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When a family member bullies you...

Community Member

Hi all,

I am new to the BeyondBlue comment forum.

At risk of sounding childish or trivial, I will try to explain why I am so upset about this. I'll start at the beginning.

Two years ago, when I was in my final year at uni I was also trying to juggle a part time job and required work experience. I was very tired and stressed. However, I was coping and getting great marks- something that I was very happy about. One day during this period, my Sister for some reason took it upon herself, pretty much out-of the blue, to help me "sort out my wardrobe and house". On a side note, I am usually a very clean person, but I can make a mess when I'm busy. What I thought would be a fun, fairly relaxed affair quickly turned into a session of snide remarks, demeaning comments and attacks. Snide comments like "I can't believe you own these clothes- people will not take you seriously" and "Why have you kept this" quickly esculated into diatribes like "Why can't you get it together" and "People are always helping you out and you never seem grateful".

Fast forward, I thought this had blown over until I recieved a phone call from her to say that there was a regional job going in my field and she had put a word in for me. I thanked her and I was genuinely happy for that, but at this stage I had already made plans to join a company where I knew the editor and I had worked with him before in a side-job I had at uni. From this point things began to esculate again, she told me that "I needed to get my life together" and "people were always running around after you". I told her I was grateful, but I hadn't asked her to do this. Her reply, was that she'd told her husband that she'd helped clean my house out (and had lied) saying it was much messier than it really was and she told me that both she and her husband agreed that I may have a 'mental illnes". When I directly confronted her about this she said that I was over reacting and I am prone to anxious, paranoid thoughts. She said that her friend who is a psychologist also agreed and also so did mum (childish I know).

From this point, my self esteem started to fall and I started believing that there was something wrong with me. I started having panic attacks and my job almost fell through. It has taken me two years to finally understand that she was bullying me which inevitably led to me suffering a breakdown. Today I feel very hurt, and I have to see her in a few days. She has organised my Birthday party...what could go wrong.

6 Replies 6

Community Member

Dear 2blue. I hate to say this, but it sounds as though your sister may have narcissistic tendencies. The remarks about your choice of clothing, your (to her), messy home etc. Then to go home and tell her hubby she HAD to help you. Is your sister older or younger. Either way, when siblings or spouses act this way, there's usually some form of jealousy, causing narcissistic comments like she has made. With this job she mentioned, would she be above you in station? With narcissists, they need to feel in charge of everyone connected with them. I think I'd be inclined to stick to your guns on this one and take the job you originally wanted. As far as the birthday, I would go, but let her know, quietly that you have a prior engagement and can't stay long. She doesn't need to know anything more than you choose to tell her. I wouldn't bring your mum into this situation. Forcing her to choose would not be very wise.

Take care. Let us know if you like, how you're going. Lynda.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hey 2blue,


If I may add to Lynda's sage advice... It does sound like jealousy and narcissism. I get the feeling you're a sensitive person (sensitive people are very caring but very receptive to negativity as well). Being busy with the tail end of uni and a part time job and getting a full time job can really beat you up and remove your resiliency to ignore or cope with bullying type behaviour. Also, as Lynda suggested, your success at uni and self funding and doing well may have fuelled the fire with your sister and made her more jealous so she lashed out.

All of this can cause anxiety and take a toll on your self esteem which leads to you questioning yourself.

Here's a real example.

Tuesday last week I had a run of anxiety. At times whenever I thought about a project at work I almost felt terror and that turned in to feeling like I can't do it and I'll stuff it completely. My emotional energy was already low and depression was also playing up so my resilience was low.

My boss SMS'd me out of the blue and said "Hey the guys you've been chatting to about the project are really excited, they are absolutely raving about working with you and having your experience on the project"

It showed me that feeling low led to anxiety going high and my self esteem taking a dive and me completely believing that I couldn't do anything. (In actual fact the project was things I do every day with my eyes shut!)

My message here is that taking a battering emotionally can have a knock-on effect that spirals - it's difficult to see or feel the spiral and climb back up sometimes.

What happened when you suffered the break down?

Your sister sounds like she knows how to push your buttons and how to get under your skin. Perhaps this phenomenon could use some reflection and thoughts on how to reduce the impact she has on you.

A BIG red flag has just popped up for me. Why would your sister organise your Birthday party?


Community Member

Hey Paul. Thanks for the back-up re:2blue. As far as her sister organizing b'day party, it could be another form of control, or self gratification. The problem being, if 2blue backs out, sister could really react. That's why I suggested she go, but only stay a short time, then politely excuse herself.

Again- thanks. Lynda.

Community Member

Thank you , Paul. Yes when you are stressed I know everything can seem terrible or at least much worse than they really are

I know I can't blame my sister on all of my anxiety problems, since they have been lifelong. But her behaviour certainly did have a huge impact on me. I basically had terrible anxiety that resulted in significant disruption to my daily routine, unable to eat, sleep and leave the house. But the good news is that the worst has passed.

The difficult relationship with my sister still remains. It's hard on many levels. There is constant nagging feeling that it is wrong to avoid your family and I feel guilty about this sometimes. However I do love her and I would help her if she ever was in need. But that's where it ends. I will not, for my sanity, put up with her bad behaviour towards me. It is also very hard to discuss this issue with anyone because she is very successful in her career and fairly 'well known' in her role, so any attempts to discuss this with even close friends has been met with the assumption that I must be jealous. So I just grin and bear it for the most part.

She does like to have the attention on her and I do believe that doing nice things for other people is a way of proving herself to other people. That's fine, but she has a track record of getting hostile if you do not go along with her plans or don't seem appreciative enough. Basically she doesn't seem to get bounderies and can cross them in very aggressive ways. I feel very wary of her efforts to 'help' me or anyone else for that matter, i feel it's not really helping someone if you only do it to feel superior...

As for my Birthday, I do have seperate plans with my friends and co-workers, and I am fine to go along with her plans unless she gets aggressive or worse passive-aggressive which usually manifests as degrading comments about clothing, appearance etc.

Community Member

Hi Lynda,

Thankyou for your reply. I must say it is both saddening and a relief to vent my upset over my relationship with my sister. She is my elder sister by 2 years. We are both grown women I'm turning 29 and she is 31. For a while I thought it was normal for all siblings to fight in this way, but as we got older I realised that her behaviour is very inappropriate. Sadly, she does seem to have some narcisstic traits but this is no comfort even though I know the problem is hers and not mine. I don;t see why she'd be jealous really she has so much going for her. That's not say I don't, however.

I was what you'd call a 'late bloomer'. I did mess around in high school and I was 21 before I decided to get an education at University. I was also a bit of a rat-bag at school, but I now know that I was avoiding school due to anxiousness. These themes often underpinn how my sister bullies me. She sometimes reminds me of my 'wayward' past and I have very much internalised the fact that I am somehow very defective...yes, I sometimes suffer from a low self-esteem.

Any way thanks for your comments! They have helped to get my head around this very tricky and upsetting situation.

Community Member

Hi 2blue. Hoping you're feeling a bit more positive than you were when you originally posted. As far as trying to work out the why's and why nots of your sister's attitude toward you. When it comes to narc's there is no real why or why not. Even they seldom, if ever, admit to having the condition. As I suggested, putting in an appearance at this birthday party may help alleviate some of the problems. However, advising her that staying longer than whatever time suits you would be a good way to eliminate further torment. You don't have to explain too much, just tell her you have a prior engagement and leave it at that. If, however you decide against going, that too is your decision.

Try not to buy into her negative remarks.