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.


  1. "I don't look at NM's FB page unless I have to anymore, but her profile photo is hard to ignore." - Ah, precisely why she does it.

    The FB shit bugs me to no end. It's so blatantly phoney to anyone who cares to notice it, though most people don't. (Thus the many comments pouring in about "how cute" your NM and NSIS are. VOM.)

    Your NM did such a fantastic job of making you feel responsible for your sister in every capacity that you're still fighting it, even in the wake of your, shall we say, enlightenment? And while you have always tried to be the parent for your sister that your NM never was (to the both of you), your NM reaps all the attention for all her claims that "no one cares about NSIS like she does." And what's killer is that it isn't even slightly true. NM doesn't care about your NSIS any more than she cares about you. It's just that NSIS is too sick and too weak to get away. NSIS is still willing to play the game.

    You are not. And I think, somewhere in their warped and twisted minds, NMs everywhere know this and are prepared for it. She chose the Scapegoat role for you a long time ago Jessie. Keep fighting it. It's not who you are.

    1. The phoniness kills me too. Most people that comment haven't seen my sister or mother (or them together) in decades.

      I'm just tired of being yoked to my sister. And the harder I struggle to break free, the harder they seem to try to pull me back in. During my grandmother's recent death, the two of them were on me constantly, but with all sorts of "hope you are Ok. hugs." and things like that. Instead of inspiring love and compassion, I felt condescended and patronized.
      It's a hard fight, but I'm doing it. Whenever NSIS floats back around, and I'm reduced to an emotional tizzy, I'm aware of how unhealthy and toxic it all is.

    2. They keep trying to pull you in because they know on some level it's working. When it stops working, when you are not willing to open the door anymore for them, they eventually "go away." They find others who are easier to manipulate because they don't think it's worth the "effort" to keep trying when they know they can't get the control they want.

      Your awareness of the situation is crucial. I agree with what Ruth said below - I think the part you're in now is the hardest part. You're in that stage of awareness and understanding, but there's still and unwillingness to let go of it all completely.

      And that's where I think they've still got a hold on you. They know you're still "open" to them. Just that little bit. But it gives them a foothold. And where there is a fingernail of space to hold on to, they'll keep trying to grab for more.

      (I like this metaphor). You're in the "fingernail" space.

  2. Hi Jessie, I believe you outlined the situation very well. May I suggest that the hurt came first, with the rage and other emotions trying to cover it up again. It is hurtful to be reminded that some how for no apparent reason you are a third class citizen. You don't merit the same concern, you are not coddled, or enmeshed with your mother any more. They are going to ramp up the pressure because they do not want things to change. They like you being the scapegoat/caregiver/dogsbody/whipping boy. It is imperative for their comfort for you to step back into your designated role. Questions, is it worth their happy faces, however briefly, to step back into that horrendous role they want you to fill? This stage is so tough. Hugs. Breath deep. Do you have something planned to do with your kids and husband? When was the last time you took yourself for a pedicure? Can you visualize yourself without the chains they are pressing on you? I am cheering for you Jessie. You are seeing the picture. It is not a fun or loving image. You can choose a healthy won't be easy and grieving what could-have-been is part of the process of stepping into your own life and out of theirs. Cheering for you. You do deserve the love of your children, your husband hugs, and a happy life.

    1. Like!

      I especially like Ruth's suggestions for how to give you some "you" time. I think it holds value, giving yourself a couple minutes to breath, to try to relax. It doesn't solve your problems, but it can't hurt to clear that head space for a bit.

    2. Yes, Ruth, I was probably hurt first, but the anger was the first feeling I felt. Pure anger and annoyance that she'd be so callous again.
      Unfortunately for me, my NMIL has announced she is visiting this weekend. :P I have been mainly ignoring the stuff with my sister for awhile while I sorted through NMIL and MIL (NSIS lives 600 miles away, so it's easier to put her on the backburner). But when my grandmother died, I was forced to deal with a bunch of the stuff surrounding her. (I did finally have a long talk with my father about it all. He is often left in the dark about it all. Plus, he can be insensitive so I didn't know how he'd take it. He was, surprisingly, very supportive.) The lingering effects of dealing with my sister have been playing out over these last three weeks and I'm finally just coming to terms with where I need to go from here. And that would be a lot easier if I didn't have other Ns "dropping by".
      Hopefully, after the weekend I will get some me time and I do try to work that in. I've been out getting the garden beds prepped and tidied (which doesn't sound like "me" time, but it is for me). I know that their happiness should not come at this expense to me, I just need to actually feel that in my heart. Hard to "retrain" myself.

  3. I caught the bit about your mother claiming you hold grudges. Isn't that hilarious? If you put your hand down on a hot stove burner, nobody would blame you of holding grudges if you avoided putting your hand on a hot stove burner again. --LuLoo

    1. Yes, the projection is mind blowing (she is the Queen of grudges and resentment). The thing is, they would twist it and say that the "stove isn't that hot" "you over reacted to the heat of the stove" "you're just not tough enough and weak because you can't handle the stove". It is all so irrational, but I've been conditioned to believe all of that for so long. Sometimes it made me feel like I was crazy.

  4. Just wanted to chime in and give you a bit of support. I wonder if it would help you if you unfollowed your mother's FB feed? I did that to my own mother a few months ago and it has really helped me to not get the kneejerk horrid response every time I saw something of hers in my feed.

    The great thing about that is it doesn't change your friend status at all so she won't know you can see her activity anymore. I can then browse out to her page once every other week or so in order to catch up on anything I might need to know.

    Good luck!

    1. Hi,
      Thanks Anon. I actually do have it on "unfollow". Like you said, I look at it when I'm feeling up to it, and save myself from ruining my whole day/night with a crazy post.
      Unfortunately, I feel compelled to check it every day and while I'm prepared,it can still be difficult. My NM and my NSIS are masters of the "little digs" and I know they craft most of their posts for effect: whether that be for me or their 'audience'. Either way, the "staging" can be a bit much.
      And with them, they are very sneaky. And prone to create drama at the drop of a hat. Although it is difficult to see this stuff, it helps me to not be caught off-guard. I at least get to process my emotions BEFORE they get to me, as I can usually tell what's coming.
      I know that sounds crazy, and is not a justification for why I do it. But, I do think as I feel better at dealing with things I won't need this "crutch" much longer.

  5. Hi,
    I've been thinking about this post for the last few days. There was something in it that bugged me and I couldn't get to the bottom of it, but at last here it is: I couldn't understand why our mothers (I include myself in this since as you know I am in a similar situation) always make the excuses for our Nsis and why they don't care about the way the Nsis treat us; and then I saw it: our mothers treat us badly too, so for them to acknowledge the wrongdoing in our sisters, they would have to acknowledge their OWN wrongdoing first. Which, as we already know, is an impossible thing to ask from a Narc.
    I know this is probably a 'duh! of course it is' sort of moment, but you have to see it as if you were looking from the outside, to be able to comprehend it emotionally. They have brainwashed us to think that we have to put up/endure bad behaviour because "it's family", when in reality this is not the case. Nobody should have to put up with abuse, no matter in what form or who is the abuser.

    1. Wow, Kara, I hadn't really thought about it in terms of our NMs having to acknowledge their own bad behavior. I will have to think on that a bit more. That is a really interesting idea.
      You know, I'd sort of been going around a similar thought in my mind lately, but I kept thinking of it as "why does she care so much more for NSis's feelings than mine?" Sort of what has NSis done "right" to have her feelings valued so much. Maybe sort of the opposite side of the same coin that you are talking about?

      And to your last point, I completely agree. I think not just our families, but the basic 'societal myth' is that family is always more important than the individual members well being. Sacrificing yourself for the "family ideal" is highly prized by a lot of people.
      I recently told my father that if my husband, or a boyfriend, treated me the way my sister treated me: name calling, belittling, threatening violence or extreme embarrassment, judging me, ignoring me, demanding of my time and attention, raging at me, no one in my family would encourage me to stay with a partner like that. People would probably criticize me for allowing myself to stay in a situation like that. It's this paradox that makes my brain hurt.

    2. I was thinking a lot about this through the night. I think that my family has sort of twisted this. For as long as I can remember, my NM has catered to NSIS. NSis was temperamental and prone to fits from as far back as I can remember. I was a relatively good kid and eager to please, so it was easier to get me to adjust my behavior. Soooo, I was constantly being made to work around NSis so she wouldn't act out and make NM's life difficult. In addition, it took a lot of the load off of NM of having to actually PARENT my sister.
      My sister and I were never seen as equals or the same. My sister was the baby (I've watched NM shift her preference from my older son -whom she was obsessed with - to my younger son, as my older son has started to individuate and not adore her anymore). She gave NM lots of adoration and was very, very attached to her. Because NM made me more of her "assistant", I tended to be more of an individual, which offered NM little NS.
      I don't think my NM actually thinks she's EVER done anything wrong. I think she rationalizes and justifies every thing she does and has warped definitions so that she can believe that she actually loves me. Any deficits in our relationship are MY fault, for not "accepting" her love and remaining "distant". If she would have to admit anything by acknowledging NSis's behavior, it would be that we are not a "happy family" that we are not the "bonded", "close", "supportive" family she wants to show everyone we are. Maybe she would have to acknowledge that she made mistakes as an NM, to say that NSIS has issues. But to admit she has ever done me wrong? Never would even occur to her.

  6. Hi Jessie,
    Blech is right! I think I've said this before, but can relate to so much of what your write! I also feel like my setting boundaries has made my NM and bro more codependent. The more I set boundaries, the more difficult things become all around. I'm so sick of them and sick of the entire situation that I don't think I could go back to my old way of "just getting along" and trying to make them happy even if I wanted to (not to mention trying to gain NM's approval, which I know she misses - what a waste of time that was). Ergghh, it was a tough Easter and I guess I need to decompress. Thanks for writing! :-) -Dawn

    1. Hi Dawn,
      I'm sorry you had a rough Easter. Holidays can suck. Mine wasn't that wonderful either. I know what you mean about not ever going back. You sort of can't "unsee" things once you see them. Hope you are feeling better.

  7. Jessie -- I just started on your blog and am enjoying reading your story from your end. I've read Jonsi's blog from beginning to end and have learned so much. I have NMIL and my husband is totally in the FOG and has just now, barely, begun to understand what is so very wrong with his mother. He is so enmeshed I'm not even sure how to help him.I hope someday my husband can learn and understand his mother like you have come to learn. I can only imagine what a difficult and eye opening experience all of this has been for you and I admire your efforts to look within and without yourself.

    I have just started my blog, only 4 entries, but I'm finding it helpful. I'm really close to getting DH into counseling too. Everything with my DH requires time for him to absorb before he makes the leap. With me, I'm not sure if I'm more upset about current going's on with his mother or the fact that the man I love never had a decent mother and never had the childhood he should have had. Despite all of that I marvel at the wonderful man he has become, regardless of his shitty mother or his upbringing.

    I to say hello and introduce myself and let you know that I admire what you've had to overcome and learn about yourself!

    1. Hello MA,
      Thanks for commenting.

      Coming to terms with having an NM can be very difficult, especially if you are very enmeshed. I had a "big event" when I was a teenager (my parent divorce) that opened my eyes, but it was still a long couple of decades of figuring everything else out.
      I'm not sure if you have realized, as you haven't read much, but I also have an NMIL. It was actually a lot harder for my husband to figure out what was going on with his mom than it was for me to figure out my own mother. His family thinks it is the epitome of "normal" and any eccentricities were explained away ("she had four boys, so that's why she lacks sensitivity, or is unemotional, or distant, or controlling....." and on and on. Any sort of other things about the family were blamed on one son who has a low IQ and other psychological problems. )
      I'm glad you've found my blog to be helpful. I wrote as a way of self discovery (and to speak my truth) but it is nice to hear that it has been helpful to others as well.
      (Also, I often write without much editing. I tend to just pour it all out and then not go back and reread it. So, I apologize for all of the grammar and spelling errors!)

  8. Aww thanks! I totally understand about the out pouring when you write! I've been a writer (such as it is) most of my life, including poetry. It is so beneficial! Blast away!! We get your gist! :)