My childhood was. . . complicated, to say the least. With a mother I’m pretty sure has NPD and a passive father who was usually at work, things weren’t easy for my two-year-older sister and me. I was Mama’s favorite (she’s confessed as much to me), and my sister was her scapegoat. We were isolated from all our peers, being homeschooled until high school, not allowed to have anyone come over (because Mom’s a hoarder), and being forbidden from seeing certain friends. We also weren’t allowed to go to a friend’s house without the other, which lead to us sharing our friends, which we mostly still do to this day.
I guess my sister resented me for being the favorite, at first. She was the one who realized there was something wrong with Mom, and showed her displeasure by spiting her more and more. Sneaking out in the middle of the day (while we were supposed to be either cleaning our rooms, doing our school work which Mom always forgot about, or otherwise avoiding the people from Child Services) to play with our friends. She never invited me. And then Mom would send me to find my sister.
The abuse was varied. There was a one-time sexual incident when I was five and she was three (no penetration). She probably had no idea what she was doing, or the effect it would have on me. And, yeah, she beat me up a few times. Usually it was provoked at least a bit, and it was an actual fight, although I usually failed to hold up my end. Once she hit me in the head with a video when she’d thought I’d lied to her. Another time we were fighting over what movie we wanted to watch and she pulled me down and scratched my forehead. This scratch left a scar for years. Made me feel a bit of kinship with Harry Potter. But that’s not to say she always won. One time I hit her in the head with batteries, and told her to “go to the Abyss.”
I resented sharing all my friends with my sister. They always seemed to prefer her over me. When we had disagreements, they always sided with her. When I expressed my feelings about this openly or just went home, my sister started saying I was too sensitive, among other things. I was a crybaby. Too whiny. It wasn’t that bad. I needed to get over it. I was Mom’s minion, and just like her. A few times, I nearly committed suicide. I knew that would show her. She’d be sorry. But, in the end, I just couldn’t ever do it.
Somehow along the way, I began to associate sensitivity and weakness with femininity, making myself more masculine so I could see myself as strong and start respecting myself again.
Over the years, my sister and I became even closer. Best friends, even–brought together by the wrongs Mom committed against us–things we were sure no outsider could ever understand. Our disagreements became more serious. At a movie we went to with our mutual best friend, she’d also brought a friend of hers. When I said I wanted to sit by our best friend instead of my sister’s friend that I didn’t know, I was allowed to do so, then greeted with my sister’s smug, superior look. I knew what that look said. “You’re being whiny again. Everyone sees what a whiny idiot you’re making of yourself.” So, I sat on the opposite side of the theater by myself. The next day in school, our best friend yelled at me for being whiny and immature. Same old story. That was in the first of two classes I had with her, so I sluffed the second class, went straight home, and just cried.
As we became older and Mom started relaxing her original rules, I was allowed to branch out. I started working at a haunted house and wearing a lot more black and eyeliner. I just liked the way it looked. The way it made me feel. Sister dear started calling me an emo, telling me I needed to grow up, get over it and stop being so sensitive, as usual. By this point, I’d learned to save face and stop seeming so whiny by just laughing and agreeing with her, even though inside I was beating up on myself for another failure. Anything was better than shaming myself.
I inherited most of the medical problems on both sides of my family. Bad knees, bad back, asthma, IBS, migraines, and a proneness to UTIs, just to start with. I’d be out of school a lot because of these. My sister was always the one to tell me I was a hypochondriac drama queen. I was faking it.
For years I’d known that Mommy was the bad guy in my family. So, I figured that what my sister was telling me had to be the truth. In that case, why was I lying to myself? Why was I being so dramatic? Why was I having psychosomatic pains? Was I somehow deliberately making myself sick? Was the pain less than I imagined it to be? Why was I so sensitive and how could I toughen up? The more I tried to ignore it, the more hurtful things my sister said, the more I’d sit in my room and question what was wrong with me. I’ve tried my hand at lots of self-diagnosis, from BPD to APD to depression. Nothing ever fit right.
In the last couple years, she’s tried to get physical with me again. Doing things like repeatedly hitting me with a large pan lid. But now I’m bigger than her, weighing 30 pounds more–a lot of it muscle. I won both times I didn’t hold back.
But the psychological side has gotten worse–particularly since she started going to college, and getting therapy. She’s been identified as an ACMI (Adult Child of the Mentally Ill), which means she’s a parentified child. The one she parentifies is me, despite the fact that I am an adult and capable of making my own decisions. While we were on vacation once, she woke me up in the middle of the night to remind me to plug my phone in, despite the fact that I deliberately didn’t do it, because the battery would last through the next day. When I pointed this out, she told me basically that I was not qualified to make that decision. Unable to take it, I sat in the bathroom and cried. When I came out again, with the resolve to write a note to her and tell her my feelings and hopefully resolve things, she’d set a box of kleenex on my side of the bed. I wrote the note and went to bed. I only found out a few months later from our best friend that my sister refused to forgive me for what I’d said in the note, and our relationship went to a new low.
But it got better the longer we spent apart. She wanted me to move in with her in order to get away from our mom, and I obliged, because we’d be living with our best friend and a friend of hers.
That’s where things stand, pretty currently. Me, a girl of nineteen, living with my twenty-one-year-old sister and two other girls. When things are good, they’re really good. But when they’re bad. . . .
I half-jokingly asked my dad for a car. My sister freaked out, saying I obviously didn’t understand what Dad was already doing for both of us. I tried to back off the issue, saying I was joking, telling my dad repeatedly never mind, but it didn’t work. She was in full swing, accusing me of childishness and immaturity and ignorance and selfishness and so forth. I got fed up and peppered my words to her with a couple curses. She got to her feet, standing directly over me and said “Don’t you swear at me,” using my full name. I held back, merely saying “Too late.” Then she shoved my chair back as hard as she could, knocking me to the floor and breaking the chair.
We’ve gotten to a point where we can talk out some of our problems with each other. But then there are other times. Just last week we had a minor disagreement, and I went to my room, annoyed. When I came out to get something, she asked if I was angry with her. When I said annoyed, she asked why, and I, unwilling to go through the explanation at that point, went to my room again. She followed me, sitting on my bed, demanding an explanation. No matter how much my orders to get out turned to threats turned to pleas turned to begging, she wouldn’t leave, saying I was in an emotional state and she was worried about me, and that she wasn’t leaving without an explanation. I’m an introvert. I don’t think well around other people. Besides which, getting that emotional in front of someone is a mortal sin for me. She wouldn’t leave. I broke down. She still wouldn’t leave, and started being condescending, saying that if I was going to act like a child she was going to treat me like one. I finally managed to voice those thoughts that seemed so long ago into words, but she still wouldn’t leave until I had calmed down. Only when I appeared to be calm did she finally go, after which I started crying all over again, punching my pillows to death. Once more those age-old questions resurfaced. Why do I always act this way? What’s wrong with me?
It was that night when I first discovered sibling abuse. Sure, I’d stumbled across the term before. I’d become interested in child abuse for a story I was writing, and had done some thorough research on it. Came across the term. That night, deciding that she was disregarding my rights, I started looking it up. And I cried again. This time with relief. It wasn’t all my fault, as I had thought for so long. It really wasn’t all about what was wrong with me. I was a victim, too, it seemed.
Nothing major has happened since then. She called me “hon” again. I asked her not to, complete with a calm please, because she knows I hate it. Her response? “Deal with it.” Whenever I tell her that she’s not my mother, she says I need mothering. When I try to walk away from her when I’m angry, she follows me. And our friends are all on her side.
The things that my sister’s done have caused a few things in me, I think. I feel the need to be physically strong. To internalize everything. Show no hurt–no pain, no sadness, anger only to the level of annoyance. Never cry in front of anyone. Never reveal weakness. Be strong. Suck it up and deal with it.
Next time a major incident comes out, I’m pretty sure I’m going to tell her she’s abusing me–that her behavior is unacceptable, and I’m not going to tolerate it anymore. If I need to, I’m beginning to think I’ll just move back in with Narcissistic Mom and Enabler Dad. They’re not perfect, but they’re hardly abusive to me.
For now, this story has no resolve. No beautiful conclusion complete with a good moral for all the kiddies. But I think I’m going to be an optimist, for once. The ending might work itself out eventually.
(I really hope this site doesn’t die, because it’s already been great for me. It’s got to be good for other people, too. Sibling abuse is so rarely recognized because there isn’t enough information about it out there. I don’t want anyone else to repeat my mistakes and not realize there’s something wrong so late in the game.)
sibling-abuse.com would like to thank and commend Nikki for coming forward and sharing her story. Recognizing the symptoms is the first step to addressing the issues and learning to move forward in your life. And while we know it’s a lifelong battle, we are happy you’ve taken this first step. Things can and will get better. But don’t be afraid to seek help or continuing to talk to others who have suffered likewise. You’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to be ashamed of.
If you have a story you would like to share as well, please feel free to tell us whatever or however much you feel comfortable sharing. It can help not only you, but others out there as well who can read your story and know that they are not alone.