Releasing the past in order to find myself

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Narcissistic Ping Pong (Or: Why it's a Bitch to set Boundaries with an N)

A little background first.  NM has been privy to many times that I have been upset by MIL.  I have confided in her many times and she has seen, first hand, some of the crazy behaviors MIL has had towards me.  In the beginning, when I actually thought she had my back, I would tell her a lot of stuff.  I've learned to temper what I say (where it was later used as "evidence" of why I was wrong in arguments.  Clearly, I couldn't get along with "anyone", neither NM, MIL, or NSIS, so it must be ME, she would imply.  In a discussion with NM about an issue I was having with NM, my confidence was turned into "proof" that was wrong.)  If NM didn't throw it in my face, I know NM felt a secret "alliance" with MIL.  I know my difficulties with my MIL helped her to believe it was all my fault too.

Rarely did my NM express any real empathy or sympathy.  She'd offer a few stories about how she was treated as a DIL, and then run off on a tangent with that.  And I never felt like I had her support.  She gives MIL just as much credibility as me in the issue.  Meaning: to NM, it's like just as much me as it is my MIL.  I get no benefit of the doubt as her daughter.

Several times, she's become indignant at MIL's behavior towards me.  I've heard "I can't believe how these people treat you.  It really pisses me off."  And I really do believe she is fully angry and sees the treatment for what it is.  Not to support me, but because she loves to take the victim side that someone would treat HER daughter that way.  She and my MIL have had a few minor scuffles.  NM has been annoyed (by her own admission) by MIL's behavior at times and sees MIL as trying to one up her.  She often expresses jealousy over the fact that we (and the grandkids) "see MIL more often."  followed up with "you'd think they'd be closer."

When I've explained clear hazards with MIL babysitting, NM agrees that it's an issue, but than always suggests that MIL should babysit too.  I think this is more about her being angry that I don't allow EITHER of them alone with the kids and so she thinks she and MIL are on the same "team" to get freer access to the kids.

Several times, NM has flat agreed with MIL.  Several times, she completely invalidates me by saying "Well, she's always been nice to me."  "(DH's parents) are so nice."  (Step mom does this too me too.) Last summer, she spent time after OS's baseball game chatting with my ILs in the parking lot (about 20 minutes) instead of spending her last bit of time with her grandkids (whom she says she doesn't get enough time with.)  When we called to see if they were OK because they hadn't arrived yet, she said "WHAT? Can't we bond with your ILs?"

Which, I suppose, if they actually liked each other would be fine.  But they don't.  They dance around each other like animals over territory, very careful to always be cordially distant.  But, like I said, they've had confrontations.  MIL has clearly pissed off my NM on occasion.  But they don't talk often, aren't friends, and don't see each other.  They occasionally bond about "their generation".  And this summer MIL invited NM up to hang out at their vacation property.  Blech.


So, fast forward.  I have spent SIX years trying to get NM to tone down gifts: less money (it's obscene), less quantity (it's obscene), and when all else failed, just the SIZE.  (Gifts are often 2X3 ft. square -or more- and don't fold up.  These are not easy to store.  And my kids actually do use all of their toys (part of being a stay at home mom) and so it's hard to just give them away if they are still using them.  Anyway, it's my house, and if I don't want huge toys, so be it.  (And I'd even be willing to compromise, an occasional big gift if it was really cool and would be special to the kids.  But not 3 times a year: their birthday, their brother's birthday, and Christmas.  And a special extra trip for toys every time they visit. )  I have TRIED and tried and tried to curtail this shit.  Talking, boundaries, making it "clear".  But it's always circumvented: they've told the kids they have a "surprise", so it's hard to refuse or some other method.  When I would find a stop to it, they'd find a new route.  And it's "they".  Step dad teams up with NM on this one.  Grandparents are "meant" to spoil the kids.  It's their "right".  And, in some ways, they do spoil the kids in good ways: really cool experiences with Grand dad and some neat things.  But it is so excessive.

Two months ago, NM and I were talking about a similar situation in which a parent refused a grandparent's gift that was too large after being told it was not OK.  She thought this was awful and said "You tell me all of the time that I can't buy large gifts, but I do it anyway.  I mean, if I find something cool."  So, she clearly has heard my boundary, she clearly understands my boundary, and she clearly is choosing to ignore this boundary.  And she is choosing to justify it was an argument that sounds awfully a lot like something I said above: that I would allow it if it was "once and awhile".  But it's not.  It's all of the time.  Every time, three times a year.  She conveniently neglects this point.

I take this opportunity to tell her to please, please, please, please, please to not get a large gift for my son's this Christmas.

She sends me an email to "please do no be mad at the size of YS's gift."  Followed by a large (expensive, I found out today) gift.  Sigh.

I decided that I had laid down the boundary, she ignored it, and now it was time to be clear about the consequences of doing this again.

The therapist suggested this is "pushing back" but I felt that was too aggressive a descriptive for what I was doing.  I felt this was merely standing my ground.  How do you all feel?

When she emailed asking if the package had arrived, I replied something to the effect of "It did, at least the larger of the two.  I sure hope it is the larger of the two, as it is very big.  I'll have to ask you to stop sending big gifts or I will start sending them back."  I had DH proof read it for "emotional loadedness".  Which I'm sure she'd see anyway, but he said it was fine.

Several days later, I got a very pathetic, guilt laden, hurt-that-I-called-her-out email in return.  Hurt that I had refused her "gift".  She offered up the receipt and to just let her know and she'd "work on this at the birthdays."

Then radio silence.  Then an email about how she needs to get started on a family reunion she's planning this summer at her house for her side of the family.  A family that has tried to politely tell her they are not interested.  A reunion with my sister in attendance.  Despite REPEATED rebuffs of getting together with my sister, despite a two year estrangement, she thinks my sister and will show up and stay together at my mother's house.  She's wanting me to commit to dates I have open.  She hasn't really spoken to any one else yet for concrete days (I'm sure she'd say, "well, I wanted to give you first consideration" but she's really trying to shore me up and make me commit.  Give her something to hold me to.)  I IGNORED this email.  It felt like an obvious trap.  I could see no road from a response on my part that would end well for me.

In between this, she puts on my sister's FB page "love you babes!!"  which is so 'un'-her (it's the FB her, the manufactured mom).  I get nothing (fine).  I have been avoiding liking her page, but I just can't "like" bullshit and lies.

Radio silence.  She texts and asks if I got my grandfather's Christmas card.  He's getting old and can't write as well, you know.  So he wasn't sure you got it.  I don't know why I need to tell my NM every year that I get my grandfather's card so that she can tell him (I always send a thank you card.  Not right away but always...oh, he sends a little bit of money for the kids and is anxious to know it arrived.)  But, whatever.  Sometimes replying to this "bullshit" stuff gets me off the hook with bigger stuff and she moves on after I ignore her.  So, I reply that I got it, sent her Christmas gifts out and hope she had a nice weekend.

She replies earlier today that she got the package (and then something to tell DH).  I didn't reply.  Wasn't really feeling in the mood to play "text ping pong" and figured her text didn't need a reply (sometimes if you reply, you get caught up in a huge thread and she won't let the texting stop.)

Tonight, she texted me and asked for my in-laws address.  No reason why.  Just wanting their address.

At the same time, she texted my husband a thank you for a gift he'd sent my step dad (not HER and my step dad, just step dad.  Not sure why she was thanking him.)  No question about HIS parent's address.

She has my in-laws address too.  They have exchanged "sympathy" cards when their parents died.  (Side note, MIL sent a sympathy card to my mother when her mother died, but nothing to me, as it was my grandmother.  But, whatever.  In fact, I don't remember them expressing sympathy at all.)  Other than that, they have NEVER exchanged cards.  NM and MIL rarely exchange Christmas cards with anyone.

I can't help but feel she is choosing to send my MIL a Christmas card to hurt my feelings.  Maybe I'm crazy.  Maybe I'm reading too much into the situation.  It's quite possible.  It's time's like this I wonder if I'm crazy, finding conspiracy where there is none.

It is quite possible she was moved by DH being kind to my step father (which he really was) and thought "I want to send MIL and FIL a card."  And, by her own admission, NM is always sad how few people are on her Christmas card list (actually, she bitches about it, but whatever.  She's sad.)  I get it.

But, what I don't get, is how it doesn't even OCCUR to her that, by befriending a woman who has caused her daughter SO MUCH PAIN, it feels like betrayal.  I'm not asking her to be mean, or rude, or unkind to this woman.  It makes it easier that they get along.  I wish she could support me more in my struggle with MIL (do you KNOW how much that would help to at least feel I had my mom on my side?).  But it is what it is.  I'm not asking them to fight. (And for the record, MIL and my SIL's mother can't stand each other.)

But it hurts like hell that my mom would befriend someone who hurts me so much.  That it hasn't occurred to her that she has totally invalidated me.  I know, to her, it's just a Christmas card.  But to me, it feels like betrayal.  But maybe I'm crazy.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Buzzing Around

I've been wanting to write more posts about NM and my last visit (and I will) but I've been very busy as of late.  DH and I got very sick for three weeks or so and then we've had just one thing after the other to contend with.
As it is, I've been continuing to receive craziness from NM, and even though I shouldn't be, I'm always surprised by the in roads she chooses to "get" at me.  But, that's another post.

I haven't seen my MIL since she called my husband and offered up her faux apology.  I knew at the time that she wasn't sincere and I really had no hope of things changing.  But, since it was such a completely different tactic from her, the whole situation set off my anxiety.  I was stressed about how this all would play out.

I was guessing that MIL's tactic was that, when she called, DH would say "Oh, no, you're a great mom." and that he'd get the hint that HE actually needed to change his behavior.  I  believe her subtle message was "(DH), by not doing what I want, you've made ME feel badly.  Please fix this.  Or else." She stated in her conversation with DH that her main objective was MORE time with us and I saw very little of her actually wanting to change our relationship.

To DH's credit, he told her that we needed to work on boundaries, to back off of me, and to give us some space.

About two weeks later, FIL was calling to meet up with us.  So much for space.  I could tell DH was wanting to comply.  He said he was still going to speak with his mother, but he wanted to get my input before he talked to her (thumbs up for the fact he is consulting me, thumbs down for the fact that he still hasn't actually talked to her about the issues.  However, I don't feel like these things need to be on a timeline, and so he still can talk to about it all.)  I was very sick, so I didn't have to go.  DH met them at my BIL's house.  I was very anxious, wondering what she was going to say to DH and how she would latch onto my kids.  I rationalized, though, that the kids would be seeing their cousins (whom they really wanted to see) and MIL would be allowed little inroads to them.

When DH came home, he seemed quiet.  He said that things had been fine.  MIL had not hoovered over my older son (as usually) but had played a lot with my younger son (whom she usually ignores).  This made me anxious.  Other than that, DH said that MIL was very quiet and stayed to herself a lot.  FIL only referenced me when he asked DH on the phone "who all is coming over?"  They didn't ask how I was feeling or what I was sick with, as they normally would.

In the next few days, I noticed DH having (sudden) irritability.  It took us several tense discussions and an argument for me to finally notice that EVERY TIME he goes around his parents, he comes back sullen and argumentative.  This is another post, but I do think it was good for both of us to finally see that connection.  That things between us are fine, then he goes and sees his parents, and suddenly he has "issues" with me.

This visit with his parents also started the nagging from MIL about gift ideas.  We really did try to get her something as quickly as possible (I like to be considerate) but since we are giving ideas out to 5 or six different people, it can be complicated to organize.  I know she sent several texts reminding DH to get her the list (she'd had her own ideas, but DH told her to hold off.)  Several days after the gift ideas were sent, she texted that she had gotten YS something different.  This royally pissed me off.  I know it shouldn't, but these games around gift giving get tiresome.   DH said he understood my feelings and that he was going to tell her.  But he didn't, until finally one day (when I was at my wit's end about all of this) I called him on it.  He ended up texting her.  She feigned to not understand why it was a big deal, but ended up just buying extra gifts (and the one we had suggested) for the kids.

So, all of this has happened in the three weeks since she offered to change, and DH told her to give us some space.  During this time, MIL also made contact with me on three separate occasions.  She has been reduced to "restricted" status on my FB page, which means she can only see what I make public, which is nothing aside from my cover/profile photos.    I changed my photos twice and within an hour, MIL had "liked" them.  These are the ONLY access she has to me and I felt crowded that she would immediately like them.  Especially since DH specifically told her to not offer lame flattery (not that "likes" are always flattery, but in her case, it seems to be pathetic attempts to appear interested).  She also sent to my email address (not DH's) an electronic Thanksgiving card.  FOUR DAYS LATE (it arrived Monday morning).  A couple of things about these cards: I dislike them wholly.  You have to spend minutes watching the LAMEST graphics in order to get the message.  She has never sent me (or DH) a Thanksgiving card before.  We received no phone call on Thanksgiving or text from them and had no contact with them at all (which is also odd).  She picks out real paper cards for my kids and DH, but I always get these e-cards on my birthday.  Last Mother's Day, she acknowledged me with one of these cards, but it was also several days late.  (It's an E-CARD.  How can it be late?!)  The message was generic and not addressed to anyone in particular.  

This was the FOURTH contact we'd had from her (not including the little texts) in five weeks time.  I was feeling so pressed in on and claustrophobic.  With my niece and nephews birthdays coming up, I was feeling down right panicky.  Having not actually seen MIL since the beginning of September, I was not happy about having to see her and I feared confrontation.  Or that she would come up and insist on apologizing and "making things right".  I didn't want to be forced, in front of people, to accept her apology.  I didn't want to talk about it at all.  I mean, frankly, she's never even mentioned to ME that she felt she was feeling badly about her behavior.  She's only said things to DH.  And then she ignored every thing he asked of her.

The ILs called the day before the party to NOW insist that they wanted to make a plan to arrange ANOTHER visit to drop off gifts, as the gifts they ordered hadn't arrived yet and couldn't exchange them at the party.  (I think this is a ploy by MIL too to arrange a separate "gift opening" get together, as we always have to do, every year.)  I know was positively hyperventilating at feeling so penned in.  DH said they had planned next weekend.  He did approach me before he called them back and I told him about feeling so claustrophobic and that I needed some space.  That his parents were completely ignoring our boundaries and forcing an increase in contact.  DH arranged for after Christmas to exchange gifts, although we've made no plans yet except for a date.  I figure, when that time comes, I'll decide if I want to even go.  But I didn't like all the pressure of committing to another visit, when I was so stressed about the party and visit the next day.

  I was shaking when I walked into the place, but had a plan to make myself busy with the kids during the activities.  My youngest is still small enough to need me around.  They showed up late (as usually.  I heard my BIL on the phone giving them instructions on where to go.  They had gone to a different venue.  Not coincidentally, this is the same reason they gave for showing up late to my son's party: they didn't know where it was.  But they'd been to my son's venue twice before.  It all sounded like bullshit excuses to me. ).  I think it's horrible that they are always late, but it worked out for me and bought me time to get across the large gym and hide out.  I could feel MIL's eyes watching me when she came in.  As the adults left the entry way and ventured out to the kids, I could see her inching closer and closer, maneuvering.  I finally had to move out of her line of sight, as it was making me uncomfortable, and frankly, irritated to see her face (her facial expression, a combination of glee, and squinting, and nose up in the air, drives me crazy).  Thankfully, at that moment, my youngest son peed his pants.  Not bad enough to have to leave, but bad enough I had to run home and get him clothes (I've never been so thankful for an accident.)  I bolted and was so thankful to have 30 minutes of time taken up.  When I arrived back at the party, it was almost over.  MIL was busy "helping" (taking over for my) SIL with the cupcakes and things (SIL doesn't seem to mind, as she seems to have her head up her ass most of the time.  She spent a lot of the party with some random baby strapped on her chest instead of interacting with her own kids at the party).  I made sure to hang back a bit, near my youngest, waiting for him to finish up so I could change him.

And then she made a beeline for me.  I saw her coming from across the room, in a straight, determined line for me.  Sigh.  I was hoping we could exchange some random pleasantries and be done with it.  Nope.  She was going to hunt me down.  And this is a woman who stalks me around rooms.  I have literally moved chairs to get away from her at times, and she follows me.  She has NO respect for my personal space, listens in on my conversations with others and butts in, and I always feel so trapped around her.

I ignore her as she walks up and stands next to me.  "So, are you ready?" she asks.  I know exactly what she's referring to, as we have the SAME conversation and my niece and nephew parties every year.  This time I pause.  I had decided on "medium chill" with her.  I would answer kindly and politely and with as little response as possible.  I was not interested in engaging in conversation iwth her and I was going to refuse to participate in her charade.

Luckily, I've gotten enough control over my anxiety that I could pause and take a deep breathe, "Ready for what?"

This through her and I saw her bristle and be taken aback.  "Well, uh, uh, for Christmas.  Are you all done?"

I continued to look out at the party and not turn towards her, "Pretty much."

She continues, starting in on her "interrogation" style of conversation, where she fires one question after another at you, not really listening to the responses.  "I mean, do you have your tree up?"

"Yup".

"Well, what about the shopping? Are you done? "  She presses on.

"Mostly."

The old lady is persistent.  "Well, but like do you have them all wrapped under the tree?"

I mean, seriously, does she not take hints?  Or maybe stop drilling me and just engage in some easy conversation, lady?  I hate feeling attacked.  But I notice DH has come closer and is watching (he was giving explicit instructions to keep an eye on me this time and rescue me if necessary.)

"I've done some." I reply.  She continues "Well, I asked (OS) if he was excited and he said 'yes, there are 11 more day!'".  And then she cackles.  I smile and nod.  And then I decide to excuse myself and take YS to the bathroom.  I don't say goodbye, or even look at her, but just take off.  Maybe rude, but I was finished being interrogated.

When I came back, she was busy taking over and "helping" with the gift unwrapping.  It amazes me that BIL just wanders around while MIL does all of the work with this stuff, but I suppose that shows you how everything is "supposed" to work in this family.  I'm able to skirt around her and talk to another friend.  I go up to my niece and nephew and say good bye and happy birthday.  Neither child acknowledges me or even looks at me. (I love my niece and nephew, but manners are not their strong suit).  I gather the kids to go (DH and FIL had gone outside to give them our gifts for Christmas).  OS gets ahead of me, and when I go out I find MIL about to buy him sweets from a vending machine.  She knows she's been "caught" and suddenly starts blubbering asking if it's OK with me.  (She was going to give the sweets to OS and my nephew.  I don't know what she expected to give my YS - the ignored child - but I'm guessing nothing.  She KNEW we were leaving and she also knew my kids had just had a ton of sweets at the party.)  I told her no, it was not OK as we were leaving for dinner.  She got flustered (I secretly enjoyed this, although I shouldn't have) and flung the money at OS, saying he could keep the dollar.  She then realized that my YS would need a dollar and frantically searched for him, with my nephew bugging her for one too.  I left her rummaging in her purse, after having the boys say thank you and a quick good bye and left.  She hollered "have a good Christmas" and I said "you too" and made a dash for the door.

Outside, I expected her to come out to further talk, as FIL was still out saying goodbye.  Luckily, I was spared.  I tried to make sure to be kind and open and pleasant to FIL.  I do like him, despite his codependency and enmeshment and avoidance of confrontation.  And I think he likes me too.  Even though MIL clearly has issues with me, and he is paying the consequences now, he was very kind to me, making sure to say goodbye.  I think he wanted to give me a hug goodbye, but I busied myself with the car seats, because I was sort of feeling uncomfortable.  He couldn't squish down between the cars and said a hearty and kind goodbye before walking back to DH.  I think it speaks volumes that he has tried to maintain kindness and goodwill.


So, I feel SO relieved today.  I'm free of the old bat for two whole weeks!  (Now, if NM would just leave me the fuck alone, I could have a nice little holiday.)  But I do have pangs for the future.  I feel more confident, free, and hopeful than I have in a long time.  I don't feel like I'm bound to put up with her behavior forever.  I told DH what had happened and warned him that this is how I will be dealing with her for the foreseeable future: pleasant but detached.  I will walk away and leave if she presses too hard.  I'm ready to take care of myself and if she feels I'm being rude/unkind/pissed at her, so be it.  I don't care.  I'm still feeling very anxious, but I don't feel helpless anymore.  Progress, right?

So, questions:  Any suggestions on how to deal with her interrogative questions?  Any suggestions on the situation as a whole?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Invisible Artist

Several weeks ago, my family and I visited my mother's home.  I know, I know.  But it was a necessary thing.  And since it'd been almost three years since I'd visited her home, I figured it would knock of some of my parental obligation.

I plan to write some posts about some of the situations that popped up while there.  I had hoped, by now, that I would no longer be writing such personal posts.  That I might have "graduated" into more scholarly and educational posts (haha, that's a joke).  But seriously, I still don't feel I have an overarching understanding of narcissism that would be necessary for me to feel legitimate in writing articles on narcissism.  So, I'm going to stick to this personal stuff.  It not only helps me, but I think seeing actual examples may help others.  And because I DO have a much better understanding of the dynamics of what is going on, that may be useful.  I do regret that I am exposing some of my mother's personal stuff, but I guess it is what it is.   I really disliked in the last post transcribing the texts, but unless you really see the wording, it's hard to describe what is going on.

******************************************************************************

One morning, my son asked me to draw him a picture of an event that we'd participated in.  He likes me to draw pictures and then he colors them and adds his own touches.  Many times, I encourage him to draw his own things, but I find it fun for us to do these little projects together too.

He was quite happy with the result and brought it to NM to show her.  She said, rather blankly,  "Huh.  I didn't know your mom could draw.  Who knew she was such an artist?"

Seems pretty harmless right?  And in NM's defense, artistic en devours were not my primary hobby growing up.  I spent a lot of time involved in theater.  I liked to act, dance, and especially sing.  I often had the leads in school musicals or solos.  I participated in academic teams.  I wrote.  A lot.  I was always writing.

Plus, my sister was the "artist" of the family.  She was the one who made the great art, drew well, and even went to art school for college.

But for NM to say she didn't know  I could draw is complete bullshit.  When she first said this, I felt a little ping.  Sort of like being flicked in the brain.  "Ping: that doesn't sound right."

It niggled at me and later, as I thought about it, I realized it was completely impossible that my mother didn't know I could draw.  I spent many, many hours in my room drawing cartoon figures which I would design outfits for.  I loved doing that.  I spent tons of time drawing other things too.  I still have many of my drawings.

And as I thought further, I remembered that I also used to win the contest to draw the artwork for the programs for all of those theater productions I was in.  Every person in the audience, as well as my mother, received copies of those programs.  So, while it's highly likely she had no clue about my drawing alone in my room (she tended to leave me be in there), I KNOW she'd had an opportunity to see those programs.

And then it dawned on me fully: my mother has a FRAMED portrait picture that I drew of my sister and I above her dresser in her bedroom.  HOW in the world could she not know I draw when she stares at a picture of my art every. single. day.

I really could care less if my mother knows I draw or not.  It's not about that.   But it just stuns me at times how little she knows about me.  How little sinks into her understanding of me.  I am nothing but a bunch of labels.  Like a magazine collage of pictures she's cut out.  She does not see me.  Like, at all.  I am allowed a certain set of descriptors, as is my sister, assigned to me by NM.  We are not allowed to share any descriptors, unless she sees fit.  And anything that doesn't  fit into her box, she doesn't see.

I spent a lot of time with NM listening to her blab on and on.  It was enough negativity and drivel (much of which she repeated seeming to hope for a different effect or response) to make me want to rip my ears out.  After the five day visit, I was recounting to DH all of the shit she had unloaded on me when I realized she'd only asked me ONE question about me.  And even that had felt obligatory and rehearsed.  I do not exist to her as a person and I often feel I am merely a place for her to talk "out loud to herself".  She then feels like she is engaging in conversation, but it is truly like she's talking to her reflection in the mirror, not me.   Even when I tried to discuss a similar situation I have with my SIL as to one she described with her stepDILs, she dismissed me, minimizing what I was saying, and clearly showed she remembered none of the history between SIL and I.  All she said is that she found my conclusions about SIL to be wrong, and that clearly our relationship issues paled compared to the stepDILs and certainly she "feels (we) could be friends if (we) worked at it."

Since I've been home, she's used the "drip" form of communication, sending one or two pictures from the trip each day by email, to maintain that "contact" with me.  Despite her knowing that several larger things have gone on in my life (she knows I lost my childcare, she knows that we had a minor emergency with my son - nothing big, no worries, he's fine) she hasn't called or asked anything about them.  Not one thing, despite daily communication from her.  I'm guessing this is part "punishment" (for not answering her texts) and part her devotion to all things herself.

Feeling invisible to my mother is nothing new, and so the experiences didn't pain me nearly as much as they would have in the past.  Nothing I can do will make her take notice of me, and that's just the way it is.  But seeing it, without the pallor of all of the emotional pain, helped me to see just how clearly invisible I am to her.  It remains stunning, even without the pain.



My husband, when this song came out, said that it reminded him of how I always described my relationship with my mother and sister.  The emphasis on the wording is mine:

Invisible (U2)

It's like the room just cleared of smoke

I didn't even want the heart you broke

It's yours to keep
You just might need one

I finally found my real name
I won't be me when you see me again

No, I won't be my father's son

I'm more than you know
I'm more than you see here
More than you let me be
I'm more than you know
A body in a soul

You don't see me but you will
I am not invisible

I don't dream, not as such
I don't even think about you that much
Unless I start to think at all

All those frozen days
And your frozen ways
They melt away your face like snow



You don't see me but you will
I am not invisible

I am here

There is no them
There is no them
There's only us
There's only us
There is no them
There is no them
There's only us
There's only us
There is no them
There is no them
There's only you
And there's only me
There is no them

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Conversation with a Narcissist (or 2)

My grandmother is terminally ill.  My aunt and uncle have arranged for a family holiday at their home so we can all get together (I assume, one last time, before she passes).  My father called to invite me.  I assumed he would also invite my sister.  She generally doesn't attend family get togethers, but she always makes a big dramatic scene about how she can't afford it (probably true) and that she'd have to take unpaid leave from work (she has a job where you don't get time off with pay).  We all know she isn't going to go, but she makes a big deal about wanting to go.

I hadn't decided if I was going yet, as it is a VERY long drive and would be a VERY difficult trip for my family.  However, my father's family always got together for this holiday when I was a child, I would, like to see them, and I had a chance to say goodbye to my grandmother (although I've made peace with the fact that I probably wouldn't).  My father called me last Friday and was considerate about not pressuring me to go.  He just wanted to let me know.

Yesterday, I received a text from NM (please remember this woman has NOTHING to do with my father's family, except on FB and that this is NONE of her business).  I will paraphrase some of the dialogue for anonymity's sake, but will try to be as close as possible:

From NM: Just a quick question.  Are you going to (town) for (holiday)?

Since my visit to NM's a week or so ago, she has not let up on the texts and messages.  I've received several a day, which is annoying at a minimum.  I REALLY DISLIKE when she starts something with "just a quick question" and then gives me know background content as to why she is asking these questions.  She clearly has an agenda, but apparently thinks she doesn't owes me any explanation and that I should just offer up information.  This information is NONE of her business.  And I can easily guess her agenda: my sister.  The only way she can know about this get together from my sister.  Last summer, for another family reunion, NM had also texted to try and get me to pick up NSIS (at a larger city) and drive her and her (scuzzy) boyfriend (in my already loaded car) to the reunion and let them stay with me.  FAT fucking chance.  

I didn't need a crystal ball to predict that is exactly what she wanted this time.  

I replied: I don't know.  Why?

I immediately got a response back that said something like "NSIS is trying to figure out if she can go.  It'll cost $700 for each plane ticket (meaning boyfriend would go too) and she'd have to take unpaid time from work which would be expensive.)

This pissed me off.  Remember folks, my sister and I have not spoken in TWO YEARS, aside from her occasional verbal assaults, abuse, and harassment that I let "this go", "get over it", or general name calling and verbal abuse that usually leaves me emotionally wrung out, anxious, and tense.  These feelings (and her horribly toxic, awful lifestyle) and a last straw were the reasons I chose to take a break from our relationship.  Despite several tense email sessions in which she basically accused me of being the source of all of the problems, we haven't really communicated.  NM has tried guilting me into "forgiveness" and even last week acts like nothing is going on between me and my sister.  The last communication I had from my sister was two weeks ago in the form of an abusive message in which she called me tons of names because of some comment on FB (which did not warrant the shaming and tongue lashing).

I REALLY can not get past my mother's delusions that I would be in any position to grant a favor to my sister and help her out.  First, NSIS is a grown ass woman who's poor career choices have caused her to be perpetually "broke" (although she always has tons of money for clothes and alcohol).  WHY in the world would I want to be in a car with this person whom I have NOT SPOKEN TO in two years?  Who would that go?  Just a hug and a cry and it's suddenly all better?  And more than that, WHY is my mother feeling she needs to arrange all of this.  She is so out of her boundaries, it's lunacy.    Not to mention, she clearly thinks I'm so stupid that I didn't see her "set up" coming.  That's just annoying.

I reply (because I am acting more "boldly".  The therapist's word.):  What does that have to do with me?

She replies: Nothing really.

I reply:  Then why did you ask me if I was going and why did you tell me about NSIS?

This halts her in her tracks and is not what she expected from me.  I don't get a response for over an hour and a half.  Then this comes in:

She replies: Just being snoopy.  And I don't know why I volunteered the information  about NSIS.  Just making conversation that in hindsight didn't need to be said.

BULLSHIT.  Notice that NM's tone switches her to her (she works in a field where you have to use politically correct terminology and be careful about how you speak.  To me, I can clearly hear her tone switch to "work NM" and switch on damage control.  She's become cold, calculated, and disconnected from me.)  Notice too that she NEVER really seems to care about me, my feelings, or what I want.  I admit, it bothers me immensely that my perspective doesn't even register in her brain.  She just plain does not care, which is hurtful (although expected.  I'm not surprised by this at all.)

Then, NSIS texts about 15 minutes later.  I'm guessing NM told her that she'd need to put on her big girl panties and make arrangements with me herself (and again, the LUNACY of these two women that this is even an option blows my mind.  I feel very pressed upon, very ignored, and very annoyed.  And very confused.  How do they compute this in their brain?  How do they make this work?  I would NEVER think of calling my sister for anything right now.  

NSIS texts: Are you going to (town) for (holiday)?  Just talked to Dad today.

WTF?  Why would she think she is in a position to ask me that information?  And what does it have to do with her?  (I know, she wants something from me, but does she not see that I see that?)  The audacity to think I would even respond to this blows my mind.  It's like nothing has happened, like they expect I'll finally just quit throwing a "hissy fit" and "move on".

I chose to ignore this text.  It is none of her damn business anyway.  Several hours later, I get this text:

From NSIS:  Jessie, this has gone on to (sic.) long.  I miss you and I am so sorry for hurting you.  I need you most right now.

Allow me to interpret this for you:  Jessie, I've grown impatient with your bullshit.  I'm stamping my foot and DEMANDING that you get over your shit.  Because I think I have to, I'll offer you a token apology, some platitude about hurting you and then I can claim I've been the "bigger person" and apologized.  And now, to my REAL point,  I need something from you, I need you to go back to being my cheerleader and support, I need you to give me what I want from you.  It's all about ME.

For the record, this "this is enough" shit really, really, really annoys me.  Like she has any right to tell me what I need to do (and seriously, this is the most emotionally unstable person I know.  That she thinks she has some sort of moral authority to determine when I should be "done" feeling the way I do irritates me.)  After two years, a simple "I'm sorry I hurt you" is supposed to cover it?  And really, this isn't about hurting me.  I'm not holding onto some grudge (which is NM's and NSIS's projection because that's what THEY do.)  I've moved away from a destructive, toxic relationship when I finally couldn't take it any more (that last straw, DID hurt me.  But, it was preceded by so much other shit and surrounded by so much other shit that it just enlightened me to the whole of the craziness).

And mostly in that text I hear: me, me, me, me, me.  I need something from you, I have unmet needs from you, I have something I want from you.  And the thing is, she ALWAYS wants something from me.  This whole business of "I need you most right now." is such a ploy.  She ALWAYS has a reason she needs me, some chaos, some drama, some bullshit.  And notice, she doesn't actually say WHY.   If it's that big of a deal, why hasn't anyone told me?  They can solicit rides but not tell me about life changing events.  (and if it really is that life changing and they actually DIDN'T tell me, well, doesn't that speak volumes?)  And do I really care?  No.  I no longer want to play nursemaid to my sister who refuses to actually DO something about things.  And just curious if it enters her brain at all that I could use some support, a sisterly talk, someone to lean on.  NOPE.  I'm expected to not have any needs.

I am choosing to ignore this for now.  I talked it out with DH, as I would really like to reply to her somehow (but seriously, am I supposed to do this in a text?  What kind of response was she really expecting.  "Um, OK.  I'm all good now.  What can I do for you NSIS?")  The things I'd like to say are:

This is about much more than me holding a grudge.
I haven't seen any reason to believe our relationship going forward will be any different than what it was in the past and that is unacceptable to me.
There is little room in any of these conversations for my needs, my feelings, and my concerns.  And if no one else will take that into consideration, than I'll have to do that for myself.
I have needed time to sort through this and it will not be resolved in the next three weeks (by the time she needs the ride).


Beyond that, I would love to say how asinine it is to think that this all could just go away with a simple "I'm sorry."  Their level of delusion and crazy is actually quite startling to me.  I don't see how they see this going other than reconstructing reality and deciding to just play pretend and travel back in time.

Unfortunately, I can not think of any email (no matter how carefully worded) would yield any positive results.  Almost any email I send will be reacted to defensively and I will be attacked for it (the last attempt I tried ended exactly in this way).  I have seen NO evidence that anything has changed with her and I can not reasonably believe the outcome will be any different from the last time.  This is still a woman (child) that believes it is perfectly appropriate to reduce me to emotional putty, slay be with verbal shrapnel, and then go back to normal like nothing happened and ask me for a favor.  I can't see sending an email as any more than an opprotunity for her to gain ammunition and attack me in return (I feel her anger at me is boiling just below the surface.  She can pull out her "vulnerability" and plead to my conscious and my concern for her.....this used to be much more effective with me, as I always had such compassion for her that I'd do anything to help her.   But I know that Jekyll/Hyde mask is just below the surface.  And despite her wanting to "let it all go" I know her anger and resentment is tucked away for the right time to unleash it.


Any thoughts, friends?  Any advice on how to handle this?  I'm guessing it's far from over and that ignoring her will only infuriate her more.  But I just don't see what response would actually yield something positive for me?  Why anger the beast?

Any and all thoughts are welcome.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mosquito

So, it's been radio silence (sort of) since MIL called with her "apology".  DH told her at the time that he would call her back after he'd had some time to think.  In the interim, we took a trip to NM's house (long story, which I will tell later) and were gone for most of the time since that phone call (in addition to having Halloween and then having other commitments when we got back.)  MIL was aware that we had left town.

Before the "apology", and after MIL stomped her feet because we hadn't arranged our schedule to accommodate her, she had FIL call and leave a message that he hoped, since they'd missed us, they could see us the next time they were in town (during the Fall, they come into our town about every two weeks, if not every weekend).  But this was pre-apology, so I didn't know if the "request" was still valid.

Personally, I thought MIL should let DH have the time and space he needed.   But as the time grew closer for their weekend in town, I could almost feel her energy looming over me and around me.  Like, somewhere in the ether, I could feel her anxiety pushing on us to "deal" with the issue and "get back to normal".

I didn't buy the apology from the beginning.  I'm guessing she called, saying she's been a "bad MIL" and has "done some thinking" as mere platitudes and "tokens" to manipulate DH.  I believe she expected DH to say "oh, no, mom!  You're a great MIL.  We've just been busy."  And then, in her fantasy, I imagine she expected DH to apologize to HER for not making time for her and then making up for it all by spending all kinds of time with her....I mean, one of her statements was "I want to spend more time with you."  THIS is her goal, not working on the relationship, or thinking about what she needs to do better.

I also suspect this has something to do with SIL1 and BIL1, whom they usually spend the whole weekend with, babysitting their kids and staying at their house.  I'm not sure what is going on, but I'm getting odd feelings from that direction.  SIL pulled her FB account almost immediately after posting some new photos of her and her kids (on a trip without BIL).  This is not like her and seemed strange (note:  MIL also said to DH "I'm tired of saying things to people and having them take offense to them."  She had indicated to DH that she feels she has "offended" me many times too.  I'm guessing she's less interested in SAYING less offensive things, just that WE take less offense.  Anyway, I'm wondering if she's said something and ticked off SIL1. I also know that my other SIL(2) and BIL(2) are having marital problems -they've hinted on FB, but I'm not sure what is going on there either.  SIL(2) chewed me out at my son's birthday because I let DH communicate invitations through his brother and I don't tell her.  We are not close, do not communicate at all, and this seems silly to me.  If BIL(2) can't tell her what plans he makes with his family, that is HIS problem, in my opinion.  I'm hypothesizing that she, like me and SIL, is getting annoyed that the FOO always comes first and that we are left out of giving opinions or making plans.)

Anyway, I'm guessing that MIL sees much more potential in sucking NS from me and my family at the moment, as the well is going dry over at SIL1's house.  It annoys me to NO end that she just "switches" like this.  I've seen her do it over and over: she and her "best friend" sister get into conflict? She just ignores that sister and starts hanging out with the other one.  She requires a "primary" relationship (NS source) and can cast aside the one for another like an old sandwich that no longer feeds her needs.  (Two side notes: she never goes and sucks NS from DH's two younger brothers.  While we have to see her every month - if not more- she NEVER goes to visit SIL2 and BIL2.  Their home is only another two hours from ours.  She only sucks NS from the youngest BIL, when she can go to the restaurant he manages and get waited on and tons of attention.   The second note:  BIL1 -the one MIL usually sucks from - has been calling DH a ton to do things.   DH has noted this as odd; BIL has been too "busy" with other friends for the most part in the past year or so to do anything with us.  He never calls to set up time and relied on us to set up any time together -and he'd often blow us off.  I think DH hopes that BIL is wising up.  I've tried to gently point out that this is BIL's pattern: he makes new friends, spends all of his time with them and then gets bored - sound familiar?-  We are his "if I have nothing better to do" choice.  He cycles back anytime these fleeting friendships wither away.  I hope, desperately, that DH can see that.)

So, back to my point.  All of this stuff is floating around in the air.  The air feels thick, even to DH, with foreshadowing.  Like a storm is brewing....or something.  But, we don't actually KNOW anything that is going on, so it's a bit unnerving.

On the Friday before they were to come into town, MIL called DH's phone.  She didn't leave a message and only called once, but I had been expecting it.  She wanted to visit the next day, clearly.  It annoyed me to no end that she wasn't allowing DH to work through things and giving him some space.  But, because of FIL's earlier message, I'm guessing she felt we had some obligation to meet up.  I know DH feels guilty that he hasn't called her back, but I don't think he needs to work on HER timetable.  And seriously, we have been gone for six days of the 11 days between when she called to apologize and when "time was up" to get back with the program.  And that's the key, I think she is just hoping to go back to "business as usual".  She's thinking, "I apologized and now it's over and now you need to do what I want and spend untold amounts of time together."

On the following Monday, DH got a call from his brother (BIL2) with questions (related to DH's work).  FIL happened to be with BIL and BIL handed off the phone to him, despite neither DH nor FIL asking to talk to the other (this doesn't surprise me, as BIL2 tends to always pass the phone around).  FIL acted like nothing  is going on.  He asked DH about our trip (of course, like the good little boy he is, BIL1 - the one who used to be NS and has been calling us - had called his mommy and reported exactly what we had been up to.  It annoys me SO much that news travels so fast in this family.  No one is allowed to tell their own stories, as the gossips tend to run with information).   I'm guessing that my FIL, who is quite spoiled and likes life to be "easy", is just trying to ignore it all (that's been his m.o. in the FOO.  Just keep his head down, ignore any drama or chaos, and then move on like nothing is going on.)  In a way, I'm sort of glad that FIL is staying out of it and not "taking sides".  But, I pointed out to DH, it bothers me that, considering FIL and DH think they are so "close", that they are completely ignoring the elephant in the room.  That FIL, having to assume that things might be difficult for DH right now, hasn't bothered to call, check in, or check on DH to see if he's OK.

Last night, I switched my profile picture on FB.  MIL has been on restricted access on my FB for over a month now, since she poached my son's picture off my page and used it to write her own post (directed AT my son.  How the hell is my six year old son going to see something on HER page?  Clearly, he is not, and it was all so she could look like a good grandmother to her friends.)  This new profile photo has been the only photo she's been allowed access to.  And of course, she "liked" it immediately.  Granted, it's a beautiful landscape photo, but it felt more like a "HEY!! YOU CAN'T IGNORE ME.  I'M STILL HERE AND NOT GOING AWAY!!!!" reminder from her. And I can't help but think she jumped on a chance (seeing as it's been her only one) to send a subtle message that she won't allow me any space either.  She's like a mosquito who's annoying buzzing is always reminding me she's there, even if I can't see her.  I can swat her away for a moment, but she always comes back, threatening to suck my life blood from me.

And not even to mention, DH had also told her, specifically, to quit offering phony flattery to me.  To stop with all of the "I like your toenail polish" b.s.  (To which, she refused because "sometimes I DO like her stuff and I'm going to tell her.  Way to miss the point, MIL!)  To me, this is just one more form of her lame flattery and attempts to manipulate my view point of her.  "Hey!  maybe if I like her photo, she'll think I'm a good MIL and like me too!!!!!"  Or maybe she's just clueless and impulsive and can't control herself.  Either way, I wish she'd stay the hell out of my space.

Oh, did I mention that, in all of this time, MIL has made no attempt to reach out to ME and apologize?  Nope.  Just phony "likes" on FB.

Too bad they don't make "MIL spray" the same way they make mosquito spray.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Empathy versus Sympathy

So, I have lots to post about, but am just sorting through it before I write it down. 

Until then, a few notes:

Therapy has been helping (shocker!).  I am making some progress.

She uses a lot of Brene Brown's therapeutic models and I've been reading more and more of her work.  I find it to be very interesting. 

One of the things I came across is this cartoon model of "empathy versus sympathy" and I thought some of you might find it interesting and I wanted to share:


http://brenebrown.com/2013/12/10/rsabear/



Clearly, my NM and MIL lack empathy.  But this really put it into perspective about what they don't get.  They live in so much shame, that they couldn't even imagine putting themselves into my shoes and trying to understand.  (not that that excuses them).  NM tends to use pity rather than even sympathy.  The pity than gives her the opportunity to feel like she's empathizing, while maintaining her superiority ("oh, that sucks.  I feel SO bad for you." while she thinks "that would never happen to me, as I'm too smart/attractive/rich/whatever for that.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Processing an Apology

So, I came home from the grocery store and DH and I sat down for lunch.  He immediately told me that he'd gotten a text from MIL this morning, asking him to call her back when he had the time to talk.  He was instantly anxious, he said, and worried that someone was ill or dead (his grandparents aren't well, as are other family members) and called her back immediately.  She never asks him to call her like that.  She rarely talks to him on the phone.  She usually goes through FIL. 

But no one had died, she had called to offer an apology.  She told DH that she feared that she'd been a bad MIL.  That she had noticed the growing tension.  That she felt she'd done some things wrong.

WTF, you say?  An apology?  From the woman who has never (if rarely) ever claimed responsibility for the way things are?  Who's never even acknowledged "the way things are" (we are one big happy family, don't cha know?)

Don't worry, I was instantly skeptical.  But let me back up a bit.

Around a month back, we had DS's birthday (for those of you that don't know, every birthday of my kids has been run over by the Ns).  As usual, NM and her husband came.  And MIL and FIL come.  And as an added bonus they all went to DS's soccer game.  I was ready, and as prepared as I could be for the weekend.  I handled NM well enough (can you ever say well?)  We hadn't seen the ILs much over the summer.  During YS's birthday in June, MIL had showed up 45 minutes into the party and clearly had given YS's birthday very little thought. 

So, MIL comes into the soccer game nervous, fidgety and weird.  I had decided to just "hang back".  Not be rude, but not extend myself in any way.  No "hello" first.  No phony smiles.  Just a wave.  MIL pulled her chair up so close to DH that she was practically sitting on top of him (she nudged FIL out of the way to get to him).  The whole hour and a half, she peppered DH with, what I can only call an "interrogation".  She dominated his attention, the entire time, in the guise of "trying to make conversation" (or so DH called it, just claiming she was nervous).  It went something like this "What kind of party is DS having?  Is he having cupcakes or cake?  What kind of cake?  Does he have a man teacher or a woman teacher?  Does he take his lunch or eat at school?"  (Seriously, these are direct quotes.  And it went on for an hour.)  There was a particularly tense moment when I stated an opposing point of view (MIL just bristled and didn't say anything).    It was so weird.  You'd think we'd had a huge falling out, with the way MIL was so tense and agitated.  But the thing was, I wasn't rude.  I hadn't been rude (or even much different that I'd always been).  I was quiet, distant, and a bit to myself.  I just hadn't extended myself at all.  When we got home, DH stated that we'd "both" been difficult.  I asked him how?  What had I done that was so "difficult"?  I pointed out that this tense, icky environment had always been like this for me.  He'd just had the comfort of hiding in the conversation with his father, leaving me alone with his mother, and me putting on the fake smile and phony talk to get through it all. 

The next day, MIL, FIL, SIL, and BIL all walked into the party without acknowledging me.  That didn't make a "point" of doing it, but how they could walk two feet from me and not see me was crazy.  FIL and BIL never spoke to me the entire party.  I doubt it was totally intentional, but just shows how little class they have if it was clearly a mistake.  How do you come to your nephew's party, but not ever greet his mother, the hostess?  MIL approached me (cornered me, while alone) to offer some patter about the cupcakes (she kept complimenting the taste -which came from a box - but missed the artistic, and complicated presentation of the cupcakes.  I know that sounds silly, but the artistic component was really unique and to not say anything just seemed....odd.)  She also offered (as usual) to help me once everything else was done.  They left their dog tied up to a tree in the parking lot.  The anxiety ridden barking dog.  And when I suggested to MIL that it was barking at people trying to entire the facility she seemed annoyed.  The whole thing was odd.  MIL never once went to play with my kids.  She stood in the area between the two play areas (as is usual).

Oh, and FIL made some comment about it being "all about Jessie" to my mother (who, somewhat gleefully related to me) when I had objected to my son participating in a sport.  It was a bit of a sucker punch to me. 

So, that was a few weeks ago.  FIL and MIL have not called once to see about coming to any other soccer games.  I haven't ventured enough along thinking about why.  They've been in our town for many of the weekends.

************

Saturday Morning:  MIL calls and says they are coming into town (the attend sporting games in the fall in our town about every other weekend from September through December).  She leaves a message that she wants to "get together".   My guess is that she wanted to stop by our house and "hang out".  This is their m.o. and it drives me crazy.   They just want to pop by, when it's convenient to them and around their schedule.  They never considered nap times, or that it's almost dinner time (and that I would either have to just eat around them, or scramble to find food to feed them.  And the kids HAD to eat.)  We've tried in the past to schedule at different times (like before the games, so they had to LEAVE, but they often wiggled out of that.  Once, they'd been "up drinking" too late and didn't come, so said they'd "just stop by after the game instead."  Um NO. )  They also just want to stop by (often on Sunday evenings) when they are driving through our town.  And then they just want to "hang out" and be a part of the family, as if we don't have chores, baths, dinners, or school to get ready for.

This time, our house was a mess and we had plans to be out for the day.  I'm sure MIL assumed DH was staying home to watch the game, but we had gone out to a family outing instead.   DH texted his mother that we could meet for dinner at 5 (dinner works much better for me, I told DH.  I feel less trapped - both physically and emotionally.  MIL often physically corners me.  They also don't know when they've over stayed their welcome, so dinner -with and "end point" helps....although they still drag it out.)  We hear nothing from MIL until after the game.  She sends a text at 3:30 "Just got back to the car.  That is a little late for us."  Then, in another text "Can't we just drop off the apple sauce and then leave."  She always has "something" to drop off.  She's well aware that, unless she has something, which she guilts us into having to accept (we don't want the applesauce, fruit, or whatever else she has.  And she only brings one or two things at a time.)  DH was annoyed.  He's beginning to see how it has to be all about them.  I thought the whole thing was over complicated.  Why not just call your son and ask what his plans are for the day and when, if any, would be a good time to meet up?  And then try to be accommodating or say that you'll have to catch them next time?  DH didn't respond.  It wouldn't have mattered, we couldn't have met up anyway, as we were still at the family event.  Later, FIL called and left a message that they had to get back to their town  for something (DH didn't really know what and later I saw MIL on FB).  And they wanted to get together the next time (two weeks) they game for a game.

************************

So, DH calls MIL back and she tells him she's done some thinking and fears she's been a bad MIL to me.  DH agrees (whoo hoo!).  She states that she's been offensive, she thinks.  Yes, very offensive, DH agrees.  She says that she's tired of saying things and then thinking later that she shouldn't have said them (hmm, think before you fucking talk!)  DH points out that she has really offended me by getting another dog (I'm very allergic) by adopting BIL's dog (whom they didn't want to care for anymore.  That's how MIL got her first dog.  She also used to invited FOUR other dogs -BIL's dogs- to holiday gatherings and then refuse to understand why it was difficult for me to attend family holidays.   She wouldn't even put the dogs outside.  She also used to tell people that she didn't understand why I didn't visit more.  BUT, she wouldn't get a cat because BIL and SIL are allergic - and not deathly allergic like me.  They could take an antihistamine and be fine.  )  She says she knows, and that the next dog will be hypoallergenic (I've heard this before from her, when her last dog was about to die.  She was unwilling to hear me as I tried to explain not all hypoallergenic dogs are.)  DH pointed out that is not the point.  The point was also not that she HAD a dog, but that she made it much worse with the dog and by inviting all of the others. 

He pointed out that things REALLY would take effort to change.  That boundaries would be put up.  That things would never be like they are with BIL and SIL, whose house they just come and go at.  That it would take work.  Lots of work on her part.  Willingness to change and hear criticism.  That she needed to quite being so superficial with me and really take the time to get to know me.  That he   needed to quit communicating compliments THROUGH HIM.  That she needed to quite communicating with me at all through him.  She said "well Jessie is one of the coolest people I know".  But she also told DH "I'm still going to compliment her hair or nails (the superficial compliments DH told her to stop.) because I DO like them."  To me, it sounds like she didn't hear a word he said.  She completely missed the point. 

She did say that she knows that she was wrong to "pressure" me into things so much.  This is her sanitized word for BULLYING.  MANIPULATING.  CONTROLLING.  STRONG ARMING.  I made sure to point that out to DH.  She ADMITTED pressuring me.  This woman is the most controlling person I know, but hides it extremely well (for the most part).  And she's AWARE of it.  This is a big thing, I think.

Oh, MIL had told DH that "all I want is to spend more time with you guys."  So, all SHE WANTS is to spend more time.  Not to heal things, not to change things, not to grow closer.  Her end game is to spend more time with us.  She wants to "hang out" with ME because I'm "cool"?  Not kind, considerate, thoughtful, fun to be around?  Sounds an awful lot like NS to me.  She wants to be associated with me.  (I often have felt this when their was a sudden switch in our relationship.  She suddenly went from putting me down to suddenly wanting to emulate me.  I read the other day that Ns like to "fast track" knowledge.  So, they find someone they admire and then try to model themselves after them.  But the whole premise is faulty, because they've done nothing to actually BE more like that person, but rather just "tried on" the other person.  I feel this is what MIL is now trying to do to me.)  I also note that she didn't say she wanted to be a bigger part of her grandkids lives, get to know them better, or be a more supportive grandmother.  Not that I expected any or all of these things specifically, but the fact that NONE of them were in the conversation and it was only about WANTING to spend more time, I am suspicious.  I also notice that never, in the whole conversation did she ask DH what WE wanted, needed, felt, hoped for.    I suspect, that because she views DH and I as the "good family" she's wanting to attach herself to us for the NS.  My sons are smart, handsome, and well liked.   We, as a family, are well liked and do well for ourselves (not to brag.)  SIL and BIL are not as satisfactory in meeting her needs, although they are JUST like her.  I don't see anywhere where this is any more than an attempt to insert herself in our lives. 

I suspect that when we didn't jump to meet her, she panicked.  It really was a very small boundary, and I think her intense reaction to it speaks volumes.  I think she's afraid we are moving away from her and is desperate to get us back in the "fold".  She's hoovering.  Do I think she genuinely feels bad and remorseful?  Quite possible.  I think, in the presence of consequences, she's really wanting to "fix" things.  But she really has no clue how to do it.  Because she's an N and she can't think about how to fix the relationship, only how to offer bandaids and platitudes.  I KNOW that she hasn't had a sudden bought of insight, like she claims.  Many of the things she pointed to herself, she has said before to me.  She knows the dogs are an issue (they have been for 16 years).  She clearly knows she's been offensive in the past.  She is offering lots of defenses and excuses for her behavior.  When DH offered her up specific things to do, she countered them and said she was still going to do them.

DH realized during the phone call that he was starting to ramble and told her that he really needed to think about it all and call her back.  He said he is not sure if things will change, and is rational enough to realize we will have to watch her behavior change.  He is shocked, as he said, "my mother has never done anything like this before (accept responsibility and apologize) and she doesn't have the balls to."  So, he is surprised by the gesture.  But, thankfully, he's not falling for it immediately.

We talked about it more afterwards.  I told him that I hoped he'd quit providing her with a "check list" of the things she needed to change, and start asking HER what she planned to change, what SHE saw as the issues.  I told him I hoped he'd stop saying that she was offensive to ME, but offensive to US.  He asked that, in the future, I would say to her when she was upsetting me.  At first I agreed, but then said I'd only do that when I felt comfortable.  I am unwilling to put myself out their as a "practice dummy" for her to work on her N rage on.   I told him to give her some very concrete examples of where she has crossed the line (like favoring one of our children over the other and claiming that God has told her my older son is "more special") but that to be careful and selective about what he shares.  Or to share slowly. 

The whole thing had me shaking.  I'm heading to my NM's house this weekend, and I didn't need more stress.  I didn't feel immediately emotional about the apology, but I definitely am concerned about what this means in the future.  I am very glad that the elephant in the room has finally been spoken about and I know longer have to "put on a happy face" around this woman.  I know she KNOWS now.  (I always knew she knew what the fuck she was doing to me, but she would act like everything was fine all of the time.  If I ever tried to bring anything up, she raged until I shut up.)  She can't deny she knows.   I don't buy the "I'm a mad MIL" thing either.  She has always claimed to "not want to be THAT MIL" so how she is with her DILs is always on her mind.  She just has chosen to be THAT MIL.  I've heard this before too when it started to dawn on her that she hadn't prepared her sons well enough.  Then, I got lots of "I haven't been a good mom."   But she never changed anything. 

At any rate, I feel thankful that DH is finally defending and protecting me.  I think MIL would've gone on doing what she was doing forever until we finally decided to not do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted.  (Seriously, all of this because we asked to meet for dinner and then wouldn't meet any other way?)  I'm glad he sees that it will take tons of work and will be a long process (he told MIL not to expect an instant relationship.)  I'm thankful he isn't just accepting what she says and going back to playing pretend. 

I don't see her changing.  At all.  But if she does, at least that will be a good thing.  And at worse, I know longer have to play the "crazy one" who is seeing things that aren't there.  MIL has admitted she knows she's done wrong and she can't take that back.  But I don't see her trying, at all, to be any different in the future.  Hopefully, this will help keep her at arm's length away from me. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Stopping By

Just stopping by to say I'm still here, still wanting to write, and still working through all of this narcissism stuff.

Fall has been rough.  We've had some schedule changes (new schools and all of that) and it's been a rough adjustment. 

On top of that, MIL amped up her victim game at my OS's last birthday game.  I was left exhausted, emotionally spent, and with my head spinning.  How the hell she can convince everyone she is such a martyr is beyond me. 

NM was also here and was zero help.  Even a suggestion of how I'm feeling about MIL and she immediately turns it back around to herself.  She continues with delusions that my sister and I just need to be brought together and all would be fixed.  She seems to believe that I'm just holding some grudge.  She does not understand that their has been a seismic shift in my life.  I don't know how to respond when she brings up my sister and talks about getting together.

NSIS, for her part lobbed a nice little grenade at me last week that, while extremely painful, as somewhat a relief in knowing that she hasn't changed a bit.  I had insinuated on a obscure FB page that my mother wasn't all that she should've been (it was na├»ve on my part; I really hadn't thought about anyone seeing it.  It was a page that only I liked.   Oops.)  I didn't directly say anything about my mother, I didn't mean for anyone to see it, and I didn't even mention MY mother.  In addition, I alluded to how much I am struggling.   So, of course, NSIS comes running to NM's rescue and beats me down emotionally for DARING to suggest our childhood wasn't perfect.  It was awful.

But luckily I had an appointment with the therapist that day.  So, therapy has been progressing.  I had a very frank and open discussion about the therapist's practices and views on treatment.  I brought up her discussing herself and I was satisfied with her answers.  She doesn't have the grasp of narcissism that I would like but,  I live in a small town and expecting to find the "perfect" therapist is unrealistic.  And my good friend Kara pointed out that I can chose to find another therapist at any point, and if nothing else, she may get me to the next point in my recovery.  Sessions have been intense and difficult at times, and I've struggled to communicate (it's hard to point out the covert techniques of the Ns when I don't always know how to explain them to myself).  But, I always feel better when I leave and I feel validated and heard.  That helps so much.  To be able to have someone say, it is not YOU, it really is THEM and you have been abused has given me so much grounding. 

Hope everyone else out there is hanging in there. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Therapy Questions

So, I met with the therapist today.  I felt positive coming out the appointment.  I had been feeling anxious and overwhelmed about it.  I still left feeling overwhelmed, but I felt less anxious. 

I'm trying to decide if she is a good fit.  I felt she listened well.  I felt she was empathetic.  I felt validated by her.  I didn't feel patronized or like she was pandering to me.  She both let me lead, and led the conversation herself. 

For those of you who've been to a therapist, here are some questions for you:

How much is appropriate for a therapist to share about herself in the first meeting?  She discussed some of her training, her journey into therapy, and the models of treatment she uses.  I did ask her several questions that prompted some of what she said.  Some of it was spontaneous (like she explained to me that she was feeling jittery, excited, this morning due to just picking up a new truck with her husband and that she wanted to take a moment to settle and calm herself.  She took a deep breathe and did settle.  And for the record, I didn't find her to be jittery.  I would imagine new therapy is difficult for the therapist too?)

She also revealed that her son is a narcissist.  While I didn't consider this a red flag, it made me suck in my breathe.  For me, narcissists are begotten by narcissists.  She spoke little of her son's father, as she seemed to be a single mother who struggled both with her own past FOO issues (some of which she briefly touched on) and financial issues.    So, as the primary caretaker, I wondered if she felt she had an responsibility in "creating" a narcissist.  I used the word culpability.  She said that she did feel she had some responsibility.  She discussed that her father was a perfectionist and verbal abuser, who passed these traits onto her.  She said that when she began to realize the effects she was having on her child, she immediately went into therapy.  (And from there, began a college career in social work and counseling.)  She also said that her son's narcissistic (and more anti-social, if you ask me) began to crop up early, around 4. 

I felt her responses were appropriate regarding her son.  I felt she actually had worked to try and help him (she spoke of the many models of treatment they tried to help him.  He was a thief and had many legal issues).  Do you all think that a woman who has a narcissist for a son will be of help in my therapy?  Or do you think that she will be unable to understand my position?

I felt some of her observations of me were spot on, her ideas for treatments seemed appropriate and tailored to what I need (decrease of anxiety, ability to manage my emotions better, and to be able to stand up for myself, live authentically, and decrease the "shoulds" I put on myself. )

Any thoughts?  Any things you would consider important to a therapist?  I actually see many similarities between my story and that of this therapist, which I think is both a good and a bad thing.  I don't know,  I guess my head is just swirling a lot. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Changes with NM

So.  NM.  Was it better.  No, not particularly.   Did she get to me?  No, not particularly.

I'm getting to the point where I've pretty much emotionally detached from her.  I don't feel this aching need for her to get me or understand me or validate me.  I'm unwilling to accept any sort of "love" or "caring" from her, as I know it isn't real (or is fleeting).  She doesn't work me up (as much) emotionally.  Sure, she's still annoying as hell, but I'm don't get overworked and over raw around her.  I've learned to LEAVE the scene when I can't take anymore (I disappeared for chunks of time over the weekend.  She only came "looking" for me once.   I did not allow her to amp up the drama.)

It's interesting watching her from a much more distance, unemotional place.  She is. such. a. child.   It's amazing to me the many ways this woman can bring things back to herself.  I mention I'm not thrilled with my son's kindergarten teacher.  "OH!  Not like YOUR kindergarten teacher, huh!"  She seems to take personal responsibility for my teacher, like she GIFTED the woman to me.  She also did this with when I mentioned my sons doctors and how I was switching.  She completely MISSED the points I was trying to make and never asked WHY I was switching or felt uneasy with the teacher.   In the past, this would've made me feel invalidated and angry.  But this time, shrug.  I told her that I had little memory of either of these people, which annoyed her. 

Every conversation turns around to what she would do, how she did it, or what it was like when I was a kid (because, apparently, I can't remember how SHE did things as a mom).  Everything is said in a way that clues me in that she believes she's giving advice.  Propping herself up.  Patting herself on the back.  I rarely begin conversations at all because she doesn't listen and will tune into her phone or the kids.  This used to annoy me too, but now I just say "Are you listening?"  When she nods and "ummm hummm" I say "no you're not".   Then, I stop the conversation.  Even if she tells me to continue.  Nope, you had your chance.  It gets tiring listening to her was poetic about herself, disguising it as conversation. 

She also demands TONS of attention.  She gets pissy and complains if the kids spend too much time with her husband.  But then she gets pissy and complains when OS takes up "too much" of her attention.  Or puts demands on her.  Once, when the kids and I asked her to come outside and look at something, she purposely procrastinated.  In the past, I would've fumed.  This time, when OS complained that she wasn't coming, I said "Do you know the kids are waitng for you?" and then to my son "I guess she's not interested."  She likes to be asked to do things and then to stall.  I'll have to remember this in the future.  She keeps bringing up people no one cares about and making huge announcements about what is going on (her coworker's daughter was getting married and NM was very involved in the drama, texting for updates and then expecting our rapt attention as she discussed it.)  She kept bring up the same trivial bullshit over and over (SD!  I'm so worried about the weather and we may not be able to camp out next weekend.  She brought this up every day and stressed over the weather report.  She made us go shopping for camping equipment.  It would really be comical how she demands so much attention if it wasn't so annoying).

She's also profoundly negative.  How she describes things, even when not intending to be a bitch, comes out pissy.  For example, DH and stepdad were going to go somewhere and NM asked "Or will OS throw a fit because he can't go."  It's the "throw a fit" part that gets me.  It's an awful negative characterization by my standards.   When we were leaving for OS's game, she came up and started nagging Stepdad (SD) , saying "Do you still have to brush your teeth?!?  Well you better get going!!! We are leaving soon!!"  Then she stood there patting herself on the back (out loud) for "taking the reins".  She went on and on about how she had to lord over stepdad and keep him on track (which is untrue.  SD is very considerate and (mostly) thoughtful (he has been known to pout) and always is ready on time.  The whole situation was very emasculating for SD, in my opinion, and NM would not let it go.  She gets this gleeful expression when she does stuff like this and thinks she's being 'strong" and "in charge" and hides it behind the fact that "he's being rude and inconsiderate of Jessie and DH".  Lots and lots of shaming go on around her.  I've learned to ignore her when she does this or walk away.  Before she'd try and haul me into participating, but I ignore it.   Interestingly, since I've begun to stand up to NM, my relationship with SD has improved.  His much kinder, no longer snarks at me, and seems considerate and interested in me.  (Side note, my father and I's relationship has also improved once I removed myself from all of the drama with my sister.)  I assumed SD would attack me for taking on NM, but he seems to be grateful for it. 

I also notice that NM requires CONSTANT validation.  She forces people to agree with what she says.  For example "I also do such and such, don't I SD, don't I!"  It's not a question.  Poor SD always just nods.  It's like watching her use him as a mirror in real time.  She says something and then forces "the mirror" to reflect it back by agreeing with her.  I quit doing this too.  I either ignore her questions, or give a contrary opinion.  Not to piss her off, but because that's how I feel. 

She also is quite contradictory, speaking out of both sides of her ass.   In the midst of a conversation she said that she "likes having my kids grown and gone.  I like my life and having it to myself. I don't want to go back to parenting and take care of kids all of the time."  And then two seconds later she talked about how she would drop everything to care for her grandsons all of the time. 

After the soccer game, NM knew I was upset.  I decided to let her see how I was feeling.  (I know TW, don't kill me.)  I had no expectations of validation, gave no information that would make me vulnerable, but (factually) explained what bothers me and express the appropriate emotions with it.    I'm sick and tired of either hiding my emotions or pretending it's OK.   I know that this opens NM up with information, but I don't care.  She already had the information and could clearly see what was going on.  I expressed how ANGRY I was with MIL at the game.   I didn't allow NM to comfort me (I pushed off all hugs she tried to give me.  Fuck that.  And some hug from NM wasn't going to wipe away my emotions.  I actually think showing her my emotions bothers her.  Another reason I don't mind not hiding them from her.)

The first incident the following day came when she brought up a family reunion she wants to plan with her FOO.  This FOO of is VERY dysfunctional, not close and has rarely gotten together.  Plus, NM wants NSIS to be there.  She asked what I thought, all bubbly and excited.  I said "good luck with that.  Your family doesn't seem to be the "family reunion" type."  (Plus, she's already told me that they were struggling to agree on doing it.  No one wanted to take it on....because no one really wants to do it.  I'm sure they think it sounds as uncomfortable and fraught with tension as I do.)  This pissed NM off and she started arguing that my perceptions were wrong.  Well, so be it.  Then, she went on and on about the plans for it.  I ignored it and finally turned my back.  (I was making cupcakes at the time, and one batch came out completely wonky.  The first ones were good, but the last few I'd completely messed up.  I told DH you could see the evolution of the conversation in those cupcakes.)  This pissed her off more and she bustled outside to make a phone call.  I'm guessing to NSIS (who the fuck else would she call.  She has no friends and has no one she needed to call. )  She never said who she was talking to, but was out there for an half an hour (she also used to do this, calling me when frustrated while visiting NSIS, so it's a habit for her).   I'll admit, it pissed me off.  She also used to have a habit of calling NSIS the second BEFORE she would walk into my home to visit.  She would spend the first ten minutes of a visit with us describing me, my house, and everything to my sister before she would even greet me.  I hated this.  And you can't call her on it.  She just says "aren't I allowed "me" time?!"  When the kids complain she's on her phone instead of playing she says she's "tired".  I told her last time that she always says how much she doesn't get to spend time with the kids, that it seems a shame to waste time she IS with the kids on her phone. 

The next day, she cornered me as we all prepared to go out for a walk.  She does this often to force "alone time" on me.  She calls it "mother - daughter" time when my son asks where we were (almost implying my son is being obnoxious for asking it, like he's annoyed that I got NM's attention.  Which maybe he is, he's six and likes to be played with.  But she reacts as if he's doing something selfish and uncaring. Just another example of how she her reactions are skewed in a negative way that makes the other person feel shamed.)

She kept flitting around from topic to topic.  First asking about my grandmother who is dying.  I've avoided the topic in the past, but I know she knows now.  I gave her the information I have: she's dying, I don't know when, I don't know of what type of cancer, and I don't know how she is (this is a whole other story).  NM starts in on what my she told my sister to do.  Starts pestering me about questions about my dad.  I close off.  She flits to another topic: my dad.  Asks if he came to visit this year.  I say no.  She starts to give an opinion on my father, how he should take time off, how he should visit my sister (even though she visited him instead, the first time in SEVEN years.  But of course he is expected to dance around my sister too), blah, blah.  I've been down that road.  I say "yes, I wish he visited more.  But it's his loss and I can't force him to do more than he does."  I show no emotion, I state the facts, and then I quit responding.

She says some more crap.  Then she brings up her father, an alcoholic, asshole of a man who has is spoiled and has always expected his own way.  He was a horrible father and a piss poor grandfather (he wasn't mean to us, but could care less.  He's done some kind things for me in the past, but he's not, by any stretch, a good grandfather.  I have few feelings towards him except mild kindness and duty. Note: not obligation, but duty.)  She says that he brought up that he felt like a horrible dad.  NM gets up on her soap box again (I really don't know how to explain this.  She takes this odd, mature, superior tone where she acts as if she's schooling all of us.  It's sort of like a lecture.   I suppose with her family, she is imparting wisdom, but for me, it just seems ridiculous. )  She said she told grandfather "we got both good things from you and bad things dad.  It wasn't all bad...." blah, blah.  I appreciate that she's seeing him from a continuum, but I actually feel she's glossing over the bad things.  Like she's "balancing" things out.  I do not believe that good things, balance out bad.  I'm finally able to see that my childhood DID have good things in it, that I took lessons from both my mother and father, that she wasn't awful, all the time.  But I certainly wouldn't level it out and say that it was OK.  And it seemed she was saying this all to seem superior rather than any real understanding of what she was saying.  And I couldn't stop myself.  Matter of factually, I said "but he wasn't a good dad.  You maybe have gotten a good work ethic from him, but he was a horrible father."  She sputtered.  "And he was a piss poor grandfather."  She sputtered again, regrouped and started in on her lecture again about how to "properly view parents in good and bad light" and how my grandfather blames my grandmother for all the "bad" traits in the kids.  I kept all emotion out of my voice and again said "he was not a good grandfather and she was not a good grandmother."  She stopped and then, like a switch, agreed with me.  But not because she got it, but because it gave her a moment to vent about him.   I said "he is a spoiled, selfish man who only focuses on himself. "  And then there she was back to the childish NM, bitching about how awful he is, how horrible he was, how spoiled he is.  It was rather crazy to watch in real time. 

And then DH and SD and the kids came back.  She lost "her moment".  I felt SO DAMN PROUD OF MYSELF.  I dislike these moments of being trapped by her, but at least I am no longer afraid of them.  She can't drag me down.  I didn't respond emotionally and was able to think about things before I responded.  I also didn't allow her to feed me a lot of bullshit.  I spoke my truth.

Also, when I talked to her about MILs behavior at the party (NM FORCES me to drive with her.  She loads all of the party shit in her car before I have a chance, and when I, repeatedly tell her no, she argues.  Last time, I was able to get my way, this time I could care less.)  She told me that all the things I'd told her about MIL (I gave her very factual, concrete examples of her behavior.  In the past, I've fluttered around my feelings and have been unable to say WHY MIL bothers me so much.)  NM said "maybe I shouldn't be so nice to her tomorrow."  (I may have mentioned that NM and MIL like to pretend that they are going to be friends.)  In the car going to the party, she told me how much it bothered her to hear I'm treated like that.  (Which is crap, she's heard it all before.  And while it bothers her and she's said it bothered her before, she still makes 'nicey-nicey' with MIL.)  So, at first, NM goes on attack mode with them.  Purposely trying to be snarky to them.  Then, she tells me at one point MIL was annoying her and going off, so IN ORDER TO TRY AND DEFLECT THAT, NM pulled out her phone and started showing MIL pictures of an accomplishment in which she's being publically recognized (and lord, was I sick of hearing about that).   I thought it so messed up that NM's solution to MILs arrogance and intrusions and selfishness is just to talk about herself.  I guess she fights "fire" with "fire".    MIL, for her part, tolerates NM and politely nods and smiles her phony smile (I wish I could describe it.  It's a smile, but there is a hint of smirk in it, along with panic and anxiety and contempt).   

I find it interesting to watch how NMs reaction to them treating me badly is to talk about how it upsets HER.  But then when she can support me, she doesn't (I did tell MIL she was wrong about the theme of my son's party.  NM told MIL she had been calling it the same thing.  Thanks for the support NM!)  She kept trying to pull me in for a hug, which I resisted.    Her hugs feel like a cheap band aid and method for her to feel like she's doing something.  She said "it's OK to accept a hug."  Um, nope.  It's not, from you NM.  Because that puts me in a vulnerable position.  I can speak my truth, but I will not accept her compassion, as that puts me at risk of being hurt.  She offers no verbal support.  She offers no validation.  She offers lots of "you should just do this".   She clearly has no ability to really support someone.  I'm glad I did it.  I don't worry about retribution.  I didn't feel vulnerable to her.  Will she use this?  Most likely.  But I want her to know that she, NSIS, and everyone else aren't the only ones who are dealing with things and working through life.

Other than that, she pulled a couple messed up things with the kids.  She brings piles of presents.  And she always gives gifts of the "theme" (for example dinosaurs) to the kid who is less interested in that.  (So, for example, she'll give some dinosaur stuff to OS - who is very interested - and more to his brother.  She feels that "it's not fair for OS" to get all of that stuff -like he's "hogging" the interest or something.  Again, assigning negative intentions to harmless behaviors.)  This time, when my boys protested in front of her the unfairness (she also managed not to get right something I very specifically told her was necessary to get a specific toy.  She asks for tons of ideas but always fucks up one or two.  This isn't due to an accident.) I let them.  Before,  I would've stressed out about her thinking my kids are ungrateful.  She's going to think that regardless.  So, I let them say how they felt.  I reminded my kids later that "Grandma struggles with what is fair and doesn't understand that.  I would hope that you would express gratitude, but your feelings are valid and I understand why you would feel that way.  And you are always able to tell me how you feel."  It pisses me off she disguises these little jabs in presents. 

My OS also confronted her for calling him a brat.  He said (to DH and me) "Hey mom.  We were playing and (little brother) wanted something I didn't want to give him.  I heard grandma tell LB that I was being a brat, but she said she called me a (and damn, I can't remember what the word was but it was something that sounded like brat but was less innocuous).  NM immediately argued that she was right.  And then when she knew she'd been caught and I repeatedly told OS that that was NOT OK.  And that Grandma -and everyone -should refrain from calling names.  And that I understood why that would bother him.  Then she tried to tell me that "brat" wasn't a big deal (she and SD come from people that think calling kids "turds" "brats" "spoiled" or "babies" is OK.  MIL and FIL also feel that way.  I know some people feel it's not a big deal, but I DO.)  I immediately told her YES, it is, don't do it again.  I know it sucks -and some people will have judgement- that I allow her around my kids when she says/does this shit.  But I am proud that I've taught my sons to stand up, to confront, to call them on the bullshit and that I will support them in that.  That I will protect them from that as best I can.  (Also, NM is off babysitting duty.  She is rarely allowed alone around my kids.)  I'm trying to do the best I can (DH insists kids have access to their grandparents and that they will resent me for keeping them from their grandparents.  And OS actually really loves NM and likes her to come.   So, I sometimes feel stuck.  Plus, I can't protect them from every narcissist out there, so I hope this teaches them some tools.)  But maybe that's all rationalization and excuses.

So, that's why I called a therapist today.  I'm overwhelmed at talking to someone.  I feel afraid, for some reason.  I worry she will not believe me.  I spoke to her, briefly on the phone today.  When I said that both my mother and MIL are narcissists she, in disbelief said "BOTH of them?!"  I said yup.  She quickly regrouped and said "well, you know, that isn't actually that surprising.  I can see how that happened."  Is that a good sign or a bad sign?  I hyperventilated for an hour after making the appointment, pacing and teary-eyed.  I'm looking forward to having outside perspective, but I'm terrified of being told I'm wrong.  And that it is all me....