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« on: April 22, 2016, 04:06:27 PM »
I am here because I believe my sister has PPD and after years of trying to "helpful" I just realized that my sister that this is mental illness I am dealing with. I did not grow up with my sister. She is a bit younger than I am and I did not really grow up with her. I was married young and out of the house so thankfully, I don't have to deal with her everyday. Short version is I am writing to try to learn how better to talk to her and help her without losing my own sanity.

The long version is three days ago, she called me in the middle of the night saying her husband took the children away. She has been married for 25 years and has 3 daughters. It's a bit overwhelming how to explain the situation in a post.  I listened to her and tried to sympathize with her. She lives over and hour away from me. I get very anxious driving in the very heavy traffic to her house and have said that to her in the past.  In spite of my trying to reassure her, she said I can't ask you for help because you don't want to drive down here. I told I would come if she needed me. In the morning I texted her and said I would come if she wanted me. She said that my brother was coming and she wanted me to come. So I did.
It was a real mess. When the whole story came out. it was obvious that her bursts of extreme anger were the cause of the whole situation and now social services are involved. She had been in an altercation with one of the kids some days ago and left some marks on her daughter's arm. I am not sure how it happened but it got reported to DSS.   A misunderstanding with the social worker (in setting up the appointments to meet with both parents ) caused her to go off the deep end.  She had left the house, then returned around midnight woke her husband up screaming and yelling at him, then banged on the two older kids door, screaming and yelling.  He had been advised by the social worker to leave so he then took the kids out of the house. The youngest one, not understanding left crying and screaming for her mother.  The police were involved but I am still not sure how that came about.
Her bursts of anger and irrationality have happened for years but not quite to this degree to my knowledge. I don't talk to her all that often. 
But the story I got was how abusive her husband has been for years. Which I have heard before and advised her to leave the situation, which she ignored. She has always turned anything I say, even positive things back on me. The stories of how horrible my parents were and of the abuse in her childhood as well as her husband's abuse get bigger and bigger. I don't know what to believe. I am sure there is some bit of truth in all of it.
We met with the social worker and all she did was try to excuse her behavior. She went on and on about how she needs accommodations for ADHD.
She blames everything on having ADHD and abuse that occurred in her childhood. Abuse my parents knew nothing about until she was grown and gone from home. Her anxiety level has been through the roof for the past year and a half.  She did not seem to be able to have any empathy for what she put her kids and husband through the night before. She was so "afraid and anxious" after all. She finally admitted her behavior was wrong and she felt ashamed about it. I took the approach.. okay. You are not getting better living with  your husband, you have to get yourself well so this does not happen with your kids again. I told her it was her husband's responsibility to get his own help. She has at least been seeing a therapist.  I thought she got it. We even went so far as to make an appointment with an lawyer. The lawyer actually almost cried when I explained with my sister had done. She advised her to separate. My sister put down a retainer for a separation agreement but expressed such conflicting statements about it all. Its like. I love my husband, I love my house, I don't want a messy divorce.. then its you don't know how abusive he is behind close doors or how my kids yell at me.
My brother had left and I stayed there with her that night. It was not easy because she would go from understanding and talking to me about some positive things in her life to yelling and screaming at me about how I have always told her she is a "shitty" mother. Which is not true in the least. Through the whole thing, I tried to tell her positive things about herself, to praise her for doing the work, getting help with the counselling, for trying to be a good parent, for her achievements at work. Choosing not to dwell on little things but at the same time trying to emphasize her responsibility for what she has done with the outbursts of anger. I warned her that the social worker was involved and that while she could help, what she wanted to hear from my sister was that the kids and their needs were going to be put first.
My sister went from seeming to understand to blaming everyone else for her actions. I managed to hang in there, even though I wanted to walk out several times during the evening and next morning. I agreed to stay to be a buffer between her and her husband while they worked out what comes next. Her husband was exhausted and not really in any kind of shape for big decision making. my sister was sorta reasonable but pushed it the whole time. He was sper careful and considerate about her fear and anxiety and assured her that he was not going to do anything rash or try to take the kids away from her. But he was not ready to bring the kids home just yet. It was a good first step.
He left but then it all devolved again. Her bringing money into the situation and saying she did not want to spend money on a divorce. Its like everything she says is contradicted by something else and all revolves around her.
I finally left and after stepping back from the situation I finally admitted that she is very mentally ill. I had to deal with it all again this morning since she has decided the social worker violated her rights and is the bad guy. I made the mistake of trying to bring reason into it and to see it from the social worker's point of view. So suddenly I was the one not supporting her. I just had to hang up. I can't say or do anything to help her. I had looked at some things online and after reading the information about PPD, it really fit. I know a psychiatrist has to make the diagnosis.
I don't know what to do. I don't know how to talk to her. I want to help my nieces but I now realize that nothing I say will help my sister.
I am struggling with do I share this with my brother-in-law or do I just keep out of it. I want to say, get the kids out of the situation, don't let them get hurt any more. Emotionally I don't think I can handle much more from her but I don't want to abandon her.
Does anyone every heal from something like this? Can she get better?  What if she hurts herself because no one is there? She is a smart person and twists so much around. I just don't know what to do.
Sorry to write such a long post. I know my own impact from all of this is so minimal compared to the impact that is has on my nieces and brother-in-law. My gut tells me he is not a horrible person. Do I turn on my sister to help the kids? Do I share with the social worker? It seems so hopeless.



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Re: Introduction
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2016, 07:53:00 PM »
Welcome to this forum.
Yes you need to share with the social worker. Your nieces really need your help. From your post I cannot see any abusive behaviour by your brother in law. Only what your sister reports.
She could be gas lighting him. And it would be terrible if he wasn't available for his children because your sister is projecting on him.
This is a very difficult situation. The children must be protected from their mother.
Maybe you can think about your focus in this: Normal logic doesn't usually apple. So maybe instead of supporting your sister, you need to support your nieces and their dad.
Big hugs



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Re: Introduction
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2016, 07:33:14 AM »
Welcome serene77. You are not alone.

I have a uBPD/uNPD sister. Your experiences with your sister are similar to my sister and her family.

There is lots of information here on the website specially in the Toolbox section about what to do and what not to do. My golden rule is to stay calm no matter what and to validate my sister's feelings.

There is lots of support here as others are going through similar but different situations.

It can be such a confusing time. I know. Logic and common sense just don't seem to apply. The more you understand and educate yourself about personality disorders the better you will be able to cope but it takes time.

Keep posting. You are doing very well.

Best wishes.
"Do not let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace." - Dalai Lama

"You don't have to be a part of it, you can become apart from it." - guitarman

"Be gentle with yourself, you're doing the best you can." - Anon

"If it hurts it isn't love." - Kris Godinez, counsellor and author



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Re: Introduction
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2016, 07:38:29 AM »
I'm supporting a man whose wife has a PD and his girls have suffered because no one was willing to speak up on his wife's erratic behaviour. Please look after the kids first and foremost. Help your BIL to get custody and support your sister to get well enough for visitation



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Re: Introduction
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2016, 10:42:55 AM »
Welcome to OOTF!

This is a difficult situation to deal with, I agree with the other posters I would try to focus on your nieces as they are the most vulnerable. This information is usually used for people who live with an abusive partner and are trying to protect their children, it might be very helpful to you even if you situation is slightly different: Put Children First    

The thing that struck me is that your sister's behavior changes so quickly, it seems totally unpredictable except that sooner or later she will get emotionally, verbally or physically abusive. You say yourself how hard it is for you to deal with her behavior and how hard you are trying to help her to no avail. Try put yourself in your nieces' shoes for a moment and imagine what their mother's behavior does to them. They are still children and don't have the capabilities to deal with her behavior, made worse by the instinct that their mother should be their protector, love them unconditionally, which can create dissonance, guilt feelings and more in them.

It seems you are stuck in a circular conversation ( with your sister about how to help her, and in the end what counts is what she does not what she says. And on top of that what she consistently does, like over half a year or a year. I understand you want to help her, if she is PPD or whatever causes her problems, it is something professionals need to handle. She is refusing your help, if it does not fit her perceived needs, something I'm only too familiar with from my PDparents, who really were looking for pity, attention, not for solutions, or would agree to one thing one minute and half an hour later change their minds and go in the opposite direction.

then its you don't know how abusive he is behind close doors or how my kids yell at me.
Her saying her husband is abusive could be projection, which is not uncommon, and with regards to her kids it seems to be blaming behavior I don't know whether you have kids, little kids sometimes, when caught in bad behavior, will say "He made me do it" or "He did it first" to deflect from themselves, and something similar might be going on here.

What happens in relation to your sisters access to her kids, her marriage is up to her. She is an adult. I would assume as social services are involved, there will be evaluations and they might set parameters. While I don't know the whole story, I think your brother-in-law did the right thing by taking the children away and protecting them. I would share your knowledge of your sister with social services and most likely also your BIL, as this might ensure your nieces as well as your sister get the help they each need. I would focus on your nieces health like others have said.

For further help for yourself, how to handle this situation you might want to the check out the Toolbox     , maybe look at Medium Chill, 3C's rule, Boundaries, JADE, FOG to get you started. We also have a special board for "Dealing with PD Siblings and other Family Members". Some of what you learn here, you might even want to share with your BIL. You most likely will have more interaction with your BIL due to this situation, and can see whether your gut feeling about him is right.

Sending you strength!
If Im not towards myself, who is towards myself? And when Im only towards myself, what am I? And if not now, when? (Rabbi Hillel)

"I can forgive, but I cannot afford to forget." (Moglow)