Holidays, Hurricane Hoover & No Contact

One of my friends posted this and I think it’s really helpful/useful for all of us dealing with No Contact and how some family members try to use the holidays to waltz on in, with no change in their behavior which led to No Contact:

Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Put Up the Christmas Tree

This really hit home for me. My mother had already tried to contact me last holiday season. And more recently, after the area I live in was hard hit by Sandy (I’m ok, just lost power for nearly a week), she tried a hurricane hoover, where she sent me an email saying she hoped I was safe and was thinking of me. On the surface, this seems sweet and concerned. But this is a woman who chose to cut me off for both of our estrangements. I didn’t choose to cut her off. After three and a half years, she thinks she has the right to contact me with no acknowledgement or apology for what she’s done. She, in fact, tried to get other relatives and her friends to turn against me by lying to them that I’d cut her off! Plus, we both still speak to a mutual relative so she knew I was safe, there was no need to contact me. I had no reply to the December 2011 email and I decided to wait to make a decision on the hurricane hoover.

This part of the Luke Ministries blog entry resonates for me (bold added by me for emphasis):

Intrusive as always, abusers, control-freaks and narcissists have a way of FORCING us to think about them and deal with them when that’s the last thing we want to do. They force themselves on us when we least expect it, when our guard is down, or when they know we will be distracted or busy with other things, like holiday preparations. Knowing that we are happy or excitedly anticipating a joyful event is their invitation to ruin as much of it as they can.We feel our joy slipping away as the black cloud of remembering them and what they’ve done to us settles over our heads.

When we finally get to the place in our healing where we have moved on, and are able to forget about them at last, they pop up again. Because, although we have managed to forget about them- and, let’s face it- we are probably relieved, and even GLAD, that they are gone– they haven’t forgotten about US! And for me, this is where the “creep factor” comes in. I find it weird and disturbing to be the focus of someone I no longer think about, who may be planning ways to re-establish contact I’m no longer interested in. Because they have proven themselves to be wicked, conniving, underhanded, treacherous, dishonest liars, I don’t trust my ex-relatives or their motives, so instead of welcoming the contact, I find myself wondering what they’re up to now and what they really want.

That’s precisely it.  We work long and hard to heal from the abuse and they bring it all back with their unwanted contact.  Ironically, I’ve been accused of throwing the past at my mother.  But she was the one bringing it up by having meltdowns/rages which reminded me of the past.

And it’s not just the joyous, happy moments.  My mother probably thought I’d be vulnerable to her because I’d just been through a hurricane and its aftermath.  Even the language she used in the email was passive-aggressively insulting:

Hope you are safe and dry and have power and food.  Thinking of you

My mother full well knows that I live up towards the top of a very large series of hills.  She could easily check the evacuation zone link with my address and see that I’m not in any evacuation zone.  There are a series of three, Zone A, which was ordered to be evacuated and where most of the deaths and damage were, Zone B and Zone C.  Where I live is so high up, it’s not even in an evacuation zone.  So the only way I could be wet and unsafe is if I wasn’t smart enough to stay inside.  Though I suppose, a tree could fall on my home, we were lucky that it didn’t happen to us.  And food, like I’m not going to have food in the house?  The storm first appeared on my radar about Wednesday or Thursday the week before.  By Friday, I knew I was going to have to prepare.  I had a family gathering Saturday and I didn’t want to deal with long lines Sunday.  So I got gas, refilled prescriptions, bought water and re-stocked the batteries and non-perishable foods which had been used since I prepared for Irene.  I’m a responsible grown adult and I’ve been teased, even as a kid, for being neurotically over-prepared.  Which came in handy with this storm.  I know to stay inside and to prepare with food, flashlights and batteries ahead of time.

Back to the blog entry:

Denise and I have had this peculiar, surprise pre-holiday “reunion” attempted on us numerous times, and so have many of our sisters. Some of us had been disowned, snubbed, and not spoken to all year long- or for many years. Some of us were screamed at, called names, and had doors slammed in our faces or phones slammed in our ears for trying to explain to our abusers how hurtful their behavior was and politely requesting some changes. Some of us have had our abusers badmouth us both within and outside of the family, slandering us, lying about us, blaming us for the broken relationship, ruining our reputations, and instigating others to criticize or ostracize us as well. We had done all we could do to make it work out, and many of us were hurt, or even devastated, when it didn’t. Our family member made it abundantly clear that she never wanted to see us or speak to us again. And that was how it ended….or so we thought.

Then, out of the clear blue, when we’ve finally calmed down and started enjoying our freedom, just as we’re gazing at the lovely autumn foliage with a nice, steaming cup of tea, the envelope with the vaguely familiar handwriting appears in our mailbox, or our caller-ID shows a phone number that we think we’ve seen before. Could it be? No, it can’t be. Not after all this time! Every thought from “Uh-oh” to “Why now?” flashes through our minds. Is that first pot of mums or that pretty orange pumpkin that we just put out on our porch some kind of signal to our long-lost abusers? In some demented way, do they think that the new “Welcome” mat we tossed in front of the door to catch the dried leaves on our shoes is some personal message directed at them? What exactly is going on here?

My mother poisoned my SIL & brother’s minds with garbage about how she just wanted to be closer to me and love me. Which fails to explain why nearly every visit I made to her featured one of her raging, screaming meltdowns which used to happen quite frequently when we were children and were often directed against me. As a child, if I didn’t sufficiently appease her, the rages could get physical. I was occasionally slapped, had my hair pulled, was kicked, shoved and punched in the back one time as I was going out the door to go to the store as she had requested. She ran up behind me and punched me in the back when I wasn’t looking. Hard enough to make me stagger.

Now, as an adult, she didn’t hit me, but the rages would bring all of that back, as much as I’d try to forgive and forget.

Our first estrangement, she wanted me to lie to my stepmom and uncle about documents related to my dad’s death so I could get a copy of them for her. I was willing to ask, but not lie. For that, I was an “ungrateful bitch’, etc. She raged against me, cursing at me. I told her she couldn’t speak to me that way and one of us hung up the phone. She tried calling about a week later and said she didn’t want to fight. I agreed and said i didn’t either, but it wasn’t acceptable to speak to me like the way she did during our previous call. Her response was to say, “fuck you” and hang up the phone. We were estranged for 4 years after that.

After she became involved in AA, she sent me a letter informing me, which said, “as the child of an alcoholic, I know how difficult it can be.” It wasn’t an apology, but I figured she needed the support of her family for her sobriety, so I allowed myself to be sucked back in. If I could go back in time, it’s a decision I would change.

After the fiasco at my brother & SIL’s wedding, I didn’t say anything to my mother, because I figured the issue was between me and my brother/SIL. But, like any dysfunctional family worth their salt, we have plenty of triangulation. So of course, mama martyr was involved.

She had an appendectomy shortly after the disagreement between me and my brother. She lives a 3 hour plane ride away from me, she will get annoyed/angry if you call while she is taking a nap/resting. So I figured an email was the best way to send get well wishes. I sent her a get well email, then heard nothing from her until the December 2011 email. Sure I could have called or sent a card, but to be honest, by that point I was merely tolerating her to keep peace with my brother and SIL. Now that I’m estranged from them, due to, in a large part, her meddling, I just didn’t see the point. I missed my brother and I’m sad I’m probably not going to meet my niece until she’s an adult, even if then. It’s actually been liberating not to have to put up with her crap. I’ve learned my lesson from letting her back in the first time. She’s not going to change and she seems to enjoy spewing her toxic garbage on me. I’m tired of needing a metaphorical Hazmat suit for family gatherings.

I waited 2 weeks before I replied. Before I quote what I wrote, I want to put a big DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME warning. I’ve been in therapy for a little over 3 years to deal with this estrangement. It took me a long time, but I finally got to the point where I realize I’m not going to be validated, they will deny what I said, etc. I was not sending this with the expectation of being heard, but rather to set boundaries and defend myself from their unwanted intrusion into the peace, happiness and well being I am slowly finding as I heal.

PS I would have been perfectly content to forgive the past and leave it in the past. But you brought it back for me every time you had a temper tantrum when I visited. Like the one you had over getting lost on the way to the nail salon during [brother’s name’s] wedding when you yelled at me for using the “wrong” cell phone to call the salon so we could find it. Never mind that I actually solved the problem at hand. And your snide comments over the yogurt. I couldn’t even talk about a nice, pleasant morning I had without you saying something nasty about it. No one deserves to be treated like that by anyone, especially a family member who is supposed to love them. So please stop your whining to other people about how you want a closer relationship and playing mama martyr. It’s a load of crap and you and I both know it. You had multiple second chances with me, but you chose to be nasty to me. You don’t want a closer relationship. If you did, you wouldn’t have treated me so badly.

Quite frankly, I’m appalled by your manipulative tactics of using holidays, illnesses or natural disasters to skip over the enormous amount of damage you have done to this family.

I really feel sorry for you more than anything else. Living in your head would be far worse than anything I can impose. I forgive you i hope you have a good life. But since you have no respect for my boundaries I can’t allow you in my life. It’s as they call it in Al-Anon, detachment with love. I love you, I wish you well, but I will not allow you to abuse me anymore Please do not contact me any more. I hope you respect my wishes.

I also let her know what I thought about the whole wedding fiasco and how she had played a role in my father’s estrangement with my grandmother, which in turn had an effect on me as my grandmother and I were very close and loved each other very much.

I also figured I’d use the enmeshment and triangulation in our family for good. I left a number of voicemails on my brother’s phone (our last real contact was May 2009) to tell him to tell his dear, sainted mother to back the F*** off. I thought I was going to feel guilty about it once the anger I was feeling subsided. But surprisingly, I didn’t.

In fact, as I told my therapist, it’s like when someone keeps throwing rocks at a bee hive. If they keep doing it, they can’t be surprised when a hive of angry bees is stinging their ass! My mother and brother like to throw rocks, they can deal with the consequences. I haven’t heard from them, it may be out of respect or maybe I’m being “punished” again. Either way, it works for me! 🙂

The therapist I’m working with actually said I may be ready to start wrapping up therapy. On one hand, I feel pride in that because it means I’ve made progress. I’m also a little scared because therapy has helped me so much in dealing with the estrangement and the other issues I’ve had due to having a parent who is likely NPD/possibly BPD.

I was also anxious about a Thanksgiving road trip because I would be driving my mom’s aunt to see her son & his family, along with another one of his cousins. While the aunt is a sweetheart, she’s also a, as one board so aptly puts it, “flying monkey” who likes to advocate for my mother and tell me I should call her, send her a gift/card. I’ve had to set some boundaries there. I started getting really anxious about that and was joking around with friends that I would play Tina Turner’s “I Don’t Want to Fight” if that happened.

Which got me listening to both that song and “Be Good to Me” I’ve had that album since freshman or sophomore year of college when her Greatest Hits first came out. I’ve always identified somewhat with both songs even though they are about being abused in a romantic relationship, not a family relationship. But I related to not wanting to fight and wondering why my mother couldn’t be good to me. But up until now, I hadn’t realized just how different the tone of both songs is. I haven’t watched the movie in years, but I’d be curious to see where each song is played in the movie.

In “Better Be Good to Me”, it seems like she’s really just starting to realize how crappy the abusive behavior is.

But there’s also a lot of love still left and the behavior can sometimes be good. So it seems like she’s trying to work out her confusion on why he can’t be good to her while working up the courage to confront him to insist that he be good to her.

In contrast, with “I Don’t Want to Fight“, she seems to have accepted that he can’t or won’t be good to her and that she deserves better. She’s detached and the lyrics “this is time for letting go” show how she’s finally free of the abuse and is ready to move onto a better life for herself.

Of course, post-road trip, despite my offering when we set out to make pit stops and offering several times, I was criticized for not stopping during a one hour and 45 minute drive. I personally didn’t need the stop, but I offered several times and in a nice tone which made it clear I was more than willing to stop. I even said at the beginning I want everyone to be comfortable, so if anyone needs a stop for food, the bathroom or to stretch, to please let me know.

I did have my usual impulse to defend as in “I told you I’d stop, and I offered several times to stop”. But I didn’t even get that far because I was able to “check the data” as my therapist likes to say. I offered to stop, they have only themselves to blame so it’s not my problem. Then I started thinking about a potential next time and how I should figure out a stop and plan one. Then I realized, nope, I’m not the one who needs the stop, let the people who do take some responsibility. If there is a next time with this trip, I will say, “where do you usually stop?” and stop there. If they refuse to tell me and we don’t stop and there are complaints, I will simply say, “well I asked you where we could stop and you wouldn’t tell me. If you don’t tell me where you want to stop, there isn’t anything I can do.” This is huge progress for a scapegoat like myself.

it may just been a fluke, but in the 2 weeks since I wrote that email, I’ve felt a huge reduction in anxiety.  I haven’t needed a Xanax once in that time.  I can feel my old pre-estrangement self returning.  She’s back and I missed her.  And in the Christmases since the estrangement, I’ve had a little one foot tree because I was too sad to go through ornaments.  I noticed the usual 4.5 tree I had was kind of scraggly, so today or tomorrow, i’m going to buy a new one and decorate with my usual size tree.  I will throw out or put aside any ornaments which are too difficult for me and buy new ones if needed.  I’m back! 🙂

5 thoughts on “Holidays, Hurricane Hoover & No Contact

  1. This was actually a very comforting read for me…Someone who has been through the same things I have. I’ve been reading through your posts…And I almost physically feel how you feel sometimes.For some reason, though I know full well I am the scapegoat and what goes on in my house is detrimental, I am terrified to leave…I got as far as packing my belongings into boxes, inspecting rooms and saving. But upon noticing my ‘getting ready’ to leave, my mother and father chose that time to acknowledge my existence and tell me they loved me, that I should just stay, and why did I hate them so much that I’d leave and that I was always their baby. Yadda yadda. This set me right off track. From being invisible for so long, to suddenly getting the attention I had yearned for for so many years.. I felt so uncomfortable. So frightened of it. That night I swallowed about 200 pills, drugs I knew would interact. And I prayed it would kill me. Because I couldn’t deal with the adult side of me that loathed my parents and wanted her life on track, or the little girl inside me that wanted to stay and wait for them to notice me; who kept waiting for the closure that’s not ever going to come if I stay. Like a constant tug of war. The overdose, It nearly killed me, but alas, it didn’t. I woke up a week later, after near renal failure from serotonin syndrome in hospital, and of course, Mummy and Daddy were at the foot of my bed asking me “what went wrong for me to do this” and that they “knew I was sad, but not this kind of sad”, and all the nurses said my mother and father loved me so much, and how could I do it when I had such a loving family, and so I didn’t talk to anyone about it. For a week, I was doted on, and just when I started believing all over again that it was all my fault that I hurt my parents, it changed back again. I’m invisible again. I’m back in my role of the quiet girl in the background. The one that is criticized, the one that is the bad egg. The one that doesn’t really exist. And now I know again, that I need to re-pack all the boxes my parents unpacked, and leave. But I’m so terrified, I’m terrified of stepping out of the shadows and trying to grab a life for myself that I was never allowed. I’m scared to be the kind and creative person I am behind my parents idea of me as an angry and unnkind person. For so long I believed I was. I didn’t hear myself. I can feel suicide luring me again…”Surely that would be easier than facing the fear of the outside world in the wounded state that I am.” Says part of me. But the other part is angry. Not the kind of anger my father used to show to me, or the venomous poison my mother gave to me in her neglect and hurtful words, but the kind of anger that makes me want to fight for everything I had denied.

    I just don’t know where to start.

    1. Mindful, are you in therapy? You may want to consider a therapist who specializes in personality disorders as they are more likely to recognize what is going on with your parents and less likely to believe the act the “perfect” parents put on. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

      Do you have any good friends or relatives who can help you through the process of establishing your own home?

      Please take care of yourself and get help for coping with all of this, if you’re not already doing so. It’s a lot to deal with and you shouldn’t have to do it on your own.

      My own experience has been more with anxiety, so I don’t know how it applies to depression. While it’s been hard to go through the estrangement, as I’ve begun to surround myself with people who truly care about me and value me, I’m feeling a lot better and stronger. But I do worry how the rejection involved in an estrangement could affect your depression. I don’t have the knowledge or training to know about that, so that’s one of the reasons I’m suggesting therapy. Keep us posted on how you’re doing, we’re rooting for you!

      1. Thank you for your reply 🙂 I just stopped seeing my psychiatrist after I got out of hospital, and I’m thinking of going back again. The problem is, I have so much trouble talking about it.. I’m scared, I feel like my father is standing over me, telling me to shut up. Telling me I’m just too sensitive, and that I have an over active imagination. And then I think of my mother, who doesn’t even see me. I know it’s something I need to face. But it’s so hard to talk about it because I feel like I’m committing a crime. And though I understand its wrong to feel that way, it’s still difficult.

        I know I have to leave this house, there is nothing more to gain here, and I’m financially stable. But I feel so .. Damaged? Inside, like I’m missing something. Its like I’m waiting for my parents to suddenly see me. But they don’t. And even if they did, It would be so unusual I wouldn’t know what to do. Unfortunately, any relatives I have see me in the same light. As the defiant angry outcast. My grandmother has more narcissist traits than my mother, which I think is where Mum inherited hers. Her mother treats her like shit but if I ever stuck up for my mother she would get angry at me… And so no one seems to see what’s going on. Only me. And that just seems to make me stand out as the different one even more.

        I need support.. But I’m so hopeless in friendships, I’m so shut off from others. I guess I need people but I don’t know how to let them in. It just brings back all the old pain from where my Mother or Father would snap off cold from me without any reason why, and I’d just wonder what I had done wrong. When the whole time of course, I had done nothing. I think I need to find a sense of calmness where I’m not waiting for everything good and every relationship in my life to fall away from me and go down the shitter.

        I have been thinking today I need to go back to therapy. This time without my mother finding out. The last appointment I had, as I was leaving she sat on the lounge crying (we hadn’t spoken for days)and she was saying “what did I do to deserve children like you” And I just laughed. And that turned out to be a great therapy session. Because I was so angry that I wasn’t afraid to really talk about it. I think I need some of that fire back again.

        Thank you for your support x

      2. If you can get therapy, definitely go for it, it may help as you try to sort all of this out. It’s a lot to sort out on your own

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