Dear Barb – Critical Questions

Dear Barb:

I have a problem with my sister, who is one year older than me. She has a lot of problems, both physical and mental. I try to be there for her, but I just don’t know how much I am supposed to take. She’s verbally abusive and then says she doesn’t remember doing it, or it’s not her fault and that she had a seizure. I know she does have seizures, but I think she uses this as an excuse to treat me and other family members badly. I have tried to listen to her problems, but it is so difficult as all she does is complain about everything. It takes me days to get into the frame of mind to be able to visit her, or talk to her on the phone. Then when I am with her I can’t wait to leave. What’s worse is she usually ignores me when I’m there and just talks to my other sister. I am torn between my obligation to my sister and maintaining my sanity! Help, Anna.

Hey Anna:

Undoubtedly is it difficult to deal with people who have mental health issues. It’s obvious you are trying your best, but there is only so much you can do. You must take care of yourself before you can help anyone else. Perhaps some distance from your sister will give you time to regain your composure and be able to deal more effectively with her. Often people want to help individuals with mental health issues by deciding what is best for them; however these individuals may have a different perspective on what they want for their lives. Ultimately as individuals we really have no choice but to accept others as they are and allow them to live their lives as they choose. So I would suggest you back off and wait for your sister to approach you and ask for what she needs. She may be more receptive to help if she is the one asking for it, rather than someone else suggesting it. Hope this helps, thanks Anna.

Dear Barb:

I don’t usually write into columns like this, but I would like your advice. I am in my late twenties and have lived away from home for quite a few years. I live out of town so don’t see my parents that often, but when I return home I stay with them for the weekend. Usually after the first day I can’t wait to go home. My dad is so critical of me. It seems everything I do is not good enough. I feel so inadequate around him. I have tried to talk to him about how I feel, but I usually don’t get too far before I can sense he is becoming agitated with me, so I just let it go. I love my dad and wish we didn’t have this dissension in our relationship. I would appreciate any suggestions, thanks, Marcus.

Hi Marcus:

I hear your frustration! It’s difficult to stop being a parent to your children and I believe your dad is just doing what he thinks a father does. It’s up to you to explain to him that you are an adult and are choosing to live your life your way, not his way. I know you love your father and do not want to cause problems between him and you, but if you want him to stop telling you how to live your life, you must tell him how you feel, but in a respectful way. For example when he tells you how you should be doing something, tell him that you appreciate him sharing that information with you, but you have chosen to do it this way. He may be a little surprised at first, but if you continue to do this, he will get the point and accept the fact that you are an adult and in charge of your own life. Thanks for your great question Marcus.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.