My younger sister was born the day before my second birthday. Birthdays from then on, became a "shared" activity, and our enmeshment grew out of that.
I can remember, at a very young age, helping to regulate my sister's emotional moods. "Give her what she wants, Jessie. It's easier than dealing with the fight and we have too....(go to the store, have dinner, whatever)" I can remember hearing that statement outright, but it was suggested to me in much more subtle ways. She was giving what she wanted. She was babied. I hid so she wouldn't know that I wasn't taking naps and she was. I helped with her school projects (she did not help me). I shared my friends (she did not share her's). She tagged along with me. She did everything I did (something she would later become angry at me for). Mom made me "her little helper" and I helped to take care of my sister.
Nm treated us like bookends. Or salt and pepper shakers. Slightly different, but still a "set". Every interest I had, she also participated in. We wore different colors of the same outfit. Our hair was styled the same. Anything I got, Nm got NSis one too. She "evened" us out (in that way that Ns do, configuring "fair" based on some deluded standards).
I remember being responsible for NSIS's mental states. NSIS was a bit...temperamental. Let's call it that. She was difficult. She had tantrums. She boiled over into anger quickly and often. She had to have things just so (she would NOT leave the house without her clothes and hair to her liking, for example.) I know she tested my parents, but their problem was my problem too. She was violent. She hit me. These weren't sibling fights. These were unprovoked attacks against me. I didn't hit back (she was at least as big and strong as I was). I didn't fight back. Most of the time, she attacked me for asking that she finish her chores or stop doing something (because I was "in charge" after school and during the summer. So, I was expected to "control" her. Make her behave. My parents struggled to make her behave, do her chores, how was I supposed to do that? And if I didn't, I got punished too.) My father knew. He finally told me to start hitting her back. To quit letting her attack me. Stand up for myself. He punished her, but that always ended up worse (his punishments were harsh. Partially due to this, I didn't want her to get in trouble. So, I often tried to resolve it myself.) And when I would call NM at work, NM would yell at us for "fighting". Like we were squabbling over the remote. I was struggling to keep control of this girl, being bruised, bitten, pinched, but I would also get punished for that.
I believe now that NM, in addition to the enabling, set my sister up to get in trouble. She allowed her to get away with so much, but then when she couldn't take it anymore, she'd call in my dad. Have him "lower the hammer" so to speak. The big punishment. The resentment and anger that grew between my father and my sister (most of it due to their own personalities, but often "encouraged" by my mother) lingers today. NM still breeds resentment between the two, while at the same time, encouraging the behaviors in my sister that she asks my father to help with, or by trash talking my father and encouraging anger at him in my sister.
Despite it all, I felt "close" to my sister growing up. I wouldn't say she was my "friend", but I enjoyed her company. Or maybe it was that she was my only choice so frequently for company, I didn't register that it could be different. We were very emotionally and mentally bonded. We often could "read" each other's thoughts. No one liked playing board games with us because I often knew what she was thinking before she got out clues. I predicted her moods, I was concerned over her emotional well being. I protected her: from friends, from pain, from my father. I gave in to her. A lot. But she accepted me and knew me in ways that few others did. Or so I thought.
When my parents divorced, we grew even more "bonded". It seemed often it was the two of us, left alone, clinging to a life raft. NM was gone a lot. I was in charge. A lot. Many, many weekends alone. My father was depressed and drinking and not much fun. Things got bad. I was even more responsible for my sister than ever. She started drinking, and partying, and hanging out with boys. She was 12-14 years old. Some highlights of this time:
My father trying to commit suicide while my sister and mother tried to stop him. This one incident scarred her for life. The cops came, terrifying me, and he ran.
My sister dating my "first boyfriend".
My sister still flying into rages at me.
My sister, while I was out on a date (but still "in charge" as NM was out of town), being conned by my "best friend" to go to a party with high school boys and being raped. I never got over the guilt of not being home to stop my "friend" from taking my sister out. They also stole my car that night, ran out of gas, and barely got it home.
My sister, repeatedly, sneaking out of the house at night while I was in charge. One night I awoke to loud poundings on the front door. Not knowing what was going on and fearing intruders, I retrieved my father's gun, ready to shoot whomever was coming in. I was 15 at the time. I threatened them (and they left; they were kids and were looking for NSIS,: she had fallen asleep). Thank God, I didn't shoot someone. NSIS talked me out of it, put me back to bed (I must've been in shock) and then snuck out. I locked her out for the rest of the night.
One night, she threw a party at our house. I had begged her not to, but she didn't listen. I (soberly) tried to keep watch. Later, one of her friends was found by the cops a block away playing hide and seek by herself. I convinced the cops that we weren't drinking and the let us go (the cop remembered us from the incident with my dad. Dumb, dumb cop).
One night, she took off with some friends of mine. I searched for HOURS for her before finding her at 1 a.m. When I got home, NM had driven home (she was at her boyfriend's, an hour away and we weren't there to answer her phone call) and was furious. I decided to move out to my dad's (I was 15). NM punished me by selling my childhood home. She figured if I "wasn't going to be living there" she would sell it. I'd been gone for two days, and had actually thought she'd bring me back home with her.
For awhile, I lived with my dad. He was in counseling (and wasn't home a lot) so things got better. He and NSIS fought, violently and physically, so she moved back with my mother. And things continued to deteriorate.
In the last few years of my high school and into college, NSIS and I grew further and further apart. She horned in on several of my boyfriends (sleeping with or trying to sleep with several). She didn't understand the concept of "mine". She stole from me. She let her friends steal from me. She took my things (I ended up having to move back in with NM during my senior year when dad moved. I actually didn't stay there much, instead crashing on my boyfriend's parents couch for most of the year so I could attend school-the school were NM lived was TWO grade levels behind what I was studying-attend extra curricular activities and work). NM did nothing when she stole from me. I would go home on weekends and my stuff would be trashed and picked through. She finally put a lock on my door, but NSIS just went in through the window.
Here are some highlights of the time between late high school and college for me with NSIS:
NSIS was heavily on drugs. She hung out with extremely shady drug dealers. NM was always having to hunt her down and drag her home. One of these very nasty men offered to kill my mother and step father. He later ended up in jail for murder. NSIS actually had enough sense to tell NM, but they all lived in terror that this man (in his early 20s) would shoot them and actually saw him drive by a lot. They did not report this to the cops. Later, when NM "let" my 16 year old sister stay with me (I moved out one month before my high school graduation) for the summer, this man tried to find her at my house.
NSIS ran away. She was involved in a home invasion. She was put in jail two states away. She was beaten. She was raped. Again. In fact, several times. Once, so badly, she couldn't walk. She tried to commit suicide, several times. She was hospitalized. She was in counseling. She dropped out of school. She stole from my grandmother. She had nothing to do with any family.
My mother looked horrible whenever I saw her. All our conversations revolved around NSIS and the stress and pressure NSis was putting on her. I despised my sister. Blamed her and hated her for all she was putting my mother through. NM begged for help from me, my father, my grandmother. She felt we "all should be helping" her. Later, I would learn that NM didn't want to share responsibility, she wanted to dump it all.
NSIS and I continued to have confrontations. I can remember helping my mother restrain her one time and being kicked in the head. Once, at a visit with my dad, I had told her she shouldn't be secretly calling her boyfriend long distance. I didn't want her to get in trouble. She rolled off the bed (I was on the floor), in the dark, and beat the shit out of me. It was the only time I fought her back.
Through college, I hated going home. Hated dealing with it all. I had no relationship with my sister. She was lost. Gone. And I blamed her for destroying my family.
In my early 20s, she seemed to mellow out (well, not really, but there wasn't the suicide and drugs and CRAZY) of her teen years. We, sort of, connected again. She went to college. We talked at times. But she lived with my father now and the chaos and drama continued. They fought horribly. I blamed my step mother and my father. They just didn't understand or make allowances for all that she'd been through. She had a boyfriend who beat her. SM and dad tried to get her into counseling.
I met my husband and my sister had little to do with him (he wasn't as easily impressed by her beauty and cute ass as my past boyfriends). She was still all drama and chaos. Lots of drinking. Nm told me she had herpes (I only recently learned this to not be true) and so I was horrified when she started sleeping with my husband's friend at my wedding (and also running out all night, leading NM to cause a scene looking for her. NSIS was 21 at the time, but expected NSIS to be at the hotel at night). The friend is a narcy ass and contributed to the problem, but I was scared that my friends, my new friends, would discover what sort of human being my sister was. So much fear and drama. And on my wedding. NSIS picked fights and I was terrified she'd cause a scene. She did little, but complained a lot.
As time went on, I started to "wake up" and figure out that things were much worse in my family than just "the divorce" (NM's favorite excuse as to why everything was fucked up. Oh, and the divorce was my father's fault. Or mine. NM said she divorced my dad so she could find me a better dad. A richer one.) I started not feeling so sorry for NM. I realized how much she enabled NSIS. I started to see the enmeshment, the bottomless pit that is NM, the triangulation. I started to clue NSIS in.
At this point, I really wanted to save NSIS. I thought that if I could help her to get past the issues from her past, she could get "better". I knew what she'd been through. I could see how the abusive boyfriend, drugs, alcohol, rapes, all of it were just products of the extreme horror that had been our last few years. I accepted all middle of the night phone calls where NSIS bawled and cried (drunk) for hours, despite needing to go to work in the morning. I got lots of these calls. Her boyfriend had left her, had hit her, whatever. She got several DUIs. She wound up in jail-she's been there many times. She once, during a road rage incident got out of her car and decked a lady (my sister is petite, but built like a brick shit house. Slender and toned). She was temper mental. She yelled a lot. She got in fights. She and my father fought constantly. She blew through money. She worked at a strip joint as a cocktail waitress (in a G-string). This, for my middle-class, white bread, prude father was too much.
I walked on egg shells with her. I shared little of myself. I wanted to help her, to save her. I knew I could, if I just believed and supported her enough. I blamed my step mother for butting in. I blamed my father for his rage and not loving her enough. And then I started blaming my mother for her enabling. NSIS started to pick up on the triangulation. She started to see. I knew, if I just supported her, instead of fighting her, I could help her. Some of our childhood bond came back. It was us against NM. We realized that NM blamed all of her depression, sadness, anything on the other sister. We started comparing notes. I had hope. Sure, she was still a crazy mess, but I had hope.
In my late 20s, I continued to support her in any way I could. I tried to "counteract" NM's manipulative tear downs of my sister (I could see how NM was purposefully doing things to keep my sister needy. Plus, I think NM secretly fantasized about leading the crazy, "exciting", life she saw NSis having.) I tried to offer good advice, I listened, I cried. I spent HOURS and HOURS on the phone. I cried, I stressed, I was sick to my stomach a lot.
NIS met another boyfriend who was abusive (this one worst than the first) and the chaos of that relationship reached fever pitch. She was being beaten, had lost her license, had barely graduated college. At the time, I blamed the boyfriend for the violence. But I had started to figure out that she was just as violent (duh, right?) She was going no where, working as a waitress and not wanting to use her degree at all. I thought my step mother was putting too much pressure on her. I believed my dad had given up. Her boyfriend broke her wrist so badly she couldn't work for months. I encouraged her to move. Move two states away to my favorite city (dumb, again) where she would fit in more. Where she would find the artsy, eclectic, edgy scene I thought she could flourish in.
Nope. She has been there seven years now. She is still a bartender/waitress. She moves/gets kicked out of her apartment about every six months. She has held four jobs in the year and a half we have been estranged. That is about average. She has had several violent relationships. Her best friend, a drug user, overdosed and died. She's been raped, again, several times. She has been "drugged" at the bar and woken up without knowing where she was. She's passed out, while closing the bar, to find her money and wallet gone. Her wallet is ALWAYS getting stolen (she leaves it places unattended and then gets angry that the thieves don't have higher values than to steal). She drinks a lot. Despite a, now, long term boyfriend, she still contacts the abusive boyfriend in the old city (in fact, she has flown to visit him twice. Once in my father's city; she did not visit my father). She wrecked her car continually. Someone was always "backing into her". She took lots and lots of money from my parents. She was driving some girl home one night (the girl was drunk, she claims she was not) and in some odd accident, she slammed on the breaks and the girls head hit her arm so hard the bone poked out of her arm by two inches. There were legal proceedings around this. There have been many legal proceedings, from DUIs, from violent incidents. When I took my three-month old to meet her, we were waiting on her because she was at court to testify that her abusive boyfriend shouldn't go to jail. She has been hit by a drunk driver. She still called in the middle of the night, drunk and crying. She calls my father screaming at him. He's called the cops a ton. The list goes on and on and on, but I think you get the picture. I'm actually embarrassed to write all of this stuff. Embarrassed to admit it. Her life is such a far cry from the life I live.
During this time, I got married, built a house, and started a family. She rarely is there for me. When I have confided in her, she later uses that information to hurt me and blame me. She has raged against me many times and I fear her temper. I've been discouraged from telling her my "happy" things, as she and NM claims it makes her feel bad. Makes her feel shitty by comparison. So, I can't tell her my sorrow and I can't tell her my joy. She is spotty in her interest in me, my kids, or my life. She is often jealous and so I can't share with her. During most of my special moments in life (when my kids are born, or when we moved into our new home) some incident in her life always comes up to change the focus. Always. NM then becomes wrapped up in that. She only occasionally remembers my kids' birthdays (recently, she remembered one, but not the other). She called me two days after my son's first birthday, never even mentioning it (and I dared not call her on it. I knew the drill, how dare I focus on ME when she was having so much drama/tragedy/hard times. This is the constant in our lives. No Jessie attention because NSIS is struggling.) When she has remembered an occasion, she goes overboard. And then complains about having no money for the next two months because she "spent it all on Christmas". I've spent hours on the phone as she selects gifts for her bosses or her boyfriend, while saying she has no money for family. She has only acknowledged my husband's birthday once (this last year, during estrangement). She told me both times that she would come to help me when I gave birth, only to have that plan evaporate (and never mentioned again) as we got closer to the date. The last time, she wanted to bring the (abusive) boyfriend home to meet me and my husband and "help" me with the newborn and my other child. It didn't occur to her that a woman with two kids, one a newborn, and fresh off surgery wouldn't be able to entertain. When I finally told her the boyfriend couldn't come, she decided she had to work and couldn't come either. (And she'd brought home a boyfriend the year before, who after a fight, left her here....650 miles away from her home and with her dog.)
I kept feeling like I was her life boat. Her only true friend. I wanted to save her. I had hope. She knew little of my life, my kids, my husband, but she felt we were "close". We would go months without talking because she wouldn't get back to me. She had too much going on in her life to return my mundane little calls. I knew things were still bad and chaotic, but she seemed to have stabilized a bit.
Two summers ago, she announced on FB that she had cancer and then quickly retracted it. She never called me to tell me what was going on. Two months later she called and screamed at me for not supporting her (not immediately, but it quickly went there). She had ignored my son having surgery (not a huge one, but still, he was only four) but was screaming at me about support. She had ignored his birthday. She didn't return my call or text or email asking if she was OK. I figured if she needed me she could call.
I never have found out the truth about the cancer. (I believe she has some sort of medical issue, but that it is not cancer). She left me fielding calls from my parents and relatives. She didn't feel she had a responsibility to deal with anyone because of all she "was going through". She continued to fight with her boyfriend (and not coincidentally, he had been threatening to break up with her right before the cancer shit), breaking up, getting kicked out of her apartment for it, and then moving back in with him. She never let me know she had moved.
She tried, several times, to 'play pretend', sending me texts about a bedroom furniture set she wanted to buy (after taking lots of money from my father for hospital bills for the "cancer"). I have finally admitted to myself that she lies. She sent some gifts to my kids out of the blue and then got angry at me for not accepting them as the bribe they were. (How dare I suggest that! she screamed). She has sent me several hate filled emails saying I am a selfish, horrible sister and she is "unsure" how we got to this place from our "close" relationship she thought we had (does the above sound "close" to you?). She sent some gifts for my son's and DH's birthday. Again, becoming pissed when I didn't respond the way she wanted me to. And so, she didn't acknowledge my first son's birthday two months later (and it's not about the gifts for me, it's the using of my kids as pawns in her shitty little games). She sent one email to me accusing me of keeping (stealing, really) the family photos that NM forced me to 'get out of her house'. NSIS said that she has tried to contact me, but that, basically, I'm being difficult and stubborn. I tried, once, in an email to begin to explain where I was coming from. That didn't go well. She text-bombed me for an entire day one time. She has tried to call "out of the blue" and then was shocked I didn't answer (she has been told to only contact me by email if she wants to work this out. I want this shit in writing from now on.)
We have spent two Christmas', Thanksgivings, and birthdays sending vague and trite texts. She sent two texts/FB messages demanding that I "please talk to me". Once, she told me to quit being ridiculous (like I was a child throwing a snit) This year, she started in early December, asking for ideas for my kids for gifts for Christmas (because it's hard when she doesn't know them, she said. hahahahaha). When I didn't respond, she tried again, asking for ideas for my father. Then, she texted asking for my address because she'd "lost (her) address book" (she's always "losing" her address book). She could've easily gotten it (and the ideas for my kids) from my mother. Not surprisingly, she didn't send anything. (I should also add that during this time, she's twice told me she's sent something that never showed up. Last Christmas, it was money to put towards there college funds....and this was when she was "broke" from the medical bills and time off from work for her medical problem. OH, and another interesting tidbit, she is always "broke" but then will find money to go on a trip or buy some new item.)
NM pushed for a reconciliation (you can find that post here) once. Mostly, she tells me how she "understands" because it has been SO HARD ON HER to deal with NSIS. It's always been about how hard NSIS has been on her.
NSIS has never offered a real apology. NSIS claims I'm being ridiculous and making things about me. NSIS has not heard me. It occurred to me that I'm partially to blame because I've never told her my real feelings about our relationship (and her). But what could I say? She would attack me for that. And I wanted to help her. I believe now she has a mental illness, in addition to narcissism. I do not know what to do any more. I'm saddened to find a hole that I used to think my sister would some day occupy. It was hard to watch her and NM play lovey-dovey on FB at Christmas. And part of me wanted to reach out. Part of me wanted the "Christmas shine" to smooth out the cracks in our relationship. But I know that this is more than just "cracks". This is trying to have a relationship with a crazy person. And I don't know how to do that. I can't continue to watch her treat my husband and children as pawns and competition for my attention. I can no longer hide her personality from my kids (the one time she was really around my sons, she was good for about a day before she started drinking, bitching about how it was effecting her time, and complaining about herself.) She is not someone I want around my kids (and I do not want the boyfriend around them at all. He's, to say the least, fucked up).
I think I know the real answer is that I can't go back from NC with her. But that doesn't mean she won't continue to "pretend" that it all go back to the way it was. I've never actually dealt with her (because what is the point? She's not going to hear me and will only give her ammunition. Sweet Violet recently wrote a really good post on this. I'll post a link if anyone wants it.) I feel pressure (although I'm not sure from where) to deal with her. I know she will never just "go away" and I will have to deal with her, at some point, in the future (recently we had a family reunion, which I ended up not going to because she had said she would be there. She ended up not going-she and NM had tried to manipulate ME into giving her a ride and letting her stay with me. Seriously, WTF?) She is not going away. But I just can't hold out hope anymore. She's 34 years old. Her life reads like a horror film (and the above details? The tip of the iceberg) and I'm tired of witnessing it. And the guilt, for giving up, for letting her go, sometimes is unbearable.
Sorry this was long. To be fair, some of the details are out of chronological order (it's really hard to piece this all together). Lots of time, my memory of things is choppy (like I remember the incident, but forget exactly where in the time line it fell) mainly because so much of it was so horrific, I've sort of blocked it out. Thanks for bearing with me and reading along. All and any advice would be welcome.
Editing Note (post posting): To be fair, I want to say that my sister is extremely smart, witty, clever, beautiful, and hard working (when she has the chance). She can be generous (to a fault) and is not completely selfish and all consuming. She has so much that she could capitalize on. Unfortunately empathy, self restraint, and control are not among them. We have had some good moments together...until we don't. And those moments rarely last longer than a few hours. Often she was the only person who had my back against NM, until she didn't. She used to be my sole confidant about this (as she was the only other person I knew who understood), but she would later use that confidence to hurt me and ALWAYS ended back up on NM's "side".