Sunday, 16 October 2011

Family heirlooms: dresses and mental illness

Today my fourteen year old niece announced mid dinner in a restaurant that she wasn't joking but thinks there is something actually psychologically wrong with her. She got mixed reactions from the crowd, which included two aunts (me being one), my husband and a cousin. My sister, Katie tried to tell her that the symptoms which included 'suddenly getting really really angry and hearing myself being horrible to people for no reason and then being really happy all of a sudden all the time' were normal because she gets the same thing. I had to bite my tongue from telling my sister that she may not realise it but she's not so normal herself. I expressed to my niece that maybe part of it is just being a teenager but that she has had a difficult life (to which my sister outright disagreed with me: so having two abusive parents and no sense of stability in life and moving countries twice and going through your parents extremely messy breakup and then your grandparents doing the same and having the responsibility of practically caring for your two younger sisters and spending the first half of your life in a cult isn't difficult?) and two very volatile parents so it would be understandable if she was having problems expressing her anger or emotions appropriately.

I don't know how well my niece really understood how well I was understanding her but I was surprised at my sister's resistance to the conversation. I sensed she disagreed with me even engaging in the conversation.
The thing is, if you grew up in my family, you would be a miracle child not to be psychologically affected. Is this just a pattern of mentallness that will be passed on from generation to generation because each parent is so fucked up by the ones they had? Is this reason enough for me to never have a child of my own? I like to tell myself I am the least crazy of me and my sisters (and I have DID!) but maybe I'm just naive. I don't know that I won't damage my children in the same way my sisters have damaged theirs.

It's sad though, because I feel I have so much to offer a child. I feel I could be an amazing mother. Yet at the same time, I know I couldn't do it consistently because of who I am sometimes. I myself am unstable in that there are other parts of me who can't tolerate humans. How would they tolerate a needy child? Will I ever be different? Is there any hope for me or would I be doing the world a favour by allowing this chain of crazy genes/learned behaviours to die with me?

My eldest sister Noeline has been getting on my goat a lot lately. She appears to be going through some kind of extended mental breakdown, which involves being extremely accusatory, harsh and angry towards everyone she knows. She managed to fall out with my entire family, including me, while I was away on my big trip earlier in the year (I hadn't even been speaking to her, I just got home to find I had been blocked from her facebook). She then reinstated us onto facebook via a new separate identity she has set up so that it is secondary to her 'real' facebook. She doesn't post much on this, except to moan about how hard her life is as a single mum and to write critical things on our profiles. She has pissed me off something shocking this week, firstly because she had a go at me for not getting in touch with my dad and for not making more effort with him while he was over. This really upset me. I can cope with harsh judgements from outsiders who don't know my dad or the history, but my very own sister?! She of all people should know why I might not be keen to make much effort with him.

She annoyed me again because she posted a picture of her little girl wearing a special dress which has been worn by all the girls in our family so far: me and my sisters and all my nieces. She said that she was going to keep the dress now to hand down to her children's children to wear. I questioned what about mine or Katie's children, as neither of us have kids yet and she posted a harsh and cutting response about how it was hers to do what she wants with etc. There's just no need. She could have said that she'd happily lend it to them to wear or something like that but that's Noeline for you. I felt angry but I didn't want to let her know that. I also didn't want to just say nothing because I feel like she only says hurtful and cutting things because she gets away with it, so I just responded by saying: "Oh well, it's only a dress". I think that will piss her off, which I'm glad about, because she's certainly pissed plenty of people off lately.

I asked the rhetorical question on twitter and I ask it again (although if you have the answer that would be great!): how much crap do you take from a member of your family before it is enough? Is there some kind of manual with guidelines as to the recommended amount of abuse you should tolerate? If she wasn't my sister, she wouldn't be in my life anymore. It would be simple: friends don't treat their friends that way. She obviously hates me so get her out of my life. When you share blood it's different though isn't it? But does that mean you should just put up with anything?


Ruth said...

My perspective on kids: I raised 6 truly amazing kids and now have grandkids. I didn't know I had DID. Inconsistencies happened, mistakes were made, but my kids assure me that compared to some of their friends mothers, I did ok. I told my parents at 15 there was something wrong with me. They told me that all teenagers acted like I did. I heard denial after denial until after I had been in counseling a few years 30 years later.

I read several blogs that address family behaviors and how much abuse to tolerate or not tolerate from family.
I learned a lot from these three people on how to live authentically and stop accepting abuse in my life from any source.

Candycan said...

I accidentally deleted Eliza's very helpful comment and was so fricking angry at my stupid touch screen phone but have managed to find it in my email. Hooray! Sorry Eliza! Here it is....

Some day, your sisters will realise how much pain they have inside, and sadly it will probably not be until they are much older, abandoned by their kids with a spouse divorced or deceased. In other words, forced to just sit with themselves for once, not surrounded by so many people and THINGS to keep them grounded in the world.

You ARE less crazy. Dissociation affords you the distance, which means you have more power to do something about pieces of you that you are unhappy about. A successfully dissociative person fits in seamlessly with the morally conscious world.

There came a point in my life when I realised i needed to take care of me. And if people in my life truly cared about me in a way that was healthy and safe, they would understand and support me in that, even if it meant withdrawing from them.

I think you know in your heart that your sisters cross boundaries (yours and other people's) and you need to start defending them. It will feel like shock and betrayal to them, because they are used to crossing that space. That crossing has been reinforced since childhood. And it is a huge crisis to suddenly be told (even in no words) that what they learned in childhood is not enough. They can and need to be more, to be in your life.

What a huge task, because it will probably mean losing your sisters. I worked so much on my own strength and security to be able to defend my boundaries in the kindest most accepting way possible, to avoid alienating my family. But taking responsibility for healing your family? NOT OUR JOBS. If they are unhappy, if they want more, it is their responsibility to do something about it. It is a huge, huge, huge, huge, huge, huge struggle to let go of the need to be the Parent to everyone, but we can't be that person. Even if it's the only way to be in their lives (the only way they will accept us -- as victim or as nurturing Parent).

We are sisters, daughters, wife. And the only people in the world who deserve our mothering are our future children.

I would talk to your therapist about ways that you can navigate getting your needs met with your sisters. I would also maybe speak to the niece alone and advise her to talk to her GP (she's old enough to go by herself to certain youth centres and not have her parents know). If you are concerned about her, you will feel better having done everything you could for her. All of us deserve someone in our life to stand up for us, now and then.

Candycan said...

BLOGGER!!!! It's driving me mad today! I just realised it deleted some of my writing in my post as well. I have now ammended the abrupt ending!

Hi Ruth, it's encouraging to hear about your family successes. I do believe someone with DID can be an excellent parent, I just feel that I would need to be a lot better in myself to be able to cope with it personally. Thanks for the links, I will have a look. I'm always looking for new blogs to read.

Eliza, what you say about my sisters one day realising the hurt they have is true. All three have already gone through divorce and Noeline is already driving her eldest children away. They can't wait to move out because of her anger. It's sad.

It's hard to stand up to family about respect of boundaries. I tend to just withdraw when things like this happen and stay away until I feel stronger, but it never really addresses things. I think that is because I know you're right, in that they wouldn't be able to cope with me standing up to them and I would lose them. It's already happened with my other sister who I haven't talked about in this post. We were best friends, now we are just curteous.
I will try to speak to my niece, thanks for the info about GPs. It's sad watching how they are affected by my sisters.

I really appreciate the comments. Thanks!

ellen said...

I also struggle with how much contact to have with my family. Just cutting them off doesn't appeal. But I also think that there is no excuse for abuse. If you feel your sisters are being abusive, I think you have to protect yourself somehow.

My sister and I were so close in age, we grew up twined together like vines. But now, we are like polite acquaintances. It hurts, but it's difficult to know what to do...I am on a different path than she is.

Good for you for caring about your niece. I'll bet you'll find a way to help her if it's possible.

Sandy said...

You said " if you grew up in my family, you would be a miracle child not to be psychologically affected."
Surviving it makes you and your niece miracle children.
I also agree with Ruth. I am raising 3 children who are kind and loving and tolerant. Because of who I am I can teach them to go out into the world and be loving and supportive. And they are. I think you'd make an excellent mom.

Anonymous said...

i always wished for a sister as i hate men boys males in any form human or animal,by some miracle i ended up with 3 beautiful daughters and never had sons, i dont understand fully why males disgust me only what i remember and from triggers, this is hard for me to write as a part of me doesnt, but i never ever wanted kids no way, if only i could turn back time ,but because of my perdonality that was created for me by abuse i ended up being compliant,i ended up married to a controlling husband an did what i was told just as i did as a child, i struggled with bringing up 3 kids with DID,a part of me would die for them, a part wanted to die and kill them so that no male would hurt them, but a part has kept me alive and them, what i wanted to say is that by having these girls they have been a blessing as iv been able to play with their toys and allow little parts to play when the girls had their friends around even though we had to be carefull not to be found out , iv only just slowly started to tell these girls about DID and you know what? one said well thats explains alot having a mum who played for hours and still has fun with me lol, but when she fell out with her sister in there 20s i didnt know how to cope i just felt like i wanted to hide as i did as a child, i distant myself as much as ican as dont cope when they become needy of me or anybody!!"attachment disorder" so maybe this is why you feel so strong not to have kids and also why your sister is the way she is with you x i feel that maybe your niece needs someone to turn too also, as in my experience so far my daughters got emotionally messed up by their dad and by me, but they have abit more understanding as when the grown up part of me talks to them they have more understanding to how life was and why. Im divorced now and remarried to a very caring man lol how that happened i still dont remember honestly, but life is different and at least this husband is clued up om DID, sometimes i still wish for a sister but glad i dont and then im lucky i have 3 daughters then i dont as i dont want anyone in my life just me myself i and i and i and me and me ummmm feeling shit now so gonna go xxxxx