‘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.

 

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.

tornado on body of water during golden hour
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

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.

closeup photo of galapagos tortoise
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.