All Of My Family Members Are So Mentally Ill and It's Draining Me

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    I am 23 and the youngest of 3 girls. My parents are still together. I graduated from college and work in my career as a graphic designer. I had a perfect childhood filled with softball, block parties, and best friends. My parents never divorced and I was raised in an upper-middle class lifestyle.

    However, once my teens-twenties hit, my family life took a steep turn downhill. My sisters always had vague but mild temperament issues, that turned into mental illnesses in their late-teens, early twenties, as when most mental illnesses become prevalent. I was always the social butterfly, and my sisters were always more closed off. My sister who is 25 has had depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder since she was 16. She however has always found a way to be self sufficient and smart about her life. Recently, she was doing fine until she was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis which is an autoimmune disorder that affects her muscle tissue. She physically is too weak to work or live life, really.

    My other sister who is 28 has mental illnesses that I can’t quite figure out. She has had bizarre temperaments since a young age, where I think she might have a very mild form of autism or something of the like. There are certain things that don’t click and never have in her brain. She also has depression and anxiety, and there is a third illness that has yet to be diagnosed but is the worst yet. She suffers from severe paranoia where she thinks her coworkers from her old job from 3 years ago are stalking her, know about her personal life now and keep tabs on her. It is extremely exhausting.

    Finally, my mother is a narcissist and is developing dementia. Her mother, my grandmother suffered from Alzheimers and I can see the agitation, irritability and confusion beginning to develop. My mother often times acts like a rude 16 year old, starting fights with my 28 year old sister. My 28 year old sister lives at home. She has experienced some few things in the past couple years that have made it tough to get on her own feet. My mother and my sister butt heads a lot.

    My poor father hasn’t been able to save a dime to his name because he’s supporting my 25 year old sister entirely. We live in Florida and would prefer for her to move home but its terrible on her condition, so she remains in Portland for now. My father has been paying for my other sister to live until recently when she moved home as well. My sister would get jobs but not be able to keep them, or hate them, or there would always be an issue. My mom used to be a private nurse but hasn’t been able to find work as she’s a little older and is more outdated to the current industry.

    And then there’s me. On my own, working in my career. I graduated school on time. I support myself for the most part except for a few bills, and I’m fine. I suffer from mild anxiety but choose to practice yoga and reach out to healthy outlets like this site for help.

    Basically, I am struggling to extend compassion. I am afraid that my father is going to pass away and I’m going to be the only one who has a shred of genetic normalcy to keep this family afloat. My 25 year old sister simply can’t do anything from her illness. I sound evil saying this, but I feel as if my 28 year old sister simply cannot do anything right, and her paranoia is getting worse and worse. My mothers behavior is becoming erratic and bizarre. I feel like a TOTAL asshole judging my family members but I just don’t know how to handle this anymore. When I was younger, my mother had a sister who was always calling asking for money. She was on the streets, doing drugs, or just being mentally ill. We called her “Crazy Aunt Ann” and I feel like that is what my 28 year old sister is becoming. It’s terrifying. I never saw my life turning out like this.

    I am SO blessed and grateful to turn out the way that I have. I am so lucky to not be plagued with severe mental illness. I am upset that the government doesn’t extend programs to those in need. We may not be poor, but we cannot afford to give all 3 of my family members the help they need. I am so grateful for my father, who is a model for positivity and optimism. He almost died of a lung disease when I was a teenager and is simply happy to be alive every day. He hasn’t been able to save a dime and supports our f***ed up family, but is happy to just wake up.

    I just don’t know what to do. I can’t in right conscious just completely distance myself from my family, but I also care so much to the point where once I speak on the phone once I find myself getting wrapped up into the narrative of all the insanity. My 28 year old sister is the worst. She lives at home and acts completely entitled to my parents help, destroys everyone elses property, is lazy, and can’t handle a normal work ethic. But because we grew up in a normal household, my sister refuses to believe that there might be something wrong with her mentally past simple depression and anxiety. I think we need to get her psychologically evaluated but she refuses to take responsibility. This is all such a shit show, I apologize for my rambling if you’ve even read this far.

    I don’t know what advice I need. Maybe someone else just to simply say they’ve gone through something similar? Its just hard being the youngest and (aside from my father) all that I’ve learned from my family is how I DON’T want to end up.


    Dear Tessa:

    You wrote that you don’t know what advice you need. But I did experience something similar, only more from one of your sisters’ position. My sister believed she ” had a perfect childhood” while my childhood was from hell.

    If you’d like to answer the following, please do:

    It is my understanding that you view your two sisters’ mental and physical illnesses as genetic while you happened to be born without THOSE bad genes. Am I correct?

    And it reads to me that you believe that your 28 year old sister bad genetics also involve laziness, poor work ethics and irresponsibility. Am I correct about this as well?

    You wrote: ” we grew up in a normal household”- is having a narcissist mother who ” often times acts like a rude 16 year old, starting fights..” part of a “normal household”?




    I agree that some of those aspects don’t necessarily line up. My 28 year old sister has some deep rooted issues with my mother, however for the most part we all agree that we had a perfect childhood. If anything I believe a major issue of my mothers was being overly involved, and my parents being what today is known as the “helicopter parent”. Which is why I believe its taken my sister so long to get her act together, because my parents have never truly forced her to. Part of it is wondering if she’s even capable, but another part is never forcing her to just fail and learn on her own.

    Since I was the youngest, they were less involved and thats why I was able to figure things out on my own better. (I think?)


    Dear Tessa,

    More power and blessings to you sister, you are courageous and brave girl. I understand how hard and painfull it is sometimes. but u will also have many bright sides maybe on which u wouldnt be focusing. i also dont know which advice you need but just letting u know that you are brave.

    may God bless you and give you more power and strength to face all which lies ahead..


    Dear Tessa:

    You wrote that you and your two siblings, the three of you, ” all agree that we had a perfect childhood.” I have yet to come across a person, online or in-person who had a perfect childhood. I do come across a lot of people who say they had a perfect childhood.

    I believe “the proof (of a perfect childhood) is in the pudding”- that is, the significant mental health issues of your sisters, and to lesser extent, perhaps, your own, are the pudding and it does not indicate a good childhood, let alone a perfect one.

    Just saying.




    May God bless you and heal all your family. I think I understand your feelings right now. It seems crazy. I’m just sitting here praying for you and your family.

    Recently, I’ve come to believe that a big part of our purpose here is to simply love the people in our lives. It seems easy but it can be the hardest thing ever. I would say maybe the thing to do is to decide now how you are going to love your family members.

    It may be easiest and best to start with your dad. How can you show him a lot of love and support him with all that he is doing? If you don’t know exactly just ask him. Or you may try to start with anyone else – spend time with all of them and figure out some way to love them best. This will be work. The “5 love languages” book is helpful as people are different and sometimes can only recognize love when it comes in the exact form that they like.

    I wish you all the best. Much love –

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