Blow-ups and regret
I’m at my wits end this morning and have spent most of it reading through this site for comparable stories because I feel so alone.
Lasy night, I blew up at my SD13. I’m talking blind rage, almost an out of body experience. It was all words, and I didn’t say anything especially terrible to her, but the act of blowing up is enough that I haven’t been able to get out of bed this morning from shame and actual physical pain from how wound up I let myself get. I’ve never been that angry before.
A bit of background: BF and I have had our share of relationship issues, many, many of which revolve around disputes over SD. Things have actually gotten better in her sense that he listens to my experience and has made some major changes (before, my story was basically one of the ones where SK is manipulative, BF corrects me/criticizes me for exchanges with her in front of her, etc. In other words, she built up a frustrating notion that she’s our equal, and it has taken all of the past 4 years to get him to finally see why this sucks and is bad for everyone, although she still tears down the boundaries that we’re trying to construct and enforce constantly.
SD is suffering from what I’d describe as the worst anxiety I’ve ever seen. She has severe hypochondria and panic attacks every day. She’s on meds, seeing both a trusted GP and a therapist (and we do occasional family therapy sessions with her individual). She’s soon going to a partial hospitalization program to be treated for an eating disorder related to her hypochondria. In other words, she’s not just hitting that impossible age of 14, but she’s carrying a lot of highly stressful mental health struggles.
I try to be there for her as much as I can, which often means putting up with a lot of thanklessness, sass, and utterly infuriating rudeness that her father is finally on top of calling her out in immediately. She’s manipulative in that she’s got this sweet demeanor but knows how to really work the system, namely in targeting me. She polices my tone all the time, so I constantly walk on eggshells because she’ll make snide remarks or try to dominate me even when I use a calm voice (expressing frustration is out of the question because she comes back at me with things like “you don’t have to get so mad, geez. You’re making me feel scared,” etc for mild irritable tones that most reasonable people can acknowledge happen when parenting/co-parenting a teenager. She gets this tone policing from her dad, I think, who she’s overheard doing to me numerous times to evade accountability on his part for issues we’ve fought about in the past.
That last bit being said, we’re stupidly guilty of fighting in earshot of her, and have made many efforts to reduce or eliminate it. That is obviously where she’s picked up some of the tactics she uses against me, hearing them straight from her dad.
She doesn’t have a concept of boundaries (actually, she does and is very good at seeming receptive to “heart-to-heart” type discussions, then brazenly continuing the behaviors.
Ive been super supportive throughout her mental health issues. I make it clear I’m a friend and person she can rely on. Earlier this summer, she even referred to me as her SM, which was a milestone. Things always unravel again, and it makes me sick how difficult it is for me to not take it personally and to attribute it to her difficult life experiences and mental health struggles. This is hard namely because she is incredibly jealous of me being with her father, and does a lot of disgusting things that trigger some deep lizard brain, Oedipus type stuff in me, particularly the baby talk, hanging all over him (he drew lines when I told him I’m uncomfortable with that stuff), using the “Daaaaddeee” line like she’s 5, and giving him very visible love and affection while ignoring me in a room. It’s also hard because she’s overprotective of him and thinks she has to help him moderate his depression, health, and everything else. When he loses his temper with her (which is more frequent than me by a lot) and raises his voice when she’s being extremely rude and difficult, she’ll apologize for upsetting him and try to make him feel better by rubbing his back, grabbing some “stress gummies” we bought for her, etc. On the flip side, my slightest irritable tone after telling her for the 29483757th time to do a basic thing gets scrutinized and dramaticized. It’s exhaisting.
last night, BF had a tough night with her, and he was very obviously stressed out from it. I had to work that evening, but I could hear everything that was happening upstairs and had planned to be the rock for him once she went to bed and help him unwind, since there wasn’t anything I could reasonably do to assist him with her while she was awake. Instead, he pops open a beer and starts a snafu over a haircut he had just given himself—he comes down the stairs and asks in a sullen tone, “how do you like my stupid haircut.” It’s shaved except for three weird tufts sticking straight up, which I figured he had left just for a laugh. I cracked a mild joke, and he came back with some super passive aggressive stuff that turned into a heated thing about how he was actually setting me up and to take out his frustration on me. I felt crushed because I had been ready to really be there for him.
We were raising our voices a bit—not yelling but talking loudly—and little miss eavesdropper comes flying down the stairs and asks, “what the FUCK is this??” I had started crying at that point because BF can be extremely hurtful when he’s in a mood like that and drinking, and he tells her to go to bed. She says she can’t sleep, because she gets insomnia a lot, and that we’re making it hard (she was clearly actually sitting at the top of the stairs listening, because she knew everything we had said.)
She then launches into me, saying “my dad is sensitive and you shouldn’t be mean to him! I know how you can be!” It was too much for me in that moment, and I erupted. I mean erupted. Like I wasn’t in my body the rage was flooding me so intensely. I start screaming at her to stay out of it, that she has no idea what she’s talking about, to go to her room and go to bed. She maintains this frustratingly snide calmness and continues launching into me about being nice to her dad (who was actually being quite mean to me!). She tells me I’m crazy. I stomp over to her, look her in the face, and scream that she’s being a terrible person right now and to go to bed and stay out of it. The entire time, she’s laughing in my face. Which fills me with more rage. Lizard brain stuff here.
Her dad had been intermittently telling her to go back to bed, and after the laughter in my face, storms over and yells at her to go to bed, and says she’s being an asshole. He goes upstairs and has a few back and forth exchanges with her, and she’s being all argumentative before affecting her sweet babyish routine.
I’m utterly mortified at my reaction last night and feel like I blew a fuse. I’m physically recovering from the distress still, and her father and I slept in separate beds last night and haven’t spoken at all. I’m feeling very alone but have no idea how to broach the topic with him. Or her, because I don’t want to go through the tiring cycle where she apologizes halfheartedly and I just go”I forgive you.” (She’s already written a stupid long note, her typical apology format, where she I’m sorry I love you daddy’s the hell out of it and says she’s sorry she hurt my feelings but....
I want her to recognize how wrong and destructive it is when she intervenes in my private relationship with her dad.
Sorry this is so long. I haven’t opened up about this ongoing stuff with my SD to anyone but my therapist, and feel like I need to parse it all out with other people who have been there.