Toxic Family- leaving my stomach in knots

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    I am 56 and the youngest of three girls. We grew up in fairly dysfunctional home with an alcoholic mother and absent father. My parents have both recently passed and it feels like my sisters and I stuck in old dysfunctional roles that are quite literally leaving me feeling empty, hurt and damaged every time I see them. 3 years ago i was booked on a flight to see them and had a panic attack at the gate of the airport and left to return home never making the trip- I just couldn’t do it… I recently returned to my hometown for a weekend visit with them after not seeing them for almost 4 years and the visit could not have ended on a more negative note. The 3 of us immediately fell into our familial roles. My oldest sister (the caretaker and martyr), my middle sister (the neglected and target one of my mothers abuse) and me the baby (the one who my sisters apparently perceived my mothers favorite all these years) My sisters have never been overly kind to me, accepting of me or happy for any of my accomplishments. What I experienced with them on this weekend after our first reunion after my mothers death was nothing short of abuse. I was suddenly 8 again. I have a medical condition that has caused me to lose weight. I was told that my medical condition is simply made up for attention. I was told that I am embarrassment to the family. I was ridiculed for my clothes, my hair, my makeup, my career choice. Now mind you I don’t know what i would have done to embarrass the family… as i can assure that I am happy productive member of society. I have left this “sister’s” weekend feeling really down and broken hearted. I just don’t know if its worth it to continue to have a relationship with toxic family family members. I just dont know if i can- i feel like i have a duty to myself first and foremost, to take care of myself?


    So, if they are bringing you down and affecting your mental health, then put in place healthy boundaries or walk away. I would separate myself as much as possible from people who emotionally abused me like they are of you. Even though it’s family, it’s okay to do your own thing. You can pull from other support like friends or a support group or therapy. You don’t have to take the abuse. You are good enough; you are worth it; you deserve better.


    Dear windycitycoco:

    “I feel like I have a duty to myself first and foremost, to take care of myself?”- yes, it is your duty and please do take care of yourself. Your absent father walked away from his duty to be present for you way before he passed away, so did your mother, and your sisters walked away from you when they abused you- time that you walk away from your sisters and no longer avail yourself to their abuse.



    As someone who is also dealing with a difficult family situation, I feel for you. One thing that I ask myself in a search for clarity with these types of relationships is what I would tell a friend or loved one who was in a similar situation. I’d definitely tell my loved one to protect herself by setting boundaries. If it seems that one or more sisters is self-aware enough to stop bullying you, you might tell her that you will see her as long as she does not say cruel things. I would make it clear that any hurtful words or actions will result in your walking away. You do need to protect yourself.


    The way I see it, family is overrated.  Just because we’re bound as such, does not mean we have to take shit.  As one does with friends, limit the time you spend together and/or cut out all contact.  Don’t be afraid to do this – its to your benefit and does not make you a bad person whatsoever.  We let friends go; we should also let family go!

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