Dear Amy: I’m the middle of three sisters. We all live with anxiety disorders. My younger sister and I are very close. She and I both live far from home.
We’re having problems with our older sister, “Clare.” She’s always let her anxiety and depression lead her life. Instead of seeking help, she has the attitude of, “Well, I have anxiety, so you need to deal with it.” Clare frequently uses it as an excuse to be mean or start a fight.
The only time we are all together is over holidays. Clare’s pattern is to start a huge fight at any holiday. She is in conflict with every family member we have in North America.
There’s never any discussion or apology; we’re just expected to reach out to Clare and let it all go. My younger sister and I have started to retract from this relationship.
I’m almost 30 now, and I’m tired. She says and does hurtful things to me and the people I love, and then expects us to back her up. It’s an unhealthy relationship that has caused me setbacks in my own mental health journey.
After her last flip-out at Christmas, I didn’t reach out. She’d acted like a child and then got offended when we didn’t come chasing after her.
She’s sent my younger sister and me an email outlining why we’re horrible people. It reads like a high schooler’s revenge letter. I won’t be replying for a few days.
I don’t want a friendship with her, at least right now. We both need to get mentally healthy before we can try this again. I’m currently waitlisted to see a therapist.
Amy, how do I navigate this relationship from here?
Dear Anxious: Anxiety does not make people mean. Because “Clare” refuses to seek help, you could assume that she is laboring under a self-diagnosis, or a misdiagnosis.
I understand why you are waiting to contact Clare, but I’m wondering why you feel the need to contact her at all. She has had her say. She thrives on accusation and drama. Now might be a good time to work on accepting her limitations, detaching from her problems and making a choice to send her silent sister-love from a distance, but declare to yourself that you’re just not going to play.
You could try to retrain her and reframe your relationship over time. When she behaves decently, you’ll always respond positively and have a decent relationship. When she doesn’t, you won’t.
This is tough because it upends the assumption we all have that sisters should be close, comforting and supportive friends. But it doesn’t always work out that way.
This is an ideal issue to explore in therapy. You’ll feel much better about yourself – and her – when you can detach without bitterness. It can’t be a lot of fun to be Clare.
Dear Amy: I live in drought-prone California.
Every morning I swim at the Y and take a three-minute navy shower after my laps.
On several occasions in the ladies open shower room, I have found women running all of the showers at once, claiming this helps to get the water hot.
I ask them to turn them off, and then have to endure vulgarities from them.
I do go ahead and turn them off. I report them to reception and have been told they will handle it.
I know the reception guy is not about to jump up and enter the ladies locker room.
What should I do? I can’t suck it up.
High and Dry
Dear Dry: The receptionist isn’t going to do anything about this. Unless there are signs posted reflecting a clear club policy, the swimmers aren’t going to conserve water.
You should take your concerns to management. Ask them what their policy is. If they don’t have a policy on this, advocate for them to put one in place. They should post signs in the locker room urging bathers to keep their showers short. Once this happens, you’ll be spared fighting this battle on your own.
Dear Amy: You missed something responding to “Worried Sick.” Worried’s husband had recovered from serious heart surgery and was now drinking.
Depression is common after heart surgery. It’s a vicious cycle because the alcohol will make the depression worse. Thank you for recommending Al-anon for her, but this needs to be addressed.
Dear Been There: Several readers made the same important observation regarding the link between heart surgery and depression. Thank you all.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.