Don't let horrific and pointless arguments with family get you down.

So here’s what happened. I couldn’t tell you what time it was. Maybe just prior to 8am New York time. I needed to clarify some money stuff with “family.” I feel so awkward asking.

Meanwhile, I am overwhelmed by the kindness of my true friends, who have nothing, are still offering the shirts off their backs. You folks take care of yourselves and let those who actually have dough chip in. I was about to pick up a sum that won’t even come close to paying my next month’s rent, but will buy toilet paper and got me the water boiler and will feed me and Puzzle for a little while.

Doled out, doled out, doled out in pittances, when really, this is so unnecessary and demeaning. Extremely demeaning. Am I a child? I don’t have representative payee and have never needed one.

I NEVER go to restaurants. I have been maybe four times in a year and a half, only twice actually paying for anything beyond coffee.  I hardly ever buy soda! I do not buy bottled water because I filter mine. I make coffee at home, I haven’t been to one museum, nor one concert, nor a haircut, nor a massage, nor have any appliances except a hotplate a water boiler, not even a hot water heater! While food isn’t expensive here, it’s not cheap. $50 USD won’t last an entire month. Occasionally I can buy a bag of produce for $60 UYU (roughly $2 USD) when the good places are open.

You guys know what’s in the back of my head, and has been for years.  Actually, one of my therapists actually told me I’ve hit the nail right on the head here. My bros figure I’ll croak so that means more for them. This is one reason they dole it out as slowly as possible until that  happens, and then, they can split what remains. All that explains the non-response each time I’ve appealed to them (not for money but for understanding) when I’ve been in rather critical situations. “We do not have time for you.” Yet they would run to any other family member in time of need.

 

I am more than aware of the deliberate emotional detachment that began specifically in 1997, not when my dad died by a few months later. My mom did not detach, but one brother has barely spoken to me since. The other I connected to well during my grad school years. After that it all fell apart.

So the conversation with my sister-in-law was strained from the start. I had to clarify a few things so I did. I have no idea why I even allowed myself to continue the conversation.

I guess she asked how things were going. Well? She asked. I told her my rough “plans.” Then she said to me, “Well, I cannot really advise you….”

Was I asking for advice? No! Do you see the immediate assumption here of superiority? As if SHE were the wise one and I were appealing to her higher knowledge. “All mental patients are stupid, dependent, and inferior.” No, she didn’t say those words, but the automatic assumption that I was advice-seeking implied this assumption of her greater expertise. Just because I’m speculating or speaking of possibilities does not mean “I want your expert advice,” but might mean, “You asked so I am telling you.”

Then she continued to berate me. Folks, I haven’t shed a tear except when reading a moving story or seeing cool art in a very long time. Maybe it’s been six months since I’ve shed tears of utter frustration. However, we all know our relatives are the ones who push our buttons the most. I broke down.

Finally, I told her. “All I’ve ever wanted was for my family to love me.”

I was losing my temper, never mind the rising temps in here. Get this: According to my sister-in-law, it’s all my fault. I asked, “What did I do?”

She told me I made “poor decisions.”

Poor decisions? So she said I became distant after grad school. I told her I was being abused by my therapist (Maria). My sister-in-law dismissed this (it’s nothing, right?) and then blamed me for cutting my bro off for a few months in 2013 or so.

I told her I had no choice as he was gaslighting me every single time we spoke. At this point she got all huffy and said her husband doesn’t do that.

Here, I slipped. I agreed that my bro is a very kind man whom I raised myself. However, whether he gaslights her or not is not relevant here. He did gaslight me, and continues to do so. It sort of makes sense that he doesn’t gaslight her. If he treated her as poorly as he treats me she’d have left him by now.

Do you see her assumption here? She was discrediting me totally. “This is not my experience of him, so therefore, you’re delusional.” This is an immediate assumption of wrong perceptions by the mental patient, again, furthering her superiority. Her word must be correct. This never happened.

So here, she blamed me for cutting him off and stated that my reasons were unfounded and due to “illness.” She refused to acknowledge that his behavior could possibly have been at all flawed.

I was losing it at this point. I wish I hadn’t been. But behind me were two decades of being the butt of indifference, two decades of their not even recognizing my existence. Behind me were years and years of wondering why my family no longer loved me.

I told her precisely what my own friends had advised: “Julie, why keep trying? You are only making yourself more frustrated. It’s obvious that they’ve written you off. Try accepting it instead of trying to win them back because it doesn’t sound like that will happen. Families do that.”

I didn’t want to bring up the topic of my other brother nor lump them together. I don’t like it when I do that. During our childhood, they were called “the boys” rather often and I don’t think they liked that too much, seeing as they are like night and day.

I wasn’t sobbing. Just tearful. I was trying to hold it together knowing that any tears would be perceived as “illness.” Or worse.

She continued to discredit me and place blame. However, I stated that this cutting off occurred only briefly. What about the past two decades? I confronted her with that.

She then stated that her perfect husband had  visited me when he came to Boston. I countered by telling her he’d arrive, spend many days here carousing around, without informing me he was here, then call me saying “I came but am leaving now and if I don’t hear back within a half hour I won’t be able to drop by.” So basically I was that last stop, a token 20-minute (time-limited) visit on his way home. I was aware of the setup, of course. I told her I would learn later on that he’d been in Boston a long time and I was aware of the minimal time he spent with me. I also knew that with others, he went out to eat and enjoyed parties too. I was NEVER included in any of that.

Was he or anyone aware of the impact this had on me all those years? “You cannot be included because you are a mental patient.”

She sounded utterly disgusted at the statement that I’d known he was in town all along. Oh no, it couldn’t possibly be true. Again, the patient is delusional.

I told her it was obvious. I’m not as dumb as people think. Yes I do know where I lived wasn’t far from the highway. However, that was no excuse. I’m his sister! I’m not a diagnosis.

Again, to back myself (which I should NEVER be forced to do), I told her I’d discussed this at length with my friends and even with therapists for years. “Why does my family not love me?” Most had told me to accept it, move on, and find love elsewhere.

So she said how much they loved me. I said, “You guys have an odd way of showing it.”

How can any of them love me? They don’t know me. They have made very little effort to get to know me. Except for my brother (her husband) who finds me a great gaslighting candidate, not one has ever even tried to get to know me. They do not know my story, they don’t want to know, they’ve never cared. If I am not even allowed to explain myself, how can they possibly know what has happened, and why I am here in Uruguay to begin with.

So then she blames me further for coming here. Like coming here changed family relations. I doubt it. They never bothered with me before. They wanted to be rid of me, that mess in Massachusetts. Now, they no longer had to feel that tug of guilt when they drove past Watertown, thinking of their neglected sister they’d written off. Frankly, I think it all embarrassed them. They deserved it. What family would neglect someone like they did? Oh yes, they were plenty embarrassed over it.

I’m not sure, but I think many were embarrassed. Ashamed that they’d distanced themselves due to their own outright bigotry and completely wrong assumptions they had held for years. Ashamed because they lost a community member who could, had she been allowed, have contributed so much more. Almost as if I had died and then, suddenly, they realized they’d lost an under-appreciated lost talent.

And here I am, saying “Nyah nyah. You were wrong!”

Don’t neglect your family members. They may do the same to you someday. Seek out capabilities, and value a person for these, instead of highlighting how limited, needy, and weak they are.

Don’t assume “community services” is going to step in as substitute and provide the love and nurturing that you should be providing as family member. You can’t hire out love.

I felt awful after that horrible conversation, but not for long. Then, I felt okay again. Whether my sister-in-law heard me or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am secure in my own mind about all of this, and totally okay with it after all.

 

Feedback and comments welcome!