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How can I help my sister cope with anxiety about our parents?

(6 Posts)
GingerbreadPudding Thu 08-Jan-15 12:51:03

Short history - my mum has severe mental health issues and is a deeply selfish, over emotional, thoughtless person. She had an affair for a year and dad begged her to end it and stay which she possibly did. Several years on and they're finally calling it a day and getting divorced. They're both in their late sixties.

I went NC with mum about eight months ago which has been bliss for me - best decision ever. My dad has met a new woman and is finally realising that he can have a happy relationship without all the emotional stress, pressure and awfulness that being with mum involved.

My sister is still in contact with both of them and finds it incredibly distressing to have contact with mum, but refuses to consider going NC with her as 'she's my mum' and 'it would be cruel to not let her see her grandchildren.'

Every time she sees her she ends up in such a start - panic attacks etc. it's now having an effect in her own marriage as her husband is losing patience with it all. I don't know how to help her get distance from it, she won't see a counsellor, can't seem to create any boundaries but it's becoming increasingly apparent that she can't cope with the situation, feels caught in the middle of it all and has very strong anxiety problems.

Any suggestions on what she could try or I could do? She's a lovely person and simply isn't able to to let the two of them be distanced from her. They both offload on her, turn up at her house unannounced/uninvited etc. they don't do it with me because I live a bit further away, have made my boundaries abundantly clear and I'm simply not interested in engaging with their issues.

AnotherEmma Thu 08-Jan-15 12:57:15

Don't think there's much you can do TBH. It has to come from your sister and it sounds like you've tried but she's not interested. As you say she needs counselling and boundaries. If I were you I'd try not to get dragged into it. You went NC with your mum for a reason - you don't want all the drama via your sister instead!

Lottapianos Thu 08-Jan-15 13:00:22

That's a very tough one Gingerbread. I'm not sure there is very much you can do though - this is for your sister to deal with. I identify completely with her levels of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed by them - I have similar parents myself. It sounds like your sister is stuck deeply in FOG - fear, obligation, guilt - which is one of many horrible legacies of having toxic parents. I'm really glad that you find NC is working for you.

Does your sister offload on you about her anxiety? Is she asking for your help with it? If not, I would simply keep your parents out of all discussions you have with her. If she is offloading on you, encourage her to talk about their behaviour makes her feel. Remind her that life does not have to be like this and ask her what she thinks she can do to change things. I don't think its fair to expect you, or her husband, to listen endlessly to how awful things are if she can't/won't do anything to take more control of the situation.

Flimflammer Thu 08-Jan-15 13:11:43

Don't get involved, and don't let her offload onto you. If she rings up in a state it is fine for you to ask her to call back when she has calmed down. You could then reiterate that stepping back is a choice but she is chosing to take all this on board. Don't let her take the burden from your mum and then pass it on to you. Just remind her firmly thstbyou don't talk to your mother for the same of your own peace of mind and change the subject. If she persists, leave the room. She will soon realise she is wasting her breath if she gets no sympathy.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 08-Jan-15 13:36:59

If your DM has severe mental health issues, is there any chance that your sister has inherited the gene? In other words, although it's clear that the panic attacks are triggered by being around your DM, could there be an element that she is a less resilient person all round due to an anxiety or other disorder? She may not want to see a counsellor but has she ever spoken to her GP?

MonstrousRatbag Thu 08-Jan-15 14:27:18

All you can really say to her I think is that it doesn't have to be all or nothing: no boundaries vs. no contact. She can, with help, negotiate a middle course of some contact but not completely on your mother's terms. And it is not wrong of her to do that.

But if she won't go for it, then you have to leave her to it, really.

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