I've been having a hard time lately. A weird, funky depression has hit me and I'm struggling to pull myself out of it. Part of this has to do to with some recent developments surrounding my NMIL. Please note this will be a rambling post. Also note that I am not trying to be judgmental or critical of NMIL and her issues, but that I feel the details of what is going on speaks to the larger picture. I have already been told once -by an ACoN- that I am just "taking her inventory" in an attempt to control her. Hearing that pushed me into a bad place after opening up about some very difficult feelings for me.
MIL is very ill. She has always had stomach issues. Several years ago, she had major surgery to deal with stomach issues. She was told then to get her diet under control. (She was also supposed to modify FIL's diet by cooking more healthfully). A couple of months back, she was stricken with an infection in her abdomen. (I'm going to leave out the details, out of respect.) The infection is due, most likely to poor food choices and not modifying her diet. She had surgery to remove it and spent over a week in the hospital. Three days after being released from the hospital, she was at my son's birthday, indulging on cupcakes and snack foods. Despite wincing in pain, she allowed my kids to climb all over her. Two days later (five after being out of the hospital and major surgery and illness) she remained committed to taking a distant vacation with FIL. I can not imagine that she ate well on this trip (she really has no self control. This is not a judgement, just an observation.) On the return trip, she picked up my niece and nephew to babysit. She had not been out of the hospital for more than two weeks. And sure enough, as could've probably been predicted because she was not taking care of herself, she wound up back in the hospital. Infections again, reactions to medications, and tons of pain. She came out of the hospital for mere days, and was back in the hospital again. They can't figure out why she isn't healing. It is looking quite serious.
MIL also has food issues. I do not begrudge anyone their coping mechanisms and fully understand vices. I have mine too. But I do not ignore my issues and believe myself "healthy". As with any alcoholic or drug addict or shop alcoholic, she seems to have a compulsion to eat in order to soothe emotions she does not want to feel.
As is probably obvious, MIL has emotional issues. She only has two: glee and anger. And maybe boredom. She absolutely will not deal with any other emotions. At all. And so she consoles herself with food. I've seen it over and over. And while she is eating, she is completely oblivious to it. She sort of "sneaks" it on herself (by slivering off teeny "extra" helpings. She suddenly has eating two or three extra servings, but sees it only as "a little sliver"). Whenever she is in emotional discomfort she eats. And then she complains (and reacts jealously to my thinness) about her weight. She is forever on a "diet". Not a healthy eating plan, but a diet. To me, the connection seems obvious. If you don't deal with your emotions, repress them constantly, and then "soothe" yourself with junk, it's bound to catch up with you.
Now, I have lots of sympathy for people who are struggling, who have emotional issues and addiction issues. But when someone won't even ADMIT that they struggle or have issues and claim some sort of superiority over others....well, I have less compassion for that.
This woman has spent almost two decades scapegoating me and bullying me and pushing "her way of life" on me. She has acted morally superior and put me down and blamed me. She has refused, even for a second to thing that maybe SHE is the problem. She refuses to take a look at herself and has continued to do whatever she wants, despite the consequences. And she expects everyone else to be just like her. She didn't allow her kids to develop any sort of emotional health. She taught them to ignore any and all emotions too. Several of them have rage and stomach issues too. She has refused any attempts to change the dynamics of relationships. And she expects everyone to go along with her unhealthy way of being and any suggestion to the contrary is met with anger or ignoring on her part.
I'm struggling to feel any compassion for her. I feel AWFUL saying that. But I'm struggling to feel badly for someone who will not help herself. I am struggling to feel compassion for someone who has never felt it for me, and rarely feels it for others. Any compassion for her makes me feel vulnerable and afraid. I'm sorry she is sick.
But I'm also feeling relief that she is not bothering me at the moment. Before she went into the hospital, she was "winding up" on my husband again and I could feel another N-wave coming at me. I feel badly that my relief is coming from her pain and agony.
I'm angry that she hasn't taken better care of herself. That she continued to proclaim that stuffing your emotions and not dealing with anything is the "right" way of dealing with things. That putting "the family" above taking care of ourselves as individuals is the "moral high ground". That never saying no (like to my FIL about the trip and my BIL about watching his kids) came above taking care of herself. That this is the "rightous" thing she has always expected out of me (and my husband). That martyr yourself is the right thing to do. She can not say no. Almost all of her relationships are "transactional" (this isn't my term). Meaning, she does things for people and then she draw love back. And if you say "no" to her, it means you don't love her. I'm angry that this sort of unhealthy behavior contributed to her not being well now. And all the while I've been condemned as a "bad" person, "unkind" for daring to ever put my physical (and God forbit, my emotional) well being as a priority.
I'm terrified of what this means. DH and I FINALLY had started setting boundaries. She was not happy about it, but I was finally feeling relief and some control over my own life. I wasn't feeling helpless anymore. We had separated and have distanced ourselves from his family. I wonder how all of this will effect that progress. I wonder how dynamics will change from here on out. I am afraid that, if something should happen to her, DH will come to resent me. That his family will resent me. That I will (as always )be blamed for being "against" the family (this was the story up until now: if I didn't go along with whatever MIL decided, I was "against" the family). I wonder if something should happen, how much FIL will attach himself to us. Not that I don't like FIL, but he is extremely co-dependent on MIL.
I'm sad that I feel a tad bit of relief thinking about what might happen if this is it for her.....I don't even like saying that out loud. I feel like an awful person. Who feels positive feelings about something like that?
Especially in the face of the fact that so many people are so upset. FIL is devastated and overwhelmed. My husband is stressed. His siblings are upset (although, oddly, two of them -one of them the golden child- have not gone to visit her at all. And it's not because he can't go. He lives close enough and has spent the weekends visiting other family members, so it seems odd to me.....) Partially, it's annoying seeing so many people tell her how wonderful she is. And maybe she is to them. But she wasn't to me. (There I go again, being a jerk. Seriously, I have spent a lot of time beating myself up for these feelings.) I struggled to see one of her son's describe her as the "strongest" person he knows. For me, she has always seemed weak: frightened, angry, resentful, bitter, and repressed. It's frustrating that a woman whom I've never seen had a vulnerable moment in her life be described as "strong".
It also makes me fearful about what happens in the future with my own family. I feel so much healthier being away from my sister. But what happens when something happens to our parents? The thought of having to deal with her (and the odds of that happening are getting better and better) makes me upset and sad.
And some of this just makes me sad. It didn't have to be like this. Our family didn't have to be like this. Her whole illness sort of seems symbolic to me of the whole "infection" in the family. Constant repression, constant "soothing" with outside things, no emotions allowed and a sickness eating us from the inside out.
I appreciate any thoughts, but please be gentle with me. It took a lot for me to own up to a lot of these feelings. I've beaten myself up quite a bit in the last few weeks. It has made me doubt so much of my choices and I'm struggling to stand in my truth. I often wonder if I'm just a horrible, callous person.