At Least I’m Not ENTIRELY Alone

Q: Loving the hater

My older sister, now in her early 50s, just doesn’t like me. I have spent many years trying to build a relationship with her and return her hate with kindness, but no matter what I do, things don’t change. She often hosts family gatherings and doesn’t invite me, or when she does, it’s at the very last minute and through my mom. When we are both at the same gathering, sometimes things go well, and once every year or two, she’ll start screaming at me for no apparent reason except for “you think you’re better than everyone else,” which I don’t, though it is true I have always been very different from the rest of my family, which is very conservative politically and socially (and I’m not). Another sister said that my siblings are uncomfortable with me and keep their distance because I had been in a same-sex relationship in my 20s and am now married to a man. My son is an only child, and he longs to have close relationships with his cousins. And I would like to know my nephews better. I keep trying to initiate get-togethers, and she either doesn’t answer or is noncommittal. A few weeks ago I called and she didn’t call back, though she did look up my LinkedIn profile, which was very strange and hurtful to me. My son keeps asking me why he can’t see his cousins (who live 1.5 hours away). I’m trying to figure out how much to keep trying to amend the relationship with my sister, and if so, how. Or maybe I should stop trying, for it causes me so much pain, especially this time of year.

A:

I am sorry. I think this time of year can be so ironically cruel for anyone who doesn’t have a picturesque family experience (even the decorations at Target are screaming at us to “BE MERRY! BE BRIGHT!” Good grief!) that it makes it worse, when you start to imagine what families are “supposed” to be like, and how warm and welcoming and communal everyone is supposed to be feeling all the time. But unfortunately, that warm and loving family relationship that you wish for—and that you may very well have done your part to try to achieve for years and yearssimply might not be possible with your sister. I get why you want to give the gift of close cousin relationships to your son, but honestly, for him to see his Mom treated this way, and to associate family gatherings with potential explosive behavior is not anywhere near the fun frolic that good childhood memories are made of. I think it might be time to give yourself some peace by understanding that your sister—for whatever reasons, but all her own—is incapable of building a truly sisterly relationship with you. And that you have to take what you choose to embrace of the rest of your family relationships. They may be your allies or not, intervene on your behalf or do nothing of the sort, but that is almost beside the point – right now, you’ve been spending years trying to move a boulder that not only won’t budge, but somehow manages to spit on you as well.  As for your son, you can reveal more and more to him over the years as he is old enough to understand, but for now, a simple “I wish we could be closer to them too. Sometimes, though, families can’t always spend time together” can start a conversation, seeing where he goes from there, and following his lead. And over time, you can put some of that no-longer-wasted energy into building an extended “family” of friends and neighbors who actually are capable of providing the connections that you’re longing for.

Modern ECT

Notes from here

“Today, ECT is administered to an estimated 100,000 people a year, primarily in general hospital psychiatric units and in psychiatric hospitals. It is generally used in treating patients with severe depression, acute mania, and certain schizophrenic syndromes. ECT is also used with some suicidal patients, who cannot wait for antidepressant medication to take effect… This treatment is usually repeated three times a week for approximately one month. The number of treatments varies from six to twelve.”

Might explain why Mom was hospitalized for a month each time.

Current Events

Written about Chump, but if the shoe fits…

Once again, this is a well-understood psychological construct.  It’s not unusual, special, speculative, or unique.  IT’S HOW CERTAIN PEOPLE ARE.

Can you love someone who did bad things?

Notes from here.

“How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?

[People asking this question] are in what is known as “secondary trauma,” experts say, meaning they were not the person… [attacked], but they experience a deep sense of betrayal from a person they thought they knew. Continue reading “Can you love someone who did bad things?”

(Not) Facing Reality

My day job is seeing things people can’t or choose not to see. In other words, I’m a psychiatrist… I make my living treating acute and sub-acute mental and behavioral health emergencies, which means people don’t end up on my radar unless they’ve comported themselves in ways that are generally determined to be unstable and unsafe. In some cases it’s florid psychosis, dementia, or mania, and in others it’s severe depression and suicidality, or unbridled poly substance abuse or personality disorder.

“I can’t help but be reminded of the numerous families that remain apprehensive and reluctant to agree to proactive measures, even in the face of the crisis that has befallen them. Despite the reality that no one’s gotten any sleep or peace, and their loved one is on a rampage destined for destruction, they hesitate to act and often inadvertently prolong everyone’s suffering in the process. They contain the dysfunction for as long as they can, rather than face hard truths about their new reality.Continue reading “(Not) Facing Reality”

There’s a Name for It, Again — The IP

Notes from here.

[side note, if anyone from my FOO clicks on that link, I would bet a substantial amount of money that what they will take away from it is that my husband and I must be in couples therapy, and a self-satisfied confirmation that I’m obviously a mental wreck and our marriage is in trouble.]

“When I used to treat children and adolescents, I’d typically get a call from the parents explaining why they wanted their child to see me… the parents would be concerned, and would want to get their child help.

“Sometimes, though, it wasn’t just the child who needed help — it was the family. The child had simply become what therapists call “the identified patient,” or IP — the person unconsciously assigned to be the keeper of the family’s troubles. The IP looks like the one with the problem, but really she’s the healthiest one in the household, because in her own way, through her symptoms, she’s acknowledging the family’s issues. Instead of denying them or scapegoating others, she’s calling them out. Continue reading “There’s a Name for It, Again — The IP”

8 Common, Long-Lasting Effects of Narcissistic Parenting

Full article here.

2.  Echoism.

If you’re particularly sensitive or empathic by nature, you’re more likely to respond to narcissistic parenting with a stance I call echoism… Narcissistic parents who explode without warning, or collapse in tears any time a child dares to express a need, force sensitive children to take up as little room as possible, as if having any expectations at all is an act of selfishness.

I interpret this as not wanting me to exist.  This also reminds me of my sister’s bouts of hysterics when I said I wasn’t coming to one of the reunions, and when I asked her about the possibility of our mother’s psychotic break. Continue reading “8 Common, Long-Lasting Effects of Narcissistic Parenting”

Who’s the real victim?

Notes from here:

“In my own writings about the abuse I’ve experienced… I go into a lot of detail, get angry, and do a lot of research into such things as abuse and personality disorders… I pour everything in, all the details I can think of, along with trying to figure out what drives a person to act like that, quotes from my research which describe common abusive behaviors… what is abuse and what is normal.

“I have a strong will and don’t just figure I deserved what I got; I get very angry… I hope that these comments/blogs are not saying that if you’re angry, if you’ve done a lot of research into personality disorders and do know family history and have good reason to think disorders are at play, that it automatically labels you as the abuser playing the victim. In my case, the anger is part of the detachment/healing process and a natural response to being abused, and learning about personality disorders has reassured me that I did not deserve what I got.

When a person says “I’ve been abused, and I’m angry about having been abused!” that is not necessarily a sign that they are falsely playing the victim… anger is part of the detachment/healing process… It shows the victim is making an excellent recovery, in my opinion. Continue reading “Who’s the real victim?”