Releasing the past in order to find myself

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Family Trip

We recently went to visit the city in which my sister lives.  DH and I both LOVE this city and haven't been there for four years.  It's been three years since I stopped having a relationship with my sister.

Ironically, I had encouraged my sister to move to this city.  It's a lot closer to our home than the other city she lived in.  She was in the same town as my father, but that wasn't healthy for either of them.  She was in an abusive relationship, wasn't thriving, and I thought that if she moved to a new town, a town that seemed more in sync with her personality, she could finally break free from her self destruction.  I'm sure no one will be surprised to learn that the move didn't fix much.

We had gone to this town several times over the years.   The last time, I took my newborn over to visit her.  Yup, that's how our relationship worked.  She didn't come to meet her new nephew, but I took him over there.  She had offered to come and help me during the birth.  But when I suggested that bringing her new (and abusive) boyfriend to meet me at the same time as I was recovering from a C-section and had a newborn was not a good idea, she suddenly chose not to come.

We had to keep the vacation a secret up until the last minute.  I did not want my NM to know that we went.  She would have laid on a ton of guilt.  She was here the weekend before we left and it was exhausting.  Not that there was anything really "bad" that happened, but it was constant ducking and weaving to avoid falling into her traps.

I was anxious going to the city.  It's a big city, but I was worried I would accidentally run into her.  I know that seems paranoid, but I just couldn't imagine what I would do if I did happen upon her.   DH asked what I would do.  Anxiety and fear popped up.  I imagined that it would not go well.  She would expect me to have a reaction (happy to see her), I imagine, that I knew I wouldn't have.  I feared that if I did see her, N-rage would come out and she would yell, curse, maybe even hit me if she saw me in person.  She has no self control with her emotions and lashes out and fearing her attacking me in front of my kids was not far fetched.  She cares not at all about the feelings and thoughts of my kids.

During the trip, I would relax when we were some place that I knew she would clearly not be.  But I kept scanning the crowd anytime we were in a more public area or in a neighborhood near where she lives.  I was afraid of pulling up next to her at a stop light.

Memories of our last trip over to see her contrasted sharply with this visit.  Before I even went the last time, I tried to establish some boundaries.   Our family was going for a vacation, not just to visit my sister.  We were happy to have her join us, but I didn't want to have things revolved around her.  I didn't want to pay for her for everything (she's in her 30s and capable of paying for things herself.)  When I tried to explain to my NM that we were going to do things outside of seeing my sister, she became upset, telling me that I needed to make sure my sister's feelings were at the forefront.  The fact that DH and I were taking our family, wanting to do some other things (that my sister wouldn't like), that I couldn't afford to pay for my sister to join us on our more "touristy" activities didn't matter to NM.

When we arrived in town, we headed for the beach.  It took my sister over an hour to meet up with us (I had a toddler and a newborn, but we worked on HER schedule) because she was at the courthouse.  Her boyfriend had struck her, been arrested by the police, and she was at the courthouse worried that he'd get sent to jail for it.  That was her primary concern, not that we had driven 8 hours to meet up with her.

The next day, we went out for dinner by ourselves, only because it was our anniversary.  Normal sisters would have offered to watch the kids so her sister could have a nice dinner.  But not my sister.  Not that I would have left my kids with her anyway.

We took the kids to the zoo.  My sister showed up in a crop top and daisy dukes.  And thin, flimsy flip flops.  An hour into the day, she was complaining about her feet hurting.  When we went to get the tickets to go in, she just stood back and let my husband pay for her's.  She didn't ask, but didn't offer at all.  She has this way of projecting entitlement: if she's going to "honor" you with her presence of coming (which I had tried to tell her she didn't have to come), you have to pay for that.  She would never spend HER money on something SHE didn't want to do in the first place.  She was doing us a "favor".   As I was used to taken care of her and NM often made me feel I had to pay for my sister, I did it.  At lunch, NSIS complained about the prices of the food.  Again, she could afford it (she showed up the day before in $200 boots), but she felt she shouldn't HAVE to pay for something that we wanted to do.  Despite the fact that I had told her many, many times that I knew it would be expensive for her and she didn't have to join us, she came anyway.  And made us pay for it.  Towards the end of the day she became really testy.  She gets irritable easily. I again encouraged her to go home, that we were perfectly fine with that.  But nope.  She stayed.  And made us miserable.

Later that day, we met her for dinner (at a place she chose).  By now the novelty of the kids had warn off.  The way she seemed so disconnected from them seemed odd.  I often got the feeling that she was always annoyed with my husband because he got too much of my attention.  She seemed the same way with the kids.  Like they were an inconvenience to her getting attention.  She started in on a diatribe about herself, her friends, her life.  She started ordering whiskey on the rocks with a beer.  Every round.  And she had a few.  And then, not surprisingly, she didn't even move when the bill came.  I always felt so badly when my husband had to pick up the check for her.  This wasn't the first time, and in fact, whenever we were around her, she just felt my husband should pay (I don't think she really connects that HIS money is my money.  It's like she feels she can take advantage of him, that he "has" money and so he "should" pay for her.  Thinking about the fact that we were paying a pretty penny to visit the city in the first place was not even on her radar.)  She grew bored with "family time" and went out to drink with her boyfriend for the evening.

Luckily, the next day we went and visited some tourist attractions, which is beneath her, and so we were spared from spending the time with her.  She came one more time to say goodbye.

The contrast between that last trip stood in such opposition to this trip.  Despite the anxiety of seeing her, I was much more relaxed.  I didn't feel torn between avoiding her rages and keeping her happy, and sacrificing my family's enjoyment and money and respect.  I didn't have to worry about her being snippy to my husband.  I could work around what my KIDS wanted to do, instead of what she wanted to do.  I didn't have to worry about her sharing things that were inappropriate for kids or swearing and cursing (her creepy boyfriend has a weird internet site that has a very vulgar cartoon image of a woman in outline.  She had a sticker of this on her vehicle.  I couldn't imagine having to explain that to my kids now.....and I wondered at the time how other people parked behind her at stop lights appreciated that image).    I didn't have to work around the creepy boyfriend or make small talk with someone who is a complete self absorbed schmuck.  I didn't have to explain why she chain smokes to my kids or worry about the example she would set by drinking so much.  We could go do "touristy" or just things we wanted to do while in the town without worrying about working around her.  I didn't have to worry about what she was going to tell my NM when we left (about how horrible I was, how my husband wasn't nice to her, blah, blah.)  I didn't have to worry about NM lecturing me about making sure my sister was OK and her feelings were foremost and her needs were met during the visit.  I didn't have to worry about her relegating my husband to "scenery" while she dominated all my attention and the conversation at the table.

I didn't miss her.  I didn't feel sad that I didn't see her.  I wasn't upset that I was so close to her and didn't visit.  At all.  It makes me sad that this is what it's come too, but looking back at the toxicity, the stress, the craziness that used to involve any visit with her, and I don't miss it at all.  I just don't see how I could ever go back to a relationship like that.

Monday, July 6, 2015

"She's beautiful, inside and out" (Or, why am I such a misfit)

Fellow blogger, Judy, often titles posts "Brain Dump" when needing to get something off her mind. This is going to be a "Heart Dump" post.  I just need to get some feelings off my chest so they quit festering.

While all of this stuff has been going on with MIL, I've seen her family hardly do anything to help her or my FIL out.  One BIL went down and actually helped.  We tried (twice) to stop by and see her.  Her GC, seemingly, had lakes to visit and other activities to do.  DH finally organized a trip for all of MIL's kids to come and see her.  That was it.

Yet, they continue to play big, happy family on FB.  (I know, I shouldn't look at FB.  They are all on "restricted" status, so I can't see if I don't look, but sometimes I get curious.  Plus, it keeps me in the loop, so I'm never taken by surprise by their antics.  It also helps to keep track of what they are lying about.)  They talk about "family" and hanging out together....yet, when BIL and SIL were up at a family vacation home, all I saw were tons of photos of the FRIENDS they took up (probably to show off).  One of our mutual friends describes it as BIL's "fan club", which seems about right.

It was SIL's birthday, and they all made a HUGE deal wishing her happy birthday.  Every one of them has an addiction to exclamation points.  (Seriously!!!! Everything they say is followed by them!!!!! I don't even think they know how to use periods!!!!!)  BIL said "Happy Birthday, Sis!!!"  She is not his actual sister.  He has NEVER referred to me as his sister.  In fact, he didn't even wish me a happy birthday this year.  Or the year before that.  He and SIL are not particularly close (although SIL and BIL are very dependent on this BIL for "advice".  They treat him sort of like a parent and he loves that they "look up" to him and "admire" him.  He likes that they maintain the image of himself that he has created.)  My other SIL, whom I used to be close too until I found out she sold me out repeatedly, made a big gushy thing about "can't wait to see you!!!!!".  I live five minutes from her house.  I haven't seen her in months (unless you count her crabby, pouty butt at my son's birthday party.  She was hung over and had all kinds of attitude about having to be there.)

I know it's an act.  I know that it's phony.  I know that I don't want any part of that bullshit.  And I refuse to play into their egos.  But it still upsets me.

My NM and NSIS just got back from a vacation they took together.  NM was in Vegas for a conference.  She had told me she was having my aunt come down and stay with her a few days.  She did not say that she was having my sister come down.  NM tells me all of her comings and goings, so to omit this information was intentional.  I got to find out on FB, when they started posting tons of gushy photos of the two of them gambling and drinking.    They kept saying how "beautiful" the other one was and how much FUN they were having, just the two of them.  I had no desire to be there (I took two "girls vacations" with them a decade ago.  Either my sister or I were crying the entire time.).  And I guess I probably should have appreciated not being put on the spot and asked to go.  But there seemed to be an insensitivity to their posting all their photos.  NM has repeatedly told me how "close" they are now (in the time that I've been NC with NSIS).  NSIS has been making such a big deal about what a "wonderful mom" NM is.  Although I don't think they were trying to send me a message by posting them, I can't help but think that they hoped I'd be jealous.  Or mad.  Or feel badly about it all.  That's just how they are (I know this, because I've seen NM do it to other people.)

I'm sure it's very phony (after the first drunken night and all of the posts, I saw nothing for the next few days until NM changed her profile photo to one of her and my sister.  The previous one for the past two months had also been of her and my sister.)  I've watched my mother "construct" posts before to make things look better than they are.  I wonder if their relationship is always as "happy" as they claim it to be (I'm not sure how it could be.  Before I went NC, they both complained about the other one often . I can't imagine that everything has changed in that time.  Although they certainly seem to want me to think so.  I wonder if they want me to believe it's BECAUSE I'm out of the picture.)

But it does hurt.  It irritates me and rubs me the wrong way.  But why?!?  Why do I care?  Why can't I let all of this go?  Why does it matter to me that they are continuing on with their charade (or maybe they all really believe they are "one big happy family....without Jessie".  I know partly it makes me doubt myself.  Like maybe if I tried just a bit harder, looked the other way when they pulled out their bullshit, let things go, I could handle it.  Or that maybe I'm just a fucking misfit and can't manage to fit in.  How can they all continue on like this?  Do they really think this is what "family" is?  Surface crap that doesn't actually extend to real love, compassion, or consideration?  The only one of my BILs (my husband's blood siblings) that acknowledges my kids on their birthdays is the one that has to (because his kids are invited to the party).   None of them acknowledge my DH on his birthday.  My sister has ignored my children since I put up the boundary that I would only speak with her on email and only after we addressed some of my concerns about our relationship.  She claims she LOVES them so much, yet does nothing of substance to prove it.  NM has never bothered to ask why I feel the way I do regarding my sister, has not asked if something is wrong with me (I mean, if your daughter pulled away from you, wouldn't you ASK if everything was OK).  NM actually doesn't ask about me at all.  When she does contact me, it's to bitch about my step siblings or talk about herself.  I know THAT is the reality of the situation, so why do these phony displays of love bother me so much?

I'm just so frustrated with myself.  I want to move on.  I want to not care.  I want to let them live their phony bullshit without me.  Why can't I?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mixed Emotions

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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Last Supper

Many of the stories from this evening I've told before, but not in one post.  I was triggered by another blog on adult bullying into remembering this evening and I thought I'd like to get it all out for my records.  Please feel free to skip it.  (It will also be unedited and most likely misspelled, so please excuse me.)

This was three years ago, almost to the month. The details may seem like not that big of deal, but the whole experience really wore on me.  MIL and FIL had wanted to meet with us and BIL and SIL and our children for dinner.  At the time, my oldest child was not quite four and my youngest was an infant.  It was a very busy weekend in our town and when we arrived at the restaurant there was a long line.  MIL and FIL were at the bar.  The restaurant has a buzzer system (they buzz you when a table is read), so BIL, SIL, DH, and I took our children down to a local park to play.

Over an hour went by and we still had no table.  It was getting later (very near my children's bed time) and the kids were getting hungry, tired, and cranky.  I had not brought along extra snacks, as I usually do, and I was getting anxious and upset.  I felt we should have decided that it was getting too late and just call it a night.  Or, at a minimum, when the time ticked away, we maybe should have discussed another alternative (like getting food from the grocery store and having a picnic instead).  But everyone said it should just be "a few more minutes".

Finally we were paged and I was not looking forward to the meal.  MIL was in her usual giddy mood, sopping up the glory of being in the middle of her family.   As we walked to the table, she kept telling my young son that she had a gift for him but it was in the car (just out in the parking lot).  She had told him as we arrived at the restaurant that she had something for him and so he, being three, was quite anxious to get it.  I finally asked her why she just didn't go get it for him.  My son was following her around asking when he could have it and she kept telling him he'd have to wait.  I grew irritated.  When I asked her to get it, she replied "it's out in the car".  I said "well, you should go get it for him.  Right now, you're bribing him to get him to sit by you by withholding it."  She snickered - she gets this gleeful look on her face, "tee-hee-hee"ing and smirking.  "I know!"  she said.  "That's not really OK with me.  You can not bribe my children."  I told her.  Not that it did any good.  She just ignored me.

As we sat down, of course, my son wanted to sit next to her and FIL.  Usually, I try to keep me and my kids at arm's length from MIL.  She has some odd quirks at restaurants and it helps me to feel better if we are out of her reach.

MIL has some weird issues with food.  Clearly, food is a comfort source to her, but it's more than that.  Her entire FB feed is filled with recipe after recipe.  She's not an overly heavy woman, although definitely overweight, and she is constantly on a diet.  She is very jealous that I am not heavy.  She can not control herself around food.  She will select a small amount for her own plate, but then she will pick little pieces off the main plate.  I've seen her devour two extra pieces of pizza this way, cutting sliver after sliver off pieces left in the box until she has finished two more.  But she'll claim she only at one and wonder why she gains weight.  BIL also does this.  MIL also has no problem criticizing my SIL for what she eats and threatening she'll "get fat and BIL doesn't like that." (I about fell of my chair when SIL told me she said this to her.)  At a recent meal, MIL ordered a plate of nachos "for the table".  However, when it came, she placed it in front of herself. She doled out some to others (she never really offered anyone any) by using her own fingers, which she then would lick off.  She pretty much ate the whole plate herself.  And then she ordered a "small bowl of soup" for her actual meal.  It's amazing to watch how much she deludes herself.

She is also quite possessive over ALL of the food on the table.  She takes inventory over what everyone has and is constantly scoping out what people are eating.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't mind sharing bites or allowing people tastes of food.  I'm OK with family style dining.  (Although, with my ILs, they snarf food down so fast that I often don't get very much to eat.  If we eat pizza, I generally get one piece, as I'm a slow eater, before they devour what is left.)  When we first started dating, I would try and chat with the family at meals.  However, I quickly learned that after they inhaled their food, they would start eyeing my plate and helping themselves.  Again, I would go away hungry.

And MIL seems to get some sort of pleasure out of the specific act of eating someone else's food.  It's hard to explain, but it feels like a way of "marking her territory".  Like she gets some intimacy out of having my husband, especially, share his food with her.  It's not so much about the food, but about the person who's food it is.  She also is constantly trying to force him to eat her food off her plate.  Again, I stress, it's not about the sharing of the food for her, but about the invasion of his boundaries that she likes.  It's weird and frankly grosses me out (MIL has some emotional incest problems.  She often seems to see my husband as a companion, someone to admire her, rather than a mother-son relationship.  She also used to use DH and BIL as surrogate spouses to get the other siblings "in line" when she couldn't get FIL to help.  FIL tends to be a bit of a child himself and doesn't take a leadership role in the family.  He likes to be taken care of.)  Due to her lack of boundaries in this area, DH and I always try to sit away from MIL.  (He sees it too.)

I don't mind sharing or giving bites, but I don't like food being taken off my plate without asking.  I don't like when I haven't even had a chance to try my food before she's demanding some.  I don't like when they hog down their food and then demand some of mine before I've had my fill.  They act like I'm "odd" for feeling this way.

On this night, DH and I had agreed to order a small appetizer and a meal for my son immediately upon sitting down so that we could get the kids home for bed.   BIL ordered food for his kids, but he, SIL, MIL, and FIL all decided to languish over the menu and decide at some time later.

When the food arrives, MIL instantly starts bobbing and weaving and almost raising out of her chair to see what we are having.  Keep in mind, she has a very large meal on it's way and DH and I are splitting a small appetizer between the two of us.  She starts in on my husband "what do you have down there?!?"  DH tells her.  Then she asks for a taste of his beer (personally, and this is my issue, but I don't like sharing drinks with a bunch of people as the germ factor gets to me.)  She starts hassling my husband again, asking him how it tastes.  Clearly she wants some.  The woman can't wait for her own food (remember, she's a bit of a glutton) and she's trying to poach off our small meal.

At this point, the kids meals come.  They (MIL, because she always orders for my niece and nephew) had ordered pizza (a very large one) for my small niece.  My son ordered a burger which came with fries.  MIL instantly starts swiping his fries and dipping them in his ketchup (again, the germ factor.  This grosses me out.  I've also seen her use my son's napkin.  To me, this is a huge boundary violation.)  MIL starts hollering that my niece needs some fries too.  MIL think it's HER job to distribute food and determine who needs what.  Niece was not asking for fries, nor did she seem particularly concerned about it.  And yes, my son had more than he could eat, but DH and I had planned to share with him.  MIL also thinks it's her job to "re-distribute" family resources, determining who should pay for things, and how much.  She takes from some and gives to others as SHE sees fit and it really drives me crazy.

I'm becoming increasingly agitated by all of this.  DH grabs a plate, loads it with fries and passes it down to to my niece.  MIL is clearly annoyed by this and keeps grabbing fries and swiping them in my son's ketchup.  So, DH hands down the ketchup.

And this is were the lecture starts.  MIL starts in, while addressing my son, "It's GOOD to share.  WE SHARE IN THIS FAMILY."  She goes on and on for about five minutes as I precede to feel shamed and embarrassed.  Clearly the lecture is meant for me.  DH claims it's not, because she didn't address me directly, but I know it was.  We've had similar issues in the past and she bristles at me putting up boundaries.  It annoys her that DH limits her invading his meal space.  She is loudly proclaiming for the whole table the virtues of sharing.  But it's clear that it's being directed towards my end of the table.

And I am more than willing to share.  I am a very generous person.  But, as I thought later, this isn't sharing!!  Sharing involves on person making a choice about what they would like to give and to give.  And one has to feel ownership over something in order to share it.  If it is a communal resources that is NOT sharing.  And if some TAKES from you without asking, that is not sharing, that is TAKING.  If you have no choice in the matter, how can that be sharing?  I do not make my children share either.  If you force them to do it, than the lesson of it feeling good to share is missed.  They don't get the actual point.  I encourage it.  I talk about it.  But I do not force it.  I do not force my kids to give me or my husband food off their plate.  I always allow them to make the choice.   I felt violated by her making the choice for my son AND by going against my parental authority of how I want to teach my children.

By now, I'm FUMING.  I'm embarrassed, feeling shamed, and feeling very violated.  I'm also feeling very isolated.  I am often an "outsider" labeled as an odd duck with odd ways in the family.  It has been pointed out many times before, when I've upheld -what I believe to be- basic manners and conventions, that I'm uptight or rigid (things like asking before borrowing something, returning it in good shape, not putting food off your plate back into a family dish, not wandering around the table inspecting peoples meals when you are a grown up.  Seriously, DH's adult brother -granted he has some learning disabilities but is capable of understanding basic conventions - will walk around the table in restaurants examining what everyone has ordered.  They have no boundaries when it comes to food and I am the "odd duck" for expecting some.)  We finish up our food, throw down money for our share of the bill and attempt to leave.

At this point, MIL jumps up and declares NOW she's ready to give my son he gift.  I take my infant and go to our car, asking them to please hurry as we need to get the baby to bed.  They take my son and are gone for quit a bit.  When I see them finally coming, my FIL is meandering down to our car, pointing out other vehicles and naming the brand names of cars.  They clearly know we are in a hurry, but are dawdling.  When they get to the car, the stall some more and start conversations and open the car door to play with the baby.  I am FURIOUS but still sit there, saying nothing.  I know if I say anything that 1) I'll explode and 2) DH will be angry with me for "causing trouble" and "being difficult".

We finally leave and I am shaking with anger.  To be honest, I've rarely been that angry.  I felt violated, shamed, angry, hurt, and disrespected.  I can not even speak I'm so angry (and I rarely get like that.)  I have had enough of being a doormat to these people.  DH asks me what's wrong.  I tell him I'm angry.  He says "you hate my family!"  He becomes increasingly upset with ME.  Sure, MIL crossed some lines, he says, but was it that big of a deal?  Sure, they dawdled, but they were just trying to spend time with my son (by the way, they have NO respect for our time.  It is a huge issue with me that their time is important, while our's is not.)

We get home and put the kids to bed and I continue to be upset.  This was long before I understood shaming, or social collusion, or adult bullying.  This is before I learned about boundaries.  All I knew was that I was angry and my husband was blaming me for over reacting and ruining the meal.  For never being able to get along with my in-laws.  The discussion continues in which he points out that I "can't get along with anyone".  Anyone includes my NM and my NSIS and his family.  He disregards all of the people I DO get along with.  He is blaming me for all of the problems in the family and saying that I need to learn "how to deal with it".  But I don't know how to deal with it.  How to make my feelings of being violated go away.  How to not feel completely helpless in the situation.

I ended up that night in my closet with my father's pistol, ready to commit suicide.  I could not figure out any other way out.  I seemed to be the root of everyone's problems and I felt if I just "got out of the way" they could all go on and be happy.  DH talked me out of it and put me to bed, as I shook and cried.  He thought I was being dramatic and threatening suicide for effect.  I knew that I was seriously at the end of my rope.

I sunk into a deep depression and then shortly after stumbled upon narcissism.  It all finally made sense and the cloud started to lift.  I quit feeling I was the root of all problems.  It has been a LONG road.  DH still doesn't always understand it, although he's MUCH better.  But I no longer feel helpless.  I no longer feel I am to blame.  I no longer feel suicide is my only option.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rage, then Anger, than Annoyance, and then Hurt

My NSIS, NM, and I have always been very enmeshed.  The relationships have always been very codependent.

As I described before, I was often the care taker or protector of my sister.  We were always together. We went to childcare together and I protected and took care of her there.  In social situations, we were always together.  Even now, when my father's family had a family reunion, she wanted to go with me (even though we hadn't spoken in over a year) because she needs me to buffer for her.   In some situations, she can be very friendly and out going.  Not so much in others.  We took the same dance classes and lessons (NM always put me into the age level of NSIS, so I was often with kids two years younger.)  My friends where NSIS's friends (but generally not the other way around).

My NM and NSis have a very love/hate relationship.  NSis and my father did not get along at all when she was a kid and NSis was very attached to NM.  NM always babied her and coddled her.  NSis always got to sit by NM on the couch when we watched TV (I was with my father).  Nsis always sat by my mother in restaurants.  NSis even had to sit behind my mother in the car (not my father because she didn't like him.)  NM helped with my sister's homework (as did I.  NM did not, generally help me) when she slacked off.  NM enabled my sister when consequences were in order.

NM always expected me to give to my sister (as the "luckier") one and enable her too.  When my sister would beat the hell out of me, biting, gouging chunks of my skin out with her nails, punching me, my NM blamed us "both" for fighting (even though NSis never had a scratch and I never hit her back.)  I was blamed if my sister didn't do her chores.  I was blamed if my sister did something she wasn't supposed to (the final straw of me moving out of NM's house was when she held me accountable for my sister taking off and me not being able to find her.  NM, of course, was spending the weekend at her boyfriend's house and put me "in charge".  If I'd come home without her, I'd also have been grounded.  My sister was rarely held accountable, by NM, of attacking me (other relatives and my father tried to help me, but NM undermined that often.)

NM has am million excuses for NSis's bad behavior: she's having a hard time, she is unlucky, she just can't catch a break, bad things just "accidentally" happen to her.  She just has a horrible boyfriend, no self esteem (something NM asked my to have my DH help my sister get by "supporting" her more.)  She gives her tons of money (which she justifies as fair because she buys my kids tons of -unwanted- toys and gifts.  Or because she has to spend four times as much on me for "gifts" -my kids and husband count in "my" total- and so it's fair to give my sister more.  I could care less about the money, but it speaks volumes to me.)  She makes excuses when my sister ignores me or forgets me or acts up (she's just jealous of you Jessie, you have so much and it makes her feel bad about herself, she has a lot going on right now, she has a hard time remembering things like birthdays.)

Every once and awhile NM would agree that my sister was treating me badly, but aside from a pitying look, she would then change the subject to how much my sister treats HER badly and how horrible it makes her feel.  How it's not fair that she has to "deal with NSIS" all on her own.  No one struggles as much to help NSis, no one does for NSis, no one knows how painful this all is for her.  I have counseled, consoled, and listened to NM's complaints.  For many years, I hated my sister for what she was "doing to my mother" (shortly after this, NSis and I compared notes - in the one period I thought we were on the same side -and found out NM blamed ME for all of her stress in life.)  Despite all I did for my sister, it never counted.

My sister is very dependent on my mother.  When my parents divorced, she got most of the attention for acting out.  She got ALL of the therapy.  She relies on my mother to give her money (when she went to visit my dying grandmother, my mother paid for it all).  She relies on my mother to help her out.  But she also gets very annoyed with her.  NM would visit her once a year (which NSis would complain about.  NM visited me four to five times a year at the time AND stayed in my home.  She would get a hotel - or end up in a hotel after they fought- at NSis's house) and NSis would complain it was too much to have her come more.  NSis would call complaining about my mother holding her back, not getting her, not being supportive, not being empathetic (when NSis's beloved dog died, NM couldn't talk to her on the phone about it because it upset NM so much. :P)  My sister rarely visited NM in her home.

Since my estrangement with my sister, NM and NSis have both claimed their relationship has gotten so much better.  They don't necessarily imply it's because I'm out of the picture, I think they think they have "worked on their issues" and that NSis is "getting better" (something I've seen no evidence of).  I think my putting up boundaries has just driven them closer together (and more codependent).  They act very lovey dovey on FB.  They are very defensive about each other.  While they can complain about each other, if I EVER said anything, I got criticized and put down for it.

My NM has had little concern over my feelings towards my sister.  She portrays me as holding a grudge, being resentful, and "giving up" on my sister.  She has never tried to understand my point of view, but rather pushed reconciliation.  Last year, she wrote me an email saying that everything was her fault and that I shouldn't hold NSis responsible for the mistakes NM made as a mother (what those mistakes where she didn't say).  When I explained that I had issues with the ADULT my sister was, NM dismissed me.  She has guilted, shamed, and pushed me to reconcile.  She even pulls out "you don't know how hard this is on me".  I have never felt understood or listened to about the situation.  In fact, she doesn't even ask about me.

I know that my father told my sister to back off last month and that I had some things I was working through (I wish my father hadn't said this, as NSIS took this as I had "problems" and then launched into trying to be the sympathetic caregiver to me, which came off as patronizing and condescending instead of really caring.)  I know NSIS told this to my mother (they have no confidentiality when it comes to me and tell each other everything.  NSis betrayed my confidence when I would complain about my mother (I thought we were sharing a common feeling, as NSis would also say the same things about my mother during the conversation.)  But NM has made no attempts to reach out and see if I am OK (just vague condolences about my grandmother -and then gossip about my father's family that she managed to obtain through manipulation).  I'm sure she'd justify that as "respecting my privacy".  But she doesn't respect my privacy at any other time, why now?

NM has twice in the past month -as tension with my sister has reached a new height- changed her profile photo on FB to one of her and NSIS.  Close together with their heads, laughing, prompting lots of "awes" and "you two are so sweet" and "so much love".  BARF.

I do not want to be on NM's profile.  I refuse to take the ridiculous selfies she forces on everyone else.  She used to use my children, but I put a stop to that too (I don't like their photos public).  I'm not jealous of the relationship they have together.  In fact, seeing photos of them like that reminds me of what it is like to be around them.  Lots of bitter tongues and gossip and complaining and drama mongering.  Few real conversations.  Lots of me trying my best to be supportive and never feeling like I could be myself.  The negativity that is the two of them "behind the scenes" is horrible.

But it strikes me as VERY insensitive of NM to keep changing the photo to one of her and my sister.  It almost implies to me that I am on the outside and they are on the inside.  That she has taken sides (which I've always felt).  When my sister was in town, fine.  But just randomly?  And it's not like NM posts tons of pictures of her with other people as her profile photo.  It's either NM or it's NM and NSIS.  And maybe she's just trying to force me to look at my sister and hoping it'll make me feel guilt/nostalgia/sadness or something.  I really could be reading too much into it but I've seen NM do things like this before to elicit reactions out of people.  She loves to bait.

Meanwhile, she's texting me, baiting me to support her in her latest endeavor (sort of "hey, look at me, this is what I'm doing.  You should be acknowledging it!!!")  I've always been the caretaker while NSis is the star and the pet.  And photos like that one just plain piss me off.  I go from rage, to anger, to very annoyed, and then finally hurt.

Maybe it's a good thing, as it reminds me of why I don't want to participate in any of this anymore.  (and BTW, I don't look at NM's FB page unless I have to anymore, but her profile photo is hard to ignore.)  But it is so painful to be aware of how little NM cares about my feelings in all of this.  How my well being is of little concern to her.  Now of this shocks me or surprises me.  And if I called NM on it, she'd twist it to say she's just "not picking favorites" and "loving both of my daughters".  Blech.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mind Games

I am continuing to work through dealing with the narcissists and flying monkey's in my life.  Since starting therapy, I've had a lot of chances to let go of some of the anxiety and crazy making that I've been dealing with.  I've wanted to write but haven't even had a moment to write before something else has popped up.

Some quick updates: NM has been "maintaining" herself within in the distance I've put between us.  It is a very shallow, but cordial relationship at the moment.  She has tried to interfere in some aspects of my life, but I've been able to evade her.  Generally, NM can function in this state for awhile, but I know her resentment towards me will build.  It's no a matter of if she will "punish" me for keeping my distance, it's when.  She has been distracted by a major event in her life (a relatively good one for her, although she can make drama around anything) so I've been able to fly under the radar a bit.  Plus, I'm getting a bit of a "silent treatment" from her for not engaging enough in her event (fawning, asking questions, making her feel important) but I'm living with that.

I haven't seen MIL and FIL for two months.  (whoo-hoo!)  I think MIL is working temporarily and that's why.  I'm guessing my N vacation won't last long.  I am not looking forward to seeing her, but at least I've had a breather.

Recently my grandmother passed away.  It was a very sad situation and difficult in some ways.  But, I was able to process it and mourn for her.  It wasn't a close relationship, but I cared for her (she filled some holes in my life from NM).  In normal families, this would've been the point of focus.

Not in mine.  Of course, NSIS (and NM) used this opportunity to try and strong arm me back into a relationship with her.  In the course of a week and a half, NSIS contacted me 20 separate times.  Crying, cojoling, begging for support for her feelings about grandma (they had been estranged for 15 years due to NSIS verbally assaulting her in an email).  She guilted me ("at a time like this, we should be talking") and then attempted to shame me for "not trying".  One morning, she called or texted EIGHT times in half an hour trying to get me to respond.  I ignored them all.

The whole situation was very upsetting and anxiety provoking for me.  I was back having panic attacks and terrified I'd have to see her at the funeral (I didn't, thank God.)  I felt very pushed and pressured to "deal" with the situation I am in with my sister.

(A little background for those who don't remember; skip this if you read my blog regularly: my sister and I had a very enmeshed and codependent relationship.  I was put in the position of parenting her often.  She was a very temperamental child.  She was often violent - this was not just "sibling fighting".  I was often afraid of her.  She would fly into rages, not just at me.  Both my parents struggled with her too.  I was put in charge after school every day and all summer holidays long.  Her rage at me "controlling" her provoked her to often attack me.  I don't remember having many great, loving times with her.  In school, child care, and in activities I was to "protect her".  Even though she is socially engaging and can make friends, I was often her "protector".  To be fair, there were times she offered support or was kind, but it was few and far between.  During our teen years, NM divorced my dad and left me in charge of her more frequently.  She completely spiraled out of control.  She lied, stole (money and boyfriends), and continued to assault me.  She was interacting with very scary people and constantly was involved in violent and disturbing situations.  It was terrifying.  I had hoped as she grew older, things would get better.  They didn't.  She maintains her own home and has a job, but it is far below what she could achieve (she's always saying she's broke and needs help from my parents.)  She bounces from job to job to job because she can't maintain getting along with her boss' (they are always at fault because they are idiots).  She is involved in one abusive relationship after another.  Her life is more complicated and volatile and dramatic than a soap opera.  The list of crazy events and behaviors in her life is unbelievable.  She has continued to lie, manipulate, and rage when she doesn't get her way.  I tried to support her, tried to help her, often at the expense of myself, my kids, and my husband.  She gives very little back.  She thinks nothing of calling, drunk and hysterical in the middle of the night.  She often ignored important things in my life or minimized them (when my second son was born, she was supposed to come help me so I wouldn't be stuck with just NM.  She backed out when I said she couldn't bring her abusive boyfriend -whom I had never met - because I was having a c-section and a new baby and couldn't deal with a house guest (not to mention, she and her last boyfriend had had a significant confrontation at my home the time before and he left her 700 miles from their home).  I could go on and on, but bottom line is, I think she is narcissistic and has border line.  After her letting people believe she had cancer, but never actually letting me know, she screamed at me for not "supporting her".  This led to a break in our relationship.  I tried to communicate in an email that things needed to change (my therapist, who I read the email to said I was kind, thoughtful, and couched everything as nicely as I could.)  She responded with rage and hostility and passive-aggressiveness.  Since then, she has tried to hoover me and to "play pretend" that our relationship just had a little hiccup and that we could go back to the way things were.)

At this point, I'm at a loss as how to proceed with her.  DH suggests that, if I really think I can't have a relationship with her that I "declare" full NC.  These moments when she comes at me, demanding interaction are very stressful and traumatizing.  The therapist also sees NC as the answer.  I have been afraid in the past of declaring anything, as I didn't want to provoke her rage and I was struggling enough with my relationships with NM and MIL.  I have finally "confessed" everything to my father (he knew nothing of my extreme anxiety, the whole of the situation, and is often in the dark about my sister's true nature.  She's very good at hiding lots from him.  That was part of my anxiety, the secret keeping I had to do for her.)  My NM has suggested that I have "given up on her" and that NM would NEVER give up on a family member.  NSIS has been telling people that I'm just being stubborn and resentful and unwilling to "try".  I have been accused of not responding to her attempts to "make amends".

I've been struggling as how to proceed.  In reading the emails, my therapist says she can see how I clearly stated what I needed and that my sister just didn't hear me, but instead blamed me and attacked me.  The therapist sees no point in rehashing and feels nothing will change with my sister.
I am feeling it is all sort of unresolved, even though factually, I can see that I have tried to resolve it.  But I also wonder if I need to clearly state "don't call me, don't text, don't contact me."

And then some of me keeps feeling a pull to not go full on NC.  I've created a very small crack for her to allow her opportunities to get back into my life (through email only, she has not emailed me, only texted and called).  I know that I have this little bit of hope in there that she will see the light (she has had fleeting moments of clarity about our mother and our childhood in the past).  I'm terrified for her future and what will happen when my parents die (I do NOT want to take her on but I don't know how she can continue on with the life she leads as she enters the second half of her life.  She's in her mid-30s now).  I have always felt a very maternal feeling towards her and I often feel she is like my child (in fact, she has often felt that she is more important to me than my children and that she has priority or is at least equal priority as they are.  Rationally, I know she is a GROWN woman and they are children and as such, I need to care for them over prioritizing caring for her.)

As I left the office this morning, trying to figure out why I just can't let go, several things dawned on me.  The therapist can't seem to comprehend why I don't believe I'm doing the right thing, why I think I'm wrong, why I feel so guilty.

But I feel like I'm abandoning her (like a child).  I see her as helpless and desperately in need of support.  She has very few people to support her.   I know that NM abandoned us and it was one of the most devastating things for the both of us.  I know the pain it causes to be abandoned by a family member and I know she is in pain because I have "chosen to abandon" her.   I feel  I am no better than NM; that when the "going got tough" I walked away.  

Something in my head says that I'm a bad person, a bad sister.  That I must be weak if I can't be strong for her.  That she is suffering and I should be able to sacrifice some of my own comfort (of which, many believe, I have lots: a nice home, a comfortable life, good kids, a nice husband) to help out my poor sister who just has been dealt a bad hand in life.  I must be a weak, pathetic person if I can't help her through her struggles.  OR, I'm mean.  Or selfish.  Only someone who is selfish would "give up" on her family member.  We are supposed to be there for each other.  If you can't count on your family, who can you count on.  She needs me and I have ABANDONED her.  I'm selfish, uncaring, heartless person who just is too weak emotional (i.e. neurotic) to deal with all of this.

I know these are irrational thoughts.  When I look at it objectively, none of this makes sense to me. OF COURSE I am not abandoning her.  She is a grown woman and I'm only expecting her to act like one.  I am expecting her to take some responsibility for her life, her choices, and her emotions.  I am expecting her to grow up and learn how to handle herself.  I am not leaving her pathetic and helpless on the side of the road.  She is not helpless.  She is not a victim (no matter how hard NM tries to convince me she is.  No matter how much NSIS believes she is a victim.)

NSIS's issues with abandonment are not my problem.  I can not resolve them for her.  I can not love her enough to make that go away (Lord knows, I have tried).  How she chooses to receive my behavior towards her is not my responsibility.  I can not change that.

I am not weak for refusing to continue to be a part of this dysfunction.  I am not a weak person.  They do not get to determine my worth and my value.  They do not get to judge me as selfish.  It is not selfish to refuse to live in toxicity and abuse.  I am not being selfish.  I am not giving up.  I'm making new choices for me.

I can sit with the reality.  I can think through it all in my head.  My heart is a much different problem.  I can not switch off these old loops of tapes.  The tape that says "if you really loved them, you'd suffer for them.  If you really loved them, you'd do what you could to help, even if it cost you a bit.  If you really loved them, you'd toughen up so that you could support them without it getting to you so much."

I'm really not sure how to work this all out.  The therapist suggests early trauma recovery work.  I'm not so sure if that's the only way.  I'm not sure how to convince myself that I'm not a bad person who is just being resentful and refusing to try.   I'm exhausted from puzzling through this.  I'd really just like to move forward but I feel like I'm stuck in a bog.