The Mighty Logo

Why My Sister Makes Me Feel Like an Abused and Neglected Dog

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

She is in my living room, a quick stop to drop some things off. Mom is excited. Now that my sister is engaged, she hardly comes by anymore. I stand half hidden in the hallway, contemplating whether or not I should step out and say hello.

But, no. Her fiancé is in the house now, too, and I’ve always felt uncomfortable around him. He’s done nothing wrong, really, but I’m always intimidated by men. So, I stay behind the wall and listen to Mom talk excitedly to her firstborn daughter.

I should go back to my room — I don’t need to be out here — but my sister laughs at something funny Mom has said and it sounds so nice. I want to be a part of a happy, “normal” family.

I contemplate stepping out and saying hello, despite her fiancé and my awkwardness, but then my sister is coming down the hallway.

She doesn’t say hello to me, even though it has been weeks since she’s seen me last. Her shoulder brushes mine as she walks down the hall into the bathroom. When she comes out, I am still standing there, wondering if I am invisible to her.

Shoulder bump. I’m real.

I cancel my plan of stepping out from behind the wall. She doesn’t care about me. I have spent many days hiding behind walls and doors, wondering how to gain my sister’s approval. Or, if not approval, just some sort of acknowledgment of my existence, so I know I’m not “crazy.” Because, when she walks by me or looks right past my face as if I am not there, I feel like shit.

Am I not worthy enough to her, to even exist?

I wonder how much her fiancé knows about me. Has she explained our dysfunctional dynamic to him? If so, what is the story she is sticking with?

That I’m “crazy” and always have been? That I’ve ruined her life simply by existing? That we don’t get along because I always do something wrong? That my mental illness makes me less than human?

I bet she doesn’t tell him how she has treated me. That she has screamed at me, verbally abused me, manipulated me and bought my forgiveness with concert tickets and gift cards.

I bet she doesn’t tell him that she called me a “whore” for having a second serving of ice cream when I was 9.

Or when she called me “stupid” at Girl Scout Camp, in front of the other girls, when I was 6.

Or how she took our brother and alienated him from me for years on purpose, refusing to let me ride in her car with them or play games together.

That once, while struggling with a medical condition that left me gasping for air, she yelled at me and told me my sound effects were annoying.

And later snapped at me for whispering.

I constantly felt guilty for even being alive. Of course, she doesn’t tell him how she has belittled and demeaned me for the majority of my life. Perhaps that’s why I am afraid to speak to her fiancé — for fear that the only thing he sees is a “psychotic,” unappreciative demon-sibling that my sister has made me out to be.

It is only when they both leave that I feel confident enough to emerge from behind the wall. My mother rolls her eyes, good-naturedly. She wishes they had stayed longer but doesn’t tell me so. She doesn’t talk about my sister to me anymore because she knows we don’t get along. To her, it is a shame that her only two daughters quarrel and fight so much.

To me, it is a shame I have put up with a lifetime of verbal abuse from a person 10 years my senior, that often left me in tears and questioning my worth.

What do I have to do to be perfect for her? What did I do wrong for her to yell at me like that? Maybe if I didn’t talk so much, she wouldn’t yell.

I don’t know what I did wrong.

Why does she hate me?

She shouldn’t be able to treat me like that.

The thoughts are endless and they drive me “insane.”

I am like a beaten dog, who keeps coming back to its owner in the hopes that, maybe, this time the dog will be loved.

I don’t know why I keep falling for it. I know she will never love me, or even accept me. I’m just a stupid dog, begging for attention when the owner is only capable of abuse and neglect.

Photo by Maia Habegger on Unsplash

Originally published: February 4, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home