I wonder what it's like, not having to deal with a mentally ill family member? I have never known what such a situation could be like because I have never lived it.
I grew up with a violent, abusive man-child who could (and still can) beat the tar out of anyone. A man who could scare the shit out of other men by force of his brute strength and raging bull persona. This man was capable of killing other people. He has quite literally sucked the life out of his own wife, my mother. She is a ghost of the vibrant person she once tried to be. Conversely, this same man (my father, of course) could (and still can) charm the birds out of the trees when he wants to. I think my father is actually a sociopath. I would put nothing past him.
When I got married at a very young age, still a child myself really, I was happy/relieved/thrilled to be finally moving away from my highly dysfunctional family to begin my own life under my own terms. Of course, I hadn't banked on the spouse's own highly dysfunctional family, and especially not the spouse's mother in particular. What I found here in California when I arrived after a hellishly long plane flight and 3 days in US Immigration Processing was a father who was the alcoholic 'head' of this fractured family, a mother who was seemingly oblivious to the torturous goings on around her but who in fact was a hoarder of the worst kind, brothers who tormented the entire family with their twisted abuse (I later realized that they were just teenagers acting out), a narcissistic sister who had come home to live in her early 30s bringing an emotionally damaged 7 year old daughter (our niece) with her, said daughter/niece who was abused mentally and mercilessly by the brothers one of whom she later claimed had sexually abused her, and another sister who kept her distance in another US state. Years later, no one has seen the daughter/niece since 1999 or thereabouts. After the spouse's sister (the girl's mother) died at a young age, her grandmother was charged with the niece's care because she was still a minor but that didn't last long. The spouse's mother died of cancer not long after her daughter passed and we were left with a gigantic hoard to clean out. How anyone had been able to live in that house was beyond me, so hoarded, filthy and overrun with rats was it. The granddaughter/niece was forced to find ingress and egress through a downstairs bedroom window. After we cleaned out the house, the niece disappeared with a group of low lifes and has never been seen or heard from again.
Which brings me to my current situation. While all this was going on, the spouse and I were raising our own family. The spouse has always had a slight favoritism towards Cat because she reminds him of his long dead narcissistic sister. Both women are like 2 peas in the pod: They both attracted all the wrong sorts of people, they both had a penchant for loser men with no job/prospects/education/money, they both had a taste for drugs particularly pot, they both engaged in parasitic lifestyles. Cat, I have come to realize, is a carbon copy of her dead aunt and it scares the hell out of me because I already know how Cat's story is going to end if she keeps this up. History will repeat itself.
Various commenters on this blog have accused me of being a doormat. That is not true. Given my own shitty upbringing and the environment of terror in which I lived for years, it's a wonder I have been able to raise three other stable high achievers. My 3 other kids are doing fine, given the world we live in. By all rights, I should be tranquilized on downers and other anti depressants and/or in and out of the nut house. But I'm not.
I am a mentally strong person (as funny as that sounds!) and I too can be a force to be reckoned with. Yes, I have most definitely experienced my challenges in life. I was a spender, a fritterer of resources, a reckless person for the longest time (but mostly in secret while I lived the double life of my younger years), a hoarder. I have overcome all of that. I no longer do any of those things. I did my best to shield my kids from my behaviors. I held down high paying jobs. I lived in big houses in the best parts of town and drove new cars. I showed my kids what it was like to live in abundance. Of course, it all came crashing down due to my excessively risky real estate deals and the global economic crash but still: I did it. I lived a successful life to all outward appearances for a long time.
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By this time, I had been living apart from my british family for decades. Half of the spouse's family had died and were no longer spectres with which I had to deal. I could cut off and ignore the rest of his family which I most certainly did. We both did. We no longer had to deal with the dysfunction. It was our choice. We began to live a much more sustainable life, low key and basic. And then Cat began to show the same signs of mental illness that we had seen in the spouse's family, particularly in his sister. Of course, it doesn't help that the other half of Cat's DNA is made up of the defective material of my side of the family but thankfully she has not shown any sign of the violence that is the trademark of my DNA's contribution. At least, not so far.
Instead, we are dealing with the spouse's sister #2. Cat exhibits the same reluctance to grow up and take responsibility. She hangs out with the lowest common denominators and revels in the trouble they bring. She associates with people who have been dragged up by parents who are anything but. And she is an expert at hunting out weak men ..... men she can move in with for weeks at a time while they smoke medical grade pot together, men who work menial jobs if they work at all. Cat's life is going down the tubes.
Last night, Cat rolled home at 11pm. She has been gone for the better part of the the past month, lying around with any old bum in a storm. As usual. She has lost a lot of weight and now looks thin and gaunt, older than her years. She stood in front of me, swaying under the influence of whatever drugs she was doing last night, her eyes red and droopy, her skin dry, her hair like straw. She had gone to work much earlier that day in an outfit that can only be described as 'bohemian' at best ..... nothing like what she should have been wearing to such a professional job. Think black suits and white shirts. Cat showed up to work in a mix of black, purple, turquoise and red...... As I wrote in an early post, Cat has been suspended from one aspect of her job. That aspect made up one half of her full time hours. Thus, Cat is now employed part time. She is actually working less than 20 hours a week now. The rest of the time she is gone who knows where, sucking at the pipe. I can see this last vestige of normality, the remaining hours of this job she has, being taken from her too. I see her getting fired completely at any time now. Then, she will be an unemployed drug abuser/addict.
I have tried to think back to a time when Cat was a child, an adolescent. Did anything happen to her that could've caused this current state of affairs, aside from having me as a mother? I always put my kids first and did the best I could with what I had to work with. I KNOW actually that I was a good parent. Always there, always providing, always dependable. Whenever I indulged my own weaknesses, my kids were never ever around to see it. As far as I know, they have no idea. Hell, even the spouse had no idea what I would get up to with the shady characters I called 'friends'. This other life I was leading was separate from the hoarding and spending that the kids did get to see.
No, this is genetic, hereditary. Even the spouse's mother, Cat's grandmother, would remark just how much like her aunt Cat was. They are built from the same template. And it is as frustrating as hell because I know that no one will ever be able to get through to Cat. She is on a collision course and will remain on it until the crash, whatever form that will take.
Meanwhile, I suffer sleepless nights, finally falling asleep out of exhaustion and waking up feeling like hammered shit. Last night, when I finally was able to drift off, I kept waking up to see what Cat was up to ..... she was still awake at 4am when her father got up to go to work. Even though she has business to take care of around here, she will sleep until noon at least.
I have lived with this Cat state of affairs for the past 10 years and I am tired. This morning, I have a very long drive to make (4 hours one way) to take care of some business. I am so tired my teeth hurt. It's no wonder I can't lose weight. I stress eat. Cat is a huge source of stress, not just for me but for every other person in this family. The problem is, none of us know what to do about it. We have suggested rehab but Cat won't go. We have already tried putting Cat in her own apartment with a roomie but that was a disaster. We have tried cutting Cat off financially and every other way for a couple of years but that almost ended in her death. Meanwhile, we continue to give this manipulative, delusional, untrustworthy character access to our home and our lives and our vulnerability while we sleep ..... there's no telling what could happen around here. What else do we do? Everyone eventually wises up to Cat's craziness. And it's such a shame because she is so beautiful that she could be anything she wants to be but it's all going down the drain.
My friend shows up from the UK in a couple of days and I warned Cat last night that I don't want any of her craziness while my friend is here. I just want normalcy. I NEED normalcy.
The weekend came and went...
2 hours ago