Uncomfortably Numb

I have many things going on right now, so why do I feel as if I’m going nowhere, and fast?  As I mentioned yesterday, I have a new blogging gig.  In addition, I have my mom’s magnum opus to type (around 250 pages), and another editing job on the backburner.  In addition, I’m blogging every day.  I have tentatively stepped back into the realm of fiction, and I intend to get my fiction blog up and running sometime soon.

So, what’s the problem?  I am burnt out.  My emotional reservations are low, and I don’t know how to shore them up.  My sis-in-law is neurotic, controlling, and the unhappiest person I know.  Whenever I am around her, I am overwhelmed by the negative sensory input that I receive.

My mom and I went to my bro’s today to celebrate my nephew’s third birthday (and cake.  Cake IS NOT a lie).  I didn’t get the chance to snooze before we went, so I was already thin in the protective shield area.  If I am up and rested, I can shrug off my SIL’s constant sniping.  When I feel the way I did today, however, I just can’t deal with it.

It doesn’t help that it reminds me of being around my father when I was young.  His big weapon was his silent treatment.  He would sit in a recliner in stony silence, and the rest of us would have to tiptoe around him lest we sent him further into a tizzy.  I never knew what would set him off and what would finally snap him out of it.

It is the same with my SIL, and today, I just suddenly reached the point of “I’ve fucking had it up to here!”  That happened about two hours after arriving.  At that point, I shut down my emotions.  I flatlined.  I emptied myself out the best I could and went numb.  My mom and I planned on leaving before dinner, but my brother suggested we go out.  There was so much eagerness in his voice, we couldn’t say no.  After dinner, everyone but me decided it would be great to go for a walk outside as the area is basically a gated community with mini-golf, paddleboats, etc.  I kept falling further and further into myself.  I was crazy tired out of my mind because my niece refused to let me nap at the house.  She said it was bad manners to fall asleep at their house because I was there to entertain them.  No matter what I said, she wouldn’t let me sleep.

I hit bottom as we walked around the gated community (ok, there wasn’t an actual gate, but there might as well be).  I walked away from everyone else, and it was all I could do not to scream.  For a brief moment, I thought, “This isn’t fucking worth it.  Life isn’t worth it.”  Somewhere, deep inside of me, I was appalled at the thought.  Unfortunately, that spark of life was wrapped in layers and layers of cotton, and I only dimly felt it.

How did I reach that point where it took all my wherewithal to put one foot in front of the other?  If I were to be honest, it started before Mom and I even went to my bro’s.  My aura was very fragile at that point, and I didn’t want to go.  If it hadn’t been for the fact that it was my nephew’s birthday, I would have bailed.  I was already dead tired and feeling vulnerable.  There was no way my immune system could withstand an attack.

I get pissed off that I tamp down my personality so completely around my SIL.  She makes mountains out of every molehill, and it’s often easier just to nod and say nothing than to get into it with her, be it about Jesus (he was NOT born in December), manners (mine are pretty damn good, thank you very much), or just about anything else.   We all tiptoe around her because she can be so damn unpleasant (whether she has reason to be or not).

My mom asked what would happen if I got in my SIL’s face, and I was taken aback.  I thought it was likely that she would break down and cry because I don’t think she realizes how mean she sounds all the time.  It’s the tone of voice, not necessarily the words.  Such as, I was saying I got the last cone (for ice cream) at the buffet tonight.  In a haughty voice, she said, “Did you tell them?  It’s like when you’re a guest in someone’s home, and you use the last piece of toilet paper.”

First of all, I had told them earlier that they were out of cones, and the server said she would get someone on it.  When I went up for my ice cream, there was only two cones in the dispenser.  Second, it’s not my fucking job to inform them when they run out of something.  Third, I’m not her fucking child.  I mean, she shouldn’t even talk to her kids that way, but she especially has no authority over me.

There was a jazz band warming up, and my brother’s family went over and sat down.  I had reached my limit.  I told my mom I had to go.  I did.  My body was defenseless, as was my soul.  I finally got my mom to leave.  I drove home, and I was still numb.

I am angriest at myself, though, because I regress into my childlike state when I am in the midst of unrelenting negativity.  I can’t think; I can’t erect my defenses; I can’t bolster my waning emotional reserves; I am totally vulnerable and open to assault.

I need to learn that I am an adult now.  I am not that powerless, scared little girl who didn’t know how to deal with the angry, narcisstic, inappropriate boundaries man who was her father.  I have to find a way to realize that I can deal with my SIL even if she explodes at me.  My mom, who’s more optimistic than I am, even believes that it’ll wake my SIL up if I get in her face.  I don’t know about that, but in the end, it’s not really about her, anyway.  As usual, on this blog, it’s all about me.

6 Responses to Uncomfortably Numb

  1. Sounds like SIL is very controlling, via tantrums and judgment. Or maybe I’m just projecting my mom’s behavior onto this.

    But if I’m right, may that’s why your niece is giving you rules. Maybe she feels controlled, and is trying to control you to feel empowered. If so, I’m sorry for both of you. She’s going to need therapy someday. And you sure don’t need any more battles – you need a break.

    Hang in there.

  2. I don’t know that you would have to “get in her face” to calmly say, “Do you realize how mean and threatening you sound sometimes?”
    I don’t know her, but there is no reason you can’t assert your own boundaries without being civil about it.

  3. See, now, while I’m not a huge fan of in-your-face confrontation (see also: why my marriage hasn’t crashed before now), I can, when I choose to, make my point in a much more insidious way. The confrontation automatically puts the person on the defensive, and if it gets heated, you run the risk of the bystanders thinking you started it because they didn’t hear the cutting little first remark that caused you to react. No sense in other people thinking you’re nuts, right?

    If she had said that remark about the ice cream cones/toilet paper to me, my response, quite honestly, would’ve been, “Well thank you, Sis, you’re right. And if I wipe my ass with an ice cream cone, I’ll be sure and tell them.” Appropriate for the dinner table/ Not even. But it would’ve made the point quite clearly, and people would’ve laughed at her. It makes -her- look like an idiot, which she is.

    I think your problem isn’t so much with your emotional reserves necessarily, but your feelings of being powerless when it comes to setting boundaries. It becomes a cyclical thing. The more your boundaries are trampled by people, the cruddier and weaker you feel. Breaking that cycle isn’t easy, that’s for sure. But as you do it, you might feel your strength return.

    You have to take care of you first. Whether it’s your 11yr old niece trying to tell an adult what she can and cannot do, your SIL being rude and condescending, your Mom being snide about your weight, whatever. You are worthy of respect just as much as anyone else, and when you choose to allow people to abuse that, it erodes your strength.

    I know, easier said than done. But we’re all good at giving -other- people advice, right? =)

  4. I hate confrontation maybe because, like you, you know that with people like SIL it just snowballs and the confrontation carries onto other things. You do have the right (and I agree with the other commenters that you at least should remain calm, reasonable and adult) to disagree, take a stand, say yes or no or I want or I need. You want everyone to be like you (kind, thoughtful, well-behaved) so you have problems dealing with selfish, angry people. If you don’t want to cut yourself of completely from them (and it seems that your brother needs you) then you have to figure out how to deal with it. And when up against someone who cares not a wit about hurting your feelings, don’t feel like you have to tip-toe around and keep from saying something that may hurt theirs.

    You don’t have to be mean or insult someone to stand up for yourself. And when you keep it all inside all it does is simmer and boil and get worse until it has to come out. Then you just end up hurting yourself.

    And, sorry, but “It’s like when you’re a guest in someone’s home, and you use the last piece of toilet paper.”??? I my house, if their is only one piece of toilet paper left, it goes to the guest!

  5. Choolie, oh, I know that my niece gives me rules because of the rules she’s given by her mother. It’s her (my niece) way of having SOME control in her life. Thanks for the empathy–I know you know how it is.

    whabs, you are right, of course. I don’t have to be a nasty bitch to my SIL in order to get my point across. In fact, it’s probably better if I’m not because that would just put her (even more) on the defensive. I am just not very good verbally with confrontation. I might write out some scenarios ahead of time.

    Kel, you made me laugh out loud. God, I would love to give that kind of retort, but I never think of something like that in time. My brain shuts down, and I go in a mental fetal position. I know it’s about me feeling powerless. Like I said, I’m angriest at myself about how I revert in these situations. I do need to learn to stand up for myself, and more to the point, I need to believe that I’m worthwhile of respect. That is the difficult part for me, but you guys are certainly helping me find my way there.

    Jamie, you are right that if I bottle it in, it’s going to explode. I have had to leave the situation before when it reached that point expressly so I wouldn’t say things I would later deeply regret. The trick is to catch myself before I get to that point so I can say something in a calm manner when I’m fairly unruffled.

    As for the toilet paper thing, she meant that you need to tell the host that you’ve used the last piece of toilet paper.

  6. As for the toilet paper thing…a thoughtful hostess or host wouldn’t have run out of toilet paper with company on the way. Every thing has a flip side.

    Jamie, I love this: “And when you keep it all inside all it does is simmer and boil and get worse until it has to come out. Then you just end up hurting yourself.”

    Minna, is your brother aware of the way your family feels? Is it something you can talk to him about?