Background: My sister (38) has a story of emotional instability and I fear for my niece (8) and baby nephew (Down syndrome). My sister was molested by my father when she was in her late teens, which might have something to do with her current condition. She is extremely dependent on (and at the same time very hostile to) my mother. My mother (divorced, late 60s), in turn, is struggling all by herself to help her daughter and the little children, while having to deal with lack of money and her own (physical) health issues.
posted by Basque13 to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My sister probably suffers from bipolar disorder, but refuses to seek professional help. She is often overwhelmed by anger and depression. She is, among other things, often difficult to interact with, (verbally) aggressive, controlling, volatile and negligent of her personal appearance and health. During the last few months her situation has worsened, she is extremely irritable, eats very little and badly, has become emaciated and her teeth have deteriorated notably.
My sister lives one block away from my mother, at an old house my mother lends her. She does have a low paying but relatively stable job. However, this also means that my aging mother has to babysit every weekday from 7 AM to 2 PM, plus any other time my sister chooses to go out on her own. My sister has had a number of short-lived affairs with men who disappeared quickly after she became pregnant. She is having another affair at present. She has for years been easy prey for exploiters, people who borrowed money from her and vanished, men who used her-literally-to do their cleaning and cooking, among other things, for free, and then dumped her. And this is a woman who graduated from high school at the top of her class and got excellent grades during her first year at university, until she became the target of my father's psychological and moral collapse. After that, it all started to deteriorate quickly for her in the next few years. She dropped out from college, became increasingly isolated and angry, stopped almost all social interaction, and ended up having a string of dead-end jobs far below her capacity.
Today, on a typical day my sister is watching TV at my mother's house, gets a text message and rushes out of the house, telling my mother to take care of the kids while she is away, no explanations given. When hours later on her return she is asked about what happened, she throws a fit about my mother not helping her enough and nobody caring about her well-being. She does not look after the children's (or her own) hygiene and nutrition enough. She often neglects basic safety precautions, as avoiding taking the children out unnecessarily during extreme weather conditions in summer or winter (the baby got pneumonia recently, which might have something to do with my sister frequently taking him out for a walk during very cold days). My niece has had a couple of infections which I suspect could have been prevented with a little more attention and care. I've visited their house recently and it is really rundown.
Tomorrow I'm traveling back to the city where I live and work, a 5-hour drive from this family drama. I can only visit my family a few times a year, and spend a lot of time worrying about my mother, niece and nephew's welfare in the face of my sister's condition.
What options are there to help bring some stability and safety to that home? Our budget is tight, and not being in a developed country, the options for state mental health assistance are very limited. Competent private counseling is available, it would be an expensive yet possible option. But first my sister should be willing to seek help. Is there a way to influence her to do that, considering that our chances of having a civil and reasonable conversation are slim?
Thanks in advance for any sensible guidance