How Do I Help My Sister (W/ No Life Skills) Without Hurting Myself? Please help!!! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 10-18-2011, 01:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't really know where to post this, but I have to get it all out and I really need an outside opinion.

 

My little sister came to visit me for her 19th birthday last week. Our parents are incredibly neglectful in that they never gave either of us the basic life skills required to live on our own. I dropped out of school at 16 and moved in with my boyfriend 800 miles away to get away from their toxic behavior. At that time I was so deeply anxious that I could not order my own food at a restaurant. I never learned to cook, clean, or do laundry. Basic personal hygiene skills like shaving and doing my hair and make up in a presentable way were never taught to me. I had to learn all of these things on my own over the past 8 years. I was always fiercely independent, which is why I learned to drive (I basically taught myself through video games).

 

I was fortunate, in that my boyfriend was able to provide a supportive place for me to learn these skills. I still struggle with my social anxiety and because of that I have a very difficult time getting and keeping jobs or making friends.

 

My little sister does not have that independent streak. At 19, she still can not ride a bike, read a map, follow simple directions from one place to another or do any of the other skills I listed above. She also dropped out of school at 16, and in the three years since then has just sat at home, doing nothing. She has been to a few therapists, but my parents always invariably stop paying the therapy bills and so she never really gets the chance to develop a good relationship with her therapist.

 

Anyways, I have been having a really hard time lately with depression. When my mother brought up the idea of my sister coming for her birthday, I agreed to it. However, my mother is completely untrustworthy and toxic (which is another story), but suffice it to say, after a long drawn out changing of plans over and over and over without any input from me, she began calling me repeatedly the day before she was going to leave. I believe she called me twelve times that day. Finally I responded and said that I just didn't think I could handle all of this right now, and could we please postpone the trip. She showed up the next day anyways.

 

So I went into this houseguest situation not in a good place mentally to begin with. I did my best to stay cheerful though, and over time my sister began to come out of the shell she builds around herself. After about a week of her being here, she started to look for jobs. She's applied to probably 10 places at this point and called one back (she has terrible phone anxiety). I'm very supportive of her getting a job and finding an apartment here, and I really want to try to help her the way my boyfriend helped me.

 

But she's not self-directed at all. I have to wake her up every afternoon and tell her to take her thyroid medication, tell her to get dressed, tell her to please take her blanket and pillow off my couch, tell her to clean up after herself, tell her to eat, tell her to fill out applications and how to answer the questions on the applications. It's absolutely exhausting. On top of all this my house is a one bedroom studio, with no doors between the bedroom and the living room or between the bedroom and the bathroom, and you have to walk through the bedroom to get to the bathroom. It's very cramped and I have lost any and all semblance of privacy.

 

I talked to my SO about it and he doesn't mind her being here and really thinks that it's my job to help her in any way that I can because there's no one else in the world who can or will do it. This makes me feel absolutely horribly guilty for wanting to send her back. Her home is in an extremely isolated rural area, she has no friends who can take her anywhere so she is just stuck in the toxic spiral of my parents. She brought this prescription strength nasal spray with her because she said she had a congestion problem, but I told her I bet she wouldn't use it once while she was here because the reason she needs it is because the house she lives in with my parents is overrun with diseased animals and the whole place smells like a urine-soaked kennel, and I was right, she hasn't had to use it.

 

It would be fine if I just had a spare bedroom, but I don't and I'm going crazier and crazier every day. Right now she is crying in the bathroom because I came home at 4:30pm and she was still on the couch asleep so I said some really mean things that I shouldn't have. My anger really isn't directed at her, but at my parents for not providing her any life skills whatsoever. 

 

I have told her that I'm going stir crazy from lack of personal space, and she totally understands, but she just really wants to stay here in this town and try to start an independent life.

 

I feel totally stuck and trapped and I just need any kind of advice or guidance that anyone can give me.


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#2 of 22 Old 10-18-2011, 02:26 PM
 
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When was the last time your sister had a medical checkup? That would be my very first priority for her, and ASAP. Something is definitely not right here besides "not having been taught life skills."
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#3 of 22 Old 10-18-2011, 03:14 PM
 
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While I wasn't as bad as your sister I could certainly be seen as someone who had no life skill.  I couldn't do my hair or make up or dress myself (and at 37 my skills are still limited at best an the only reason I can apply make up is because mineral make up is so easy to apply and the minimalist look is in) , I could not pay bills or drive a car.  I hate to this day talking on the phone.  I could not figure out how to read a map confidently, couldn't have gotten myself anywhere (only since my divorce and only with the help of map quest and now a really fantastic GPS)

 

I did have the advantage of not dropping out of school but I did not finish my first year of college.

 

You sister sounds depressed and in her situation who wouldn't be.  I recommend getting her to a Dr. and having her checked out for physical and mental health.

 

It is good that she is looking for jobs and stuff.  That is a good sign.  She will have to figure out on her own how to keep them.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fnord View Post

 

 

 

 

But she's not self-directed at all. I have to wake her up every afternoon and tell her to take her thyroid medication, tell her to get dressed, tell her to please take her blanket and pillow off my couch, tell her to clean up after herself, tell her to eat, tell her to fill out applications and how to answer the questions on the applications. It's absolutely exhausting. On top of all this my house is a one bedroom studio, with no doors between the bedroom and the living room or between the bedroom and the bathroom, and you have to walk through the bedroom to get to the bathroom. It's very cramped and I have lost any and all semblance of privacy.

 

It would be fine if I just had a spare bedroom, but I don't and I'm going crazier and crazier every day. Right now she is crying in the bathroom because I came home at 4:30pm and she was still on the couch asleep so I said some really mean things that I shouldn't have. My anger really isn't directed at her, but at my parents for not providing her any life skills whatsoever. 

 


Why do you feel bad about yelling at her.  She is crashing on your house the least she can do is be respectful.  If you want to really help her get her an alarm clock and teach her how to use it.  Stop holding her hand.  You are over compensating for your parents and this is going to keep her dependent and clingy.    And why is she sleeping into the afternoon?  If she is depressed help her find some free counseling.  If she is lazy kick her off the couch at a reasonable time and tell her to get dressed and put her crap away.  She is an adult.  You do not have to treat her with kid gloves.  If someone would support me, wake me up around noon and help me get ready for the day i don't think i would ever want things to change.  Stop feeling sorry for her.   Sometimes your childhood sucks.  You have gotten her out of that situation.  You are supporting her financially while she adjusts.  But sooner or later she will need to adjust and the one thing that forced me to get t all together was moving out of my parents home.  When my husband left me I had no idea what our financial situation was, how to take care of the house, how to work full time and parent full time.  And I fell on my ass quite a bit but I am figuring things out.  Because I have to.  Because no one is going to do it for me.  no one is going to come in my room at 5:00AM and get me up gently and sweetly.  Instead I have three alarms that go off and a light that flicks on.  It is a rude awaking but it is an awaking and that is what I need.  My kids have had to become independent.  I don't get up at 5 because I like a leisurely wake up.  I get up that early because i have to be at work at 5:30 which means my kids have to wake up by themselves and get each other ready for school.  It sucks but there is no one to help.  when no one is doing stuff for you you have to learn how to do it yourself.

 

Some of the other things you mentioned.  Some of the finer points of social interaction (grooming, hygiene, driving, working out public transit,) help her with a little, give her tips whatever but she is still going to have to figure it out herself for the most part.

 


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#4 of 22 Old 10-18-2011, 05:41 PM
 
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yes, I second the medical check up----could there be some learning disablility under all of this that is preventing her from catching on...........(and are there even services out there for young adults ?) Good luck sis.........


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#5 of 22 Old 10-18-2011, 09:32 PM
 
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If she's on thyroid meds, she should DEFINITELY have a medical check up. It's entirely possible that she's not on the right level of meds, which would make her depressed and not able to function well.

 

Then, I think you should sit down with your sister and talk about what reasonable expectations are. What can she do to help? What skills does she want to learn? Right now it sounds like your sister doesn't have anything to do all day. Can you help her make up some simple daily goals? (Get up by X time, put away bedding, do the dishes, go for a walk, fill out one job application... whatever she wants and you need.)

 

I'd also check into your local community college. Our local community college has both a GED program and an Adult High School Diploma program. Maybe getting back into school (where she can get financial aid that would enable her to move out on her own), would be a good goal for her in the next couple of months. Community colleges also have centers where they can test her for a learning disability. (Not being able to follow directions, for example, suggests that there's more going on than just not being taught.) If she does have a disability, then she can learn how to best help herself learn. If she doesn't, then she needs a basic class in "college skills". And maybe a home ec course in cooking or something.

 

Finally, I'd give her a move-out date. What's a reasonable time frame for her to get a job/financial aid and move out? Or move back home? Yes, your parents are toxic, but your sister has to be willing to meet you part way if she really wants out.


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#6 of 22 Old 10-20-2011, 10:33 AM
 
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Your sister is not your responsibility. You do not need to be her savior. If she can't /won't even get herself out of bed then there are bigger issues at play here. Find some resources in your area for young adults and get her there.
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#7 of 22 Old 10-20-2011, 01:55 PM
 
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how are things going?


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#8 of 22 Old 10-22-2011, 04:55 AM
 
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This is my story, only I'm the little sister.

I'm 31 now and doing okay.

 

The first thing I would suggest is tell people. Please, this isn't your shame, you are survivors, please tell people. Most people in these situations are convinced that we are somehow part of the problem; you are not. This is your parents doing and now it needs to be undone.

 

It is very difficult, you've probably noticed from PP responses that most people won't understand at all.

 

I had (and still do to an extent) the same problem with motivation. It is easy to misdiagnose as 'Demand Resistance', but for me was more of a 'Demand Ignorance'.

She could possibly have learning disabilities or whatever, I didn't, I tested at genius levels as a child, went to a selective school. I am not stupid, had no learning difficulty whatsoever. I still had no idea how to live.

Start at a doctor. Tell them everything. This is what you can do to help her. Do not become her therapist, help her get her own one. Do talk about how you "got out". Please remember that nearly everywhere she goes she probably feels like she was dropped here from another planet. It is hard!

I spent a huge amount of time People Watching, it was fascinating and confusing. Watching television helped.

Things I spent time going over were:

  • social help for people on the Autistic Spectrum,
  • help for people suffering different styles of Stockholm Syndrome
  • structured living suggestions for adults with Downs Syndrome and
  • rehabilitation for people who have been incarcerated for very long periods.

 

Good Luck to both of you! you both have a long road ahead

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#9 of 22 Old 10-22-2011, 08:12 AM
 
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I have a lot in common with the OP in regards to my own sister, who is a bit older, and lives on her own. I have some questions though, because I've been

in this position before.  Everyone is saying get her to a doctor, get her evaluated.  How?  Does she have healthcare?  Who is going to pay for it?  I mean it's not as if the OP can take her into her own doctor, if she even has one.  Who is the doctor that prescribed the thyroid meds?  In my own sister's case she is on Medicaid and it apparently is a huge PITA to get any decent care at all.  My sister was basically completely off the deep end and her psychiatrists couldn't even get her in for 2 weeks  when it was clearly an emergency.  Social services was of no help, neither was Social security.

 

The only thing I can think of for the OP would be to get the sister to fill out a FAFSA and try to get some financial aid to go to a community college where a pp said they may gave guidance counselors of some sort to help out.  

 

I have the same problem of being the eldest child of an extremely dysfunctional family and struggle with feelings of responsibility and anxiety.  I have had to limit contact wiht my own sister because I have tried to help her and she only wants someone to do things for her, she is not a functional person on her own and luckily has a boyfriend who takes care of her.

 


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#10 of 22 Old 10-22-2011, 09:14 AM
 
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I just thought of one other thing that might help.  If you have a community center or recreation center around sometimes they offer life skills classes to teens.  At the very least, by asking someone who works there they might be able to point you in another direction.


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#11 of 22 Old 10-22-2011, 01:26 PM
 
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#12 of 22 Old 10-24-2011, 02:44 PM
 
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marimara, there are mental health clinics to get assistance with paying for mental health services and mental health medications. I am on the state program for that, and only pay $8 for a $200 a month medication.

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#13 of 22 Old 10-24-2011, 06:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions. Just having a place to be heard was really helpful.

 

I ended up asking one of my friends who lives nearby if she could stay in on the couch in his spare room, so that's where she is now. It's actually been a huge improvement. I'm less stressed and therefore better able to help her and she is left to her own devices, so she's starting to set herself an alarm and wake herself up. We went to the grocery store and she bought herself some inexpensive frozen food to cook for herself. I got her a babysitting job with the child I used to babysit. I knew she would be okay because the job is only five minutes from my house, so if she needed any kind of help I told her to call me and I'd be right there.

 

She worked all day today from 8 to 6 and cooked herself and the child scrambled eggs and grilled cheese, which is really awesome, she didn't even call me to ask how to do it, she just figured it out by herself. I've found that the greater the distance I put between us the better she takes care of herself. She is deeply motivated to stay here, it's just that she has to work very hard to figure out the skills she needs to do so. Everyday she looks better and better physically, she's taking better care of her appearance and she's working on standing up straight and smiling more.

 

This babysitting job may or may not turn into a permanent nannying thing, paying $200/week, and I'm really hoping it does. She loves kids and she's really good with them. I really don't think she's capable of working another kind of job right now, even in the service industry, just because she's really really slow at doing things and she requires a lot of hands on help to learn to do stuff. It's mostly because she completely lacks all confidence about her own decision making and she doesn't want to make any mistakes at all. With her working a nannying or babysitting job, she's able to make decisions without anyone there to judge her.

 

My friend is letting her stay with him for one or two weeks, after that I really don't know what will happen. I may suggest that she pay him with some of her babysitting money so she can stay with him for another month or something, I don't know if he'd be open to that.

 

I've been practicing with her a lot on following directions. When I'm driving her around I ask her what directions things are in and what street we're on and what streets it intersects with. I've had her walk to the 7-11 by herself with directions that she, herself wrote down, with help from me.

 

As far as therapy and medical evaluations, she does have healthcare, but she does not have her insurance card with her, and it's really terrible insurance. I'm on the same insurance and regularly get billed for all of my doctors appointments and lab workups in the hundreds of dollars because they have a HUGE deductible.

 

I don't know of any services that can help with mental health or life skills which are local to me. I'm in Orlando, FL, so if anyone can point me to one that would be amazing.

 

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#14 of 22 Old 10-24-2011, 08:10 PM
 
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Quote:
I've found that the greater the distance I put between us the better she takes care of herself.

 

 

Yes.  Go back and read Lilyka's post a few times for good measure.   I'm the younger sister here. 

 

I hesitate to say this, as you're getting a well-deserved break.  But is it OK that your sister is living in some other guy's house? 

 

 


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#15 of 22 Old 10-24-2011, 09:35 PM
 
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Fnord, since you live in such a large city, there's BOUND to be somewhere your sister can get in on sliding scale fees and they can help her apply for state mental health assistance. I live in a town of under 100,000 people and we have a few clinics that support the state mental health assistance program. Just call around or have your sister call around some practices to see if they are sliding scale. If they are and they have some openings, they've got to have some resources for the assistance.

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#16 of 22 Old 10-25-2011, 07:16 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aus5 View Post

I had (and still do to an extent) the same problem with motivation. It is easy to misdiagnose as 'Demand Resistance', but for me was more of a 'Demand Ignorance'.



huh.gif  That's really interesting.  Never heard of it.  The little bit I read about it just now is fascinating. 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry for the interruption. Carry on there, Fnord!


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#17 of 22 Old 10-31-2011, 07:50 PM
 
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Great news Fnord! You sound like a wonderful, caring sister. She is undoubtedly learning something new every day, and the longer she is away from her parents, the more she might enjoy life on her own. This might be the best motivation of all--being away from home, and realizing how bad her home life has been.

 

I have an aunt who is 47, and is still dependent on her siblings for financial support. She is not mentally disabled or anything, but she just does not want to work. Since her parents and siblings have bailed her out her entire life, she never learned how to make it on her own. They enabled her to live this way, and it has done her a great disservice.

You are doing what's right for your sister. Do not enable her to be lazy, or she will take you up on it! Help her get on her own, which is what you are doing. Keep up the great work!


 
 
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#18 of 22 Old 11-22-2011, 08:40 PM
 
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I wondered about this too! Esp. a girl without any lifeskills..

Quote:
Originally Posted by journeymom View Post

 

 

 

Yes.  Go back and read Lilyka's post a few times for good measure.   I'm the younger sister here. 

 

I hesitate to say this, as you're getting a well-deserved break.  But is it OK that your sister is living in some other guy's house? 

 

 



 


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#19 of 22 Old 02-17-2012, 11:30 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

If she's on thyroid meds, she should DEFINITELY have a medical check up. It's entirely possible that she's not on the right level of meds, which would make her depressed and not able to function well.


This! Please try to get her to read the Stop the thyroid madness website. Before I got the right meds, I could hardly get off the couch to do anything, was always sleepy, except at night, etc. It really changes the person completely.


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#20 of 22 Old 02-28-2012, 03:29 PM
 
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Your sister sounds similar to mine.  Therapy has helped tremendously.  When she started with the therapist, they had to practice calling ppl on the phone.  Literally calling for a delivery pizza.  My sister is 21 and still lives at home but she no longer calls when she's lost in a parking lot or can't figure out the directions on the back of a microwave meal.  My sis has extreme anxiety issues and depression.  I am proud to say that she may not be able to make a tuna sandwich, but she's a bio tech major at a great university and is getting ready for a summer internship out of state.  (sorry, had to get me brag on)

 

anyway- therapy and the correct meds

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#21 of 22 Old 03-28-2012, 10:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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UPDATE:

 

So a lot has happened in the last six months. 

 

The babysitting job didn't work out. It turned out the mom didn't need someone full time, just when she got called in to work, which obviously wasn't going to be enough. My sister (M) ended up finding a live-in nanny job in a suburb that's about half an hour away from me. The mom (K) was a single mom going to online school while she worked a retail job and her parents picked up the tab for the vast majority of her living expenses. That turned into a nightmare very fast. K was very lonely and pretty much wanted to use M as her sidekick/pet. She was extremely emotionally abusive and would have screaming fits and hurl personal insults at M, as well as going into her room while she wasn't there and "cleaning" or leaving "gifts" in the closet. She was only paying M $100, and they lived in a gated community which K would not give M the code or a key to. There are also no busses in that town, so after 3 months of that, and a big scene where K would not write M a check when the last one went missing, I went and picked her up and brought her back to live with me. The job was definitely a learning experience for M, as K was very particular about the house being absolutely spotless, so M learned to clean, do dishes, cook food for the little girl she was watching, and shower every day.

 

During this time I also did seek out sliding-scale mental health services. There is only one place in my town that offers that. I took M there and after 2 months of waiting for a 20 minute appointment she was diagnosed with bipolar and given Depakote and Hydroxazine (an antihistamine for anxiety). She is not bipolar at all. She took one of the anxiety pills and ended up having a panic attack. She told me she told the psychiatrist about her depersonalization episodes and the psychiatrist told her that she had never heard anything like that before. (After she told me this, I looked up depersonalization on Wikipedia and she has every single symptom.) We threw the meds away.

 

Anyway, M landed back in my house and I've rearranged my living room so that she has a little space to sleep in behind my couch. She applied for food stamps, however when she called to set up her phone interview the automated system told her that her SSN and Case Number did not exist in the system. She could not get through to a person on the phone so I had her walk to the local office and she told me they told her to just wait for them to send her a second packet of information. The second packet arrived, she called the number, and again it told her that her SSN and Case Number did not exist. Every time we call them we get a message saying all lines are busy and to call back later.

 

I had her spend all of her free time applying online to restaurants, and she did finally get an interview at a McDonald's in a bad part of town. She went there and it turned out to be a cattle call and everyone who showed up was hired. The first few days of her working were really hard. She had to wake up early and ride the first bus there, and for the first week she missed most of the busses and would call me sobbing and I would have to wake up and drive her to work. She has been working there, taking the bus an hour each way every day. She was able to use some of her nannying money to buy herself a smartphone and she uses the GPS capabilities on that to get herself to work and back each day. I have no idea what we would do if she didn't have that phone.

 

I took her to a psychiatrist that was recommended by my counselor and she told me he listened to her and gave her a prescription for Straterra which has helped tremendously. She's now able to remember what it is that she needs to do (like eating, setting dr appt.'s, etc.) and her ability to retain information is improving. She is actually able to plan out her day instead of focusing on one task at a time. We just need to work on actualizing those plans more often. Since she started taking Strattera, her hours at McDonald's have gone up and she's making about $200/week. She's started hanging out with people her own age that she meets on a dating website and has even gone on a few dates.

 

Now we're working on getting her a place to live. This is really difficult because she is really resistant to calling people. I spent a couple hours compiling a list of roommate ads on craigslist and she did not call or contact any of them, which was really upsetting to me. It's been really hard for me at times, I feel like a social worker, a therapist, a hotel, and a chauffeur. I had a period of a week where I just fell into absolute and total dark depression and I cried everyday. I think it was a culmination of all this effort, my lack of privacy, and a bout of PMDD (it runs in my family).

 

She still needs to work on a lot of things: getting a place to live, learning to ride a bike so she can get around better, learning to drive a car. But she has come a really long way with a lot of pushing and a lot of pretending not to care what happens to her so she will do things on her own.


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Wow, that's great progress. She's made big strides towards independence. 

 

She's not ready to be on her own yet. This is way too soon. I'm guessing that the reason she didn't call anyone on the list you made because she's scared witless, because she knows she's not capable yet.  She's been finding success with the medication for how long?  Less than six months.  That's just not enough time for her to have developed the emotional maturity any person needs to live independent of family, considering the setback she's had.

 

social worker, a therapist, a hotel, and a chauffeur.  That's essentially my job description.  smile.gif  My kids are 12 and 17 y.o.  You are parenting her. Without the benefit of having raised her from when she was a baby.  It's really tough!

 

You don't have to do this.  But the efforts you make now, the sacrifice you make now is an investment in your future.  Help her now, give her a safe place to grow and get stronger and she'll need less of your help later.

 

It has to be acknowledged that this is a significant sacrifice for you!  Bless you for the hard work you've done. You're pretty young yourself, that much responsibility is a lot.  This is your home. She's not supposed to be there, at this stage in her life or in your life.  You aren't prepared to be raising a young woman. That's how I'd feel, anyway. And resentful. 

 

You need regular breaks.  Keep your eyes open for other mentors that can relieve you of some of the responsibility.  Therapists, teachers, etc.


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