A long time ago, I had a blog about dealing with narcissistic parents. I had no idea so many people experienced the same thing I did.

My self-absorbed mother became increasingly controlling when I entered my teen years. A psychiatrist diagnosed my father with full-blown narcissistic personality disorder. Both parents suffered trauma growing up, so they came by their problems the hard way. I ended up with issues of my own which I eventually dealt with.

And I also ended up with lots of stories to tell. Some I shared, like a piece I did that ran on the public radio program This American Life about my ridiculous battle with hypochondria (parent induced). Mostly, I just bored friends with stories about the crazy things my parents did and how much time and money I spent trying to fix myself as an adult.

Here is the funny thing: I am happier now than ever . I hardly ever think about the darker aspects of my earlier years.

And then I started writing my first young adult novel, The Box in The Cuts, and suddenly my main character’s mother isn’t just controlling, she’s straight up narcissistic. And then there is the mother in the subplot (set in 1860s California) and she’s arguably worse. But it wasn’t enough to write about two not-so-great moms, I decide to introduce a third mom – one who could win Worst Mom Ever contest.

Apparently, this stuff isn’t quite out of my system yet. But at least it’s made for some (hopefully) entertaining if unsettling scenes.

A young adult reader of an early version of The Box in The Cuts expressed disbelief at the way one mother behaved. But a mother would never act like that!

As it turned out, this reader had an amazing, loving mother attuned to her needs. She simply could not imagine that any mother could act in such a way. One scene involving a haircut, to her, seemed impossible. Yet it happened to me. And oddly, some women who visited my old blog experienced similar things.

So those difficult scenes still stand.  And I can’t help but feel both relieved and happy that for some people, this dark stuff is truly fiction.