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.