Psych Central

Sister Doesn’t Understand My Mental Illness

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I have a way older sister that I am close to. We don’t live close, in fact, in different sides of the USA, but we are still kind of close to each other. We are close emotionally I mean, as sisters. Anyway, I have schizoaffective disorder and I have tried to talk to her about it. Although she doesn’t think I have it. We haven’t lived in the same house actually since she went off to college years ago before I got diagnosed. I got diagnosed at 17. We haven’t lived in the same house since I was 9, but we are still kind of close. We talk at least once a week a bit, sometimes more. I’ve become a lot more reclusive since I’ve been diagnosed and have kept and continue to keep things to myself. She believes I only suffer from depression or anxiety and has questioned whether I just make my, diagnosed, delusions up for attention.

Since I was about 20 I stopped talking about my illness with her and some other family. Though she knows some things because of my numerous hospital stays but I quit talking about it one on one with her because I think she thinks I fake it or something. Which I don’t. I’ve been to numerous doctors and hospitals that have confirmed my diagnosis since I was 17. I have at one point questioned my diagnosis but after so many opinions and hospital stays, I realize it is true.

By now I’m wondering if she just has a hard time accepting it rather than genuinely think I’m faking it. What do you think?

She does not talk about it when I used to mention it. She doesn’t hold the conversation when I used to mention it… so I think it kind of makes her uncomfortable, too. I can mention my sadness or something and she’ll talk with me but the psychosis part, I wont get a reply on. I kind of feel disappointed but mostly not because it’s embarrassing for me. I think she may think I don’t have it too because she doesn’t live with me and is not around me to see my episodes (has never been around first hand to), but she doesn’t seem to want to talk about it either. I don’t push it, anyway. I live with another family member though that does believe I have it. I have lived with them for a long time though anyway; my whole life.

The reason it disappoints me is because the part she doesn’t want to talk about is a major part of my life.

What do you think?

A: I think you are a resilient and brave person and it would behoove you to have either a family therapist or the doctor who diagnosed you to have a meeting with you and your sister. Involve any other family members who are interested so they can ask questions, get information and understand a little bit more about your struggle and courage in dealing with this. Having information coming from a professional is often a better way for family members to learn and understand.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Aug 2012

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2012). Sister Doesn’t Understand My Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/08/03/sister-doesnt-understand-my-mental-illness/