything is broken, or a sincere desire to address anything close to the reality of the situation. She sends the cards because she must believe her own compulsive lie that she is good and I am bad. She is doing no wrong, and I am doing no right. She is the one in control and I am not. Projecting her distorted lie matters more to her than any one or thing.
Because of my mother’s hoovering, I “get to” see her name in my mailbox and inbox on every birthday and holiday. You know, the days that are already difficult when you have a toxic family. Every time I see her name, panic jolts through me like lightning. My stomach flips, and I get an instant migraine. I’m pretty sure my blood pressure is somewhere around 1000/1000. In an instant, I am back in time, tormented by the all the gaslighting and other psychologically damaging messages by abusers used on me over the years. I start to see myself through the eyes of my abusers and wonder if those messages are true. “What if I am the one being selfish…” Often, I am wrecked for the rest of the day. It has taken a lot of therapy to reduce these symptoms, and even now, after so many years of managing it, I still get jolted.
A while back, she emailed me that she “just” realized there was an accounting error on a piece of property we once jointly owned many years ago, and that I was owed a large sum of money from the sale. It was “on her conscience” that she wanted to send me the money, so I must get in touch with her right away to arrange payment. I trusted this email less than the one I got from a Nigerian Prince wanting my bank information. At first, I was resolved not to respond. No amount of money was worth engaging with Darth Mom. But then, as I thought more about it, I decided that I should claim what it rightfully mine. So much of my life had been spent being denied basic rights that waiving them now in order to avoid an abuser felt counterproductive. So I emailed her one perfect, ironic sentence. “You have my address.” A few days later, the check arrived. It has paid for two years of therapy.