LOVE GONE BAD: A story of Autism, Narcissism and Parental Alienation

A personal message about parental alienation.

Below are a few pages from the first stages of writing my new book on parental alienation. It’s such a very tough subject, that it has taken me years to clear the emotional space to write about it. I also know that, as a writer, I need to share my experience with readers, even before it is finished. Giving voice to my feelings and opinions is a big deal. For a Mom who has lived through parental alienation, with the utter devastation of being severed from her children — well it is important to make known that I am alive and well and that I count. Let me know what you think.

We Have a Choice Between Altruism and Narcissism

The title of this book is LOVE GONE BAD: A story of Autism, Narcissism and Parental Alienation. I wish I could come up with a better title, one that conveys there is hope, but during the course of my writing I couldn’t find another title that was compelling. The book is based upon my life, and how I came to understand the interplay among autism, narcissism and parental alienation. 

But there is hope in this book too, especially if you are struggling with the same problems I faced.  There is a silver lining to being victimized by a narcissist. You were targeted because you are extremely empathic. You are an easy mark when your empathy is not used for a higher purpose. But in service to altruism, your empathy makes you a Super-Hero. It is through altruism that empaths shine. At least for me, consciously embracing my altruistic side saved my life from the abuse of narcissists.


Covid 19 Wake Up Call

My adult life is sandwiched between two international wake-up calls — 9-11 and the current Covid 19 Pandemic. Before 9-11 I was busily building the life of a mom, wife, grad student and professional. You know that phase, don’t you? It’s where you fully believe in yourself so that anything you put your mind to, you can accomplish. This belief comes with the notion that if you just work hard enough and you are kind enough, it all works out.

With 9-11, my simple belief system began to fall apart. I realized that I was working too hard, that my marriage was crumbling, and that my fears were growing that it would all soon be unmanageable. I fretted over my children, both of whom have disabilities (autism and learning disabilities/mild TBI). I hired several helpers to maintain the heavy schedule I had committed to (i.e. house cleaners, yard workers, drivers, tutors). The girls were in private schools to accommodate their disabilities. I worked full time as a psychologist, and yet managed to take them to piano lessons, and soccer practice, and Girl Scouts. I orchestrated it all with the help of my office manager, who also did double duty as babysitter and chauffeur on occasion. 

It might have been a bit easier during those years before 9-11, if my husband, Howard had been able (or willing) to help, but he wouldn’t. It was all he could do to go to work, eat, sleep and watch TV. I remember one Sunday evening; I was working in the kitchen making meals for the week to put into the freezer. I had just thrown a load of laundry into the washer, because my life had become nothing more than multi-tasking, as I struggled to keep up with the family demands. Howard walked through the kitchen, not stopping to say a word or offer help. So, I asked.

“Howard, on your way to the garage, would you grab a pound of hamburger for me?” I asked.

Howard stopped and looked at me with a blank stare. Then he said, “Why are you always telling me what to do?” He was a little annoyed. 

I felt a bit guilty about his annoyance that I was asking for help, but I decided to take his question literally. “Well,” I paused. “I guess I am always telling you what to do” I agreed. Then with only a small pause, I said, “That’s because I plan everything for our family, so that it all comes together. If I didn’t make these meals for the week, you wouldn’t have any food. If I didn’t buy the children’s clothes or school supplies, I am not sure you would know where to shop for them. I schedule all of the medical and dental appointments too. I manage all of the household helpers such as babysitters, house cleaners and yard maintenance people — since you won’t even mow the lawn unless I remind you. So, yes I am always telling you what to do because I need help and you never offer.”

He kept staring at me, so I continued, since I never can fathom what is behind those blank looks. “I guess I could turn it all over to you to manage, or you could appreciate what I do and offer to help. Or, you could just do as I ask and not make a fuss. I need a pound of hamburger, please.”

Howard said nothing. He gave me the blank look again. But he did return with the hamburger.

Something snapped inside of me when New York City’s Twin Towers went down. My life wasn’t real. I was dancing as fast as I could to create the illusion of a life, but there was no love, no real substance. My marriage was hollow. Even my children were burdens that I stressed over and yet saw them slipping away, in spite of my attempts to love them and provide for them.

Now I am at another crossroad with the “novel” Corona Virus. I can’t even sum up what is happening for me at this crossroad, since I haven’t gone through it yet. We are still quarantined, with no end in sight to the pandemic (not to mention a cure). But the last couple of weeks are giving me pause to recognize a familiar feeling, like the one I had during 9-11-01. There is an awareness that it is time to rise to an even higher realm of enlightenment and service to others. What that means for me, or any of you, remains to be seen, but I suspect it is a powerful force moving through our collective consciousness.

Interestingly, as the radio hosts and the politicians and the scientists tell us to stay home and protect our families and ourselves, I don’t have a family to protect. I lost my children to Parental Alienation efforts. I lost many friends and most other extended family members too. They all fled from the 12 years of damage that was unleashed on me when I separated from Howard. (I have explained a lot of this in my previous book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS,” and I will expand on some it in this book, as I explore narcissism in “Love Gone Bad.”) 

I do have dear ones to protect, however. Those that come to mind first, when I hear the admonition to keep loved ones safe, are my dog Simon and my three cats, Neo, Trinity and Seven of Nine. We have all grown older together during the many years following my 9-11 transformation, as you can see in the photo of Simon and I at the top of this chapter. Gone are the days when Simon would run into the bushes for his ball, or splash into the river in order to fetch a stick. Gone are the days of rescuing a treed cat, who strayed too far on an adventure. Now the cats nap lazily in the sun, while Simon and I take leisurely walks on the Marine Drive Trail. Gone is our youth, spent on fighting for our freedom, but the love is still there. That’s what is so precious about this photo of Simon and I — the unspoken but obvious loving connection between two Earth beings.

I think the transformation that is coming with the Covid 19 Pandemic is far different than the 9-11 transformation, at least for me. I had the living daylights scared out of me when Howard, my neighbors, and City Hall came after me with a vengeance. I was harassed, stalked, assaulted, sued, and my children were threatened. To give you an idea of how horrendous the abuse was, I spent $550,000 in legal fees, hired 16 lawyers, to handle over 21 legal matters in the span of 12 years. It was nothing short of a miracle that I made it — even though my children did not. From my 9-11 transformation I learned that I could fight for myself instead of being a helpless victim.

This time, with the Covid 19 Pandemic, I don’t need to prove that I am a warrior. I have already learned how to fight, how to protect myself, how to survive ruthless people — even how to survive the loss of my beloved daughters. This time, fear is not the driver. Nor is competing or winning. Of course, I will fight to survive again if I have to, but the isolation imposed by the government in order to stop the spread of this deadly virus — this isolation is very different than I experienced when I was on my own to fight a human enemy. This isolation is providing me the opportunity to shed the last of an unusable human belief system, so that I can embrace a new spiritual me, who is creative, aware, and available to others.


Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor . . . 

Ironic, isn’t it that in order to write about narcissism, it is inevitable that I should come to compare it to altruism? I have been intuitively drawn to this dichotomy for a long time. In fact, a light bulb went on for me when I stumbled upon a succinctly worded description of these two sides of humanity, while visiting the museum at the World Trade Center, in New York City, just a year before the Towers fell. 

At the museum, I perused the history of this great city, and I learned of the famous poem written by Emma Lazarus in 1885, commemorating the installation of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. Most Americans know the last few lines, but the entire poem is a statement of just how important it is to embrace our altruistic nature, especially at a time like this with a terrible disease wreaking havoc around the world — regardless of race, religion or political persuasion.

Please read these inspiring lines carefully. We have a choice, to compete and conquer, or to come together for the benefit of all. It’s time for empaths to shine your light on the world and show what altruism can do. It will be amazing.


The New Colossus

Not like the giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightening, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus, 1885

What’s in the new book?

There are many chapters to come in this story of parental alienation involving people with narcissism and/or autism. For now, I want to share the beginning of the writing journey. I am inspired to clear up some important mysteries on this topic.

21 Replies to “LOVE GONE BAD: A story of Autism, Narcissism and Parental Alienation”

  1. Dr Kathy,

    I read your book When Empathy Fails. Many passages were familiar to me, predatory neighbors, nuisance lawsuits, nuisance zoning complaints, building code terrorism, predatory neighbor misinforming sheriff about MY property rights. Like you, I have spent about $500,000 defending myself over the last 20 years.

    Am proud of you for writing a book about parental alienation. Several of my women friends had depraved husbands who turned their children against them. My women friends, all of them, followed standard practice of never speaking ill about their father to the children. These rotten men could not reciprocate, instead they used everything they had to turn the children against their mother. Bad mouthing, unspeakable treachery, hiring a bogus unqualified “guardian as litem,” buying the kid a new car, letting kids live free & do nothing & hang out at Dad’s place after high school, paying unemployed grown kids a generous allowance, credit cards, and so much more . In my humble opinion, there is nothing more despicable that taking away a mother’s children.

  2. Can’t wait for your book. My ex husband and his mother turned my children against me. Had no clue, what their meaness would eventually do to my relationship with my daughters. The ex and his mother, both have past away. I hoped, when they died, they could see what they had done to my daughters. It wasn’t just me, they hurt. They hurt my daughters the most.
    Working through the pain, I forgave them and from forgiving, I have learned I can forgive myself.

    1. This is wonderful Sylvia. We tend to blame ourselves when alienation happens. Forgiving the alienating family members is one thing, but when we can forgive ourselves, it is a very healing miracle.

    2. This book is very needed. I too lost my children to a savagely hostile autistic husband and my autistic children were easily turned against me. I spent 15 years after my divorce trying to heal our relationship but at some point you have to come to terms with the fact that it is gone. My heart is broken but I truly have done everything humanly possible and that gives me some peace. Thank you for your work. It has validated my experience and my pain and has helped me go on.

  3. Kathy, your gift or writing is wonderful. It is a wonderful model to see you take the lemons life has handed you and turn around and make lemonade for others!
    My children were damaged by their father in his inhumane quest to be paramount in the children’s lives. He told them I did not love them, told them I tried to give them away when they were babies but he stopped me, and other lies. He used money and power to reinforce himself as top dog. He used to allow them to go to ‘R’ rated movies during his visitation, and other damaging actions.
    He turned them against me since he saw me doing all the organizing, administration, and work of parenting and running the household. I think he was jealous, insecure, narcissistic. More than one therapist has said he was a sociopath and also a psychopath.
    What sort of evil would hurt their own child for self-aggrandizement? The attempt to hurt, squash, embarrass, annihilate me continued until he died(decades). Unfortunately, my children, now grown, still see me through the filter he installed. They see my motivation as evil.
    I live with this, cannot change them, nor mention anything about the reality of their childhood (the reality of my life). I have had to do a lot of soul-searching, and internal work to find a sort of acceptance. I always used to think the children would realize what really happened as they grew older. That is not the case. I also thought they would want to hear my side of the equation, but they do not. Since his death, their father has attained some sort of ‘sainthood’ in their eyes.
    Finding out about Parental Alienation has helped me a lot, but far too little is written about it. Knowing I am not alone helps a tiny bit, as what I would really wish is for my beloved children to see reality, and to have the close relationship we had for the first ten years of their lives- prior to the PA taking hold, after I divorced.

    1. Such a painful story Carrie. I want people to know what we live with too. But more so, I want all of the victims to know that they are not alone and that their voice is growing.

  4. The more information and stories from victims of parental alienation the better chance it will gain attention and be seen as the serious act of psychological abuse that it is. The isolating feelings of this pandemic can be both familiar and triggering to those of us who have lost access to our children through no fault of our own.

    1. It does appear to be true that victims of parental alienation are feeling the pain even more so during these times of isolation. Please know that you are not alone.

  5. Dr Kathy,
    Your journey moves me to tears. Investing so much and then the incredible loss. I so relate to the dogged determination and desperate effort to make it all work. Attempting to keep a neurodiverse family together. Omg, how I relate to the blank stares.. For me, wondering where it all ends. When I read your story, I feel like someone on this planet called earth gets this. It seems to be a sad irony that sharing about your abandonment and isolation is generating connection for so many like myself.
    With Covid 19 isolation too, I honestly feel more connected than ever before to humanity in a common struggle, whereas previously I felt “alone in a world full of people”. Covid 19 is a public battle. Life with ASD is mostly a private struggle. I appreciate your courage, authenticity and yes intensity with talking about the challenges of ASD and creating a forum for connection. Thank you for being a spiritual warrior role model of “lifting your lamp”. Your message of honoring and embracing our empathetic nature is inspiring. Looking forward to read your book.

  6. Dr Kathy first of all I think “Love Gone Bad” is a perfect book title.

    Secondly my heart pains for what you have gone through, working full time caring for your family then the 12 years of trauma and damage, being harassed and stalked ,the financial loss, the turning away of friends and then the Parental Alienation with your precious children seems more than a mother can bear. I wondered did you go through an anger or depression or feeling crazy stages and if so how long did they last?
    I loved reading about your furry friends , I also have some of these, I believe they can be the best “people”, 4 cats and 2 dogs – a Border Collie and now his little daughter. I have often thought I’ve heard your cat(s) meowing on your conference calls and have now seen a couple on your last video conference! I love to see animals roaming about their houses – they make the house a home!
    Stay safe,
    in Australia

    1. Thank you for your kind words Maggie. And yes, I have gone through those emotions and stages of grief that you have mentioned. The next chapters of my book will reveal that part of the story. Other chapters will show the journey past the grief and back into the light of living. It is because I am on the other side that I can write about it. Of course, I still have my moments when the Complex PTSD puts me in a vice grip, but then my hard won skills take over, and the real me rises up. I hope to have more chapters for you soon.

  7. Dear Kathy,

    I wrote to you last year, so it is possible you remember my letter. I was married for 14 years to a man I now understand is/was an ‘aspie’. I had 3 sons. My youngest boy was killed age 4 in 1978! It was a very difficult marriage. My husband put my children at risk many, many times because of his ‘mindblindness. When I would try to talk to him I got ‘dismissed and told I was being ‘too emotional! When my youngest son got killed, I simple could not cope. After another incident where the two remaining boys were put at risk (8 and 10) I was beaten to pulp for pointing out his lack of what I thought was common sense. Mind blindness is the inability to put yourself in someone else shoes, in this case understanding the danger he put the boys in and of the possibility of them being harmed. After being beaten to pulp I decided to leave the marriage.

    You have to understand, 42 years ago we did not know or understand about anything to do with Autism.

    The whole family were severely traumatized by the loss of our beautiful brother and son. To this day I am not and never will be over this trauma!! (But I have had help, another story)

    I did not understand my husband lack of sympathy/empathy, back then especially when he would tell me ‘well, he’s never coming back you just have to get use to it’. Cruel!

    I’ve carried a lot of guilt for the last 40 years as I could not be there emotionally for my two remaining children at that time! Yes, I believe my husband badmouthed me to them as now at the age of 50 and 52 they are dismissive, ungrateful, rude, and disrespectful!

    As the pandemic rages I am forced to ask myself, what did I do wrong. It is obvious to me now that the son that lives in my home town is an ‘aspie’ just like his father., and maybe my other son who lives in Australia is one too! The one here, I cannot ask anything of him as he gets very angry. I’m done! I’m done trying to teach them some semblance of empathy. They just do not have it in them. Or another way of saying it, they just ‘don’t get it’

    Yes, I love them dearly, with all my heart, I’m 76 and would like a little respect. I will always love them but I have to let them go!! I know now that I am a beautiful compassionate and caring women!

    It has taken me years to work it all out, but now I’m free!!

    Was it just a coincidence that today your email arrives?

    Thank you once again Kathy, your a woman after my own heart. I look forward to your new book.

    Warmly Valerie. Canada

    1. Thank you Valerie. I can so relate to wanting a little respect. I remember saying this many times during my trials and tribulations in Vancouver. I couldn’t understand why I was treated like a criminal by neighbors and city officials alike. It made no sense to me until I discovered two documents, circulated by my ex spouse. I have two documents that are demonstrations of how far my ex has gone in order to harm me. One is a secret letter to the Mayor describing me as a “functional psychopath.” The other is an annulment petition sent to the Catholic Archdiocese, describing me as an abusive and unfit wife and mother. It’s outrageous parental alienation to say these things in the first place, but it is criminal to pass along this information to powerful people who can harm the victim. Like you Valerie, I doubt I will ever get respect from my children, but I’ll be damned if I will go down without exposing the lies. . . and the liars.

  8. Please continue to write, complete and publish this book!
    After leaving my narcopathic ex-husband in 2000 with my two autistic sons, I returned bcz it was quickly obvious that I could not do for them what was needed, work full time, and do so alone with family over a thousand miles away. 13 additional years attempting to protect them and take his wrath, before leaving again only to face seven additional years of still ongoing and escalating abuse.
    Happy to report that my younger son, 23 years old, is living independently working part time and attending culinary school part time. Hes struggling with relationships as he fell in love with a narcissist himself.
    My older son, 26 years old, is still depending for support and care. 3 years ago after the 5th kidnapping my ex in contempt for unpaid support, possession orders, custodial interference, and making false abuse reports to APS, filed abuse documents against me hoping to buffer felony arrest he was facing for his planned no return event. Preventing legal notice i was denied presence at hearing and the judge despite a long well documented domestic violence history denied my access. A year later deeming her orders unenforceable, due to threats against my and his stepfather’s lives if caught anywhere close, i still haven’t seen my son since 12-12-17.

    Impossible to get anyone to listen and my resources long ago depleted, legal aid says too complicated of a case.

    I pray for all of us who live this but mostly for our kids.

  9. Thank you Kathy for your story of real survival and courage. I too am going through PA and in the MH field, and believe that exposing the darkness of hate with the use of my son as a weapon is critical. Look forward to reading your book and hearing from you. Thank you. 🙂

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