Releasing the past in order to find myself

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Good Girl

Hi all.  It's been awhile since I've written here.  I've been working on healing in a few different ways, and so the blog has been neglected.  It's been hard to come up with full posts and and ways to put things so they make sense and so posts have been hard.  Most of what I've been working on is small details put that are forming into "big picture" ideas.

The holidays, while not horrible, were exhausting for me.  All in all, my FOO had a really nice time.  We were busier than usual.  I was happier than usual.  I was able to fully be in the moment.  But with any holiday,  the Ns come buzzing around like flies.  They have expectations, demands, and bone to pick.

At present, I am LC (and pushing for more) with my NM, LC with my in-laws, and NC with my NSIS.  The NC has been difficult for me, as I've come to realize I really do not want a relationship with my sister.  The few bits I've heard from her and about her, tell me she hasn't changed at all.  My MIL was very gravely ill this summer and it has led to a whole lot of changes between DH and I.  She allowed a lot of her true nature to shine through, and I believe he's seen things he can't unsee.  I've been pushing NM back further and further and it's been very interesting to watch her reaction.   She hounded me a ton over Christmas.  Lots of texts, lots of pressure to visit soon.  Because I didn't do what she wanted, she suddenly became cold, distant, and icy.  She started DARVO-ing, implying she was going to stop giving me "more chances" because I'd been "disrespectful".  I spent a lot of time thinking about how she views things and how she can possible believe something like that.

I have finally reached the conclusion that my mother absolutely can not handle any negative emotions from me or my sister.  No sadness, no angry, no disappointment.  If my sister feels that way, she does something to "fix" her (temperarily bandage the problem).  If I feel that way, she completely dismisses me, ignores me, pretends she doesn't hear me or doesn't see the issue, or attacks me for being angry with her.

Growing up, my mother was quite distant.  I remember her spending a lot of time on chores.  She worked full time, but when she wasn't, she cooked, cleaned, or really did anything else.  She didn't play with me, help me with homework, ask me about school or friends, help me run lines for my school plays.  She just never felt very interested in me at all.  We didn't have a lot of money (something my mother must have said a lot, as that was always the feeling I got.  My mother has a big issue with being poor).  But I was clothed and fed.  I had nice toys and had good (although not lavish, which is fine) Christmas'.   We were well "taken care of".  But I don't remember being really maternal at all.  She "ticked all the boxes" of what a mother should do (credit for that saying to my friend Kara).

I do remember her being very withdrawn and cold and depressed.  I remember always trying so hard to not upset her further.  I remember trying so hard to appease my sister (who was, unlike me, not afraid to act up or express her needs and wants.  She was vocal, volatile, and intense).  I know my mother asked me often to appease my sister.  Just give in so that my sister would behave.  I was the ultimate "good girl".  I realize I wasn't perfect, but I was always trying very, very hard to not make waves.  I was good in school (in fact, if I ever got in trouble, which I think maybe happened twice, I was devastated).  It's not that this necessarily came naturally.  I tried very, very hard to BE a good girl.  I did whatever it took be the good girl.  I helped out, I was friendly and kind.  I did all my homework and chores.  Even into my teens, I was a relatively good kid.  Despite a herendous divorce and my family life falling down around me, I still worked, got almost all As, participated in college level courses and extra-curricular activities, and took on a lot of the responsibility for my sister.  I had always taken on extra responsibilities involving my sister.  From the time I was very young.  I was the perfect mother's helper.  (You can imagine my hurt and surprise when my mother tells me now about how she'll tell anyone who listens how "hard raising teenage girls are."  She'll go on and on about "girls' - she knows enough not to call me out directly.)

When my parents divorced, my mother pretty much abandoned me for my teen years.  The little involvement she did have went down to almost nothing.  Despite being exceptionally depressed and upset about the divorce, my mother acted as if I should be "fine".  Any extra support went to my sister, who had seemed to explode into a pillar of problems, issues, and chaos.    It's not that NM had so many problems with my sister that she couldn't also attend to me.  It was that she never, ever considered how I was feeling or what I was going through.  If I expressed any dissent, hurt, or God forbid, the slightest degree of anger, she would shut me down immediately.  My unhappiness was impeding and dampening HER happiness, so I was not allowed to be unhappy.  I distinctly remember her telling me "It is my turn to be happy."  I can look back now and see how she felt she'd sacrificed for her family (she had an NM and an alcoholic father and had taken on a lot of family responsibilities herself) and than been so unhappy with my father.  But at the time, I was stunned that I wasn't allowed to have ANY feelings because it conflicted with what she wanted to do.   I wasn't allowed to talk about it.  When I spent three weeks locked in my room, only coming out for school, she ignored me.  She never asked how I felt, never talked to me about the divorce.  And in fact, she then pushed her "new" family at me and demanded that I fall into line and embrace these strangers (my step father, in particular, who she'd been having an affair with.)  The divorce was acrimonious, there was significant traumas, my sister was out of control, I was left alone a LOT to care for my sister on the weekend, yet my mother never once bothered to stop and consider how I feel.

In my mid-20s, she apparently grew bored with her new family and decided to swoop back in and take back the reigns as "THE mom" in charge of me.  It was at this point, she became very enmeshing and co-dependent.  She had been quite enmeshing when I was a child (not considering what I liked, who I was, or what I wanted) but as an adult, it took on a whole new level.  She wanted to operate my life like she was at the control panel.  She expected to push buttons and I would do whatever she wanted.  And in a lot of ways, I did just that.  As I said, since a young girl, I had always wanted to just make my mother happy.  I wanted to fix that unhappiness she seemed to have (which now came because my sister, 10 years later, as still extremely out of control and we never knew if any day she would find some way to kill herself.  And my the "shine" of the new family had worn off).    So,  I tried to make her happy.  Tried to do what she wanted and be the "good girl" again.  The wounds of the divorce hadn't healed (I had felt so utterly abandoned) but my mom was "back" and I so wanted to make it work.

But, of course, it didn't.  Any attempts to have a real relationship, express any individuality, act like an adult were insults to her.  She took great personal offense to me not accepting her "help" (money forced on me so she could strong arm me into doing what she wanted.  She now had a rich husband, so money became her favorite tool.  It worked on my sister but not me.).  If I didn't take what she offered, I was ungrateful.  If I did take it, I took advantage of her.  If I did take it and didn't do what she wanted, I was spoiled.  I just couldn't win.

And during this time, she tended to take out her own anger about how her life had turned out and project it onto me.  She had constant criticisms and was just down right nasty at times.  Little insults, little digs.  Constantly telling me that I didn't measure up to her expectations.  For a little girl who only wanted to please her mom, who had been terrified of losing her family during the divorce, I often acted desperately to please her.  I was in my 20s, but I still felt very much like a lost little girl.

I finally started to gather some courage and stand up to her in my late 20s.  Many events had become so difficult with her and I was frustrated and saddened that I couldn't figure out how to "get along" with her.  I decided to try talking things out with her.  This did NOT go over well.  Expressing any sort of feelings to her got regulated to "you're just still upset about the divorce".  Being a bit naive at the time and unsophisticated in dealing with Ns, I didn't have a response for this.  I didn't realize how she was shifting the point to take the pressure off of her.  I WAS still upset about the divorce.  I'd never had a chance to heal, my mother had never acknowledged that I even had a right to be upset about the divorce, and because she kept telling me that, my being upset was an affront to her happiness, I had stuffed all of my upset down.  I had wanted her to be happy, so I refused to acknowledge how upset and angry I was.

But that had NOTHING to do what was going on now.  My upset with my mother had to do with her controlling, belittling, demanding, and insensitive behavior.  It had to do with her insults and continued abuse of me.  It had to do with her emotionally raking me over the coals.  It had to do with her expectation that I was just as "responsible" for my sister and her out of control behavior as my own mother.  Her expectation that I was to fix it.  It had to do with my mother using me as her own personal psycho-therapist and dumping all of her problems on me.  Yes, the divorce wound was there, but it had nothing to do with what I was trying to resolve with my mother.

These interactions left me baffled and hurt.  I again felt so minimized.  I felt that I couldn't quite get to whatever it was I need to get to in my mother to make any difference in our relationship.  My feelings, my emotions, my anger with her, my hurt towards he was so offensive to her that she wouldn't allow me to express it at all.  If I did, she would become very wounded, hurt, angry, or upset.  And watching her feel like that was the ultimate discomfort for me.  I didn't want to hurt my mother.  

The pressure kept building though.  I remember one night in which she'd been drinking and had become particularly nasty in her criticism and snark.  We were driving home and she was yelling at me about how I was "just still upset about the divorce.  You're just still upset I married your step father."  I can remember fighting that feeling so badly to tell her how I felt.  I knew it would NOT end well if I did.  I remember her pushing and pushing me to tell her how I felt.  Not because she actually wanted to hear it, but because she was testing to me to see if I'd hold back.  She wanted me to deny every feeling I had and tell her that I wasn't angry with her, I wasn't upset with her, she was a GREAT mom and I loved her.  But I didn't.  I finally decided to give her what she'd been pushing me to do and I let her have it.  I wasn't mean towards her (I was still respectful, not calling her names or accusing her of anything) but I unleashed how I really felt.  And she went beserk.  We were in a Home Depot parking lot, me curled in a ball in the back seat, her screaming and clawing at the door to get out.  It was locked (automatically locks if the car travels over 15 mph) and she was like a caged animal trying to get out.  She was screaming at my husband to take her home.  He gently told her he thought we needed to just talk and figure things out.  I was sobbing.  She screamed so badly and freaked out so much that we took her to her hotel.  She got out with out a word.  The next day, she stopped by my house to say good bye and return a hair dryer.  She said not one word about it, didn't ask to resolve anything, but gave me a hug and figured that solved it all.

From that moment on, things were never quite the same.  As my kids came along, she demanded more and more to be put front and center.  And if I didn't, she became angry and hostile.  She played the victim.   She accused me of being unkind, keeping her from her grand kids, being selfish, and spoiled.  She accused me of favoring my in-laws (HAHA!  And she knows how much I struggle with them.)  She continues to dismiss me at every chance she gets.  In the last 4 years of LC, in which I went from talking to her for 2-3 hours every other day (well, listening to her, not really talking) to only talking briefly on holidays and birthdays.  I don't tell her anything about my life, and she doesn't ask.  I don't make an effort to see her.

In all this time, she's never once asked me how I'm feeling or if I'm OK.  She's never asked to make things better.  She's continued to pretend everything is fine.  She's never asked me if somethings wrong.  When I went NC with my sister, she never asked to hear my feelings on it.  She's preached to me about my sister, badgered me to get back into contact, and continued to share any and all details of how "great" my sister is doing (this is a lie).  But she's never asked what I need, how I'm doing, or if there is something SHE can help ME with.  She has never once, to my recollection really wanted to know what my feelings are.

The only time she cares is if it's a dramatic situation and she can suck up the NS from it or somehow position herself so she's pitying me.  It's only ever been to gain an advantage (like when my grandmother died almost a year ago, she suddenly became very "concerned" about me.  Interesting, because when her own mother died, she had no ability to see I might be grieving at all. )

As I've said no more and more to her, I can see that "good girl" image pop up in my head over and over.  This is the one tool she uses on me the most.  My willingness to be conscious, my desire to be the good daughter who makes her mother happy, my wish for a happier family.  She knows damn well that is my soft spot and uses it to her full advantage.  It really is difficult, because, often, I feel I'm compromising my own integrity by NOT doing what she wants.  I'm happy to give people what they ask for a lot of the time.  I'm happy to compromise and make people feel special and give a lot.  But when I discovered that she was using this to her advantage, asking more than she should have, and expecting total compliance, I was dumbfounded.

I've also realized that this is what sets me up to fail a lot with my NMIL too.  I want to be the "good DIL".  I want to make the family happy and get along.  I want to compromise and make it work.

Unfortunately, the goal of "good daughter/DIL" (and "good sister" ) is always changing in it's parameters.  I can never be good enough or just "good".   I have to do every little thing they tell me too.  I have to compromise and give up EVERYTHING that I am.  I have to relinquish any control over my life, my kids life and do whatever they want, whenever they want.  And even then, they will not be happy.

I have realized often in the past (intellectually) that I need to give up their definition of "good" and just do what I believe a good daughter would do.  And while I can understand that, the "doing" of that and fully taking that into my soul, is so much harder.  There is still a part of me that just wants her to be happy.  A part of me that just wants to figure it all out and get along.  I beat myself up routinely (aided by a lot of flying monkeys) for not being able to work out why I can't just be satisfied with doing what I know to be right.  In almost any area of my life, other than dealing with Ns, I'm very confident in knowing I've done the right thing.  Many people tell me I'm full of integrity and a kind and thoughtful person.  I just can't see what the next step is to getting rid of the discomfort of not living up to my mother's (and MIL's) expectations of me.  I'm not sure how to handle the criticism, nastiness, passive-aggressiveness, and shaming that comes from them when I don't live up to who they want me to be.  I don't know how to get self-esteem in that area.   I'm not sure how to deflect the gaslighting when they claim it's all me and I'm just a sorry excuse for a human being.    I can know it in my head, but how do I incorporate it into my being.


  1. Practice. I know it isn't me, but there are moments. I noticed today how I still have to verbally remind myself it isn't me. The self-esteem comes with little successes. It's still a struggle, but I'm not giving up. If I give up; NM wins. Not going to happen. You are making so much progress. Allow yourself to celebrate those little victories.

    1. Thank you Judy. I feel so frustrated when I get sucked back into that cycle. I think you are right that practice will help me to feel better about it all and increase my self-esteem (that's how kids get it isn't it? I just wish I'd learned this as a child, as it feels so much harder now.)

    2. Yes, it is frustrating when they pull us back into the insanity, even as we know it isn't going to change. I stopped beating myself up and try to see how I'm responding differently. I'm reaching the point where I don't need to test the water anymore. It's been 10 years since I started the truth campaign and started seeing my third counselor. You are improving.

    3. Jessie, so glad you have posted again. I've check so many times in the past many months just to see if you have posted something and today I see this!
      I too am the good girl. I could have written exactly what you wrote. Except my parents didn't divorce but should have. I am now officially no contact with my what I realize she is Bipolar Narc GC sister. She left her 2nd husband this past summer and came back into my life for one month. What unfolded at the end of that month was the ugliest thing I have ever experienced from a human being. I won't go intot the details of it but I no longer feel I have a sister. She is so vile that I cannot be around it. She has sent nasty text messages to me and I blocked her. She then sent nasty text messages to my husband. The final straw was three weeks ago and she mailed me a nasty letter. That was the nail in the coffin for me. My husband lost it and showed my mother everything. The problem is now that I don't care what my NM thinks of me at all. She raised this girl to be the vile being that she is and it is not my fault. I too, still struggle at times with wanting to win favor with my mom but now it is really sinking in that it won't. You might want to research this practice called "medium chill". It's really helped me and my husband deal with the narcs in our life. I'm learning the less reaction or response I give, the fester up a lot then they give up trying at some point.

      Anyway, glad you are writing again. I've missed your posts for sure! Cheers to more growth and peace in 2016.

    4. Thanks Anon for your kind words. I'm sorry that you have a similar story. I went NC with my sister about 3 years ago after a lie that was the final straw (she is a very, very difficult).
      I struggle with not really caring what my NM things (as I know her criteria is screwed and wanting to be a good daughter. I realize that this is mostly an independent endeavor. I can be a good daughter without my NM thinking so. I just sort of have to get past the old training.
      Thank you for your suggestion of medium chill. I'm actually quit versed in it. :) This isn't my first time around in all of this stuff and I've been at the healing for awhile. Unfortunately, I've found it's sort of a cyclical process and I have to come back to the "old" ideas to really understand things in a more in depth way.
      I hope to write here a bit more. I've been focused on some more personal healing and I really haven't had the time lately to write full on posts. But I'm glad that my blog has meaning to other people. I remember how much that meant to me when I was starting this journey. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Yep, her whole idea of what her relationship with you should be, is nothing other than that you are to 'respect' her by putting her on a pedestal and doing what she wants. Nothing else registers in her reality, nothing else exists. Even if you were to do all that perfectly, she would not be pleased, nor acknowledge it, because your feelings and concerns don't count.

    When you described what you were going through and putting up with, left on your own to deal with your sister and the falling apart of your non-family and your life, it reminded me of how well you had done with the threatening situation with your sister's scary acting 'friends,' and I felt such a wrenching in my gut when you said your mother could only talk about how hard raising teenage girls was, and "she never, ever considered how I was feeling or what I was going through." She not only FAILED to acknowledge or appreciate your contributions and accomplishments or to empathize with your situation, she REFUSED to do so. Even worse, she DEMANDED you not be upset; even worse, she scolded you and RESENTED you for being upset. You can't be a good daughter to her because she WON'T LET YOU; she WON'T ALLOW YOU to be a good daughter to her. That isn't the role she wants to assign to you.

    Thank you so much for your painful but very helpful clear description of this dynamic of how non maternal your 'mother' is, and was through your whole childhood, which I am grateful for because it exactly puts in words my own experience that I have not been able to get the right words for before, and that clarity so much relieves my own feelings of unease about not being able (really, not being allowed) to be a good daughter to my 'mother.' --quartz

    1. You make such a good point about not being allowed to be a good daughter. This --> "She not only FAILED to acknowledge or appreciate your contributions and accomplishments or to empathize with your situation, she REFUSED to do so. Even worse, she DEMANDED you not be upset; even worse, she scolded you and RESENTED you for being upset. You can't be a good daughter to her because she WON'T LET YOU; she WON'T ALLOW YOU to be a good daughter to her. That isn't the role she wants to assign to you. " actually sums up for ME quite well what I was trying to say (and I thank you for it; I tend to be "wordy" :) ).
      It is such an awful feeling to keep trying to attain something that is always kept out of your reach and then be criticized for not being able to reach it. I'm sorry that you can understand what this is like. No one should have to feel this way; it makes the rest of life so much more difficult.
      Thanks for sharing quartz.