When I wrote about Tiffany being the family scapegoat, it was a controversial article. I did write about how David Sedaris made an admission about his sister, that they failed to defend her. I was glad to see this bit of insight.
He at least admitted their failure to act to stand against their mother's abuse and rejection of Tiffany.
In his book Calypso, which I am reading now for a library book club, in an essay titled "A House Divided", David talks more about Tiffany, and says the family did not know about her mental illnesses and could have had more understanding for her if they had known. I understand why Tiffany did not disclose.
One thing realized in ACON studies is that for scapegoats, the family can be a very different place of being. I had to face facts even myself, that my cousins, brother and sister had positive memories of my narcissists and family life. They were treated far better and had times of connection and happiness. It was hard for me to hear my cousins lovingly use my mother's name, but then they did not have the same person to deal with. They had love and respect even if faked from her after all. Some people via different challenges end up in a far worse position in a family. Tiffany had her struggles with mental illness and others that put her more at risk of being placed in the scapegoating position.
David Sedaris in his writings speaks of easier conversations with his mother, he definitely was close to her. His father is more distant but is overall respectful and includes David. All children in narcissistic families suffer to a degree but Tiffany definitely did not have the same experiences as her siblings being the scapegoat.
There is another admission in this essay in this most recent book. Could David have seen online what others had to say about his family and the realities of narcissism and how it was obvious that his sister was scapegoated? It is rare for family members within a narcissistic system to wake up, but at times it is possible for the few who are capable of any growth and are not too far along or on the narcissistic spectrum themselves While this often comes too late and decades later, they may question the system and what was done to their sibling who was the scapegoat. While David admits some faults of his parents, he may need to re-examine the depths of what they did to his sister.
Maybe he has come into more understanding now about what has happened to his sister. Maybe he has realized that the family which was a crucible of connection, closeness and happy memories along with some troubled ones for him was anything but for his sister. This statement does make clear, that he understands, that the treatment by the Sedaris family had something to do with her suicide.
This comment in his essay, makes it seem so.
In this essay, they talk about how Tiffany killed herself, and the method she used. She took pills and used a plastic bag to asphyxiate herself.
"Did Lisa by any chance tell you about Tiffany, I asked.
"The plastic bag, you mean?" Gretchen nodded. "She told me on the phone last week. I try not to think of it but it's pretty much all I can think about. Our own sister ending up that way."
I walked to the window and looked at the sky, which had now gone from bruise-colored to black. "Someone told me," I said, "that in Japan, if you commit suicide by throwing yourself in front of a train, your family gets fined the equivalent of eighty thousand dollars for all the inconvenience you caused."
From behind me, I could hear Gretchen slicing more apples.
"Of course," I continued, "if your family was the whole reason you were killing yourself, I supposed it would be just an added incentive."
I hope his sisters have come into more insight too but sadly it is too late for Tiffany. Lives are damaged and ended by scapegoating. That's the tragedy.
This article kind of connects to my last article questioning the dominance of the nuclear family. Nuclear families in American culture especially are split between winners and losers where internal cooperation is not developed but competition at all costs even to the point that some family members are crushed. One person who is the scapegoat is often deemed the family loser and reject. One could argue this created Tiffany's mental illness instead of her mental illness being the reason the family rejected her. That's one thing to think about. How many are made mentally ill from the abuse? Tiffany showed many signs of CPTSD. Scapegoating is soul murder at the crux of it, and some don't win the battle for their physical lives.
Later in the book, while one sees some flashes of insight in David, things get complex, there is reference to troubled consciences, but sadly, the family system reverts to the same message about the scapegoat. How many scapegoats are written off, as "you know how they can be". A would be narcissistic family system can break down a scapegoat, and some do become mentally ill. My conjecture is that many scapegoats are made that way from the process of scapegoating.
Sadly the resultant emotions and problems is just added on to the list for the rejection that got the whole ball rolling. This reminds me on a lesser level when one of my cousins told me once, "your emotions bother people in the family". What is ironic in my situation after I became a Christian years before I later deconverted, I was grey rocking myself to death, being nice, kind, pleasant, "not a bother" and making presents for the family and being quiet and meek on visits, hoping for love and acceptance that would never come. I buffed all the edges of my personality. I hid negative emotions. That didn't work.
What is sad, when a scapegoat gets the resultant PTSD effects, anxiety disorders, inability to function in the world like Tiffany if the mental abuse becomes severe, that can be used as more of a reason for rejection from the family. You don't fit, you aren't "pleasant" and "engaging" enough. My depression when I was younger while I never had to make the psych ward circuit, putting myself in counseling by age 18, was reason enough for my own family to justify the treatment they gave me. "She's not that easy to be around!". "She has a bad personality". Some of that came back to me. Sadly while Tiffany's mental disorders may have been far more severe, one can see that happened to her too in the family system.
One sister Amy sees a psychic who claims to contact Tiffany and her mother and claims that they are getting along. If this really had happened it seemed more insight would have been passed on from the spirit world then
"She and Mom are finally getting along," Amy continued. "She mainly wanted to let you know that she has no hard feelings. The psychic said Tiffany's been trying to tell you this herself and asked if you've had a lot of problems with your phone lately."
Amy to me shows some conscience here, in that she wants hope from the psychic, that Tiffany would want to forgive them all one day but sadly in my belief, none of these messages were real. Amy wants Tiffany to have "no hard feelings" towards the mother that scapegoated her. Why isn't the mother in this afterlife scenario apologizing? Amy admits the trouble with Mom to the psychic and easy answers are given that now in the afterlife, that two personalities that didn't get along now do. It is interesting to me, that Tiffany's "hard feelings" are the focus here, instead of atonement on the behalf of the mother.
David then talks more about Tiffany's mental health problems in the same chapter called "Spirit World" about that day he had the door shut on her, during a show. David admits he never saw or spoke to her again. He mentions her mental health problems referring to a suicide attempt and hospitalization, a rape and an eviction and then says
"She was, I told myself, someone else's problem. I couldn't deal with her anymore.
Well, the rest of the family said, it was Tiffany. Don't be too hard on yourself. We all know how she can be.
Perhaps like the psychic, they were just telling me what I needed to hear to ease my conscience and make me feel that underneath it all I'm no different from anyone else. They've always done that for me, my family. It's what keeps me coming back"
David's conscience is bothered, and that's a good sign, but sadly narcissistic families, will justify the treatment of the scapegoat forever. The family system can't admit what was done to the scapegoat. Yes mental illness can be troubling. People who face difficulties are not easy to deal with. It's hard to explain the depths of pain for a scapegoat, who is told in various ways "you are not right" or "we know how you can be". They are blamed sadly for what the family in many cases made them become. For David, his family is a place of solace, and easing of conscience but you see, would be narcissistic families are not good influences on consciences.
One comment by [Ky Ya Ya] on the video on the Vice Interview below sums things up:
"The family narrative is pervasive & powerful. Even when reality intrudes, the narrative holds strong. It's a habit of thought, operationalised in family roles that stigmatise & problematise the "scapegoat". This narrative is modelled, reinforced & rewarded by toxic parents. You get good at what you practice, this includes negative thinking, toxic family narratives, victim-blaming, responsibility avoidance & selfishness. Golden child siblings are literally blind to the abuse, even though they SEE it. They are blind because they are conditioned to think the scapegoat IS the problem, they are also blind to the abuse of the scapegoat, because they don't see it as abuse. My golden child sister has no clue our NM is abusive & manipulative, she thinks she's a "good" person. My GC sister has no clue regarding her own abusive behaviour!! They operate in a moral fog where their evil/wrongdoing is justified, redescribed, minimised & denied."
Reading Between the Lines About David Sedaris' Family
Scapegoating Families: David Sedaris' Vice Interview (Pt. 1 of 5)