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JaRee1993
JaRee1993, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 180
Experience:  Licensed to diagnosis and treat mental and emotional health issues of adults, adolescents and children and pastoral counseling.
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Hi. I am hoping you will be able to advise me of the best way

Customer Question

Hi. I am hoping you will be able to advise me of the best way forward with a difficult family situation. I believe my elder sister (Michelle) has Narcissistic Personality Disorder; I endured 20 years of abuse from her and two years ago I decided to cut my losses and do 'no contact'.

I received some counselling and explained the situation to my parents and my other elder sister who at the time were reasonably supportive and understanding of the fact that I didn't want to be around Michaela. That support was fleeting however and I am now regularly told that I should be 'fighting for my place in the family', not allowing Michaela to push me out and reminded of how awkward and unpleasant my decision to go 'no contact' with my sister has made life for the rest of my family. Whenever a family birthday or Christmas is approaching my parents tell me how disappointed they will be if I'm not at the special event - that I should attend, act happy and confident, as though I am unaffected by Michaela - they acknowledge this will be difficult for me but insist that if I just keep forcing myself to do it, it will eventually stop being upsetting. I have tried this approach a few times now but it's horrible. In the lead up to the events I feel terribly anxious and sick, on the day I'm able to play the part but it's horrible - Michaela keeps her distance at the events but will still glare at me when she feels no one is looking and her husband - I'm assuming in an attempt to get on her good side, will often make me focus of relentless 'jokes' where my personality and life are mercilessly picked over and held up for everyone's amusement but 'all in good fun' - if I challenge anything that is said I'm told to lighten up. While I can usually make it through these events, I end up having a melt down shortly after - sometimes breaking into tears as soon as Michaela and her husband leave. My parents / other sister see this as attention seeking instead of the stress response it is and it is always met with a patronising "you can't expect us to take sides" lecture. I know my parents and my other sister are in an impossible position and I have never asked them to take sides; I've only ever asked them to try and understand why it's difficult for me to be in Michaela's company and why I might choose to avoid events she attends. Given this constant pressure to be in Michaela's presence and the lack of understanding of my emotional fall out when I do, I'm feeling increasingly resentful of my family and am beginning to feel that they don't have my best interests at heart. It's becoming very difficult to be around them - for the past ten years I have always visited my parents on Sunday evenings and before I cut contact with Michaela our paths never crossed there - but since going no contact with MichaelaI am often arriving at my parents house on Sunday evenings to find Michaela is already there. Feeling as I do, I tend to just turn around and come home - but this upsets my parents who want to know why I don't just wait around the corner in my car until she goes home, or why I don't just go into the house with them and 'act normal' - while I understand my parents can't take sides, given they claim to understand my feelings and have even witnessed Michaela's nasty behaviour first hand, I can't help but feel offended that they expect me to wait in my car for Michaela to leave rather than assert that Sunday evening isn't a convenient time for her to visit. In addition to this, Michaela's husband also works for my Father's small business and they spend a great deal of time together - on the occasions my Sunday visit with my parents does go ahead as planned I am often met with funny or interesting stories about Michaela's husband or funny anecdotes about what Michaela's children have been doing - which I find really troubling - on one hand because I am deeply sad about not having a relationship with my neice and nephews but perhaps more so because these stories really make me feel 'on the outer' with my family. I am really starting to feel a 'just get over it' sentiment in my family which is really hurtful and with all of this, I feel like life might actually be better if I just didn't see any of them anymore. I would really appreciate your advice - are my parents right? If I just keep forcing myself to endure the company of my sister and her husband, will I eventually reach a point where it's just not upsetting anymore? Or would it be more healthy to follow my instincts and just avoid seeing my family from here on in?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  JaRee1993 replied 1 year ago.

JaRee1993 :

Hello, My name is Ja`Ree and I am a mental health counselor. It truly does sound as if you are in a lot of emotional pain from all of this and as though your family does not understand. It also sounds as though you have tried to be understanding of the rest of your family's feelings and state your needs and feelings in a respectful manner. However, it does not sound as though the family wants to try to understand, instead they just want it all to go away.

JaRee1993 :

it is understandable that your parents would like for all their children to get along, however, this is not always possible. I would like to talk with you more about this and how you might be able to do what is best for you and be comfortable with that. I would like to ask you a couple of questions to enable me to give you the best answer if you don't mind. Are you married? Do you have any family members that really understand where you are coming from with this relationship with your sister? Do you have friends who you can count on to be supportive of you and your feelings? Family relationship issues are often the most painful to deal with because of the feelings of needing to belong, and fear of rejection from the people we should be able to depend on for their love and acceptance more than anywhere else. If you would like to talk with me about this more please reply to my message and I will respond as soon as I see your reply. Thank you for contacting Just Answer. Ja`Ree

Customer:

Hi Ja `Ree,

Thank you for your reply. To answer your questions I am not married but I do have a very loving and supportive partner of four years whom I live with, he is really the only person I confide in about serious / personal things. I don't really have any family members that understand where I am coming from with this relationship with my sister; my other sister has been quite strange about it. Initially she told me she would support me and I could talk to her, but on the few occasions I tried to she would shut me down with a "I'm not taking sides" lecture, and then make a point of telling me how hurt Michaela is about it all - which makes me feel like Michaela has been allowed to speak freely about our relationship, but I have not. I think that's part of why this has been so difficult - everyone acknowledges that Michaela's behaviour has often been terrible, they have all acknowledged that she regularly tells quite outrageous lies and is very manipulative, but because it was me that severed ties with her I seem to be seen as the trouble maker in some ways. My parents claim to understand the issues but it's becoming evident that they don't. I do have friends but not close enough to speak to about this kind of situation. You are definitely right about family issues being the most painful! Growing up I always felt very loved by my parents and always thought of them as so selfless - working so hard and always putting the needs of their children first, so I was quite surprised to get some of the responses I have from them - initially they were supportive of me not seeing my sister, but as time passed they grew more and more insistent that I was 'letting her win' by staying away and that I needed to face my fears instead of running from them. I can understand their point, but I don't really see it as running away from my fears, but rather avoiding a situation I know will be completely uncomfortable and upsetting for me.

JaRee1993 :

hello

JaRee1993 :

I am reading you reply. will be rigt with you

JaRee1993 :

You are absolutely right about your chose to not be a part of her life. It is not healthy to let people who want to destroy us stay in our life. It would be different if she had apologized and behaved differently now. However, to put yourself where she can do and say things that only wound you more is no different than letting someone in your life that would;d physically abuse you. Does that make sense?

JaRee1993 :

It does not sound as though you are going to be able to change how your parents and other sister are going to address the issue. Therefore, what needs to happen is for you to find the best way to deal with the situation in a manner that brings you as little pain as possible. This is not going to be easy and will certainly be painful, however it sounds as though you cannot continue to live with things the way they are.

JaRee1993 :

I know you say you have been in counseling before, did it help? In situations like this it sometimes takes extended counseling on a regular basis to enable a person to develop the skills and knowledge needed to heal from the emotional wounds, let go of the past so they are no longer a victim to the one who is hurting them, set boundaries with the people who are hurting them and not trying to be supportive with them, and develop a relationship with these people that is based on respect and boundaries. It also takes time to learn to allow friends and other loved ones to become our family and give us the love and support we need enabling us to maintain the kind of relationship with our biological family that does not bring us emotional harm.

JaRee1993 :

This is a long a painful process, however, you deserve the love and support you need and do not deserve to be disrespected by people making you feel you are in the wrong. Do you think you would be willing to try to find a counselor that you can connect with enough to allow them to give you the support and encouragement you need while he/she works with you on skill development like self esteem, assertiveness, Cognitive Behavior Therapy to enable you to build the kind of life you deserve? I will wait for your reply and will respond as soon as I read your reply. I will be online until 12:45 PM EST. I will then be back online around 6:00 PM EST.

Customer:

Hi Ja`Ree,

Sorry to miss you - I am in Australia so we've got quite a time difference on our hands. Counselling did help for a while; my counsellor directed me to a number of resources to I used to educate myself about narcissism and I was able to 'let go' of feeling responsible for my troubled relationship with my sister and better understand how she was able to be so abusive. My counsellor terminated the counselling after about 6 weeks - I was feeling better and my panic attacks had stopped, my parents were being very supportive at the time and there was no pressure to 'fight for my place in the family' then so it felt like there was nothing more to talk about. Unfortunately things have obviously changed but I can't afford to go back to counselling right now, here it can cost $100 - $300 per hour and I am currently in between jobs. I have been doing a lot of internet research in the mean time to find some practical strategies for navigating this difficult situation until I do find another job and can return to counselling, but I haven't found any resources that seem specific to this sort of situation. I have previously tried telling my parents that I need a break from the family to clear my head, but they wouldn't accept this - my Mother had an angry outburst (I think she feels guilty for not protecting me from my sister) and I ended up with no break and feeling guilty for even suggesting it, so I'm at a real loss for what to do next.

JaRee1993 :

Good morning, While you are in between jobs I will do some research over the next couple of days to see if I can find some resources and material that may help you with the situation. May I ask why your angry outburst kept you from taking the break you needed? Was it because you were afraid they would close you out of the family completely? What do you think of writing letters to each person involved (not to send) just to help you release all of the feelings. I often have my client's start with the letters to get the feelings out until they feel they are able to deal with the situation in an assertive manner. Another recommendation I make to my client's is to journal. When we write more feelings come out than when we talk. Often my client's are surprised by their writings because they write about feelings they do not even know that have. How do you feel about the writing while I look for some resources for you? I will be on this evening from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM EST and will look for your reply. I will respond as soon as I see your reply. If you are able to be online at that time (I understand the time difference) maybe we could chat. Thank you for contacting Just Answer. Ja`Ree

Customer:

Hi Ja`Ree - please understand it wasn't 'my' angry outburst - it was my Mother's - on telling her I needed a break from the family she became quite aggressive and told me I was being selfish.

JaRee1993 :

I knew it was your mother's angry outburst. My question to you is why did her angry outburst cause you to follow through with doing what you felt was best for you? Were you afraid that she would tell you that if you took the break you couldn't come back? I am looking for some sources for you. Will post again later and maybe if you are on we can chat. Ja`Ree

Customer:

That's a good question. I guess I am just fearful of upsetting my parents - my Mum especially as she's had a very hard life. She was sexually abused as a child, a victim of domestic violence in her first marriage and her relationship with my Mother in law was not unlike the relationship I have with my sister. She was always very over protective and 'clingy' with me and if - I guess I felt I'd be hurting her if I took the break and it might be difficult to 'come back from'

JaRee1993 :

I can understand that. I really feel that you need some regular sessions with a counselor in person to help you with developing the skills you need to set boundaries without feeling guilty. However, I understand that this is not possible at this time. Therefore, I wonder if you would consider reading a book titled The Assertive Woman by Stanlee Phelps and Nancy Austin ( you can purchase it on Amazon. com) and journal your feelings, as well as write a letter to your mom. I do not want you to mail the letter, just write it and hang on to it until yo finish the book. If you will do this then I would like to check back in with you in two weeks to see where you are with things. Until you are able to find employment and get the personal help you need do you think you can do this? If so then please complete rating survey so that I can be paid and provide the best service I can to our customers. Thank you for contacting Just Answer. Ja`Ree

Customer:

Thanks for those recommendations Ja`Ree, I can definitely move forward with the journaling, letter writing and reading the book you mentioned. Thank you for your help.

JaRee1993, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 180
Experience: Licensed to diagnosis and treat mental and emotional health issues of adults, adolescents and children and pastoral counseling.
JaRee1993 and 2 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  JaRee1993 replied 1 year ago.
I t was truly my pleasure. I will be in touch in a couple of weeks. Ja`Ree

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