Especially my family. I need to stop caring what other people think of me, especially my family. Some people it is very much worth caring what they think of you: if you are safe in their eyes you can climb higher and transcend yourself.
Last summer, my mum and her husband decided I should move out and live in a small apartment they’d found in a village. I’d never been to this village and had expressed (in response to hints) that I didn’t want to move there, especially as I wanted to move out with my boyfriend (I am 26 after all). One evening they sat me down and said how strongly they felt about me moving to this place, that it was perfect and that I was making a big mistake not going. I said I would be willing to look but I needed to talk it over with Joe because we’d agreed we wanted to live together. The husband began rolling his eyes and shouting. He said several times, “It is pathetic that a 26 year-old needs permission from her boyfriend.” He eventually yelled, “I AM NOT HAVING YOU GIVING YOUR MUM ANOTHER HEART ATTACK.” Which was a brutal thing to say (the stress of her heart attack was the thing that triggered me to relapse, something I still haven’t recovered from).
More things happened that I won’t go into here.
Months later, and they are still very keen on me moving out. The whole thing makes me feel very weak and ill and unempowered. When I added the goal Move out to my list, it was a radical and exciting thing to do. Now it just… isn’t.
A couple of weeks ago my mum started emailing me, my boyfriend, my dad, and my boyfriend’s parents about us moving out again. After a few exchanges, Joe decides to put his feelings out there about what has happened in an attempt to be open and move forward (his dad proof read the email and said it was a good idea to send). My family don’t talk about feelings and work through problems like that. My family use feelings as weapons. They were flabbergasted by his email. In an attempt to stick up for him I said, “The village conversation really had a strong impact on us.”
The husband starts rolling his eyes again and said, “We were SUGGESTING. We were just making a SUGGESTION.”
I said, “He wasn’t trying to upset you. He didn’t say anything maliciously.”
He said, “How can you say that? Can you imagine if I said that to your mum’s mum? I wouldn’t even say it! I’d apologise immediately! He should apologise immediately!”
The conversation continues, and eventually I had the courage to go back to the village conversation and remind him of what he said to me about my mum. (At this point I had to look away from his face completely as he was rolling his eyes over and over and snarling with his tongue in his lower lip.) As painful as it was I had been giving him the benefit of the doubt and said, “You were shouting so maybe you didn’t mean to say it or realise what you’d said…”
He cut me off and said, “You ARE going to give her a heart attack again if you continue like this. I’d appreciate it if you stopped trying to make everything more stressful OR YOU WILL GIVE HER A HEART ATTACK.”
He shouted it a few more times.
I can’t sleep for thinking about it. I lie awake and it goes round and round my head. I worry about her. I worry she’ll get ill or die. I feel so worthless. The worst thing about what he said is that I can’t even answer back. My mum lets him say these things and was annoyed with me that I was upset. (I don’t know if she agrees with him or just enjoys him being passionate about her.)
He says these things (or she becomes intensely annoyed with me) and then they both say, “You get so upset, we can’t tell you anything.” Then they get more stressed. The last time I asked her about houses I walked into the front room where she was sat on the sofa and said, “I was just wondering what you had in mind about the money.” She snapped and said, “Do you think I go scheming behind you back or something!?” I said no, I didn’t mean it like that, I just wanted to know what she thought. She ranted for a bit and I said, “I wasn’t accusing you of anything,” to which she replied, “You come in here asking me these question and then start accusing me of feeling accused!” She went on for almost fifteen minutes this way about how upset she was. I could feel my throat closing. By the time she asked me what was wrong with me, my throat was too tight to answer. “We can’t ask you about anything,” she said, “YOU get upset? Why don’t you think about how I feel?”
Look, I do love my mum. I love her a lot, but it is so much harder being ill and dealing with these dysfunctions (I don’t mean that personally: these are just dysfunctional behaviours).
My mum told me tonight that she had some negative blood test results. Immediately I just wanted to keel over and go to sleep. I started writing an email to her husband in my head. I can’t imagine ever confronting him about it realistically, so I could only imagine the end of the email (which I wrote down and have pasted below). I’m not going to send it.
I previously had decided not to show any of this on 43 Things, but I just can’t deal with it on my own anymore.
I am not writing this email for an apology. I don’t think you would apologise and would instead write back with excuses and justifications, but even if you did apologise I would not forgive you.
I don’t forgive you for saying something that cruel.
I don’t forgive you for being so protective that you would choose to escalate the stress and take it out on me.
I don’t forgive you for planting those unfair ideas in my head.
I don’t forgive you for planting those ideas in my mum’s head, and for making her (and me) fear for the worse.
I don’t forgive you for the disrespect you showed me, for repeatedly rolling your eyes as if it were clever and as if I were so far below you.
I don’t forgive you for putting my mum in the middle, and using her as a shield so that I can’t stand up for myself. You might be willing to put her in the firing line but I am not. You either know that I am not (which is why you do it to manipulate the situation and get power over me) or you know that if I did stand up for myself I’d have to go through her, which you would not tolerate (which, again, is manipulative, dishonest, and cowardly).
I don’t forgive you because I do not deserve to be treated in that way.
I don’t forgive you because you escalate the stress phenomenally while pretending not to, and you have the audacity to blame me.
Finally, I don’t forgive you because we can’t talk openly and honestly about any of this. You are a genuine threat to my health (as well as hers) and any attempt to talk to you (and your rolling eyes) isn’t even worth it. The boundaries in our relationship are so poor that forgiveness would be meaningless in this situation. I believe any apology from you would be a politician’s apology: it would be attached to so many strings and you would find a way to come out on top.
Whenever I picture your face now, I always picture it with rolling eyes or your tongue thrust in your bottom lip and your nose in a snarl. You don’t respect me, but at least respect my mum enough to take a long look at yourself and think about how you can support her rather than making things worse.
It is frankly unbelievable that you think that Joe telling you he doesn’t trust you is so terrible and yet you can sit there and think it perfectly fine to tell me (several times) that I am threatening my mum’s life. It is also typical of the way you think, however: that one standard exists for you and another for everybody else. Do you think it is any wonder that Joe might lack trust?
Don’t you dare think that you are the only one who cares, and don’t you dare imply that if something happens it is all on me: you are the one who shouts, you are the one who catastrophises, and you are the one who could calm her down rather than affirm her worst fears.
She thinks my dad and his wife are calm because they don’t care, and that worrying and panicking about someone is love. It is not very subtle the way you encourage her to feel powerless, so that you can step in and be the big manly hero.
I can hardly sleep for what you said, and she is getting worse. You have put that burden on me, and it makes me feel like shit. I can only assume that this is what you wanted because, despite what my heart might fear, my head knows what you said was irrational and designed to manipulate. 1 month ago