Monday, August 6, 2007

Too tired for cleverness

So my dreams are still intensely strange. The ones I remember have to do with work and/or juggling appointments while dragging my exhausted butt around.

Certainly not ingredients for a restful night.

So, what else is going on - besides the usual work/appointment juggling and (blissfully) minor car woes that happen every day to everyone?

I've been trying not to think about my conflicted feelings towards my brother. And yet the more I avoid it, the more my brain needs to process the everyday events in my life, leading to dreams and unrestful night sleeps.

I left a message for John (my therapist) to schedule an appointment, but I haven't heard from him yet (not necessarily unusual, since he moonlights with his private practice.)

So, I decided that I best write down what it is that I want to talk to him about. (For me, writing down what it is I want to say, or in some cases, running through an entire dress rehearsal in my mind, before my appointment helps me to focus my session on the things that I need to resolve.) Usually, I write this in my private journal... but, I felt a little better after talking to my husband about it on Friday night, so maybe I'll feel a little better sharing it with you? Burdens shared are lessened and all that?

The conflict comes from this:
My brother did some horrible things to me when I was young. Decades later, I'm angry at him for all the pain he caused me, all the problems (eating disorder, sexu@l disorder, trust issues, etc) that came from what he did. I feel righteous anger. I was innocent, after all, by my brother's own admission. I didn't do anything wrong.

And yet, ever since college, he has been so damned nice. To me. And now, he has been so damned accommodating - with my confrontation, with my ground rules for visits,... It infuriates me that he is so damned nice; that I feel guilty for feeling angry at him.

I feel like he is stealing my anger away from me.

When I talked to Todd about this, he asked me, "Why do you want to hold onto your anger?"

Good question. I answered that I need to hang onto my anger right now; to help me remember that it wasn't my fault, that I wasn't to blame. Because right now, it is so easy for me to fall back to the "I didn't say no; I didn't stop it so it must be my fault" lines. Lines that I know, intellectually, are crap, but that my heart would rather believe than to believe that someone I trusted would betray me that way. Especially when that same person who betrayed my trust decades ago is now acting (being?) so trustworthy - agreeing and following my ground rules; understanding...

I think that this shouldn't be so confusing - I mean, Brother + bad thing = brother is bad. But is it really so black and white?

In the rest of my life, I've been working on seeing the many shades of gray. Food is neither good nor bad; life isn't pass or fail... So, doesn't it make sense that this issue isn't black and white?

But then I think back to when John and I first really talked about the abuse. He asked me, "When I think about what happened to me, do I feel that it was good, bad or gray?"
I answered, "Gray."
He replied, "No. There is no gray. It was all bad. None of it was good."

So, I think I need to ask John, "If that is true, then why do I feel gray about my brother?"

And most importantly, how do I resolve this inside of me?

I hope John is on his A-game, whenever my appointment is...


æ said...

yeah, I know this confusion. Especially when it's with people who are "decent" or whatever now.

And it's also confusing because it rewrites history to the extent that you can't SEE on the abuser now that they were abusive. Kinda feels better when they're bad and nasty because then people can see that they're bad and crazy.

Personally, I think that all people are probably gray. And that's hard. But if I wanted to, I could drum up all sorts of reasons and compassion for my's just not really good for me to right now because I need to feel anger as well (and have a hard time finding it). So let's say then, what your brother DID was all bad. That situation was ALL BAD. Does that mean that your brother can't have other aspects to him, especially now? No. He can. But do you need to honor those, do you need to change how you feel about him? NO. You get to feel how you feel. You get to confront him or challenge him or whatever over and over as many times as you'd like to.

You really do.

I know it's confusing. It was hard for me to come back and try to sort out how some of my family members who say the most hurtful and idiotic things could be my favorites. And it's hard for me to figure out why I still want my mom in my life when she ignored me and my abuse for so many years.

Life is gray, but abuse isn't. You know?

(sorry, still scatterbrained today!)


carrie said...


Most people are gray. Your brother did evil things- but he's still human. Maybe part of this niceness is his sort of remorse over what happened. I don't really know.

I left treatment last year because my roommate led a group of girls into reading my journal as a social activity. Not abuse, not invasive all the same. My roommate wrote me a letter right before I left. I haven't opened it. Why? Mentally, I need her to be a monster. I don't know how to cope with the fact that she's as human as me. I don't want to know why she did it, I don't care how sorry she is. I don't. I just want to slap her.

That's the hardest part.

The church always says, "Hate the sin, love the sinner." While cliche, I think it's message is important, to separate the person from the actions. Your brother is acting nicely and has been lately. Fine. He's also your abuser. He's the same person. People are complicated.

However he may or may not have changed does not negate what happened. EVER.

Hang in there. I'm here for you.

Faith said...

Dear Jeanne -

Holding on to anger, at least for a while, is important. You spent a long time suppressing that anger and I'm not entirely sure you've had a chance to feel it fully. Maybe you need to scream at your brother. Maybe you need to take a boxing class or hit a bag with your brother's face on it. I don't know but if you are holding on to your anger, there is almost certainly a reason for it.

I'm glad you called John. I'm glad you talked to Todd. And I'm thrilled that you brought it here because hopefully it is useful for you and it gives me something to think about as well.

I'm here.


Jeanne said...


You get it.

And I understand what you are saying (you're not scatterbrained at all!) The event was bad, the person maybe, maybe not.

This brother had been my favorite. I think that's why it hurt so much when he teased me relentlessly. I think it's why what he did to me made me feel creepy about being alone with him (although I don't remember remembering the abuse.)

So I guess I need help figuring out how I feel.

And sometimes, it bothers me that not only can I not SEE that he was abusive, no one else can either. And no one else (besides my husband and a few close friends) know.

And that makes me angry, too... sometimes.

Maybe this is where I'm having my trouble - that I haven't really allowed myself to feel how I feel about him/the event...

Thanks, ae.

Jeanne said...


I like to think that he is being nice and understanding because he truly means the apology that he sent to me, after I confronted him last November.

I understand completely how you need your ex-roommate to be a monster - it makes it so much easier to remain true to your feelings about the event; to not let the humanness of the person cloud it. [And it was abusive what she did to you - extremely invasive. I'm so sorry it happened.]

Thanks for being here with me, carrie.

Jeanne said...


I have spent many decades suppressing the anger, and you're right, I don't think I have fully felt it. It's like I acknowledge the anger - holding it out at arm's length between finger and thumb, turning my head away so as not to let it waft inside.

Thank you for being here, faith.

disordered girl said...

Great thoughts about why hang on to anger. I've been thinking about that too. There are legitimate emotional reasons to hanging on to it--someone seriously hurt you and betrayed your trust and that deserves acknowledgment and reparation.

Then, there is the flip-side, which is where does holding on to the anger get us? Does it get what we need from the other person? Not very often, I guess.

OK, I'm rambling now, but I enjoyed sharing your post and hope you are having a good day today.

Sarah said...

Dear Jeanne --

what a lot to figure out. I'm so glad you are sharing this with your husband, and John, and us. I can't personally relate to what you're going through. But I'd like to sit with you, and hold your hand, and figure it out a little bit at a time.

Thank you for this weekend.


Jeanne said...

Ramble away – you make a lot of sense.

You are absolutely right – hanging onto anger never gets us what we need from another person. But it may serve a purpose for ourselves.

I think I need to hold onto the anger because I’m not ready to fully feel it. I’m not ready to own it. So I’m reserving that right to own by holding onto it.

Thank you, dg.

Jeanne said...

I’d love for you to sit with me. Here’s my hand; maybe we can hold onto each other.