One of the problems that I have with my birth family is the semi-recent realization that not a one of them seems to think that I’m entitled to feel. My feelings have to be me being a drama queen, shoosh and don’t you dare talk about them (except for one period as a teen where my parents threatened to send me to an asylum for not talking about them; this put my ability to explain how I was feeling back by a decade). I try to not waste my time being bitter, and have instead tried to make it clear that my feelings are valid and real. I am permitted to feel exactly how I am feeling, and how dare you try to guilt me into not having any emotional entitlement. One of my sisters has gotten a lot better about it (and is part of why I increasingly value my relationship with her. That, and she’s a neat cookie), but the other… oi.
You see, I am the eldest of four children. I am also from my mother’s first marriage; my natural father didn’t want any children, and they separated while she was pregnant with me. Why you don’t sort that out before getting married is beyond me, but I don’t hold it against him (and indeed, have a cordial, if distant relationship with him). So she remarried when I was six months old, and my (step)father has been Dad ever since. They never lied about me coming from my mother’s first marriage, so I grew up always knowing and accepting this. Unfortunately, the sister who comes after me has always ‘joked’ about being shafted, how she should be the eldest because she is more responsible and a better leader (*coughbullshitcough*). She’s always been one to make ‘jokes’ like that, about how she’s prettier than me, smarter than me, more feminine than me, etc. I never considered these things jokes. My friends never considered these things jokes. The only person that ever did as far as I could tell has been my mother; her stance is that we should all ‘get along’, which is code for, ‘Your feelings need to not exist because your sister is too high IQ to get people things’. Which is true after a fashion — I still remember her sobbing because she couldn’t follow a conversation between myself and my mother on the subject of decency. And so, we have never been permitted to try to help her be a better person because of whatever guilt-ridden pony my mother chooses to stay perched upon. It’s not a particularly healthy situation.
This, of course, finally hit a boiling point in recent years. Having found a bit of mental health and vague stability, I suddenly had a lot less tolerance for being told how stupid and socially inept I was, and how grateful I should be that she deigned to help me from her high horse. Mother felt I should continue sucking it up because the poor ickle baby was stressed out over work and wedding planning; in her mind’s eye, Mom felt I should be my sister’s whipping boy (while claiming she advocates for all of us). So I told her she was never permitted to give me anything resembling advice ever again, and quit talking to her. If she was writing any emails, they were immediately feeding into my trash. I removed her from my messengers, and while I didn’t block her on Facebook a second time (I did once after she felt the need to berate me for getting into an argument with mother; as she is the last daughter back in our hometown, Mom will kowtow ten ways to Sunday to have someone to live vicariously through), I set it up so she couldn’t see anything I posted, and that none of her posts made it into my feed.
Her engagement eventually fell to pieces (the problem with falling for potential, which I do commiserate with), and somewhere in there, she actually started acting vaguely like a human being enough for me to wish her a happy birthday and let her see stuff on my feed again (not that there’s anything really interesting on it, but eh). Her posts towards me were polite and kindly, and she expressed a desire to restart her life a bit. I’m wary, of course – what if she still thinks that somehow I’m the ‘bad’ and invalid one who is too stupid to cross the street (never mind my lack of debt, family, marriage, life-long commitment to self improvement , dual citizenship, etc) and that she can continue to behave as such? Her behaviors of the past feed my anxiety and depression so thoroughly that she seems to think I’m some cowering defensive critter, rather than actually having enough social intelligence to realize that, oh hey, maybe I need some help and compassion. And because I have had this period of stability, I am hesitant to disturb it.
Still, I’ll give it one more very hesitant chance. This is the sister that I ran with most of my school years. Us only being two years apart meant that we freely shared social groups, parties, and the like. Having to cut this relationship is very much cutting a part of myself. I think this period of enforced distance has been good for me — it shows that I can survive without her in my life. But if she’s actually grown up enough to try to restart and rethink, I feel I have a duty to at least give that one last chance. I dropped her a note, so we’ll see how it goes. I think I’ve fought down the urge to give her the piece of my mind that she ‘deserves’, so hoepfully I can keep a firm but friendly line and make it clear that I want to have her in my life, but that she’s got to actually make the effort to know me (which I was saying even before I managed to get meds and a diagnosis). She has got to make the effort to actually treat me like a human being, not a piece of the scenery to take for granted. And if she can manage these things, then she can have a loving and caring big sister back. But if not, well… her loss. Blood is no thicker than water as far as my mental health is concerned. Those may be harsh words, but I think most of my newfound friends amongst the bipolar bloggers, and my old friends will agree that nobody should have a free pass to treat you poorly.
And, having ranted sufficiently, I’ll shoosh now.