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Sister has isolated herself

Community Member

My sister is in her mid 30s, lives alone and has completely isolated herself from all family and friends for 3 months. She has stopped going to work. This started just after our paternal Grandma died.


She is normally a very active, outgoing and extroverted person.


About 5 weeks ago our mum and her bff went around to see her and she agreed to a group chat where we could all post positive things from our days in an attempt to minimise pressure on her to contact us all individually. She had also agreed to begin seeing a psychologist but failed to attend any of the three Telehealth appointments we had set up for her. 

She is beginning to disengage from the one place we have contact with her and she doesn’t seem to be making any progress or getting any help. 

We’re at a loss of how to help her. 

7 Replies 7

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi, welcome 


There is a few problems so I'm glad you wrote in and shared.


One problem is, she's an adult and on this forum we have to mention, she is entitled to freedom of her own decisions.


However when family and friends are concerned it's also normal to care enough to reach out to them. It's just restrictive.


Can you all do some collective thinking about why? A big trigger is her grandmother passing away and some even get triggered by attending cemeteries. 


If there is any other event that triggered her that might help knowing. 


It is important to tread the line between what she sees as Intrusive contact and positive brief caring demeanour.


Drop into your local mental health clinic and get more advice. 


Reply anytime



Thanks for your reply Tony. I believe some of the other things going on for her include a build up of a highly stressful job in senior management whereby she had little support for many months. Followed by Grandma’s death which was exactly 2 years after Dad died very unexpectedly whom she (and all of us) were very close to. 

We’ve determined that friends & family  calling and texting her was triggering so I helped her set up some boundaries around that 3 months ago. As mentioned she now has one place to communicate with siblings, mum and bff all together so we know she is okay but without pressure/expectation of having to update us on where she’s at. 

She has withdrawn from all other social contact and won’t leave her home for the last 3 months. 

I live 3.5 hours away from her and other family in a small country town and we don’t have any mental health clinics nearby and I can’t even get into a GP here at the moment. Hence why I’m seeking support and ideas here. 

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi elf16, hope you don't mind me popping in again 🙂


'Mind altering' and 'Life changing' typically come with a trigger or a set of triggers. With your Grandma's passing and you're sister's decline at that point, sounds like this is a major mind altering life changing trigger that tipped the scales. While it sounds like I'm stating the obvious, sometimes it can be about what's not so obvious. One of the least obvious things to others is our inner dialogue because no one can hear it but us, unless we're prepared to share it. I'm wondering whether your sister has shared any of her inner dialogue with you or your mum. It might give you a better sense of where she's at.


While people speak of their 'inner demons', I'm very familiar with some of my own. The worst would have to be my harsh and brutal depressing inner critic. It can definitely make life feel like hell on earth at times. On good days, I can brush it off with a laugh. For example, while my inner dialogue can sound a little like 'There's no way you can manage that. You're hopeless at that kind of stuff', I can brush it off with the thought 'Oh my god, it's you again. Get the hell out of my head' and then I go ahead and do what my inner critic tells me I can't do. In the absolute depths of depression (if you can imagine depression as being like a kind of well, with different depths), at rock bottom it's an entirely different story. It's no laughing matter. My harsh and brutal depressing inner critic can have me living in what feels like the depths of hell, with no light at the top of the tunnel. 'What ever led you to think you could be free from depression? You're a fool and everyone knows it. They tolerate you and wouldn't even care if you were gone. In fact, you'd make their life easier if you ceased to exist. You wouldn't be around to bring them down. You're never going to be normal and you will suffer for the rest of your life. There's only one way out of this'. On and on it goes. It is a super nasty piece of work, that particular inner demon. Actually, what comes to mind is it's like having a relationship with a narcissist. It/they (narcissists) can have you believing that all their lies are true. Self doubt, self resentment, self hatred it created. All of your insecurities are played on as you're brought further and further down to the point where you no longer recognise yourself as being anything other than 'weak'. You have completely lost yourself without realising, until you hit rock bottom ('I don't know who I am anymore'). Whether it be the worst of narcissists or the worst of our inner demons, alienation is the key to their success. Both can create a form of isolation, cutting us off from friends and family (the people who can help). With no one around to help, they become our full focus, without distraction.


One thing I'd struggle to cope with if I was in the depths or at rock bottom would be living alone. Been there, done that and it did not go well. While it was all the way back in my late 20s, I still recall it vividly. Time alone with depressing inner dialogue can be a massive challenge. Wondering whether anyone in your sister's life would be in a position to say to her 'I really need a break from where I am, can I come stay with you for a few days or so? I'm willing to sleep on the couch or a blow up mattress'. Whether a narcissist or a depressing facet of self, either may dictate 'No!'. Sometimes it can be about not taking 'No' for an answer because the goal is about breaking up that destructive relationship or breaking it down (making sense of it) so that it's nature becomes more obvious. Btw, my harsh and brutal depressing inner critic tends to have me creating lists without me even realising at first: 'Think of all the times where you've let people down' or 'Think of all the ways you've failed at life' or 'Think of how many times you've kidded yourself when it comes to the idea that you can manage life'. Technically, they're depressing lists. When we think of all the ways we've beaten that part of our self in some mental or soulful battle, that becomes an inspiring list of victories which reflect our strength. I like to think, regarding those victories and my harsh and brutal depressing inner critic, 'In your face you depressing b*****d!' 😅. I'm a funny one.

Community Member

I greatly appreciate your responses @therising! I can totally relate to what you’re saying through what I’ve experienced with my own mental health challenges, that inner critic can run rampant and be an absolute piece of work. What I’m finding challenging is the differences between my sister and I, I’ve learnt to seek help when I go through my dark times. For her to have completely stepped away from her whole life and shut herself away and she  is refusing help from anyone and saying she can do it all herself. I was understanding and supportive of her taking a break from everyone and everything at the beginning she absolutely needed it, I guess at this point I’m worried how she will find a way to reemerge and reconnect without a bit of a push from somewhere. 

Im certainly contemplating going down to see if I can stay with her but it means putting my business on hold which is a bit of a difficult balancing act at the moment. I don’t even know if I’m the right person for this approach or who would be. She’s become quite aggressive to anyone who tries to reach out or support her. 

My siblings (im 1 of 4 in total), our mum and her bff are all feeling at a loss as to how to help her or how to support her. I get that it’s really up to her to seek help or support, I’m just really worried that she’ll keep choosing to hide away because the longer it goes on the harder it seems it will be to resume life. 

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi elf16


Definitely a challenging situation for everyone involved, especially your sister. I reached the conclusion some time ago that it pays to recognise a 'first time challenge'. Looking at things this way, I think it can lead us to be much kinder to our self, a little more compassionate and patient with our self. I used to fall into the trap of thinking 'I've faced this level of stress and upset before. I can manage this. I've managed it before, I can do it again'. The thing is though, while we may have faced what appears to be the same level of stress and upset we may not have faced this specific combination of challenges. Because of the entirely new combination, it can lead to 'What's wrong with me? Why can't I cope? Why am I becoming so stressed/depressed?'. 


Maybe this is something your sister could be led to consider, how hard a first time challenge can become. 'While you may have faced similar challenges before, have you ever faced this combination of challenges or faced them at this level? Will you know when it becomes too much for you to manage independently? Have you considered what the next step would be when it comes to no longer managing the challenge on your own (aka a backup plan)? Have you considered what kind of guides you might need, in order to make your way through it? Are you able to trust that part of you that insists 'You need help at this stage'?'. I suppose that's one way to guide her, by leading her to become more conscious of where she's at. As you mention, you're conscious of your inner dialogue, which includes being more conscious of a part of you you've come to trust, the part that insists 'You need help with this'. Good intuition's developed through trust.


I think deeply feeling people face a kind of double edged sword. While they have the ability to easily feel all their stressful or depressing triggers (making it much easier to identify them), they can feel all their stressful or depressing triggers. While some are raised to dismiss or suppress a lot of what they feel or they come to practice no longer feeling so much based on it serving them in some way, the problem with both scenarios is it can be so much harder to get a better feel for what our triggers are. The deep dive into emotions can sometimes lead us to feel like we're drowning, rather than searching for pearls of wisdom.




There is a chance that this self imposed isolation is what your sister might need. This is the other side. Many of us here have attempted or found our ideal place in society from shutting ourselves away entirely to somewhere between that and just a few boundaries.


This might help- I'm 68yo but in my 20's with no idea I had bipolar/high functioning autism (found that out just 2 months ago) I left home to ride into the mountains on my motorcycle intending to ditch the bike and live a hermit life. Each time it lasted only days but I wanted out of communities. On the way back on the last occasion, observing all the country houses, I knew the answer was a country life existence with a land barrier between me and neighbours. So that worked. 


I'm suggesting that she might have had a trigger or turn off with her high stress job and basically broke down, feeling strongly that she needs to regroup and that can take lots of time. In such circumstances, others need to tread carefully which you already know. Visiting her for one day with an overnight stay could be the answer, softly softly until she one day opens up voluntarily. Painting the picture of the ideal supporter.


When I was in a similar frame of mind the best support was a friend that sent me a card, words- "thinking of you" or "let me know when I can come up for a lunch, no stress". This female friend was once married to a sibling of my ex wife. We ended up both separating and months later we got together ironically, married now 13 years!


Anyway, just a mention of the subtle ways to be soft and comforting to this sister you no doubt love.



Flifie Tony and the rising

your posts are helpful and  remind us everyone is an individual with their own needs.

I like the way you all have listened and thoughtfully discussed many interesting points.