She's here - now what?
August 14, 2019 5:06 AM   Subscribe

My sister has been unemployed for several years. Our dad had been paying her rent and bills but couldn't continue to do so. Now she's moved in with my husband and me. How do we make this work?

I couldn't bear to see my dad go broke or my sister made homeless... Also I live in a country with universal healthcare and my sister has bad asthma and no insurance. So when my dad told her he couldn't continue paying her bills, I told her she could come and live with me and my husband until she gets on her feet. She accepted, moved halfway across the world, and is now here living in our spare bedroom.

My sister has a history of trauma and her mental health has been up and down. I think she is probably bipolar. She says she thinks she is a psychopath but I don't think that's possible as she really loves animals? I can say she definitely lies a lot, is very manipulative, and has a very unstable work history. She dropped out of high school and has worked off and on as a chef. She's in her mid-forties.

She's been here two weeks and it's been...ok. She spends a lot of time in her room which is fine. She doesn't seem to have done anything to find a job or to help around the house despite my asking her to. I'm just wondering what the next steps are. I'm afraid I'm going to get really resentful going out to work each day to pay the bills, coming home and cleaning the house, and getting nothing in return.

I know the obvious answer is "therapy" for her but who's going to pay for it? Although we have universal healthcare there isn't much provision for mental health and the waiting list is about three years for a few counseling sessions. My dad might agree to pay for some therapy for her but how can we find a therapist that's going to be helpful? And she may not engage with the process anyway.

I'm looking for ways of thinking about this situation so I don't get too resentful, ways of setting house rules to get her to help around the house and look for work, and what to do if months go by and she isn't doing anything to get back on her feet?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Does your country’s “universal” health care actually cover your sister? Is she a citizen? Is she allowed to remain indefinitely with you?
posted by spitbull at 5:11 AM on August 14 [7 favorites]


You are doing a great job. You’re in an area where there is very little social understanding or research so here is some 101

- do some reading on trauma - she almost certainly isn’t like this by choice - if someone had side swiped her with a car and brain damaged her so she couldn’t work there would be less stigma - the maladaptive coping mechanisms she has come up with are probably due to the human wish to avoid the excruciating pain of being marginalised by others and/or triggered at work.

At the same time, you have your boundaries and have every right to them. If your boundaries don’t involve caring for someone with a life limiting mental injury, that’s fine, but be up front about it to yourself and your sister. There’s nothing worse than someone blaming you for their own boundaries.

Folks with trauma often have trouble doing repetitive physical tasks, their brains start using the down time to attack them. Does she have a way of downloading podcasts, access to your WiFi, headphones? Do whatever you can to make it possible to clean or do other jobs without excruciating pain.

I’m assuming this is the UK - get her on all the waiting lists for trauma therapy, get her on the waiting list to be evaluated for PTSD, ADHD, and autism, or whichever of those are relevant. These are often the reason why adult women are not able to work. Meanwhile, if your father can pay for therapy, a course of EMDR with a private well-reputed therapist. Ask, and ask around.

Get your own therapist to help with resentment and other issues as a caregiver. Mental health is in the dark ages and a lot of people don’t realise that mental injury can be permanent and life limiting. You can do a lot to accommodate and adapt and find a new normal, but, you can’t re-do those early years of childhood when the brain becomes wired differently.
posted by Mistress at 5:45 AM on August 14 [6 favorites]


Good for you for helping your sister. My partner's done this for non-relatives in crisis, which in some ways is easier and in some ways is harder. There are a few things they wish they'd done from the start.

One is to get real blunt about speaking up when they were annoyed. Sometimes resentment-building situations festered for a long time, with my partner assuming and assuming that there would be a huge fight, and then when they actually said something the other person was like "Oh, sure, I'll stop doing that." A lot of places have a culture of being extra-polite to guests and extra-tolerant of their missteps (and also, relevant in your case, a culture of overlooking relatives' missteps because they're relatives). But when a guest or relative is really more of a roommate, fighting that culture and speaking up as clearly as possible when you're pissed is important.

Another thing they wish they'd done is work out what their "this is no longer working and you need to leave" lines were. Maybe they'd have told the guest that those were the lines they couldn't cross, maybe they'd have kept it in their head — but they wish they'd at least gotten clear on it in their own head. Without getting clear on that, it's easy to have a bad situation keep creeping worse and worse, and to keep putting off dealing with it because you aren't sure if it's "bad enough" yet.

Last thing is, they wish they'd figured out in advance how they'd handle it if they did need the person to leave. I don't necessarily mean eviction or other legal proceedings — some places it's actually very hard to kick out someone who's been living with you with permission, and anyway probably "the police show up, dump their stuff on the curb, and threaten to arrest them if they stay" is not the outcome you want. What I do mean is that you should figure out how, given your family and how it operates, to have the difficult conversations that will result in their agreeing to go elsewhere. This includes thinking about what you'll do if, god forbid, their best option after you is something like "go to a shelter." It's a grim train of thought, but if you don't think about that now, you risk putting up with a bad situation too long just because you have no idea how to end it.

This is really harsh-sounding advice. I hope it doesn't come across as putting down what you're doing, or as advocating a cruel approach. Caring for people in crisis is good and important, and treating them with kindness and love is the best way to do that. But you asked about resentment, and this, in our experience, is how to avoid resenting the person you've taken in — clear communication and clear boundaries, backed up with actions you know you can take if those boundaries are crossed.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:55 AM on August 14 [21 favorites]


I don't know what country you're in but if you're in a country with universal healthcare is there also social assistance or disability she could apply for eventually? I would be focused on getting her access to resources so that you aren't her caregiver indefinitely, because if you're feeling this way already you'll probably going to struggle if the situation continues as is. It is hard but possible to live on social assistance/disability and do ok in a country with universal healthcare and some other resources. You are not horrible for not wanting to take care of her for years, and you can support her in ways that will let you take care of yourself and your marriage too.

I have personal experience with this sort of situation and attempts to help them may not work and may burn you out in the process because ultimately their behavior is beyond your control. I agree with username Mistress' post that trauma and mental health conditions or diagnoses certainly play a role, and that your sister's situation is unlikely to do a 180 without significant help from professionals, time, and motivation on your sister's part.

Depending on the nature of her prior trauma (domestic violence, sexual, childhood, etc.), she may be able to access counseling faster via a specific centre that is mandated to support those survivors. Same if she may have a specific diagnosis like autism. Maybe before therapy you could see what resonates or interests her and get her some books or pamphlets to gauge her motivation?
posted by lafemma at 5:57 AM on August 14 [3 favorites]


With a long term houseguest, it can be important to set boundaries and expectations about what is involved, even if they are not paying rent. It can be awkward to start, but in the long run help get things cleared up and avoid resentment by you or your husband.

The next step to ask is are they happy with the current situation, and do they want help making a plan for where they want to ultimately be? What steps do they need to carry out. Starting small and making decisions and then actions.
posted by nickggully at 5:58 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


One aspect that I can comment on from my own experience, is to start thinking about what your own boundaries are going to be - both for yourself, and for you and your husband as a unit.

There might be a time related boundary - she can stay X months; or conditions - e.g. she can stay providing she’s taking certain steps towards caring for herself, or isn’t actively causing problems through the manipulation or lies that you mention.

My own perspective is that thinking all this through is helpful for your own mental health, but will also help protect your relationship with your spouse. Living with mental illness is hard for everyone.

Also, maintaining boundaries (for me) is like a muscle that I need to practice - it would be no good waiting 6 months, and then starting to think about it.

It’s also fairer to your sister to be clear about what you will and won’t accept.

Otherwise - be diligent about carving out space for yourself and your spouse. If this is going to be a marathon rather than a sprint, you need to take really good care of yourselves, otherwise you’ll run out of energy much more quickly .
posted by JJZByBffqU at 6:01 AM on August 14 [5 favorites]


I would be extremely shocked if she ever "gets back on her feet" after reading all of this, to be honest. She doesn't sound interested and/or even capable of getting a job and moving out and taking care of herself. She sounds like she needs to be supported by someone else in order to live/have healthcare(?)/not be homeless. I've heard a lot of stories like this and I don't think anyone ever shaped up and moved out on their own. Occasionally someone like yourself gets fed up (resentment is legit and likely) and the guest gets kicked out of the house and then that person either ended up homeless or found someone else to live off of. I don't even know how immigration stuff would factor into this or if she'd be allowed to stay where you are for good or for how long or how work permits go.

What leverage do you have over her, if any, to get her to do anything? Asking her politely to get a job and help around the house can easily be ignored and if there's no consequences for not doing it, then why would she bother? I feel like you're going to need sticks rather than carrots. Not that I have any idea of how to get a woman over 40 to do stuff she doesn't want to do, mind you, but it seems like it'd be very easy to always be making rules and drawing lines and then she still doesn't do anything and now what do you do?

Therapy, even if you can easily get it AND want to go, can take years. I wouldn't count on therapy to be a godsend here if you can get it. Sure, work towards it, but I wouldn't expect that with a year of therapy she'll be fine to work again.

I wish you luck with this, but I've heard a lot of stories along these lines and she may just need to be someone's dependent for the rest of her life because it would take a lot of time and work (assuming she wants to put in that work, which she may not) to get her out the door on her own.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:17 AM on August 14 [20 favorites]


She's been here two weeks and it's been...ok. She spends a lot of time in her room which is fine. She doesn't seem to have done anything to find a job or to help around the house despite my asking her to. I'm just wondering what the next steps are. I'm afraid I'm going to get really resentful going out to work each day to pay the bills, coming home and cleaning the house, and getting nothing in return.

So, my thought on this is that your best bet is trying to change this mindset. There is, from what I can tell, little chance that she will ever "contribute" in any economically meaningful way. By that I mean that she probably won't do labor that will help you run your home, or bring in money, or anything like that. So you have to find some other satisfaction for her being there.

Generally, I would say that what you are "getting" in return isn't coming from her directly, but it is still important.

---Your own peace of mind. When she is there, you don't have to worry about her; she's not on the street or homeless. This is a real benefit! You aren't going to be able to turn off your feelings for your sister, probably, so as long as you are lucky enough to be able to afford to take care of her, you're avoiding a huge amount of grief and pain. That is a very real benefit!

---Your own pride and self-esteem. You are doing a good thing. You can take care of a whole other person. You are someone who people can rely on. You are generous and patient. This is a feeling you should lean on to get you through this.

And, as another tip, if you think of this as a choice---from her or from you---you will be much less happy than if you think of it as something that has simply happened that you and your sister both have to tolerate. This mindset---this is a difficulty from the stars, from fate, whatever, that we both have to deal with---is extremely helpful for dealing with people who are challenging but who, realistically, will not ever get less challenging.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:43 AM on August 14 [25 favorites]


Also, I want to be clear that the above advice is about her generally being a slouch around the house and not really doing much. It's not for her being actively abusive or terrible to you or anyone in your home.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:45 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]


We have had five houseguests in our house like this over the last decade or so, friends and family, and I can say four out of five have successfully moved up and out. The outlier currently lives with their parents. In the success cases, mental health care access was part of what helped them gain traction with their lives and take control.
posted by nickggully at 6:48 AM on August 14 [3 favorites]


I think you need to decide what your role and limits are.

If your primary motivation is that you can't stand to see her homeless, then you have achieved that goal. I think your problem is that that's not really your goal. Your goal is for her to be independent and healthy. But that can't really be your goal; it's hers. The work you need to do is on your own life goals as yourself and as her sibling.

Are you the "life enforcer" who is going to create strong expectations and boundaries? If so, are you prepared to enforce those rules (which probably end in eviction, bluntly, so your work will be to prepare yourself for that)? If so, you need to work with her to lay out a contract of your expectations.

Are you the lifelong safe place to crash? If so, you need to start structuring your life and your home in order to accommodate what you are seeing this week forever, or at least for a long time. This may include creating some "house rules" for her, including chores, but you may have to acknowledge that if you're trying a "we've got your back no matter what" family, you may be in the no-matter-what. Then you can support her, but you don't have a role in demanding activity, that's kind of on her.

Are you a temporary place to crash? If so, you need to lay out for her in writing how long she can stay and what the expectations are during that time. Then your focus can be on that end date and getting her into social supports for that time/situation (welfare/disability, housing, etc.)

What tends to happen is people are expecting #3, without a plan, and then waffle between #1 and #2. That generally doesn't end well.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:48 AM on August 14 [9 favorites]


You basically could have written this exact story about my loved one. I'm not going to write a long answer but here's one short solution: with my loved one, we were able to help them get work as a pet sitter via one of those new companies that advertises online -- a "gig economy" type thing. She loves animals so this is a job she likes, and will continue to do. It does not earn her enough money to live independently, but it means she has some money. Sometimes she does daily visits to people's homes to feed the pets. Occasionally she will have a longer sit and stay at their home while they're away.

But in the bigger picture: I expect to be taking care of this person for the rest of their life. They are not a capable or competent adult, some of which is due to mental illness. And I suspect your situation is similar.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:00 AM on August 14 [7 favorites]


She's not gonna get a job that will allow her to live independently. I think you need to get used to that idea now. You need to decide whether you're okay with her living with you forever or if you're going to kick her out at some point.

I would consider trying to set up your home so her space is as independent as possible... you probably don't have a ton of flexibility, but giving her a room closest to the door, to a bathroom that's mostly her own, etc. will give you fewer opportunities to get irritated by her presence. A minifridge can help too.

For chores: this is obvious and you've probably already tried it, but being very explicit as to your expectations helps a lot. Telling people to "clean up while I'm out" isn't concrete enough, especially if from their perspective everything is already clean enough. But asking them to cook dinner, vacuum the living room, etc. gives clear instructions and expectations.
posted by metasarah at 7:18 AM on August 14 [4 favorites]


I don't know what kind of relationship you and your sister have, or the types of conversations you have, but have you asked her what she wants to get out of staying with you? If her previous living situation meant sub-par medical care, or shame, guilt, stress, or untreated mental health issues, I'd also want to hide in my room for a couple weeks. Maybe I wouldn't know any other coping mechanisms. Does she see this as more of the same? Is she 'tired' (usually the 'I'm having mental health issues' cover word) and all she can see is trying to survive? Does she want big changes but feels helpless? Hopeful? Maybe she wants to help around the house but feels awkward and doesn't know what help you would want, which is what I'd feel (I need explicit expectations). Maybe she's a slob who thinks the house is clean and has no idea what kind of help you're on about. But I don't know your sister! The point is to find out.

Make your expectations clear, and then find out hers, don't just try to interpret her behavior. Then, see where you both differ and hammer it out now, as others have said, before anger or resentment can build.

As someone who has struggled with employment in the past due to mental health issues, you are doing a really good thing. I was dying inside and people would assume I was lazy and just didn't want to pull my weight. It was deeply hurtful. You are a good sister.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 7:36 AM on August 14 [6 favorites]


Oh, I have been living this on and off for the past few years. It is rough. But here has what's gotten me through:

1) Benevolence vs. Intimate Love: There are two types of love, intimate and benevolent. Intimate love, like the kind you have with a spouse, must be returned in order to survive. It needs to be mutually reinforcing and strong. From intimate love can come benevolent love, which does *not* need to be returned. It would be unrealistic to expect your children to thank you for everything you do or for them to "give back" in any proportionate way. They're kids. Maybe when they are adults and have the experience of pouring themselves out in benevolent love for someone else might they truly appreciate all that you do.

I give that long explanation because it is urgent that you strengthen and protect the sources of intimate love in your life. If you pray, then pray hard and regularly. Definitely devote time and effort to your relationship with your husband. Intimate love is the power source for your ability to love your sister unconditionally and without expecting anything in return.

2) Find a network for yourself and your husband first. Kind of like the concept of Al Anon, find a support group for loved ones of needy people, people who are trying to negotiate the boundaries between truly helping and co-dependency. I know there are support groups for relatives of adults with mental illness (because I'm in one.) You need to be able to share with people who have a chance of knowing your experience, frustrations, and pain. And you need to hear their stories as they are good sources of ideas, resources, and hope.

3) Find public resources to help you help your sister. Respite care for you, free activities and social programs for her, whatever. I don't know what social services you have in your country, but devote some time to finding out what's available and then become an advocate for her and get as much help as you can. The way I see it, you are providing a valuable service to your government by keeping a potential homeless person off the streets. You deserve help from said government. If you lived in the United States, I'd say you are doubly deserving of my tax dollars!

4) And, as suggested many times above, set your boundary and think through the scenario where you have to ask your sister to move out. What are your lines that can't be crossed? Where can you suggest she go? How would you go about it? Have a plan, even if it's to be kept locked away and out of mind. I'd suggest finding a counselor or social worker to work through such a plan.

Bless you for having an open heart and opening your life to your sister.
posted by cross_impact at 7:53 AM on August 14 [11 favorites]


I did this, expecting it would be temporary. I did not do the hard work of discussing my relative's expectations nor my own. Many months later, when it was clear that my relative was unable to contribute and that I could not afford to keep my apartment without a paying housemate, I asked my relative to leave. (We had one conversation before that, and it was clear that I could not expect any financial help from her ever.)

My relative did leave, feeling angry and bitter about me in the process, and did not speak to me for a year. My relative stayed with some other people over a period of time and was homeless for a period of time, and eventually got into homeless housing and, eventually, more permanent housing. My relative has a variety of debilitating conditions that make it impossible for my relative to work; that those conditions are invisible do not make them less real.

That said, my underemployment and inability to pay all the rent on my own was no less real and extremely urgent at the time. I came close to becoming homeless myself because I was so reluctant to ask my relative to leave. I did feel resentful and angry. Today I have a good relationship with my relative but it was rocky for a long time, and understandably so. I wish every country on earth had strong mental health services, dental services, and other healthcare services that were accessible and affordable but they do not, not even in Sweden where I live now. Totally better than the US? Yes. What is needed? Nope, not by a long shot.

OP, you are in a tough situation. Try to figure out what is most important to you and ask your sister what is most important to her. Not talking to each other early and often is going to be a problem. Not setting boundaries for your own well being will probably become a problem. It is easy to become resentful and hard to avoid it. It turned out that I really missed just having my apartment all to myself. At least when I had a paying housemate, I was getting something concrete in return for that loss.

It doesn't matter what we are "supposed" to feel. We feel what we feel and then we can deal with those feels based on our values. So consider what you might want or need in order to avoid or minimize resentment. Don't cut off any ideas because you think they are impractical. Just think about what your ideal, 100% what you want list might look like. Then don't try to solve the problem alone. Talk to your sister. Talk to your husband (does he have any resentments?). Be honest but also kind and gentle and loving. Maybe the three of you can work out a situation that works far better than you could have imagined.

Early on, when my relative moved in, for example, we did discuss some things. I don't enjoy cooking and my relative was not a fan of cleaning. So my relative did some cooking and I cleaned up.

It is okay to think about how your sister can contribute to the household as a whole and ask your sister if there are things she would enjoy doing or could do. This does not have to be a 100% you give and 0% she gives situation. Just ponder some possibilities. Your sister may well feel shitty about the situation and welcome the opportunity to give back in some concrete way or ways. Good luck, OP! I know this is a challenging situation.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:55 AM on August 14 [3 favorites]


I really want to add onto my comment, reproduced below, that this is basically all from a point of self-care. Meaning, I think that this attitude and approach, if you can adopt it, will help YOU feel better about this situation. There is no real moral weight to it; you don't have to feel this way, or anything like that. But if you can swing it, I have found that these attitudes and assumptions help you to avoid resentment and stress over issues like a lack of reciprocity, a lack of "fairness" within a relationship, and similar.

So, my thought on this is that your best bet is trying to change this mindset. There is, from what I can tell, little chance that she will ever "contribute" in any economically meaningful way. By that I mean that she probably won't do labor that will help you run your home, or bring in money, or anything like that. So you have to find some other satisfaction for her being there.

Generally, I would say that what you are "getting" in return isn't coming from her directly, but it is still important.

---Your own peace of mind. When she is there, you don't have to worry about her; she's not on the street or homeless. This is a real benefit! You aren't going to be able to turn off your feelings for your sister, probably, so as long as you are lucky enough to be able to afford to take care of her, you're avoiding a huge amount of grief and pain. That is a very real benefit!

---Your own pride and self-esteem. You are doing a good thing. You can take care of a whole other person. You are someone who people can rely on. You are generous and patient. This is a feeling you should lean on to get you through this.

And, as another tip, if you think of this as a choice---from her or from you---you will be much less happy than if you think of it as something that has simply happened that you and your sister both have to tolerate. This mindset---this is a difficulty from the stars, from fate, whatever, that we both have to deal with---is extremely helpful for dealing with people who are challenging but who, realistically, will not ever get less challenging.

posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:02 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Followup from the OP:
Thank you very much to everyone who has replied, I'm finding it very helpful to read you responses. I'd like to clarify that my sister doors have citizenship in the country where we are both now living and had the right to work, etc.

Please could I ask for advice in addressing the lies she tells me? Top give an example, I asked for help with cooking and she says she can't cook because as a chef she only learned to cook large quantities. I know this isn't true because I've eaten her cooking many times before! And there are lots of other lies that she had told over many years - about jobs, reasons for not showing up, reasons for not doing anything to help others. Should I pretend to believe her or do I call her out gently?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:11 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Regarding the lies, you shouldn't "call her out" in a confrontational way but you also shouldn't pretend that you believe her either.

It's entirely possible that she believes her own lies. When a person has severe depression, they often convince themselves that there is a legitimate reason they aren't doing anything except lay in bed all day. I can't do that because of my (nonexistant) back injury. I can't start doing this chore until I buy this (unnecessary) thing. I can't work yet because I need some special clothing that I can't afford. I can't look for a job because the computer is running slow. I can't water the plants because there are wasps this season and I'm (undiagnosed) allergic.

Living with someone like this is hearing an endless stream of promises about tomorrows and next weeks, knowing full well they aren't going to keep any of them. It's exhausting, but you kind of have to put up with it if you intend to keep this living arrangement going.
posted by FakeFreyja at 9:29 AM on August 14


Yeah, people like this have no meaningful relationship with the truth and don't care if they hurt you by lying either, so there's no point in acting as if there's something you could do to prompt them to stop lying. There really isn't. Just treat everything they say as a lie by default and--as long as you are willing to tolerate that behavior in your home for your own reasons--don't get emotionally invested in it.

By the way, if it matters to you at all, given the way you've described her, I would keep an eye out for substance use. Not just for legal reasons, but because your stuff will end up getting stolen to pay for it, and you're going to have to decide how you want to handle that. Ideally in advance, because it's an emotionally brutal experience and you'll want to have decided how to act in a considered way according to your own values and not in the heat of the moment.
posted by praemunire at 9:42 AM on August 14 [7 favorites]


Don't challenge her lies/statements. State your expectations. "I need you to cook 1 night a week on Wednesdays, starting next Wednesday." When she says she can't, tell you that you're fine with grilled cheese and soup (or whatever) but that you expect her to figure it out and have food on the table.

But then if she doesn't come through, you have to decide what your next step will be.

She sounds wildly inconsistent. You can give up, or you can set crystal clear expectations and just hold to them. If you can manage, be entirely uninterested in her reasons or excuses...because it's really actually not relevant. This probably goes against your family patterns, but really, all you care is that she helps out right? Just tell her you know she can manage and get out of the discussion as soon as possible.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:45 AM on August 14 [3 favorites]


Don't engage with the lies. That can spiral into circular arguments that you will never win. In the example you gave, you could just tell her to help you in the kitchen, e.g. "Come help me in the kitchen!" If you do ask and she gives an excuse/lie just ignore it and restate, so something like "come help me in the kitchen anyway." Basically you will never get anywhere challenging the lie (there will always be another excuse or lie to counter you) so you just need to respond as though the lie isn't even relevant. Not by challenging it but by acting indifferent, as though she'd told you she couldn't help because her hair was blue or whatever.
posted by Polychrome at 10:20 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]


You can also consider asking your sister first how she would like to contribute and give her 3 choices, say. As someone who sometimes wrestles with depression, it can be easier if I have choices than if I have to come up with an idea myself. But as other folks say, there is no win to be had from calling her out. You can just say, please come help me with dinner and then give her vegetables to chop or whatever. It may work, and it may not. In my experience, we truly cannot control other people. That includes people who are ill and/or challenged in various ways.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:41 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


I know the obvious answer is "therapy" for her but who's going to pay for it?

If you're going to be her long term caretaker (which I would bet is going to happen unless you're eventually willing to tell her to move out), try to get into therapy yourself (and your significant other, if applicable). Make your own oxygen mask the priority, otherwise you'll get dragged down trying to put hers on. If a full therapist isn't possible, definitely seek out a support group.
posted by Candleman at 11:20 AM on August 14 [6 favorites]


#1. There have been some good threads on AskMefi about dealing with friends and relatives with different disorders such as bipolar and various personality disorders. Here is one thread and a book recommended in another thread.

I don't know if either of those is exactly the right thing for your situation, but my general point is: Look for help and resources, books, online forums, counseling, all those things that might give you the tools to deal with and live with someone who has the issues your sister has.

Anyone who has lived with someone who has these kinds of issues knows it can be draining and difficult but also that there are certain ways to deal with things that do help.

#2. It sounds like your sister is very possibly incapable of working--certainly, of working full time for the rest of her regular/expected working years--and so depending on your country or situation there may be some form of disability or assistance programs she is eligible for on that basis.

I would definitely check that out as it is one way to provide basic care for her and avoid the homelessness bind. Just for example, even if she continues to live with your, she may be able to pay her share of the household expenses/rent/mortgage from that kind of assistance, and she may also be able to pay some amount for someone else to do some of the housekeeping/household chores for her if she is unable to do them herself.

Expect that applying for this kind of assistance will be long and onerous process and one that may require legal help and other assistance, and many appeals before assistance if finally granted. All that is a long row to hoe but that unfortunate fact is one reason to get started with the process ASAP.
posted by flug at 11:39 AM on August 14 [6 favorites]


See the lies as, like, how you would see tremors or muscle spasms from a physical illness. It’s a learned behaviour because the world is full of utter death deserving fuck stains who don’t believe in incapacity through mental injury, and so those lies are a maladaptive but effective survival mechanism. Through conversation with her you will find adaptations that allow her to do the stuff you need her to do, and you will also find stuff that she is able to do. Ask her to do that stuff. So much of the time mental injury sufferers get themselves into a situation where they’re being set up for failure. Like anyone else with a disability you find what she can do and make it easy for her to do it. That sense of accomplishing and belonging and validation will be rare in her life, and if you can find what she can do and build on it, you will be making a real difference towards her wellbeing.
posted by Mistress at 11:43 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]


So, it isn't remotely possible to diagnose this over the internet, but a lot of the stuff you're saying about her (trauma, unstable moods, struggles with being truthful, general life instability, capable of being very caring but feels like she is empty inside) makes it sound like it would be worth considering if she could have BPD/EUPD. The great thing about that would be that it's highly treatable, and it could be possible for her to recover substantially with suitable treatment (DBT or a comparably intensive therapy program). If you're in the UK this is available - pretty much exclusively, in fact - on the NHS, although as with all NHS psych treatment waiting lists can be long. Like I said, this may be totally irrelevant to what is actually going on; it is just one of those things, like thyroid issues, that is so solvable that it's often worth considering.
posted by Acheman at 8:16 AM on August 15


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