I know I haven’t written in some time. I succumbed to this place where I had not one iota of creative energy left in my Lyme riddled body. And family drama. That’s always enough to bring you to your knees; especially when you suffer from Chronic PTSD. I always assumed that my PTSD stemmed from my emotionally abusive mother, who suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder and NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder.) I thought I had rewritten my story, as my pastor would say. Years and years of professional therapy later, I thought I was healed. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.
I am not a complainer. I used to walk around the house, a virtual Irish Sigh, bemoaning my interpersonal relationships and the fact that I couldn’t find a job that wasn’t riddled with office ladies’ drama. And then I went into nursing, and was very happy with the change. I began healing in earnest, when my CPTSD became so damaging, I had to stop working for fear of an utter shut down of my mental and physical health. That was over 2 years ago, and I can say that as much as I love working with the elderly, Alzheimer’s and the families affected by it, there is no possibility that I could handle a job-the stress would kill me dead. Just committing to anything, whether it a doctor’s appointment or weeding the church gardens, well, it cripples me with anxiety.
So, after a year of recovery and self care, I began to see my creativity returning. I love to paint, write, take photographs, garden……….and the more I did these things the better I felt. I was coming home to myself, who I really was…..when the shit hit the proverbial fan.
My sister was born 5 years after me. I have memories of loving her beyond reason, her long curls and infectious laughter filled my heart with joy. I took care of her when my mother fell into a coma, and my poor father-who suffered from alcoholism-could do nothing but drink beer, cry and sit in the antique rocking chair. I was eleven, but did my best to ensure some sort of dinner was on the table, the breakfasts and lunches made, and the house in order. Little did I know how drastically things would change when my mother recovered and returned home. Unimpressed with my attempt to hold the family and house together, (I have an Irish twin-my brother) she lashed out at me the minute she came through the door in a wheelchair.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph! How much do you WEIGH?”
I was crushed. I had put on extra weight, due to my inability to cook, Stauffer’s frozen mac and cheese, and our neighbor’s carb filled meals, delivered at least twice a week. Back then I ate to calm myself, bring comfort -I had no support system. She insisted I get on the scale in front of my father and siblings.
“150 pounds!!!! That is UNACCEPTABLE.”
Long story short, after losing the unwanted fat on a Weight Watcher’s program, I was sitting in the kitchen eating my favorite snack at the time, carrots and mustard. Gross, I know, but for crying out loud, low calorie, right?
“I just read an article in the Ladies Home Journal. Did you know how fattening carrots are?” In one of her narcissistic rages, my mother made her point alright. I developed anorexia and bulimia, and at one point put hockey pucks in my sweat pants as the doctor was threatening to put me in the hospital. I weighed 73 pounds at that time.
Flash forward a bit. My father was a travelling salesman, and the family dynamics were worsened by the fact that during the week he was on the road, and we were left with our seemingly schizophrenic mother, whose mood swings were feared more than any scary monster you could dredge up in your mind. She once beat my brother black and blue with the door knocker. I stopped her from killing him. His crime? Knocking more than once.
But my sister was the golden child. Untouchable, she learned early that she could scream for our mother and my brother and I would instantly be disciplined. I can tell you that we would literally walk into a room and the howling would begin. Embroiled in a battle we could not win, John and I became very, very close-we were all each other had and we were inseparable. Years later, when I was in my first year at Villanova, my father was diagnosed with pancreatitis. His drinking had become a 24/7 addiction. He would start out in the morning with gin in his tea. Soon after his hospitalization he slipped into a coma from the withdrawal, or delirium tremens. Dad was my only friend in the universe, and I dropped out of college as I had no interest in anything but my father’s recuperation. He came out of the fog a year later, and had to learn to walk, talk, and function in a world without the crutch of beer and booze. This was the conversation at the dinner table the first night he was home:
“Why is Sarah in a high chair?” he asked my mother.
My sister was thirteen years old at the time. Dad was horrified, and I remember my mother laughing, and then bringing out an adult chair for Sarah. She cut my sister’s meat until she was 15-and in doing these things my mother created the Golden Child who could do no wrong. My father caught her, in her bedroom, smoking weed with friends one evening. “Just keep it from your mother.” Seriously??????? My mother found the weed the next day. She stormed into my bedroom demanding answers, and because I wasn’t a rat, I told her it was mine-further diminishing any chance I had at my mother’s acceptance, let alone love.
And so, 30 years later, I came the crushing realization that my narcissistic sister had been abusing, demeaning, triangulating and hovering the shit out of me. I had a codependency that allowed her to walk all over me, further pushing my self esteem into the garbage. She had three children whom I doted on, until she took them away from me. I had not been invited on a single family vacation for the first 10 years of their lives. I assumed it was my alcoholism, and that was a contributing factor in getting my ass sober. Only, when I quit drinking, her behavior towards me became sadistic, demonic and very, very real. The family vacations continued, but I wouldn’t find out about them until after the fact, when one of the kids slipped…..or my brother commented that I should join them now and then. You see, Sarah lorded my disease over my head, but my sobriety enraged her-I was the scapegoat, black sheep-the better my life became, the more despicably I was treated.
I am picking up the pieces of my betrayed heart. I have tried to help her, and have prayed and prayed and……well, prayed that she found Jesus and turned to him for healing. But just last week things came to a head, and I mean HEAD. I stood my ground and told her that I would no longer be trampled upon. I was so angry that I told her not to bother coming to my funeral as she couldn’t find the compassion or empathy to treat me like a human being, to stop stalking my social media and gas lighting me to the point of a near mental breakdown. She didn’t take that very well. I received a phone call from John, saying that Sarah was very upset.
“She doesn’t have your communication skills. I don’t want our family vacation to be strained because you two can’t get along.”
That’s right folks. We are going on a family vacation to the Adirondack Mountains for the first time ever. Thank God I had the foresight to book our cabin 30 minutes north of theirs, as I wouldn’t want to ruin the family fun.
NOTE: I will talk about the necessary work that needs to be done when you realize that you are a victim of this insidious disease, in future blogs. Please know you are not alone; there is great hope and many resources for healing. I love my sister and it breaks my heart-but the truth shall set you free, and I intend to chase that truth down, no matter what the cost.