What Do I Do About My Sister?


Hi all,
I have an awful dilemma. My sister lives in Milwaukee and is having terrible marital problems. Part of it is that she is schizophrenic and has unbelievable mood swings, part of it is that she is on drugs and weighs only ninety pounds. She looks like a skeleton.
She has already sent her two daughters down here to OK for me to take care of, which I am doing. But now she wants me to come up to Milwaukee to help her leave her husband and drive down here - a trip of 16 hours one-way. Bear in mind that I just returned Sunday from up there to pick up my nine-year-old niece.
One big snag is that I am very fragile emotionally and mentally. I had a nervous breakdown three years ago (PTSD with reactive pyschosis) and am still on medication to control my severe anxiety attacks. I work during the week so I can’t go during the week to get her, I only have weekends. She is demanding that I come help her move even though she has no apartment down here yet to move into. She would have to live with my mother, no car, and my mother is not in a place to have her for very long.
I would put her off but she flies into terrible rages if she is crossed. I don’t know what to do. Her husband is willing to pay for everything but I truly feel at a loss as to what to do.
Help??!! What do I do?


I am sorry to here that you are in such a situation. First of all, pray. Set time aside every day, at the same time of day if you can. The Rosary is very powerful. Draw your strength from God. If you can, go to daily Mass. These can help you spiritually. God bless you for accepting to take your nieces under your roof to care for them. I have just recently taken my mother and niece from close proximity to my brother. By no means does it sound close to what you are going through, my brother can get a little mean, but I have never seen him go into a “terrible rage.” I am not an expert in such matters, so take my advice as you will. From what I read, you do not need your sister around you. I would say that distance from her is probably the best thing, probably for both of you. I suggest you talk to a good priest about your concerns, maybe he could give you some better guidance.


As the family member of someone recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, I send you my heartfelt empathy & assurances of prayer for your situation.

If you’re not already familiar with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, visit it here: www.nami.org. There’s a lot of good info, links to more resources, plus a discussion board/community for those afflicted as well as family members.

When you say “she is on drugs and weighs 90 pounds”, I am assuming you mean illegal street drugs. If she is not taking any medication prescribed for her illness, then she is self-medicating and this is the recipe for a crisis.

The hardest thing for family members of a schizophrenic to do is to consistently and calmly repeat the reality of the situation, no matter how wild the sufferer’s perception of reality deviates from the truth.

You sister will continue to make outrageous demands. She will likely escalate. She is not thinking rationally–she is suffering from one of the 10 most debilitating diseases affecting humans. All of this does not mean you respond.

You decide what is best for you to do, although my strong advice would be to try to help her acheive stability long-distance, through the mental health services in her area. Better to bear the brunt of her rages over the phone than under your roof. Her husband’s willingness to pay for everything sounds like he’s pretty burnt out dealing with her, or even (God forbid) complicit in her drug use. It’s often extremely exhausting living in the same home with a person afflicted with schizophrenia who is off their meds.

God bless you for providing some respite for your nieces. Make their well-being your focus and priority. As to the question asked in the title of this thread, PRAY. Pray for her safety, pray for the intervention of caring professionals in her life, pray that her guardian angel keeps her safe and keeps others safe from her.

Feel free to PM me if you wish.


My parents have just informed me that I am not responsible for my sister, that her husband is. They think that HE should get her an apartment down here and move her down here. None of us are willing to put up with her rages and tantrums.
I guess I will take their advice and not answer her phone calls (which are very demanding - send me money, etc.).
I can’t think of what else to do about this situation.


That’s great that your parents are still alive and able to advise you. (I saw your signature line & wasn’t sure about your age or your sister’s:o ).

Depending on how old your sister was when she was diagnosed, your parents likely have had a lot more experience dealing with her & her illness than you have. In this case, you’d probably be wise to listen to them.

“In sickness and in health”–presumably this was part of their vows–and wow, this is a doozie of a sickness for a spouse to have to wrestle with.

Btw, it is no small gesture of support that you are doing, by taking care of your nieces. God bless you.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.