My relationship with my sister throughout adulthood was one of the most difficult relationships within my family.
There was a lot of contention between us and in later years, I would periodically ruminate about something she’d said or done. I couldn’t reach closure in my mind when it came to certain situations, arguments, disagreements, or some discussions.
It was frustrating and confusing. I knew it came from anger…all that rumination. Now I realize it was lack of resolution also and mostly. And I knew the remedy would be to talk to her about it. But I’d had the experience of attempting that quite a few times to only be blamed for something else that wasn’t even being discussed. I remember one attempt I told her I didn’t feel accepted by her…and then didn’t have a chance to elaborate.
Her immediate response to my incomplete sentence was, “Well I have issues.” I wish I could get across that tone of voice. It had an entitled air about it. It was taut. But I didn’t pick up on it at first.
I thought she was going to talk about herself, because when I say “I have issues” I refer to my own flaws.
I said, “OK…we all have those, what do you mean?”
She then proceeded to tell me some things that were wrong with me. Like her perception of how I “push” my point of view about diet and health onto her and others.
This came from my enthusiasm about certain things I’d learned about health after doing some research of my own about a health problem I had years before this conversation took place.
After reading about certain things back then, I’d spoken to her and other family members about it. They knew of the health problem. It was chronic and I felt that conventional medicine wasn’t going to have much in the way of answers for me.
I don’t know, maybe I was too enthusiastic about it but I don’t remember telling any of them that they ‘should’ revamp their diets and lifestyles. I only remember telling them about it, as in having a conversation with people I loved. People I thought loved me too and people I thought who would support me. Or at least listen without jumping to some ridiculous conclusion.
I found that when I attempted resolution about issues my sister and I had between us, I was met with attack instead of any sort of acknowledgement, validation or apology.
She’d roll her eyes, tell me in so many words I was being ridiculous, needed thicker skin and I needed to let go of the past. Complete contradiction on her part.
It was just recently that it was pointed out to me that I suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. Which I think hit me in way that shocked me (?) since I didn’t seem to react at all. But it’s like that information is still simmering. I think I knew it deep down, but to admit it or put words to it, was a different thing.
(Edit 9/9/17: The reaction was probably more like dissociation. I don’t remember now who told me I might have Stockholm Syndrome…which is trauma bonding.)
I remember as kids, I made my sister laugh. I was almost 6 years older and I taught her how to play board games, card games, I even turned cleaning up into a game. But I also remember I was more concerned with her feelings than my own. I always gave her her way, distracted her if she started crying, took toys away from my brother if she’d wanted something he already had. So she got what she wanted from me most of the time.
Then in my early 20s I became severely depressed and retreated inside myself. I also became passive aggressive toward her at times too and one day she turned in physical retaliation.
I often wonder if she felt abandoned by me when I became visibly and obviously depressed and betrayed when I made passive-aggressive remarks…usually because she was acting like she ruled the roost, as one example. But one incident I remember in particular was her staying home from school on a day while our parents were away on a vacation, for the first time leaving the three of us home, with me in charge.
I was given the responsibility to make sure the two of them went to school everyday while our parents were gone. One night, while my sister and her boyfriend were upstairs in bed, my boyfriend, my brother and I were preparing to deep fry some frozen egg rolls. I heated up some oil in a pot and before I knew it, it caught fire. Chaos and panic ensued. Long story short, we were able to prevent utter disaster, but not without some damage.
There was oil all over the kitchen floor, my boyfriend had bad burns on his one hand and refused to go to the hospital. I had to work the next day and I just spread salt all over the floor to prevent anyone slipping. Next day I went to work…an excruciating day for me as my depression had probably been at its worse around that time, and the depth and intensity of it was still pretty new to me. Although I think I had depression as a child, it wasn’t the same and it became much more intense.
When I got home from work, I found my sister had stayed home and cleaned up the entire mess in the kitchen. Instead of being immediately grateful, I got pissed at her. This despite the dread I had been feeling as I walked home from work, thinking of the project of cleaning up the kitchen I thought I had waiting for me.
I later felt like crap, but in the moment, my thoughts went to the fact that my parents would hold me responsible for her not going to school. So I was angry that her actions would get me in trouble.
(Edit 9/9/17: This is a perfect example of how parents set their kids up to hate each other. I was set up to be responsible for two teenagers getting to school for a week and I was only 20 myself. I was the one who would be punished if they didn’t go to school. So it makes sense that I would lash out at her for not going, despite it being for a fucking good reason. I just wish my siblings could see this.)
The distance widened for a time and then our relationship waxed and waned. We went through a period of time where I believed we were getting close again. But the reality was and remained it was always a surface relationship.
When something emotional came up there was no adult conversation about it. It was an attack on either side. I admit I wasn’t always perfect and didn’t know how to handle my anger either.
So I’d rage about her when she wasn’t around. Or be passive-aggressive with her in my communication. And apparently she’d rage about me too.
When my sister got engaged, she’d asked me to be in the wedding, while at her and her fiance’s house.
My answer: “Lemme think about it.”
It was the fact that I knew our relationship was fair weathered that made me answer that way. I’m not proud of it and maybe I should’ve just said yes just because she’s my sister. But the facts are facts and this is what happened.
That day, when I left, she’d hugged me on my way out. So I figured everything was fine and since she was present for our roller coaster relationship too, I just figured she’d understand, you know, be on the same page as I was.
Later that week, I got a phone call from my mother. She wanted to know what the deal was. Why would I answer the way I did? Why wouldn’t I want to be in my sister’s wedding? She told me it wasn’t about me and as per usual let me know I was being selfish.
With such a guilt trip, I gave in. Being too afraid to call my sister, knowing her capacity for rage, I wrote a letter and dropped it into her mailbox. I apologized for being so selfish, but I also explained why I hadn’t been sure, using how I felt about myself at the time though, rather than talking about our relationship. I was too afraid to draw the whole picture.
Later when we spoke, the letter wasn’t enough to diffuse her and she was still quite angry.
I told her, “Since you had the issue with me, you should’ve called me yourself and not had mom do it.”
Her response: “Oh you did not want me to call you. I was really angry.”
And it wasn’t the last time my sister turned our mother into her flying monkey.
It hurts that my sister did that shit, but it hurts even more that my mother actually went along with that crap instead of telling my sister to put her big girl pants on and call me herself.