Releasing the past in order to find myself

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.