An unsent letter to my brother

Dear brother,

You will never get to read this letter but I feel I need to air some thoughts and feelings I have. Maybe I have no right to even say this as I know I am not a parent or someone’s partner. However, I was a child, I am a teacher, an active aunt and I have been a nanny. Plus I know you and your family from the outside and close proximity. Please also know this come from a sisterly place of love and concern.

I watch you as a dad and I am worried. Your parenting reminds me of how our parents took on the task. To put it bluntly; strict, controlling and unkind. You seem to need full control and anything less than absolutely unquestioning obedience will do. You make rules for arbitrary reasons, contradictory and hypocritical. Following them would be unachievable for adults let alone children, with still developing morals, character, emotions and brains.

You have three amazing children and a wonderful wife. You say you are so lucky and you are. Your eldest, a ten-year old daughter, is an amazingly inquisitive, intelligent, kind and loving young lady. However, you seem blind to this. You see a rude, disobedient, defiant young girl. Someone who should not question your commands and should just follow your rules, orders and opinions.

It seems like you are scared that if you admit a mistake you will lose control, but as a teacher you know this is not the case. Teaching children, that adults are fallible and get things wrong is an important lesson. Being willing to admit our mistake and apologise, is a lesson in itself. The damage you do in the yelling and berating is so much more long-lasting negatively.

The more worrying part is, I know you are on your best behaviour when I am there, visiting in your home. Behind the closed-door as I walk away, you will be the real You. A You I hear about but have not seen. A You that even more scary, it sounds to me very like our mother.

Undiagnosed but showing lots of narcissistic traits, she demanded to be top dog in our childhood home. Her needs, thoughts, whims and desires came first, above everything and anyone else. Her impossible expectations had to be met to prove respect and love to her. If not rage, tears, emotional blackmail, silent treatment, sulking, storing off and the expectation of an apology. Yet she believed she was always right and that she was a kind loving mother. You seem to be like this to your wife and children.

I have seen you humiliate your daughter with stories from her past, the child she was. I have seen you angry and sulky when someone disagrees or questions your absolute authority. I have seen you take your frustrations out on the children, when they have no control over the situation as they are babies and toddlers. I have seen jealousy for the attention they get from your wife, their mother.

Where does all this lead? For me it has led to therapy, depression, anxiety, migraines and possibly even my Fibromyalgia. I do not want this for your wife and children. My sister-in-law, nieces and nephew. I will show them love, kindness, understanding and hope to see them through your tyranny. I will drop little pieces of advice when I can, hoping you will take some of it on board. I will continue to help and support them. I will carry on being that person in their corner, a someone I rarely had, hopefully that will make a difference.

I do not think you or your parenting are all bad. I know you can be kind, thoughtful and loving man. I know you intend to do your best. You have been a great brother to me, at times. I just think you have gone to the parenting manual of ‘parent the way you know’. However, our parenting example, provided by our parents, was not a good one. You acknowledge this, you know how I have felt and what I went through. You know what you experienced too. Yet you seem blinkered to your own behaviours as a dad.

I could never tell you all this, you would never forgive me. It would be a betrayal to you. You would never see it could save you if you acknowledged it, maybe then you could even changed it. You would make out I was choosing them over you. Yet to me blood is not thicker than water. To me love is everything in a child’s world and children come first. You might even stop me from seeing them, it is your family.

So my hope for the future is that you see yourself in the mirror for who you are before it is too late; before you lose your loving wife and children, before you hurt someone more than emotionally, before you do emotional damage and while you can be forgiven if you change.

 

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Feeling frustration

I am a patient person. Being a teacher and in the past a nanny, I have had to be. Having the mother I do I also had to learn patience from a young age. ‘A virtue’ my mother often said. Of course, it was only a skill for supporting others not myself.

Lately I find my patience is wearing thin. I feel the frustration boiling away under the surface. Things that I used to let go now make me feel like someone has turned up my stove to simmer.

Tiny bubbles running through my veins. Feeling like a something is crawling through the layers of my skin. My breathing grows faster and heart beats loudly. I try to push it down, like a reflex I breathe deep and try to leave the situation.

I was not allowed to be frustrated, it leads to anger and that was always forbidden. I was taught that anger leads to violence and hurting people’s feelings. Well, this is what I am trying to combat.

I got angry as a teenager. I tried to change my situation and my narcissistic mother. It never really worked and instead I was accused of bullying her. I was and am blamed for starting every family argument. My mother would cry and become hysterical. She would remind me of the bullies in her childhood, her angry mother and violent father. She would find a way to made me feel guilty. I was shamed for having my feelings and for wanting to stop the emotional abuse she was causing to me and my siblings.

I was trying to get her to change. We were all unhappy with the situation, her matriarchy of control. I was not the only one. Yet when we called our family meeting and issues were raised I was on my own. My mum said we were ganging up on her to split our united front. She told my dad that of course he would support me, as I always was a daddy’s girl. Something used against us for years. Often she stormed out, expecting my father to follow her.

Now I am in my thirties and I struggle to feel frustration let alone angry. Slowly I am allowing myself to feel it but it is hard. My body seems to have an automatic reaction to push it down. For me frustration or annoyance feels more like heartburn. I know I need to let my emotion in but it is tough to feel them and deal with them. I need to learn to allow them, accept them and then move them along in this mental world.

 

To teach or not to teach? That is the question.

I am often told, ‘Teaching is a calling’ and to some extent I agree. You do not get into teaching for the money, that is for sure. The hours are long and the pressure can be high. You can be shouted, sworn and even spat at sometimes, by students and sometimes by parents. My pay is dependent on students results and it does add an extra pressure.

However, it is a steady income, above average salary, with long and frequent holidays. You can see students learn, progress and achieve. I have helped students though bereavement, abuse, physical and mental illnesses and more. Support them as they deal with learning difficulties. Inspire them to enjoy my subject, history.

Every job has its highs and lows. In teaching this can frequently happen in just one day. I understand the demands of the job. The emotional ties to wanting the best for your students. Leading to late hours of planning lessons, researching new ideas, preparing resources and marking, marking, marking. It is no surprise that media headlines show that teachers are leaving the profession at the highest rate ever recorded (Huffington Post).

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I went into teaching to help students who might be having a similar childhood to mine. Even when I told a teacher what my home life was like, I was not believed. My mother worked at my school and she was very well liked. Do you believe the angsty teenager or the parent, who is also a friend? Behind closed doors she was different; emotional abuse, gas-lighting and neglect. I was made the family scapegoat and bullied by my siblings too. I did not know all the terms then, but I knew it was wrong. Although I believed it was all my fault.

As a teacher I want to save all those unheard ‘child Becky’s’ out there, yet I never can. I was programmed to be our family resucer and I can help and support my students. But I have had to accept that I can not save them from their lives. I can; report what I see to social services when needed, I can teach healthy lives and relationships, provide emotional support, teach resilience, model survival, recommend counselling and even make recommendations to parents. I am a pastoral manager within the school to be more involved in doing all these things. But I cannot save them.

Not only due to the fact I am not their parent, but also the restrictions on social services and the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Both overworked and understaffed, so they are putting out fires. They have to prioritise physical and high urgency cases. So the mental or emotional are left dropping down the list. I am sure this is not the whole picture and I have simplified their struggles, but I do know this is how it feels to me.

I say I have to accept this but I am struggling, I find this so difficult. This failure to save them all then triggers my childhood feelings of worthlessness and not ever being enough. Their stories set off memories of my own. I empathise and relate to their lives as they happen. I wish I could do more for each one but I am not their parent or from social services.

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Currently I am suffering with depression. I can not seem to shake it and have had to have two different periods of time of school/work. No single case has caused this but an accumulation of seven years of teaching and supporting young people and feeling like I have not saved one. I am not even sure what I mean by ‘saved’.

I am now re-evaluating my life and my choices. Do I keep teaching? Is it just the pastoral side, do I just drop the management role? Is it our catchment of high social care needs? Do I try a different school? Do I teach private or sixth form only? Do I do something completely different? Is this the time to decide? So many thoughts, going around and around in my head. Who do I turn to for advice?

I have started researching the options out there, knowledge is power. Should I start to apply? Then anxiety hits; interviews, meeting people, telling my Headteacher, letting people down, abandoning my current students, new curriculum, new friends, new students, moving house and so much more. Can I go through it? Will it help?

I keep thinking ‘what would I do if money was no object?’, apart from the luxury holiday I would take. I think about writing, getting into publishing, retraining as a counsellor, doing my Masters and so many other options. Then reality kicks in and I know I have bills to pay. I need a good regular income as I do not have anyone to lean upon. I having no partner or family to support me and nor would I expect this from someone. I have great friends, but none are rich and I would not expect support like this from them.

Today I have no answers, I will continue to research my options and maybe I will apply for a few. I will keep going through these thoughts and hopefully I will find some answers. Hopefully I will make a decision about my life in this mental world.

Magic and Hope

I have loved the idea of magic for as long as I can remember. My favorite of Roald Dahl’s novels was Matilda and I devoured the Harry Potter series. I then progressed onto Sabrina the Teenage Witch and then Charmed. Even at university as a historian the history of witches appealed. Recently the Witches of Eastwick and Sabrina Spellman caught my mind and now the A Discovery of Witches.

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So why am I so obsessed by witchcraft? Sometimes I wonder if it is laziness. I could conjure a cup of tea without moving, dress with a click of my fingers and travel in a blink of an eye. I could enchant objects to do all my housework. It would make the mundane parts of life so much easier.

However, I think it is more than that. I think I love the idea of being magical. Being special and having a unique power that few have. Throughout my life I felt unworthy, unloved and insignificant. As a child, I also had little to no control over my life. I was being emotionally abused by my mother and was the scapegoat in my family.

I think my love of magic was because it would be a way out. A magically door to a land of happiness. I could escape to a land that felt almost possible. It is not like these lands do not feel almost believable. Each story shows how the magic can be hidden to the ‘muggles’ or non-magical people.

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Through the eyes of my nieces, I also see the innocent joy of belief in magic. Eyes lighting up at the sight of Father Christmas at a supermarket or shopping mall. Gasps of wonder at what the naughty elves have got up to overnight. I would love to go back to that innocent times, wouldn’t you?

Each story I read or watch about magic brings me a little of that feeling. The hope that it is possible for magic to happen. That is it, hope. Things will get better, life will be great and who knows what might be possible. We all need hope in our lives in this mental world.

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Letting Myself Cry

Dear teenage Becky,

I know things are hard. It seems like no one loves you or cares about you. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders before you should. Your mother is mean and yells, she tells you that you are not worthy. Your siblings and father call you ‘cry baby’, ‘lemon head’ or ‘melon head’ as you cry a lot. But you have every reason to cry and be sad.

Crying is absolutely fine. Cry away the sorrow of your childhood. The abuses and bullying you have to endure. Cry for the people you lost; loosing Nan and Granddad, when you were 14 and 15, was tough. Nan was the one person who seemed to understand your plight and then she died. It is ok to be sad about that, it is not blaming her. She had to go she was sick, you gave her permission to go, to gain relief from all her pain. But you have no relief from your pain.

You held back tears when people died believing you had to be strong for the family. You hold the family up, like the adults should. It is honourable, but you also have to look after your own feelings. Let out the tears. Bottling them up leads to pain, causing some of the migraines you suffer with and flaring up your fibromyalgia.

Crying lets out toxins and relieves stress. It is a natural bodily function that you should have and do. It expresses so many emotions from happiness to sadness (Wikihow – Cry and Let It All Out).

I know you do cry a few tears, for others and for happy occasions. You well-up at a wedding, when a baby is born or watching a romantic film. But you should also cry for you. Let out the pain and hurt from your own life story. You have suffered, and people have hurt you. You deserve those tears for you.

As an adult, I find crying almost impossible. I wish I was there when you started to hold back the tears to tell you “It is ok, let them out”. To counter the bullying and stand up for you. To come up with a witty comeback to the names they called you. I mean really ‘melon head’ what does that even mean? They were not the most intelligent of names.

Finally, also know that if you cry you are not your mother. I know she cries at every whim, at every argument and that she uses it to emotionally blackmail everyone. But when you cry you are not doing it with malicious intent, your tears are pure. Crying does not mean you are her. I know becoming her is your deepest fear, but you never could be her. You will come to learn and accept this in therapy.

With all the love and support you should have had.

Adult Becky

(Still no tears but I am working on it, in this mental world)

The Best of Intentions

Should we assume in life that everyone has the best intentions. Are we all just trying to do our best?

You can do everything possible to predict the many outcomes but you can have an unknown wider impact. Each action is like a stone dropping into water, sending ripples to places you couldn’t even see. People can be hurt or negatively affected in ways we cannot see.

I often tell my students you have to be aware of the possible outcomes of your actions and take responsibility for them. They throw some-thing and it unintentionally hurts someone then you are responsible for that outcome. If you are play fighting and someone gets hurt you are responsible. Can you tell I am Assistant Head of Year 8? Puberty has landed and the boys are learning the boundaries of physical behaviours. Taking responsibility for taking the risk of a bad outcome.

But my question actually came from a TV show, Madam Secretary. I missed this show when it came out in 2014 and I am now catching up (binge watching), thanks to Now TV. Recently, deep into season two, war with Russia was adverted but lives were lost in the process. As a history teacher I know my wars, causes, long-term effects, short-term effects, casualty figures and wars causing wars. I ponder the possibilities of IF things could have been different but have to accept what happened as it is the facts.

However, I believe these issues not only can be seen on the world-wide political stage but they play out on a smaller theatre in our lives. The choices we make impact the people around us. Everyday small choices and the big ones. I know my seeking help with my therapist has sent a ripple through my family. I caused this ripple and will have to ride out the waves it makes.

In therapy we have discussed responsibility, blame and forgiveness a lot. All words associated with these ideas. Do I blame any member of my family for my childhood? The impact it still has on me? Do I need to or want to forgive them for the abuses against me?

My therapist says it is not about forgiveness but about compassion. To understand people’s intent and believe they always tried their best in their circumstances. We are living in a web of history, relationships, and family dilemmas. To me a family tree is a web of stories woven together more like a tapestry.

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I also believe we are a product of our upbringing; a combination of family, friends, society, culture, religion and many other influences. These determine our choices. I have chosen therapy and am seeing some of the consequences as I have found my voice.

For example, My mum had a really tough upbringing; an alcoholic abusive father and an addicted to gambling mother who was sent to prison for fraud. She always tries to be her best self but is hampered by herself and her past. This resulted in her treating me as her scapegoat, emotionally abusing me through my childhood and adolescents, even my early adult years.

So here is my dilemma: How responsible are we for the unforeseen, if everyone is just trying to do their best? I know my mother never intend to abuse me emotionally, she just couldn’t help it. Should I still expect an apology, a recognition of her effect? My sibing’s bullied me, but they were brought up in a household where that treatment of me was condoned by the adults. They were not taught this was not okay, so can they be held responsible?

I have had to accept that I cannot change the past. I cannot demand anything from anyone. But I do live with the consequences and I have learnt to not accept abuse now. As an adult I can call them out for their behaviour now.

The past is just that, set in stone. It is my perspective I have had to learn to change. To understand every parent does their best, even when they fail spectacularly.

I find this so hard to accept. As a teacher I have cried and had my heart-broken by stories of child abuse I would not repeat. Were these people really doing the best they can? It feels like acceptance of these actions if I agree but it isn’t. Acceptance is still fighting for change but living in the present. It is letting people, who experience these things, know they did not deserve it but accepting it happened. Giving people back their worth and giving them their own strength.

I teach students about all of Hitler’s qualities: the painter, animal lover, vegetarian and lover of his mother. I teach them about his childhood and traumas he experienced as a soldier in WWI. Not because I want to justify any of his actions, far from it. But maybe, in understanding others are a product of their experiences, we can accept that so are we. Then maybe we can learn to forgive and have compassion for ourselves.

Compassion for others actions comes more easily to me. To understand their actions, not to agree with the behaviours or just let them go. To hope, I would have done things differently in their situation and in future situations I face. But to also hope people I have hurt along the way show me the same compassion. Compassion for myself I find harder and I am working on it, with the best intentions, of course.

Written with compassion from my life in this mad world.

 

Toes dipped in or am I deep in the ocean’s waves?

I have been on anti-depressant tablets since late October. Lately I have been feeling blue again. Overcome by moments of overwhelming bleakness that wash over me without warning. It takes my breath away, while making me want to hide from the world under my duvet forever.

I know I find this time of year tough; it is cold, dark, wet, damp and the sun is hiding away. Everyone’s vitamin D drops and some even have SAD. Then you add in family, financial January and school pressures. It is a hard time of year, or is it just me?

I have been trying to use my coping strategies to help. I am meditating (almost) daily, blogging on here and trying to enjoy nature on dog walks at the weekends. I am trying to savour company with my puppy and taking in the mindfulness of a cup of tea. But none of it has been working…

I have ideas to help my students but cannot get up the energy to have any enthusiasm. I am acting ‘happy teacher’ at the front of my classroom. I am finding noises particularly annoying and frustrating. Children’s chatter, adverts on the radio and even my dogs barking at the postman/neighbour/bird. I feel heavy and achy. My feet feel like they are burning.

One big sign for me, is that I am tearful. This might not mean much to many but for me this is huge. I do not cry, well rarely and when I do it is a few tears. I am like Amanda Woods, the Cameron Diaz character in the film The Holiday. Sat trying to make myself cry, making wailing noises in hope for just one tear.

My lack of tears are from being bullied by my family for years. As a child apparently I cried a lot so much I was teased for it. Called a ‘cry-baby’, ‘melon head’ or ‘lemon head’ repeatedly and frequently. I was an emotional child but learnt not to cry, hold in the emotion. Now, I am emotional. I just can’t express it on the outside.

So, how do I know when I am having a bit of a bad patch or if I need help through a higher medication dose? When is self-help not enough? My natural instinct is to sort it out myself, to be independent and not complain. As a child I was given a list of chores whenever I was off sick. I had to look after myself when I was ill. Now I find it hard to rely on others and ask for that help. It makes me feel like a hypochondriac or being seen as someone moaning.

But how do I know when it is more than I can cope with, when to ask for help? How long do I leave it? A week, two, more? When is it ok to moan, groan and complain? When does it become too much to bare alone?

Last time I waited months and waited until I was broken and curled up in a ball. I am trying not to get back there but sometimes I do not know if I am on the brink of the cliff…

 

 

Anxiety v. Logic, it is like a race between the Tortoise and the Hare

After sending my last blog post a 2am this morning I tried to sleep…but I still tossed and turned. My brain was on overdrive, unable to shut off my thoughts and let me sleep. With no IT helpdesk to call for advice, to tell me to switch it on and off again, I tried to understand why my usual journaling had not helped. Usually I can dump my brain onto a page and stop the whirlwind of thoughts.

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Then it occurred to me, I felt crazy! I felt that feeling of accusation, that someone was calling me crazy. And I mean that ‘crazy’ that somehow encompasses all the stereotypes and stigmas I try to fight. The ‘crazy’ when you see straight jackets, padded cells and Victorian Bedlam rolled into one. I felt this accusation like I had so many times before. I felt chained to a bed and locked in a room, unheard and surrounded by silence.

Where had this come from? My family, of course. In the past when I have expressed my version of my childhood of abuse and trauma, I have come up against opposition. My point of view has been invalidated and I was told my memories were plain wrong. Throughout my childhood and adult life I have been ‘gaslighted’ by my family. A term I learnt from reading My Courage to Tell by Laura Corbeth (lauracorbeth.com), an amazing 5* book Sydney and I reviewed for the podcast (The Mental Health Book Club Podcast).

Gaslight, verb – manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity (Google Dictionary).

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Image from the film Gaslight. Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in the final confrontation.

The film Gaslight (1944) is my favourite black and white movie and now I understand why. The husband makes his wife feel insane by denying her memories, experiences and manipulating situations. I feel this is what my family have done to me. As a child I was told my point of view was wrong, I had taken things the wrong way and misunderstood what was meant. It was all my fault and I needed to change. This continues to this day, especially by my sister.

When I started to discuss my childhood traumas with my family, they denied it and again blamed my perception. Questioning my perception of life, my memories and my own sanity. They made me feel crazy; like I was a hypochondriac, a liar, and mentally insane. Making up trauma and abuse, but why would anyone do that?

I now know it is actually their inability to accept what they did to me. Accepting any responsibility would be facing what they did and how unkind they can be. It does not fit with how they wish to see themselves and so it is easier to deny my memories and blame my interpretation. So when a family event approaches I fear these things will be discussed and I will have to fight for my version of events, for my sanity.

This time it is exasperated by the fact that I am suffering with depression, basically I already feel I am crazy. Plus, my sister has approached my sister-in-law and best friend asking if I am clinically depressed. Kirsty wrote my ‘escalating mental health issues’ and the ‘severity’ of what was described to her was concerning her. This all has caused my anxiety to increase as I now have to see them and act well.

It would be perfectly reasonable to ask, why can I not tell them the truth. I am suffering with depression and I am on antidepressants. But, if I do that I am admitting I am Cra-Cra-Crazy! It would be like saying they are right and none of my experiences happened. That my sanity is in question and so my memories are fallible and questionable. My past did not exist. it would mean I am not good enough or worthy as I have then made up this past of trauma and abuses. That I am a horrible person.

Maybe it is not as black and white as this, but this is what my anxiety does. It blows my thoughts up to ridiculous levels and I then have to talk it back down. My anxiety makes it all seem so logical, like a natural disaster it feels somehow inevitable. Through therapy I have learnt I can counter these feelings, my logical brain can take over and tell myself the truth:

  • Just because I have depression does not mean I am insane or crazy.
  • It also does not mean my past did not happen. My experiences and memories are my own.
  • Actually the reason I suffer with depression is linked to the childhood of trauma and abuse so it confirms my experiences.
  • If I was ‘crazy’ should my family not be supportive rather than ridicule me.
  • I am worthy of love and kindness and what I do is enough.
  • I am not a bad person and I would not make up these things. I am a generous and kind person.

I also need to learn to not let them make me feel this way. This is tough as my mind races to these places before my brain has a chance to catch up. It is like the story of the Hare and the Tortoise. The tortoise (logical brain) will always win in the end, but the Hare (my anxiety) will always bolt off the starting line and race off first. But my Tortoise will always teach the Hare a lesson by the end and this time it is to hold my own conviction of my past.

I need to own my memories and not let anyone deny my past. This is my life in this mental world.

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Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

 

When emotional stress becomes physical pain…

I have spent the day in my pyjamas with a migraine. I am a chronic sufferer of migraines, have been for as long as I can remember. Through therapy and reading books, like The Mind/Body Prescription by John E. Sarno MD, I have come to understand some of my migraines and fibromyalgia pain is linked to my current stresses and past traumas.

So, is this migraine a stress migraine? Well, tomorrow I am meeting my family for our Christmas get together, so highly likely. It is not like I was actively even thinking about this event, looming ahead, and yet it has been stressing me out. Last night I couldn’t sleep and tonight the same. My head hurts, I feel dizzy, nauseous and my eyesight was blurred. This physical reaction comes deep from my subconscious, from a past of trauma and a present of the same.

You might think this is an overraction or you may be thinking ‘What the hell did these people do?’.

Well, either way this is the reaction I have. These days it is more about seeing my sister, Kirsty, although it is worse as this will be alongside my mother. So lets start there, my mother is a narcissist and I am her scapegoat. She will never see or understand the impact she has had, she believes she loves me and always has, I believe that is true but her actions said otherwise. I wear a bracelet everyday to remind me I am worthy and what I do is enough – it literally says ‘worthy & enough’ – to try to counter her abuses which shaped my self-esteem. I have told her about the trauma she caused me, well some of it, and she has apologised (with her usual justifications). The big change is that I no longer let her treat me badly and she has mostly adapted her behaviour. However, I am also learning to accept she is never going to change and therefore I have to stop expecting that change.

My sister is the bigger issue at the moment. I do not have a relationship with her beyond presents and family celebrations. We are polite to each others faces but that is it. To me she is toxic, narcissistic and unkind. I have chosen to separate myself from her, but this is new. I have spent 30 odd years of my life trying to prove to her that I love her. I have done everything I could to be the ‘good big sister’, to go the extra mile and beyond. However, the hoops she set for me to jump through got higher and higher and I finally realised she was never going to believe me.

This is the sad part of narcissism; often they just want to feel loved but don’t feel it when someone shows it to them. So they pick a new thing the person can do to prove their love and when that doesn’t work another and another. I could do it no longer, Kirsty is not able to love me for who I am and see that I love her.

Last Christmas this accumulated in me saying ‘No’ when she asked me to collect her (and her boyfriend, Lighty) from London and take them to our brothers for Christmas Day. Neither drive and there were no trains, but we are also talking about a journey that is usually 25 minutes to being 2-3 hours. I did offer my sofa bed if they came down by train the night before, but she did not want to spend time at my house with me. I suggested a hotel room near my brothers, or staying at our parents. From her point of view I did not want her at Christmas as this was my way of excluding her, to her I was being unreasonable and it was not a huge request to ask of me.

This last year was then filled with disputes like this; annoyed at me for taking my brother’s family on holiday and not inviting her (I was paying and could not afford to take her too not to mention her not wanting to spend time with me). Telling me off for having to work the morning of my dads 60th Birthday party and using this to say I did not love him enough, and so many other similar moments. These are twisted and manipulated to make me seem evil, conniving and wicked.

I know there are two sides to every story and she definitely has a different point of view. Maybe this is what worries me so much, as her view of me as a person seems so awful. A person I would never want to be.

I recently found out that, on a weekend visit to my brothers, my sister had a massive argument with my sister-in-law (Tash) over me. It started out so nice, my sister asking how I was and my sister-in-law saying I was good, expanding to include I was still seeing my therapist and had a dip after out holiday but I was overall okay. Apparently my sister and her boyfriend took this as I was clinically depressed and my sister-in-law was not taking it as seriously as she should have been. Why was she not more worried about me? So Tash pointed out to my sister, she has spent time with me and supports me so knows I am okay. It was pointed out to Kirsty that if she really wanted to know how I was she should talk to me. The argument went on and at one point I was even blamed for it happening. Kirsty and Lighty went home and this should have been the end to it.

But, Kirsty then messaged my best friend, Sydney. She asked from a place of concern how I was, as Tash and Aaron had described how I was not taking care of myself and exhibiting serious depressive traits. She asked that this not be mentioned to me as she did not want to change our relationship or alter the one I have with my brother’s family, but was concerned about me.

I am sure she does, on some level, care about me and my well-being. But she is also the one who does not want to have a relationship with me. I have offered to discuss things, I have apologised and have wanted to talk. I was knocked down and Kirsty said she was not ready, I respected that. I said to her that ‘this door is always open’ and that she just needed to let me know when she is ready. Yet she complains that I have not approached her to discuss and apologise, not that she wants me to. She wants to keep me continually trying to prove my love but that is exhausting and never going to actually change anything.

I have also got to the point where I am not sure I do like who she is, or at least the last Kirsty I knew. I do not know her now and would not profess to, but the last Kirsty I knew could not forgive, be open, listen and understand. She pushed me away and keeps me at arm’s length. She is also now acting like this with Tash, our sister-in-law and our brother, both who have much less to do with her now. I find this sad for her, I feel sorry for her and what she might be missing out on.

Stress ‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’ (Google Dictionary). 

So tomorrow by definition stresses me out. I do not know what will happen. Will remarks be made about my mental state? Will I have to defend myself? Will there be an argument? Will I be blamed? Or will everyone pretend we are one happy family – which is so exhausting and also not good for my mental health but it is good for peace. I can bite my tongue to some extent. I usually busy myself with the nieces and nephew or helping with preparing food but why do we subject ourselves to this? Should I avoid these situations? Should I keep trying with her, as she is my sister? Should I confront her or avoid her?

So many questions on how I should act and what I should say. I feel there are no answers, I just need to gauge the situation and go with it. I need to try to hold in the anger and smile though it all. It is just one afternoon. I think I am trying to convince myself more than any readers out there.

I will report back soon so you know how I coped with my life in this mental world.