The Baggage Carousel & Estrangement

Growing up with a parent who likely has a Personality Disorder and the surrounding enablers brings to mind the ever popular baggage metaphor.  Only you’re at the  baggage claim area.  The figurative baggage keeps spinning around, you’re trying to claim your own baggage and someone’s likely to get hurt.  All because the parent with the PD refuses to deal with his or her own baggage.  And it keeps spinning around and around and around and around and around.  We can stand by it and get dizzy  or we can get our own baggage and leave the claims area.  And as former scapegoats, we need to learn how to check the luggage tags to see which baggage is ours to claim and which isn’t.  Or use the colorful tags, distinctive bags which allow people to claim their own quickly.   Too often, we end up carrying other people’s baggage and it’s a tough habit to break.

We can’t force the parent with the PD  to claim his or her baggage, we can only claim our own and get away from the carousel.  Though I think just like they do for security purposes, we should be able to confiscate & destroy unattended baggage! 🙂   And there’s probably a lost baggage metaphor in there,  just not sure where!  

 I was thinking about this at the beginning of what was a rough week emotionally.   My father’s birthday was recently.  He passed away a couple of decades ago, so the grief is more along the lines of a mild sadness than anything intense as it was in the first few years after he died.  Until the estrangement, my brother and I checked in on each other.  There was just something about having a sibling who understood implicitly and felt the same way.  Thanks to the estrangement, I no longer have that, which is a form of grief in and of itself.

I posted some photos on Facebook for my stepmom and some of my dad’s cousins who had posted about him.  We made it through the day, but just like holidays, birthdays and other milestones, it underscored I no longer have my brother in my life and it hurt. 

In fact, this second round of milestones (the estrangement will be 2 years in May) hurt even worst than the first.   I’m hoping it will get better during the 3rd round.  The first round wasn’t as painful, but I think that had to do with the following:

  • relief that I wasn’t going to have to deal with my mother’s toxic crap any more.  Believe me, that’s still a silver lining of all of this!
  • shock and numbness at the estrangement with my brother.  I hadn’t anticipated it and didn’t see it coming.  In fact, up until the last week of the several weeks worth of drama which preceded the estrangement, I’d been the people pleaser trying to get along and appease everyone.    Another silver lining is I finally realized how futile that was and that I’m allowed to have my own feelings about things and I’m entitled to be treated with respect and courtesy.   
  • I think I still had hopes that one of those anniversaries or occasions or milestones would be the one which would lead to reconciliation.  I was particularly hopeful when my niece was born that it would be the occasion which sparked a reconciliation.  It wasn’t. She will be one next month.  I will miss her first birthday, just as I missed her first Christmas.

Back in November, there was a call with baby sounds in the background.  I don’t know if my niece accidentally got hold of the phone and dialed (a little advanced for a baby! 🙂 ) or if it was in someone’s pocket or bag.   But I could hear her on the voice mail.   I sent both a message/text to my brother saying I got a garbled voice mail from his number, did he mean to call?  No reply. 

That’s what I think makes this 2nd round more difficult.  There’s more of a finality to the estrangement.  The reality that a nearly 4 decade old sibling relationship has been utterly destroyed and devastated is really beginning to sink in and I’m having a tough time accepting it.  

Between both parents working outside of the home for a good chunk of time and my parents split, I was responsible for watching my brother after school from the age of 11.  After my parents split when I was 12, I would often watch him in the evenings too so my mother could go out with her friends or with her boyfriend.   While this may have caused some resentment on BOTH of our parts, we did try to be there for each other when things got bad.  And we would both remember things one or both parents tried to deny.  It always made me feel less “crazy” to know I had a “witness.”

Over the years, my brother and I had occasional disagreements, but we were always able to apologize to each other and work it out. 

I don’t know what happened differently this time.  My sister in law seemed to bond well with my mom.  I never brought up our differences while she was dating my brother or during the engagement because I didn’t want to drag her into the middle of the issues with myself and my mother.  And I wanted them to develop their own relationship.  The daughter/mother in law relationship can be tough sometimes under good circumstances.  Since I know my mother can behave quite nicely with people she wants to impress or likes,  I was hoping since my mother favors my brother, she’d favor his wife too and they’d have an easier time.  She’d lost her own mother, so I think she looks at my mother as a mother figure.  I only mentioned some of the problems when the “tension” issue came up during the wedding and even then I waited until after they returned from their honeymoon so as not to cause drama on their big day or cast a pall over their honeymoon.    Or maybe my brother felt indebted to my mother because she and my stepfather helped him post bail, pay legal fees, etc. when he was arrested and eventually sentenced to prison for a couple of years.   I don’t know.   

I’m curious as to whether or not my mother’s found another scapegoat.  People with Personality Disorders will often find another one when a scapegoat leaves.  I just hope it’s not my niece.   I think she may have pulled some bad behavior with my SIL.  She spent my niece’s first Christmas traveling rather than with them.  I’m not sure if that was her idea or if my brother & SIL set some boundaries.   

That’s what’s really hard about for me about having been raised by a mother who likely has a Personality Disorder.  She wasn’t content that our relationship was ruined by the verbal abuse, the screaming, the raging.  She had to ensure my relationships with my sister-in-law and brother were ruined too.  They’re grown adults, so obviously they share some responsibility, but I doubt we’d be estranged were it not for my mother’s smear tactics.

My brother used to be able to see through those tactics, I don’t know what’s happened.  I do know that because my mother leaves her baggage spinning on the carousel and lets it fall onto other people that a third generation will feel the effects.  And that just makes me so sad. And it also makes me angry too.   

I really had to watch my behavior this week and I still slipped up a bit.  One of the “fleas”  I experience is that I can sometimes lash out at people because I don’t recognize when I’m angry or sad.  It’s particularly a problem with anger because if I don’t recognize it, it can boil up and spill over onto innocent people.  And I really hate doing that because I know exactly how it feels to be on the receiving end.  It sucks, it feels miserable and I don’t want to make other people feel that way.  The good news is therapy and all of the self help books have helped somewhat.  It took me a lot longer during a rather trying week (work was stressful as well that week) to get there and when I did,  the intensity of it was much less than it would have been in the past.  And I recognized it fairly soon and apologized to the person in question.

It would be ideal if I didn’t react this way at all, but at least there’s some progress.   I’m going to try and learn from my reactions and react better the next stressful time.  I’m getting progressively better at this, so there is hope I can learn.

2 thoughts on “The Baggage Carousel & Estrangement

  1. So sorry that you have to deal with all of that…… It helped me to read what you wrote, just knowing that somebody else out there understands what it’s like. I am having a super bad time this Christmas because it appears to be the “final showdown at the not-ok corral” in our family. My Mom is the issue for me too and has managed to turn everyone against me in the family, minus one cousin. But I’m sure you know too, it’s hard to trust anyone when so many people have been “turned” and fall for the “nice act”. I keep hoping someone will see through it all, but I’ve been told that this will just result in further suffering- hoping that people will stop seeing me as the villain, hoping that they won’t believe the lies anymore, hoping that a reconciliation will happen with my other family members. Am feeling like an orphan and also like the star in some bad movie where everybody’s gone crazy or turned into a zombie, infected by the virus that is a VERY successful smear campaign waged against me by my Mom. I see that your post is a couple of years ago, hope that you are in a happier, healthier place now and that it doesn’t hurt so much as it did.

    1. The smear campaign, IMO, is the hardest part of having a narcissistic parent once you are an adult. Seeing people turn on you, all because of the Narcissist’s say so.

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