My poor sister, what can I do ?(7 Posts)
My Dsis is 15 there is a 20 yr age gap between us.
A couple of yrs ago we found out she was self harming and my DM was told and basically not a lot happened, DDad isn't great and thinks shouting, and grounding etc works but it doesn't. The self harming seemed to stop and she has seemed fine ever since, unfortunately with a family of my own I don't see her much at all.
So yesterday I get a text to say she's in trouble over something, one of our other Dsis had found out she had done something and told DM and DDad. I told her it was best to be truthful but if she was going to lie make it convincing. (This is not something massive btw a small thing that DDad would likely make.a big deal of that isn't ).
This then opens the flood gates with her telling me how unhappy she is, she hates herself and her life, she wants to self harm all the time. She doesn't understand why other Dsis hates her she's never done anything to her. And lots more.
I don't know what to do, I've told her I understand with regards to self harming as I've had ED which I still struggle with and if she needs to talk I'm here, but I want to help her, I know she doesn't have to live the life I have with self hate and low self esteem feeling inadequate all the time. I couldn't change my life but I want her to be happy.
I can't approach our mum, dont get me wrong she tries but it won't help I have an instinct that it won't.
Does anyone have any ideas ? Has anyone else suffered like this and come out the other side and how did you do it ? Is there anything I can suggest, I don't honestly think she will go to counselling but can try and suggest it, is there anything else because I'm drawing a blank.
Are you able to see her in person? Or could you invite her to stay with you for a few days over the holidays?
That sounds really awful. I'm not an expert but I've read that the following can help - offering alternatives to cutting eg holding ice on the skin or pinging elastic bands on your risk. Both offer pain so meet the immediate need but no long term damage. The other is openly and honestly supporting her - you can't stop this but you can tell her that whenever she gets the urge to harm herself to call you and that you will listen and be there, not judging, hopefully until the need passes. Look at the NHS choices website as there is info on there.
Can you also non-combative discussion with your mum and dad. I'm sure they'll be feeling scared, bewildered and hurt and so their response is coming out all wrong...
I've heard of the elastic band or hairband on wrist thing, as a self therapy for addiction & self harm before. It's unobtrusive /discreet, offers the comfort of a small amount of pain if that's what she feels she needs, while not causing any long term harm. Self harm is or can be addictive.
Do you have a sense of why you both suffer with low self esteem and thoughts of self harm? I'm not a psychologist but I'm assuming it stems from how you were raised and therefore your instinct not to involve could be right. Perhaps she needs a positive role model in her life to take an interest in her, talk to her, listen to her. Could you play that role? Could you dedicate a Sunday every week to bring together, watching movies, shopping etc? It's hard if you have kids and a job of course to make that time, perhaps in that case you could invite her to be a part of your family routine on a Sunday?
Thank you for the suggestions on the elastic/ hairband I will pass that on.
I've tentatively suggested about diet exercise as I've found that since I've started doing it it had helped my mental health ten fold.
I've made it clear that this is up to her though and I'm not suggesting it will def work for her but perhaps worth ago.
I just feel so helpless, it's awful to think of her feeling so low about herself and she admitted sometimes she thinks it would be easier to be dead, again I know how that feels and I don't want that for her.
It's difficult with mum and dad, mum works in mental health/ addiction (think degree) and Dsis feels like she treats her as a service user rather then her daughter and DDad really just doesn't have a clue, they try they really do but as a teenager you just don't want to listen to your parents do you .
I will also offer for her to come to mine DD1 is 13 and they get on well so may help if she spends some time at mine for a while.
I'm so glad your sister has a lovely older person like you to look up to!
I definitely second the recommendation of spending time with her, in a way that makes her feel validated and affirmed. You probably can't do much about your parents' style of doing things, but you can provide an alternative space on a regular basis where she is supported and where she gets to be creative, to speak her mind, and to enjoy herself. Don't underestimate how cool and influential you are to her.
As far as the self-harming is concerned, I would take it seriously, but perhaps keep some of your concern a bit secret inside, i.e. don't set up a dynamic where there is an obvious 'reward' of attention for it. Don't seem panicky about it (even if you are inside), but calmly suggest alternative strategies and look to provide (without ever being explicit about it) alternative outlets for her frustration and really positive role-modelling. One really powerful thing can be to sit with her and get her to write down the negative thoughts she has about herself, and then to write a 'corrective' positive thought for each one. So if she says 'I feel really ugly, I hate my body' then the corrective might be 'I have great eyes and I get lots of compliments on how beautiful they are', or if she says 'I'm failing maths at school, I can't do numbers', it might be 'But I really kick ass at art, and I'm great at drawing'. The key thing is that she needs to think of the thought, not have you supply it. Basically, if she does this regularly, you can work her up to a place where she can say 'I like myself, I am strong and powerful and I can do anything I want to do'! (This takes time and very regular efforts - the thought-correcting needs to be done constantly, and you can supervise this).
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