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How to deal with attention seeking sister, and the attention she gets from family

(158 Posts)
notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 10:02:18

I am fed up with my sister's attention seeking behaviour. I have had several years of poor mental health, and in the last few years, my sister claims to have developed them too. However I think she is just looking for attention.

I suffer from depression, which I hide from my family as much as possible to avoid worrying them, because I care about their feelings and I don't like the extra attention. When I am having a bad day, I will generally just stay away, so they can't see how I feel so I don't worry them.

I also have IBS, which is probably linked to the depression. Again when I have been ill from this I have hidden it as much as possible, staying in the bathroom when ill to avoid worrying my family.

My sister is very attention seeking, and I've noticed she seems to copy me, to get attention. She has mild special needs and throughout childhood all the attention was on her (and most of the time it still is) but during the time I was most seriously ill, understandably my parents devoted a long more attention to me (even though I didn't even want it and just wanted to be left alone).

A few years ago she claimed to have depression, but rather than hide away, she would spend most of the time shouting and screaming about how unfair her life was, upsetting everyone around her. My parents spent a lot of money on private counselling and therapy for her, none of which helped much (they never spent a penny on me and I've had depression for six years!). Although I am expected to be sympathetic, seeing as I have had depression myself and recognise what it actually looks and feels like, I think she was actually putting a lot of it on for attention, and didn't really have depression, which is why neither therapy nor medication helped her.

She also claimed to have IBS and would dramatically keel over in agony, one time even having an ambulance called to attend to her, when she was taken to hospital all they found was mild dehydration.

Although it is possible that she genuinely had these two conditions, she made a fast "recovery" from both with no long lasting symptoms, whilst I still suffer from these conditions and have relapses from time to time. I feel she is copying me for attention, and because she is the "golden" girl in the family and I am the "scapegoat" I know that nobody will believe me if I tell them this.

How should I deal with this situation? Is there anything I can do or should I just accept that she is always going to be attention seeking, even to the point where it means I don't get the support I need to deal with real health conditions.

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 10:58:27

My sister on the other hand, because her "depression" was shouting and screaming, got her attention that was all about her.

I don't want to do that, it seems an incredibly selfish way to get attention.

I just wish my family could support me when I am ill rather than think about themselves.

I don't tell them when I am depressed because it will worry them, and make them act like this.

CailinDana Thu 02-Jan-14 10:58:50

Do they currently provide emotional and practical support?

Thetallesttower Thu 02-Jan-14 11:00:29

And- your way of thinking, stuck, catastrophic, unable to see the woods for the trees is indeed symptomatic of depression. I would return to the drs at this time point, possibly think about returning to the medication given you are now going downhill without it, and ask for counselling, even just the six free sessions may be enough to help you clear the way.

The alternative way to look at this is that your parents are kind enough to let you live at home even though you are depressed and that is difficult for them. expecting them to really be able to respond well and nicely to a depressed person is difficult as it does take a toll on others and they are not health professionals and may simply not now how to respond.

YOu need to start building up your own resilience and your own treatment so that you are in charge of your destiny, at the moment you are placing all responsibility for your happiness and recovery on your parents ('if only they would offer more support') and this is something they are not able to offer.

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 11:01:22

I don't think my sister wants to move on actually, she likes the attention.

My parents only want us to move out when we can buy (which requires stable jobs). A few weeks ago they mentioned how they were looking forward to when we moved out.

My sisters response was "Oh you don't really want us to move out do you Mummy" (would you believe she is in her 20s!)

She genuinely believes my parents want us to stay there permanently, and she is quite happy to stay, because she gets all the attention she wants.

MooncupGoddess Thu 02-Jan-14 11:04:04

"My parents only want us to move out when we can buy (which requires stable jobs)."

Well, that may be what your parents feel, but you don't have to agree. I expect that many people on this thread (including me) moved out when they got their first job and lived in a series of ropey flatshares/cheap rentals in their 20s. It was a great time of my life in many ways and really helped me grow up.

CailinDana Thu 02-Jan-14 11:04:54

So what if your sister likes the attention? What's that got to do with you?
Equally so what if your parents want you to buy?

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 02-Jan-14 11:06:56

Definitely time to rent a place of your own. Buying is a nice idea but out of your reach.

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 11:07:22

Because she gets it, but doesn't need it.

And I don't get it, despite the fact that I am mentally quite unwell at the moment and nobody has even noticed or cared.

My parents will make my life very difficult if I don't do as they wish. It's hard to explain how, a lot of it is emotional. But if I think my life is unpleasant now, I know it will be worse being on the wrong side of my parents.

Thetallesttower Thu 02-Jan-14 11:07:45

It's not up to your parents when you move out. You don't have to move out to buy at all, I didn't, I moved out aged 17 and lived in rental shares and bedsits in my twenties, they weren't grotty and I had an amazing time.

I don't see why you care what your sister does and what attention she gets, you can't change this and by staying, you are just having your nose rubbed in it. Wouldn't it be better to be the capable one and go off and get help for your depression and live a better life than be stuck at home squabbling like small children for the next few years?

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 11:08:56

Also, moving when I am in this mental state would be very hard.

I honestly don't have the energy or motivation right now to go find a place and pack and move out (which I would be doing 100% alone)

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 11:10:17

As you mentioned before, my depressed thinking is "stuck" and this would make it far harder to move out than for a happy healthy person.

MooncupGoddess Thu 02-Jan-14 11:11:05

You sound very enmeshed in this situation, notallthere... and I'd hazard a guess that living with your parents is making your depression worse, and indeed that your upbringing has contributed to it in the first place.

Do you have a counsellor or trusted friend you could talk to about these issues?

Thetallesttower Thu 02-Jan-14 11:11:21

I don't see how your life can be worse- you say you are a scapegoat, your parents ignore you and your sister is a drama queen. How will it really be worse?

If the truth is that actually you do need the stability of your parent's house and their funds and their day to day support (cooking and cleaning) to live because of your mh issues, then I think at some level you will have to accept their house, their rules, their interaction with your sister. They are offering you to stay there and they don't have to, but the price you are paying is to keep you dependent and in like a permanent type of babyhood. This is not good for you in the long run.

I am not sure what you want from this thread as there is no way to change your sister or your parents, but as you don't want to leave the situation and are happy to remain stuck, this will just continue. Could you talk to a therapist/friend in rl for some ideas?

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 11:11:37

I care because it emotionally hurts.

To be up in my room unhappy and crying and nobody noticing, whilst my sister has a noisy tantrum downstairs and all the attention is on her.

It hurts that nobody notices.

Thetallesttower Thu 02-Jan-14 11:13:49

I said upthread I think you need to seek help for your depression- NOT from your parents, who are unqualified and don't know what to do, but from medical professionals, or online support, or the MH team. Why not return to the drs and tell them you don't like your meds but are slipping back into depression and what can they suggest? See if there are any support groups for young people with depression in your area?

I think if you tackle your depression and at least stop the slide, this will then mean you can see the situation more clearly and make decisions either to leave, or stay and just ignore your sister's histrionics.

NettleTea Thu 02-Jan-14 11:14:59

this sounds really unhealthy, and your sister though not necesarily 'depressed' is showing sympotoms of anxiety - just that she acts out rather than retreats. She sounds just as unhappy as you, but in a different way. From the outside it may look as if she is getting everything you are not - that the role of the golden child must be great, but it isnt. No more than being the scapegoat. You dont know that the attention she recieves from them is the 'right' kind of attention that she wants either - maybe she is feeling suffocated by having to be what they want her to be if they are so controlling.
I would take a look at the 'Stately Homes' thread and get a look at the 'Toxic Parents' book. You are both crying out for parenting that wasnt available or appropriate for you, and a wedge of resentment has been built between you by the situation, which is sad because, later down the line IF you both manage to get free of the situation, you may find some solidarity if the way you have been treated.
Blaming your sister focusses your attention in the wrong place - she is a victim of her upbringing as much as you are, but is your parents who are to blame here. That said you are both reaching the age where you need to put stuff in place to help you detatch and not let this ruin the rest of your life. Have you been offered or looked at councilling yourself? You can only really take responsibility for yourself. Your sister may never move on, and may continue to act the role that she has been allocated in the family dynamics. But that cannot be your problem.

Thetallesttower Thu 02-Jan-14 11:15:43

But- their attention won't fix you anyway, and you do say when you are really ill they do pay you attention and it is the wrong sort.

Your parents can't do the right thing, and to be honest, I'm not sure giving you both large amounts of attention is the best outcome here anyway.

Your sister is not better off receiving the attention actually it is making her and her behaviour worse.

You need proper external help and support, from medical professionals and peer groups, looking to getting more attention off your parents won't help - they are probably clueless and quite upset themselves to be living in this situation.

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 11:20:45

I don't feel comfortable talking to a friend. My situation feels quite unique and I feel alone. None of my friends have issues like these, they are all happily moved out and don't really understand why I haven't.

I'm not sure how I would see a counsellor because I work ridiculously long hours in term time. (I'm a teacher).

CailinDana Thu 02-Jan-14 11:21:48

I know it hurts notall but you can't change it. My older sister has no sn (well none diagnosed but I do wonder) and she calls the shots in my family. Everything she says goes and my younger sister and I have to just go along with it. If we complain we're "causing trouble" (because older sister must be appeased or she'll make my parents'life hell) and our problems are ignored. It's shit.

But I'm out of it now, my depression is gone. My sister still lives with my parents and they still tiptoe around her. It's pathetic.

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 11:22:14

I have looked at stately homes, but found it too long to read and too much to digest. I don't really get how you would follow a thread like that.

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 11:25:26

Cailin, you have basically summarised my sisters position in the family (except she is younger and does have diagnosed sn).

The only difference is that my older sister has recently started being bossy and taking on a pseudo-parent role, telling me off if I complain. I think she has done this because it elates her position in the family, and is effectively turning her into a third parent. I feel very alienated.

How old were you when you got out, and do you still keep in touch?

Skintorama Thu 02-Jan-14 11:25:40

I know it's the depression talking, but here's the thing.

You're not special or different or fragile or without choices.

You are an adult woman and the only person who can change your situation is you.

The day I realised that was the day my real life started.

Get. A. Grip. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make the changes you need to. Start small but start somewhere.

You can do this.

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 11:27:05

Skint. Not helpful.

Having depression does make you much more emotionally fragile. And it also makes it far more difficult to make choices.

Skintorama Thu 02-Jan-14 11:29:56

I know, I've been there. But no one can help you but you.

Sort some meds out, for a start. Then make changes. One foot in front of the other. Honestly. It's easy.

You're actually using masses of energy staying in the same situation. Redirect it.

NettleTea Thu 02-Jan-14 11:31:05

Your situation is not that unique sadly....
you could try to fix some councilling sessions during school holidays.
if you are fairly young teachers then I am sure some of them must be in house shares - could you ask them to keep their ears open for any rooms coming up - people move around quite alot in their 20s, and although it wont be what your parents 'want' the fact that all the other people are doing it should help YOU to feel that the choice is a valid one. Things have changed a huge deal in the house buying market since your parents were in that situation - but there is little chance of making them understand that. If they are very controlling, and would use disapproval to control you emotionally, or the fact that you have 'chosen to leave the family' as a punishment, effectively cutting you off (this happened to me) then they will not have the mental capacity to comprehend that others life experiences are as valid or different from their closed ideas of 'how things should be' Similarly they want you to think/feel the same as they do. They view any contradiction as an assault and insult to them personally. The conflict arising from that can cause shame/guilt/confusion/anger and there are 2 ways to go from there - depression (your way) or anxiety/psychosis (your sister)
Please post on Stately Homes here

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