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need advice on dealing with family

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by blake, Sep 20, 2014.

  1. blake

    blake Well known member

    Hi all,

    I started working with a psychologist a few weeks ago and one of the issues that came up is my relationship with my family - more specifically the few aunts and uncles who take care of my mentally ill mom. I have always felt judged and misunderstood by them. They have no idea why my relationship with my mom might be hard for me. In their view, I am at fault because I cannot let go of the past (childhood with a schizophrenic mom and violent alcoholic father) and I should learn to live in the present more. They have never shown any empathy toward me and just seem genuinely confused by my distancing behaviour.

    The psychologist recommended that I speak up and share my side of the story with them. Maybe they will understand and be able to be more supportive. I would like to tell them that when they deny the past, they are really hurting me. I like the idea of getting some of my pain off my chest, but I am so scared about doing this. My anxiety is through the roof just thinking about it and I'm not sleeping well, which never happens to me.

    I know that tms recovery is based on journaling, but what role can speaking up play? Is it necessary for healing? I'm just not sure that exposing myself to further criticism or judgement would be helpful. Or maybe the psychologist is right and I should give them a chance.

    Has anybody experienced something similar? If so, how did things work out?
  2. angelic333

    angelic333 Peer Supporter

    Dear Blake,
    This post really got to me and I hesitate to respond but here it goes....
    I don't know your aunts and uncles. They may be very warm, caring, empathic people, as they do help to care for your mom. You may benefit from gently explaining your feelings without any expectation of the validation you are seeking. They may have an aha moment or they may not. Be ready for either, try not to attach yourself to a desired outcome.
    Sadly, for me, when I have taken this route I have been told that I shouldn't feel that way, to shut the f##k up, and that I make up a lot of stories. Ouch.
    Do I feel better that I at least expressed myself? Surprisingly, yes. Maybe they don't get it today, perhaps in the future they will.
    So, if YOU feel the need to say something, you are a very tactful woman, give it a try. Some people will never be able to look at things another way. As long as you are prepared for that, it may be helpful to you.
    The other side of this is, do you really owe anyone an explanation for your relationship with your parents? Is this a manifestation of "goodist" behavior, that you feel the need to justify your feelings? You say you feel judged and misunderstood. Maybe that's not even true. Maybe they do understand it and the conversation will validate you.
    No easy answer. And you don't have to decide today. Meditate on this. If you pray, pray to God for guidance. The answer will come. Be patient with yourself.
    God bless, Angel
    JanAtheCPA, Anne Walker and Ellen like this.
  3. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Blake,

    I can relate to your story. I also have always had a very difficult time speaking up about my feelings, and almost always choose not to. I've explored why this is through journaling, and have found that it is due to a fear of retaliation that goes back to my childhood. I was always "put down" for expressing any negative feelings. I think there is also an element of very low self esteem in the dynamic, as if I feel that my feelings are not as important or valid as those of the others involved. I would like to say that I have overcome this and speak out about my feelings now, but I still have much work to do in this area. For me it is easier to work on changing my understanding of the other person(s) to arrive at a place of peace in the relationship. I found Byron Katie's "the work" a very helpful process for this. She is the author of Loving What Is.

    So I recommend at looking where the fear is coming from and exploring it with your therapist. Maybe practicing speaking out about your feelings with people you trust to be more understanding and compassionate would be a good first step.

    Wishing you the best......
  4. angelic333

    angelic333 Peer Supporter

    As always, Ellen, well said and right on!
    So many of us have the learned behavior that expressing negative thoughts brings disapproval. (And sometimes it continues to play out into adulthood....) compassion for all involved goes a long way.
    JanAtheCPA, blake and Anne Walker like this.
  5. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Blake, this is a big issue, and understandably so given your family history. And no, I do not have a similar situation, but I do have some thoughts about it.

    I know that confronting people who have caused pain is considered vital by many therapists, but personally I'm not convinced. Many people have successfully come to terms with dead family members, after all - there are plenty of tools for accomplishing that. And how about people physically abused by dangerous individuals? It's not like they should be personally confronting their abusers. So in my humble (and unprofessional) opinion, you don't need to personally confront anyone if you don't want to.

    Always remember that if you do this, it's for you, not for them. You have to feel that this is something you really want to do, not because you "should" do it. Your fear of their reaction is totally normal, so stop feeling guilty about that! What I don't know is whether fear of confronting others affects other areas of your life, and perhaps that's something you're already looking at, and perhaps in time you'll be able to confront them - but only when you're really ready, able, and willing. IMHO.

    I do agree that it IS important to express what you want to tell them, and to be very specific about it. The unsent letter technique is really powerful - it can stand in for a personal confrontation, or it can be the prelude to the personal confrontation. And I do know from personal experience that it is very freeing (and no, I never did personally confront any of the people to whom I wrote unsent letters).

    Realistically, if you did give your relatives a chance to hear you, they would want you to hear them as well. Sometimes it helps to visualize what they went through, growing up with your mother, and gawd-only-knows-what-all being raised by their parents. Their attitudes toward you (as if you asked to be born to these parents, for crying out loud) are coming from their own rage and guilt that is produced by all of this dysfunction. And now they're having to take care of her (how did that happen I wonder?) so I expect there's a bunch of resentment going on there - and more than a little bit of "goodist" rage.

    It sounds horrible and sad and devastating and I'm sure I can't begin to comprehend the true reality, and I'm just glad you're here and seeking help from this wonderful community of people who care.

    angelic333 likes this.
  6. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    I can understand the hesitation in opening yourself up for further judgement and criticism. For me, the decision to extend them the benefit of the doubt would depend a lot on how I felt I would want them to treat me if the shoe was on the other foot. We all tend to operate on a lot of assumptions. They may be making judgements based on how they think they might respond if they were you. You may be assuming they are much more judgmental than they actually are. There is really only one way to find out. I recently reached out to two of my brothers who I was frustrated never help me in taking care of our mother. One lives in Japan and the other in Sweden. My youngest brother in Japan personally attacked me in a shocking way. My oldest brother in Sweden did not respond to both of my emails and then I heard through my youngest brother that he felt I owed it to my mother. At first it was very painful for me and I regretted trying to communicate with them at all. And then I was able to get really angry and see them more clearly for who they are. They are selfish, blaming people. They will come up with any story to justify their behavior and still maintain the illusion for themselves that they are loving, dutiful sons. Did communicating with them help my situation at all? In some ways no, but it did allow me to see things more clearly. I take care of my mother out of choice and out of love. I think it is the right thing to do and so I can feel good about myself for that. Before I think I felt burdened and frustrated with my brothers over the situation, hoping it would change in the future. Now it somehow feels liberating to just recognize who they are and to allow myself to be angry with them. I feel more accepting of my choice to take care of my mother. Not sure if that makes sense. I don't think I could have come to this place without having confronted them about it. And I do strangely feel better about it then I did before. Perhaps just more resolved and confident in myself about it. I only mention this because even when the communication doesn't go well or with the outcome one hoped for, there is something to be learned and potentially gained.
    angelic333, Ellen and JanAtheCPA like this.
  7. blake

    blake Well known member

    Hi there,

    What awesome responses. So much for me to think about.
    Angelic, I know a thing or two about being told I shouldn't feel the way I do. That's what my grandmother always said to me. Even when I was a child of 8 or 9. I'm sorry that happened to you in such a verbally abusive way. It sounds like you were hurt in the past and the hurtful behaviours just continues into the present. What did you do?

    I also really appreciated your comment about not having to decide anything right now. I've been putting way too much pressure on myself about this for the last few days, so thank you for reminding me that I don't need to do this.
    And yes, my dominant tms personality trait is definitely goodism: they can say and do whatever they want with me, but I always have to take the high road. and in my family, that is one lonely road !

    Ellen, I know where my fear comes from: my dad was an extremely violent man with my brother, but never hit me because I was so quiet. I learned to make myself small and never gave much importance to my feelings vs those of other people. Speaking up with people who are strong-willed and loud (like my aunt) is very gut-wrenching and scary for me. I have been working on this issue for a while and am able to express myself more than before, but I really need to feel safe first. I'm not sure if I can trust this one aunt, but the other one has been more open. If I do share. It would probably be with her.

    Jan, you really nailed my family dynamic. My mother went to live with my grandmother 15 years ago when my dad died. My mom had been without medical care and in psychosis for over 20 years. Her family knew about the extent of her disease and about the violence, but did not know what to do about it. The only reason my grandmother took her on is out of guilt. She was extremely resentful about it and was extremely nasty to me because of her frustration. On her deathbed, she made my aunt promise that she would take my mom in and not place her in an institution. My aunt did that but like her mom before her, she is resentful of me. You see, they expect me to help, but I just can't. It' always been too much for me. Not only did I not have a childhood, but I am expected to be a parent to my mom, even though I raised myself. I simply can't and have always been clear about that. Hence, their judgement of me. I agree with you that confrontation may not be necessary. My goal is to become pain free, not necessarily solve all my problems, right!?

    I think I need to do more journaling work about my grandmother. I have yet to forgive her, but I'm able to see her point of view more. I also think I need to wait a little before I do anything. It's all too raw still.
    Thank you so much for giving your feedback. So helpful.
  8. blake

    blake Well known member

    Hi Anne,
    Your story makes perfect sense. Even though the outcome wasn't what you wanted at least you don't need to wonder about it anymore.

    Speaking with my family and asking them for their viewpoint might help me really know what they think and then I would be free to do what I feel is right. Maybe I'll find out that, like my grandmother, they think I am not a good person because I should be doing more or maybe they think that everything I do (the daily phone calls and regular out of town visits) are just fine and they accept this.

    As I write my story in this thread, I am realizing how much unresolved anger I still have toward my grandmother and my aunts and uncles for not helping us when we were kids. Back to my journal I go... again!

    Thank you for sharing your story with me.
    angelic333, Ellen and JanAtheCPA like this.
  9. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    What a great discussion, gals. I think that angelic and Ellen and I were all busy writing our posts at the same time - I didn't see theirs until just now, but they are awesome, as is Anne's.

    No guilt, Blake! As I said, you never asked to be born, certainly not into that family. You have no inherent obligation to take care of anyone unless you choose to bring them into this world. Period.

    Love yourself and heal yourself,

    angelic333, blake and Anne Walker like this.
  10. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Anne, that's sad about your brothers. I wonder what it is that prevents them from saying "I'm sorry that I'm unwilling and unable to help, and I really appreciate everything you're doing"? Instead, they have to become defensive and attack you in order to feel better about themselves...

    Humans, sheesh.
    angelic333 and Anne Walker like this.
  11. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes, such a great discussion, and I appreciate all the perspectives shared.

    Blake, your comment above really struck me in how much that type of anger can fuel TMS. Your grandmother, aunts, and uncles are willing to make sacrifices to help your mother now, but did nothing to help you as a child in such a difficult and frightening situation. That would definitely be enraging to our adult self, as well as to our inner child.

    I had this type of issue come up in my life when my mother became ill and needed assistance. I had to get past my own anger toward her for not caring well for me when I was a child, as well as the fact that my brother didn't help at all, and all of the care fell to me and my sister. However, my mother's period of frailty didn't last more than a few months before she died, so it wasn't a long term source of conflict.

    Wishing you peace of mind as you work through this. Sounds like you have found fertile ground for exploring your TMS.
  12. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    Blake, I think any of us that were forced to grow up so young take on the weight of the world without even realizing it. I am extremely supportive of your position to not feel pressured into taking on too much responsibility for your mother. You already took on so much responsibility by raising yourself.
    It would be wonderful if your aunts could understand that but if they can't then you'll need to just continue to find ways to take care of yourself. That is what is most important. And it is very understanding how scary it must be to speak up about your feelings. You don't have to pressure yourself to do anything. What is most important is the things you say to yourself.
  13. blake

    blake Well known member

    Hi Ellen,
    Great observation. My adult self is indeed enraged at how they moved heaven and earth to help my mom after my dad died, but let my brother and I live through the hell that was our lives back then. The pain behind that rage is a direct cause of my tms. I can now see it in real time: I talk to my mom, my neck starts to hurt. I get in touch with the hurt child and support her as she cries, the pain goes away. I need to work on releasing these feelings, caring for that wounded child and forgiving my family for what happened. I'm just really struggling with it right now. I guess that's the work.

    I'm very impressed with how you were able to overcome your anger and care for your own mom. You must have forgiven her to be able to do that. Good for you.
  14. blake

    blake Well known member

    Hi Anne,
    I really appreciate your support. It's always been difficult for me to accept that I don't want to take care of my mom, so your comment about what I say to myself is very relevant. I'll be working on that in my journaling.

    Thank you so much. All of this wonderful advice and compassion means so much to me.
  15. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, Blake and Anne. I found great relief in finally forgiving myself for not being able to be of more help to
    my mother when she was old. I tried very hard for 2 years, after my older sister had given up trying,
    and our older brother never even tried for one hour. I did all I could and she was impossible to please.
    I felt guilty for years about giving up looking after her. She was strong... she moved away and looked after
    herself for more years. I doubt she gave any thought to what made me feel guilty.

    I think we all do what we can for our elderly parents. We have to forgive ourselves if we can't do more.
    blake and angelic333 like this.
  16. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    I'm not going to whip through and like everyone's posts but I wanted you all to know that I like all of your posts!

    Blake, I have something similar going on in my family. They will never see my viewpoint and when I tried to share my opinions I had a similar reaction to Angelic, i.e. I'm crazy and make up stories. It's a work in progress but I am slowly reprogramming my brain to acknowledge that these people will never change, however much I want them to accept me. I'm learning how to accept myself, warts and all.
    blake, angelic333 and JanAtheCPA like this.
  17. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Nice to see you again YB! wavea
  18. blake

    blake Well known member

    Hi yb44,

    I'm so glad to know I'm not alone in this. A close friend of mine was able to make peace with her narcissistic father when she finally said to herself: he's completely useless to me. That reminds me of what you are saying about your family never changing.

    I've realized in the last few days, thanks to these great responses from everyone, that the issue is that my inner world is way too intertwined with them. I need to free myself from their viewpoints, just about my life and heal whatever in me that needs to be healed. Easier said then done, of course, but I'm slowly getting clearer about the situation.

    All the best!
    yb44, Ryan, Ellen and 1 other person like this.
  19. AnitaV

    AnitaV Well known member

    In my experience, speaking up isn't necessary for healing, what's necessary is acknowledging and feeling your feelings. However, in the process of that, you may find that you want to speak up about your feelings. Or, you may think it will do more harm than good. During my recovery, I spoke to my husband about the feelings that had come up, but not my parents. Either way, the important thing for TMS recovery is recognizing and feeling your painful emotions.
    Ellen likes this.
  20. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I made a decision forty years ago to see family only on special holidays and other occasions.
    My mother had us all having a family reunion every Sunday.
    It was boring. The men just watched sports on tv and drank while the women gathered
    in the kitchen preparing meals and worrying they and the kids would get home alive since
    their husbands had too much to drink but insisted on driving.

    Gradually, the family got used to me not being at the reunions every week.
    They kept going to them and probably forgot I wasn't there.

    I love my family, but too much is too much. I needed a life of my own.

    As for expressing feelings to family, if that seems to cause problems, just don't.

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