Monday, April 16, 2007

A Violent, Insane Sister

My sister, whom I wrote of in an earlier post, is violent. She dedicated her young life to hitting and scratching me. By the time she was 12 she had long, sharp, pointed fingernails and she took great delight in using them as talons.
She liked to dig into the soft flesh of my arms just below the elbows and rake her way down.
Yeah, she drew blood.

Sometimes I hit back even though I knew it would just make it worse. At least I got to inflict some pain back.

She’s four years older than me. When we were young she was bigger and stronger. And she was the favorite.
Near as I could figure it, she was the favorite because my parents first child, a boy, died after a few months. Dawn came along a few years later and lived.

By the time I got here the novelty had worn off. If memory serves my mom had a miscarriage back when I was seven. It did not have an impact on how I was viewed.

Dawn is, or was, very smart. Book-learning smart I called it because she doesn’t seem to be able to apply what she’s learned to actual, real life situations. I don’t for a moment believe she has a lick of common sense.
So there she was smart, popular and could get away with doing or saying just about anything. If I spoke up around company my mom would turn to me and ask, “How do you know so much?”
Dawn would come out with some ridiculous torn-from-the tabloid-headlines comment and the conversation turned to it.

She beat me quite regularly. I figured it out once to an average of 2-3 times a week until I was 10 years old. We moved into a larger house when I was ten and I had room to avoid her.
Sometimes she pounded me with her fists, but for the last few years I was raked or gouged by her fingernails. The scratches and gouges were deep and lasted several days. I’d get a fresh batch before any had a chance to heal.

I was ashamed of them. I thought if anyone could see them they’d know I deserved them so I covered them up.
In Gr. 4, irrespective of the weather I wore three layers, a turtleneck, a shirt over it and a sweater over the shirt. I was scared that everyone could still the long hideous scratches on my arms.
I’m no longer ashamed of this and haven’t been for many years now. Her anger, jealousy and inability to deal with me, or almost anyone for that matter, are her problems, not mine.

She is insane. It wasn’t discovered until her teen years, but if you ask me, she was nuts from birth. Oh, if anyone out there has a problem with my use of the slang term “nuts,” feel free to call me out on it.

I lived as the preferred target of a violent, mentally ill sibling. I’ve got a right to say what I like about mental illness, and there’s not much anyone can do or say to me that’ll bother me.
If you want mental illness treated with sensitivity, you won’t get much of it here. I’m speaking for the sane ones like me out there that no one thinks about.

More information about sibling abuse here

and here

and here’s a news article about an abused sibling:


Frank Baron said...

Do the visible scars remain? It's fairly plain the invisible ones do. I hope writing about it helps.

Talia said...

That was a very insightful comment Frank. Your sister sounds painful in every sense of the word, and it is clear that there is some healing needed for both of you.

I know forgiveness is hard, but your sister lives rent-free in your mind, and you're the only one suffering for the space that she's taking up in your heart and head. Maybe it's time to think about letting her go...

I don't know about "nuts" but definitely violent. I'm inclined to suspect a personality disorder such as borderline.

Here's some info on borderline personality disorder. I'd be interested in your thoughts

Take care of yourself and lots of hugs.

Leah J. Utas said...

Writing does help, Frank. As to scars, I've got a scar where part of my left eyebrow should be and a dent in the bone underneath. My right thumb is crooked at the tip where she closed a truck door on it when I was five.

Good point, Talia. I'm her closest living relative and certain aspects of her care may fall to me unless I disown her.

Thanks for the hugs and the link on personality disorder. Seems to be a good fit.

I'm glad you both stopped by.

Talia said...

It was a pleasure :)

Anonymous said...

you, "if you want mental illness to be treated with sensitivity here, you won't get much of it." hm. as someone who has lived with a mild form of bipolar disorder all her life and who works with people with mental health issues, how can you make this comment a little easier for me to digest?

Leah J. Utas said...


Thanks for the opportunity to address the sensitivity issue.
I might just have to put up a whole post about it.
My comment is for people who have been on the receiving end of violence and manipulation from person's with mental disorders. Do we have to be sensitive and understanding toward those with mental illness?
Of course we do. But there comes a point when we have to be blunt about it affects others.
The feelings and experiences of recipients are just as important as those who have mental illness. I don't like to see anyone shuffled aside.
The best approach to anything is to find out as much as we can about it. That includes how it affects everyone and everything.

Sensitivity can go too far. We get scared of words, or we give them too much power.
"Understanding" to some people means the one with the mental illness ought to get away with all kinds of behaviour all the time. I don't believe this serves anyone.
And that's ultimately what my remark means.
Being too sensitive and understanding to persons with mental illness is a great excuse to not provide them with help.

Talia said...

It's an interesting discussion. I have been in both camps. I have personal experience of mental illness and a mother with mental illness who is resistant to change.

As far as the letting go is concerned I was speaking metaphorically rather than physically. Your sister may remain in your life, but by letting go of hurt, anger and resentment you can remain calm and balanced in the face of her unpredictable and unwelcome behaviour.

I believe you need to accept that your sister won't change and start from that point. She doesn't know any better. She's broken and it will take a mechanic (i.e. a psychiatrist or similar) to put her back together. She is in some ways like a child, in that she hasn't learned to deal with impulse control. Would you forgive a child or a puppy for biting your hand?

As far as letting go is concerned I know you are a hypnotist and have new age leanings, so what about hypnotising yourself with helpful suggestions or affirmations. Something along the lines of...

I willingly release all the thoughts and feelings that clutter up my life. I forgive myself and others and I feel free.

I remain calm and centred.

I always listen to my intuition.

I willingly release all hurt, anger, resentment and distress.

Leah J. Utas said...

Isabella, I'm sorry that my comment bothered you. I wasn't looking to upset you or anyone with my remarks. I was just being blunt and letting my frustration out for a very public airing.
Sometimes I can really be an insensitive lout.
Discussing of my sister's illness is one of those times.

It is an interesting discussion, Talia. I'm glad you came back to it.

I've used affirmations and hypnotic suggestions and they work quite well for me. I'll give some of your suggestions a go.

Interestingly, it was a message I received during a guided meditation session that spurred me to do the post.

Talia said...

Here is the link to my post on your sister. Let's see if we get a response!

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Unfortunately, parents can have huge blind spots when it comes to their kids. Some parents prefer to deny a problem even exists. My own parents were masters of denial. I don't understand it, but it happens.

WRT your sister, I think it's important to your own peace of mind to remember that the horrible behavior is a reflection of her illness, not her. Try to keep the two separate in your mind, if you can.

However, that doesn't mean that you have any obligation to put yourself in a place to be abused as an adult. If I were in your situation, I would remain open to letting bygones be bygones IF and ONLY IF she is getting appropriate help and treating you decently.

You have no obligation to tolerate abuse, even if you were her only surviving family member and she had no other means of support. I point this out because my own observation is that mentally ill people who don't seek treatment seem to get worse as they get older. If this happens, don't ever feel compelled to jump in and rescue her if it's going to pull you down, too. If you saw a man drowning in deep water, but you couldn't swim, would you jump in to "save" him, anyway? I would hope not. Two victims aren't better than one.

Save yourself. Toss out the life preservers and hope your sister grabs on. Send out a rescue team, if you can. But save yourself first, because ultimately, your sister will have to want to be rescued, and the sad truth is that not everyone does.

Leah J. Utas said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Bunnygirl.

Anonymous said...

My situation is similar to Talia's; I have personal experience with depression and also have suffered emotional (and occasional) physical trauma in childhood with my mentally ill mother.

What I have learned is that my first obligation is my own safety. For Leah, this may mean "fighting back" or removing herself from a situation however possible.

I think it is unconscionable that her parents were either unaware of what's happening, or is aware but allowing it to happen. This is because Leah's sister should be receiving treatment and Leah should be protected from abuse.

Leah has the right to be angry, and it's completely understandable/normal that she is angry. On the other hand, I have personal experience with abuse, and the emotional mark of abuse does create psychological wounds that may need to be addressed. I'd encourage Leah to sort through these experiences and eventually, be at peace with the past. I know it's a herculean task.

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