Can't forget what sibling went though as a kid, overly responsible

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bets

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I have three younger brothers who trauma bonded with our abuser, who was our father. Our father targeted me the most and made me the scapegoat to an extreme extent.  After he died, my brothers  distanced themselves from me and have continued to do so. Actually, they never seem to care much about me, even though I showered them with affection and tried to be close.

The problem is, I have never been able to accept their indifference. I keep trying to reach out. They have done unkind things to be, terrible things that denied my abuse, but I kept trying. I make excuses for them.

They aren't rude or abusive (usually), just indifferent and kinda condescending.

It's been many years of this, and I am finally giving up.  I literally feel the relationships are making me sick.  I feel the best thing to do would be to block them all. Maybe that seems extreme, but I get very stressed by even the limited contact we have. For example, I dread my birthday for months because that's the only time they reach out.

I blocked two of them and feel much, much better!

I am having a hard time blocking the third. Our relationship is complicated. He was horribly abused by my father and as a result, has had a particularly hard time in life. I was mean to him as a kid, and feel a lot of guilt, although I apologized years ago and tried to make amends.

But as an adult, he has been very unkind to me, and I feel the need to leave the relationship. I tried to do so, and he suddenly said he wanted to have a relationship but we had to "let bygones be bygones." By that, he means he won't talk about the mean things he's done to me, he just wants to have superficial talk in the present. This makes the relationship a very hard and painful experience for me, because the things he did were a denial of my past.

Yet I remember him as a sweet boy who was suffered terribly and cannot seem to cut him off. But other times, my anger at his adult behavior keeps me up at night. When I try to block him, I become racked with guilt. I can't seem to find the right way to end the relationship so that it won't be my fault if he dies. I am haunted by the fear that he'll commit suicide and it will be my fault. I don't know how I became responsible for his life, but I suspect my mother had a large role in this.

Has anyone ever struggled with an inability to stop viewing a sibling as an abused child, and seeing him as the unkind adult he is? How do you stop feeling sorry for them?

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DistanceNotDefense

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Re: Can't forget what sibling went though as a kid, overly responsible
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2021, 05:56:26 PM »
Hi bets - I've had a similar relationship to a sibling. They were abused the most by my F but grew up to be almost a carbon copy of him, maybe worse, in their potential for emotionally abusing and controlling people with eternal victimhood.

I felt I owed them a lot of emotional debt and they could treat me however they wanted just because they got it worse than me.

The spell broke when I went to therapy and my T said "Sibling is an adult. They are responsible for their own decisions and feelings, and making themselves happy. Not you or anyone else. They can't blame their unhappiness on anyone else but themselves no matter how abused they were."

After one last conversation where sibling twisted the knife in me one more time, because I wasn't caretaking for them anymore, it was suddenly obvious that there was never any love between us. And I could walk away from them forever, guilt free ( though the other family relationships they manipulated against me still fill me with guilt to this day, but I don't feel guilty turning my back on outright abuse and betrayal from this PD sibling in particular).

Their stuff is their stuff, my stuff is my stuff.

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bets

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Re: Can't forget what sibling went though as a kid, overly responsible
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2021, 02:44:56 PM »
Thank you so much, Distancenotdefense. I am so grateful to hear about someone who had a similar relationship with a sibling. I have often felt very alone and stupid because I felt such empathy for my siblings, when they treated me so badly. How did you get to the point that you could really believe that they were adults capable of handling their own "stuff", and not little abused children?

My brother is not abusive to me. . . unless it is emotionally abusive to completely ignore my feelings and refuse to talk about things he did that were very  hurtful (things like siding with my abusive father). He won't talk about the mean things he did to me--disappears when I try to--but wants to have a superficial relationship with me. I don't understand this.

I was routinely pretty much a doormat with my siblings, accepting whatever crumbs they'd give me. I was desperate for family! Now I have been pulling away some (I have health problems, and the stress makes things worse), and all of a sudden this brother wants to be friendly. He won't talk about the past, though, just says "Let's let bygones be bygone." Is this hoovering?

Sorry, I am still new at all of this. How did you know your sibling was PD? What sorts of things did he do/say, if you want to share?

Thank you so much for your response.

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DistanceNotDefense

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Re: Can't forget what sibling went though as a kid, overly responsible
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2021, 02:40:10 PM »
Bets - I have also felt very alone and stupid! But you are not stupid. You are more perceptive than you think picking up on this pattern that brings you harm rather than validation, connection, or support.

It's a part of yourself telling you something and wanting you to listen. It may be saying "please start putting that care into me rather than your siblings!" (Like mine was, and I started to step up and take care of that part of me). Some people never wake up to it or never heed that feeling. Or, they don't have it.

Honestly a part of me was always resisting my uPD sibling's behavior as early as I can remember, even as an infant. In my twenties we had a smooth four year long relationship that was close but very deceiving, then I was discarded. It took me about three years after the discard (during which I went to therapy) for me to process that I needed to disconnect and that I was done, and that because other family members were also under her control, I had to disconnect from them also in order to heal and get perspective.

There wasn't really a "point" where I was suddenly done. What I realized was that a part of me had been "done" all my life. I had just never listened to that part.

Whatever is telling you that there is something up that's awful with your siblings and family, that part of you is telling you all that you need to know. Listen to it! It knows better and more about your experience than anyone else you'll ask here on this forum.

Btw, emotional abuse is still abuse. Many here and who have been diagnosed CPTSD will say that emotional abuse and neglect had the worst effect on them even compared to SA or PA, and that all of these tend to go hand-in-hand.

It does sound like your brother is hoovering you, very subtly. Yeah, bygones be bygones, but how do you forgive someone and let things slide that they don't apologize for, or even acknowledge? My family was the same: I had to be invisible yet meet all their needs. He sounds like he doesn't want to be accountable for anything, and it feels coercive imho - refusing to address issues that are important to you and who you are, and what you need. At the very, very least it's a one-sided relationship, and at the most it's covert hoovering.

I still don't know for sure that my older sibling is PD because she hasn't been diagnosed, though that's only .000001% how unsure I am. But it doesn't matter: PD behavior falls on a spectrum. We all have some of it, some a lot more than others, and from what I've learned/processed it's way more about avoiding and protecting yourself from the behaviors rather than figuring out if the person is full blown PD or just a little narcissistic. (And for that matter, the majority of PDs in the world are undiagnosed because not acknowledging certain symptoms of their disorder and avoiding therapy is all part of the disorder, plus lots of therapists are hesitant to treat them).

I think my sibling is malignant narcissist and bordering on Antisocial PD. My T confirmed that she can't diagnose my sibling but said it sounds an awful lot like NPD at the very least.

She was always a very draining, controlling, demanding, and difficult/heavy person to be around, but when it dawned on me that she was very likely full blown NPD was because of her response to me not doing what she wanted and withdrawing from her control a couple years ago.

She very carefully and methodically planted lies, ideas, and smear campaigns in the minds of my other family members so I was uniformly "punished" for not taking care of (read: allowing myself to be controlled by) her any longer. Even other FOO I was very close with she successfully "flipped" on me. Worse, she seemed to take a lot of pleasure in doing it and seeing where the chips fell, exactly where they wanted: having me exiled/scapegoated from the family.

I confronted her on some of it, including some of my own personal pain I was working on in therapy from CA/N (which she had also experienced from our parents), to which she responded that my therapy was likely fake/not with a "real therapist" and that everything I remembered as a child was false, because I had always been an inherently defective child and that was the real problem (and the specific example she brought up was because she couldn't control me as an infant, was why I was a family problem).

I was also majorly ill/injured various times as a child, and she made a point to describe these times as "a huge burden on the family." Oh yeah, she also called me and spouse "mean people" for calling out her racism.

All this culminated in realizing there had never been any love and I was done.

But I do hope she's happy. Because she got precisely what she wanted - but instead of it making me miserable like she'd hoped, I'm feeling pretty damn liberated if you ask me.

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bets

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Re: Can't forget what sibling went though as a kid, overly responsible
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2021, 01:10:26 AM »
DND, I owe you a great debt. Your words are so wise and helped me enormously. After reading your post, I was able to set some boundaries, and I feel so safe now. These boundaries were long, long, long overdue!

It was so validating to hear it was "hoovering." It was so validating to hear that my needs could be important in a relationship, and what he wanted (a one-side relationship) was unhealthy and (for me) impossible. Somehow, I was also able to let go of the guilt that held me to this dysfunctional relationship. I'm still sad, of course, but I'm also free of a great painful weight.

So thank you. I hope I can pay it forward by helping someone else on their board.

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DistanceNotDefense

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Re: Can't forget what sibling went though as a kid, overly responsible
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2021, 06:13:38 PM »
Nothing owed bets. Know that my just being able to listen and share my experience is a huge help to me also, it is a very equal exchange.

Good luck!!!!

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FoggedFrog

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Re: Can't forget what sibling went though as a kid, overly responsible
« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2021, 11:39:11 AM »
Hi bets. I believe you are doing the right thing. Maybe it is helpful to think how it is not just the right thing for you, but maybe it is the right thing for all your siblings too (even the 3rd sibling). Perhaps you are simply the bravest one to do what needs to be done for everyone all around to have a more positive life going forward. Family is so complicated. I'm sure many of us relate to being in a family that is just....dysfunctional. Which more often then not are repeating cycles of trauma. Everyone is a perpetrator, everyone is a victim. Lots of gray areas to navigate when thinking back on childhood and it is not easy. I think you are being brave and are doing what must be done for everyone's happiness. Getting through this darkness now, I believe you will soon see much light. Good luck to you.

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Call Me Cordelia

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Re: Can't forget what sibling went though as a kid, overly responsible
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2021, 12:07:33 PM »
I am late to the discussion, but I am another who was overly responsible for my siblings. In my case it was directly put on me by my parents. I have two younger siblings. One closer in age I was tasked to “pave the way” for through school. If I was less than perfect or had social difficulties I was shamed for making things more difficult for my sib. Sib grew to resent any way I was “embarrassing” by being myself, or not living up to the impossible image of perfectly poised middle school girl (hah!), and then it was put upon HER to do “damage control” for her awkward big sister, lest my humanness make things difficult for HER.

The youngest one though I feel more closely aligns with your experience with your brother. I was her “second mother” in my mom’s words. I experienced what I now believe was Munchausen’s by proxy. I was determined to go to college and escape, and lo and behold had amazingly improved health. Once I escaped, youngest sib was the next victim. She did have it worse than me I believe, and excused a great deal of terrible behavior from her out of guilt for “abandoning” her. She also had some scary self-harm that my parents refused to acknowledge in any way that actually could help her. Just heaped shame on her.

I finally had to let the relationship go after going NC with my parents, even though she was still a rather young adult. She was horribly enmeshed with my parents, but still called them abusive. Our relationship at that point was very distant. Someone on here referred to it as the “sibling concierge service.” Sounds about right. I heard from her when she wanted something. When I blew the whistle on the abuse, she explicitly wanted me to rescue her: Give her a place to live, claim her as a dependent on my health insurance, and drive her a total of over an hour for each shift to her part time job. When I said no to that, she had no further use for me and jumped right back to fawning over mother.

For me what gave me the clarity to not rescue her was the instability it would introduce for my own children. Because I thought about doing it, I really really thought about it. I had a priority that was higher than her, a genuine obligation to meet. I now think my obligation to my own self would have been objectively sufficient not to essentially adopt a young adult functional child with severe trauma that was also triggering to me, but at the time I didn’t have a clue about taking care of myself for my own sake. I still do feel sorry for her, truth be told. But feeling sorry for her has just become part of the big picture of grief, and no longer a source of FOG. I couldn’t rescue her without causing further harm. Since it wasn’t possible, and I didn’t cause the situation for her, I can’t reasonably hold myself responsible. It helped me to externalize the situation. Pretend I was an outsider, or Dear Abby. And then stick to my logical conclusions, because I had proved to myself those foggy feelings were not a reflection of truth.

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ArmadilloKate

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Re: Can't forget what sibling went though as a kid, overly responsible
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2021, 02:55:16 AM »
Also late to the thread here, Bets. I've had to manage a lot of fear in my own life about causing someone to commit suicide. It's taken a lot of work for me to see what my T has been trying to show me. Suicide is a choice someone makes. We cannot cause someone to make that choice. That is their choice. Setting boundaries with your brother does not make you responsible for any poor choice he makes. It is a very powerful fear though and i just wanted to offer some hugs from someone who relates to what you are going through.

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bets

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Re: Can't forget what sibling went though as a kid, overly responsible
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2021, 01:49:19 AM »
I'm sorry for the delay in responding but the subject is so painful to me. I did want to let you all know how much your words have helped me. They are like salve on a wound.

FoggedFrog, thanks. It is painful for me to remember the time (as a young teen) when I was cruel to my brother and copied our father. It has taken me most of my life to forgive myself for that. I did get a chance to apologize again to my brother again and this has allowed me to let him go. At least he knows I am sorry. Since that time (about age 16) I have tried really hard to break my family's generational cycle of abuse. I know I succeeded with my children, at least. I don't think I"m the bravest of the four of us, perhaps just the luckiest.

Cordelia, Your relationship with your younger sister sounds so much like my relationship with my brothers. I am glad you had the courage to say No to her requests, but I really understand the guilt over saying No. Isn't it funny how we can draw boundaries when our children are involved, boundaries that we couldn't draw for ourselves? I had never heard the term sibling concierge service, it is very useful. In my case, my brothers rarely asked me to do things for them, I just offered and offered because I felt they had no real parents. Well, that's not entirely true. One brother did demand a lot of academic help in college, and another (I suspect) wants to renew contact for self-serving reasons. But for the most part, I offered and they accepted but didn't really care about me otherwise. Each time I start to doubt myself, though, I will try to remember what you said about logical conclusions, because it's true.

Kate, I did not know that anyone else lived in fear of another's suicide, and felt an irrational sense of responsibility over it. Thank you for helping me feel less alone. I know that people are responsible for their own choice, but I alway struggled with the idea that no one ever has any responsibility for another's suicidal acts. What if you had done something terrible to them? Wouldn't a drunk driver, say, who caused a child's death, be responsible for the mother's depression? I still haven't figured this out yet, but I guess the answer is still no. I guess we are only responsible for our own lives. Thank you for helping me as I release my responsibility for my brother's life.