Monday, 11 July 2011

Sibling abuse by a sister (What Katie did)

I'm still working on my impending post about what happened at therapy this week... I feel I need to get this off my chest though...

A few days ago I asked my sister, Katie how to sharpen knives: just one of the many useful things I never got round to learning despite being a straight A (or A* to be precise) student. I was scraping the knife on the sharpener but not really getting the hang of it so she put her hands over mine to show me the sweeping movement as it should be. 

That's the end of the story about what happened. 

The knife didn't slip and cut me. I didn't accidentally stab anyone. Nobody got hurt. 

But that moment when she put her hands on mine was the reason my hands felt like they were burning for what seemed like hours afterwards and caused me to want to furiously scrub them clean with soap and hot water. That moment is the reason I have been having horrible, horrible nightmares and flashbacks for two days since.

Growing up with Katie as a sister was not a lot of fun. As she was the closest in age to me, we were together all of the time. We were both on the receiving end of my father's anger and issues, we also both had two other older sisters who received the brunt of my father's anger and issues and in turn took their anger and issues out on us. You'd think having those two things in common might have meant we would be closer and look out for each other; but my sister Katie, had one thing I didn't have. She had a younger sister who she could in turn take out her anger and issues on (and she had a lot to get rid of). 

Given that we were together all of the time and our other sister's were a little bit older, it meant I was the handy target for all of her abuse. We shared a bedroom and went to school together; there was never a minutes rest from her. My sister psychologically abused me. Every word she spoke to me from I was five years old onwards was full of spite, hatred, bitterness... designed to cut me and make me feel bad. It's hard to imagine how a child could successfully psychologically affect another child; you'd think a child would not be affected by hurtful words from another child... but I was and still am. 

What is harder still to understand is the other way in which my sister abused me. I can't say it in words but you will know what I mean as you read. I have struggled for a long time with thinking that this couldn't have been abuse if it was done by a child and by another girl at that. I still struggle with this concept. I've felt guilty for feeling so affected by the things that happened. The fact is though, it was not just child's play or healthy developmental exploratory play; I remember what those times felt like... kissing my cousin... it was innocent. What happened with my sister was different. It is so hard to think about this and even harder to put into in words. 

I still don't know if I was affected so much by it because of things that had already happened to me at the hands of others. I feel sure that my sister must have already been through some things herself to have had awareness and desires strong enough as to lead her to coerce me into fulfilling them for her (it's killing me to write this!). 

I have never read about anyone else being abused in this way by a sister. I've heard of big brothers doing things to little girls... but sisters? I hate that it happened but I also hate that it was her. I feel that because of who it was, I shouldn't have been affected. I should just feel it was child's play. But at the same time, I know it wasn't. I hate her for it. I am disgusted by it. I feel sick when I think about it.

Needless to say, I have been pretty angry with my sister throughout my whole life. She continued to psychologically abuse me throughout our teens and even after she left home, when I would see her, she would still cut strips off me with her tongue. It only recently occurred to me that she probably felt reminded of what she had done to me by my very being and this provoked her to hate me. I certainly hated her. I wished so many times for her to be dead. 

I stopped seeing her for a good few years after she left the cult (while I was still in it: you weren't allowed to have much to do with people who left) and in that time she seemed to mellow out a lot. Nowadays, I probably find her the easiest of my three sisters to get along with. I push all of this stuff to the edge of my mind and try not to remember her as she was. I try to think of her now as a different person. She seems like a different person for the most part.

Last year Katie got married and asked me to be her bridesmaid. Despite her being so different now, I still found the process of being her bridesmaid very trying. I guess I do keep myself at a distance. I think I got through the occasion by dissociating myself from the awareness or emotions. That was the only way. I guess it wasn't surprising that I went and got all my hair cut short the week after the wedding (symbolic 'getting rid of' something), crashed into a deep depression and started self harming again, which I hadn't done in a year and a half. I also stopped contacting my sister and actively avoided spending any time with her as much as possible. I just didn't want to think about her.

In recent months however, I have felt guilty for doing this (because after all, she is a different person now isn't she?) and have seen a bit more of her. I do well to keep all of the feelings of the past separate from the here and now when I'm with her. She's someone else... I keep reminding myself. 
But I am obviously not dealing with anything by doing my best to leave the past in the past. How something so simple can bring it all so vividly back to the present. I feel sickened by the images and nightmares. I want to forget it all. I want it all to never have happened. How can I ever move on when the tiniest thing takes me back to square one?


JustEliza said...

I am so sad that your sister treated you like that. It is very courageous of you to share it. I can understand why you feel guilty for being so affected, but that is such a normal reaction to something so horrible. I'm glad you are in a safer place now.

Is your sister really someone else though? You still have all of those feelings, perhaps she is struggling to contain all of hers as well.

Sandy said...

Just like you, your sister was going through and ordeal. That doesn't mean it was OK to treat you badly. She was angry, but her anger was misdirected. Her cruel words reinforced your mistreatment.
Maybe when your are feeling a little more secure the two of you could sit down with your therapist and bring these issues to light.
I noticed you said that you never had a break from her. That isn't healthy. Your parents did not set clear boundries for you or any of your siblings. Everybody needs their space, even you.
It is OK to keep your sister at whatever distance feels right. Nothing probably feels right, as you were tought to ignore your instincts and basic needs for the welfare of others.
The hardest thing you will ever do (because of your upbringing) is learning to take care of you. And if you are having nightmares it is because you don't feel safe. In Maslow's Heirarchy of needs, safety is of utmost importance. Remember you are safe now. Your sister sounds like she is one of your triggers and some coping skills from your therapist would help. :) Be well, my friend!

Anonymous said...

I was manipulated and abused by my sister and I am a girl. It has been really difficult for me to talk with her and be around her. Thankfully I am far away from her and don't have to deal with her. Thank you for making me feel like I am not alone.

Candycan said...

Thank you for these helpful comments Eliza and Sandy. I have only recently begun to consider that my sister might struggle with feelings about it. It's hard to even acknowledge that she would have any memory of it at all. That's probably why I think of her as someone else. It's just easier for me to be around her. Sandy, I can't imagine I will ever be in a place where I will be able to talk to her about these things.
Anonymous, I am so sorry that you had to go through this. It is so painful and not something many people even consider as something that happens. Abuse is often just assumed to be by adults otherwise, it's seen as 'play'. I do believe there is innocent play in childhood but it's not always that way. It's a very difficult area.

Anonymous said...

I thin you shoul rea a book call Girl in the wata im vey sorry tha you ha to go through all o this