Home Australia DEAR CAROLINE: My mother committed suicide and now my sister is pushing me away. How can I help her heal?

DEAR CAROLINE: My mother committed suicide and now my sister is pushing me away. How can I help her heal?

0 comment
 DEAR CAROLINE: My mother committed suicide and now my sister is pushing me away. How can I help her heal?

q My younger sister and I were once close, but she has changed a lot in recent years. We have a very dysfunctional background involving emotional abuse, an absent father, and a severely depressed mother who took her own life. After years of counseling, I have made peace with the past, built a successful career, and am fortunate to have a circle of close friends.

My sister married young to escape home and has nine children. Over the years, I have seen her struggle with severe social anxiety, emotional maladjustment (she cannot express her feelings), low self-esteem, and an inability to trust. People find her distant and cold. I tried to support her, but now, at 30, she pushes me away and often she doesn’t respond to messages. I have urged her to seek counselling, but she denies there is any problem.

Unfortunately, her husband doesn’t believe it. in therapy, but has withdrawn emotionally due to his attidude. She becomes unresponsive or verbally abusive when he tries to talk to her about her childhood.

Sometimes she asks me why people hate her, although attempts to reason with her are met with silence. I love my sister and I don’t want to disconnect, but her attitude is affecting my mental health. I also see the effects of her emotional turmoil on my older nephews.

TO You have been through a lot and have worked hard to accept your suffering. Unfortunately, however, by hiding from her emotions and problems, her sister remains traumatized.

His mother’s suicide must have had a huge effect on both of them. Her sister’s attitude (withdrawing or lashing out) shows the magnitude of her pain. She could very well be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Since your mother suffered from severe depression, I suspect there is a genetic link as well. But the fact that your sister refuses help is hard for you. She starts by talking to her husband.

Although it is a great shame that he does not believe in counseling, explain to him – kindly but clearly – that his wife’s mental state is affecting his children, that they need support and she needs help.

Also tell her (with love) that her children are suffering – just like she and you – from having a very depressed mother and that for their sake, things must change. This is now a safeguarding issue as your children are vulnerable, so call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email them at help@nspcc.org.uk.

You can talk about your concerns and they can advise you on necessary actions. If he can, he too should return to therapy to help him find the balance between supporting his sister and taking a step back. See also Suicide Grief Survivors for help (www.uksobs.com).

I am tormented by my work mishap

q I made a mistake at work and I can’t stop worrying about it. I’m very stressed like My husband is sick and I was not concentrating properly. It only came to light a few days later.

I eventually fixed it, but it has caused my company some expense and embarrassment. My boss, who I have worked with for 20 years, has been extremely supportive. He told me that he knows that I have a lot of things to do at home. But I feel so stupid. I’m in my 50s and normally very efficient, so I feel like I’ve let you down. I keep going over it in my head and worry that he’ll think I’m no longer up to the job. How can I stop feeling like this?

TO I’m sorry to hear that your husband is sick. This is a stressful time for both of you and it is no surprise that you have been struggling to concentrate and are feeling anxious.

However, it seems that the anxiety is quite deep and could have become obsessive, with intrusive thoughts, not only worrying about her husband but also constantly doubting herself. Far from thinking you’re stupid, I think your boss believes in you a lot and he knows that one mistake doesn’t erase an excellent record.

If you dig a little deeper into your past, you may discover that much of this anxiety comes from never feeling good enough, perhaps due to pushy parents or competitive schooling, for example. Obsessive thoughts could even indicate OCD. So see your GP for possible referral to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The charity rethink.org has advice on anxiety disorders. Also ask your doctor about HRT, as menopause can often increase midlife anxiety in women.

If you have any problems, please write to Caroline West-Meads at YOU, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email c.west-meads@mailonsunday.co.uk. You can follow Caroline on X/Twitter @Ask_Caroline_

Caroline reads all your letters but regrets that she cannot respond to them personally.

You may also like