Thank you for your kind comments on my last post. When things seem better with my sister I will let you know.
The thing is, for a really long time, I blamed all the dysfunction in my family on her illness—on her, really. She was a pretty convenient scapegoat for my discontent with the dynamics in my family—for my sense of over-responsibility, for my parents’ leaning on me more than was healthy, for any number of things. When I stayed at my parents’ house last year for a few months, it was not always the most pleasant experience, but it was invaluable to me for the things it taught me about myself and my family, particularly as I could observe my parents raising a child (my 12 year old niece lives with them).
One of the big things I realized back then was that even if my older sister didn’t have bipolar disorder, my family would most likely have the very same dysfunction, a very similar way of coping, a similar way of dealing with each other. So much for my sister, the scapegoat. I would hear the things my parents would say as they were dealing with my niece, and I realized that who they are and the way they see the world goes back a lot farther than my sister’s illness. And my over-responsibility and hyper-self-criticism would likely be there no matter who my siblings were or the state of their mental health.
It was almost too easy to blame it all on my sister. If it’s her fault, the rest of us are off the hook, aren’t we? My parents are off the hook, and what child doesn’t want parents who are not the cause of her pain and insecurity?
There’s another scapegoat in my life.
He’s not exactly the same as my sister, but I definitely found it very easy to place all the blame for my unhappiness at his feet.
And he’s no angel. He’s done plenty. I’m not letting him off the hook here.
What I realized a couple of days ago was that I am the same.
A huge X-shaped stress is out of my life, but how I respond to stress is the same as when we were together.
I have been trying to be more aware of how I hold stress in my body and the other day I noticed that a response to stress I had—holding every muscle in my body tightly, my breath frozen—felt very much like what it felt like when I was with X, but this time he was nowhere to be found.
I take myself with me, apparently.
I didn’t suddenly become a different person the moment I was away from my abuser; I still have that over-responsibility and hyper-self-critical nature. Life will not stop serving me up experiences to challenge my equilibrium.
I’m looking into learning new ways of dealing with life’s disequilibrium, with my emotions and responses, and I feel hopeful about seeing progress. It is too easy to give X the blame for all my unhappiness. If it’s his fault, then I’m off the hook, right? The problem is, keeping the focus on him keeps me from finding a real solution.