Thank you so much, Jane for your caring and thoughful response!
Thank you for helping me remember that so many things can happen in my stepmother's life. I would love for her to meet another man and find some happiness and be less lonely. Maybe I won't have to have as large a role as I believe she wants me to have. At the very lease, I hope that after our conversation yesterday she'll think through these issues and come to the conclusion that there are other people in her life that she can (or should) involve, and that it won't just be my husband and me.
My sister is a difficult case. She's 36 and has always been unstable. She's been diagnosed with depression and anxiety and ADD, but I believe she has borderline personality disorder, and perhaps agoraphobia. She has only be hospitalized once, after a suicide attempt as a teenager. Since then none of her crises has risen to the level of her needing to be institutionalized. Until a few years ago she was able to function - hold down a job and support herself at least. Still she was unstable, had no social life, and lived alone, worked from home, and was isolated. Then she was laid off three years ago and it sent her into a dark place. She hasn't gotten on her feet since then.
Right now she lives rent-free in a basement apartment in a house owned by relatives. She barely goes out and spends a lot of time sleeping. She makes plans but then doesn't show up and disappears for days. When you finally reach her she says she was sleeping or her phone was off. She picks up freelance work here and there but my mother essentially supports her even though she can't afford to (I believe this jeopardizes her retirement).My sisters lacks insight into her mental health issues. She sees a therapist and is on psychiatric medication so she thinks she is getting treatment; but this treatment is clearly not working effectively. I don't believe she has ever received the proper diagnosis and treatment. I have been saying this to both my mother and sister for years, but nothing changes. When I express concern and try to point out to my sister that she has trouble functioning, she says I am just criticizing her and making her feel bad about herself.
I have talked until I'm blue in the face to both my mother and my sister about applying for disability and generally making use of the social safety net. I started the disability application for my sister but she has to finish it. That was weeks ago. My mother is an enabler and in denial of the depth of my sister's illness. She has mental health issues of her own. Any time I get involved I get resistance from both of them. I believe it is my mother's job to once and for all get my sister sorted out in a sustainable way of life. My mother says that my sister has to be the one to get the help she needs and she can't force her to do anything; but my sister is too sick for this kind of self-care.
It's a nightmare.
Since my daughter was born I have stepped back and removed myself from the dysfunction and drama. It's not healthy for me. But the question remains: What happens to my sister once my mother dies? I've asked my mother this, and she gets offended. She doesn't want to face reality.
Whoa - apologies for the long rant! Thanks for listening!
Girl, you rant any old time.
Well let's see. I'm thinking it's a very healthy thing that you stepped back from the drama. Part of mental illness is the damage to the exact thing that would help the healing: volition, ambition, any bit of ooooomph to overcome the negative voices and inertia. Oh lord, if we could fix the inertia aspect of depression, we'd have a big leap towards a cure.
I am a psychotherapist after years of medical social work (geriatric care management, home hospice, cancer care). And i've been in therapy myself off and on for ever. Since i was 16. Here's my thought. Or rather, three thoughts.
One is that you grab a copy the most recent edition of The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner. The female predicament writ large. You will feel affirmed. Buy it ontape so you can listen to it while changing the diaper or commuting. Classic. Very wise.
Know that you have (at least) 3 choices. An odd duck of a theoretician for family therapy name of Bowen came up with Bowen Family System therapy. He said we have the choice to a) become enmeshed in other people's issues, b) detach completely from them in the form of cut off/estrangement, disappearance, or c) be in relationship in a healthy way, healthy for you (no martyrdom) and healthy for them (they do as much as they can for themselves.) It is very hard to do #3 but it is the best way. By the way, Alanon works on the same principle and says, don't dump, and don't be codependent: be connected but detached, in love.
Thirdly, find thee a therapist. Even a monthly dose of support in which you are the center of the universe for 50 minutes would be refreshing and life giving.
As they say in Alanon, take what you like and leave the rest. And i've enjoyed our little chat. 🙂 My own chaos is much less interesting.
Ta ta for now.