A Thank You Note to Our Family Narcissist

Gwynevere Ellis


Dear Family Narcissist,

You deserve a nasty note, a detailing of your diabolic abuse, your dysfunction, your trail of destruction. But given your obsessive need for praise, you wouldn’t read that. So, I am sending a thank you note.

When our children were small, you drilled your death stare at me and said, “I’m raising my children the right way. You are making big mistakes.” That day, I suspected you had a disorder. I could smell your crooked thoughts, the craggy rationale behind your verbal devilry. You proved me right and taught me to trust my instincts.

When you gaslighted me into thinking I had done something wrong, I spent a summer of anxiety, jumpy when I slept, dropping pounds, too exhausted to load the dishwasher. I discovered the magic of meditation. Without you, I might never have found the joy of inner peace.

Most days, I confine you to a box—my own sorcery. I close the lid and enjoy my friends and other family. Because of you, I learned an imperfect life can also be a joyful one.

When I was at my lowest, you beat me down. You speared me with vile words and demonic accusations. You flaunted your lack of empathy. But those public onslaughts validated what I had been saying for years. Thank you for revealing your truth.

In the past, my gut boiled when your fake charm fooled people. No more. You taught me to invalidate life’s deceits.

Because of your outbursts and combativeness, I empathize with others and their stories of strained or dysfunctional relationships. You made me a better listener and sympathetic friend.

I wonder when you divined your false smile? Your insincere jocularity? Your effervescence that bubbles up, reeking of deceit? I can’t thank you for any of that, but I will try to conjure a positive spin.

Once, you convinced me your in-laws abused you emotionally. I sympathized until I realized it was you who couldn’t get along. Now, you don’t speak to our own family and there is no conjuring for that.

In one hour, you accosted me with 25 enraged text messages; you called me stupid; you manipulated my access to family members—and I learned to take action:

For a long time, I shielded my children from your bullying. Now, I realize the best protection is honesty. I forward your abusive emails and text messages so when you attempt your trickery with them, they are forewarned.

I researched narcissistic personality disorder. I now know your attacks reflect your own insecurities and the next time you skewer me, I will have my own alchemy.

Professionals say a narcissist’s offspring are like planets orbiting an ever-demanding parent-sun. I worry about your adult children, living at home, cowering, under your spell. When they are brave enough to break away, I hope they saved my phone number.

It took me a long time to recognize your narcissistic sleights of hand. I once ignored your behavior and made excuses for you. No more. While I can’t completely avoid you, my life and health are safe thanks to the lessons in your chicanery.


Your family member




Gwynevere Ellis has published two professional books and her memoir is forthcoming in 2019 from the Cardinal Publishers Group. Shorter works appear in literary journals including Prime Number Magazine, Smith Magazine, Cagibi and Crack the Spine.