AIBU to think I'm not a bully for being reacting like this?(27 Posts)
Bear with me, there is a long (and possibly boring for others to read) back story here. I have battled with eating and my weight since early in life. Compulsive eating and hiding food since childhood, bingeing, attempted purgeing (not very successful as hate being sick), starvation diets followed by binges, diagnosed with possible Binge Eating Disorder as an adult. I was in denial then and so didn't really accept the label. I was in treatment for other MH diagnoses and eating felt like the least of my disorders tbh. Well, recently I have started taking myself in hand through joining Overeaters Anonymous, a 12 step group similar to AA but for people with food addictions and other EDs.
I am on a plan where I avoid "trigger" foods (foods that make me binge) like white flour and refined sugar and a few other snacky, salty things like crisps. I am making progress and working with a good OA sponsor and attending a weekly meeting. I have a sister who I love dearly and she has been generally very suppportive of OA and what I'm doing. But...
Through no fault of her own my sister is obsessed with calories. She is slim but believes herself to be fat. She does not starve herself but is very obsessive. I try and understand she has a problem too and it isn't her fault. The other day she was staying over my house for a sleepover. When we were having breakfast she got up to make herself wholemeal granary toast on my grill and said "do you want some?" I said "not this morning, thanks." She said "oh, good girl." (I really doon't like when she makes comments like that but I told myself to suck it up. Then I got a second bowl of a healthy non-sugar cereal. Only to be given a lecture by my sister "when are you going to cut down on portion sizes? etc" This was all I had eaten that morning btw. Sometimes I have fruit or an egg as well as cereal but didn't that day. I told her "Look, please don't police what I eat. I am working on portion sizes and my sponsor is helping me reduce gradually. In gth epast I'd have had 4 bowls of cereal, 4 slices of buttered toast, 4 scrambled eggs etc and then 3 bars of chocolate and a bacon sandwich at 11am! I have come a long way!" She got a bit huffy. We are both Christians and we prayed together that morning "God please help Pretty take Holy Spirit led advice about eating." I felt a bit miffed again but said nothing . I later apologised by text that day and said "I already have a sponsor. Please don't talk about food like that in front of me- it upsets me." she was very fine about it. She really is lovely just a bit "bossy" as she older than me. Anyway, today I texted her a comment on how thin I was getting and she phoned me saying "You are doing really well! Of course, you know what you need to do now...." yep. She was off on portion control again. So i repeated what I felt. I have been in therapy long term for Borderline PD and trauma issues to do with being abused by our DF. My sis also was abused by him and I know she struggles with it. I have been learning assertiveness skills about boundary setting without being aggressive or passive. So i simply repeated it. She starts getting defensive and when I tried to explain/justify how I felt to her she started getting upset saying "please don't yell at me" and hung up thye phone. I wasn't yelling. I do have a loud voice and was in a crowded place.
The trouble is, this kind of thing isn't a pattern. When she says something that makes me feel got at she immediately goes on the "But you're getting at ME!!" and slams off in a huff. She shares my Christian faith but she is very big on rules and regulations eg she works and tithes money . I am on benefits so I give when I can . She often lectures me about tithing and things. When I tell her that I am struggling just to get through each day (I am physically disabled with Dystonia as well as other things) even when I say it gently (I admit I haven;t always been patient and gentle in the past) she goes into "You're getting at me!" mode with big sad eyes.
I realise she is sensitive and raw as one of the things our DF used to control us when we were young was our weight and food- shaming and humiliating us. Also he used the Bible to shame us at times. I have gone through episodes where I would have morbid fears of going to Hell for not tithing or being a glutton etc and I actually became quite suicidal over it and my OCD/BPD issues were exacerbated majorly until I was at crisis point. I am past that part, Thank God, but when she implies I am not a good Christian or she nags me about things I actually feel myself being triggered. I know triggered is a big word to use but my therapist says I have complex trauma and my intense anger and fear and insecurity when someone is critical of me is a part of that. In past I used to cut myself when my sister or others made comments like this.
I don't believe my sister is a bully- she is very kind to me and in past when I was very ill, I wasn't always kind and gentle to her- I would lash out in anger at her etc. So I accept I''m not whiter than white.
I just feel like I'm NEVER good enough for her. Invalidated. Like my progess is always "Well done, but....." Reminds me of my DF and some of the churches I used to go to before I developed a spine. She says she acknowledges that DF abused me too (she witnessed a lot of it) but I don't think she saw the way he used to humiliate me about my weight and be violent to me when she wasn't around. I sometimes feel like when she talks to me about our DF's abuse that she doesn't really get that it was that bad for me. She has often hinted that if I trusted God more my health issues wouldn't be as bad. Like DF, although he would flat out say I was faking them etc. My sister knows I am unwell, I just think she expects me to be better than I am. What bothers me is when she does the "you're getting at me! stop!" thing. When all I am doing is justifying or explaining why I feel the way I do???? She is not manipulative. I honestly believe she does feel things very deeply and is sensitive. But so am I, and that is why I feel the need to explain because being misunderstood hurts me a lot. I went through a lot of scapegoating from DF and also at school from my peers for many years. At risk of sounding self pitying I feel I have been misunderstood and rejected a lot.
A way in which I don't help myself is that when I was younger (like older child and teenage) I was very uncomfortable around people and shy. But I covered it up and was often told I came across as haughty, proud and condescending. Also my shyness didn't make me quiet- I could be blunt at times. Not so much out of malice but because I am very black and white (a spade is a spade type of thing). I think it is my Northern English roots although I was brought up in the Westcountry, and I have a reputation for being intense, obsessive and defensive. My sister on th eother hand is outwardly sensitive and considerate of others. She was insecure but sociable, not hiding away from people like me. So I am seen by others as a narcissistic bully and she the sensitive one?
BTW, I know I am coming across as a petulant child here but we are both well into our 30s!
I think this seems like normal sibling issues between you - family often seem to overstep the mark, esp when they think they know what's best.
Sorry to hear everything you've been through and well done for all your progress.
She does sound quite irritating. Could you speak with her when it's not happening and you're both calmer? It might help to actually tell her that the things she's saying remind you of your father and make you feel diminished. You can ask for her help when needed (I.e.never).
I'm not going to lie I didn't make it to the end of your post but if you don't want to discuss eating/weight/calories with her it is probably best not to send her texts about them and then be annoyed when she mentions portion control, she can't resist saying it so you need to either accept that or resist bringing it up in conversation first
You are both very sensitive regarding food / control because of the abuse from your father. Simply make it a no go discussion until you are both in a stronger place. At a calm time just both agree to not comment / discuss for an agreed period. Take the pressure of both of you.
Thanks to all who posted on here. Yes Rubyslippers7780 I think I will try that. Just changing subject and not engaging when this happens. And no more texts from me on the subject. Why do I need other peoples' approval so much? aaargh Nocabbageinmyeye No worries- I am not offended- It was loooong
I think you need to work out which subjects you can't get on with each other around and just avoid them. You both have an unhealthy relationship with food so you are the last people who should be discussing these things together. It's like two alcoholics talking about booze! If you need to talk to someone about food, talk to your sponsor.
There is also a terrible temptation to compare how bad things are. It's not a competition (I know you know that!) so just accepting that what happened to both of you was very very damaging and to be kind. FIRST to yourself, then others.
You don't need her approval. Try not to seek it, don't discuss this particular subject with her.
If it comes up, you could try agreeing with her rather than arguing. Just smile and say "yes, you are right, - working in portion control is in my plan" it might take the wind out of her sails and help avoid this cycle. (You don't have to actually agree)
I dislike the passive aggressive praying though. That's not helpful. It's not kind and it isn't necessary. I would speak to her about the next time it occurs.
Re tithing- you might suggest she rereads the story of the widow's mite.
I think you need to find a few stock phrases to reel out. "I'm working on this with my sponsor. Thanks for your concern". If she continues, pick one of fhose comments, "as I said....". Rinse repeat.
If you stand strong, she's going to have to back down. It sounds as if it comes from a place of love. However, you've both been abused and both sound very confused.
I did read the whole thread but I didn't really see where or why you felt you had any reason to ask if you'd been like a bully? You werent. But I didn't see anyone suggest you were...
I agree that food and diets should just be agreed to be a non issue for discussion between you and your sister. But I also wonder if -like you feel about her not witnessing or fully understand what your father did to you- her feeling of being "got at" by you is actually triggering how she felt when your dad spoke to/Emotionally abused her. So she overreacts.
Whilst I agree boundaries are very important for safe relationships it sounds, with all due respect, that sometimes you struggle to let an issue lie. She may feel got at as you bring stuff up that has annoyed you when really it should just be left aloneness or mentioned at the time. Texting after it or mentioning it next time or whatever perhaps triggers her to feel like she did with your dad.
Realising you were both abused by him is important and neither is more worthy of understanding or sympathy. But being kind to yourselves and each other and agreeing that sometimes you both need to be mindful of each other is a great start.
It also sounds like you have both overcome so much and are lovely people and sisters so please don't let this awful man keep coming between you.
I see nothing about any bullying behavior in your post.
You could put it down in writing to her, like you have here?
I think sending texts about feeling thin is the kind of way thing you should stop doing. Yes of course she should have just went a positive message back, but she doesn't sound like she's going to change. There are some topics I don't discuss with my sisters as we all get a bit defensive then pissed off with each other.
You triggered the response in part I think. You probably shouldn't have text her mentioning her weight loss. She clearly has weight issues too and her reply was more about her own personal obsession with food.
The best approach is for you both not to discuss weight or food at all. You can tell her in a quiet moment that the topics are off limits. Then if she ever mentions weight or food don't join in the discussion. Remain silent except to remind her that this is not an issue you'll discuss with her.
Or alternatively just blatantly change the topic every time she mentions food or weight.
Her 'you need to make portion sizes smaller'
Silence. Act extreamly uninterested
You 'what are you wanting to get x for their birthday present'
Also using prayer and the Holy Spirit to hammer home her own opinion is rather warped. But I think christians do this sort of thing a lot. Hyjack religion for their own purposes.
Congrats on all the steps you're taking.
She does sound annoying. I think it's difficult to get out of family roles that get established when we're younger. She obviously sees herself as a bit of a mother to you, perhaps because she's older but clearly her interference isn't particularly helpful and I think anyone would find it irritating. Like another poster suggested making food totally no go topic sounds like a good idea.
It does sound though that she has a habit of lecturing you on other topics as well so it's probably wise to find a way of shutting down those conversations before they start. e.g. "Thanks for your advice I'll take it on board" or "Thanks, I've thought about that quite a lot actually think I have it covered" then changing the subject.
"God please help Pretty take Holy Spirit led advice about eating."
You prayed to your God about eating!!!
..... never mind Syria, never mind the starving million, the injustices in the world, war, sickness, poverty.... !!
Your god does nothing about the above yet you seriously think he's going to look down and advise you on an eating plan!
That was a nasty post Quills.I'm an atheist but we all concern ourselves with our own "first world problems" while worse things are going on in the world. Whether you pray about them, worry about them to yourself or moan to your friends makes no difference.
With respect, you say you both went through similar experiences of abuse, food issues and threats. Do you think she has similar struggles to you? Clearly her personality is very different from yours and these differences may be contributing to the issues between you. But perhaps you two need to sit down together and discuss how you feel about and relate food and why? Would she come to an OA meeting with you or a counselling session to understand what you are trying to achieve? She lacks insight, but I'm afraid you seem to lack insight when it comes to her as well.
First of all, if you don't want your sister to talk to you about food and eating, then don't text her to tell her much weight you're losing. I absolutely see why you are upset/irritated by the calorie/portion talk, and I sympathise, but you are inviting the conversation if you text her about weight.
As you said, she is not your sponsor, so she shouldn't be the one getting updates on your weight. You can't have it both ways - either the topic is off limits or it's not. I don't think you can reasonably just choose to talk about it solely on your terms.
Secondly, it sounds as if you do talk to her a lot about your struggles generally. That's fine, of course, but do you think perhaps that you spend a lot of time talking about your problems and not much time talking about anything else? It's absolutely fine to have problems and it's fine to talk about them, but from her point of view it might be quite draining if she hears little else from you - particularly if you are also telling her that she 'doesn't understand' or isn't sufficiently acknowledging of how difficult your childhood was. It does sound you are being quite demanding of her and that your relationship is very much about you and your problems and what she should be doing to support you - it's not unreasonable to need support, but if you place yourself in that position, then it's maybe not surprising that she is forced into the role of being the brisk, capable one, and unfortunately part of that role usually does turn into nagging.
It certainly doesn't sound as if you are a 'narcissistic bully', but it does sound as if you are quite intense and quite fixated on certain things. I don't think that's your fault, as it's almost certainly a result of your terrible childhood, but I do think you need to be a little bit more aware of how that intensity might affect other people and colour their reactions to you. Your post is very much all about you and your problems - and clearly those problems are very significant and I don't blame you for being preoccupied with them - but you must remember that just because your sister is outwardly capable and bossy and brisk, that doesn't mean she has no problems or difficult memories or her own. She might not show them or react to them in the same way as you - but imagine how exhausted she must be if she always to be 'the strong one'. She had the same parents as you and may be suppressing all sorts of difficult thoughts and feelings about her own childhood, for example.
I don't think any of this is 'your fault' at all - it's understandable. But it's something you should perhaps just be a little more aware of.
Ultimately, if you really find your sister really difficult and you really do resent her (it does sound like there's an element of that tbh), spend less time with her. I love my sister dearly and we do see each other fairly regularly, but if we lived in each other's pockets or spent long periods of time together, we would probably kill each other. I'll happily have lunch with her every few months and have a lovely time with her, but I wouldn't want to see her every week and we don't text regularly.
Sibling relationships are very complicated and come with all sorts of childhood baggage - and even more so if your childhood was a particularly traumatic one.
I'm a staunch atheist but that was a really unnecessary post. We all concern ourselves with the ins and outs of our own lives, we moan that we can't have a holiday or we've put on weight when there are more important issues in the world.
BTW, I know I am coming across as a petulant child here but we are both well into our 30s!
You honestly don't sound you're being childish at all - you have a genuine concern and you're trying very hard to work out how it can be resolved. There's always a bit of baggage between siblings and I think most sisters have a tendency to regress to their younger selves when they're together.
I totally understand about the food policing. She's not going to stop. What I would suggest is that you have a total ban on ANY conversations about food or weight with her, even if you yourself want to. It's the only thing I found that didn't lead to me being really upset with the main person who was food policing.
What it means is that you never ever bring it up, and if they do say "sorry, i can't talk about food or diets with you - it isn't helping me at all and in fact it makes it more difficult for me to keep on track" and then if your sister doesn't respect that, get up and walk away. Be polite, regretful even, but be firm.
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