A much needed break

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On Friday I had a heavy overdose of family. My sister was visiting from Germany with her fiancé who I hadn’t yet met. We headed down to the coast to take my grandma out for the day as an overdue celebration of her 80th birthday.

Given that in the past week I have struggled more than in many months, this wasn’t the best timing. One thing that upsets and exhausts me without fail is spending time with my family. But as my sister was only around for a few days and it was my grandma’s birthday, I didn’t feel I could cancel.

The day went pretty much as I expected. I was constantly tense, waiting for someone to do or say something that would trigger me. Especially as they are generally crap at respecting my boundaries around bringing up my brother and his family in conversation. This happened a couple of times and I got very anxious and upset. I managed to conceal that though, as I don’t yet have the courage to call them on it when they overstep that boundary.

In fact, I mostly concealed myself while with them. On reflection, I can see that the day was a repeat of most days in my childhood. My sister took up all the space, assertively getting her needs met, while I ran around people pleasing, feeling like shit and being ignored. My mum and sister enjoyed shopping and chatting together while I pushed my grandma around in her wheelchair and helped her look at things in the shops. 

My sister is pregnant with her first child and this was the first time the family had seen her since she announced this news. So I understand they were excited to have her there and to talk about the baby. But that is literally what the entire day was about. She barely stopped talking all day, and the single topic of her endless monologue was her pregnancy. I didn’t have the energy to interject and force the focus onto something else.

That’s exactly how life was when I was growing up. My sister would be obsessed with one thing or another and would aggressively make her presence felt. She expressed herself loud and clear and got a lot of attention from everyone as a result. It wasn’t always good for her, she would shout and argue with people a lot. But I was the compliant one, the one who worried about everyone else, so I would just fade into the background.

Friday was a repeat of that pattern. And I was hurt by it. I was hurt because my mum, dad and sister all know that I have had a particularly bad few weeks. They know I’ve started taking a new antidepressant that is making me feel really ill. And although I was quiet and kept a slight distance from what was going on, none of them checked in with me to see if I was ok. None of them thought to come and ask how I was feeling.

I’m aware at the same time that this is a character defect of mine; waiting for people to notice something is up. I don’t have the confidence to ask for anything from people. Not even my own family. I distance myself and isolate. And then I feel lonely and want more than anything for someone to pick up on me not being OK and come to ask how I am. I don’t make myself important enough that I feel I deserve anything from the people who care about me. And I know really that they do care, but when they don’t come to find out what’s wrong I can then easily convince myself that I don’t matter to them.

Anyway, I am glad that the obligatory Easter family visit is out of the way and I am now out of the country, away from all of that. I’m nervous about being away from home for a whole week, but it is exciting to be on a proper holiday for the first time in several years. 

I’m lucky to be spending a week in Mallorca, the photo on this post is the view from our villa. It is very beautiful here. I am planning to relax in the sun with my book, do some cycling and explore this amazing countryside. 

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Lovely post and beautiful picture! Happy to connect! Do check out my writings too, will appreciate your views ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura says:

      Thank you. I will!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re being pretty hard on yourself, calling your tendency to wait for others to ask how you are a character defect. It seems pretty clear that doing anything else around your family got (and still gets) you punished. It suits them very well to ignore how badly you’re doing and then also make you feel as if that’s your fault. They get to not only do nothing but be completely absolved of guilt for it – the story of your life. The way you act now is not your fault, and it is really hard to change, and can only be changed if you are around people who are genuinely responsive to your needs and able to support you in learning how to express them and get them met.

    I feel angry on your behalf that your family is continuing to hurt you. The joy they feel for your brother’s and now your sister’s baby is no excuse. It is perfectly possible to feel that joy and also to act on those feelings in ways that do not hurt you. They are just choosing not to. Remember that. They are not doing this out of ignorance or ‘forgetting’. They have the facts, they are capable of choosing how they act, and their choice is to hurt you. You do not deserve that. You have never deserved that.

    I hope you have a wonderful time in Mallorca and that the side effects of the antidepressants don’t get in the way too much of enjoying the food and the beautiful countryside. That view looks stunning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura says:

      Thank you for your feedback. It is good to be challenged on this, as I easily fall into just thinking they are right and I am wrong – or there is something wrong with me. I think also it is easier for me to think I am the problem sometimes because then I don’t need to feel angry with them. But I was touched to hear that you are angry on my behalf. My wife is so angry she actually can’t spend time with them anymore.

      Mallorca is wonderful. We did a lot of cycling today, the scenery was amazing. I’ve stopped taking the Brintellix temporarily because it was making me feel so nauseous I couldn’t enjoy anything. I will re start it after my holiday. For now, being here is the best medicine I can have anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. La Quemada says:

    I was going to say something similar to DV. It’s not a “character defect” that you don’t speak up for your needs, that you wait and hope someone notices. It’s a learned behavior that you developed because that made sense given the way your family worked. It was probably the wisest strategy you could use for a long time. The only thing is, now it is not serving you well, because your parents (and others) don’t tend to notice; they tend to pay attention to whatever is noisy or new or flashy in front of them.

    You can’t change them, unfortunately, but you can learn to speak up for your needs. The thing is, it is a hard thing to learn. Really hard. I know this personally because I grew up with this same behavior. It lasted me all through my abusive first marriage and beyond. It is terrifying to ask for something when all you expect in return is ridicule, impatience, criticism or abuse.

    For me, what it has meant is learning to ask within the safe environment of a trusting therapeutic relationship. There are lots of opportunities to practice within the relationship (earlier, lots of texting of reassurance and caring), as well as encouragement to practice in with my current marriage, which is also a safe relationship. We can’t start trying out these new patterns with the difficult people who didn’t help us develop our healthy assertiveness in the first place!

    Mallorca sounds like a great break from things. I hope you get the chance to relax and enjoy the sun and that it helps you feel better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura says:

      It sounds like you’ve experienced something very similar. Sometimes I think I just feel I lack courage because I can’t challenge them. I know it’s what I should do but it is just too frightening.

      I am trying to practice this asking with my therapist, but even there it is really hard. I get scared of her thinking I am ridiculous or childish or her saying no and the rejection I I’d feel as a result. Thankfully I have a very loving wife who I can always ask for things and who never makes me feel stupid for it. So I know it is possible when I feel really safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. manyofus1980 says:

    your not wrong we all want those who are our family to notice when we’re not ok, I know I do! That doesn’t make you bad it makes you human! Enjoy your holiday wish I was you so jealous! 🙂 xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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