Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Monday, January 13, 2014

Moving On, Even When The Other Person Won't

Something much more serious than you'd be used to from me today. I have debated writing this for a good long while. There are members of my extended family who know of this blog (fear not, you are not the annoying relatives in question) or of the photoblog, and so this post might at some point fall under the eyes of those two individuals this is about. So be it. I'm beyond caring what they think anymore.

Toxic people come into our lives from time to time. If we're lucky, they're nothing more than a passing unpleasantness, easily forgotten. If we're not... they're someone with a long presence in our lives. Such has been the case for me.

Last year was a very difficult year for me. The death of my mother was a hard loss, something that still weighs heavily on me. It came after a long, long period of personal turmoil I have been working through, of living with depression.

This was triggered by my sisters, but built up over years. To keep the peace in my family, I kept a great deal to myself, held back things I would have liked to have said, about their behaviour, about the men in their lives. Out of consideration for their own issues, and out of respect for my parents, I chose to keep that to myself. And all of those things just kept building up inside me, eating away inside, doing incredible damage to me.

And it was all for nothing. 

They threw that all in my face by treating my parents horribly some years ago, hijacking their move to a retirement home, yelling and screaming at them, making unfounded accusations, treating them like children. And they never apologized for it. When I found out about it, all of that negative stuff that I'd held inside for years came pouring out. I came apart at the seams. I knew it was coming for a long while- I knew that I was hurting, but I chose not to say enough. So when it all came breaking apart, it hit hard. The thing about hitting bottom is that's what it takes to seek help. It's taken time and a good therapist to work through these things, and it's an ongoing process, but it has helped. I understand both of my sisters now- probably more than they understand themselves. It doesn't excuse what they have done, but I understand what drives both of them. My parents, to their credit, did not push me to make peace. They accepted that I had to take care of my own well being, particularly given that neither of my sisters were making the slightest effort to make amends to them, let alone change the way they deal with the world. 

Through therapy, I've come to understand that their behaviour towards me constitutes emotional abuse. One of the more profound questions my therapist asked at one point was "did I feel loved by them?" The answer was no. More like I was an inconvenience. They certainly have never shown any interest in my life. And the more I spoke of it, the more I admitted that even before I understood the meaning of the word, the feeling I got was that they were holding me in contempt. Another line of questioning was to put into words the way their words feel to me. I remarked that my elder sister is two faced: very civil face to face, but vicious when the other person's back is turned. Her words are like a dagger, stabbing deep. The younger sister's words are like a sledgehammer, bludgeoning over and over again. Both of them are toxic to me.

When my mother died, I dreaded going to the funeral. Not just because this was my mother's funeral- that was reason enough, of course. It would be the first time since all of this happened that I had seen either sister. In the funeral home and at the funeral the next day, I was decidedly cold to both of them. I needed to be. The younger of the two cornered me after the funeral. She said things that made me think at the time she was actually making an effort. I asked her, for her own sake and that of her son, to get help for her own issues, to seek out counselling or therapy. To this day, I don't think she has. Her behaviour since then, relayed to me through other relatives, suggests that she continues to do things as always, with a huge chip on her shoulder and a grudge against the world.

In November, my father had a medical issue come up- something that was resolved quickly enough. I was in touch with my brother and one of my sisters-in-law, keeping me up to date. My elder sister, however, emailed me about it as well, from her home across the country. The entire tone of her message was a "what's your problem" kind of manner. She called me out on the fact that I had been cold to her at the time of the funeral. I wonder if it has ever occurred to her that there were valid reasons for that. A couple of years ago an email from her would have had me in a foul mood all day. This time, however, I simply replied back in as civil a way as possible that I have been going through a lot of issues and problems, and that part of that had to do with my own decisions, and part with both of them, and the men in their lives. It might well be the last formal contact I have with her; I have not heard a word back from her since. I don't expect to.

Over the Christmas holidays, I was willing to make at least an effort with the younger sister, who lives in southern Ontario not far from my father. I would have at least tried to be civil, for Dad's sake. My father spoke to her on the phone, and she made it quite clear in a final way: I was not welcome in her home. 

So be it. She can't say I wouldn't have made an effort... but she's the one who blew up the bridge. My dad was worried about my reaction... but I'm okay with it. If she wants to wallow in her own rage for the rest of her life, she's welcome to it. I don't need that in my life. What she doesn't know is that was the last chance she will ever have with me. 

I'm done. I'm done with both of them. They're not my sisters anymore. They're not family. Enough's enough. You can only be hurt by someone so many times before you reach the point of no return. I very nearly destroyed myself for them, and for nothing. It is too damned exhausting. I'm in a better place now, and I will not compromise that. Ever again. 


  1. As I've told you before, I'm glad you made the decision to go into therapy and that you found someone good. I've been where you are--though my situation was never as bad as yours because I never really gave a damn what my former siblings thought of me. I haven't seen the greedy little pigs since Mom's funeral and don't give them a thought most of the time. I disposed of all photos of them.

    I'm glad you can now move on. You're better off without them.

  2. Oh, William, I am so sorry that has happened in your family. It's like a knife or acid that eats at one. I am delighted that the therapy helped and you can move on with your life. You are too intelligent to let other people's vile nature destroy your own inner core. It does happen in families, but usually it is only one member that is the antagonist, not two. Blessings.

  3. It's quite heart breaking. I was wondering how your holidays went. I get needing to be cold. In those situations, the more you try to be the bigger person, and the more they continue to be hurtful, it's just all the more painful to endure. You just can't make someone else get the help they need unfortunately. It's good to hear therapy is helpful for you. It can take such a long time to let go of things. Hopefully this year takes a better turn. I'm really fucking tired, aren't you?

  4. Only time will tell and perhaps heal....blessings to you.

  5. I'm glad that they're not weighing down your life anymore. Some people just won't take responsibility for their behavior, and of course they blame you if you decide you've had enough. I don't feel guilty for not putting up with the bullshit of my various relatives (as well as their constant indignation that I won't put up with it). I hope you don't either.

  6. @Norma: I am better off now.

    @Mari: thank you.

    @krisztina: I doubt they will ever change.

    @Eve: thank you.

    @JE: they refuse to take responsibility... and they woud turn all of this on me.

  7. I can feel the pain in this post, but I have to say that I'm very impressed and think you've made a very wise choice. I seriously am going to send this post to several family members dealing with this same thing, because we all need to hear it from time to time. Also, amen to a good counselor really helping! :) Sending you the best of wishes!

  8. I have been where you are too. Only it was my x. Role your sisters up into one that sounds like my x.
    The damage he did to me and the children are like ripples in a lake. They will go on forever.
    I wondered how you were over Christmas. But I am happy you saw you Father and didn't have to deal with the sisters.
    I am happy you made this choice early in your life. You did good !

    cheers, parsnip

  9. William, it's a shame when family isn't there for you. I think you've had a tough decision to make and it's yours to make. I hope things get better for you now.

  10. I used to be close to my family. My father and I had a good relationship. When he died, the family fell apart. I don't see any of them during the holidays--unless it's in a store. I may see my younger brother doing his job for the city. I don't stop, I don't wave--he doesn't seem to want to be the brother he used to be because of a decision I had to make after the funeral.

    I know what you must have gone through. It's hard to do what you've done. I commend you on speaking out on this, William. I wish you peace, and glad you are able to move on.

  11. I cut my brother out of my life.It had to be done for my self preservation.Of course,I'm viewed as the evil one for refusing to put up with his cr@p any longer...but I feel so much better for doing it!
    Jane x

  12. Such a shame William.. Time to start the new year with a clear view of how you'd like your life to go forward.. I just hope the problems with your sisters don't affect your relationship with your Dad, you know how much you miss your Mum it would be good to have quality time while you can with your Dad, but most of all you have to take care of your own emotions, anyone who can express themselves as well as you do William will work it out I know it..

  13. William, I'm so sorry for the ordeal you've gone through. Good for you for taking action for your well being and sanity.

    I've had a taste of toxic people myself, and well, let me use one of my favorite expressions that a movie buff like you might enjoy: It's no Picnic, William Holden.

  14. @Meradeth: thank you.

    @Parsnip: it was good to spend time with Dad.

    @Kelly: I hope so too.

    @Lorelei: it might be the same thing that happens to us when Dad goes... I get along with my brothers, but we're all scattered.

    @Jane and Chris: self preservation has been a driving motivation for me for the last couple of years.

    @Grace: I only regret that my dad's stuck in the middle with this permanent rift among his children.

    @Lynn: it certainly is no picnic, putting up with toxic people.

  15. Therapy is sometimes the only thing available to make us see the light. You don't get to choose your family, but you do have the option on whether or not you'll put yourself around them.

    Kudos to you for realizing the negative forces which almost ruined you. Now, you're better prepared to fight off the toxins. :)

  16. During our holiday trip, I didn't once open my computer but prior to leaving I did sense something was amiss on your end. I can somewhat relate as I also have two sisters from hell. Some years ago, I said, "Self, you don't have to put up with this crap." and walked away. What I had considered but rejected before turned out to be surprisingly easy. I'd finally accepted the fact that toxicity could destroy me. I wanted to live a more positive life. As your new acceptance of what can't be changed/modified solidifies, you'll feel lighter inside, eager to explore the broader world. In both Canada and the States there's such an emphasis on family as one's anchor that it's sometimes lost that family doesn't have to be one's blood relations. Family is wherever one chooses to open one's heart. Good luck, William. You're a great guy who's made the right decisions about so much. BLESSINGS!

  17. Sadly, I think a lot of families have toxic relatives. Mine is my own mom. She tore her own family apart. And my sibs and I are a product of her pathology.

    I've spent time in therapy myself. It helped. But now I want peace with God. One day she'll be old and won't be able to care for herself which leaves me in a quandary. My sibs tell me if I help her they'll have nothing to do with me. But mom did feed, clothe, and house us. Took us to the doctor when we needed it.

    Good luck. Sir Wills.

  18. I've removed toxic friends and even a family member from my life. The peace, freedom, and healing that come with it are essential to continuing life as a healthy person. It often makes us wonder why we didn't do it sooner but I think you do need to hit that rock bottom point or else there may be those temptations to go back to the toxic person when you feel healthy, and that's always a disaster. Your health is not worth sacrificing for a toxic person. You are worth it and I'm glad you did this, tough as it was!

  19. Therapy always helps. But remember, you're the one in control. You can either choose to allow toxic people to take you down. Or you can cut them out and live your life your way.

    Often the last is the only choice we can make to survive. Sounds like you've figured that out.

    You have a lot of people pulling for you!

  20. @Diane: therapy's been a proverbial godsend.

    @Kittie: thank you.

    @Shelly: at this point in her life, you might well have to step up... as long as you know your limits.

    @Padded Cell: it feels like I'm liberated.

    @Cheryl: my own survival has to come first.

  21. I'm glad you found a good therapist. That's a tough decision you had to make. I hope things get better.

  22. Above all, I'm glad you are taking care of yourself, including finding a good therapist. I have seen how my mom no longer talks to her siblings and how that decision 10+ years ago actually helped heal family dynamics. I love that last quote very much. Sending many good wishes as you start off this new chapter in 2014.

  23. Wow William. This was a personal post and I thank you for sharing it with us. These things aren't easy but I'm glad you got it all out on the blog.

    How does it feel, now that you've got it all out on your blog? Was it scary to hit the publish button, at first?

    Much congrats to all the hard work you've done. No need to have cancer in your life and I agree, the day does get brighter, when the cloud people disappear.

  24. @Auden: I hope so too.

    @LondonLulu: thank you.

    @Whisk: it feels liberating.

  25. William, This has been super helpful!

    The similarities make me feel like this is all working out at last, now that I have made the same decisions.

    Thanks a Million


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