‘No fury like a sister scorned’

My sister infuriates me. She has the ability to make me really angry. Which is impressive when I do not usually feel this emotion.

Years ago she decided that she doesn’t want a relationship with me beyond courtesy at family gatherings. This is due to a grudge she has concerning something I did about a decade ago. I have tried to apologise many times and asked to talk it out. She refuses so I have now said that the door is always open but I will not chase her anymore.

The problem is that for thirty years I was at her beck and call. I did anything she wanted, dropped everything at a drop of a hat. My actions were asking her to love me, love me, please love me. Yet she denied me the friendship or sisterly bond we could have shared.

The thing is my sister is demanding, self-righteous, selfish and unreasonable. She can also be nice, kind and very lovely to people but once she turns that is it. Never to be forgiven. She even warned my sister-in-law about this trait of hers.

After many years of being treated badly by her and through therapy I decided to limit my contact with her. I am polite at family occasions. I honour her birthday and I get her a Christmas present. I no longer regularly call to see how she is or go out of my way to visit her. I no longer help her move home for the umpteenth time or go above and beyond to help her.

She found this difficult the first times I have said no. Last Christmas she wanted me to come and pick her and her boyfriend up and take them to my brothers for Christmas. They told me there were no trains that day. It would mean me driving into London and adding about an hour and a half to my journey. I said no but showed them a hotel nearby they could stay at and get the Christmas Eve trains and even the cost of a pre booked taxi. She took this to mean I did not want her at our family Christmas. Rather than as the unreasonable demand that it was.

It is unfair to expect someone to keep trying to gain forgiveness. To keep trying to earn love. I now know that I am worthy of both and if she cannot see this then I cannot make her. I should not have to keep trying to prove my love to her.

Most of my sisters negative attention is now turned to my brother and sister-in-law. However today she messaged me and my anger boiled. She was being unreasonable but she believed she was compromising. However it is my sisters way or forever hold a grudge.

To be honest I do not know her anymore. She is my sister and at family occasions I ask her about work, I have met her boyfriend and that is about it. She blames me for this but she has pushed me away and this time I have stepped back.

I am sad we do not have the sister relationship that some have. Just like I am sad I do not have a mother daughter relationship with my mum. However you also cannot change people or make them love you.

Recently my sister told my sister-in-law that if I was ever in trouble she would be there for me. My sister-in-law replied ‘But why would she rely on you?’ This is true. I would not turn to her and haven’t in my recent depression as it is not support I would get.

She is so competitive with me she would gloat in the fact my life was going badly but make out she was concerned. Yet all I wish for her is happiness. I have never risen to her competitiveness but she has always competed, comparing exam results and lives. Maybe it is a little sister thing? Or maybe it is because I was the scapegoat of the family so was always considered bottom of the pact. She called me the ‘runt’ of the family growing up.

She also takes everything really personally. My brother and his family moved to the Midlands from the south and she was angry they did not consult her. She cannot seem to understand that it is his family.

Recently she wanted to have my niece visit her for a weekend but expects her to be dropped down to London on the Saturday and picked up Sunday (a minimum 4  hour round trip each time). Not wanting to help with logistics of this or calculating the petrol costs and inconvenience for my sister-in-law. Then when it was my niece and nephews birthday she asked when they were coming down to celebrate it. No question of her going to see them.

All this behaviour is learnt from my mother. It is how she behaves. The world revolves around her but somehow she always becomes the victim or martyr. Living in a bubble, blind to their own actual actions and how they are really seen. It is how my brother often behaves too.

I am just thankful I have an amazing sister-in-law who has become a close friend and nieces and a nephew I adore. I am also thankful that I am not like them in these ways. They treated me badly but the result is I cannot be like them. I just need to deal with the anger and frustration I still feel from my family in this mental world.

 

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.” Oscar Wilde

I am scared of the Oscar Wilde quote that ‘all women become like their mothers.’ Yet I agree if it is true then it is a tragedy. I dislike my mother, she has done awful things to me and others. She emotionally abused and neglected me as a child. Told me I was un-loveable and a horrible person. Things I can understand in the situation, have compassion for but cannot forget.

As a teenager I hated her. I felt I could not be her or become her. I had to prevent that at all costs. I became anorexic, partially because my mother is morbidly obese and I felt I could not be the least bit fat or I would become her. I wanted to stay as blonde as possible as she is dark-haired. I wanted to do anything I could to not be her. My teenage brain unable to process what was happening it learnt its own sometimes unhealthy coping strategies.

However I also craved her love and acceptance. I tried to please her and I did anything she asked. I tried to prove I was worthy of her love. I came at her call and followed her commands.

I was a complete contradiction. Caught between loving her and hating her. Wanting her acceptance and also my independence. It was so much for any teenager to bear. I grew depressed, anxious and more anorexic.

As a young adult it continued. I moved out of home at 17 years old to get away. Yet I was pulled back to help and support her. Being more parent that daughter to her. Then when I was 23 years old she got cancer. I helped, of course I did. I want her love and she is my mum. Continuously being pulled back in and pushed away.

Mum is now living with cancer and has had many other medical issues alongside it. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, two knee replacements, type 2 diabetes, back pain and probably more symptoms and illnesses besides. She is disabled and unwell.

I have had a lot of therapy to be able to understand I am not her. I will not become her, due to my own experiences and characteristics. I am generous, patient and kind. I am loving and I am not selfish, self-centered or exploitative. I do not use emotional blackmail, tears or anger to get what I want. I do not manipulate and use guilt to make people follow my commands.

However I do need regular reminding of this. This week I have started a new medication for my chronic migraines. As most medications it is actually got many uses, its main use is high blood pressure but it has recently started to be used for migraines. I do not have high blood pressure but somehow my brain is triggered to think I am becoming my mum.

High blood pressure runs in her family and she has taken something for this for as long as I can remember. My maternal granddad died of his third heart attack in his 50s and my Grandmother had three heart attacks. My brain tells me I must be like them if I take this medication.

Logically I know this is not true. I have to tell myself I am not her, I do not have high blood pressure. Even if I did have high blood pressure one similarity does not make me her. I share her DNA I will have some similarities. People have commented that I look like her on occasion and I find it hard to accept that.

I am sure I do share some similarities. She is my mother after all. I know she is the one who inspired my love of reading and encouraged my education. She made me who I am through her treatment of me. I am a strong independent women because I could not rely on her. Most of my character traits are in spite of her rather than in honour of her.

I still see her but we do not have a great relationship. I feel less obligated to her than I did before therapy. She made me think I owed her my existence but I know this is not true. She chose to have me. I do love her and will always help if she needs it. However I go running to her less and I will say no to her demands if I need to. I stand up to her when she treats me badly and call her out for it like I never have before.

Since I started therapy I have discussed some of it with her and although she will never truly understand what she put me through she has accepted some partial responsibility. She tries harder at times to know me but she cannot ever be the mum I deserved. She does the best she can and that is all I can ask of her. Instead I accept who she is and limit my relationship with her to one on my terms.

I do not think we have to become our mothers or fathers. We can break the cycle and change the ways. If you have an amazing mother then by all means become her. However if you had a less than perfect one then hopefully learn from her and become better. I know I try to be better in my life in this mental world.

Boring? Mundane?

Sometimes I wonder if I am boring. I know I am an introvert and happy in my own company. But am I boring? I do not drink and go out clubbing. I do not have one night stands. I am no longer in my twenties but does that mean I am boring?

I wonder if the mundane is just too normal sometimes. I have spent a lot of time travelling, meeting people, going out but in the last couple of years I have slowed things down. I have had to for my own sake.

Being constantly busy and on the go was taking its toll and I was exhausted. Somehow I thought I had to stay busy. I am not sure what I was scared would happen if I stopped but I had to be dong something.

Now I have slowed life down and I enjoy it. But then I get that doubt sneaking in, that fear creeping up. Telling me I need to do something, I need to be busy.  I feel guilt I am not helping someone or giving back to the world.

As the weekend approaches colleagues ask what I am up to. I used to dread the question if I did not have something exciting to say. Now my response is usually chilling out and taking the dog for a walk.

Friends tell me I am still a busy person and maybe to them I am. Yet to me this is going slow. Between podcasting, working, family, friends and the dog maybe I am busier than I think. Maybe this is the last of my guilt for taking the time to self-care?

I think of the people around me and I actually do not want to be at the club/bar or making obligatory visits to family members. It has been a journey finding out what I want to do. Maybe I just need to stay true to it and accept my life in this mental world.

Learning to be compassionate to myself

I am learning to let myself do what I want to do. It seems so strange as I have often thought this was what I was doing. I am an independent woman and am not answerable to anyone…or am I? Well, I wasn’t. I was making myself answerable to family, friends, society, charities, students, bosses, colleagues and anyone else I came into contact with.

Was an action acceptable or expected? Was it for others? Did it help someone else? I felt guilt for doing what I wanted to do. Taking time for me was a luxury I could not afford or justify. I was answerable to everyone elses needs first and all my energy went on this.

Now I can actually say I take time for me to do what I need. My pace of life seems slower and maybe even boring to some. However, I remind myself it isn’t, it is the peace and relaxation that I have needed for a long time. I feel little to no guilt for taking this time for me too. The guilt has not disappeared but it is diminishing.

Don’t get me wrong, if a friend or family member needs me I am there in a flash. I am great in an emergency. However, it is on my terms and only with people who appreciate me rather than expect it. People who I know would be there if I needed them too.

This weekend I binged watched tv, read a book, ran a few errands and chilled out. I did very little but it was great. It was what I needed. I was tired from work and needed to process some things. So, I let myself do what I needed and wanted to do.

I am looking after myself and my home more. I have the energy to tidy and clean without feeling it is just too much. I can take a bath without it feeling like I am wasting time by enjoying it.

bath bathroom bathtub indoors
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I can do all this without feeling lazy or selfish. My fear of being lazy or selfish has plagued me for years. Anytime I stopped for longer than a few hours that niggling feeling I was becoming lazy would slip into my mind. If I wasn’t doing something for someone else I was selfish. These thoughts are no longer there. Self-care is not being lazy or selfish. It is being compassionate to myself.

This is a huge leap forward for me. To some these things might seem trivial but accepting these new thoughts, habits and beliefs are hard work. I have lived 33 years a different way but this older dog is learning new tricks.

This does not mean I have cracked it and am cured of all my negative thoughts, but it is a step, maybe even a leap. So this blog is to remind myself of what I can do and to bring myself back to this place. I want to make positive thoughts, self-care and compassion my habits in my life in this mental world.

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.

 

Just keep breathing

Breathing is something we just do. Our brains communicate with our lungs and it just happens. It is so essential we do not have to think about it. Yet when our brains are stressed they can lose some control of how to regulate our breathing.

As a teacher my most important advice to my students preparing for exams is to breathe. When the invigilator says “Start” before you open that exam paper take two deep breaths. Steady those nerves, give your brain oxygen and calm the mind. A stressed brain is not going to remember as much as a calm one.

Thinking about how you are breathing is important, it allows us to take back control of our breathing from our brains. We can decide how our breathing will go.

I have found this increasingly key as I suffer from anxiety and depression. Overwhelming emotions can be accepted and moved on from with a few deep breaths. I feel during meditation the world seems to slow down around me, alongside my deepening breathing. I can find a calm within the storm of my emotions and stresses.

I am not saying breathing solves everything, far from it. But from someone who is a control freak, it can bring me a sense of control over something when the rest of the world seems uncontrollable. When my own emotions seem out of control taking back my breathing seems to help.

Breathing can be done anywhere, I often take a couple of deep breaths when teaching a challenging class, or when I am driving, or when my puppy will just not lay down and sleep. You do not need an app or advice on how to do it, you already know. I do use Calm to help guide my meditation but for a quick ‘gain some control breath’, it is all me.

I admit I do not do the ‘in through your nose and out through your mouth’. I just cannot seem to ever get it right and I do not like to breathe through my mouth, too noisy. However, I do not think it diminishes my own breathing practice.

Scientifically a deep breath can boost the oxygen we are being supplied and therefore has a physical heathy benefit. Yet, psychologically I think the impact is even greater.

So just breathe, give your brain time to process life in this mental world.

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.

 

A Woodland Walk

I walk through the woodland, an excited puppy running around my feet. Headphones placed in my ears, a voice tells me to slowly breathe in and out. Each muddy step feels like a journey in a novel, a wander through an enchanted forest. I feel my heart beats growing faster, so I focus on the breeze as it swirls through the leaves above me and across my face.

The raindrops feel refreshing as they fall around me. I watch as they flow down the leaves to the woodland floor. Each droplet has a journey, a destiny as it tells a story washing fears away. I look at the many greens and browns that surround me. Degrading autumn leaves fallen are beneath my feet, the puppies paws disappear into the squelching mulch.

The ground goes up and down as I follow the path into the depths of woodland. My mind turns inside and I feel the pain within. In this woodland I am alone in its peace and the loneliness closes in. I can feel each scar and wound left on my heart. Damaged over and over by the loves and losses of my life.

environment fallen trees forest graffiti
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Thirty-three years of heartache; wounds, scratches, bruises and stabs. Betrayals, insults and losses have taken their toll. My heart feels battered like it has had a long career as a boxer. Round and round of fists until hearing the bell ding. Family, friend and lovers leaving their marks. Stabs, although no longer a seeping wound they have left deep scars.

Sometimes I feel these scars will never heal completely. Memories cannot be erased and self confidence is hard to regain. The wall of protection around my heart is concreted in place, yet lately I see the cracks appearing. I feel my heart calling from it’s locked box, yearning to be free. Screaming out for another love to nurture it like it has never really known.

I enjoy my solitude. I like to take my dog walks bathing in nature. It is like I crave my space and time with me. However, I also wish for someone to share this life with me. Supporting each other. To share a cup of tea. Friends are amazing but a love is something transcendent. A love not to cure-all, but to provide additional forces in the fight for our lives in this mental world.

man and woman having a tea conversation
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