Post 2: Sister struggles

Moving on to the struggle i am having with my sister..

My sister is a feisty character. She’s 22 and lives with my narc mother. She is very argumentative and is very easily provoked.  We do not see each other very often mainly because we are both busy with our own lives but also because the dysfunctional dynamic between my mother, my sister and I means that only 2 people are able to get along at once – so someone is always the scapegoat. Usually me because I do not live there and I have boundaries and obviously boundaries make me bad, wrong, selfish etc etc….

As I said earlier, 9 days ago I got engaged which was HUGE news for me. I really hoped my sister would celebrate and enjoy it with me but she has pretty much gone silent. She sent few whatsapps about it the following day and said she was about to phone some wedding dress shops to make an appointment for me but I asked her to hold off doing that because I would like to find places myself and I would like to make the calls myself too.  She didn’t like that. Perhaps that was childish of me or immature but I’ve waited for this day to come my entire life  and I want to enjoy all these little things. She will get her day.

Then, the other day she text me to tell me that it is her father’s (HER father’s not mine) 60th birthday next Tuesday and said she was planning a surprise meal for him. She asked me to come and I told her that I couldn’t as Tuesday evenings I have counselling (as she knows).  To fast-forward a long and boring story, she told me that I should cancel my session, in her eyes it is “only a session” and she doesn’t “see the big deal”.  I made lots of compromises, I suggested they ate dinner and I would join for a drink or afters.. I suggested they go and have starters and I would join them for the main course and I asked if she changed the day to the day before or after, I could be there at any time.  None of that was good enough.

In her usual style, she erupted and sent me some spiteful messages and said in one “are you actually ever going to stop going” and “you go twice a week – why can’t you just miss one”. I told her that I was only able to miss 2 a year and that I would be charged £40 if I didn’t go (this is probably not true because I NEVER miss sessions) but she didn’t see the issue.  Eventually I told her that my mental health is extremely important to me and said that I was no longer going to discuss this with her. I would be there after my session or they could go without me.

She is now not talking to me.

On top of this, and it probably sounds a bit childish (especially to all social media haters), but she hasn’t “liked” or commented on anything to do with my engagement whatsoever, hasn’t sent me a card – nothing. It’s like it isn’t happening. I added her to a whatsapp group called “bridesmaids” and her only comment so far has been that the group chat is annoying her and that she was going to have to silence it!

I am finding this really hard and particularly the stuff about my counselling. I do not WANT to miss a session, that is MY BOUNDARY and because I am sticking to my boundary and not giving her exactly what she wants, I am the bad guy. I mean for god’s sake, this is clearly a big pattern in my life huh?

I spoke to T about this yesterday and she said that it is very painful when we start to see the dysfunction playing out when we’ve been blind to it previously. I agreed.  She told me that I should say to my sister next time or another time, something like “I will not allow you to attack my therapy, please stop” and I will do that if I need to. What hurts is that I know her and my mother will be sitting there together slagging me and my therapy off because neither of them understand why I go or how it is useful. They see it as some weird addiction that I have and think I am throwing money away. They both tell me to “get over” the past and move on like they have (LOL!!)….

It just hurts. I’ve pretty much brought my sister up thanks to my mother’s behaviour and I really had hoped this would be a special time for us. If it were her getting married I would be so happy for her and so proud of her. It is such a shame.

Still climbing the mountain

Hi everyone!

I haven’t been on WP for a few weeks because I had something wonderful happen…… my boyfriend proposed to me on Wednesday 9th August and I’ve been in a bit of a bubble of happiness ever since and all things rings, engagement and wedding related have taken over my brain! I hope everyone is okay and will play catch-up with your posts as soon as I can.

In the meantime I wanted to write today about the struggles I am having despite this glorious news with (ex)work friend and with my younger sister (I’ll write about my sister in a separate post as this is long).

You know the background regarding ex work friend already but its been another couple of weeks so here is the latest: On the day I came into work following my engagement, lots of colleagues gathered around my desk lots of them screaming and hugging me with excitement (it was so lovely!), she walked over without me having seen her coming and said with a very neutral face “congratulations”.  She then immediately turned around and walked off cue awkward silence from the people at my desk!

It was a mature thing to do in the circumstances I guess, but awkward nonetheless. That was our only communication since the day we fell out until Tuesday lunch time when I received an email from her. I’ll paste it in here only removing any names:

“Okay, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re done and I’m okay with that, but I am quite curious to know what it is exactly that you’re pissed off with me about.  I understood that you were pissed off because of the email I forwarded to [colleague] – I understand that and apologise.  To be honest, I didn’t really read your email properly and it was a genuine mistake, which is why I didn’t understand what you meant when you emailed me saying “Why did you send that?”  I literally had to check what I had sent to understand what you meant.  Anyway, it was a genuine mistake and you know that I wouldn’t do something like that on purpose – not to you or anyone else for that matter.  I would’ve thought that you knew that, being my ‘friend’. 

Anyway, I knew you were pissed off with me by the fact that you’ve given me the cold shoulder, the silent treatment and have even taking to walking the long way round to go to the kitchen/loo/lift to avoid passing my desk.  There has been no communication from you whatsoever (apart from the odd work-based contact).  To top it all off, you’ve blocked me on Facebook but not only me but my daughter and [her best friend] as well (that hurt by the way –  why [daughter] and [her friend] have been brought into whatever this is I don’t know, but it didn’t go down too well, as I’m sure you can imagine).

To be honest I thought it would all blow over because you’ve done this before (the silent treatment/cold shoulder act because I’ve said or done something to piss you off) but as the days – and weeks –  have passed I’ve come to the conclusion that there may be more to this than an erroneously sent email because surely you can’t be that pissed off about an email to warrant this treatment?  So I’ve waited for you to let me know, to no avail. 

So, could you please show me the courtesy of telling me what it is I’ve supposed to have done (apart from the email)?   I would have thought that our ‘friendship’ would at least have meant that you would’ve approached me and told me why you were so pissed off, and maybe even go so far as to give me the benefit of the doubt.  Instead I’ve had nothing from you whatsoever – just avoidance. 

You don’t get to treat me like this and think it’s okay.  Because it’s not.  I deserve better.  At least have the balls to tell me why you’re behaving this way. I don’t want anything out of this – I just want to get things cleared up and to move on.  If it means we’re done, then that’s fine – I’m okay with that (in fact I’d prefer it), but we can still be civil and grown up.”  

I wasn’t expecting that email AT ALL and so it did throw me – the familiar body feelings came back instantly and with the same intensity as always. The feeling is like nerves, it makes my entire body tingle and my heart beat fast – its definitely fear. I hate that she can have that effect on me but I understand thanks to T that its got a lot of “mum stuff” in it – going against authority and not just doing what the other person wants immediately scares me. I try to have compassion with myself in these moments. I read her email several times and thought about my reply, I bashed a response out within minutes which was quite angry and defensive but I didn’t plan to send it. I then went out for a walk to get a sandwich and to try to calm myself down a bit.

Later I sent her email to T for her advice and when I spoke to T that night, she told me to take my time with a response. I was surprised that she thought I should respond at all but she said she felt not responding would give her more ammunition to make me out to be the BBITW (biggest bitch in the world)…. She gave me some pointers such as saying “I agree with you that”.. to a few things she said such as I agree with you that you deserve to hear my side of things…. I agree with you that our friendship has run its course and I agree with you that we should remain civil in work.

She told me to take my time and remember I had no urgency to send my response. This is something I’ve really come to notice, that when I get some sort of communication from someone, my mother, her, whoever I do feel like I HAVE to respond quickly.  T asked me why and I said I wasn’t sure but with her it is the worry of what she will do if I do not respond quickly enough.  T asked me “what is the worst that can happen” and I laughed and said that made me feel a bit pathetic – I know logically she can’t really “do” anything but that the feeling was in me.  T said of course it was, that I have been against this stuff all of my life. She said she didn’t say that to try to underplay how I felt, but that she hoped it would help to ground me a little when I felt scared or nervous.

T advised me not to bother defending myself too much but to simply give my reason and then set my boundaries being that the friendship was over and that I would not respond to any further emails. She said to put that in because although it wouldn’t stop her from sending anything, it gave her notice that whatever she sends will be ignored.  I liked this advice because I really do not want to have to send more replies – this one is hard enough!

Here is what I plan to send:

“Thanks for your email. I agree that you deserve to hear my side of things and so here it is:

My feelings are that when we became friends about 8 years ago I was a very different person. The dynamic of our friendship was in-keeping with who I was then – and I feel I have changed and grown and that I am no longer able to manage certain behaviours from you because of this.  The main areas of contention for me are what I view as your possessiveness over me (particularly regarding lunch times), your guilt-tripping if I do not do what you want me to do and being made to feel as though I owe you something for having been a friend to me.

This has been something that has, over time, become more and more difficult to manage and tolerate and I think that because of this, it began to grow as a resentment and I began to feel obligated to do things that you wanted, despite my own feelings, due to how you would react/respond if I did not. It began to feel like emotional blackmail if I am honest, and that isn’t something I wish to deal with any longer.

I feel if I do not keep you happy I am “punished” either by you not speaking to me, sulking, making comments that I am  rude or selfish or along those lines (sometimes disguised as “jokes”), leaving our chat conversations immediately, saying to other people that you would expect more from me “after all you have done for me” etc.  It has grated on me for a very long time until I have now reached the point where I just cannot take it anymore, it has taken the joy out of our friendship.

I feel that those things are not okay in a friendship between two adults and this is another problem – I do not feel you treat me as your equal, but as a child – and a child that deserves to be told off or punished for what you view as “bad behaviour” even down to me looking at my mobile phone during my lunch hour.  I think in hindsight, I used to allow all of this treatment because I knew no different and thought it was normal, but I no longer want to accept people making me feel bad – regardless of who they are.

I have no wish to become enthralled in tit-for-tat or exchanging cruel words. You have said your piece, and now I have said mine and so I am letting you know that I will not be responding to any other messages.

I agree with you that our friendship has run its course and I also agree with you that we should be civil and professional.”

T thinks that my reply is good in that it gives her the closure she has asked and that I take ownership by saying that it is ME that has changed – she said it is truthful but not cruel. I hope that is true because it feels nasty even though I am not saying anything that is not true – I try to remember that my feelings cannot be wrong, they just are.

I’ve decided to send it after work hours tonight, and from my personal email account to her personal email account to keep it away from work. I also hope that the weekend will give her time to digest what I say and try to prevent any instant (abusive) reaction in the workplace! T has also said that this will help me in future if things really get tricky with her and I end up having to get help from management at work – I can demonstrate that I’ve tried to keep this out of work as much as possible.

So… now I’ll have to wait and see how she responds. I am nervous I won’t lie. I worry she will respond very aggressively and I predict that she will be absolutely outraged at what I’ve said. She has a lot of information about me and knows my weak spots and I think she will say some very painful things. I imagine they will consist of how selfish I am, how I have changed – not for the better.. how I am cold and ruthless and various other things.

I told T that I am not very good at being able to separate my truth from an allegation and so people’s words do hurt me. She said that is because I’ve been hurt this way and said that growing up, I was always the scapegoat for people’s shit and that as a child I was unable to know what was and wasn’t true about me – that my mother projected stuff onto me and this stuff taps into that. Being selfish is always something I’ve found particularly painful and I am convinced that is what she will call me. She called me selfish and rude enough when we were friends!

I am trying to tell myself that setting boundaries and not doing 100% of what someone else wants DOES NOT make me selfish, but it is a fight still. I hope that one day I have the ability that so many other people seem to have of just letting these things roll off me.

T has also warned me that she may do a total 360 to what I expect and apologise and that I need to think about how I would deal with that. That totally threw me – I can’t imagine it, but it’s an easy way of getting me back on side isn’t it and an easy way of making me look bad because if I then don’t accept her apology, she can tell everyone that too…………. I just need to remember that it is possible to accept and thank someone for an apology without that meaning normal service has to resume.

I feel like I’m climbing a huge mountain and I’m right near the top but that the worst is yet to come.

I don’t want to adult today 

I’ve woken up today feeling down.  I have a thumping headache. I’ve cried. I needed a cuddle but couldn’t ask. 

I’m not sure exactly what’s making me feel like this, it feels like the week has emotionally drained me and it’s caught up with me today which is weird because last night I felt pretty good and strong. 

It feels it’s very up and down at the moment. Some days I feel empowered and strong and ready to fight and others I feel weak and sad like I’m incapable to defend myself anymore. 

I wonder if that’s normal? What will tomorrow bring? 

There’s also a selfish bit of me that’s feeling a bit jealous that the kids are coming in an hour and will be here until Monday night. That’s a long time as they usually only stay one or two nights. It’s nothing personal about them of course, but I guess when I’m feeling in this place I’m kinda regressed emotionally to a child myself and so looking after children is hard work and can bring up feelings of resentment that I try to swallow because I know that’s not nice. 
I think it triggers the child part of me into feeling angry for having to look after my sister all those years when I was a child myself. 

When they are here I have to be adult. I don’t have any time for myself and I can’t sit down to write or read in peace when my thoughts need tidying up to reset me a bit. 

My bf’s attention obviously (and rightly so) is on them continuously and I kinda fade into the background. I guess this triggers me because of my childhood of fading into the background behind my mother’s men and her friends. 

Some days it’s just hard to be a capable adult and today feels like one of those days. 

I wonder what happens in my head when I go to sleep. How does this change happen? How is it that one day you can wake up and feel positive, happy and adult and the very next feel the opposite? What sparks that change? 

Right now I need to go and get ready, paint on a smile and fake being a competent adult for the kids’ sake when actually I would much rather stay in my pjs and watch tele with tea and sleep. 

It’s a craving to be looked after and not doing the looking after and I guess I know where that wish comes from. 

Laughing At My Anger

Last night I had a dream about a lady at work. In the dream I was shouting and screaming at her, really going for it and I was clearly extremely angry and upset.  She however, was smirking the entire time, looking down on me as though it was amusing her to see me loosing my shit.  Eventually after a lot more screaming I totally lost it and I slapped her across the arm really hard.  

She looked almost pleased that I had lost it to such an extent and just looked at her arm and then me and walked away.  I fell to the floor in a heap of exhaustion and distress and sobbed as though I was dying. A few minutes later the police turned up and took me away, all the while this lady just smiled in a kind of psychopathic way. 

I told T about this dream at this afternoon’s session and we spoke about it at some length.  T said that she felt this was more of a memory.  Elements of that dream really did happen in my childhood and actually more recently than that.

In the dream the lady did not attempt to soothe me. She didn’t try to calm me down or help me in any way.  In fact what she did was humiliate me in my pain, laugh at the agony I was so clearly in and purposely provoke me in my anger until I did something “bad” or undeniable that I could then be punished for.

When I tried to explain the part of the dream where I was absolutely distraught and on the floor in a crying mess, I said to T that the way I was crying and the way I was feeling in the dream was exactly how I feel when I experience the regressed emotional flashbacks or attachment pain stuff. Stuff like last week when I didn’t want to leave and I had such a deep longing for her – or more accurately, for “the mother”.

I said for what could easily be the gazillionth time that I can’t find the words to explain this pain to her because any word I use feels minimising of my pain, but that even the image is accurate.  Every time I write about really feeling the full force of pain inside me in those moments, I often write that I would fall on the floor in a heap and almost die from the agony I’m feeling and that is exactly how it was in the dream only I was watching from a third person’s perspective – hence it feels like a flashback of sorts.

I told T a memory that when I was a young child, maybe 5 or 6, I was very, very angry.  I was told to shut up over and over again but I would not let it go. I guess the fact that I wasn’t being acknowledged, helped, soothed or even the fact that my mother (and another guy) were not trying to help me at all and the fact that they laughed at how exasperated I was getting just made me want to explode and so they locked me in a room and I bashed the door with a hairbrush over and over and over again. They just totally ignored me until I had cried myself into a sleepy pile on the floor.  Eventually they let me out and I was told off.  I remember that story from that perspective but I’ve also been reminded of this “funny story” by the man that was there at the time many times in my life. He often says how much of a brat I was and that he had never seen someone so young, so very angry.  He laughs as he tells people (usually new boyfriends) that they locked me in a room and I bashed the door repeatedly with the hairbrush. I used to laugh along and cringe a bit, but now the story makes me feel sick and hurts my heart. That was no way to handle an upset and angry child. I was probably angry and crying out to be noticed because my mother could only see the men in her life, not her daughter.

I wonder now if that was the day I locked my anger away and if that was the day I realised there was no point in getting angry because it would never help me get my mother’s attention.  Or perhaps anyone’s.

More currently, in November 2014, about a month after T taught me about narcissism and told me she thought my mother was severely narcissistic or suffered from full blown NPD, I was at my mother’s house and was a little bit tipsy.  I had found out that evening that the murderers that killed a colleague of mine had been sentenced and so was possibly emotional (that is my mother’s excuse for my behaviour anyway).  Anyway, some family members were there and one of them started talking about my boyfriend and saying some negative things about him that had clearly been said by my mother and I snapped at him that it sounded like something he had been told. He denied it but it was no use, the conversation gradually heated up and then I burst into tears and said how fed up I was of my mother badmouthing my boyfriend (story of my life) and from that point on, it/I erupted.  My mother and I ended up in the bathroom where I spat a whole lifetime of questions of why she was the way she was – why she never told me she loved me, why she always put men first, why she never acknowledged the csa and various other things. Needless to say, she wasn’t accountable for anything at all and gaslighted and invalidated me in true narcissistic style.  I was, like in the dream and like in the hairbrush story, totally raging (from a very hurt place) and not being listened to or helped in any way.  My mother then went into victim mode and cried her poor me’s and the family all rallied around her.  A cousin and my step dad began telling me how awful I was and how amazing my mother was and I screamed back at them that they were blind and that it was nothing to do with them, it was between me and her.  My cousin then stepped in and said I was lucky to have a mother like her and then my cousin and aunty cuddled my mum.  So I left. I just walked (stormed) out (in a furious and crying mess) and walked to my flat where I lived alone and I fell on the floor in desperation and loneliness and cried my heart out on my own – as usual.

Me and my mother didn’t speak after that night for about two weeks until one morning I was playing on my phone on the toilet, and she text. I opened the message hoping for an apology but it just said something along the lines of “Hi darling, I hope you are well? Would be nice to see you soon!“…

WTF??

Mindfucking.  I wasn’t far enough into my recovery to understand all of this in the way that I am writing about it now, but the point is – anger and my mother only serves to make you the bad guy. Like in the dream.

I told T that in past relationships, that tended to be rather volatile and up and down (because I was an insecurely attached girl dating avoidant men – durr!!) if we were arguing and someone laughed at me, that was it – I saw red and totally lost the plot. Luckily for me, me and my boyfriend do not argue like that and so that horrible side of e hasn’t come out for a long time. But it’s there – laughing at my pain is a no-go area.

And more currently still, there is work (ex) friend.  I can see the parallels in her and my mother now and I can see the parallels in the dream and what is going on with her at the moment too.  In true narcissistic style, she is smear campaigning all over the workplace She is telling people that I am ignoring her and she has no idea why, that she is devastated blah, blah, blah and clearly that can evoke some anger.  I think anyone would feel some frustration when someone who has been emotionally hurting them manages to make themselves look the victim.  When they lie, gossip, twist truths and try to ruin what people think of you it is incredibly unfair and anger tends to be born from the feeling of unfair does it not?  The smear campaign is a deliberate attempt at damage control in their favour – it is to try and cover up or prevent any attempt you might have made, or try to make, of exposing them for what they truly are and what they have done.  At this stage they start to play the victim and that will bring them some new sources of supply as people fall for the lies and they then use that new supply to make you jealous. To show you what you are missing.

Next up I will be on the receiving end of her rage and given how volatile she is anyway, I don’t doubt that will be ugly.  T warned me that I will be made to look like the biggest bitch that walks the earth and that I just need to ensure I do not take the bait. Do not react to anything AT ALL no matter how grossly unfair.  She said it won’t stop me wanting to “put a few F’s into her” but to do that in session with her.

The persecutor wants to wind me up until I do something undeniable just like in my dream when I eventually slap the woman who is smirking at my pain.

Fu**ing narcs.

 

Baby In Arms Stuff….

I need to write about last night’s session (post –misattunement episode) but my mind is so full up and preoccupied with all this drama at work that it’s hard to think about it properly so I apologise in advance for how disjointed this blog is. 

Needless to say she was wonderful. I walked in holding Frank in front of my face in a playful way and she burst out laughing and said “he’s still alive then?” and we laughed. That was really helpful and reassuring because I was feeling really nervous about seeing her and that removed a bit of the seriousness and tension. 

I sat down and she said how I had really used Frank as a transitional object and how helpful that was. I agreed and said that I had suddenly understood why I defaced my troll teddy as a child much more clearly. I had understood previously that it was done in anger, but now I understood on a deeper level.  We spoke through what happened briefly and she said that she had been missattuned to me. She said that word herself and owned it. I said that I felt silly now that I was no longer “in it” and that I had got so angry.  I said the fact she hadn’t got it right wasn’t really a big deal and so I felt embarrassed by my reaction and bad that I had taken it out on her and misdirected it.

T said that it is a big deal because it tapped straight into the feelings I had my entire life growing up and that it was a big deal when you are feeling it in that way. I told her that I had been so upset and when she replied in the wrong way, I was instantly so furious.  She said she had sensed I was angry  at the time, but felt she shouldn’t respond further because she didn’t want to either push me into more anger, or remove the anger copmletely because she knew it was actually helpful.  I was shocked and said “Did you? How did you know? I didn’t think you noticed!”. T said that she had a really good sense for things and that she could just feel it.  I felt a bit disappointed that she had known but hadn’t replied and so I told her that her not replying had made it worse.  She said she just had to trust in me and my process and said she did also feel it might be a good opportunity for me to get in touch with some anger.  She said that she knew when I said I had dropped Frank off the side of the bed that I had lost connection with her and that when this happened, I couldn’t remember/feel anything good about her at all  – she went all bad. I agreed and she said this would improve with time.   

She said very clearly that she would never trick me into anger but that if she sensed anger from me, she wouldn’t try to stop it straight away. She said she had to trust in my “ego strength” that I would come back to her if I was struggling and needed her to help and told me that sometimes the anger will be so very painful that I will really have to dig very, very deep to get the strength to go to her and trust that she won’t let me down or hurt me. 

I said that it was very a scary decision to try again on Friday because I was petrified that she would get it wrong again and that it felt absolutely petrifying.  She said she really did understand the terrain and seemed to really empthaise this point. [I wondered again if she was trying to tell me she has experienced this herself without saying it].  I said I wasn’t sure how I would have coped if she had.  She told me whatever I did, I must not EVER hurt myself. I told her I hadn’t thought about hurting myself and she said I may do one day though, and that I needed to know very clearly that was not to be done. I agreed.

T explained the reason she had got it wrong was because she is very aware that on Thursdays I am very adult and that I’ve previously got upset when I’ve left because it’s like the child part kicks off and wants to know why it wasn’t allowed out during session. I told her she is very right and said that I had written that to her before so I wasn’t disagreeing that does happen and has happened BUT it wasn’t right for that particular time.  I said I had summarised my writing when I contacted her rather than sending my entire blog and she asked why I did that?  I said that I wasn’t really sure but I felt I didn’t need to give her the full blog when I could summarise for her (clearly I did!). She said perhaps it felt scary to send her a lengthy blog to read straight after session and said in future, please send the full thing. We laughed and I agreed that I would.

I told her that her offering me that session last Friday on the back of my anger email had removed my anger nearly instantly. She asked why I thought that was and I said that I guess it was because she would still see me – she wasn’t sending me away. She repeated back that I wasn’t being punished for being angry and I agreed.  She said that unfortunately she wouldn’t always be able to do that and I said I knew that, but that I had really appreciated it.  She asked if it was hard that she had offered me a session I couldn’t accept and I said whilst I would have loved to have gone, I was surprised at how okay I felt. It was as though just the offer was enough.  She smiled.

I then read T the blog post about the sadness I was feeling after leaving Thursday. Needless to say, I cried the whole way through. It was really quite awful to be honest. It brought back a lot of the feelings and my stomach was in knots, my chest was hurting and I sobbed and sobbed. At one point I was literally covering my face and making noises crying (so cringe). T was great, as always and sat with me in my pain.  She made a comment about how my mother had done all of this to me and how it was horrific. That really helped – she’s never said something quite as blunt as that before.  She said lots of supportive things as I cried but I can’t really remember what, things along the lines of understanding how bloody awful the pain was as I agreed through my sobs and snot. 

T picked out the bit where I had written about wanting to smell her perfume (metaphorically) and asked me if it could be an idea for her to spray some on Frank? I felt a bit embarrassed about this suggestion. She enquired whether I was aware of her perfume and I said I wasn’t, no.  T said that perhaps I was and that I just hadn’t realised I was and said that before she gave me Frank, she had rubbed him around her neck.  I smiled at that, that felt really caring. 

I told T that the perfume bit was intended metaphorically and she said that perhaps it was at the time but that perhaps we could just “go with it” and see if it was comforting or helped. I have my suspicions that nothing would have helped other than just being with her, but I guess it’s an idea.

I told her that the bit at the end where I said it “really hurt like hell” didn’t feel half as strong as I wanted it to. She said that she fully understood the pain sometimes was impossible to articulate and I agreed. She said she felt this pain went right back to “baby in arms” which was why I was so very upset about leaving and she said that she thought my mother would have picked me up and then put me back down far too quickly and that I really didn’t get chance to “take in her face, her smell” etc for long enough and that was what the pain was about. I wasn’t steadied for long enough. She explained how important eyes and face are for a baby in that the mum’s mirroring was vital and she felt I didn’t get a lot/enough of this.  I agreed.

I told T that I find it odd that when I am not in front of her, I can’t remember her properly. I said I would struggle to explain her or draw a picture of her and that I found that odd. I admitted sometimes when I am there I try to really look at her and remember things but then she’s just gone in my memory so fast. T said that perhaps I didn’t need to remember her face and that she found this interesting because she often thinks of my mother as being “a faceless mother” (in terms of the lack of affection and love in her eyes, the lack of kind smile etc). I agreed and told her that I had dreamt of her the other night and had mentioned in my notes that either it wasn’t really her or that her face wasn’t right or she didn’t have one.  T laughed and nodded as if to say “exactly”. 

I said how I found it quite remarkable that I can spend so many days upset, angry or preoccupied and yet so quickly feel regulated in sessions with her. I looked at the clock (for the millionth time already) and thought it had only been 30 minutes. I remarked that in the session after I had Googled her, it had only taken about the same amount of time and that it was such a surprise to me. She said that I just needed to have here there able to handle it – to stay and to sit with me. She then asked if I found myself Googling her during all of this and I said no, absolutely not – the thought hadn’t crossed my mind and that I would never do that again. She told me not to punish myself.

 

Work Friend

I had ten minutes left of my session and so took the opportunity to tell T about the latest with work friend. She advised me very sternly not to give or send her a letter. She listed off some of the dangers of doing that such as her sending it to people, copying it, putting it on the internet, taking it to management and claiming bullying and all sorts of other things. She said that there really was only one way and that was to very clearly say I no longer wanted any friendship other than to be professional at work.  I told her that seemed so harsh but that was actually what I wanted to happen. I told her all the stories I’ve written about already and she wasn’t surprised. She said that the woman has no boundaries whatsoever. I told T that I felt rather invaded and that her pushing herself on me at lunch times despite the fact I was with other people (and we aren’t talking!) didn’t seem to matter to her.  She shook her head and said I had to make sure I didn’t engage in anything she did. 

I told her about the stupid quote she had put on Facebook about how she only wanted good people in her life and T rolled her eyes and said how passive she was (remember T has had 3 years of examples).  She reminded me that I could just delete her and I said that felt scary. She told me to take my time and reassured me that there was no rush.

When I got home I felt like I’d been run over. I actually think most of the tiredness and emotional exhaustion was about work friend and re-reading the sadness email. The anger barely came into it – the anger stuff wasn’t an issue or a big deal AT ALL shockingly. I cried A LOT and took myself to bed feeling totally wiped out (not before bitchface (mother) had text to invite me to her birthday weekend in September…. wahhhhh).

Today I woke up and the first thing I did when I opened my eyes was delete work friend from FB. I just did it. I woke up and thought fuck it. I need to stop worrying about how it looks to people or how she will feel. I need to remind myself that it doesn’t matter whether she realises how manipulative and blackmailing she has been or not – the fact is that she has and she has worn me down over the years and now I’ve decided I no longer want that friendship and I have the right and entitlement to make that decision for myself.  So I deleted her to avoid seeing her shitty posts and statuses and to take another step into removing her from my life. I know deleting people on FB sounds rather childish and petty, but for me it’s actually quite a big deal.  Usually I keep people for months before deleting them after a serious fall-out because I always worry about what they might do or say if we made up. So hey, there we go. I did it and I am glad I did.

Today at work she hasn’t shouted at me when I’ve walked past which is lovely and I even managed to have lunch with some other friends in peace. She sat nearby with some colleagues she’s never had lunch with before but hey, I’m glad – I don’t want her to be punished or lonely, I just don’t want to have to be the one sitting there with her either.

BUT she did then tell our Team Coordinator that I was ignoring her and she had no idea why (which isn’t true – clearly) and that is annoying.  I’ve read enough about this stuff to know she is just trying to play the victim and make me look bad and have people feel sorry for her. Surely if she didn’t know why, she would ask – and has she? No. Of course she hasn’t.

Mate I need a glass of wine and a bubble bath. Oh and a new job ha!

The End of the Narcissistic Friendship

Grace for my Heart

It’s Narcissist Friday!

 

You are probably exhausted.  Perhaps a little confused.  Balancing between conflicting emotions.  On one hand you are glad that person is finally out of your life.  On the other you feel guilty for not doing something you feel you should have done better.  On yet another you feel used and abused.  And you are angry.

Yes, I know that’s more hands than you have, but when the narcissistic friend finally leaves you behind, your world is likely in such a mess that you feel like you could have three or four hands.  Or heads.  In fact, did she leave you behind or did you leave her?  It was her decision, but you were to blame—or something like that.  Narcissistic friendships are confusing.

I have suggested that narcissistic friendships are among the most difficult of narcissistic relationships because they lack the normal bonds narcissists use to keep…

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(Long) Letter to Work Friend

This is a draft of a very, very, very long letter that I am thinking of giving to work friend about recent events. Any comments would be really welcomed – am I too harsh? Is it too long?

Thanks in advance for any feedback! xx

 

I have done a lot of thinking about our friendship over the last week or so and a lot of things have now become inherently clear to me. The purpose of this letter isn’t to blame, but to make you aware of how I see things so that perhaps it helps you to understand my point of view.

I have shown you “The Drama Triangle” before, something that Fran has taught me about dysfunctional relationships and so you will be familiar with this. However in the past I have never been consciously aware that this was something our friendship resolved around. It is now however blatantly clear to me that it does and always has.

When you joined [firm] I was young and as you have often told me many times, I was “needy and vulnerable“.  I don’t deny that.  Clearly I was struggling in life from the effects of my childhood.  I was clearly feeling like a victim that needed rescuing and you came along only too happy to help.  You are, and were, a rescuer.  This is where the triangle began.

Drama triangles are beneficial to both parties. Both parties gain something from their roles – whether that is conscious or not. I believe in both our cases, this was unconscious.

The whole reason the triangle is able to endure is that each participant gets their own psychological needs met. Each feels justified in their role and doesn’t realise the dysfunction and harm that occurs because of it.

Your Role as Rescuer

I believe your role as rescuer benefited you in that it made you feel wanted and needed. It helped with your own self-esteem. I think this particularly true as your children had or were shortly about to leave home and leave you with a feeling of “empty nest”. The Rescuer enjoys having someone feel dependant on them and trusting them and so act in a way that seems to be trying to help.  I believe I filled a role for you that would have otherwise been vacant and that is what you got out of it.

For a rescuer, rescuing needy people is an addiction to feel valued. There is no better way to feel valued than to be a savior!

Feeling used are common feelings for a rescuer. Common phrases are “After all I’ve done for you, this is the thanks I get?”. A rescuer’s greatest fear is that they will end up alone because they believe their value comes from how much they do for others. They scramble to make themselves indispensable in order to avoid abandonment.

My Role as Victim

Victims also have core beliefs that set them up for their starting position in the triangle. Victims believe they cannot take care of themselves. They see themselves as consistently unable to handle life. They even rescue from a one-down position, saying things to their potential rescuer like “You’re the only one who can help me.” These are words that any rescuer longs to hear!

The victim is vulnerable and needy. They believe they are powerless and defective. This relegates them to a lifetime of dependency on primary relationships.  They believe they are weak and fragile and so their anxiety forces them to be on the lookout for someone stronger or more capable to help them.

Clearly what I got out of it was that you were deemed as the capable, powerful adult that was able to help me and you did just that.

When this stops working

As long as both people remain in their roles and nothing changes, each person’s needs continue to be met (dysfunctionally). However normally what happens is that one person no longer wants to remain in that role and tries to leave the triangle.

Sometimes the rescuer gets tired of feeling they do it all and feels unappreciated. The rescuer gets fed up and suddenly blows up over something minor. The rescuer feels they deserve it, look! he says to himself “after all I’ve done for them!”. The feeling of “unfair” is strong.

Usually when this happens the victim gets scared and moves to the rescuing position. He tries to calm the waters and apologises, or he agrees to whatever the rescuer is demanding to keep the peace. Then they both stabilize and go back to their original positions.

The other thing that happens is that the victim outgrows their victim status and decides to change. He gets tired of the rescuer effectively saying “if it wasn’t for me..” and keeping the victim in a low position.  The victim gets angry and moves to the persecutor role. Like the rescuer, the victim gets angry and blows up or acts out.

____________________________________________________________________________

In my view this needs no explanation for how this applies to us as I feel it is blatantly clear, however in case you do not see this I will go on to explain how I feel this has been playing out.

I will tell you that I am not coming to lunch with you. This could be because I want to go to the gym, see Paul or meet another friend. You are hurt by this and feel instantly angry because you feel “how dare she leave me on my own” and the classic “after all I’ve done for her” (as above).

In the past you have been used to assuming and expecting that we will eat lunch together every single day unless one of us is not in the office or there is a good enough reason such as a team event. You have on many occasions “acted out” when I have chosen to go to lunch without you and this used to result in me backing down, apologising, trying to smooth things over afterwards or simply inviting you along or not going myself (see explanation above about how the victim tries to smooth the waters so not to upset the rescuer).

Things improved when [friend] joined the firm because it meant there was then two of us you could spend your lunch times with, rather than just me, and so if I didn’t join you for lunch you didn’t mind half as much – after all you were not then left alone. I felt like the weight was lifted off of me.

If however, both me and [friend] couldn’t come to lunch, it would be me that got the stick for that and not [friend]. You never responded to her like you did with me and it is painfully obvious that the reason for that is that you knew I would take it more than she would. You knew [friend] would tell you that you were being unfair and childish, whereas I was much more likely to just feel guilt and try to repair things. After all, you had years of that being the case.

[Friend] then went on mat leave and so you were back to expecting us to have lunch together every day again. The same old pattern commenced where I would dread having to tell you I had other plans – I would have to prepare myself for the backlash of you either leaving the instant chats instantly without responding and gong offline, ignoring me and sulking obviously for hours or days or making digs, sometimes dressed as “jokes” along the lines of how selfish I was or you would say things like “don’t worry about me” or “lunch for one then“.  That, I hope you can see, is very passive aggressive and also is emotional blackmail. You (consciously or not) knew that I cared what you thought about me and that I didn’t want to jeopardise our friendship and so I would not make this a regular thing.

This conversation has been had countless times over the years and you usually claim that you do not mind at all – but your actions have and continue to say differently.

Because of this, I started to feel a bit trapped. I began to feel like I was obligated to have lunch with you or pay the price. I do not enjoy conflict and neither do I enjoy being emotionally punished in the way of sulking, being ignored or being told I am selfish. This started to get me down.

You’ve said yourself many times over the years that I have changed a lot because of counselling and I have. I have changed a hell of a lot and for the better. I now care about how I feel instead of only caring about other people.  I want to make myself happy and not just others.  I am learning not to be a people pleaser which was a dynamic I was used to for my entire life.

Unfortunately for you I guess, this has meant that these days I am not so easy to manipulate into doing what you want me to (again, consciously or not) and to be honest with you – and there is no easy way of saying this – it has left a very bad taste in my mouth. Each time since I’ve been aware of this dynamic that it has played out, it has made me feel more and more resentful.

I began to make plans occasionally to do other things and just “take” whatever punishment came my way. I can now ignore your comments or sulks because I know and believe it is your issue and not mine. However it is tiring and it isn’t the type of friendship that I want now that I have got healthier. I realise now that I do not need to just put up with your aggressiveness whether passive or obvious. That is not what friendships are based on.

You then upset and annoyed me last week by forwarding my personal email to you onto [colleague]. You say you don’t see the problem and I am not quite sure whether you really mean that, or whether you are being defensive because you know you’ve done wrong and just don’t want to accept any wrongdoing or blame – because you don’t want to apologise.

I think it is clear that whether intentional or not, you caused trouble for me at work and obviously that would upset me. I can only imagine the fallout if I had done that to you. You then saw the email exchange between myself and [colleague] which I purposely CCd you in and so you cannot pretend you didn’t think it caused any issue – because it did and you have therefore caused a fee earner that I have to work with to think badly of me.  This could have been resolved if you had just apologised.  I cannot help but feel you sent it to her on purpose.  The fact you have not apologised about this just heightens that belief to be honest because if the shoe was on the other foot, I would have been devastated that I had caused you any trouble with a fee earner and upset you. You do not appear to care much for my feelings on the matter.

The following day I told you I could not have lunch with you and you said neither could you. I was relieved because that is a rather rare and mature response to an email like that from you, however in my opinion, it was passive aggressive and actually because you were in a sulk with me (for what reason I cannot fathom given you had upset me and not the other way around!) but there we go…  I know you very well and have a nearly 10 years of experience of the way you react in certain situations. Again, I have no way to know for sure but I do believe that it was your way of sulking about the email situation and then the lunch situation.  It suited me – I’ll be honest.

The following day you had the dentist and then called in sick but you called [colleague] instead of me. You knew you should have told me as I was acting TC.  There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the reason you didn’t was part of the feud above. It is my belief that you didn’t want to text me and were being stubborn and immature. I also think there is another issue whereby you don’t like to “answer to me” because of my age – only you will know the true answer to that.  Either way it feels unfair and disrespectful particularly because we are friends. If you managed to phone [colleague], you could have text me, simple as.

Every time I saw you around the floor last week I acknowledged you. You seemed to grunt back at me in a way that seemed as though you would have rather not have (and you never acknowledged me first) and so after I had the weekend to think, I decided to stop bothering. I felt that until you could be mature enough to ask to speak to me and for us to speak about all of this – I couldn’t be bothered and didn’t see the point.

Monday comes and I decide not to speak to you when I see you from a distance and you sigh and grunt (loudly) and make a comment out loud for others to hear – I just don’t think you understand how inappropriate and childish that is to do at all yet alone at work where it is very unprofessional. You need to separate our private disagreements from work and this is one of my main bugbear at the moment.

You don’t seem to care who hears you slamming and bashing around, sighing, tutting, making comments – it is so unnecessary. In the past I’ve just brushed this off as something that you do – part of your personality – but now I have decided it is a boundary that I will not allow to be violated any longer. You need to stop doing that. It is very aggressive and clearly you know it would make me feel awkward at work which is, in my opinion, exactly why you do it. I want to make it clear that if we manage to salvage anything from our friendship after all of this is said and done, I won’t tolerate that.

Moving on, Monday morning you then decide to “reply all” to an email including various fee earners and all of the PA’s to ask me who was covering [colleague]. Why would you do that? Yet again it feels like another attempt to paint a bad picture of me, to make me look incompetent. Why would you not just ask me? You could have spoken to me, phoned me or emailed me – there was no need for that and it looked, again, very passive aggressive. Needless to say, I did not appreciate that at all and I believe you knew that. You’ve told me and [friend] on various occasions in the past that you’ve “replied all” to annoy [colleague] or [colleague] and so I do not think this was any different. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that had we not had been in an argument, you wouldn’t have sent that.

A few hours after you did this, I went to lunch with [friend and friend]. You decide to get your own lunch and sit at the very nearest table to us on your own. After 5 or so minutes you clearly let your anger get the better of you and decided to throw your chair out causing as much noise as possible and drawing attention to yourself, slammed your things on your tray and stormed off past us (when you would never go that way normally anyway) in order to make your point. You then proceeded to shout at me in front of not only [friends] but the entirety of the work canteen. That is not on and is actually just abusive. I would not tolerate that from anyone in my life, yet alone a so-called friend. Again, it is childish and unprofessional.

I imagine you sat right next to our table to make it clear you were there and that you were on your own. However – and sorry for the bluntness – if I had wanted to have lunch with you, I would have asked. I didn’t want to and so I didn’t ask and so I find it very odd that you would put yourself right in front of my face like that hoping I would feel obligated and guilted into inviting you. I have thought about this many times since and still find it very strange. I would never do that – if someone hasn’t invited me to lunch with them, I wouldn’t WANT them to feel obligated or guilted into inviting me. What’s more, why on earth would I want to have lunch with you when we are not speaking? The answer I come up with to that question is this: as per previous spats that we’ve had, normally about the same things, you like to sulk and/or ignore me for days or even a week and then like to sweep it under the carpet and pretend that nothing has happened. I used to go along with this for the sake of keeping work more comfortable and defusing any tension but this time I have not done that and it feels to me that you’ve upped the ante in the hope that eventually, I will be forced into speaking to you to resolve things.  Yet again, you have been completely unable to approach me and ask what is going on  – to ask me if we can speak and resolve things – to apologise.  I feel you’ve played upon my fear and unease and that tactic has not worked this time because I have now understood that this is actually emotional blackmail. Again, I will not tolerate that in a friendship anymore.

Shouting at me like that is not acceptable at all in any situation, but I wish to make it clear that if I wish to spend my lunch hour with other people, I am perfectly entitled to do so. I do not have to invite you just because we are friends and I won’t allow you to make me feel bad for that OR to effectively push yourself into that lunch by doing things like you did on Monday. I need you to understand that.

I know that you feel that is punishing, bullying and excluding you  – but it actually isn’t. People are allowed to spend time with others without inviting you and that not be any of those things.

____________________________________________________________________________

In summary, from my perspective I need you to respect my boundaries and start treating me like an equal adult who is not indebted to you in any way. Who does not owe you anything. I need you to stop the passive (or not so passive) aggression in response to things that you may not like.  I need you to act professionally when we are work and not try to make me feel uncomfortable.  I need you to acknowledge when you have upset me (on purpose or not) and be able to take your share of the responsibility and apologise when necessary without being overly defensive. In short, I need you to respect me much more than I feel you have done before.

Naturally a friendship shifting as much as this isn’t easy and I appreciate that I’ve had a lot longer than you have to understand the dynamic behind our friendship and I have the added luxury of counselling which helps me to process my thoughts and feelings around this which you do not have (although you could have should you wish). Perhaps you will need some time to think about this before responding or perhaps you will feel as though my boundaries are not things you can agree to and therefore you may decide the friendship cannot continue. I will leave the ball in your court.

As always I will be happy to talk about this with you – but not in work. It is important to me that this is kept out of work and that we remain professional with one another regardless.