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My sister had a huge health problem and now I don't want to speak to her or think about it at all

Community Member

trigger warnings for mentions of someone trying to take their own life, cancer, surgery, etc.

A few years ago my sister had a very bad health problem which could be fixed with surgery, but it caused huge behavioural changes and multiple suicide attempts, and I was her primary carer. I was seventeen at the time and I often thought 'if she needs care on a full-time basis after surgery I would rather be dead' (not in a suicidal way, in a 'i will move to Peru and start a new life and pretend i never knew these people' way). I wasn't the only one who could offer care, but I was the only one she 'trusted', so I would be woken at 3am with phonecalls from the police, or my suicidal sister, or the hospital asking me to come to pick her up.

One day we were talking about things and she said she'd once tried to speak to me about her mental health problems and "you just sat there and said you didn't have time right now, so I decided you didn't care", and then she said that "my therapist says you don't seem very supportive". And I think about that almost every day actually, it sort of eats at me. It was a very stressful time.

Anyway, she has had the surgery since then and has had some personality changes (it caused some mild brain damage), but is mostly (mostly) back to being independent. She no longer needs me to care for her, though she is often very tired after focusing for too long or doing too many things. And she acts like I'm about to bite her head off whenever she speaks to me, which obviously makes me feel terrible.

And now when someone talks about a character from a TV show or whatever who has the same illness my sister had I feel bad & get almost like... annoyed? It hurts. And my sister will sometimes just mention it in casual conversation, "before my [illness]" or "after my [illness]" and it should be her right to talk about things that affect her like that but it makes me feel awful every time. Anything that is a symptom of having had it makes me feel bad, and everything that reminds me she had it makes me feel bad, even her being tired after focusing for a while makes me feel Bad. i *hate* it. and it's really straining my relationship with her and usually I'd just talk to her "using my words" about this, I'm comfortable and confident communicating, but it doesn't feel like I'm "allowed" to feel this way in my family dynamic.

i don't know what to do about it, I guess. Apologies for length. I'm mostly venting.

2 Replies 2

Community Champion
Community Champion

Dear Anonymoussalamander~

I guess after welcoming you here and reassuring you this place has people wiht experiences of their own, empathy and genuine care I should say you sister is out of this world lucky to have had you around as a person she could trust and reach out for when in distress.

That was -for her -a real treasure. ( I rather suspect it still is).

It wold be great if this care and love was appreciated properly, and htat gratitude and love were givne in return. Sadly that does not seem to be be the case.

In the same way she looked to you for help, now perhaps she sees you as a 'safe' person she can take out some of her terrible experiences on. A horrible turn around. It however does not change in the slightest the love and support you provided when called on.

All you have that is making you so sad and unhappy is a couple of unsubstantiated sentences from a person who has been though mind altering treatment and whose thought patterns and memories are simply wrong.

If you are honeset wiht yourself you kow you have done more htna good, you have been outstanding, and htat has come at a personal cost. Even seeing your sister in those times she was sicidal or otherwise ditressed will have taken a huge toll on you -even if you did not really unbdertand that at hte time.

It is small wonder that anything that reminds you of those times, or places you in a position where you compare your more limited sister now with how she used to be before illness struck is going to make you feel terrible.

No, I'd not be surprised if other members of your family do not truly understand and act accordingly. You have to have been there personally to understand. Perhaps something can be some about that for at least one or two.

Can I suggest you need proper support before this east away at you too much? I would suggest a long consultation wiht your GP with a view to getting you the proper counseling and therapy from a psychologist or psychiatrist?

My own illnesses never responded to my efforts to make myself better. It was only with competent medical help I improved -it may well be the same for you.

It is so sad to go though life feeling horrible about something with which you should feel proud.

I hope to talk with you some more, as I found there is a lot of light at the end of the tunnel


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Anonymoussalamander, trusting someone doesn't necessarily mean they know anything about mental illness and it's unreasonable to even believe they should, especially when they haven't had to experience it themselves, so it's unconscionable to expect you know the answers to any questions or concerns that your sister is displaying.

If a situation develops as you have told us, then at the moment there is little you can possibly do to gain her trust, although I am sorry for her, but to appreciate the confidence you've provided has to go both ways, otherwise, step back, under the circumstances you shouldn't be emotionally bullied.

The love between family members has to be accepted both ways, it's impossible if one member refuses this to happen, only because everything you say will be denied, and this may happen when a sickness appears, at which stage you will know.

Best wishes.