So, here is a very abbreviated version of what has been going on with the narcs. I provide this update, so that it'll be easier to write out my next couple of posts.
In-laws = BIL and SIL have been a bit MIA. They have been circling me wide at almost every event (which has been rare) that we've seen them out. To my advantage, they've pissed off a few mutual friends, so we've been around them less. We did see them lately, when SIL stood to he side, waiting for me to approach her to tell her how good she looks (with her skinny new ass and her big new boobs). BIL skirted around me, but did manage to put DH on the hook (in order to relieve his own embarrassment at he situaion) by asking him what he thought of his wife's "fake" boobs. Nice, really, nice.
The parents-in-law are coming for the weekend. The whole weekend. MIL invited herself (and then booked a hotel room, as no one offered up their house) and announced the whole weekend as a celebration for FIL. We were initially invited to dinner. Then, hints came in suggesting other activities. It irritates me to no end that MIL makes these proclamations and then "suggests" we entertain and give up our weekend for them. No thoughts or consideration to anyone else's plans. And she is so damn good at covertly hinting at things to DH that he feels obligated to spend time with them. It's a hard line, because I really have seen very little of them lately and DH wants to see his father, but on the other hand, I feel like then I'm encouraging MIL's bad behavior. I'm anxious. Very anxious. But I'm remembering to breathe and that helps. I've got lines prepared and some strategies at the ready. Cross your fingers for me.
NM has been quiet. She has not called me in almost a year. I didn't ask her too. I did tell her that conversations on the phone, for extended periods were hard due to always having children underfoot. She must have taken that as a hint and stepped off. I'm sure I'll pay for it come accounting day. But for right now, it works for me. She texts and emails a lot (every couple of days) and when it doesn't cost me too much, I reply. If she baits or goads or hints, I just don't respond. It has been working well. But I'm suspicious. Very suspicious. She did pull a very mild stunt, to get at DH, but it was so small I ignored it. Luckily, NM doesn't scare me.
I flew my family and I down to see my father a bit back. It was a last minute deal, which luckily minimized the regret I first felt. I had just gotten away from a visit from NM, and then had to deal with my father. I stressed endlessly. I do have a post in mind to detail some of the tactics I used to get through it all, but I'll save that for later. For right now, I'll say the visit actually went very well. I felt good leaving the visit (there were even other family visits mentioned, which I'll talk about below). Step mother and I actually had a really good visit. She was well-behaved and even offered me some moral support about my sister. I've down graded her from narc to just an extremely overbearing, controlling, somewhat black and white, very opinionated, and a bit self-righteous person. But she has a heart. I saw it. It's in there. My father, is also a control freak, angry, self centered person who can be very irritable, but he is not a narcissist either. And the visit really did go well ;). Dad behaved himself really well and even managed a lot of self regulation. He was kind and good to my children. I actually got to see grandparents who are not trying to just get supply in return from the grand kids. The distinction is subtle, but it's there. There was an ease to it that I never feel with NM or NMIL. I always have to have my ear to the ground with them. There may be a post in this too; the differences in grand parenting. But I felt good leaving the visit. I held my ground, I was grown up, I didn't slip (too much) into feeling like a bullied child. We had fun, the kids had fun, I survived airport security and two flights with two toddlers!
During the visit, I had a visit with my uncle and his wife. It was wonderful and I felt like I belonged. Like a little peace was place back in my heart. This didn't last long. We had all talked about a family reunion. I offered to start an email chain to talk about it. This didn't sit well with family members who felt a reunion had already been planned...yet they hadn't TOLD anyone about it. Long story short, one extended family member, whom I've only met once, ripped me a new one for being ungrateful and in the wrong, although she never mentioned me. Several relatives called me or my dad to discuss how horribly this family member had spoken. But no one said anything. No one. The just let it die. And so, I guess some reunion is planned, but no one will talk about it and lots of family members were given no voice in it. One of my aunts kind of talked out of both sides of her mouth, and as the get together is at her house (and her DIL is the one that got on me)I don't think I'll go. The damn thing was going to be complicated to attend as it was, and then when it all fell apart, I just gave up.
This reunion was the second time NSIS turned up the heat on me. She sent me a quick line suggesting that this other woman was a peach. I replied, "yes, she is."
My sister and I haven't spoken on the phone since 2 days after my younger son's first birthday. At that time, she called, complained for over an hour about her boyfriend (and her subsequent fears of commitment due to our horrid childhood), and never ONCE mentioned my son, his birthday, or anything else that might be going on in my life. I let it go, as I usually do, because I was actually surprised that she was exploring how her past was effecting her future.
Several months later, I heard (as readers may recall) from an extended family member that my sister (very young sister) had cancer. Lots of drama ensued. I fielded lots of calls from hysterical NM and my upset father. NSis had announced, late at night, that she had cancer and then quickly took it down. She did not call me or my father and had not mentioned it once to NM, who had visited just weeks earlier. There was a lot of confusion. I refused to call my sister, as I felt that she needed to call me. I wasn't trying to be a brat. I wanted to respect her privacy, allow her the time to reach out to me, or just plain give her breathing room (which I surmised is what I would have done with any other grown up who had chosen not to call me.) I waited for awhile and sent to separate communications telling her I was available if she needed me. I didn't push or pry. She replied back vaguely. I knew that she expected me to hunt her down, pry things out of her, and let her play the victim. Still to this day, I have no idea if she even had cancer. But let me say, the circumstances around the event are sketchy at best (I have not spoken to either of my parents about this since November, as I wanted to quit having them be the middle man. To my knowledge, neither of them really knows the truth either, although they both tried to help and both offered to visit. She declined all offers of help except money.). At the same time, NSis was going through significant problems with her boyfriend (violent issues) that were resulting in her possibly being evicted. From what I saw, these issues with NSis's boyfriend seemed to be at the fore front of NSis's priorities.
Around late fall, NM called me, again hysterical, claiming Nsis was having surgery. While NSis did appear to have some sort of medical procedure, the procedure NM called me about was not it. NSis, in the midst of this NSis called me (While ignoring NM's calls. My parents had become increasingly frustrated that NSis often was difficult to get a hold of, wouldn't return phone calls, and was clear with information. She had also called my father several times in a screaming, hysterical fit of anger. One time, out of concern for her safety, he had called the cops. Oh, and also during this time my grandmother had a heart attack. NSis was in such a rage at one point that she didn't even hear my father tell her this, but continued to scream like a banshee at him for all the wrong he'd done. Then, NSis tried to play the "good girl" game and "reach out" to my grandmother. She also had texted me at this time -in the middle of the night, the same night my father had told her the information - that grandmother had gone to the hospital. Of course, I already knew this information and it annoyed me that she would text it to me, especially at 3 a.m.). When NSis called, I was actually attempting to call my husband. I accidentally picked up her line and immediately hung up. When she called again and again, I was trying to call husband at the same time, and I believe I hung up on her twice again. I was frantic to speak to DH first and calm myself down before I talked to her (she induces HUGE anxiety in me. She is mean and volatile and screams at me.) I finally answered, and what do you know, she laid into me. Raged against me for not being there, ignoring her, blah, blah, blah. I'll admit, she got to me. I tried to rationalize. I told her, calmly, that I would not allow her to verbally abuse me like she had my father. This ENRAGED her to a point, that I couldn't deal with it. I told her to fuck off and hung up. (She later claimed I told her to fuck off and die. Funny how narcs can add or delete words to amp things up.)
She continued to try to reach me. I informed her that I would be contacting her through email only. I told her that I would email her when I could to explain my feelings. She harassed me with texts all through Thanksgiving. Telling me she missed her sister. Blah, blah. Give the kids a hug for me. Blah, blah.
I did send her an email. A thoughtful, calm email in which I stated some basic things that had led to me moving away from her (I avoided details, as I felt that it would just bog us down in that, which wasn't the point. It was the patterns of her behavior which I needed to address). She replied that she was stunned. She laid into me with blame, shame, and anger. Told me how horrible I was for not supporting her medical bullshit. How dare I criticize her, she wanted to know, when she was struggling so hard. She told me that she would get back to me more when she could wrap her head around the craziness that I had emailed her. (For what it's worth, I had two fellow bloggers read and edit this email and help me create it in a way that was as calm, collected, and adult as I could. I tried very hard to eliminate any accusations and just clearly establish boundaries.)
For months, my sister chose to not follow up with her thoughts she had promised. She sent a quick reply text to one I sent for her birthday. There may have been a quick text at Christmas. I don't remember now.
Shortly after NM visited in February, I received the email she'd promised. This email was coincidentally timed after my mother's visit, when I am certain that NM relayed the news that my family would be visiting my father. This email too was wretched, really. Again full of gas lighting, crazy making, shaming, projections. She played the victim and the martyr too. If I wasn't worried about being found out, I'd publish her emails in entirety as they are such text book examples of narcissistic communication. Alas, you'll just have to take my word for it (there are a few other of my blogger friends who have also weighed in on these emails and have come to the same conclusions as me about them.) At the bottom of the message, NSis got to her real point. She ordered me to at least "respect" her enough to not discuss our issues with mom and dad and make them go betweens. This part is so laughable but so clearly outlines her fucked up thinking. I had not discussed NSis with my parents since November and I had, in fact, clearly told my parents that I would no longer be discussing NSis or accepting any information about her. If NSis wanted to reach me, she could. NSis's accusations that I had been discussing her behind her back was pure projection and an attempt to control triangulation for her own uses.
I replied that I would be responding to this email, but later. She replied, "thanks. I appreciate that." or something similar. Two minutes later, she sent another email asking if I liked a piece of furniture she wanted to buy. WTF? Last I'd heard, she was broke. And beyond that, how the hell did we get back to playing pretend and offering up sisterly advice on furniture? I supposed that since she had gotten all of her feelings out and raged against me, she felt better and it was over for her. She got "back" at me for not supporting her and then moved on.
The trip with Dad went well, as described above, and we actually never mentioned NSis. I did talk to step mom one night, not really discussing NSis, but telling step mom how hard it's really been for me and that I hoped my father could understand that I am trying to protect myself (he has always stated I owe NSis nothing and am not responsible for her.) Step mother was kind and supportive. During this trip, the family reunion came up.
First, NSis sent the "peachy" remark. Then, NM stepped in as a flying monkey, describing how sad NSis was that she couldn't go to the reunion, as she didn't have a ride. The stench of obligation was all over the email. I could guess what she was hinting at. I ignored this email. NSis brought up on the family email chain that she didn't have a ride either. I ignored this too.
Last week, NSis sent me a text saying she'd sent my kids a package and to let her know when it gets there. Strange....(not really). She hasn't sent (or even acknowledged) my kids on their last two birthdays for one and one birthday for the other or on Christmas. One Christmas she told me that she was too broke for gifts for the kids, but then spent hours on the phone agonizing over what to buy her boyfriend. And it's not about the gifts, but the total lack of thought for them. So, the "gifts" arrive. This reeks of lame attempts to get me back into the fold. And I'm angry that she thinks sending a package will somehow make me forget that she's treated me like dirt, very recently. I text her back saying we received it, the kids enjoyed it, and thank you.
Two days later (the email was sent in the middle of the night, I suspect she'd been drinking), I received an email demanding all of the family photos be sent to her. That I was keeping her "childhood" from her. That I had no right to keep them and that NM had given them to me expecting me to "do right" by them. Um, OK. NM did give me the family photos, as she was sick of storing reminders of her ex-husband and I am the responsible one. NSis has destroyed or lost many family memories before this. And besides, I had never suggested that I wouldn't give her her share. Again, this was a clear manipulation tactic. And I bit. I'd been trying to figure out a way to communicate to her a response to her email, and this was a clear opportunity.
I wrote back an email, clearly stating my boundaries again. I pointed out her manipulations and gas lighting and stated I wouldn't be falling for her accusations and guilt trips. I explained that, despite her insistence that I was being sneaky and "hiding" from her and being passive, that I was merely taking my time to sort through things. And that this time had allowed me to see that, no, things still haven't changed.
NSis wrote back a scathing email, degrading me and verbally abusing me. She told me what a piece of shit I was and how disappointed she was with me due to what I've "become". I didn't get this email until a lengthy texting chain which started with her calling me a "nasty bitch". I was able to ignore the first few texts and phone calls. Then she told me I was ridiculous and demanded I call her that day. I took this as an opportunity to tell her that I actually do have other things going on in my life (I actually was really busy, but that shouldn't matter) and I don't need to drop everything in order to allow her time to scream at me and call me names. She told me that she wouldn't call me names. Um, you just texted me that I'm a nasty bitch. Between the email and the texts, she called me abusive, told me I was scum for reducing her beautiful gestures of amends to fake crap, told me I'd turned into a horrible person, accused me of triangulation (I told her I'd give the pictures back to my mother. I mean, it's a HUGE box full of photo albums. I'm not really going to send that shit), told me I was horrible for ranking her "out" of the family and pushing her out of the family. Somewhere in there, she accused ME of withholding the children she never makes an effort to communicate with. She told me I've turned into a horrible person and she's disappointed and saddened by it. My friend Kara summed it up by saying she threw every narc trick at me but the kitchen sink. As Jonsi said, it was "textbook" narc. NSis finished up with a text saying that her only intent was to have a friendly call and "catch up" about "good and positive" things. Was she deluded? SHE started the communication chain by accusing me, basically, of stealing the family photos out from under her. She called me nasty names, verbally abused me, harassed me, refused to stop when I told her I was done, and blamed it all on me and my defective personality. What amazed me was her ability to shift tactics with in minutes. It was like talking to Sybil. One minute she was kind and nice and wanting to make amends, the next she's raging at me and telling me I'm worthless (she even threatened during one early email to not have a relationship with me.)I do wonder if there are other factors (bipolar or borderline) that play into her behavior, but regardless, she is dangerous to me.
So, that in a nut shell has been my life since Christmas. I'm exhausted. And tired. And the thing is, I'm disheartened to know that it is never going to stop. Even if I go NC with NSis, she will never let me go. She'll always be there, waiting, to jump on any opportunity to get me. I hate that, even with NC, ACoNs are left looking over their shoulder, waiting for the boogie man to jump out of the shadows. That, even with boundaries, we jump at a phone ringing or get sinking feelings (instead of happy ones) when an unexpected package shows up. I'm tired of the fact that every damn birthday or holiday or anything wonderful has to be mired with drama and crap. Even if I've stayed out of the fray or walled me and my FOC off, they are still there, on the other side of the fence, waiting to engulf us at all times. I'm tired of mending fences and using my sheer will to hold them up, only to have MIL barge through them again. Any crack in the wall, is an invitation to engulf us again. I'm pissed off that I've had to make decisions about my future based on what I can deal with from these people. Or that we've had to bow out of things we loved, because the narcs took over. This shit SUCKS.
I will say, on a positive note, that even as tired as a I am, I'm stronger. And better. They may be wearing me out, but I'm holding my own. I'm not in a ball on the floor in tears. I'm not wandering around like a zombie, unable to participate in life. I'm not beating myself up at every opportunity. I'm not perfect, I still have a lot to learn and do, but it's getting better.