My thirty-year-old sister scored in the 99% on her GRE's and has a master's degree (in a field which my mother chose for her; my mother also practically wrote her thesis); however, she believes she is incapable of living alone. She says it is because of anxiety disorder, but will not seek outside help. She has no social life away from my parents. Several years ago, she saw a social worker, who somehow managed to get her a prescription for Paxil, which was not the answer and made her zombie-like. My mother, who I believe has always had serious mental health issues, keeps saying my sister is doing well, that her behavior is normal, and does not want her to seek treatment - "she just needs behavioral therapy." That is, she should be told what to do, but no discussion of the past should occur with the therapist. Both my mother and sister incessantly "pscyhoanalyse" other people, including my father, who wants my sister to leave.
Four years ago, my sister was forced to live on her own for the first time when my parents moved from Wisconsin to California; my parents told her she could not live with them. It was my father who made this decision. For years, my mother had been giving my sister double messages, telling her to leave, then telling her how lonely she would be without her.
Within a year after my parents left for California, my sister had moved in with a female friend of my mother's. My sister's apartment was at that point uninhabitable. She had been living in total filth and chaos - never washed her clothes or dishes, just threw them in a pile and bought new ones; had not paid bills or car insurance;had incurred a mountain of debt with nothing to show for it. She suddenly left her job and moved from Wisconsin to Miami to follow who she viewed as her only friend, driving 1500 miles with a dangerously out-of-repair car and no auto insurance; she had no cash, no job prospects, her credit cards were maxed out; she could not even afford to buy shampoo to wash her hair. Within a day of arriving in Miami, she signed a year lease for a large,expensive apartment, although she had no job. When I spoke to her at the time on the phone, she made herself sound very cheerful and told me how well she was doing and how there was "room for everyone to visit." However, she called my parents in a panic, completely paralyzed, saying she didn't know what to do. My mother immediately ordered her to drive to Sacramento, California (from Miami), which she seemed to have no problem doing.
My mother suggested that my sister was schizophrenic, and thus needed to live with my parents. However, my mother did not seek any treatment for my sister or any real advice other than casually discussing this with her business associates (she worked at an adoption agency.)So my sister did not see a psychologist or psychiatrist when she got there. My mother got one of the psychiatrists to write a one-month prescription of Paxil; after that, my sister simply discontinued all treatment. Her fogginess improved, but she still refused to live on her own. My father found her a job. She remained with them in California for four years. We siblings always heard she was "looking for an apartment." My parents, who are not well-off, paid her Miami rent - a year's worth - and debts. When my parents retired and moved back to Chicago, of course my sister decided to move there too. She still lives with them.
My father wants her to move out, but also will not encourage her to seek psychological or psychiatric treatment. My mother lies about certain things, claiming my sister is under psychiatric care when she isn't, for example, even when it is obvious that this can't be true. My sister is morbidly obese, will not even walk around the block without my mother. There are many issues that both of them share - an obsession with food and dieting, but no willingness to cook, for example. My father ignores it, but recently has had heart issues.
My sister is the youngest of five, and I am the oldest. My mother was constantly depressed and angry and unable to cook, clean, or provide any attention or emotional care. I have no memory of any affection from her. She has always claimed to be a radical feminist and complained about being trapped, but after beginning an advanced degree program, decided she wanted a fourth child, and when she did not immediately become pregnant, decided she wanted to adopt. This turned out to be a disaster; in my view my adopted sister, who was three when she came to us, was abused - spanked with a belt, for example, on her first night with us because she told my father that he had stolen her from her mother - and not given the special care she needed, as my parents refused to take her to a psychologist when she displayed serious behavioral problems and had terrible nightmares (things crawling all over her, etc.) - for these things she was also spanked.
From the time of that adoption, when I was eight, I was required to cook the family meals and do all the house cleaning. I did not bring any friends home. My parents had prominent jobs that put them in the public spotlight, and were determined to show that all was perfect. I could not allow my friends to see how are home life really was.
My youngest sister was born when this adopted sister was eight. She was unexpected. My mother doted on her and nursed her till she was over four years old. My mother often threatened to leave the family, taking my youngest sister with her. Eventually, my adopted sister ran away, and became violent against my parents, threatening them. She has had a terrible life. My parents changed their will to exclude her and have no contact with her.
My mother blames all of my youngest sister's mental health issues on this adopted sister, saying the sister "abused" her, although what type of "abuse" is never mentioned - just that she "scared" her. Occassionally my mother will also blame them on the rest of us siblings for my sister's problems, saying we "teased her" too much. This is simply untrue. I sometimes felt I was the one raising her; but when she was five, I left home, so my influence did not last long. My brothers were never mean to her; they are close to my age, and were sent away to high school, so really had little contact with her growing up.
I have spoken with my sister about the double messages that she has received all her life - that she should leave, but is helpless and should feel guilty for doing so. At the same time, my parents berate me behind my back, in my sister's presence, for having a career. She has now taken on the role of the "good virgin daugther," - the only one who "appreciates" all the sacrifices of my mother. She needs to live with my mother to "protect her" from my father (who is not violent.) I am sure my sister has heard long epistles about the unfairness of my mother's life. Between the admomitions to leave come lines come things like, "What are you doing to find a better job?" or "You don't want to live anywhere but this neighborhood - the world is so dangerous for single women," or "The dog will miss you if you leave, and we will never be able to go on vacation and leave her with you." (I have heard all these things said.)
Over the years, I have invited my sister many times to live with me - even when she had just finished high school and I was in Europe. She could have lived rent free in her own private apartment, but she refused to leave home. She always turned down every offer to be away from home, even for a few weeks or months. My siblings and I have all said she could temporarily live with us while looking for a job, but she not only refuses, but puts herself in a "Mom and Dad and me against you mean siblings" position.
Because my mother is emotionally ill (I believe), trying to convince her that my sister needs treatment - and needs to leave their home in order to get well - is impossible. If my father, who also refuses counseling, insists that my sister move out, my mother threatens divorce. My parents are very good at saying the "right things" to others to show how stable and fine they are. Thus they have been able to get by without drawing a lot of attention from friends and relatives, who don't see the whole double-message game and don't hear the divorce threats.
My parents are getting older, and my sister will not be able to live with them indefinitely. The longer this goes on, the more entrenched she seems to become. She always has a new excuse for not moving out, and my mother is constantly saying how much "better" she is. My brothers, their wives and I are trying to figure out what can be done when the time comes, so that we are not forced to make a very hasty decision. We agree that she will have to be institutionalized if she is incapable of living on her own and refuses treatment; I will not take her in, and hope that neither of my brothers ever does, or she will never get the help she needs.
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