Monday, July 29, 2013

Someone Else To Take The Fall

I recently whipped out the letter NSIL wrote to DH in November of last year during her stint in a mental institution for attempted suicide - a letter which I thought perfectly represented exactly the kind of "support" GC seem to ask for from their siblings and which I'd now like to examine here in a more specific way than our response letters had shown. I tend to balk at the word "support" when I'm talking about that which NSIL has expected from my husband because to me, that's a word with a connotation far too positive to accurately describe either NSIL's own unhealthy requirements of a relationship with DH or her puppeteer's dark ulterior motives in the direction of her endless show. NSIL asked for more than simple support. She asked for DH's loyalty over his loyalty to his FOC. She asked that he abandon his own life and happiness in order to suit her needs. She demanded that he serve the same master she serves, all because she's too weak to escape on her own. To me, that reads as more than support. It reads as someone demanding payment for debts that DH no longer makes claims for. It reads as misery looking for company. I don't think NSIL wanted DH for an equal, a partner, or a "friend" as she claimed. I think she was looking for someone else to take the fall, the same person who had taken it all those years before.
So DH and I re-read NSIL's letter looking for clues. I asked him what he thought she had expected him to do; what precisely he thought she had imagined or hoped he'd do when he read her letter. Together, we broke her letter down as though it were encoded and examined each part:

[Derivative of DH's name; not what she typically called him in the past] What's in a name, right? I noticed the switch from her addressing DH by his childhood nickname to a slightly more "grown-up" version, though not his full first name. She had called him this name on occasion in the past - but she'd always used his childhood nickname when she wanted something from him. I hypothesize now that it was her way of acknowledging some great change in him - a change she could obviously see but has yet to appreciate - that almost came across to me as a mockery. DH's handle has always been a point of contention for me. It had taken me some time in the beginning of our relationship to understand why he had never made the change from his childhood nickname to the more grown-up version of his name and then finally to the true adult version of his name with his FOO. I felt that NSIL's use of this name was foreign, that it didn't seem to fit the person she wanted us to believe she was appealing to, and that it was manipulative - as though by deceitfully petitioning this person she'd never developed a relationship with, she might trick him into considering giving her the "support" she'd be asking for by the end of her letter. When she used the more grown-up version of his name, right off the bat she was attempting to manipulate him.

I am currently in a mental hospital for attempted suicide. I figure you think I overdosed on drugs. I purposely took over fifty pills, mixed with a lot of alcohol, and slit my wrist. If not for a friend randomly stopping by I would not have been found and would have died. When DH read this to me aloud for the first time back in November, I remember having been struck by a couple of things right off the bat: One being that her self-described "random" savior was likely not random at all and two being that I could already see who she had predetermined would be responsible for her staged attempted suicide: my husband, of course. Before I go any further, I feel the need to explain that I am not denying the fact that this girl is likely suffering from depression and that her struggles are very real. But as with any narcissist, I've always believed that what we see up top barely does much justice to all the schemes churning below the surface at any given moment and I think NSIL's lack of description tells us more about what she's covering up than what she's revealing. This is a girl who spews a lot of words but doesn't divulge much that's real. But still, aside from overhearing perhaps one phone conversation with NSIL (which I was mostly only privy to DH's side of) this letter was the closest to real that I have ever seen from NSIL. And what I think was "real" about it was her continued cover-up of details that might constitute any truth - who was the mysterious "friend" she wrote about and why did she think it so important to keep that person's identity secret? And why does she make a point to inform DH of how "random" that person's appearance at the time of her suicide attempt was? You know, I STILL have to prompt DH when he's telling a story or talking about some event that happened during the day because he'll tell me, "So, WE did this" or "THEY said that" and I'll ask, who? Who are you talking about? It happens less now because DH catches himself, realizing that his lack of descriptive detail is a leftover learned defense mechanism from dealing with his FOO - but it does still happen. And the reason why it's so damn significant to me is because these lack of details are not just merely some oversight - they can't be chalked up to forgetfulness or absentmindedness on the part of the story teller - the omission of these types of details is intentional and there is only one point: to evade responsibility. If you don't say with whom, then you can't get in trouble. If you don't specify who else was there, then there is no one else to ask.  Keeping the details vague allows you to evade responsibility. And that's where all of this always leads - the kind of "support" NSIL was looking for was the kind that would allow her to continue ignoring the fact that she is responsible for her own unhappiness, poor health, and attempt at suicide. Furthermore, I thought that the kind of information NSIL was presenting read as an accusation: that it should not have been a "random friend" stopping by who saved her, it should have been DH. That's looking for a whole hell of a lot more than support, in my opinion. The opening lines of her letter present just enough information to make her intended audience think she's taking responsibility for something, when in fact she's not.

I wanted to die, I really did. Wrote a letter and everything. It's clear to me that DH was not the only person she wanted to convince of the sincerity of her desire to die. And the fact that she herself is not convinced is enough for me to seal the deal on my theory that her attempted suicide was nothing more than a ploy. Anybody who truly believes in what they are doing, simply does not talk that way. Her juvenile presentation of the fact that she wrote a suicide note as evidence that she "really wanted to die" did nothing to answer the biggest question of all: why? If her suicide attempt was, in fact, legitimate, then why did she want to die? And if it was not, why did she want to make it look like she wanted to die? In that whole letter to my husband, I never found an answer from her, even in her talk of depression and eating disorders and anxiety - not even in her admittance of not being understood. All of those things have deeper sources, but nowhere in her letter does she examine them. One of the factors of this letter that has to be considered is that it was very likely a requirement forced on her by whatever doctors were working with her in therapy. So not only do I think it represented the most depth she was capable of at the time she wrote it, but I also think whatever information she presented therein was the bare minimum requirement for her to leave the mental hospital. Her decision not to answer "why" in this letter to my husband is a juxtaposition to her apparent desire for people to understand the answers to that exact question: Shortly after her return to the world from her stay at the hospital, NSIL tweeted: "Everyone seems to think they know everything yet no one has actually asked me" and "Because of a bad trip? Because of a boy? You people are ridiculous and have no clue." It all makes me think she knows EXACTLY why she has done the things she has done, but it scares her too much to be honest about it. In short (I know, too late) she refuses to take responsibility.

I know part of you cares. This is an insult and an accusation. I see the implication that not only should part of DH care about her plight, but that ALL of him should care about her plight. This is one of the more blatant and clear expressions of her expectations of my husband's support. By implying that he doesn't care or that he doesn't care enough, she's revealing how much she wants from him - and it's a lot.

Perhaps you noticed when we were younger that I had been struggling, mentally. I dealt with the [sic] bulimia until last year when I began throwing up blood regularly. For years I have dealt with depression. It increased greatly when you left. You left me alone.  This is loaded. Absolutely loaded. Again, it might appear as though she's on the verge of accepting responsibility for something (or at the very least, that she's willing to put the responsibility of her childhood depression in her parents' hands, where it clearly belongs) but that much needed admission gets quickly thrown out on it's ass when she hands all of the responsibility, every last drop of it, to DH. The accusations she makes here would be shocking if I didn't know this girl or the dynamics of her fucked up family. And again, her non-specific allegations have always left me with a lot of questions. What, specifically, is she referring to when she says that DH "left" or that he "left her alone?" This is a girl who out the one side of her mouth (as evidenced in this letter) says she's alone, but everywhere else in her life claims to be "surrounded by friends" and "so so lucky" to have the mom and friends that she has. What does it say about the people she chooses to surround herself with, if she single-handedly disputes their importance in her life by saying that DH was the ONLY person responsible for making her feel that she was not alone? And isn't it obvious how she exposes her own lies about the friendships she maintains? At which point does she feel he left her: When he went away to college? When he moved in to the apartment he rented from Naunt? When he met me? When he married me? When he cut off contact with their mother? She doesn't answer these questions but I have raised them. And all of my theories lead me to the same place, every time. When examining what NSIL's version of "support" would look like, I always come up with this sort of silly idea that she wanted DH to move back in with her at her mother's house to reside across the hall from her once more, free from any outside obligations including the love of his life and his children. And the more I think on it, the more I think it may not be that far fetched a theory. I don't know what NSIL expected. But I know that whatever picture she had in her mind, it never included me or DH's children. I also feel the need to point out at this juncture that in the phrase, "You left me alone" there is the seemingly unacknowledged point that if DH's absence from her life means she is alone, then the mother NSIL claims loves her so very much, at the very least, has done nothing to help her quelch that feeling of desolate loneliness, and at the very worst, is in fact the ultimate source of it. In other words, to say that she is alone (with or without the presence of DH in her life) is an admission that her mother is hurting her. But as always, she neither takes responsibility for herself nor hands her mother the responsibility expected from such an admission.

...My depression and anxiety overwhelmed me and I had to drop out [of college]. Mom and J were upset but supportive. Since that [sic] I've been in a downward spiral. No one understood me and no one that [sic] I thought I could talk to. So I wanted to die. I was pretty close too. We have ourselves an unreliable narrator - one who calls her parents "supportive" in one sentence, but in the very next negates the claim by saying that she had "no one" to talk to and "no one" who understood her. It seems clear to me that, whatever her notion of "support" entails, it sure as hell isn't healthy or very well developed. She presents the idea that her parent's "support" of her was sufficient, but then immediately contradicts it. What it tells me is that she has allegiance to her parents because she hides them behind a false label. It also piggy backs on the idea that DH is responsible - that he should have been the one around to "understand her" and "talk to her" and without him, she wanted to die. But as with much of what NSIL has ever said, I call bullshit. Because even when DH was "around," she did not reach out to him. Even before DH's estrangement from NMIL in early 2011, she did not seek him out for help or support or understanding. In part, it might have felt odd for her to do that on account of their nine year age difference (think about it - how much "support" can a healthy nine year old give to his infant sister; a fifteen year old give to his six year old sister; a twenty year old give to his eleven year old sister; a twenty five year old give to his sixteen year old sister); but mostly, the unhealthy dynamics of her FOO would never have allowed for any sort of true supportive system to take root between them. If anything, I think this girl has some understanding that "support" isn't whatever show she got from her parents. I think she knows that real support means having someone who understands you, or who at least wants to understand you, and who will talk with you about what is real. She's so close. So close to some understanding about what is real and crucial and true. And yet, she can't grasp it. Or won't grasp it. Her long silence now these past few months are evidence that, though she desires the kind of support she herself outlined, she remains unwilling to shake herself free from the very people who should be her biggest supporters, yet who have done nothing but ensure her slow, agonizing death. Yes, I think she knows what "support" really looks like. But I think what she wants more is the easy way out: the kind of support that her mommie says she needs, but which isn't really support at all. She did, after all, reject both DH and my offers to help her, which is ironic given that we were offering her precisely what she had asked for: people who would understand and who would talk to her about what was real.

I am diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, depression, and anxiety. Can I just say, I fucking called this? I included this line here for no other reason than to point out that all my past research had pointed to NSIL having BPD and that I told DH years ago that it wouldn't surprise me if we ever learned that she was. Oh, I guess I included it for another reason and that's because I think the addition of this kind of information mostly just reads as a call for a pity-party. Again, it looks like a mere inclusion of facts but I'm betting NSIL included this information so that she could stroke the story that she's "crazy" (which serves the purpose of negating her responsibility, once again, by claiming her mental facilities are not completely in order) while also attempting to illicit sympathy from DH.

Everyone's brothers and sisters come to visit them here and it upsets me. This reads like her mother's presentation of what a "truly supportive" sibling would be doing - a presentation that would suit NMIL's needs far more than it would have suited NSIL's. DH's physical presence at a hospital where NMIL was staying nearby would have likely been a dream come true to NMIL and though it would have fulfilled NSIL's superficial requirements for "support," it would have done little to solve her deeper woes. And instead of just coming out and asking in a direct way (Please, will you come visit me?) this statement attempts to illicit guilt. Also, can I just say that it's more than a little inconvenient and fucking selfish for her to ever expect DH to abandon his entire life just to come for a little visit and hold her hand or whatever.

Mom is constantly sad because you are gone and I am a disappointment and crazy. She cries all the time about you. I haven't, not once. This statement probably raises more questions for me than it answers, as does much of the letter. Is NMIL so inappropriate and selfish that she's using NSIL's stay in a mental hospital to play on the notion of the "long lost son?" Does NSIL not realize that her mother labeled her a "disappointment" and "crazy" long before she thought to call herself those names, not because they were necessarily true but because they served her mother's sick purposes? Has it never crossed her mind that her mother's "sadness" is an act? Does she not see that while her NM is calling her crazy, she's also calling DH the same and can she truly not understand how toxic that is? And when she turns around and says this: "It is so strange to me that my brother is a different person completely...and evil and insane and [I will] never talk to him again?" can she not see that she's no better than her narcissistic mother? NSIL's rejection of her own emotions and obvious constant need to buttress her NM's, regardless of their sincerity, is very apparent here.

I pretended you were dead. I tell people I am an only child. I terribly miss and need my big brother. Would you even attend my funeral if I died? These are questions I ask. I see only one question, though she alludes to having asked more than one, and as always, it's a loaded question. I can answer it for her, as DH and I had discussed the possibility of NSIL dying many months before her attempted suicide occurred and the answer has not changed since that time: DH would not attend a funeral for NSIL. I doubt she would ever acknowledge any understanding of such a decision, even if that understanding existed. Because to acknowledge that she could understand why it would be better for DH not to show up to her funeral, she would have to also acknowledge that she knows how toxic and unhealthy her FOO is, and that DH has been treated very poorly by them. At this point, with this girl, I don't think that's ever going to happen. Furthermore, we can add "showing up to her funeral" to NSIL's list of "NMIL-Accepted-Support-Tactics" because while DH's presence at NSIL's figurative funeral would do wonders for NMIL's "show," it wouldn't achieve a whole hell of a lot for NSIL's benefit. And as for "needing" her big brother? Again I ask, how? What the hell did she expect him to do, specifically? Because it sure seemed to me, at one point in that letter, that she knew what support was (understanding, real talk) but as I've pointed out, when it was offered, she immediately and coldly rejected it, turning instead, right back to the same kind of "support" she came from which drove her to make an attempt on her own life in the first place.

You were my best friend...I even wrote in my suicide note that maybe my death would bring you back. I just have to take a moment to ask, how the hell can people not see how fucked up this claim is? I swear to god, the age difference alone forces any truth out of this statement. I want to know, at what point is NSIL claiming that DH was her best friend? When he was nineteen and she was ten? When he was twenty four and she was fifteen? Folks, it's not fucking possible. They were NEVER best friends. They were nothing more than two spirits locked together in a shitty situation. The only bond they had, after their mother started fucking with their relationship from the time NSIL was born, was one born of some superficial and underdeveloped understanding that their own mother was killing them. If NSIL was capable and willing to tell the truth, I would ask her to qualify this statement. I would ask her for specifics. I would ask her to detail how, exactly, she was expecting him to be her "best friend" again and what she wanted from him. Because if she showed proof that I was wrong, I would be willing to reject my notion that her fantasy of "best friend DH" would have both her and her brother sacrificing their own lives for their mother's. Unfortunately, that is precisely what I think: that NSIL and [DH's childhood nickname] - the boy she's REALLY appealing to, unlike what she would have had us believe at the beginning of her letter - "befriending" each other once again, would translate to nothing more than the ending of their lives so that their mother can continue to live her lies. Whether metaphorical or literal, I believe NSIL's definition of support calls for that outcome.

Think about our childhood. When I was born, you wouldn't let anyone hold me. I need you to be there again. Not even mommie could hold you, eh, NSIL? Maybe all we need to ask is this: why would DH need to protect you from your own mother? And why the fuck can't you see that this need for protection from mommy-dearest is what ALL of your dysfunction is about; and ultimately the reason why you have no relationship with your own brother?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Beach

DH and I have been spending a lot of our time at our local beaches. We live in a seaside town with lots of beach access and our beaches really are lovely.

This week is DH's vacation and we've decided to spend most of it at the beach - it's free, cool, and nearby - and nothing beats that, in my opinion. Plus, at the end of the day, the kiddles are pooped from swimming and being in the sun for just a few hours which gives us a nice rest at the end of the day. Tomorrow, we've invited my parents to come along and we're going to have a picnic lunch.

Anyway, my reason for talking about this isn't just to showcase our beautiful beaches (though I am quite proud of them) or to elaborate on the fun of each found seashell (though I assure you, I never get tired of the kids' excitement over their beach finds - I can ooh and ahh over wet, gray pebbles clenched in chubby fists all day long). Today, I was thinking back to a time in 2009 when NMIL made us a no-doubt strings-attached offer for a "little" vacation, so that "baby could see the beach" and so she'd have an opportunity to get her idea of family [read: anyone who would have brought drama to the trip] together. First of all, I hate that it's so hard to explain why a "simple" offer for a "nice family vacation" was such a heinous and disingenuous act, given how nothing in a narc's playbook is ever straight-forward. But secondly, I have such a feeling of pure joy that we don't have to deal with that shit anymore: that we don't have to worry about even considering whether or not we'll take up an offer for some shitty little vacation or day trip; that we don't have to exert any energy protecting our emotional well-being for the sake of preserving NMIL's constant lies. We will never again have to deliberate over whether or not to support her performance.

Every year, at beach time, I get this little stab of - I'm not even sure what to call it - satisfaction, triumph, justice, vindication - because we have our own beaches, we have our own vacations, and we're perfectly happy without NMIL's offers where the fine-print is in a language we don't understand. NMIL has money, and I've always thought that she figured waving it around in front of us (more specifically, waving it around in front of DH, who was trained to respond to that sort of thing) would be her winning hand. Really, that's all she ever had to offer: extravagant gifts that always came with a price I was never willing to accept.

That trip (which would have taken place in 2010) never happened, mostly because I was able to convince DH that the price we would have had to pay, on a "vacation" that was subtly offered to us as being "completely free" was (ironically enough) not worth it; but I have to say, it worked in our favor that NMIL's plan was so poorly conceived, it would have been nearly impossible for us to go with her anyway, even just logistically speaking. Bitch really shot herself in the foot. I've always guessed that NMIL knew right away that we weren't going to take her up on her offer, and I have to imagine that burned up her little control-loving biscuits. At any rate, it's almost like my enjoyment of the beach is now even more so, because I get that little tickle of glee in my gut at the simple thought that it's ours - that WE are our own and we don't have to share ourselves or stretch ourselves for anyone, let alone NMIL. I can enjoy the beach that much more, knowing that we are free.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Gradually and Continually

I don't want to get too comfortable (and I may end up eating my words) but I feel as though DH and I may be reaching and "end" of sorts with his FOO. I don't honestly know whether NMIL has exhausted all of her manipulation tactics and I can't say with any real certainty that I believe she's completely redirected her eyes on a different target, but I have nevertheless been feeling that her steel-hard resolve to remain blind to the truth is precisely what will force her to stay away from us permanently. It has always been her choice to maintain distance from us out of her unswaying resolution to offer us bullshit instead of truth, and to offer the rest of the world nothing but an absolutely ridiculous mask. She lives in a world where she can liken herself to some of the greatest philosophers and humanitarians of our age - and the people she has surrounded herself with choose to buy it.

And that's fine, really it is. She can feign sainthood as often and to whatever lengths she likes, as long as she stays in her corner and out of ours. I'm not so naive as to think she'll ever really go away completely, but I often think to myself, what more can come than what they have already sent? What more damage can they inflict? What supplies are left in that arsenal? And try as I might, I don't see where they have any power left. They've spent it all on nastiness and spite and hatred and, as with any war campaign, they will eventually run out of time and money and energy to keep this shit going. Births and deaths and marriages on both sides, and even attention-grabbing-suicide-attempts have not gained DH's FOO any forward momentum in their efforts to dissolve our marriage or get DH to collude with their desire for power and control again. Nothing, save for perhaps the literal death and re-birth of a brand-spanking-new NMIL, would break our resolve to keep them out of our lives. 

I see DH's entire FOO and vast network of past relationships as a dark, ominous cloud in the distance that gradually yet continually gets blown further and further away from us. I see NMIL and EFIL & L and NSIL and J and Exhibit A and the whole cast of crazy characters as one black puff of smoke that can be diffused with just a little bit of effort on our parts. They know next to nothing about what is going on in our lives and we are happy knowing next to nothing about theirs. And I am starting to find that my desire to know what's coming next is leaving me. Perhaps it's a letting go of sorts. Perhaps I simply don't care anymore. But whatever the reason, I have this inherent sense of calm and confidence that the worst is over and that DH and I and our children are finally entering a space of real peace.

Last Christmas, after EFIL and L sent us messages which showed that their desire for power and control was still very much alive by means of holiday greeting cards to our children, my mother said, "Jonsi, what does it matter if all they do is send a card for Christmas? Who cares? If that's all they do, then you can toss the card aside and move on." It seems, though I know appearances are deceiving with these people, that that may be all they have left now. Just as sure as I feel that NMIL is mostly done with her attempts to win over DH with her direct bullshit and that even the indirect bullshit will be coming at us less and less, I am sure that EFIL and L will still play their assigned role to the bitter end - and I know that has to do with whatever they've got planned for our children. I see the use of attempted manipulation through financial means in the distant future and I see it aimed, in whatever weak way they've planned, at our kids. I think they are biding their time because they know that DH and I are the gatekeepers to our children, but that someday our children will be adults with their own desires and hopes and dreams and I think they have plans to attempt to use those as a means to gain power over them.

I have a lot of faith in my FOC - in our ability to stick together through the storms, in our desire to raise strong and healthy children, and in our strength of will and personal character. I have a very loving and supportive FOO who are always around to give us advice and aid when we are in need. And our children are truly amazing beings - I have faith in them and who they are and who they will be. I don't believe that I am raising children who will go out into the world to be easily manipulated. I think I am raising bright, kind, compassionate, honest children. I think they are inherently kind and sensitive and good and I am working hard with DH to parent them in such a way that they can be whoever and whatever they want to be. I know that, if DH's FOO is still in the game for power and control, they will test the strength of these bonds my husband and I have with our children, and yet I still have faith that we will prevail - five, ten, or fifty years from now.

I'm already thinking that when the next round of greeting cards show up, DH and I will probably finally be able to throw them aside, unopened. Because we already know what they will say - there will be nothing new to read, no great understanding on their parts. Even in their silence now, their resolution to keep their eyes shut tightly in the face of truth is apparent. And so when those cards arrive, and if another person shows up at our door, or when we receive notification that DH has been "cut from the wills," it will be much easier to toss it aside. Because it doesn't matter. They don't matter. And they have even less power than ever before as more time passes.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ladybug Rings

Just wanted to take a minute to show off my new wedding and engagement ring, which one of my oldest and dearest friends, Sara Pancoast (established 7th grade, 1998) designed and fabricated after I discovered that I had developed an allergy to my original rings. (New rings pictured below, which can also be found on Sara's website, under the "Personal Work" section of her portfolio, by the name of "ladybug rings")

I wanted to show them off, both for the sake of making a shameless plug for Sara (who is and has always been very talented and artistic - we still have records of our seventh and eighth grade notes, from which I can attest that even Sara's stick figures far surpassed mine in both design and execution) but also because these rings are such an obvious symbol of mine and DH's love for each other. I also think it important to note here that DH was not hurt or offended when I told him, much as I loved the design of my original rings, I considered them to be too "bulky" and was happy with having the opportunity to have them redesigned. The reason why this is such a big deal is because I think it's a mark of strength that DH wasn't hurt by my opinions of the rings he had picked out for me, that he didn't take it as a personal slight. We've come a long way in that regard.

And as for my shameless plug: Sara is a wonderfully talented artist and a very dear friend of mine, so I see no problem in directing anyone interested to her for any jewelry needs. Her work on these rings included the dis-assembly of my original rings, as well as the complete redesign and fabrication of the new ones. Her knowledge about metals and stonework is extensive.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Never Back Down

"Never retreat. Never explain. Get it done and let them howl."

-Benjamin Jowet