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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.

SugarMouse1 Mon 06-Jan-14 15:41:24

Don't really have much advice but didn't want to read and run.
How do you and your sister get on with each other?
Is it worth trying to spend time and build a better relationship with each other? When your sister acts ill, you could advise people that minimal fuss is better, IFSWIM.
I understand about depression and living at home etc, in many ways your situation is similar to mine. HTH x

Wickeddevil Sat 04-Jan-14 23:34:15

Hi NotAllThere

I have lurked for a couple of days on your thread, but have waited to get to a proper keyboard before posting. Firstly I am sorry that you are finding things tough at the moment and that you feel like you are stuck in a vicous circle in which your life circumstances feed your depression which exacerbates your circumstances, by appearing to limit your choices.

I feel though that you have had some excellent support and advice from some very wise ladies. AF's posts chime particularly loudly with me. I am not sure that I can add any additional advice, but I would stongly urge you to keep reading the advice you have been given an make a plan - your plan - to move forward.

I am also, in a kindly and supportive way, going to give you a gentle bollocking. The fact that I literally only come down at meal times, and almost no other time should be a good indicator This is not the behaviour of a mature adult. Nor is it sufficient to blame it on your depression. It is just bad behaviour, and if you were one of my children I would call you on it. Now I understand that depression is tough. Very tough. But it is not an excuse for behaving like a spoiled brat. You say that you are intelligent, so please try to develop some insight in to what is behaviour and is therefore within your control and what is depression and is not within your control to the same extent. Ok lecture over.

So you have posted here for help. Well done (genuinely) as this is an important step. Might I ask what you see yourself being able to consider next ? When others have suggested Couselling you have expressed practical barriers to this, but I don't think have rejected the idea per se. Is it something you would consider?

If you are willing to try, as well as bacup and your GP as a referral source you may find MIND useful if they have a service in your area. They often have services geared towards younger people and offer sessions at evenings and weekends, that might be suitable for you.

Along with others I agree that you should not rule out medication. Talking therapies are likely to provide a better long term solution, but medication can often help people like you in the short term, and may be especially useful in helping you to deal with additional stress - such as you are experiencing at work.

Others have suggested you may have a spectrum disorder yourself, and you appear to have looked into this. Your posts do not display a lot of empathy towards other people, or much insight. While this may be symptomatic of your depression, and your frustration, and may just be how you are coming across right now, it is also possible that it is a manifestation of a spectrum disorder. You suggest there is no point in seeking a formal diagnosis - but I would challenge this. A diagnosis if made might help you to find techniques to deal with your individual issues, which ultimately may help you in other spheres of your life such as work and friendships.

I also think you realise that your longer term future is outside of your family home, and I appreciate the difficulties this causes you. I also believe that you have more going for you than perhaps you realise. A Teaching qualification does allow you to work pretty much anywhere, and may well be a solution for you. (Also dont know if you would consider working in the state sector, but that would potentially allow you access to key-worker housing).

Right now, understandably because of your depression, you meet each suggestion that is made to you with a barrier or barriers. I hope you are able to access help to overcome this mindset and to focus upon solutions. Have you ever come across the cheesy statement that you shouldnt take problems to your manager only solutions? If you applied that thinking to your current situation, I wonder what your solutions would be? I will give you a starter for 10. The solution is nothing whatsover to do with your parents or siblings. Only you can change.

Good luck I hope you find the strength and courage to take the first small step. Do keep posting here for support.

AngelaDaviesHair Sat 04-Jan-14 13:45:17

Please get assessed for your own sake, and bugger what your parents' reaction would be. You don't have to tell them in any case.

Please seek a referral for psychotherapy, again, for your own sake, and again bugger what your parents might think about it (and why would you tell them?) You must have 2 hours of an evening or a weekend morning you could spare for this. You may not want to go for therapy, which is your choice, but again, for your own sake, don't tell yourself you haven't got time.

I understand that you are very daunted by all this, but these little self-deceptions are probably massively contributing to the frustration and anger you are feeling.

The thing is, there is no change without at least the possibility of negative consequences. In other words, to improve your situation you are going to have to take risks. The risk of deteriorating mentally, the risk your parents will react in a very adverse way, financial risks etc.

No one on this thread will be able to come up with a solution for you that has no risk attached (which I suspect is what you are hoping for). There is no ideal solution. Your biggest mistake, as I see it, is not understanding that staying where you are also has massive risks attached to it: the risk of deteriorating mentally (huge), the risk of a major fall-out with your sister or parents or both, losing your job due to your illness worsening etc. So please don't think that staying put is safe and moving out is risky. It's not that simple.

StanleyLambchop Fri 03-Jan-14 12:10:12

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.

But you say in your OP that you keep the extent of your illness to yourself, because you don't want to worry them. If you want them to know, why don't you just talk to them??? I think the way they treat your sister is something you have to separate and just deal with your own interactions with them. Personally, from what you have written before, I think you need to move out, I bet your health problems would improve no end.

NotThemCrows Fri 03-Jan-14 11:50:36

Erm, as PPs have said, your parents are not actually supporting you so you have nothing to lose. The only thing you get from them at the moment, and risk losing by moving out, is their approval.

Your view of life is very self centred/childish, expecting people to notice your depression because you stay in your room etc.

NQT year is hard work, I would probably assume that you were busy or being unsociable and preferring your own company

Your real problem is not your parents.

It is not your sister.

It is your expectations of these people and the disappointment that comes from those unmet expectations.

Take control, take responsibility and move out. You only have one life.

FestiveSpiritedwolf Fri 03-Jan-14 09:57:10

You are right of course that some people would percieve you are depressed from your symptoms but your parents are clearly not that thoughtful or perceptive. Its okay to be annoyed/disappointed/frustrated by that. But instead of accepting that and just telling them that you are depressed and need their support, you seem to just be waiting for them to have a personality transplant.

Depression does that, it makes you feel like you have no options. But its not true, you can change the things you do and say (and even the way you think) to change your life for the better.

Your family dynamic has led to you organising your life around your parents and siblings, beyond normal considerate-ness. You feel like you have to do things the way they want you to. Perhaps because you want to be a 'good' (compliant) daughter. I think most people in this forum understand that parents (and partners) can be emotionally manipulative and controlling, they aren't saying that your parents can't be those things.

What they are saying is that although you feel trapped. Although you feel like you can't go against their opinions (about renting/benefits/living at work etc) you can. They might disapprove, but the world will not end if your parents disagree with something you have done. This is your life. You get to decide how to live it. You are an adult, you can assert yourself. Its difficult right now because you are still living with them, so you keep playing the 'child' role in your relationship and you are depressed so your confidence is low. But it is possible, honest.

Please go to your GP about your depression and ask to be referred for some kind of talking therapy as well as considering ADs again - you can explain about the side effects they gave you before and they ought to give you different ones.

I do understand that relationships with parents and siblings can be a source of stress. It is hard and upsetting. But you can get help, but you will have to seek it yourself, living at home and hiding in your bedroom, it won't get better on its own.

Meerka Fri 03-Jan-14 08:26:50

Try a bit of quiet teenage rebellion against your parents telling you what you want and what you think, and go for the boarding school.

Not meant as flippantly as it sounds.

From what you say you've been ground down into barely knowing your own mind or thoughts and as zorba said, you want to be seen at last and loved .. and it's not going to happen.

Can't help thinking somehow that somewhere you're very angry. Not sure why I'm thinking that. Maybe because if you're feeling as trapped as you are, normally at some point people get damn angry at being so controlled.

Sadly there's only one person can change the situation.

Boarding school as a teacher sounds a brilliant idea. Some independence and still some structure around you.

dozeydoris Fri 03-Jan-14 07:03:47

I think rage is a bit of an overreaction, frustration would be a better word. I am incredibly frustrated with the unfairness of the situation ...Moving out won't change it, if anything I will get even less support

Ahaaa! I think we are getting to the nub of the problem.

Because I did this myself (and it took a long time to work it out) - everyone else is to blame, everyone else has made your life this hard, everyone else has caused you to under achieve, their attitudes and their unfair treatment of you has caused the depression etc etc.

But the underlying rage and anger is actually really directed at yourself, but rather than face this and have to come to terms with the fact that it is you who is the failure, who is making excuses for your sad life and blaming everyone else, and probably having a bit of a melt down when you admit this to yourself, you are taking the easy option of giving others the responsibility, which lets you off.

I'm not saying that your childhood was good or your parents were supportive, but the situation you are in now is solely in your hands and the frustration you feel is really frustration with yourself and the lack of confidence and determination you have to just get out of the house and get a life. You are plain scared at venturing out into the world alone. Not surprising, it's a scary place, but you must face the fact that it is you who are the problem not anyone else.

paisley256 Fri 03-Jan-14 02:05:14

It seems like you've been brainwashed by your family and it's almost like you can't think for yourself because your head is so full of their influence and parenting.

I say this as someone who has spent my whole life with identity issues and feeling like im always at odds with myself.

It seems like you need to get to know yourself op, to free yourself from all this inner conflict, you are living in an internal prison and your patterns of thinking are keeping you there.

This time last year i researched bacp therapists in my area, enough was enough i couldn't live inside my head any longer - my parents influence over my thoughts, choices and behaviour has literally slipped away op. For the first time im making my own choices and i feel like at 39 im just beginning to get to know
myself - for me therapy has helped me to start living, it's like I've just woke up from a confusing, uncomfortable dream.

Goldmandra Fri 03-Jan-14 00:24:21

I am incredibly frustrated with the unfairness of the situation. I do love my sisters, and my parents, but it is incredibly frustrating to be treated this way, and know the impact it has had on my life, and that there is nothing I feel I can do to change it. Moving out won't change it, if anything I will get even less support.

I am not sure that what you are currently experiencing is support. It's destroying you.

Also my parents have told me I don't want to live in a boarding school so often I almost believe it.

If you get the chance you need to try it. It could be the making of you.

AnyBagsofOxfordFuckers Fri 03-Jan-14 00:18:51

So what if your parents say you wouldn't like living in a boarding school? If you pass, move in. They cannot stop you. Jesus, if you pass, you have an incredibly easy way and reason to move out.

AnyBagsofOxfordFuckers Fri 03-Jan-14 00:16:59

Sweetheart, how do people with dead parents, parents they never see, parents who they have to support and care for, parents they are estranged from, abusive, bloody awful parents, manage to achieve stuff? How do they manage to hold down professional jobs and do well at university?

Support and attention from one's parents is a great thing. But if you didn't do as well at uni as you hoped, or you are struggling with your job, then those things are totally down to YOU. Nothing to do with them. If your family situation is making you depressed and the depression has held you back, and still holds you back, then it is still totally down to you to either get help for the depression, or accept that your life hasn't gone to plan becUse you won't get help for the depression.

Your parents are not responsible for how well you work, either st university, or professionally. No other person in the world is responsible for what you do and what you achieve and what you can cope with.

You seem to have decided that all the problems and failings in your life are down to you not getting the amount of support and attention that you would find optimal. But this is unrealistic, as well as deeply immature. No-one gets their ideal amount and type of support and love and attention from their parents. Until you realise and accept that, and realise and accept that your life will go further and further down the drain if you must stay stuck in this mental bind, this irate passivity, believing they are responsible for your feelings and achievements, and should make everything you want in life happen exactly the way you want it to, then you will be stuck there,depressed and stuck in your room fuming that they should somehow psychically intuit that you need them when you deliberately make sure that they don't perceive you as needing them, and posting on here and getting the same advice ad infinitum that you will dismiss and ignore ad infinitum.

You feel that there is nothing you can do to change it, but the reason why this is driving you crazy with frustration is that you are demanding that everyone else in the situation changes (whilst ensuring that no-one knows you want it to change!) - when the ONLY person you can make change is yourself. If you are the one who thinks this situation is problematic and you want change, you cannot demand others comply, even if you believe it is their fault. YOU make the changes. Stop sitting about fuming at the unfairness and wanting them to support you, and wanting your sister to miraculously not be herself, stop focusing on what is wrong with everyone else and how they should change, and start focusing on what needs to change within yourself and what you can do to make those changes.

That's the only way things will ever change. If your whole family were immortal, you'll be stuck like this in a million years, unless YOU change. You are waiting for them to see that it is unfair and change and to be different towards them. Make the changes that either force that or make your life so much better and different that it won't matter if it doesn't happen.

notallthere Fri 03-Jan-14 00:03:38

Also my parents have told me I don't want to live in a boarding school so often I almost believe it.

notallthere Fri 03-Jan-14 00:01:47

walk, I am really struggling with the job due to the depression and I have been told I may not pass my NQT, in which case the school would sack me (they can't employ a teacher who failed)

So I am currently not up to standard, therefore not in a position to be applying for a promotion.

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 23:58:16

It's not a case of scoring points. But I do know I have underachieved in life (my older sister has too, but not as much as me) whereas my younger sister has probably overachieved as nobody thought she would even get GCSEs and yet she is doing a degree.

There seems to be a link between the amount of support we are given and how we have achieved relative to our ability. Part of me wishes if my parents could fix the disparity in how they treat us, they may be able to even up the balance a little. Admittedly I will never get the high degree result I should have been capable of getting, but maybe if I had their support I could at least hold down a professional job.

I think rage is a bit of an overreaction, frustration would be a better word. I am incredibly frustrated with the unfairness of the situation. I do love my sisters, and my parents, but it is incredibly frustrating to be treated this way, and know the impact it has had on my life, and that there is nothing I feel I can do to change it. Moving out won't change it, if anything I will get even less support.

Goldmandra Thu 02-Jan-14 23:55:44

There would never be any point getting my being assessed, as my parents would only tell me I was attention seeking myself and trying to copy my sixte. when I was younger, if I ever misbehaved, they would always tell me I was jealous of her and to stop copying her.

Sorry to be so blunt about this but this is not about your parents.

This is about you, your life and your perception of yourself. You are your own person. You wouldn't have to tell your parents anything about any assessment because it is nothing to do with them unless you want it to be.

Even if you don't go for an assessment please consider reading about it. My DD1 is very, very academically able but still needs support. Her diagnosis was the greatest gift she has ever received because it enabled her to see herself and the social world in a new light. The assessment process itself answered an awful lot of questions about her for me and for herself. It felt like her whole life suddenly made sense, like the missing pieces had been put into a jigsaw and we could suddenly see the whole picture.

If you go for an assessment, do it for you. If you chose not to go, do that because it is the right decision for you, nobody else.

Walkacrossthesand Thu 02-Jan-14 23:55:07

Coming in late to the discussion here, notall, but you mentioned a while back that you work in a boarding school but would not be eligible for a residential teaching post 'until the depression is sorted' - why is this? Surely if you are functioning as a teacher there, and willing to live in, then a diagnosis of depression is neither here nor there? It seems such a neat solution to your situation...,

NettleTea Thu 02-Jan-14 23:43:11

But aspergers is a widly sliding scale - I have friends who have children with AS and they are as different in behaviour and abilities as 2 NT people - why would you and your sister be the same, and why should she be able to control her behaviour just because you can. She can keep it is as easily as you can scream and shout and express your emotions. Many many AS people never get a diagnosis because they do not tick all the right boxes. And if you DID have it, why even mention it to your parents? Unless you are hoping it would make them give you more attention, that it would equal up the balance? Getting a diagnosis of anything is surely, as an adult, more to do with understanding yourself, of understanding who you are and how you relate to the wider world, of learning coping strategies to help you step out as a functioning human being. Its not a label to score points against your sister. The idea is to help you, to move you away from this sibling rivalry/jealously competitive thing that you have going on with her over attention.

AnyBagsofOxfordFuckers Thu 02-Jan-14 23:42:21

OP, the way you talk about how you can control yourself so if you theoretically have Asperger's then she should be able to as well, is ironically a very Asperger's way of looking at it. Far too black and white and simplistic and unable to really understand the nuanced difference of others.

Two points:
1) Just because two people have the same condition does not mean that they will express it the same way, or be able to control it the same way. If you took two asthmatics, and one needed a daily nebuliser, and the other just carried and inhaler that they rarely used, you wouldn't say that the nebuliser user should be able to control themselves so they could cope with just the occasional puff of Ventoline because the mild asthmatic can. Like all conditions, physical, mental, or neurological, the AS spectrum is incredibly varied and each person on it expresses and experiences that uniquely.

2) You say that your sister doesn't actually have ASD, but has aspects of it, plus aspects of several other conditions and problems. So any comparison between her issues and your theoretical ASD are pointless. She has a much more serious and broad range of issues than you do.

You sound almost intoxicated with rage at the unfairness (or perceived) unfairness of having a SN sibling. The way you go on and on about how she could or should control herself is deeply upsetting and troubling to read, not just because it's horrible (and I'm sure you love her too), but because to keep telling yourself all these misconceptions must be so self-destructive, so corrosive. I would bet that a good deal of your depression comes just from your central fixations, which seem to be A) My sister has SN, but could control herself if she really wanted to, so she uses it as a way of getting all my parents' love, time and attention and B) I try to be so good, so perfect, I hide all my problems, etc., etc., and no-one sees that I'm special, worthy, good, perfect, no-one gives me the love and attention that I deserve more than her. I'm not saying this nastily, just that I've seen several of your threads, and these are the two things that you go over and over and over time and again, refusing to consider the slightest possibility of looking at them differently. I think you just want people to tell you it's all shit, you're a martyr, and make you feel the love and attention you feel you've never got snd still don't.

Your family are not making you feel like this, YOU are making yourself feel like this.

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 23:26:39

NQT is stressful, and the stress may be a trigger of depression getting worse, but it's not the cause.

I was diagnosed with depression aged 18, but can trace symptoms back to aged at least 11. I wasn't doing my NQT then!

Elizabeththefirst Thu 02-Jan-14 23:23:59

OP, how is your job affecting all this?

NQT year is incredibly stressful and all-consuming; how are you managing it with all this stuff going on in your head?

Moreover, how is the stress of being an NQT impacting on your depression? Could this be a cause?

notallthere Thu 02-Jan-14 23:16:07

I do recognise certain personality traits in myself similar to aspergers, however it is possible that they are just my natural personality, or that they are influenced by the depression.

I am very intelligent, never had any academic issues in school (some social ones, they were ignored), therefore as I was always achieving academically, nobody would have seen a need to have me assessed for any sort of SN.

There would never be any point getting my being assessed, as my parents would only tell me I was attention seeking myself and trying to copy my sixte. when I was younger, if I ever misbehaved, they would always tell me I was jealous of her and to stop copying her.

However, if I did have aspergers, it would only reinforce that my sister can control her attention seeking behaviour and she is as much to blame as my parents, as I don't act the way she does.

I don't understand why my spending all my time in my room and not socialising would hide my depression, if anything these are key signs to look out for that someone may be depressed.

I think my parents do "emotionally make" us live at home. It is not a "delusion" due to depression. Otherwise, how can you explain why my older, healthy non SN sister with a full time not (not that well paid, but stable and enough for rent) still lives at home?

I don't think my elder sister is acting this way because she is "trying to help", I think it is much more likely due to frustration. Like me, almost all her friends are living independent lives without their parents, and she is the one stuck at home. So she is probably taking this out on me out of frustration, it can't be easy living with a sister with depression and a sister with SN. I do wish that as the oldest she would move out, it would make it easier for me if she had done it already.

Goldmandra Thu 02-Jan-14 22:52:38

Goldmandra, I posted and thought "Bugger, meant to mention the Op sounds a bit Asperger's" and then saw your post...

Glad it's not just me, Oxford.

Actually reading your post has highlighted more reasons to consider it, i.e. the OP being disappointed because her parents don't automatically know she is depressed and her feeling of being a loner who doesn't make friends easily.

OP, depression is quite common in people with AS, especially those who are undiagnosed. A greater understanding of yourself and the root of your own difficulties, if it is AS, could go a long way towards improving life for you.

JaceyBee Thu 02-Jan-14 22:47:53

Fab post AF

AnyBagsofOxfordFuckers Thu 02-Jan-14 22:19:20

Goldmandra, I posted and thought "Bugger, meant to mention the Op sounds a bit Asperger's" and then saw your post...

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