Dear Dr. Archer,
I'm looking for some psychological advice for my sister. We're from a conservative family, and consulting a psychiatrist brings shame to the family. That's why I'm asking for your help online.
My sister has been married for three years and has a two year old son. We are ten years apart, and even though we had a good upbringing, she didn't have a safe childhood. Since she was a baby, she spent her childhood at my paternal grandma's house for a few years, then with my matenal grandparents until she was 15.
During her stay in both of these places, she was molested by many people, like my uncle, cousins, neighbors and friends of my uncle. In fact, once at my grandparents' house, my uncle forcibly molested her in front of my cousins. They were so frightened, and they, themselves, were too small to help her.
By the time she was 10 she was more interested in sex than anything, but controlled her urges. There was plenty of change in both her behavior and thinking, and it got worse as she got older.
She's always been overprotective of me, her baby and children in general. Though she shares her problems with me, she knows I'd never disclose to anyone what she has told me. She trusts no one else. After graduating, she had affairs, and got cheated in all of them, and now she has a hatred towards all humans.
Dr. Archer, I'd like you to know that everything mentioned here has not been discussed with my brother-in-law. He is unaware of my sister's past. I insisted that she not disclose her past to him, as I wanted her to start a new life, and forget her past.
There are a few things about my sister that disturbs everyone, including her husband, but no one has tried to help her, either through fear or embarrassment.
She is very short tempered, with a tendency to damage things, herself and sometimes others.
She's very rude and impolite, fights and argues with others for no reason. She has tried several times since she was about 12 to kill herself. She has no friends, and everyone keeps her at a distance. She is happiest when she is alone, and she prefers it that way. She feels the safest place on earth for her is in her home.
Her habit of suspecting everyone, thinking negative and her obsession for cleaning repeatedly with water is creating problems for all of us. She forces everyone to repeatedly wash their hands and legs.
She doesn't get enough sleep, either. In fact, my brother-in-law says at any given time in the night she's awake. She's all the time checking on her son and husband.
We don't know what her problem is, and I'm worried about her, her baby and her married life. What can be done to help her?
Unfortunately, going to a psychiatrist still carries with it a stigma, as described in The Stigma Of Mental Illness Lives On. Too many people are still unaware of the fact that mental illness is a medical illness, much like cancer, diabetes, heart disease or leukemia.
If your sister had cancer, I'm sure your family would take her to the doctor right away. Your sister is not getting better, and most likely without help, she will continue to get worse. She had a horrific past, Remy, and while I'm sure you meant well, your sister's past is something that is a part of her.
She can't "just forget it" and pretend like it never happened. She needs to share that information with her husband, as this could give him insight into her thinking and actions, and explain much of her behavior. She is going to need plenty of love and support at this time and there is no way she can hide this from her husband forever and heal.
My advice: Both of you need to check out Pandora's Project, an online community which can offer her support from others and resources for help. Connecting with others who have similar experiences can help heal her pain and help come to terms with her rape and molestations.
I also feel she must talk to her husband at some point about the abuse from her younger years. If he loves his wife and mother of his child, he will support her in any way possible and this will be tremendous relief for her to get this out in the open with the man she loves.
I'm not so worried about her enjoying alone time, as many people feel the same way. It's the expressions of anger, the fights and the attempted suicides that worry me. She almost certainly depressed and it sounds like she is developing OCD.
In the meantime, have your sister read How Can I Snap Out Of Depression? and make those changes I suggest in her daily life. It's not a cure for what she's suffering, but it might help.
If everything above doesn’t help, then my advice is to forget about shaming the family and get your sister the help she needs. A psychiatrist could literally save her life. Good luck to you all.