Tag Archive: Guilt


Are We Too Sensitive?

Being sensitive is a double-edged sword, for sure. But without that sensitivity we would not have empathy for others and also would not have the capacity for introspection. Both are necessary qualities for a spiritual path.

Pressure Sensitive

Pressure Sensitive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The key is not taking on that as a harsh judgment against ourselves. It can be difficult. For me it started in childhood with a verbally abusive mother. Every time I am rejected or perceive rejection it takes me right back to that vulnerable place. I have to remind myself that the situation is not the same and that I am not powerless like I was before. And that my mother was screwed up and her judgments of me were not correct.

Therapy is very helpful in this process. At the same time of course I have made mistakes and hurt people so I have to face that and see what changes I need to make. Frankly at this point the best way I can differentiate between situations that are my fault and those that are not is to talk to my therapist. He is very good at helping me to understand other people’s points of view. That in no way means that other people are always right, but they are not always wrong either.

Ironically, sensitive people can come across as uncaring, even when we care a great deal. That is because of defensiveness. We are afraid that what we have done is an indictment against the core of our being.

In order to face the things I have done wrong and not be defensive I have to remind myself that I am a Child of God and that despite what I have been taught I am not evil, I only make mistakes. There is that part of me that is Divine and wholly good and that will never change. I simply need to align myself with that part of me.

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After many years of being in therapy off and on I am so happy that I have found such a good therapist. He has been helping me clarify my relationship problems and I am seeing things in a new light. I have also been spending a great deal of time thinking about things (one thing that being disabled gives you is plenty of time to think! That can be good or bad).

The fact is that people scare the crap out of me. I don’t make friends easily. You see I think I am going to ruin their lives. From an early age I was always “making” my mother cry or get mad, but I never knew quite what I did that would cause that extreme reaction.  Mostly what I did was simply talk at the wrong time.

I also have an almost clear memory of her putting me and my sister to bed, and I was talking to her while she tucked me in. I don’t remember what I said, but she got this shocked look on her face and started crying and ran out of the room. My sister said “See what you did!”

Perhaps guilt is why I do not remember what I said, I have blocked out some childhood memories where I only remember parts of what happened. All I know is that I wasn’t saying anything with an intent to upset her and her reaction mystified me.

My mother obviously had problems, but having gone through bipolar depression myself I do not believe that she suffered from depression. Overall her moods were okay, except when it came to dealing with me.

When I started school I would not talk to anyone because I figured that they would hate me, because if I was not good enough for my family how could I be good enough for anyone else? Of course that was a self-fulfilling prophecy and I got the label “retard.”

My fear of people is now 100% worse because of having bipolar disorder. I have created my share of havoc with it although I am dealing with it better now.

It doesn’t help when my brother-in-law chimes in “No wonder you have no friends!”

Ironically when he said that I had done nothing to him but that is a story for another day. The point is that it hurt, badly.

The reason I have few friends is not because I don’t care about others, as he implied. It is just the opposite. I often feel like all I have to offer to others is pain and misery. And that is also why I have not dated in years. And now I am  disabled with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue so somehow I doubt that I would be a fun date.

I know, at least intellectually, that I am more than my illness and more than my worst qualities. But that has not reached my heart yet.

My therapist says that I remind him of a sun-burnt person who is always desperately trying to make sure no one touches her in a crowd of people.

However he is helping me to understand what went on in my family and the ironic fact that my mother actually loved me, but did not know how to show it. I will write about that in another post. The point is that hopefully I can learn to let go of the shame that I have accumulated. Shame is actually different from guilt in a very subtle way. Guilt says “I did a bad thing but I can correct it”. Shame says “I am a bad person and nothing I can do will ever change that.”

It is the shame that leads me into suicidal ideation, although I have promised myself to not go down that road again, mainly for my father’s sake. He spent so much time listening and helping me during the bad times and it would be a betrayal to him to do myself in. He is also proof that I am lovable, even when I don’t feel it myself. His love has sustained me.

I wonder how many of you identify will what I have said. Please share. 🙂

 

bizarro world

bizarro world (Photo credit: purplepix)

Despite my resolve to stick to my principles, my sister got to me again. This time she pulled out the abandonment card, “When Dad dies we will be the only close family you will have. I will always love you.”

I am not saying that she is a complete liar. I think she does love me on some level. But not enough for it to show in her actions. Love is first and foremost a verb, as I explained in my last article.

The past week has been very confusing for me to deal with in regards to my sister. She was nice to me when our dad got sick and landed in the emergency room. Fortunately he was not in serious condition and was released with a prescription. Despite the fact that this wasn’t the best of circumstances I thought this might be a good time to try to work things out with her. It ended in a disaster when her husband once again accused me of being unworthy of any love and respect. She did not respond at all.

Three days later my sister sent an e-mail to our dad and I saying in a cheerful tone with a smiley face next to her name that a cousin wanted to get together for Easter and “who’s up for it?”

Ugh! Does she live in some bizzaro world where context doesn’t matter?

Her position is that I am being unfair to her because she has made an effort to be “nice.” She wants to put everything behind us and can’t understand why I can’t do that either.

She does not get it that I can’t do that because this is a pattern of abusive behavior that goes back years and years. We have tried sweeping it under the rug and it hasn’t worked.

The other problem with her rational is that it is very condescending. She still believes that everything that happened was my fault but has decided not to let that get in the way of our “relationship.”

Gee thanks, sis, that makes me feel a WHOLE lot better!

This is just another attempt to get out of her responsibilities towards me and our relationship.

I sent her an e-mail telling her that I would not come to any get-together unless she promised to treat me with the same respect and dignity that she would treat any guest in her house. She accused me of trying to bring up “that old argument” and banned me from coming.

It was a simple yes or no question. If she really wanted me in her life she would agree to these terms. I ask nothing more from her than she asks from me, which is RESPECT.

Again she framed it in a very insulting way, “My husband and I feel that since you are so upset that you are not ready to participate in a family get-together. Maybe some time in the future we can reconsider our position.”

WHAT???

I told her that I want no further invitations for family get-togethers and that I don’t want any contact unless it involves a family emergency, such as our Dad becoming ill.

That is what prompted the heart-rending appeal that I mentioned at the top of my post.

I gave her one last chance by telling her that it was not my desire to cut them off, but that I had no choice because of their behavior towards me. I said that if she was willing to treat me with the same respect she expects from me, and is willing to talk through our misunderstandings instead of assuming that I have done something to her on purpose and getting mad at me for it, then I could reconsider. I told that I am not asking for anything more than what she would do with a friend, which is to listen to my side of the story and work through conflicts in a mature manner.

I have had no response from her. So I guess I have my answer. She really does not want a relationship with me at all.

It is time for me to leave this behind and move forward. I am still sad about this but I am working on letting this go. I wish things were different, but as my dad always says, “Things are as they are.”

Read more about abusive behavior in my blog post Characteristics of Emotional Abusers.

Confronting My Family

because we can

because we can (Photo credit: ben matthews :::)

Several months ago I had a big blow-up with my sister and brother-in-law. Accusations ran fast and furious and I was left wondering exactly what I had done wrong. I had innocently triggered a lot of old feelings from them. I was accused of being viciously insensitive and abusive.

They were partly right. I have done and said a lot of wrong things when in the middle of depressive episodes. I accept responsibility for that. However I have controlled my reactions for some time. So when they attacked me I was befuddled and hurt. In their eyes I have always been abusive. This is patently untrue. It hurt me to realize that even the good times we had when I was well didn’t count. And that my learning to control my reactions towards them in recent years didn’t count either.

The problem was that they were mistaking my behavior from my illness for who I really am. And they should know better.

Anyway I tried reasoning with my sister but eventually lost my patience because she was more interested in beating me up with all the things I had done wrong in the past. I lashed back in a rather mean way telling her that she needed to deal with the problems in her own life rather than focus on me. Specifically dealing with her husband’s abusive behavior towards my dad and myself.

I wouldn’t have said anything except for the fact that he had come down on me so hard and let me know that he considered me a completely worthless piece of trash. The irony is that everything he was accusing me of was more true of him than of me. He boasted about what a loving, caring person he was and how much he does for others while accusing me of being completely unable to care about or do anything nice for anyone in my entire life (despite the fact that I gave him my low-mileage car, gratis).

The truth is that he is an insensitive jerk who is taking financial advantage of my father.

Unfortunately my sister completely supported his attack on me. So basically I lashed back saying that he needed to stop using our dad as a piggy-bank and look for a job which he has refused to do for two years.

My sister didn’t talk to me for six weeks. I felt awful about that but I felt like I really needed to be firm about it and not back down. Eventually she called and although she did not apologize to me we did our usual thing of sweeping things under the rug and not talking about it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am glad she is back in my life and I do care about her. But it is the uncomfortable feeling that since these things have not been talked about and could erupt again at any time that bothers me.

Frankly I am tired of this. I am tired of pretending that things are ok when they are not. I go on believing that we are getting along great and that they have forgiven me for the past until, guess what? They’re baaack!

I am tired of them playing on my guilt about the past. And I am tired of them pretending that they haven’t contributed to some of the problems in our relationship.  Because they have been hurtful and abusive also.

For instance my brother-in-laws’ hatred of me stems from the fact that he thinks I never liked him. Apparently I did something when we first met but I don’t remember it. I honestly don’t. My sister told me that I started crying and that he felt that I blamed him for that. Interestingly enough, she herself doesn’t remember anything happening either. I had gone years not knowing that he felt that way until she told me that is why he doesn’t like me. So here I was with my damn bipolar guilt thinking I probably did do something so I actually went to him and pretended that I remembered what happened and apologized.

Maybe I did cry (I mean that goes with bipolar right?) but I certainly do not remember hating him at first sight. I didn’t even know him, I thought he was pleasant and was glad that he was making my sister happy. Honestly though, I don’t remember being depressed that day so I guess it will always be a puzzle to me.

The truth is over the years I have observed things about him that have disturbed me and I have actually gone out of my way to be nice and not say anything and to be supportive. For instance that fact that he gets fired from jobs (usually because he won’t do what the boss asks him to do) and expects my dad to bail him out. And it has gotten worse to the point where he literally expects my elderly dad to support his entire family indefinitely (or at least until he gets his “big break” as a writer, which hasn’t happened yet). This behavior has gone on for about twenty years and I have said nothing.

At the same time he has cruelly persecuted me for being disabled and not working. I actually was working part-time for a while and even that wasn’t good enough for him. I actually had one of his friends verbally attack me at a family function because she thought I was faking my problems. I have never said anything to him about how much his attitude has hurt me. He would probably just tell me to get off my pity-pot.

What can you expect from a man who criticises my eighty-four year old father for not walking fast enough?

But, you see, I am the problem. I am abusive, not him. Because of that whole “bipolar thing”, you know.

I asked him to trim my bushes in my yard once and only once. Paid him a handsome $100 for it, too. He trimmed the sides of my very overgrown bushes and then left. I called him telling him that he had done a good job and asked when he was coming back to finish since he had not trimmed the tops of the bushes. He got mad and hung up. You see I had not told him specifically to trim the tops of the bushes so he felt no obligation to do it, despite the fact that they were very overgrown. I was out of $100 (another nice thing I had done for him that he won’t acknowledge) and had to hire someone else to finish the job.

He of course told my sister about how I didn’t appreciate what he had done for me and how “mean” I was.

Cry me a river, I am sick of this sh**.

I am at the point where I think I need to set some firm boundaries with him and my sister both. I am not sure how to do this but I know that both of them have been using my guilt about my past behavior as an excuse to treat me badly. I can’t let that go on, They accuse me of not having respect for them but they do not believe that I deserve the same right.

It ends now.