My sister is sick – very sick.
I am not a doctor, but I have researched child abuse and its connection to mental illness in-depth, and so completely that If I were a grad student I could easily write my dissertation on this topic and achieve high honors.
Although I tried, and tried hard, I don’t have a relationship with my sister, I can’t – she is emotionally exhausting for me. She creates drama, and then tries to suck me in; I don’t do drama. She is extreme and never in control of herself or what she feels, and she doesn’t take responsibility for the pain this causes. She has been this way all of her life, but it has intensified over time.
I know better than anyone else the abuse she suffered as a child; I know what our parents did to her, and I know the lasting impact it can have; the probability that she suffers from an array of mental illnesses is high. Sky high.
In talking to her (I haven’t seen her in more than a year) her memories of our childhood are distorted. She sees herself as some sort of “Golden Child” our parents adored and worshiped while I was cast aside and made to feel somehow less than she. Um, no. In reality, our parents were equal opportunity abusers … they beat the hell out of us both. They verbally and sexually abused us both. They neglected us both. And they left deep emotional scars on us both …
In my considered-but-non-medical-opinion, she is still dissociating, still trying to cling to an idealized [and utterly false] version of her childhood. She will admit she was beaten … she will admit that Ed molested her … she will admit she was never happy, but she will not own these things in any real internal way. And she definitely won’t treat the illness(es) the abuse caused.
She has been in and out of therapy, has seen psychologists and psychiatrists, but she fires them the minute they want to discuss Ed.
She drinks, a lot. Self-medicating to avoid the pain inherent to being who she is, to being a survivor.
She will never be well until she confronts why she is ill and treats the right illness(es) She might actually be an alcoholic – but that is not, in all likelihood, her primary disease. Alcoholism is a symptom [probably] of a much deeper pathology.
Her first suicide attempt occurred when she was in junior high school; I don’t remember much about it, only the incident itself. She has made other attempts since then. I worry that she’ll eventually succeed.
She blames innocent people for ruining her life; when who they are doesn’t fit into her neat little idealized and carefully crafted world, she lashes out, cruelly [and ridiculously] blaming them for the disruption to her universe.
I am not without empathy – I know first hand the kind of pain she is in, but I also know she is responsible for her behavior in the here and now. She is responsible for the heartbreak and anguish she has caused. She is responsible for turning the lives of her family upside-down …
Compassion dictates that the standard for accountability in behavior is different for someone with mental illness, but the standard is NOT non-existent, and even that minor consideration gets revoked when no real attempt at getting well is being made. Tough love, baby.
And tragically, at some point, if she doesn’t turn this around and commit to wellness, she will lose everyone in her life. At some point, her family will be unable to live in the toxic environment mental illness creates.