Coping with being a family "Embarrassment"

woodsy1

Confident
I am struggling to try to figure out how to keep my sister's perceived attitude towards me from affecting my life rather strenuously at the moment because what I do not need while trying to find a job is to feel like I am still an abnormal little freak who cannot compete in this world because she is too much of a weirdo -- which is the basic attitude I grew up with and still sometimes get whiffs of from my big sister.

I have her pushed back at the moment because I cannot afford to have this sort of debilitating garbage infiltrate my head right now and know that I am dancing with the devil pretending I can rise above the comments once they are made. She did say a few things this week that put me on a break.

For those who do not know, I was born with a severe cleft lip and palate. My lip was repaired when I was 15, so I spent most of my underage years with a very obviously severe facial deformity.

It hit me after posting about this yesterday, what it is that bothers me the most about our relationship. It is that she thinks that I was embarrassing for a multitude of reasons but every one that she will admit to and openly discuss at any given moment has to do with how I maladaptively coped with my trauma. I was a shoplifter, I didn't try to make myself pretty, etc. Bringing these things up doesn't bother her in the slightest. Even just me, the facially deformed little sister, being accused of being embarrassing doesn't apparently seem to raise any red flags of empathy or sensitivity for her. She just tells me even though she and I have gone rounds about her attitude with me even in adulthood. Even though her autistic boy lost it on her one day citing that she spent his entire upbringing being embarrassed of him and so she ought to know that the problem she has with being embarrassed of others is her problem.

However, because I know that she is not proud of the sexual behavior she adopted as a survivor of sexual abuse, I don't tell her that she embarrassed me in front of my friends with how she responded to her trauma by sleeping with many of them. And it was plenty embarrassing because I was a top student and even popular (WOW!!!) at an arts school where hard work/focus mattered and my girlfriends and I did not do things like that, not because we were homely but because we didn't want babies or STDs - which, I know, is pretty weird. But I don't tell her things like this because I know it would make her feel bad about herself.

My husband reminded me this morning that my sister has only been in therapy a short time and this might account for why I constantly feel like she acts like a spoiled asshole. He made a good point.

I did tell her this week that her regular reference of my freakdom is upsetting to me and that trying to be pretty actually only got me bullied more as a kid even though she seems to think it should have helped. She did not seem to understand how/why this would be the case and feels that I did not try hard enough and this was why I was so embarrassing. What I don't get about this is why me trying or not trying to cover my scars with a pound of make-up should have been or should be a concern she had or much worse, still has.

Sure, I was an embarrassment. And if I had done things her way, I could have avoided being an embarrassment. My trauma?? Apparently a non-issue ALL the way around.

I guarantee you that if my embarrassment got into the conversation, there'd be a war. How dare I? But yeah, I would not and I do not -- out of respect for her feelings and her trauma.

I have more that I need to say to her but seeing as how I am detoxing from a medication right now, I am stepping back and venting, rather than risking saying some really shitty things.

If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them. I don't have a therapist right now. Just you all and my husband.

I wouldn't dare tell my mother -- she told me I should have stopped speaking to my sister decades ago.

I try to be patient with her because she really has been through hell. But it's not always easy.
Hello @RussellSue,
Holy moly! You are going through a ton of crap! And it stinks.

I'd be pissed off and venting a little too. I hate it when people can't see past their own pet peeves to the pain and shame they are inflicting on others.

At a gut level, my reaction is similar to your mom's, Get the hell away from that unhealthy person!" But she's your sister, you care for her, and you want to be there for her even if she's not for you. I get it!

I've been in very similar boats. One was an abusive marriage that I endured for 12 years hoping against hope it would work. But my wife was diagnosed NPD, BPD, HPD, and bipolar. Without counseling, she was incapable of empathy or change. And she refused counseling. So, when she cheated on me, we got divorced.

We can't divorce family though.

I read a book that helped me considerably with such matters. It's simply called Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud. Maybe you'd find some helpful thoughts and tools there too?

I wish you the best. I hope your sis will realize how hurtful she is being. I hope she can recognize her own insecurity and how she's blaming others for it (projecting her insecurity on others) by "being embarrassed" of them.

When she sees this and resolves it, both she and the people she's hurting will be happier.

Hang in there!
Woodsy
 

Kittie

Confident
I am struggling to try to figure out how to keep my sister's perceived attitude towards me from affecting my life rather strenuously at the moment because what I do not need while trying to find a job is to feel like I am still an abnormal little freak who cannot compete in this world because she is too much of a weirdo -- which is the basic attitude I grew up with and still sometimes get whiffs of from my big sister.

I have her pushed back at the moment because I cannot afford to have this sort of debilitating garbage infiltrate my head right now and know that I am dancing with the devil pretending I can rise above the comments once they are made. She did say a few things this week that put me on a break.

For those who do not know, I was born with a severe cleft lip and palate. My lip was repaired when I was 15, so I spent most of my underage years with a very obviously severe facial deformity.

It hit me after posting about this yesterday, what it is that bothers me the most about our relationship. It is that she thinks that I was embarrassing for a multitude of reasons but every one that she will admit to and openly discuss at any given moment has to do with how I maladaptively coped with my trauma. I was a shoplifter, I didn't try to make myself pretty, etc. Bringing these things up doesn't bother her in the slightest. Even just me, the facially deformed little sister, being accused of being embarrassing doesn't apparently seem to raise any red flags of empathy or sensitivity for her. She just tells me even though she and I have gone rounds about her attitude with me even in adulthood. Even though her autistic boy lost it on her one day citing that she spent his entire upbringing being embarrassed of him and so she ought to know that the problem she has with being embarrassed of others is her problem.

However, because I know that she is not proud of the sexual behavior she adopted as a survivor of sexual abuse, I don't tell her that she embarrassed me in front of my friends with how she responded to her trauma by sleeping with many of them. And it was plenty embarrassing because I was a top student and even popular (WOW!!!) at an arts school where hard work/focus mattered and my girlfriends and I did not do things like that, not because we were homely but because we didn't want babies or STDs - which, I know, is pretty weird. But I don't tell her things like this because I know it would make her feel bad about herself.

My husband reminded me this morning that my sister has only been in therapy a short time and this might account for why I constantly feel like she acts like a spoiled asshole. He made a good point.

I did tell her this week that her regular reference of my freakdom is upsetting to me and that trying to be pretty actually only got me bullied more as a kid even though she seems to think it should have helped. She did not seem to understand how/why this would be the case and feels that I did not try hard enough and this was why I was so embarrassing. What I don't get about this is why me trying or not trying to cover my scars with a pound of make-up should have been or should be a concern she had or much worse, still has.

Sure, I was an embarrassment. And if I had done things her way, I could have avoided being an embarrassment. My trauma?? Apparently a non-issue ALL the way around.

I guarantee you that if my embarrassment got into the conversation, there'd be a war. How dare I? But yeah, I would not and I do not -- out of respect for her feelings and her trauma.

I have more that I need to say to her but seeing as how I am detoxing from a medication right now, I am stepping back and venting, rather than risking saying some really shitty things.

If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them. I don't have a therapist right now. Just you all and my husband.

I wouldn't dare tell my mother -- she told me I should have stopped speaking to my sister decades ago.

I try to be patient with her because she really has been through hell. But it's not always easy.
Sending peaceful vibes your way! When one family member hurts, the whole family hurts.

I can relate to looking and feeling different, not feeling beautiful. My husband divorced me because my looks had changed. It wasn't until much later that I learned true beauty is on the inside. You have a lot of true inner beauty and it shows in your writings!
 

Sideways

Sponsor
I am sorry that your sister's boundaries have been hurtful but it is nice to hear that you have respected them, regardless.
So, I've sat on whether to reply to this comment for a few days, because I don't know if it's helpful to your situation or not. If not? Just disregard.

But, it feels disingenuous of me to leave it - because, I don't respect the boundary. At all. Anyone who wants anything more than a very superficial relationship with me? Needs to accept that my childhood comes as part of the whole, messy package. It can't be neatly separated out from the rest of me. Least of all by my sister, who went through CSA with me, and was inseparable from me for those years. That's the fundamental and inalienable foundation of where we are now, both as individuals, and relative to each other.

Asking me to separate that out, simply because her truth about those years is different to my own? Her management of that is different to my own? Was incredibly disrespectful, invalidating, and frankly dehumanising. She was asking me, essentially, to be me without the messy bits. Me without my childhood. Wtf? And I didn't take it lightly.

The 'boundary' she set? Is complete BS. I didn't respect it then, and I don't respect it now. There's a dozen ways she can handle conversations that become painful for her, without shifting all the responsibility of that pain to me, and in the process, silencing me about my own life.

But, despite all the ways she's hurt me over the years, I do respect the person. There's a big difference there in mindset for me. And for that reason, and that reason alone, I don't talk about my childhood with her. Our childhood.

Our relationship will always be the lesser because of that. But, that's part of her package, which is as messy as mine. And respecting that is the important part to me.

Something to think about, or not.
 
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RussellSue

MyPTSD Pro
So, I've sat on whether to reply to this comment for a few days, because I don't know if it's helpful to your situation or not. If not? Just disregard.
I am glad that you did. Thank you for explaining all of this because it is entirely possible that my sister has similar feelings but would not be able to express them this clearly.

I am sorry if it came across that I was patronizing when I said that it was "nice to hear" that you had respected your sister's boundary even though you did not like it. What I was actually attempting to say was that you expressing that you had gone along with your sister's boundary gave me some hope and relief for the idea that maybe my sister would be capable/willing to do the same.

Since this was posted, I did express to my sister that I was unable to discuss a particular time period, she told me that she wanted to end the relationship, I insulted her for lying to me when she said she wasn't going to throw me away again, and then she apologized to me, saying she overreacted due to stress, hormones, etc.

I do get your point. The problem for me is that once our abuser left, my sister became extremely violent toward me and still seems to feel a fair amount of justification for doing so. I will talk to her about our stepfather without issue but I really struggle when it comes down to her discussing the myriad of aggravating ways I pushed her towards physically attacking me. I understand that she was in pain and I have forgiven her for the actual attacks but the vibe I often get is that she fails to understand that I was there also living in a maladaptive hell and wasn't actually on any mission to keep her from the "normal" life that she so wanted to have and that she remains resentful over it. I pointed this out and obviously triggered her.

When she gets on these trips down memory lane that include numerous things that were wrong with me during that time period and wants to know why I couldn't just do the things she demanded that I do at the time, it really bothers me. I feel like she is picking on me in the present or that while I feel I have made amazing strides in gaining empathy for her, she's not really interested in doing the same for me. I am not allowed to say anything about the things she did when she was at her worst because she loses it and her losing it how things have always gotten accomplished for her.

Me trying to stop those conversations is me finally saying that I am tired of hearing about what a loser I was because it leaks into how I feel about myself now. I've told her how I feel and nothing has changed, so I thought having that time period off-limits for the time being was a good option, at least until she is in treatment for real for a minute or two since I am not allowed to say a single word to defend my young self without enduring an outburst. I'm not sure what else to do.

She is trying and that is abundantly clear. I don't want to get in the way of her sorting her shit out but I wish I felt like she was actually doing that, rather than building a case for why she remains angry. I can't control her and I have yet to be able to control feeling small when she gets going on this stuff, so I am currently at a loss.

After posing the boundary, I realized that neither of us would have followed it. We might have really tried but there is too much there.

I'm thinking about suggesting family therapy for the two of us. She might actually do therapy for a period of time if it was two of us. That's my best/worst idea at this time.

Thank you again. I really do appreciate your perspective. I can see why she might feel this same way because she still has a shit ton of anger over the fact that she was initially trying to mother me during that period of time because our mother stopped which was a noble, big sister thing to do. Unfortunately, some of what she did to control me represents some of the worst of my trauma (though she does not know this) and the situation is not easy to navigate for any length of time. She wants to talk about it but her anger sets me off. I forgave her for the attacks because she was a kid but feeling her present resentment is very difficult.
 
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Sideways

Sponsor
Yeah, I've been trying to follow the goings on between your couple of different threads. It's particularly complicated with sisters that we grew up close to, and throw in childhood abuse and different mental health issues as an adult, it goes pear-shaped pretty fast.

My sister's mental health issues play out very differently to mine (and always have). She went through a violent period (like, me sleeping with glass bottles against the bedroom door so she couldn't come in and attack me at night), but that's mostly settled now to verbal explosions. And those? Have settled since I addressed it with her last year (she has some motivation to address issues between us now that we're living together, and she wants it to stay that way).

Maybe have a break, then work through that post again sometime. Because there's a whole lot of "I feel" statements in your post about your pain.

That's the part you can address. With 2 kids and no history of engaging in therapy? She's unlikely to really engage jn counselling with you now, right? My sister is big on feeling in control when she's distressed, and I'm big on fleeing when distressed. But, I can't really force her to want to change herself - I can only really work on me.

Me and my sister's relationship involves a shittonne of radical acceptance about where we both are, and accepting its not how either of us would hope for, but it's better than it was.

Your sister is damaged. So are you. If you get to a point where you can handle her damage, because you've resolved your own? That would be brilliant. That's probably the goal I'd head for in your shoes, just FWIW.
 

RussellSue

MyPTSD Pro
Thanks again @Sideways - This has been rough.


Maybe have a break, then work through that post again sometime. Because there's a whole lot of "I feel" statements in your post about your pain.
I'm not sure I completely got your meaning here but me making "I feel" statements has a whole lot to do with AA and group therapy and maybe less to do with my confidence over a matter. I don't like catching myself stating what someone "did" to me as fact because I know that what I saw and what they actually meant to do are often different.

With 2 kids and no history of engaging in therapy? She's unlikely to really engage jn counselling with you now, right?
Yeah, best/worst idea. But she only has one boy at home now and he is getting ready to move out. My thinking was after that. She tells me often that she knows she needs treatment but that she cannot do it with the kids at home and has said that she is going to start once they are gone. Still, she has a lot to work out with her own kids ahead of me, like I said, so we'll demote this to worst idea.

Me and my sister's relationship involves a shittonne of radical acceptance about where we both are, and accepting its not how either of us would hope for, but it's better than it was.

It is a lot better than it was for us, too. But me being only about 39 days at my new address, dealing with another round of PT and accompanying pain/frustration, looking for work, dealing with med detox, etc. made that a little foggy for a minute, too. She also wanted a play-by-play of a traumatic attack she doesn't remember only moments before I started addressing my hurt feelings, so that conversation was bound to end badly. We both need to learn to walk away but I think we both want to believe we are on the edge of a major breakthrough a lot of times when we are really just headed for upset.

Your sister is damaged. So are you. If you get to a point where you can handle her damage, because you've resolved your own? That would be brilliant. That's probably the goal I'd head for in your shoes, just FWIW.

Thank you, again. Your insight into this is much appreciated.
 
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