I need your help

I’m going to need help here. Some perspective. Please.

I wrote my brother back. I wrote him an email – very fact based. Very factual. I listed the things he has said and done in the last two months – what he has told me. I explained to him that although he seems to think our disagreements are meaningless, that it has all added up. That being related to me does not entitle him to be a part of my life and that it especially does not give him the right to insult me when he disagrees. I reiterated that he has asked me to stay away three times in two months (I have not responded any of those times), and to forget he exists. I have done those things and respected his wishes, and stopped communicating. However he is mad at me now, for not wishing him a Merry Christmas. I told him I was done, that I am no longer accepting communication from him in any form. That he is not welcome in my life as long as he is unwilling to solve disagreements in a respectful manner. I ended it by hoping that he respects my wishes the way I have tried to respect his. I do say that I do not need him to agree with my decisions, and that I am no longer going to change who I am for him.

I needed to tell him I was cutting him off. I needed him to know that I was doing it and to know why. I kept it fact based. I had three friends edit it. It is me framing what he has said to me previously, word for word, and then giving my (very legitimate) reasons for saying that I am done.

His response – is crazymaking to me. I honestly have no idea what to do with it. Part of me knows it is textbook – he’s shoving all of it back on to me, needing to have the upper hand, putting me in the place I’ve been my whole life – the “rightful” place I belong, according to him. He isn’t used to me being anywhere else. I feel sad for him, a very small part of me feels sad for him. But there is another, maybe stronger part, tonight, that believes him. Here it is, word for word. I don’t even know what to think about it.

Literally scanned over this and sensed the melodrama/egotism/inability to actually see one’s self for who they are, so, I’m done too kiddo.
You’re such a victim, aren’t you?
I guess you haven’t done anything in your life that was mean, hurtful, insulting, or rude to me.
But, hey, write me a message from a proverbial high horse that your therapist enables so you can feel some semblance of fulfillment while you continue to pretend to be something you aren’t, perpetually.
Again, I’m not upset that we aren’t communicating – to think that is simply you feeding your needy ego.
I actually kind of dread having to confront this/deal with this, given I think you’re someone who is incapable of actually changing.
In reality, I emailed you because I don’t want you calling <niece> your niece, given you have no relationship with me.
They are not a part of your life if I am not.
So, don’t worry about emails/contacting me/etc.
To imply you ever tried to “change” as a person is pretty insane.
I never expected you to “change” for me, also – I just expected you to have some modicum of balance in your opinions in arguments (which clearly you are incapable of).
So, this is really goodbye.
And I am so, so much better off because of it.
See you in 25+ years at a funeral or something!
Sit on the other side.

It is so many things. It is dismissive (literally scanned over this), and it is demeaning (kiddo). I hear the taunting scorn in his voice as he asks me about being a victim. I never said I didn’t do anything wrong, I played a role, I have hurt him. But only, ever, after he hurt me first. He blames A, which gets me all riled up (your proverbial high horse your therapist enables). He implies that I can’t be fulfilled without him – I HAVENT MESSAGED HIM ANYTHING IN MONTHS. I’m feeding my needy ego? With what, his fucking abuse? They have a choice about being in my life or not, he does not control what they do. He calls me insane. He says I’m incapable of thinking of him.

He accuses me, of all I accuse him of. And my parents.. god, my parents. Who knows what tomorrow will be.

A part of me knows this is a textbook narcissist response to me putting my foot down and putting up boundaries. But the other part of me just believes that I am an utter, fucking, failure.

Help. It is taking everything in me to not harm myself tonight. I knew it would be hard. I did not know that it would be this fucking hard.

I hate him. I hate him so much.

He’s backkkkkk

I’ve recently decided (as much as one can with a bachelor of science in psychology) that my brother quite possibly suffers from narcissitic personality disorder. I have shared this revelation with a few people now, who know him but who I can trust not to say anything to him or my family. And all of them agree. One went “holy shit. That’s him.” Two of them were like “you didn’t know that already?”

He thinks he is better than everyone else yet does nothing to back that up. He’s a blue collar worker obsessed with being a star and expects to live by a different set of rules. He is talented but expects to be treated as if he is a rock star and if you do not admire him or play by his rules there is something wrong with you and you are the enemy. The amount of times I was in the middle of something and forced to stop and perform as his willing audience – or the family dinners where if I didn’t sit and give him the attention he was due… things erupted in violence. He believes all his failed attempts at fame are everybody else’s fault. The record labels, the industry as a whole, his band mates or managers. And while yes they did play a role, there is no way all four attempts fell apart and had nothing to do with him. His side of the story is the only side you’ll ever hear – he is incapable of putting himself in anybody else’s shoes. The attitude of entitlement – that he is entitled to my space and my things, to be a groomsman after never deserving it. That he is doing me a favor by gracing me with his presence. Being arrogant and envious and expecting special favors simply because he exists. Low self esteem and feeling like he has the right to punish people who don’t play along with him – and having a complete inability to empathize or recognize the needs of others and that sometimes they may come first.

I’m still doing research, but it’s pretty clear that I was majorly affected by this growing up. Symptoms of a family affected by someone with NPD include not feeling like you are able to be yourself (check), being labeled selfish for having your own needs (check), experiencing a lack of empathy towards you (check), accused of being uncaring or unloving if you don’t put the narcissist first (check). Lies perpetrated and believed to make you out to be the family scapegoat (check). You are expected to act like the parent and take on responsibility that is out of line for your role (check). Poor and inappropriate boundaries – intrusiveness, having abuse normalized, externalization of the issues onto you for pointing things out (check). Ongoing scapegoating, criticism, attacks, blaming, shaming, and shunning used as methods of control by the narcissist and their allies (check). Pressure on you to make the family look good to outsiders (check). Your accomplishments ignored, minimized or even criticized unless they make the narcissist or family look good (check). You are made to feel crazy, as only you (victim/scapegoat) can often see who the narcissist truly is – they are charming to others outside of the family.  You are ostracized, accused, punished and criticized for the narcissists behaviour (triple check).

My brother is a narcissist. I am a victim, a scapegoat. More importantly I’m starting to believe because of what I’m reading that this can’t be changed – that I can’t change him and despite what I was told I never would be able to and it’s not my responsibility to. That the reason we can’t have a meaningful relationship isn’t on me – a loving and balanced relationship serves no purpose to him, and he simply cannot love me. His lack of love for me isn’t personal. But he is never going to hear what I have to say. I am always going to be the bad guy to him – our inability to form a healthy relationship will always be my fault in his eyes.

I was always a part of a competition I never signed up for.

No matter how much he tries to make me feel responsible for his actions, I am not. Choosing self control and refusing to act in an abusive manner is an adult responsibility. It was always framed to me that he had to try so hard to be normal outside of the home that we had to let him be himself when he was at home – no matter what form that took. When really, family deserves to have the best of you, not the worst of you.

So keeping in line with these most recent revelations, is today’s email. He sent it to me (he can’t text me anymore, I blocked his number, I refuse to be afraid of my phone). It accuses me of using my niece to get Instagram likes. That I am using her. And told me I have to go through him to get to her. And that I can’t even wish them a Merry Christmas but I can post on Instagram (9 days ago, by the way). For the record, I have always been allowed to post photos of her. I’ve checked with her mother and have never been told otherwise. I spoke to my SIL last week, after the photo, and she said nothing about it.

Reaction One was the same as normal – freak out. I did something wrong. Feel guilty, get defensive. Write an email back. Say things like “she’s as much my niece as she is your daughter, which is not at all” (he’s not her bio Dad). Draft hurtful things and defensive things and put my SIL in the middle by saying I ran all this by her (which is true). I wished them a Merry Christmas but not him. Why would I? He asked me to stay out of his life. This was followed quickly by a ‘where is the alcohol’ moment.

Reaction Two was to delete the email draft, take a few breaths, and run it by three people I trust. Dave made me laugh. He’s in Vietnam and texted me about it. My husband is simply done with this shit. And my bff was like “wtf” and made me laugh too. At this point I’m thinking about taking an Ativan. Ultimately I round out to my own conclusion. 

Reaction Three is that this is textbook narcissistic behaviour. First, he isn’t a groomsman and doesn’t get what he feels he is owed by his birthright. So he punishes me, by cutting me off. He then tries to go through my mom (his flying monkey/ally) to get to me, multiple times. I hear how sad he is and how I need to be less stubborn. I don’t bite. I continue to ignore him. But now, I’m still not doing what he wants me to do. I haven’t begged for access to his life. I haven’t apologized. So instead of maintaining the no contact that he asked for and requested he continues to email me. What does he want? A response. What am I going to give him? Nothing.

I am not going to be petty but I am also not going to be bowled over. I will post pictures I want to post when I want to post them unless my SIL takes issue with it. I have so much written evidence of his assholery it isn’t even funny, and all he has from me is the one text asking him to leave me alone. I ask myself after every interaction or not interaction with him if I can be proud of my choices. And I can here. I can. 

It’s a long road to untangling this, but there is 355 days before I need to see him again, and in that time I will practice the best ways to respond to a narcissist. I have a name for it. I have a name for it. 

He’s back – and that’s fine. But I’m not playing this time. I’m done with games. I’m done with people who cannot respect me. 

I’m putting up my mother fucking boundaries.

Ghost

It isn’t a secret that I do freelance work on the side of my job. It’s how I pay for A, it’s how I stay afloat. It’s how I can afford this car. And for the next little while, I need it. Like, desperately.

And yet there is this one client I have, who makes me freeze every time I see an email from him come in. He isn’t doing anything intimidating or wrong, as far as I can tell. He is actually nice and charming – and it’s not even that he makes my female warning signals go off – it’s not that. But I don’t know what it is.

Any communication with him makes me anxious and panicky. It’s really not worth keeping him as a client, to be honest, he is my lowest paying client, but I don’t know how to disconnect appropriately. I need to, as it’s really affecting me.

Alternatively I suppose this could be an area for growth. But not now. Not right now. I don’t want him around anymore and I think it’s because he reminds me of my brother.

My instinct is to ghost. That’s not great for business and more appropriate for my teenage days when I felt I was in over my head but couldn’t figure out why, and I’d just exit. Maybe it’s worth keeping him around for learning purposes. Cause clearly something about this person gets me, and it’s nothing creepy. His last email was actually simply “can I see what we are running again? Thanks!” WHY does this upset me? And why can’t I simply behave like a normal person?

To friends

I wrote an email to my good friends today. The 8 of them or so. I left out the two that know almost everything and who I am with or talking to constantly. Interestingly enough I also left out 4 others who I would normally include in major life updates. People too close to my family or people who I don’t trust to understand. 

I also went to the doctor to get a refill of my anti depressant. While I was there, I asked for some Ativan. I explained my anxiety and panic attacks were getting the best of me, that I think it’s situational (I do) but that I need something as a security blanket. I haven’t had any on hand for over a year, and it feels good to have them right now.  As for the emails to my friends, I wrote them all separately, but here’s an example. 

Hello <friend>

It’s been a while. 

I wanted to apologize for being absent from your life the past couple of months – I care so much about you and our friendship means the world to me, and lately life has thrown me a few curveballs that have prevented me from being the kind of friend I usually take pride in being. A loyal one, up to date on all the haps in your life (yes, I just used the word haps).

Shortly after the wedding I started dealing with some family issues that exacerbated my depression that had been at bay for 12+ months. It also started to bring up some other things for me, and I share this with you because I’m honestly so tired of pretending everything is okay when it isn’t some days. These symptoms are very real things I am contending with on a regular basis right now – that lots of people contend with on a regular basis – and there is no point in pretending that I don’t have these sidekicks along for the ride. Also, as someone I consider a good friend, I trust you to keep this between us, I also trust you to be someone who stays in my life and doesn’t run away or treat me differently because I’m sharing what I’m going through. I am so grateful you are someone I feel I can share with.

On top of all of that, my heart has been causing health problems – they aren’t life threatening, but uncomfortable and the cause is still unknown. 

Essentially what this all means is I’ve had to take some time for myself. I have had to prioritize sleep and my mental health in order to stay afloat. Instead of my usual busy schedule, I’ve reduced my life to eating, sleeping, freelancing, and working. I wish I could stop freelancing, but instead I’ve had to continue in order to afford counselling for myself. I’ve found myself withdrawing out of a need to rest and recuperate. An unpleasant side effect of that is that I have not been able to be the best of friends to people who mean the world to me – and that includes you. Some days simply getting out of bed is incredibly difficult. 

You won’t find me back <in homeland> until next December at the earliest, but know that I’m thinking of you. I’m always up for a skype or phone call on the weekends, with tea or a glass of wine. I also want to hear all about your life – please don’t think that because I’m going through something kind of crazy right now, that it means you can’t share what is happening with you. 

It’s my hope that I’ll get back on track for the early days of 2017 and by the end of March have a system in place that allows me to be the healthiest I can be given my mental health sidekicks. I love you, and want to hear what you’ve been up to, and how your Christmas is, and really simply connect again. 

I’m sorry that I’ve been so absent lately, it was so wonderful to see you – know that I love and care about you no matter how long we go without chatting.

Love, PD

I had been feeling like an awful friend lately – unable to reach out to those closest to me IRL and tell them what has been happening for me. I also felt afraid to do it – what if word got back to my parents what I was telling people? 

Today I thought – so what? So what if they find out? I am a lot safer than I think I am. I am not out to villainize anybody, or throw anyone under the bus, but I am done keeping secrets. People are going to know the truth about why I am not able to be there for them right now. 

I also am going to admit that this is me reaching for extra support in a way that is disguised as me simply updating people. I’m in for a bit of a ride the next little while, I think. And I need my tribe to rally around me. 

I’m never good at asking for what I need, and I hope this time it pays off. I’m asking for help from those closest to me again – which in and of itself has to be progress, right?


And We Move On

I’m glad to be on the other side of yesterday.

The emotions that have been coming and going over the course of this holiday have left me at times completely overwhelmed, and incapable of communicating my thoughts to my husband. I feel bad. I feel like I’ve ruined the holiday for him. I have no excitement around it – I wanted it to be over with. He said he would rather have me be authentic with my emotions than bury them – burying them was the problem my whole life, wasn’t it? That he would rather know I feel comfortable sharing with him, and being present with him, in whatever state I feel, than to hide from him. So – point one for my life. My amazing husband.

I drank way too much Friday and Saturday – and yesterday was struck by the thought that this was supposed to be my week to reset – so what was I doing ruining it? Honestly, I was coping. I didn’t drink yesterday, but I did blast my way through two bottles of wine and half a container of Baileys in less than 48 hours. I’m not sure what says problem more than the fact that I didn’t feel drunk either time. I had sparkling water with lime yesterday and kept laughing at the fact that I was angry at this glass of sparkling water because it wasn’t alcohol. Excuse me, Mr. Sparkling Water, who do you think you are?!

Christmas was fucking hard this year. The past and present are so entangled, and so enmeshed in my emotions that I’m not sure I’ll ever sort them out. I know that getting kind and loving gifts from my husbands family hurt. I cried when I opened the gift from his Mom, an ornament with the word “daughter” on it, and some lego. It hit such a raw place in my heart. Here is this woman welcoming me into her family as one of her own, somebody who didn’t need to ask for a list of what I’m interested in to get me perfect gifts. The gifts from her didn’t have to be earned. I’ve probably spent a total of 20 hours with this woman in my life, and yet, on some levels she knows me better than my own mother. She sees me – thats what it is. She sees me. She loves me without expectation.

Such a fucking stark juxtaposition. 

It is so hard to feel more loved by my husbands family than by my own this Christmas.

My Aunt is mad at us so sent us these token gifts and yet are taking my brother and his family on a cruise. My parents sent us stuff, but divided it, and gave my husband significantly less than normal because they’re fighting. And all I can think of is ‘what did my brother get?’ which is simply a condition of my childhood. Whoever received more at Christmas got the message that they were loved more… you earned your gifts. They were conditional. I didn’t realize, until now, that Christmas was a very real way of keeping score. When it came to my brother, I was always in a competition that I never signed up for. I have always been in that competition, and I don’t know how to withdraw my entry and not play anymore. It isn’t fun to play when you always lose.

My husbands family treats me better than my own. They see me. And that, combined with some realizations (that I will share in coming days) have thrown my life off balance even more than it was before. I can feel the grief swell from within.

Someone important to me, someone who knows what I’ve been through and my most recent realizations – recently wrote me something that really resonated. Seeing this – seeing these patterns and learning more about my past and family and the way things were – it is the path to freedom… but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t fucking hurt.

I’m hurt. I’m hurting. And while its part of healing, I don’t really want it right now. I’m glad Christmas is done with, and I simply want to continue moving on. One day at a time, one session at a time, one foot in front of the other.

Over 300 days until I have to go back to my hometown. That’s a lot of time to figure this out. And we move on.

 

Christmas. 

I woke up this morning and checked Facebook – mistake number one. There are so many pictures of people celebrating the holidays – including my family. 

Then Instagram, and my sister in law has posted a few from the wedding. Which, I gave them the photos. So that’s more than okay. I simply had this intense emotional reaction I didn’t expect.

So I pulled a Rachel (I learn so much from you) and sat with it, trying to figure out where the feeling was coming from. Why did these photos hit such a raw raw nerve. And I think it’s the idea that my family is celebrating without me. That there are moments happening without me. That my sense of belonging has been stripped from me – even if I was the one who asked to be left out. Even though I know my parents would welcome me.

I am afraid of my brother. I have been, apparently, for quite some time. And taking power back and deciding that I don’t want to be there… that I don’t want to be in a relationship of any sort with him… while empowering has been incredibly disarming. I don’t know who I am when I am not behaving exactly as they want me to.

This is a tough year. It’s been a tough Christmas. Lots of opposing thoughts occuring simultaneously – of wanting to be included by not wanting to be there. Of wanting a relationship with my family but being terrified of it. And much much more. 

This is going to be an interesting journey. Thankfully today I didn’t have to navigate the family chatter. My parents cancelled Christmas (which actually shocked me) cause my Dad isn’t feeling well. So there was no group phone call. I don’t feel obligated to answer. 

The fact that I still have choices – that I have power … That is crazy.

I want to wish you all a tolerable holiday – hopefully one that is happy and full of love. You are all incredibly amazing people – don’t doubt yourselves.  Thank you for being here these last four months, when I needed someone the most. 

Our community is something special that I am consistently grateful for.

Xox

Paper Doll

To Be.

​Some days, I don’t want to be alive.

But those aren’t the days that scare me. 

It’s the days where I do that are the terrifying ones.

Where I feel this fight to survive well up from somewhere deep within. This desire to live, and live well, and live for myself. 

It’s those days that catch me off guard.

When you live so much of your life for other people, what is scariest is realizing you have the choice to live it for you. 

I’ve been wandering within the borders of this storm for so long that I didn’t realize there were places where I could live without rain. I don’t need to be drowning. I don’t even need to be wet.

I don’t have to create problems – I don’t have to consistently dump buckets of water on my own head to make me feel like I belong where I am.

I can simply… be. 

And that idea is so foreign to me.

I imagine it’s like viewing something for the first time – it’s strange. It’s different. I am allowed to stand on my own two feet? I have a voice, a choice? 

As an adult I am able to yell “NO MORE” and I have the right – a right I was born with – a right that was ignored until now – I have a right to expect you to listen. 

I can put up my hand and say stop. I have a voice. I write this story now.

And as I use my voice the trauma becomes not the narrative of my life but a thread of prologue. A part of the story that explains how I got here but that does not define who I am.

No, only I have that right.

And who I am does not need to line up with who they say I have to be. 

I get to be me. And I get to decide what that looks like. And I can change my mind. And what I need today can be different tomorrow but what they all have in common is they are my. choices.

So yes, the days where I want to live are much scarier than those where I want to cease existing. 

But I take off the shackles and realize I now have the power to walk out of my cell. I didn’t always, and I lament that, and I mourn it and I grieve it. And I love that part of me. That scared child who did not know anything of the world outside those four walls. Who internalized it. Who believed she was born to play the victim and that love would always be conditional. 

But I’m an adult now. And I get to choose.

The outside terrifies me. The world outside the cell – one with choice and safety and stability – that world that is not my normal.

And yet day by day, as I grow stronger, it’s the world where I want to be.

I am reclaiming this life. For me, for her, for us.