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Feeling triggered by a family member

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Azzurro

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Joined
Jun 26, 2020
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9
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London
Hello,
This is my first post on mentalhealthforum. Hello and I wish everyone well.

I'm trying to understand a situation which is triggering difficult feelings, and I was wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience.

I had anorexia and then binge eating disorder when I was 16-20 years old. I'm now in my thirties and eat more or less normally.

But recently I've started to feel a lot more self-conscious and dissatisfied with my body shape, and feeling like I need to exercise more or change my eating habits.

I live with my sister who is very into fitness and working out. Due to the pandemic, she's working out at home now. She is smaller and thinner than me, and very fit. Now it's summer, she often walks round the house in a bikini. I wonder if she is judging me, because I'm not as thin and am not as strict with my diet as she is. She limits her carbohydrates and often eats just fruit for breakfast, for example, but I need something more substantial like porridge to give me energy. I'm taller and bigger built. My BMI is 22 or 23, so I'm a healthy weight but not skinny. I exercise every other day, but it's more to feel healthy and happy, than to try to achieve a particular body shape. I used to work out to try to change my body shape, but it never worked. I don't have the genetics to be the kind of shape that's considered ideal in society. Now I just wear quite loose clothes and focus on other areas of my life that I find much more interesting, like art.

When I'm around my sister, I wonder if I should be exercising more or eating differently. Also I wonder if she is judging my body and my eating habits. I can't really ask her, as we have quite a bad relationship, and I'd rather not talk about my insecurities with her.

I'm confused because I don't know if it's her who's trying to make me feel bad, or me who's being triggered. Sometimes for example, she walks round the house naked and doesn't put any clothes on when we need to talk. I think she enjoys getting attention for her appearance, as she often goes out to the shops wearing skintight clothes, which I wouldn't want to do. I'm more interested in art and meditation and find it boring to spend a lot of time on how I look. But now I'm feeling under pressure.

I was wondering if anyone else has had similar experiences, or understands this kind of thing?

Thanks for reading.
 
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bpd2020

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Hello and welcome to the forum. First of all, well done on having a healthier relationship with food. That is a huge thing after having an eating disorder. I have a binge eating disorder and your sisters behaviour would trigger me too. I can quite understand how you are starting to feel bad about yourself and if you should change things. You are now a healthy weight which is so positive. I know it is so hard to see somebody you feel looks ideal and compare yourself. Both my sisters are beautiful and slim. I am ugly and overweight and I feel so worthless next to them. I am really sorry you are feeling this way. It is all the worse because you live with her. You are you, not your sister. You do not have to look a certain way or do anything you are not comfortable with.
 
A

Azzurro

Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2020
Messages
9
Location
London
Hello bpd2020,
I really appreciate you taking the time to reply - thank you. I'm sorry to hear that you have a similar situation and that you're feeling bad. I wonder if there is something we can do to help ourselves feel better.

One thing that worries me is that I wonder if my sister is trying to make me feel bad on purpose. She and I have a bad relationship, and I wonder if she is deliberately trying to make my self esteem worse, or whether she would be doing the same behaviours even if I didn't live with her. I can't talk about it with her, because if she knew I was feeling bad because of this, she might do it more. I feel a bit helpless to change the situation.

I was wondering if there is anything to do to protect myself, if she is deliberately trying to make me feel bad. I once read a saying, 'if there's no enemy within, then external enemies can't harm you.' I've been trying to think of ideas to help myself, and perhaps they might help you too. Maybe you have some ideas.

- Focus more on my own personal goals. I am trying to start out as a professional artist.
- Look for images of role models who don't have an 'ideal body'. I don't know ANY artists I admire who look as though they've been working out a lot. None of them look like 'gym types' with big muscles. All the artists I admire have 'normal' bodies, and some of them are overweight, and their body shape is never in my mind at all when I'm looking at their work. Maybe I could collect photos of my favourite artists, and make a collage.
- When lockdown ends, spend more time with my friends who don't care about my body weight.
- Maybe don't go to the gym any more, or just go once a week, and exercise outdoors on other days. I used to go to the gym a few times a week, and I found it triggering because I would compare my body to others' bodies. When I went just once a week, and did running outdoors on other days, I felt better.

Those are some ideas. Do you have any other ideas on how we can protect ourselves and help ourselves? I want to get strong inside, so that other people's behaviour won't affect me. I can't control my sister's behaviour, I can only control my reaction.
 
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bpd2020

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It is hard to know if your sister is behaving that way on purpose. I really hope she is not because her behaviour is cruel. I love your ideas of how to improve self worth. I have a few people on youtube whose videos I watch because they have a body more like mine. They make fashion videos and it is lovely to see them being confident in their body without having to live up to a certain standard. Your idea of looking for others with a similar body is great. It is shown that people who look at bodies that are not like theirs end up feeling really worthless.

I am glad you have friends. I hope you can see them once lockdown ends. It is good to surround yourself with positive people. If the gym triggers you then you are sensible to avoid it. You sound like you have a lot of insight into how you feel and what can help.
 
A

Azzurro

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Messages
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Bpd2020, thanks for your reply. I'm interested to hear more about the people who you watch on YouTube. What are their names? You mentioned that they are confident in their bodies. I think it seems that body confidence doesn't depend on what size a person is. Someone could have a body that most people would say is very attractive, yet that person could always be looking for flaws, and feel dissatisfied. Or someone could be very overweight and yet radiate confidence.

I've been thinking about this topic a lot, and I've come to the conclusion that I can't possibly know whether or not my sister is trying on purpose to make me feel bad. Trying to answer this question just makes me feel stressed. I think it would be more helpful if I acknowledged that another person's behaviour is out of my control, and I can't know their motives without being able to see inside their mind. I think it would be better if I focused on what I can change: my own attitude towards my body. I think this whole situation has made me realise that I have unfinished business in my relationship with my body, despite that I thought I had already recovered from the eating disorder. I will make an effort to look for information on ways of changing my relationship with my body.

Thanks for your thoughts. I hope you find helpful ways of working through your own situation.
 
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bpd2020

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I watch, Sophie Payne, Tasha Marie, Chrissy B styles, Harry Jayne. These are all confident and positive people who inspire me. I agree with you, size does not determine confidence. It has to come from within.

You really have amazed me with your logic and strength. I think having had eating disorders does make a persons view of their body a bit fragile. It can be easy to find flaws rather then accepting them. I wish you lots of luck with working towards your goal.
 
A

Azzurro

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Messages
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Location
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Hi bpd2020, thanks for letting me know about these people on YouTube. I will have a look.

Thanks for the kind words. It's nice of you to say that I'm strong. In the past, my sister has said that I'm weak, because I've needed a low dose of antidepressants for several years to help me sleep. I didn't want to go on them, but at the time I didn't know what else to do - I couldn't sleep properly at all, and I was teaching at the time, so I needed to be able to sleep so that I could stand in front of a class and do my job. I'm gradually withdrawing from the antidepressants now. I had some very good online therapy on the NHS called Silvercloud - I recommend it to anyone struggling with sleep. And I've been learning to meditate for the last two years which helps as well. But my sister used to make unhelpful comments, e.g. that I was 'addicted to drugs' and that I was weak. So it's nice that you think I am strong.

I think it's futile to try to change another person, in most cases. It can be very stressful to wish they were different. That's why I want to try to work on my own relationship with my body. If I can build my own self esteem, then I can just tell myself that the other person's comments aren't true. It also helps to get objective feedback from an outsider, like on this forum. Thank you.
 
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bpd2020

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Taking antidepressants does not make a person weak. Depression is a mental health condition that needs help. There is no shame in depression. It is very mean of your sister to make those comments and shows she has no understanding at all.

You are so welcome. I think working on accepting your body is very helpful.

You dealt with eating disorders, you posted your feelings on here, you are trying so hard to feel positive. That shows you are strong.
 
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Azzurro

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Hi bpd2020, thanks for your message. I really feel a lot better for having talked with you. Thanks for your support and understanding.

I wasn't actually diagnosed with depression: the doctor prescribed me antidepressants because of their sedative effect, to help me sleep. My sister was criticising me because she didn't think that I needed them. But I think you should walk a mile in someone's shoes before judging them.

I was wondering if you have any ideas on how I can try not to let my sister's behaviour get to me (when she's making comments or behaving in ways that I think are meant to put me down).

One idea I had was to practise telling myself that if someone is trying to put another person down, then that person is probably suffering in some way, feeling bad about themselves, and is trying to put another person down to make themselves feel better. So if my sister tries to put me down, I can tell myself that the comments or behaviour aren't about me: they're a reflection of how she's feeling. I can try to develop a stronger sense of who I am and my strong points, which I can remind myself of after a difficult interaction. Seeing people who I get on with, who reflect back a positive view of me, will help after the lockdown ends. It's difficult because sometimes her behaviour makes me doubt myself, or develop a distorted view of myself, like a reflection in a wavy mirror at a funfair. I think self esteem is the way one sees oneself. I want mine to be as objective and fair as possible. I will need to work on it.

I'm trying to start out as a professional artist, and sometimes I tell myself that learning these skills will enable me to develop a thicker skin, which will be useful when I start exhibiting and getting criticism.

Ultimately I hope that with time, our relationship will improve. Trying to be compassionate and to see things from my sister's point of view might help. But if she is being deliberately hurtful, I will set a boundary and not be close to her.
 
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bpd2020

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It means such a lot that I have made you feel a bit better. There is nothing wrong with needing to take something to help you sleep. I hope you no longer feel bad because of that. It is difficult when your sister is saying upsetting things. How do you think she would respond to a written letter were you explain how you feel? From what you have said, I am not sure if she would be understanding. Your idea of rethinking the way you feel due to her comments is positive. Would you ever try sticking up for yourself? It is so unfair she makes these unhelpful comments and it really sounds like bullying. I hate that she is treating you this way.

It is wonderful you are aiming to be a professional artist. I wish you lots of luck in that.

I like your idea of setting boundaries. It sounds like your sister needs very firm ones.
 
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Azzurro

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Hi bpd2020, thanks for your message and understanding. I think that you're a very good listener.
It's difficult talking with my sister. Often when I mention something that she has done that has hurt my feelings, she turns it round and makes it seem that I am the one who has done something wrong. Or she says that I am 'playing the victim'. Sometimes I get confused, and don't know who is in the right and who is in the wrong.
Sometimes, if I phrase things very carefully, and choose a moment where she is in a good mood, she is able to listen, and has apologised. I think I'm getting better at choosing my moments, with time and experience.
I might look for a counsellor or therapist who could help me with my relationship with my sister. It doesn't always bother me, and often we are able to coexist normally, but sometimes it gets to me that she often seems to be in a bad mood with me. For example, if I'm in the kitchen and she comes in and wants to prepare food, she sometimes gets annoyed that I'm already there, as she likes to have the room to herself. I just finish what I'm doing calmly, as I know I've done nothing wrong: she's simply being impatient.
 
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bpd2020

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If your sister turns your worries around like that then it does sound like she will not understand. Gosh, her saying you are playing the victim is very cruel. You have every right to talk about your feelings and have them heard without being made to feel bad for having them.

Seeing a therapist is a great idea. It sounds to me that you often doubt yourself and therapy will help to make sense of how you feel.

It must be so hard to live with your sister. Is there anyway you could move out?
 
A

Azzurro

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Not at the moment, but it's not as bad as perhaps I've made it sound. My mother also lives here, and she and I have a good relationship. If I had my own place, I'd have less time for art, because I'd have to earn more. That's the main reason I'm living here. It's really important to me to have as much time as possible for my art.

Most of the time I hardly see my sister, as she stays in her room. She doesn't go out of her way to interact with me. So I can live with it. Most days I'm in a good mood. I'm probably just expressing pent-up frustration on here!

I'd like to find a good therapist, but there are so many out there, and it's difficult to know who to approach. Last time I did therapy on the NHS, they gave me the contact details of some organisations. I'll have a look at those.

Thanks a lot for your support.
 
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bpd2020

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Oh I see. So you live in the family home. I understand now. I am happy you have a good relationship with your mother. I can see your point about needing time to be creative. It is great to have that opportunity.

Please do not be sorry for anything you have posted. I apologise if I have misinterpreted anything and that is my mistake, not yours.

Could you check online for nhs therapy? Often you just fill out a form and they contact you. I found this link for you.
Search Results - NHS
 
A

Azzurro

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Hi bpd2020, thanks a lot for this link. It's helpful that there are ratings for each organistion.

After I did the Silvercloud online therapy programme a few months ago, my therapist said that therapy specifically for relationships wasn't available on the NHS. She gave me a list of places I could look for therapy that's charged according to income. I admit that I haven't yet taken action, as I feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of options, and there are so many therapists out there but no way of knowing who would be able to help me. But I've been helping myself by meditating every day.

I had a conversation with my sister yesterday, about a subject that's been bothering me (not the same subjects we've been discussing here) and the conversation was actually very positive. I hope that the situation can improve: even though I don't think my sister will ever be a 'friend', I think there are ways we can cooperate. During the conversation, she mentioned that she was thinking of moving out, because she doesn't feel that she gets on with our mother. So maybe the situation will resolve itself in time.

I was wondering if this thread can be deleted. I'm just thinking that I don't want anyone to read it and recognise me (the chances are very slim, but I've talked about some quite personal things and I wouldn't want anyone who knows me to read it).
 
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