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Extreme Measures: Can one sue their family of origin?

Discussion in 'Finances, Work, and Disability' started by zoe.a.m., Aug 5, 2011.

  1. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    Hi Wayne--Me too. I appreciate your soothing and uplifting posts.

    Though I have to say that gratitude would be quite challenging under the circumstances where family members are wanting you to "institutionalize yourself or just commit suicide already." That's just incredibly cruel.

    When people's hearts are closed, expressing gratitude towards them is not always effective, and can make one vulnerable to further attacks from them. In my attempts to communicate in an appreciative open way with angry family members, I often felt like I was like reaching out my hand to to feed a wounded tasmanian devil... and I inevitably felt the sting of their teeth sinking into my flesh. It used to shock me how much rage would be directed at me in those moments, when my intention was merely to connect on a more human feeling level.

    I understand now that being kind to someone who is overflowing with hatred, and self-hatred, is a button pusher. It brings up all their unresolved pain, and those people who are in deep denial about their festering pain can express that pain only as rage. If I was a Buddha, I would probably know exactly how to deflect those kind of angry responses being flung at me in such hostile ways, and not take any of them personally, and let them roll off my duck-like back. But alas, I have not yet reached such a level of enlightenment, so my best option was to just get the hell away and stay away.

    When things get that bad, letting go is the most sane option. It's hard to be sick and alone, but it's worse to be connected to people who have nothing but resentment and anger to offer you. When I gave up on the abusive people in my life, I began to attract kinder ones, probably because I finally knew how to recognize them, and also because there was ROOM for them, once the dramas that had occupied so much of my existence had come to an end.

    I wish that for you, Zoe... that you find some peace in the letting go, and that it brings you what you really need.
  2. taniaaust1

    taniaaust1 Senior Member

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    Me too dreambirdie. Great post.

    Holding anger just gets you down. Get those people out of your lives and be free from them and the emotions around them.. feel relieved to not be dealing with them, why feel crap due to their crap.
  3. taniaaust1

    taniaaust1 Senior Member

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    I too as another said.. like to buy supplements on special and have at times stocked up when i've seen something very cheap. Right now Im fortunately not having to do trade offs (but it came to that in the past). I took another option and ended up dating a married man who pays for my things now (without him, I need to do trade offs). This illness sometimes makes one break ones own values and do things one otherwise would NEVER do, its coming down almost a survival thing. I NEEDED him.

    One finds ways to survive. I used to feel terribly guilty about being with anothers husband but nowdays have accepted what Im doing as I understand why I allowed it in the first place and hence know I dont deserve to feel guilty just from doing what Ive done so that my needs are being met.
    eg would you steal if you were starving? if so.. would you forever feel guilting for it or would you love yourself enough to forgive? One who would usually never steal would often do so in such a circumstance. Im living my life as well as I can be. If anyone wants to judge me for that, that is their problem and not mine. I know the person I are inside.

    We do what we have to do to survive. There are always various choices out there to support our needs in different ways.
  4. taniaaust1

    taniaaust1 Senior Member

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    A bit less physical is blowing up a photo of the one annoying you and turning it into a game of darts. (I dont personally do that but I can see how i'd help for some people thou its a bit like the voodoo concept but the being that bit slightly active helps release anger more and dart throwing can be equal to our past vigourous physical exercise to release it).

    I love the sound of your song dreamie. I too would love to hear it someday.
    Maybe one day someone could release a music tape esp for ME/CFS people on it and topics related around it.
  5. taniaaust1

    taniaaust1 Senior Member

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    I do think that Jenbrooks made some very good and valid points to you but I think it is/was a great thing you did this thread. (I too think it would be great if you could feel grateful to your brother for his help).

    Dealing with the anger we feel due to lack of family support and the thoughts behind what family is meant to be eg "families take care of one another" is just one aspect of dealing with ME/CFS.

    I went throu a stage in which I was having terrible dreams of murdering my mother. In my dream I'd grab her and just start slamming her head against things, over and over and over.. smashing her to pieces. It was all just the pent up anger I felt towards her due to past things she'd done. To her face I was the nicest person possible as I didnt have it in me to direct actual negativity towards her (im not nasty towards anyone) so instead.. I had horrid violent dreams which had the after affect of leaving me feeling so very shocked at what I'd dreamed I'd done. (They were extremely vivid and violent, the memories of the dreams left me feeling quite sick after).

    However you can do it.. if you can, best to let go of the negative emotions holding you back and do whatever you have to do to heal yourself.
  6. taniaaust1

    taniaaust1 Senior Member

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    What jen said here is basically how some of my family have responded. They all do know how very sick I are, so the fact they dont give me any support (not refering to financial support when I say support but say jsut picking me up to take me to a family party) hurts all the more. My sister once said that i should just be put in a home seeing I cant look after myself. That is what she truely thinks.
  7. Orla

    Orla Senior Member

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    Great post Dreambirdie. It is very difficult dealing with screwed up people, especially if they are close relatives I think, as the "normal" rules of life often don't apply. It is often a question of trial and error or sometimes distancing onself from them or even cutting them out totally. Though the last one is extra difficult if ill I think.

    Edit: I think Zoe's family might be giving, or partly giving, out of a need to control and possibly also to look good to others (and they might be too embarrased to cut her off alltogether). Only Zoe can really judge this as she knows them and we don't. They sound abusive to me to be honest, so I don't think her showing gratitude will help at all and may actually fuel the behaviour further, and for Zoe opening up emotionally to people like this could be too risky and painful. It is a very difficult situation but she knows them and we don't so she will have to judge for herself.

    I think in some ways psychologicaly the situation is a bit like someone handing you a present but at the same time hitting you or saying something really nasty to you to put you down. Is gratitude the first emotion that the receiver will have or will the shock and hurt predominate? I think in most cases it will be the shock and hurt, and the giver of the present could not reasonably be surprised by that (though if they see everything only through their own prism they will probably think they have done no wrong).
  8. jenbooks

    jenbooks Guest

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    Zoe, I believe the idea "my qi was sucked out to keep the family intact" is a myth. Maybe the family members believe it, or worse yet, maybe the person feeling sucked dry believes it, because it is a way to explain destructive behavior ("well, they are eating me alive so they can survive") but you will find when you leave the family system, they do just fine. Their behavior is probably just reflexive at this point, ingrained patterns. They really don't gain by it, and they probably won't have any special reckoning when you leave the family system. In fact, they may be relieved. That is my personal experience, even though I really always was self-supporting, and left physically for another area of the country at a young age.

    Have you ever tried Hellinger work? It's interesting because it reveals patterns. I did a constellation once for my mother's side--we had to go back eight generations on that side before the abuse stopped. One very pretty young woman who was a doula in real life, stood in for my maternal grandmother's mother. As soon as she stepped into place she fell to the ground. "I can't stand up," she said. That's how damaged that woman must have been.

    I agree with Dreambirdie, be free. More help will come your way, and think how much energy you'll recapture--for no matter what the reality is, if you believe your energy is being sucked, freeing yourself, you will believe your energy is yours...I hope so anyway! :)
  9. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    Families with a lot of unresolved issues will target the most sensitive person in the family to use as a scapegoat to blame for their issues and dump their anger at. That's the concept of the identified patient, and it's a valid one. The scapegoat does keep the family in tact, as long as everyone is in unconscious agreement with that agenda. Things change rapidly when the scapegoated person leaves the system. But the key is to focus on changing the dynamic for yourself, and not concern yourself about "them." If you keep wondering how "they" will feel when you are gone, you are not really leaving with your whole self. And how you leave plays a big part in how you will fare once you are gone.

    It never works out for the scapegoated ones to confront their abusers directly. It's usually is a formula for disaster. What comes to mind is the book/film One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. McMurphy (? I think that was his name), the character played by Jack Nicholson in the movie adaptation, is a great example of how NOT to deal with an abusive authority--the nurse Ratchet. His direct confrontations with her set him up for more abuse and ultimately destroy him. The Indian, who plays dumb, doesn't react to his bad circumstances, and uses his silent knowing to fly below the radar and plot his escape, is the one who manages to get out alive.

    That's the kind of role model that influenced me in my dealings with abusive people. It was definitely NOT in my programming to be like that Indian. I had grown up in a very over-reactive family, and learned early on that I would have to loudly exaggerate, if I wanted to be heard. So when I finally (many years later) learned the power of restraint and non-reaction, it blew my mind how powerful that could be. REALLY powerful, and so effective at keeping my emotional integrity in tact, and keeping the energy of the abusive attackers at bay. By not reacting, I gave them nothing to feed on.

    I think when we keep wishing for abusive people in our lives--family, friends, lovers--to be different, we feed that same kind of drama internally. When we turn away from the drama with a determined focus, and a desire to say yes to the life beyond the insanity we are accustomed to, that's when we find the freedom that was always there. Amazingly strange how that is, and really a big wonderful relief.
  10. zoe.a.m.

    zoe.a.m. Senior Member

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    I don't have the energy (or rest) to reply to so many thoughtful posts, but I hope to tomorrow. For now, suffice it to say that Orla's
    is almost dead on (but it gets worse from there...), and certainly gives my previous years of therapy a run for their money! I didn't intend to convey gratitude when I began this thread and I wasn't feeling gratitude, which is not to say that I was not overwhelmed with gratitude for years prior (and communicating that to them at length).

    In my experience, there is no amount of gratitude that is enough--and it gets challenged the minute you say (or have someone like a doctor speak on your behalf) anything at all about anything in your life, especially that might involve your family system being even mentioned. I've been told many times by these family members that I am an investment, and that things are not turning out the way they expected. I have been threatened over and over and over again and been cut off from old friends and my small extended family while my "family" tells the story of me, my illness, and what is happening.

    People who manipulate and control others in this abusive way are generally completely intolerant of anyone unwilling to subscribe to their version of reality, and they are not used to anyone saying "no" or even "why?" I can't speak to their motivations in the beginning, or when and how they changed, or if I was naive from the start, but there motivations and 'investment' is impossible not to see once you've had your eyes opened. Believe me, I've beaten myself up about this every day for years, and wondered what I could possibly do better at, and how I kept screwing up despite days editing and reviewing an email. The problem is, when the system (as said in the above post) is dependent on your being wrong, bad and at fault, you will never do, give or be enough. The two cannot co-exist. I wish it were a matter of gratitude or doing everything that has been asked of me--that I could fulfill--but it isn't. The most recent communication from them, after two years of demanding (and yes, I do mean demanding) that every person to work with me in medicine or mental health speak to them directly (and finally having this totally fulfilled) is the news that: that's not the issue, they don't want to know or hear anymore, they just can't support me because it's too much for them. Two years of work to unseal every single record in existence on me was not really the problem, the problem was my doctors did not agree with them and must have just given off the air of "my opinion is not for sale." I think that is likely the first time in decades, that this has been the case for them. As my brother said, "We pay them, (no, insurance/Medicare pays several actually and has no way to be reimbursed for the endless phone sessions, though they refuse to attend any appointment in person) and if we want to talk to them, they need to talk to us." That's verbatim (not my thoughts in parenthesis).

    To have gratitude you have to have an open heart to receive and not a hammer waiting to drop.
  11. Wayne

    Wayne Senior Member

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    The Value of Therapeutic Work

    This is so well articulated and insightful, I feel it needs to be revisited. The point I would make is the following: One of the casualties of our constantly being accused of having a "psychological" problem is that many with CFS have become frightened of doing anything that might help ourselves using various types of therapeutic work. I think this fear stems from not wanting to validate any type of notion we're dealing with psychological issues. If we succumb to this fear, then I think it just gives our naysayers even that much more control over us. Not something I want to do.

    Wayne
  12. Wayne

    Wayne Senior Member

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    Money Traps

    Another great post Dreambirdie. When I wrote about the importance of gratitude, it wasn't clear to me that various comments Zoe was making about her family included her brother as well. So I agree with what you're saying here. And I've really appreciated the many various comments you've made on this thread about the importance of becoming free from those who would abuse us. I couldn't agree more.

    Zoe, to try to connect Dreambirdies concepts about freedom from those who abuse us into the context of this thread: It seems to me that if you were somehow able to get money from your family through the courts, then it would probably not have very good consequences. You could possibly be able to pay for more things for yourself, but at what price?

    In my mind, money is energy, with the physical form being but the tip of an iceberg. I believe the energy of money can create and maintain any number of different energetic patterns (from healthy to destructive) between people. I think accepting or getting money from abusive people, by whatever means, could easily lead to a kind of entanglement with the very people we would like to be free from. Not something I would ever choose for myself. As I write this, I realize I would rather die being free from abusive people, than to live being dysfunctionally connected to them.

    Wayne
  13. Wayne

    Wayne Senior Member

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    Making ROOM for Better Things

    Such important points; very much worth highlighting again.

    Wayne
  14. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    Thanks Wayne--Very nice of you to give so much validation to my posts about these issues. I put a lot of thought into writing them, so I am glad that some of what I've written here rang true for you, and others as well. I've shared as much as I can about my personal experiences regarding family abuse and dysfunction, the importance of disconnecting from abusers, and the benefits that therapy can offer in those situations. At this point I don't have much else to say about it

    I hope we are being helpful to Zoe in sharing our perspectives and experiences.

    Ultimately, everybody has to work these things out for themselves, in their own way, in their own time. All we can do is be witnesses to the process, and support those going through it.
  15. madietodd

    madietodd Senior Member

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    This just happened to me. My mom lives close to one of my favorite sisters, Mary. I took my mom across the country to visit my other favorite sister, Lori. The 10 day visit was so bad that on the second morning I was researching hotel rooms. My mom and sister were patronizing and rude....and etc.

    I used ALL of my Buddhist practices and stayed non-reactive, but I made a big mistake when I got home. I emailed Mary that the visit had been very difficult, especially as Mom gets inappropriate after a few glasses of wine.

    Mary sent the email around to the entire family, and they all talked for a week before I heard about it, when Lori emailed me acid vomit. When I called my mom, she said I think she's a "drunk," and I need "help."

    I still stayed non-reactive; not "explaining", not attacking. Just sorry that everybody felt so upset. But of course internally, I had to rethink my entire family dynamic. It took a few weeks, but something loosened and blew away, and suddenly I was free of the whole pattern (and managed to stay friends with my 90 year old mom!)

    The shocker is that now, a few weeks since I embraced this new reality, wonderful old friends I'd lost track of are coming out of the woodwork, wanting to get together with me. One FB friended me out of the blue, and I ran into another in a local bookstore....I'm seeing both of them this week. My handyman gave me a hug yesterday when he came to clean out my gutters. My neighbor's 45 year old son just kissed me on the cheek when he came to get his parents' vacation mail.

    I don't pretend to understand this. But it's exactly what Dreambirdie and Wayne (nice new avatar!) are talking about.

    Madie
  16. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    Wow Madie! What a drama. I'm so glad you managed to find freedom from the insanity of that dynamic, and reaped such sweet rewards in the process.

    I'm wondering if you could articulate what you went through mentally and emotionally, when:

    It would be interesting to know more about this... What did you focus on (or not) as you when through this ordeal with your family members? How did you disengage from the desire to be reactive? How were you able you shift yourself perspective? What was it that "loosened and blew away?"

    I think it would be really helpful for others, if you could say more about it. I realize that these things are not always easy to describe in words, but it is fascinating to hear how much your responses in that situation affected others' responses back to you. I would love to hear any further thoughts you might have about this.
  17. jenbooks

    jenbooks Guest

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    What changes rapidly?
    First of all, it takes years to actually leave the system. It's a heroic struggle and done again and again until it finally takes hold. So nothing really changes rapidly imo.
    Secondly, it's almost worse for the family members to have that person to abuse. It brings out the worst in them--compulsive abuse, because now that person carries so much projected "yuck" that they are a constant trigger to the others. It brings out the worst in everyone.
    I think it's a myth that having exited the situation, the family members, formerly intact because able to project all their shadows onto one scapegoat, now have to face their reckoning, and will fall apart.
    In addition, I think each family member has projected parts of the darkness. It is really rare that all these "intact" members are intact and whole, projecting their shadow onto one abused suffering collapsed person. It may look like that on a cursory glance, but in fact, a family is a system with mythological roles...and each role has its blessings and curses.
    And it's not necessarily that you're the most sensitive and picked for that reason. It could be that for instance, in a family, the alpha member is the matriarchal mother--but that mother was abandoned, neglected and/or abused by her mother. She has a girl child, and instantly projects her unmet needs to be mothered onto the baby, as well as her rage at never having been properly mothered. It may have nothing to do with sensitivity. Then mother and child are locked in an impossible battle: the baby wants to be mothered, the mother wants to be mothered. Rage ensues in both, and the alpha member of the family, the matriarchal mother, demands that other members tow the line------thus a "scapegoat" is born.
    That's for instance one scenario having nothing to do with sensitivity.
    But that mother is suffering. Intact? No.
    And it is possible that without that child around, she would be able to bury that rage more effectively and actually function better, because every time that baby/child needs something, it triggers her rage at her own unmet needs. Maybe she just isn't too good of a mother...

    Or with a father--as I mentioned to you once, Dreambirdie, on Steve Martin's first success, his father published a scathingly negative review of his work.
    Nice, huh?
    On his deathbed, his father said: "You have lived the life I always wanted to live."
    It was jealousy--the classic pi$$ing contest--competition between two males. The son should not outdistance the father, nor live out his unlived dreams. Etc. That is not uncommon. Or a son who wants to do something so totally different than the father, not go into the family business. As successful as the son might be, he might never get acknowledgement, only berating and curses from the family etc etc.

    But anyway, I am getting kind of off topic of Zoe's situation, which is: I hope she can just accept whatever income she is getting, figure out how much more she needs, and work at getting it in order to keep her health gains. I would blanket the doctors in the area with a heartfelt letter, nothing about the parents, just that an income source is drying up and offer specific services in exchange for the treatments, and list what she can do. I would put something up on that MCS website where people offer donations. And hopefully, it will work out!
  18. ahimsa

    ahimsa Senior Member

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    So true. I've been reading this thread but did not feel like I had much to add beyond what others are saying. There are so many very thoughtful responses.

    zoe.a.m., I'm so sorry for what you are going through. Sending you some :hug: big hugs :hug: to help you get through this.
  19. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    Yes, it can take years to extricate yourself completely from a dysfunctional family system. But there is a certain point at which you decide that you can't go back to being their victim anymore, that you can't continue to pretend like it's okay for you to be a participant in your own abuse, and the total denial of it by those who are abusing you. That is the point when things begin to change rapidly. At least, for me they did. I don't feel like going into all the details of what I did, and how I did it, and how it all panned out... but I can tell you that after I made the decision that I was no longer willing to be abused by my family, I no longer was abused. And that is mainly because I refused any further contact with the abusers. This does not imply that I was now completely healed of all the past abuse I had been subjected to. There was a lot of "repair work" to be done at that point. There was a lot of introspection on the negative introjects--the negative beliefs about myself that I had psychically inherited--which needed to be investigated in the light of truth, and seen for the idiocy that they were. THAT was a big part of my process. It was a big relief when I had the epiphany that I had let the rantings of a crazy woman define who I was. When I got that one day during a therapy session, it made me laugh out loud with relief. Since that realization, any reversions back into feeling worthless just don't have the "stick" they used to.

    Abusing anyone is a sickness, for both the perpetrator and the target. Nobody can retain their emotional integrity in the "yuck" of an abusive environment. In my experience, in what I have seen in my own life and that of my friends, the perpetrators usually don't have to face their own reckoning. What they usually end up doing is finding someone else to scapegoat and abuse in the place of the person who left. Then it's up to that person to deal with them in the best way THEY know how,

    When I was a kid, and up until my early 30's, I spent a lot of time trying to understand abusive people and why they did what they did. Consequently, I know A LOT about my parent's, grandparent's and great grandparent's histories... as well as that of some of my past lovers. I understand the motivation for some, though not all, of their actions and behavior. All of the abusive people I was involved with definitely had unreconciled shadow issues, mainly because none of them had much willingness to investigate and heal the wounded parts of their psyches. Part of this was a generational issue, as my parents' generation (and everyone before them) believed that it was a ghastly humiliation to go to any kind of "shrink" to discuss one's personal problems with someone who was a total stranger. Part was fear of facing their own demons. And part was just stubborness and egotism.

    Looking back, I don't know how much of this information and understanding about any of the abusive significant others in my life really benefited me. Very little, I think. What has benefitted most is being honest with myself about myself, and leaving others to manage their own fate. If I could give a young person who has been or is being abused advice on what to do about it, I would say be like the Indian in Cuckoo's Nest. Observe carefully, believe what you see, look for help OUTSIDE the abusive system, plan your exit, when you see the opportunity to get out, then go for it, and don't go back, don't volunteer for any more abuse. The only problems you are responsible for are your own, and the only person you are responsible for is you. I wish someone had told me that when I was 15.
  20. LaurelW

    LaurelW Senior Member

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    I just want to say that this has been a fascinating thread from the get-go, and though I don't have anything to add, I really, really appreciate everyone's contribution.
    :thumbsup:

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