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The Vine: February 10, 2017

Submitted by on February 10, 2017 – 8:30 AM10 Comments

Hey girls hey (and boys). Been a while, eh what?

Couple of little Viney admin things before I get to today's letter, the first of which is that today's letter is quite elderly, i.e., the bridezilla in question is married already, but that's because of the second thing, to wit, I have a backlog of…one letter. So, send in your questions! Now's a great time in history to get the readers' help with stuff like your feelings of political overwhelm, whether it's how to make a difference or how to not kill your alt-right family; critical reading for Black History Month (or graphic novels to take your mind off shit); why that cable-knit hat looks like a tea-kettle cover (asking for a friend!) (named Buntsy); you name it.

And you still get loot! I got stickers; I got rubber bracelets; I got shirts.

And now, today's weddiquette bidness.

My sister is getting married in July. To be honest, I've had some issues in the past few years. In the first part, my family can be very abusive. I managed to graduate from college at 22 (standard four years) with good grades, 40 hours per week full time jobs and multiple leadership positions. Upon graduation I was recruited (didn't find, I was actively recruited) for good positions, which I did well in. However, I became increasingly depressed and manic. I went to my doctor often with my concerns for over two years, and he treated it with antidepressants. Turns out when you're bipolar, straight antidepressants can cause manic behavior. Once I got a correct diagnosis three years of hell later, I always followed medication protocol and attended my doctor's appointments.

I was guilty of a DUI during this period, and it was devastating. I'm glad no one but myself was hurt, but at the same time I'm upset that my immediate family didn't want anything to do with me or to help me. To the point that I ended up in a domestic violence shelter because when I called for help they asked, "Isn't there a state program to help you?"

So I've been slowly rebuilding my life but I don't want to go to this wedding. When I first went to rehab I lent my sister my laptop because she didn't have one, and I thought it might be nice for her to have it for three months. When I got it back her fiancé had labeled all of my documents in a folder called "'name's shit." Thanks, asshole.

And she was passive-aggressive about her engagement. She did call me to ask if I wanted to go on a snowboarding trip with her. I said that since I didn't snowboard, let's pick a different trip we can both enjoy together. Three days later I got a video message with my parents, family, and all of her friends there for her engagement at a ski chalet. I would have made the time and financial sacrifice (remember, I lived 400 miles away with a disability pension) if she had been honest. It might have ruined the surprise but seriously?! She knew what was going on.

So when she got engaged she asked me to be her maid of honor. How nice, right? Except within two months she told me that because I'm bipolar she can't trust me to be in the wedding. So now I'm not even a bridesmaid, I'm just a guest. I asked for a plus one, so I can have someone to be on Team Me, and even that was a struggle. So here I am.

Can I just show up for the ceremony (which is the day after Fourth of July, which affects my holiday plans)? I know that skipping it altogether is a bad idea, so I can handle the ceremony but really don't want to stay for the reception. So do I tell her in advance? Plus I really don't want to be in any photos. I'm actually quite shy, and not willing to make myself be photographed for an occasion that seems tailor-made to screw me over.

I'll keep an eye out to answer any additional questions, but I think this covers the basics. I've always loved The Vine, and would appreciate the advice. Help?

Save Me

PS I'd also like to add that I'm having abandonment issues because I missed a therapist appointment due to carbon monoxide poisoning. I didn't know that was a real thing, but according to the doctors I could have died. I was hospitalized for three days, and I remember very little of it.

My therapist cancelled all further appointments, even though in the last two years I've made every appointment. So I'm having some rage issues. Just thought I should add that, it's emotionally useful.

Dear SM,

If I've learned anything in the last month, it's that not everyone experiences shame, or compassion for others, the same way I do or the same way I've gotten used to most of the people around me doing. The current leadership of our once-fine nation could not care less if it's perceived as a cabal of bigoted kakistocrats, as long as it remains the current leadership, and the mistake I have to correct myself on making, on a daily basis, is to react to the latest racist incompetent's confirmation by telling myself, "Well surely NOW…" or "How can they not see that THIS…" Surely nothing; they don't.

I relate this because my initial response to your letter is to feel like your family's casually nasty, un-inclusive behavior is SO flagrant that there must be a reason for it that you're not telling me, because one person might act like a cock, but when the entire group is doing it, might they not have good reason, reason you've elided? And they might. The "name's shit" folder thing doesn't sound like that big a deal; the snowboarding-trip story seems…porous, like I don't have all the information.

And it's possible that that's the case; it won't be the first time a Vine letter has…massaged, let's say, the facts on the ground so that I'll take the LW's side. It's possible that the "rage issues" you mention may have gone on longer, or affected your family more negatively, than you realize (or mention).

It's just as possible that your family is a murder of selfish assholes. And it's also just as possible that they feel frightened or awkward about your disease and some of your struggles, and don't know how to start talking about it, so instead they limit their contact with you to make, they think, their lives easier socially and emotionally.

Whatever the reasoning for your family's behavior, whether or not it's justified (and in the case of a maid-of-honor spot getting "revoked," it's hard to see how), while a wedding is often the cause of conflicts and hurt feelings — or the reason long-buried ones get surfaced — it's also not the time to try to resolve any of them. This is, I think, a day you want to get through and put in the rearview with as little fuss as possible. Plan to attend the ceremony, with your plus-one/wingperson, and beforehand, check in with your sister about whether you should dress "for" pictures; ask her in so many words what's expected of you as a family member who's not in the bridal party. Do this with absolutely zero tone of any kind. You aren't trying to start shit or subtweet her with this conversation. You want information.

Because if the answer is "wear whatever you want, non-party pictures will just be candids," great — you're off the hook. Attend the ceremony; go to the reception just long enough to be seen there by your family; grab a free Coke for the road and Irish-goodbye it. I had a tiny wedding, in my own house, and have no idea what half the guests got up to for most of that day.

When it's all over and you have a therapist you can trust again, talk to her about whether it's healthy for you to continue knowing these people if your perception of the relationship is consistently that it's, as you put it, "tailor-made to screw you over."

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10 Comments »

  • Jenn says:

    This sounds like a "put on your own oxygen mask first" situation. Your health – physical, mental, emotional – is more important than your family obligations right now. Take care of yourself before dealing with your family.

  • Georgia says:

    Given the LW's description of her family, I'd suggest she check out the Raised by Narcissists subreddit. Some very insightful stuff over there.

  • Lontea Canadensis says:

    I'm giving massive side-eye to the former therapist. OP misses one appointment in two years and therapist dumps them . . . WTF?!?

  • cayenne says:

    Seconding the suggestions regarding Raised by Narcissists. I have a close friend whose immediate and extended family includes narcissists (as well as addicts) and the LW displays a bunch of the same anxieties and signs of emotional abuse. If she hasn't found a new therapist yet, I'd suggest looking for one who has experience in treating survivors of NPD families.

  • Alison says:

    "So when she got engaged she asked me to be her maid of honor. How nice, right? Except within two months she told me that because I'm bipolar she can't trust me to be in the wedding."

    Did anything happen that precipitated this? Did it come out of the blue, or had there been some kind of event that might have caused her to say that? Because in thinking about what the sister's side of this might be, I could definitely imagine it feeling like the healthy choice for the sister if the bipolar or other issues were flaring up. It's hard to say without knowing more.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Going on the assumption that the LW's story is 100% accurate, my first reaction is skip the wedding. Just don't bother with all the aggravation and made-to-order bullshit, you know? This family isn't going to be happy–or rather, they'll be thrilled to be unhappy–no matter what she/he does.

    However, going on the assumption that the LW might be viewing things from one watchtower and the scene from other vantage points provides different information, I'd say if she can get a very supportive, on the same page plus one, do the bare, polite minimum and peace out, then leave it all behind. Don't engage with the family in any way. They'll want to pick and snip and bitch and tear at her/him like the cozy group of vultures they are, but she/he doesn't have to lie down and play dead wildebeest.

    And that whole therapist thing: what kind of professional just ghosts on a vulnerable patient they have a long term working relationship with after ONE missed appointment when they were in the damn hospital? Either this part of the letter is, say…polished and carved a bit, or LW got a therapist that reminds him/her of their family, which is very possible. If so, and h/she has insurance, ask for help from the primary physician in getting another.

  • Letter Writer says:

    As the original Letter Writer, I would like to give an update. Given the amount of time a few things have changed.

    To respond to commentators in order,I had always provided 48 hours notice of a missed meeting to my therapist, due to health or otherwise. I did miss a few, maybe 5 in the course of two years. I didn't ghost on her, but there were other signs of it not being a good fit, so it was probably for the best that I found a different therapist. I know it's not easy to believe but it's true, in my case. I also see my psychiatrist every four weeks or so, and I don't miss those meetings either. I have a good relationship with that particular doctor.

    I understand that it's easy to believe that I'm holding back information, but from my point of view I have shared some very embarrassing information that relates to the situation. I do not think I've held anything back and I'll try to explain.

    As far as the wedding went, my sister took me out of the wedding party because I asked why she didn't ask me to be there at the engagement. She said that she had no idea, but her now husband knew what was going on and chose not to include me. I might be bipolar but I don't let it encroach on other people's lives. I don't steal from them, or take drugs, or call them at 3 in the morning, or anything like that. My bipolar is dealt with by me and no one else.

    Then we didn't really talk for awhile. Fast forward, and when she needed help with her dress, bridal shower, wedding plans, etc., she re-invited me because I had been such a good help, without asking for any recognition. I just did it to be nice, without any kind of position or trophy. I'm not a monster.

    Anyways, I'm still working on all of this, and I'll say this much, thank you to the posters who took my letter at face value. It really means a lot to me. If there are any other questions I'm happy to answer them, but I haven't massaged any answers, and I have absolutely asked family members if there's anything I should know and all I get is, "Well, you have bipolar". No specific instances, no specific acts, just the fact that I seek treatment for a mental disorder is enough to blacklist me.

    Feel free to ask any questions.

  • Letter Writer says:

    And to further make a point, my sister's engagement story isn't porous. She asked me to go snowboarding, knowing that I didn't care for winter sports or have the equipment for it. I suggested an alternative we could all enjoy later in the same month, and then that's where close to 40 people watched her get engaged. I don't see how that's porous.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel like I've opened my heart and owned my own mistakes, and you would rather publish a letter that you don't believe. That's ok, you don't have to believe me. But I think the kinder thing would be to not post it in the first place. You're free to do whatever you want.

    Just my opinion.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    She asked you to go snowboarding; you said no thanks (as I would have); three days later the whole family is in a video celebrating her engagement. That is a lot of ground between points A, B, and C. Lot of holes there. Porous. I don't mean that you're trying to mislead me; I don't not believe you. I'm just trying to understand a family in which that kind of invitation is extended, in the knowledge that it will be turned down. It's…kind of unbelievable, in the sense that it's a dick move, not that you're not credible.

    But while I'm here, your defensiveness on that point (and others; another commenter said your shrink ghosted you, not that you'd done it to the doctor) is striking. There was a sense throughout the letter that your default response to various situations was to feel attacked and it's coming through again here.

  • misspiggy says:

    In case the LW is still reading, I just wanted to say that one of my three bridesmaids (didn't have a maid of honour) is severely bipolar. She couldn't provide me with any practical support – which was absolutely fine – and she ghosted my hen night, which was distressing until I found out she was safe. But on the actual day she was there, and we had a lovely time. That meant a lot, given how hard most things are for her.

    Her sister is her only direct family member, and although they have plenty of arguments, it's the same deal – the sister offers my friend support and a place in her life, and depending on each situation my friend can or can't take it up. But the sister doesn't behave dishonestly or pull the rug from under my friend.

    What I'm trying to say is that I'd expect your family to deal with your illness in a similar way. It's hard for many of us to believe that your family would treat you so appallingly, assuming they know how tough bipolar disorder is for sufferers. So – either they don't know because you haven't spelled it out (which, me with my own issues for many years); they don't know because they are awful and don't want to know; or they do know, but have decided to be awful anyway.

    The best response will be different depending on which it is. But if it's not the first scenario, then I'm sorry your family suck so much, and I wish you lots of happiness finding a 'family of choice' who can be more supportive.

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