'My dad is a narcissist. Everyone thinks he is a terrible person except me.'

As told to Shannen Findlay. 

My first memory is of my father. 

I can't be older than two or three. He's holding me in his arms while I pretend to be asleep and he is staring at me with a sincerity that makes my arms feel tingly and my insides feel fuzzy. Through a thick blanket of lashes, I can see him smiling. 

When he puts me into bed, I am sleepy and my eyes are shut, but I feel him kiss my forehead before tucking me in and turning on my night light. The memory ends there, but it's a moment I have carried within me for all of my 27 years.

It stays with me because it is the only defence I have had since it was confirmed he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder — my wonderful, doting dad who kissed my forehead in the dark when he believed no one (not even me) would notice it.

That is the love I am used to when it comes to him. He loves me when he doesn't have to. Gives me the grace to fail even if it might seem illogical. He loves me when no one else is watching — my father always has.

Watch: 10 signs your parents is a narcissist. Post continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia.

I have held onto the love I know he feels for me with a tight grip. It's a love I've had to fight for time and time again and defend to my mother, my siblings, my friends and even myself. It is isolating to love a man so deeply and to know that no one else approves.

My dad is not a 'good person', if that hasn't clicked already. He was (and still is) an alcoholic with a substance abuse issue that has worsened over time. The gentle, handsome face that won over my mother more than 30 years ago, and calmed me as a child, is harder now. He has fine lines in the wrong places. He looks like a battered shell; the leather of an old football.

This might be the first time I have ever confessed to anyone that his struggles have made my dad ugly — but to me, neither the drugs, alcohol or his personality disorder has ruined his heart.

This isn't to say I don't see his flaws — I do, with a glaring clarity. And as the rest of my family and those closest to us know, my father has many of them.

He is selfish, arrogant, manipulative. My mother stayed with him for more than 18 years before she legally split from him when I was 16 years old. They had an old-school love; a classic sweep-you-off-your-feet love.

But by the time she left him, almost two decades after they first met, she was hollow and sad. Their arguments wreaked turmoil on my siblings' lives, and mine, too. I blamed both of them. They could never see eye to eye. Now that I'm older, I know she had postpartum depression and my father resented her for it.


"She got lazy," my dad used to tell me. "She treats me terribly. I feel so alone." 

I had so much sympathy for him. I let him cry on my shoulder and tell me I was different. I was his perfect child, made exactly like him.

Since she left my father, I've seen my mum become a new woman — one I am excited to be around. She inspires me to think bigger and to lead a non-traditional lifestyle. Because of her influence, I travel freely and pursued a job in the creative industry that I love.

We are certainly close, but my relationship with my father is hard-wired differently, as we have been bonded since the beginning of my life. He fed me, clothed me, made me laugh, and he has poured into me a wisdom I have carried with me throughout my life. I am wittier because of him, sharper and calculated. He taught me how to read people. He was and is one of the smartest, most cunning men I've ever met — but he didn't realise that he equipped me with the tools I needed to see right through his behaviour.

When my father was first diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the term 'narcissist' wasn't even mainstream. I thought it was a bunch of crap too, honestly.

Now, 10 years on, I know it was the right call as he has all the traits. Apathy, jealousy, haughtiness and an explosive nature are all symptoms of his disorder. 


I don't know if he was born this way, or if his terrible childhood influenced it. What I do know, though, is that I am endlessly empathetic towards him. I love him so much that I could never cut contact, even when another side of him — possibly the truest version of him — that I don't recognise shines through.

My mother no longer speaks to my father and neither do my two siblings, who have never quite been 'good enough' in his eyes. Maybe they know better than me, but I am quite convinced that despite all of his bad, he loves all of us.

I am also quite literally the only person left in his life who can stand to deal with him, and who wants to. I might be the only person he will listen to, too. My friends have encouraged me to block him on everything but I cherish our weekly phone calls, his daily updates and his constant reminders that, despite what anyone says, he loves me.

And I love him. 

So much that I'm not willing to listen to those who apparently know better.

So much that I will have a close relationship with him for the rest of my life.

*The author of this article is known to Mamamia and has chosen to remain anonymous.

Feature image: Getty.