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Old 11-07-2017, 04:04 PM   #1
CaminoDeOro
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Hi folks, I'm in a situation with my niece where I feel like she's starting to actively push me away, and I'm thinking of taking a step back but I'm not sure if I should, and if so how exactly to go about it and how far to step back. It's a very complicated situation. This will be long. I apologize, but I write with a lot of detail, so thanks in advance to anyone who'll read it. It's VERY complicated.

I'm in my 30s, have poorly managed bipolar II and my niece, who is in her 20s, is suffering from severe depression and complex PTSD due to a variety of factors. I've been in a very long low which started with my dad (her granddad) slipping into dementia and then my sister (her mom), who was stealing, essentially make a hostile takeover of his life when I had been trying to manage his affairs and illness. That all happened very rapidly after 8 months which were arguably the most inspiring and uplifting period in my life - I'd gone back to school, I was loving it and getting straight As, and actually my niece had been staying with me and my girlfriend that summer too (before the stuff with my dad) because her mom was insufferable. Then everything exploded over 4 months or so - niece suddenly went back to her mom's, her mom did what she did which cut me off from my dad, and I left my girlfriend of 4 years.

All this tipped me into the longest low of my life. So, I then pretty much faded on my niece for about 4 years, I had to take action against her mom to try to stop the stealing and she was mad about that for a while but got over it, but still, long periods of no contact, etc. She was living with her mom the whole time. My sister is something close to nonviolent APD with hoarding, and as such is not only unable to help my niece recover but creates a situation that is actively, if unintentionally, abusive and hostile to recovery.

About a year ago my dad died and I reconnected with them, I managed to tolerate my sister for about 2 months but really reconnected with my niece. We'd always been close and gotten along very well since she was little and it was so so so powerful to reconnect, especially with all that was going on in the absolutely hellish environment there. It really was like combat bonding like you'd see in a war, I swear. And of course I fell into a solid mixed episode from all the stress, ended up heading back to my city but got so terribly anxious both about her situation and just suddenly losing that closeness when really I've had nothing like it hardly at all, ever, and especially not in the past few years. She is the only biofamily I have ever bonded with, ever at all. So I got WAY too intense and ended up driving her away for a little bit when she was having a bit of a depression/PTSD episode anyway. She isolates severely during those and sometimes won't talk to hardly anyone, though the more stressful people get cut first and I was one of the earlier ones to go that time. :|

Anyway once I realized what was going on I got my meds adjusted which always kills the mixed/hypomanic state quickly, and we patched back up pretty shortly after that. We went to a festival together during the summer, her with a friend paying the way and me with a couple friends including the ex-girlfriend I mentioned above, we get along now okay. So we all met up there and camped together, etc. I was so glad to see her there but got essentially no time to just BE with her, partly because it's a festival and thus super busy and exciting, partly because her friend was bankrolling it and she thus felt obligated to attend to the friend, who is very introverted and I got an unshakeable sense did not care for me particularly much. But also I kinda got a faint sense during the festival that she wasn't quite as enthusiastic about actually spending time with me as I was with her. I couldn't be sure though. The last day, her friend suddenly got quite sick from a foodborne illness and after recovering a bit just wanted to leave to sleep it off in her hotel. So there was a very sudden goodbye with my niece, we always get pretty emotional when saying goodbye anyway, and this was so fast and then she was just gone. I crashed pretty hard that night, which I knew I would well beforehand anyway.

After the festival she didn't contact me for like 3 days, just absolutely nothing, and I know the messages were going through because our texting app has delivery confirmations (though not, thankfully, "seen at" confirmations). I didn't even know if she'd gotten home safe or where she was. I think her friend recovered pretty quickly from being sick and they spent a couple days doing whatever before my niece had to go back to the hellhole where she lives with her mom. But like ... not a word. She's always been one to space out on text conversations in the middle and so on, but this was 3 days. I got pretty upset but used my skills and basically just told her that it made me feel devalued and upset, matter of factly and not judging or whatever. She apologized and insisted that she values me a great deal etc. After that we were in contact quite a bit more than before the festival, I guess because we'd seen each other and she remembered I'm a real person? And not just somebody else to ghost out on when she's down.

I do believe she loves me and cares for me like I do her. Maybe not the same amount. But like I said we have always gotten along really well, we're very similar in a lot of ways. If anybody in her immediate family loves her, they sure as hell don't express it. But I do. With the abuse and neglect she suffered growing up it's very hard for her to express or accept bonds like that. But we would always hug and say I love you etc every night when I was there before going to bed and I know she really meant it. Toward the end when it was coming time for me to leave, she opened up to me a bit more and also let me into her room to hang out, which was really really significant because she has essentially no private space, her mom violates her space charging into her room many times a day, so keeping EVERYONE else out of there is her only way to have any sense of space at all. So letting me in was a big deal and I could tell she was super conflicted the first time but then she was okay after that. And I've made her little pieces of art and cards etc that she pinned over her bed, which is a rare honor indeed. And before that when she'd been staying with us 5 years ago we called each other brother and sister because that's what we felt like. She has always been like the baby sister I never had, I had no siblings, and I am like a big brother to her. So, it's not that she doesn't love me.

Anyway over the months before and after the festival, a lot of stuff happened in her life, some of it obviously I was there for and some of it in her personal life which she was telling me about for reality checks and encouragement. She'd been making so much progress at increasing her self-esteem and self-reliance, etc. She took some chances and they were starting to pay off. Then she had a moment of shaky self confidence and self doubt, and her mom happened to choose that specific moment to tear her down about something I think unrelated. Though the mom is jealous whenever my niece does manage to go out to socialize. Anyway, the attack triggered a CPTSD episode, everything went to **** and the payoff my niece was so close to getting, she threw it away during the "I'm terrible and deserve nothing and am bad for everyone around me because I'm broken and unfixable" phase. Then when the other people involved took a step back - after she told them to - she got mad at them and decided they were terrible and never cared, etc. After that she fell into severe depression and isolation to the point where she really has almost completely stopped communicating with everyone, not just me. She's rarely posting online any more and so on.

When I returned to my city early this year, I promised her I would never ever again lose touch with her and that I would always be in touch every day, at least once. I meant it and I followed through on it. I wanted her to always at least ping me once a day too because I was worried about her situation, over the years she's attempted suicide a couple times, been in inpatient a few times, etc. Well turns out she wouldn't do that, it was one of the things I eventually got too intense about during my mixed episode, but eventually I accepted that nope, that's not something she'll do. But every single day I send her at least one message whether she's communicating or not, sometimes an emoji breakfast or an emoji "spell" or picture, sometimes I just say I love her or send a couple hearts, sometimes a photo or a random comment on my day. The messages almost never contain any expectation of response. When she's isolating she often won't respond, and it got really bad since stuff blew up for her after the festival as I just described. There have been a few brief brightening periods where she started posting more, responding more to texts or messaging me first, etc. They don't last, though.

Lately though I feel like it's deepened to the point that she's pointedly ignoring me. Like I said she's not posting online much, but she will post sometimes, including original content now and then (not just reshares). But now it's dead silence, absolutely nothing for over a week now when she texted "you ok?" after I had a mood crash and sent some sad emojis one day and then was so fried the next day that I forgot to message her. I responded, I guess expecting to have SOME kind of interaction, but that was it. Just the one message and nothing. And before that it had been days and days as well.

I've been chewing on this for a few days now, letting it cool, using my skills, thinking about it rationally and about what I might say and how that might affect her, etc. Anyway last night she suddenly posted a short angry message online about never wanting to get close to people again, I could tell it was related to everything that fell apart in the last couple months. She will ruminate about it at night and get upset just like I did before the meds largely handled that problem. Anyway, I just posted a comment, "ok", so she'd know I'd seen it and I care and wasn't going to try to talk her out of her feelings or anything like that, just "ok." Well I woke up this morning and she'd deleted my comment. That would ordinarily be a very minor blip on the radar but in the context of truly deafening silence lately I feel like it is more. I got somewhat upset and then it brought back the hurt and loneliness I feel when she'll have nothing to do with me like this, even if it 80% has nothing to do with me. It raises my pulse just thinking about it honestly. So again I'm letting things cool and thinking it over carefully and letting logic mind and emotion mind both have their say. And also posting here and getting reality checks from a couple people I trust.

I know she doesn't hate me, she loves me on some level, she looks up to me, shares stuff about her identity that many others don't know (especially her immediate family who barely know her at all). We have interests in common. I may be problematic and intense but overall I think most of the time she would agree that I'm a good thing in her life. And her known pattern after the abuse and such is to push people away when they get close.

But like... at what point does reality intervene and you start having to deal with the consequences of your actions?

If you push people away enough, eventually they are going to withdraw. I understand for some people, and definitely for her at times, she'll do that, and then use their withdrawal as evidence that they never cared about her and that she is worthless. But even the most dedicated people who care the most who eventually withdraw do so for a reason. In my case it's painful, sometimes to a pretty large degree, when she shuts me out. And I'm at the point now where I think resentment might be getting a toehold on my side, and that's a serious problem.

If I try to bring this up - by sending a message into the dark and hoping she even reads it - she might actually be straightforward and we'd re-sync our understanding. When she's doing better she's actually pretty great about working this kind of stuff out. But now? She might just let it sink into the fog and not respond. Or, when somebody is in a bad state with CPTSD, little stressors like that can cause a huge reaction. Maybe if I say that it hurts me, she'd suddenly be overwhelmed with guilt and shut down. I worry about that but at some point it can't be the primary concern any more. The world doesn't alter itself to conform to any of our emotional problems, actions have consequences, and if you push people away eventually they will either express some feeling about it, or they will leave. And she (and all of us) need to find a way to deal with it because it is a normal part of life.

The other major complicating factor here is that due to the abuse and neglect and her mom's serious mental illness, she has essentially no life skills. Her immediate family will never be helpful to her in any way, believe me. They don't live in town. She doesn't drive or take Uber/cabs due to PTSD surrounding it. She has never had a job other than being a slave to her mom and she does not know how to use the banking system. And so on. And the idea of learning any of it terrifies her. It's a catch-22 of truly amazing proportions.

Worse than that, she basically has one good friend at this point (the one who brought her to the festival) who has her own problems. She has one or two other friends that she's mad at for various reasons, who I can tell will eventually drift away if those differences don't get settled. And that's it. There is nobody else in her life, literally nobody.

My sister barely keeps a roof over their heads. She is constantly in danger of foreclosure, getting the power cut, and so on. My sister's hoarding makes it far, far, FAR worse. The place is a breeding ground for disease and serious illness, a huge fire hazard with so many accidents waiting to happen you'd really only believe it if you saw it. And sister is uneducated, poor literacy skills, and in general has/causes the magnitude of problems you would expect from somebody with a cluster B personality disorder. It is astounding the level of problems and discord she causes to herself and everyone around her. I have literally never dealt with anyone more toxic in all my life.

The point being, with all those factors, eventually my niece WILL get to the point where she'll get herself out... or her mom will have an accident or get sick and die due to the dangerous mess she's created. And then what?

She doesn't have anywhere to go. None of her friends has any money or a place of their own. Right now neither do I. I haven't worked in over 4 years now during this low, and really my dad dying and reconnecting with my niece afterwards was a huge shot in the arm. I'm putting all my energy into recovery now - therapy, DBT, exercise, geting my crap together so I'll stay on task, get out more, make new friends, and eventually get back into the work force and get a place of my own. I am staying with another ex of mine now, and while I'm proud that I'm a good enough person that an ex would put me up for over a year now after I lost my home - I don't exactly have any freedom to offer a place. Being able to offer a landing pad to my niece if and when she chooses or needs to take me up on it is a huge priority of mine. She just does NOT have other options. But of course recovery from a multi-year low and treatment-resistant bipolar doesn't speed up just because you suddenly have a reason. So I am struggling along my own path here in my own city.

And really, my niece potentially committing suicide is a concern here. She's not stating intent or self-harming but I know how that can creep in during the dark isolated periods when you're down the hole. It's also a risk when her mom flips out due to self-imposed stress. She gets chaotic and mean and can get my niece stirred up into a hot state where it's a risk. I feel like, even if my daily message/emoji breakfast/whatever stresses her out or annoys her - and I know that can happen, I have a new friend who manages to stress me out by messaging me at times - that she would miss it if I stopped, but I know she would not say anything and it would just be another factor in her despair. What if I step back and she kills herself, even if it was totally unrelated and she would have anyway?

So, I'm not sure what to do. I think reducing my amount of contact without saying anything is probably a bad idea. I was thinking about just asking if she found the daily messages stressful or bothersome and saying that I know it can be like that sometimes bc I have a friend like that. (If she said yes I would be hurt, but it's reality, I have to deal with it, and I doubt my stressful effect would be a permanent thing, it's contextual.) But she is the type where, if she's not up to being straightforward, might say that it's fine when it's not. Or maybe she would just be silent and leave me where I am now, not knowing what to do and having to make a decision. Or, maybe instead of asking, I could state my perception - that I'm worried my messages are stressful or bothersome, and unless she says otherwise I'm going to step back a bit. But then of course she could feel guilty and be unable to deal with it, and thus not tell me to continue even if she wants me to. She does dissociate a lot and may not have a solid idea of how much time has been going by with us almost never talking. So a sudden awareness could make her feel bad about herself and thus perpetuate the shutdown.

You can see the problem here. It's dilemma upon dilemma upon dilemma. I can see why she thinks it's hopeless. Hell, the encouragement I give her when she does reach out often sounds hollow to me. But I know overall I am a positive influence. And I worry that stepping back might hurt us both more than the current situation. And then, how far should I step back? I thought probably to just send a message less often, every few days maybe, the same kind of random things. But I don't know, about any of it.

If I lose her I will really be adrift, and if it's related to my choices I doubt I will ever forgive myself, justifiably or not. I've been left behind by almost everyone myself, more than once over the years, and her challenges are even bigger. I vowed to myself to never abandon her as so many others have abandoned us both. But I don't know how to handle this. Ideas and reality checks would be great.
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Bipolar II ultrarapid cycling + ADHD-PI, both treatment resistant af
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Old 11-09-2017, 03:37 PM   #2
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I would just write weekly "I love you, I'm here"
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Old 11-10-2017, 02:58 AM   #3
CaminoDeOro
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I ended up not messaging yesterday or today so far but I think it's all part of me having an unstable episode right now. High avoidance. Anxious.
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Old 11-12-2017, 12:03 PM   #4
CaminoDeOro
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Still haven't contacted her. I've wanted to the past two nights but it's when my meds/etc have already started making me really drowsy, that's an excuse though. Ughhh abruptly stopping was the last thing I wanted to do but as usual everything feels in an uproar, and for a few days I've not really been contacting anyone outside of my small core of a couple people. And had a couple people bring up stressful topics so I stopped responding to them too.

Totally ironic of course that this is happening to me and it's very similar to why she's not responding. I think.
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Bipolar II ultrarapid cycling + ADHD-PI, both treatment resistant af
zyprexa 2.5 / dexedrine 10 / valium 3 :: CYP2D6 poor metabolizer
currently trialing meds one by one with a great pdoc after 20 years of fail
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Old 11-12-2017, 04:41 PM   #5
CaminoDeOro
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Default Re: stepping back when they push you away

She got ahold of me on a social network, apparently her abusive pig of a mom determined somehow that we were in contact so she was afraid to text me back or use FB messenger, with good reason regardless as the mom will spy on those forms of communication. Apparently disappearing messages were not enough. Anyway it is hardly ideal but we are back in contact at least :/
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Bipolar II ultrarapid cycling + ADHD-PI, both treatment resistant af
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currently trialing meds one by one with a great pdoc after 20 years of fail
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Old 11-14-2017, 08:44 PM   #6
Miguel'smom
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Good luck, I know it's difficult when others don't want you and her to talk. Her best bet is to move away to college. That probably wont happen.
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