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Hi. My first time posting here and looking for some advice. I am an only child (aged 39). I’m married with 3 kids. My mum had 4 sisters, the youngest of them is my Godmother. She was a huge part of my life, spent loads of time with me and a huge amount of money. She was always very affectionate towards me and I loved her. However, there is a darker side. When I was a toddler and child, whenever I was with her, she would hold me down, put her hands or some object over my mouth and suffocate me until I was screaming and panicking. Sometimes she did this when people were there, making out it was a game. No one ever challenged her. It is strange to say that I still loved her and wanted to see her - I was confused as she was also very nice to me. As a teenager I developed a phobia of being touched on the face and severe claustrophobia which has impacted my whole life. I raised the issue with her and she laughed and said she couldn’t imagine why she would do that to me as it’s not right. When she lost her temper with me she could berate me for hours. I used to stay with her on Friday nights as a child, but after one particularly nasty incident I told my mum I wouldn’t go again. She was also a terrible bully to others. She lived with her sister who she terrorised and verbally and physically abused. Again, this went unchallenged as everyone said how kind and generous she was and never thought of herself. All her sisters were afraid of her as she was very emotionally controlling, sulking, nasty, threatening, all while playing the ‘poor me’ card. No one ever wants to upset her or call her on her behaviour. She also does not talk to any of her neighbours (pretty much the full street) as she thinks they are all persecuting her. My mother died of cancer this year and I had a horrendous time with my aunt, shaming me for contemplating admitting my mother to a hospice but refusing to help with practical care, crying and complaining about how hard it all is for her and making the most shocking and inappropriate comments. The other day, I finally snapped. I politely refused to do something that she wanted me to do, a very trivial matter, but advised her I would do it at another time. She flew into a rage, verbally abused me and eventually hit me with a door on the face and slapped my arm. I answered her back and told her to stop hitting and not to be so childish. I left the house but called her when I got home to apologise for my part in the argument. I asked her if she had anything to say to me but she did not take the opportunity to apologise. I don’t think she can see any fault with herself. I have not spoken to her since. She is supposed to be coming to my house for Christmas but to be honest I don’t want her to. I promised my mum I would look after her, but I feel dreadful in her company - she is so nasty! I need some advice on what to do about this relationship and the next steps to take. I would like to keep her in my life but things will have to change. I have not spoken to her since this happened (3 days ago). This is causing me great upset as I feel it is my fault even though logically I know it’s not. Please help!

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I am sorry about all you have told us, but most of all about your confusion in still caring for someone who abused you badly as a child.
I think that your question goes far beyond what we on the Forum could help you with and do suggest that you seek professional help so you can go on. It is very unlikely that this person will change. We cannot change others; it is ourselves we must change in order to heal and go on with a quality life.
I am sorry for the loss of your Mom. To me, the promises we make a living person hold while they live. And often then changes in circumstance preclude our ability to keep a promise made in good faith at the time it was made. Promises and keeping of them ends with the death of the person you made the promise to in my mind.
The confusion of your own feelings about your Aunt honestly means you need professional help, and I sure hope you get it, and move forward toward a more healthy life. Do know it is not unusual that someone who has been abused believes that they love their abuser and are obligated to their abuser; this is what they have been trained to believe. I wish you the very best. There's lots of work for you to do now, and it has nothing to do anymore with this "Aunt". She can be left to reap what she has sown.
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Reply to AlvaDeer
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Yes, scripted response is a good idea. Plus, if all else fails (you could write this on a post-it note and stick it in front of yourself if you like) it is FINE to say "I'm going to end this conversation now, goodbye" and hang up.

It is also a good idea to decide what YOU personally would like to happen. If, having thought about it and read these supportive responses, as a matter of fact you do not want your aunt to be your guest - YOUR guest, n.b., invited by you and therefore up to you whether she is or not - it is equally fine to say "after what's happened, I don't expect you for Christmas Day this year." But don't do that unless you are certain about it, because being beaten back from it will set yet another negative precedent.

By the way. The great upset you are feeling. You are feeling it not because you feel this situation is your fault, but because your aunt is kneeling on your chest and smothering you. Again. In a slightly different way, that's all. This is not YOU. This is HER.

It is possible and not wrong to love her anyway, knowing what she is like, and being clear-eyed about her real personality. Everybody we love has flaws, some worse (some MUCH worse!) than others. And if you do love a person who is a bit of a... well, call it what you like - if you do, then it becomes a matter of learning how to prevent her doing harm.

Supposing you'd been twice her size and twice her weight back in the day - you'd have gripped her wrist and removed her from you, without hurting her but without allowing her to hurt or frighten you either. Emotionally and mentally, that's what you want to do now. You are now the bigger and stronger and more powerful person - even if it doesn't feel like it!
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Reply to Countrymouse
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I’m sorry for the loss of your mother. I’m also sorry that no one ever protected you from an obviously mentally ill aunt. I have a sibling with some undefined mental illness, long either denied or pacified by most of my family. For me, and a lot of other people on this site, the book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend has been a huge help. I recommend you read it. It’s tremendously freeing to realize you’re a fully formed adult and you get to decide what you will and will not allow into your life. And that you don’t have to explain or justify your choices and decisions. With this aunt, I hope you’ll find it imperative to draw a boundary that protects you and your children.
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DeeCee Dec 11, 2020
What a wonderfully kind and supportive post. I will certainly have a look at this book as I’m sure it will help. Thank you so much.
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DeeCee, Im not going to beat around the bush here. Your aunt is mentally ill. Likely has been for a long time. Some families normalize behavior like this as "eccentric". It is not. It is an illness.

Pleasr ask yourself why you want this powder keg of an abuser around your children?
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DeeCee Dec 11, 2020
I think her behaviour has been normalised as you say, or labelled ‘eccentric’. It was always ‘oh she has such a temper but a heart of gold’. Everyone has been sucked into this. I think the row we had was possibly the first time anyone in our family has ever stood up to her. I do feel responsible for her as she is not married and has no children and no friends (her own doing). Her last friend walked away when she accused him of assaulting her - he hugged her as he left, that was all. I would never put my children at risk. I am an excellent mother, I can say that for sure. She is always nice and kind around my children, as she always is with those who don’t really know her. And she is never alone with them, ever. I do appreciate what you are saying though, and it would be a concern that she creates a negative atmosphere for them on Christmas Day. I can’t and won’t have that. Thanks for taking time to read and reply.
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Have you considered counseling for yourself? Your aunt sounds like she has some sort of mental health or personality disorder. You could use some expert advice on how to establish and maintain boundaries with her. It's more difficult to maintain relationships with mentally ill folks but it can be done.

She's not going to change so you are going to have to be the one who changes.
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DeeCee Dec 11, 2020
Thank you Marcia. It would be good to know how to manage her, even from afar as I feel it may come to this.
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NO ONE, I mean NO ONE deserves to be abused in any way, shape or form. You are reminding me of an abused wife, who is so beaten down after years of abuse that, she feels she not only deserves the abuse in some weird perverse way, but is also responsible for it.

You must get yourself some help(therapy), to figure out why you keep allowing this vicious cycle of abuse to continue. You deserve so much better, and until you come to that realization, you will continue to allow it to happen. You are probably going to have to stay away from this Aunt, for your mental health's sake, at least until you have finished your therapy and have learned how to set healthy boundaries.

And as far as you promising your mom that you would look after this Aunt, well first off, I'm sure your mom, if she really knew the extent of the abuse would never expect you to do anything for this aunt, and secondly, you can still look after her from afar, and get others involved in her care and what have you, if you absolutely feel the need to keep that promise(that never should have been made in the first place.)

Please stop allowing the abuse TODAY, and don't allow this Aunt in your life, (I would say ever, but that's just me)until you have gone through some extensive therapy, and can make rash decisions from a healthy and whole perspective. You can do it!!! You're stronger than you know. God bless you.
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Reply to funkygrandma59
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Covid19 has been the blessing in disguise for families like yours, it has given us permission to severely restrict or even completely eliminate problematic gatherings. I get that you loved each other in a twisted, dysfunctional way when you were a child, but the description of her "game" is horrifying and surely as an adult you can see that! You can honour your promise to your mother and still keep your concern for her welfare at arms length.
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DeeCee Dec 11, 2020
Yes. I can see that her ‘game’ was abuse. It has impacted my whole life. Her response to being ‘called’ on it shocked me.
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To relieve the immediate uncertainty - telephone her now, before you think about it too long to face doing it, and ask her if she is still expecting to visit you at Christmas.

If she says yes, then lay down a few ground rules - the first of which must be that at the first sign of her going into a tailspin she will be escorted home by [your nomination of] a responsible, level-headed family member.

If she says no, tell her you quite understand and then end the conversation politely as quickly as you can.

Once you know what you'll have to deal with and that special worry is in perspective, then you can think more widely around what on earth you're to do about this lady.

Is she drinking? Does she have any established mental illness that you know about? Is she better, worse or much the same than she was?
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Reply to Countrymouse
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DeeCee Dec 11, 2020
Thank you. That is good advice. I particularly like the part about calling now to relieve the anxiety about what may be to come.

She does not drink, is independent and healthy (although is a complete hypochondriac) and only takes medication for some minor complaints.

There is no diagnosed mental illness although there is definitely something going on. She has recently begun to say her thoughts aloud seemingly without realising she is doing it, muttering things such as “I don’t trust you, Donna” when I am there. She is very paranoid. For example, if she looks out her window and sees a piece of litter on the street, she will claim that one of her neighbours put it there to annoy her! She also gets upset if her neighbours close their blinds as she says they are doing it because they think she is watching them.

I’m anxious about calling her as I don’t want the silent treatment or abuse from her. How should I navigate the call? Silly as it sounds, should I give myself a scripted response if you know what I mean?
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