In need of guidance

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Sara 9 months, 1 week ago.

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    Please bear with me for the long post, but I would really appreciate some guidance on a current situation I’m having a hard time dealing with.
    After years of constant self-destructive behavior, my older sister got kicked out of college this semester. Between her and I, she was always the favored daughter; my parents had high expectations and hopes of her, and no one had imagined she would ever choose this path.
    Both my parents grew up in a developing country with little to no parental guidance and both did not receive a college education. They have been working since they were young, and have since then worked hard to provide for our family.
    In hopes of a brighter future for our family, my dad left us to go to America when I was merely one and a half years old, and my mom followed him when I was two and a half years old.
    In the meantime, my sister and I stayed with my grandmother from my mother’s side along with two maids. Looking back on my childhood is always an unpleasant trip down memory lane for me. While under my grandmother’s care, I was raised as a sheltered child, received physical abuse from a former maid, and my sister received physical and verbal abuse from our grandmother and former maids.
    Four and a half years later, my sister and I joined my parents in America. Growing up in America, my parents were constantly working and there was no parental figure in the house whatsoever. My parents sheltered my sister and I, constantly limiting our experiences and opportunities to grow. They were both physically and verbally abusive towards us, and were mentally and emotionally incompetent parents. Growing up with my parents always made me feel as if I was a burden in their life. The only one I had was my sister, and I constantly turned to her for guidance, only to be disappointed each time. Not only were our parents abusive towards her, she was also getting bullied in school. As a result, she used me as an outlet to let out her anger and frustration by physically and verbally abusing me. I grew up confused and lonely.
    Fast forward to the part where my sister and I are at the stage of young adulthood, we’ve grown up to be functioning members of society with self-destructive behaviors. I started smoking and drinking when I was seventeen, and I quickly grew a substance abuse problem. After a year of incessantly abusing substances, I became lost, depressed, and suicidal. I wasn’t going anywhere in life; I felt stuck and exhausted. After lots of isolation and reflection, I decided I had to quit and help myself. Soon enough, I found passions and reasons to live again. I’m now happily and currently in university working towards a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and have loved ones I can count on.
    My sister decided to go a different route in her life. She started using mind altering substances when she was nineteen, and has just been spiraling down since then. Much of her ambition has gone, and her life is consumed by alcohol, drugs, and drama. For the past two and a half years, I’ve watched her addiction ruin what little foundation we had in our family.
    My emotionally unstable mother doesn’t know how to handle the situation and I always end up spending hours consoling her, yet she never recognizes my efforts and my needs or feelings are never acknowledged. For the past year and a half I’ve been acting as a mediator between my mom and sister.
    My dad is fully aware of the situation but has never tried to intervene and has overall been emotionally absent throughout our adversities.
    I recently confronted my sister about her college suspension and she told me she was depressed and suicidal. It was then that I realized she needed guidance now more than ever. I’ve been trying my best to just be there for her and give her guidance, but I’m having a hard time giving her guidance without acting like a parental figure. I know in the end nothing I do will change her self-destructive behaviors if she doesn’t want to help herself, but I can’t help but to feel worried and I am overwhelmed. I am even more anxious for the day that she tells our parents. I haven’t been able to stop worrying for the past week, and I find myself losing sleep and a little bit of my sanity over this.
    Any advice or words of wisdom to help me stop worrying about this? Other than spending time with her and offering her my support and love, is there anything else I can do to try to offer her guidance during this time?



    It has been my observation that it is very difficult for family to help family when it comes to depression.
    As you noted any guidance can be received in a negative way. I think one of the problems is that family can’t be natural as we care about what happens to them and well to us.
    It is also likely that each member of family has unfinished work (projections, shadows) of their own with regards to their experience of family.

    It sounds like you’re doing what you can by being present to your sister. I know that can feel like it not enough but it’s huge, and perhaps in doing so, provide the space for your sister to seek help outside of the family.



    Dear Viviane:

    You asked for “Any advice or words of wisdom to help me stop worrying about this?” I understand that your parents don’t know that your sister was recently kicked out of college. If part of your worry is about their reaction, particularly your mother’s reaction (since your father is detached, you wrote), then I have a comment about this part of your worry:

    You wrote about your parents: “They were both physically and verbally abusive towards us, and were mentally and emotionally incompetent parents”- there are consequences to actions. When your parents, including your mother abused your sister, there are consequences to that- she, your sister, got injured. She couldn’t help but to be injured, from the abuse by the grandmother, the parents, and the bullies in school.

    I think that your efforts in: “I always end up spending hours consoling her, yet she never recognizes my efforts and my needs or feelings are never acknowledged” are not necessary. Remove this worry. Your parents brought about your sister’s troubles by abusing her. Let them suffer the natural consequences of their actions.

    The “good news” is that you are not responsible for your parents’ behavior or for your sister’s troubles: you did not abuse her. It is not your job to console your mother or to fix your sister, neither is it possible for you.

    What can you do for your sister? Let her know that
    *you understand the nature of her injury, which is the abuse she received. She was a victim.
    *she is not responsible for the abuse she received or for the consequences of it (the emotional injuries from the abuse).
    *you understand her motivation to find relief from her distress by using drugs, as you have done.
    *suggest to her that only she can start the process of her healing, and a good place for her to start is competent psychotherapy. She is not responsible for having been abused, but she is responsible for her healing because no one else can do it for her.


    • This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by  anita.


    You are being a good sister and a good daughter. Continue letting your sister know that you are there for her. Showing her you care, and showing her that happiness can be found is a lot better than telling or lecturing. Parents make mistakes and those are things you can’t fix for them. You can love them, you can do your best to thrive, and then the rest is up to them.

    Making a mess of college is not the end of the world. Letting life destroy your heart is a lot more damaging in the long run. Take care of your heart, help your sister see that her heart is valued by you, and the other stuff is just details. I did everything “right” in my early twenties: college, good grades, fancy job. But I let my heart take a pummeling and that is the part I now regret. The career I have now that makes me happy is one I don’t even need a college education to do. Help your sister find her heart, and then college or something else good can follow. Happiness and success often take quirky paths. You and your sister might be surprised where you find happiness and joy. Anything is possible.

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