Posted by: Marie | January 19, 2011

(494) Shared history

Post #494
[Private journal entry written on Monday, August 30, 2010]

This morning, I had breakfast with my sister. She is in town, visiting from Washington state. She wanted to have some time with me apart from my mom so we could talk openly about stuff.

My sister and I used to be very close about ten years ago. But, since I’ve been on this healing journey, things have gotten weird between us. We aren’t fighting or anything, but I feel I am being judged whenever I have shared the more sensitive details of my journey. I think she thinks I’m either mentally ill or spiritually ill (she is a devout Christian). So, I have just kept our conversations less intimate.

Photo by Martin Chen

However, this morning, we actually had a pretty intimate conversation. She is struggling to get along with her boss and is trying to figure out how to handle the situation. She is an office administrator for a church and so her boss is the pastor. She told me about some of the stuff he has been pulling and it most certainly sounds like he is very narcissistic. (What does the church environment do to so many men that they end up this way? Or, is it that the church environment supports their way of being so they migrate there in order to be comfortable?)

She was not familiar with the term “narcissistic” – she had heard it before, but she didn’t really know what it meant in a clinical sense. So, I shared my experiences with Mark and with Father Jim. After hearing my stories, she agreed the behaviors sounded familiar.

She was struggling with knowing if she was being overly sensitive, and she didn’t know if she needed to set boundaries, or if she might need to find a different job. She kept hoping that she could explain things to him and he would see her side of the situation and change his behavior. I told her the chances of that are slim to none . . . people with narcissistic tendencies usually are incapable of seeing the fault in their own behavior.

She said our conversation had given her some validation and encouragement to stand up for herself. I was glad to hear that.

Then, our conversation shifted to my healing journey. I was nervous about sharing details with her, but I did, at least to some extent. I asked her about her experience of mom and dad when she was a kid (she is 16 years older than me) . . . and when she described her experience, she labeled dad’s behavior as “abusive” even though she felt she had not experienced the worst – she felt my brother’s experience had included even worse abuse.

She expressed anger at how Dad had continued hitting us with his leather belt until we cried, then he would hit us again if we continued crying too long . . . he told us that, if we cried too long, we were just trying to get undeserved sympathy by being overly dramatic. (Oh . . . so, I wasn’t imagining those conversations . . . they really did happen! I now have a witness who shares the same memories!)

That was the first time I’ve ever heard anyone (other than myself and the people who support me in my healing journey) use the label of “abuse” in relation to my dad’s behavior. That was validating for me.

When I asked her about Mom’s involvement in the punishments, she said that Mom’s angry outbursts probably happened because she was dealing with menopause. I challenged her thinking on that like Edward had challenged mine. Why do we feel the need to give my mom excuses? Why is it so hard for us to hold her responsible for the abuse she perpetuated?

I happen to mention how I was affected when I witnessed my dad spanking my niece (her daughter). When I said that, her eyes filled with anger . . . I didn’t know that she didn’t know that my dad had spanked her daughter. I just always assumed it was common knowledge. I guess that was pretty tough for her to hear – she didn’t know she had exposed her daughter to the same abuse.

She wondered out loud about the effectiveness of such severe physical punishments. (She and her husband did spank her daughter, although it was not in the violent manner that was used on us.) She said she has seen other parents raise well-adjusted kids without having to beat the crap out of the kids – maybe spanking is really not necessary. She also reflected on how she wondered if maybe she had not been a good parent to her daughter because she refused to talk with her daughter about some traumatic events that occurred. Her daughter is still dealing with Complex PTSD as a result. I agree with her . . . but, I didn’t say much, I just listened. It didn’t seem to be a time my opinion was needed.

Towards the end of our conversation, my sister asked me if I write about my healing journey. I said, “Yes”, but left it at that. I didn’t want to tell her about my blog. But, I thought it was a strange question . . . it left me wondering if she is aware of my blog. Why else would she ask? I didn’t push for an explanation because I didn’t want to risk her figuring out I had a blog (if she hasn’t already).

After we parted ways, I decided I didn’t really care either way if she knows about my blog. I’d prefer she not . . . I prefer having a place to vent that is outside the reach of my family. However, it wouldn’t be a big deal if she did know about it.

So . . . I am tickled about this conversation. It was healing in many ways and allowed me to reconnect with my sister to some extent. And, that is good.


Responses

  1. That was a surprisingly touching story. I am glad you now have a fellow witness that corroborated some of your memories. Doesn’t that make it more likely that all or a majority of your recollections of abuse are accurate?

    • Bingo, Aaron . . . it goes a long way toward validating what I do remember!

  2. She may have meant journalling perhaps. It is quite a common recommendation for healing from past trauma in some places.

    It’s great to hear that the conversation was validating for you.

    • Hey, Evan –

      I wasn’t sure where my sister was coming from with her question about writing . . . she doesn’t put much stock in therapy, so I’d be surprised if she was thinking along those lines. I could be wrong, though.

      – Marie


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