Coping with Trauma: a vent

December 22, 2007 at 5:13 am (Personal)

Warning: the following post is very, very long. It is also quite negative or down-bringing. It is also quite personal. This may disappear if I feel it should not be publicly available. It is my way of coping with what has been happening in my life recently.

A few weeks ago, my sister came home drunk. Earlier that day, she told my parents that a friend of hers was going to pick her up. This was because my sister’s car was in the shop for repairs. After my mother went up for her nap, my sister asked me if she could borrow my car. Not knowing why or what she told my parents, I gave her the keys.

She came home and went straight to her room. My car’s passenger-side window was down and wasn’t going up. In order to get that resolved, she told my father, and thus they found out that no friend of hers picked her up: she went by herself. My sister texted me as to why my parents were upset. My mother told me soon after she found out that my sister took my car of what my sister had informed her. Obviously, my sister lied. My sister texted me that she thinks my mother is upset because she was drunk when, she alleges, she did not have even one drink. When I texted her that perhaps my mother was upset because my mother believed she lied to her, she went downstairs and began an argument.

My father, who had gone to sleep, awoke and went downstairs too. I stayed in my room, even though I could hear my sister arguing vociferously.

After a short while, I heard her running up the stairs and into her room. Once her door slammed shut, I put my clothes on and went downstairs.

Now, some background: about a month earlier, my sister went to the hospital. She says it was because of a very high blood sugar level. (Like me, she is type I diabetic.) This made sense: she was eating all day, quite large amounts, and was known for not injecting insulin as she should. Mysteriously, after staying in the normal section of the hospital, the medical staff wanted to transfer her to the psychiatric ward. Odd, but since she was recently put on anti-depressants, we thought it had to do with whatever issue for which she was put on anti-depressants. She was there for about a week and they discharged her with orders to follow up with her main doctor.

Because of their concern for her wellbeing, my parents wanted her to stay at our home rather than our family’s apartment in the city. She stayed at home and had quite the active social life: friends coming over to pick her up, she going out with friends, et cetera. We were happy: a nice break from the recent unpleasantry of being hospitalized and in a psych ward.

Then my parents and my sister went to Florida. She had a major interest in photography, leaving the hotel room every day to shoot pictures. One day, after going down to shoot pictures, she returned to the hotel room and began sobbing to my father. She had a problem with drinking, she said. She had become very drunk and began what would later become a script: a long rant about her tortured and difficult life, and why this has led her to drink.

This was an interesting development. I knew my sister, like my father and brother, drank when she went out. In an odd twist of events, after she came back from the hospital, my sister would order alcoholic drinks when we would go out as a family. This was odd because my mother forbade any of her children to drink. Because my sister just went through a lot, my mother decided not to put her foot down and forbid her to drink.

We find out she was not shooting pictures at all. She was going to the bar to get drunk. And that fateful night, she had no plans with any friends: she went to a bar to get drunk.

Despite her fervent denial, I know she was drunk that night when she came back. The few seconds I spent with her, when she came to say hi, she reeked of alcohol. My mother would later tell me that she told my mother she did not have even one drink, and then my mother challenged her to tell my mother smell my sister’s breath. My sister consented. When my mother announced the obvious, that it reeked of alcohol, my sister went on a rant on how my parents don’t trust her.

Let’s back up a few days: a few days before the incident I’m talking about but a few days after the Florida trip.

My sister gets home, very drunk as usual. (She went in her car.) She pleads with me to distract my parents, to make sure they do not meet her. She is afraid of their disappointment when they realize she’s drunk. Because she said hi from the door and then went up to her room without actually meeting my mother in person (my father had gone to sleep by then), my mother became concerned. She tried to get her to open her door. I faked that I was having a hypoglycemic episode and trying to distract my mother: what should I do? What should I eat? In vain, my mother is adamant on getting my sister’s door open. Using a stick, she inlocks my sister’s room. My sister pretends to be very tired, but my mother knows. My sister is drunk. My mother closes the door and goes downstairs. My sister is texting and calling me to ensure my parents don’t suspect anything. I know if I do anything, they will suspect something’s up. But she does not seem to be entirely rational. I chalk it up to her being drunk.

My father emerges from the parental bedroom. (I later find out that my mother began texting him to find out what’s going on with my sister.) My sister inlocks the door, and as my sister’s script begins, he closes the door.

By then I know that she is in trouble, that something will happen: she needs help, what with her irresponsible lifestyle. She should be more focused on family and less on friends. She needs to stop getting so drunk. Et cetera.

The next day, my father tells me about my sister’s script: exactly the same as what she said in Florida, down to the pauses and stops. She referred to certain incidents some decades ago that affected her. He had no idea what happened, but he told me that because she feels wronged by me (even though, he says, she might not be interpreting things right), I should go an apologize. I agree. So later that day, I try to offer her an unconditional and heart-felt apology. She does not seem receptive and drops the entire issue. She doesn’t want to talk about it. I shrugged. I did my part to help her feel better.

Later, my father tells me that my sister is accusing my father of sending me to apologize so that I will be off the hook, because he favors me. I shrug. I’ll do what I can, but I don’t want to get involved.

Since her return from the hospital, my contact with my sister was not extensive. I had had enough with her issues. I told my parents, whatever’s wrong, I’m not getting involved unless it’s part of a solution.

So…back to the fateful day. My sister runs up the stairs, slams the door, and I go down to see how my parents are doing. I say what I can say to support and boost them, giving them advice (mainly to encourage them to do with what they plan to). As we’re talking, my mother gets a text message: it’s from my sister and its says: “I love you.” That was odd, I thought. Either she forgot the entire altercation she just had with my parents…or it’s not a good sign. Whatever. My mother decides to ignore it.

I hear my phone ringing. (Quite easy to hear: it’s the Marines Hymn.) I ignore it. I tell my parents it’s probably my sister and I’m not really in the mood to talk with her. It rings again, and I ignore it. After I’m done talking with my parents, I do up and prepare for bed. I check my phone. Yep, both calls were from my sister. And she sent me the same text message she sent my mother. My parents told me that when I interact with my sister, despite my strong disapproval of her actions, I should be polite and loving. So, I respond to her message repeating the same.

A few minutes after sending my response, the phone rings. It’s my sister. I pick up. “I need help. Please don’t tell anyone.” I am not entirely happy. Yes, she does need help. She probably wants to vent. I think about putting my clothes back on (I was my undergarments) but something was nagging me to go forthwith. So, still in my undies, I leave my room and knock on her door.

“Who is it? Who is it?” Sounds like she’s screening who comes in. I tell it’s me, and she unlocks the door. I saw what I was dreading: her left wrist was covered with red goo. She had slit her wrist.

I was shocked. “Why?” I asked a few times. She told me to help her, not to tell anyone. My mind was racing: how would we stop the bleeding? What should I do?

In my high school years, I did a lot of reading and research on suicide. One thing that stuck out was the admonition that if one finds that someone is attempting or has just attempted suicide, contact the authorities. If someone has expressed the desire to commit suicide, contact trusted authorities. Forget what the person will think about you: he/she will likely hate you for a while. But it is more important for that person get help.

I grab my sister, hold her, and bring her out the room, away from anything dangerous and unable to lock herself in. I shout for my parents and they come running. I shout for them to call 911. My father shouts back that I should call 911. As soon as my father runs upstairs and holds my sister, I grab the land-line phone from my room.

My mother is at the bottom of the stairs, and I hear a loud repeated thumping sound. My mother is banging her head against the stairs, hard. Calling 911 on the phone in one hand, still in my undies, I run down to hold and restrain my mother. As I am transferred to the police, my mother begins to shake. She’s screaming. “Why don’t I just die?” et cetera. Holding my mother with one arm, holding the phone in the other, I’m trying to support my mother while shouting the paramedic’s instructions to my father, who is holding my sister in his bedroom. He has to hold her down because she’s struggling. He also scolds her. He was quite angry.

Let me explain my sister’s tortured life. She drives a car my parents pay for. She lives in an apartment my parents paid for. She doesn’t want anyone to visit the apartment, she no one does, despite the fact my parents got that apartment for themselves. She spends lavishly on her credit card, which my parents pay for. She goes to school, which my parents pay for. She drinks and smokes and sleeps with boys, and no one says a word in rebuke. She lives in the lap of effing luxury and she has an effing tortured life. Eff me.

I did not want to get involved. But who sees her red, slit wrist? Who calls 911? Who has to hold his convulsing mother while a brat exults in her perceived afflictions?

The paramedics come. I’m still in my underwear. With them on the scene I take the time to guide my mother into the family room. I sit her down on the sofa. She goes quiet. Return to the bustling scene. My sister’s crying out, “I want to see my lawyer! I’m being abused! They force me to stay here!” Lies, every one of them.

But that’s not what’s on my mind. The policeman grills me. I am trying to catch my breath. He was very nice to wait until I could actually speak. I tell him what transpired that night. After the questioning, I run and put some clothes on.

My sister also announced that she wants nothing to do with my parents or me, she will only speak to our brother (who is in the city, in his own apartment). Evidently, she was upset I called 911. And she accused my parents of wanting her to die. Effing bullcaca.

She is taken to the hospital. Shortly before that I call my brother. He’s groggy but I explain what I could. He was to come home and go with my father to the hospital. My brother was not pleased: he was also fed up with her issues.

My father and I stayed with my mother, who was still silent and unmoving, except for tears rolling down her face. My brother arrives. My mother begins to show signs of awareness and movement. She smiles when my brother kisses and hugs her (my brother is notorious for avoiding any such affectionate physical contact, so this made a huge difference for my mother). My father is getting ready to leave, and my mother begins to wail and keen. I ask my brother to get my father to decide what to do.

While my father stays with my mother, I run upstairs to get some Tylenol PM. Once my mother calms down, we ask her to drink some water and to take the pills. She does. She calms down, and slowly returns to what would relatively be normal. But she’s talking and acting like a little child. She says she wants to get up. My father offers to help. She refuses. My father insists on helping, then she says that then she won’t get up. When my father backs up a bit, she gets up, but we’re nearby to help her. Her walking is a little unsteady, but she makes her way.

My father and brother prepare to leave. My mother keeps insisting that they not bring my sister home when they return. She bans my sister from the home. My father consents and suggests that she and I will go to Florida tomorrow morning. My father and brother leave. My mother becomes excited. “Oh, without [Sister] we’ll have so much fun!” She talks about eating steak and pizza. But every few minutes she turns to me and ask, “They’re not going to bring her home, are they?”

Then comes the kicker: “I hope she doesn’t come home. I scared she’ll burst out of her room, her hair dishevelled, with a knife in her hand to kill me.”

After grabbing a quick bite, she slowly ambles upstairs. All the while, I assure her that my sister is not returning until she gets treatment, which would take at least a week.

Because of her state, my father and I agree that I will sleep in my parents’ bedroom until my father returns, to keep an eye on my mother. But getting her into the bedroom was difficult. My mother was constantly afraid my sister would jump out. I closed and locked my sister’s bedroom. “It’s locked! She can’t come out.” I “check” my parents’ bedroom: under the bed, in the bathroom, in their closet. I affirm that my sister is not there. And that she’s not coming back for a while. My mother is only a little assured. But she gets into bed anyway.

I can’t sleep because my father keeps texting me. Later I get a call from my brother. I set it to “ignore” and leave the bedroom. I call my brother and he tells me to search my sister’s bedroom and remove anything bad such as knives (what may remain, the knife she used on herself was with the police), cigarettes, lighters, and keys. I search what I can (her room was a mess) and put them all away just as my mother emerges from her room. She wanted a drink of water (and she only drinks from the kitchen tap, like me).

After we both return to the bedroom (I hovered as she puttered around: she was walking normally by then), I finally fall asleep, only to be woken by my father half an hour later. I leave and go to my room, sleep for fifteen minutes before I had to get up and get ready for an appointment with a diabetes education nurse. She couldn’t make it so I go home. I find out that my father brought my sister back when he returned. My brother and I had to go to the apartment, box up all of my sister’s stuff, clean up the place, and bring back what we could. That evening, my mother and I would go there. It would give my mother a break while not having to hide my sister at home. (My mother still does not know my sister returned with my father.)

Oh, and my father found a few days later that when the paramedics checked her alcohol level, it was many times the legal limit, almost toxic. And she drove herself home. Needless to say, she is no longer permitted to drive.

The saga continues, but there ends the peak of the crisis.

What spurred this post? My sister was watching a movie on TV wherein a girl attempts suicide in her school’s gym’s shower by slitting her wrist. I cannot watch something like that anymore and not be affected: the scenes and memories of that night haunt me. I am overcome with dread and something like nausea.

And this all happened at the beginning of this month, so it’s still a little fresh.

My plans to move out have been postponed. I need to help my parents get through this, and I’m the only one my mother connects with. I can’t abandon them when they need me, no matter how much I want to bolt.

I don’t really feel cheery this season. I am filled with anger and frustration. I know these are un-Christian. But such it is.

An addendum: my father told me that after my sister was hospitalized the first time, due to diabetes as we thought, she was actually hospitalized for alcohol reasons. She admitted she had a problem but refused to get any help. So she partied when she should have followed up to get help. She did not want to get help.



  1. geoff said,

    Good Lord, Muslihoon. I hope things turn around for your family. Your anger and frustration, un-Christian though they may be, are perfectly understandable. For your own sanity, I’d pick a definite date a few months from now to move out – leaving it open-ended will make it harder for you to ever extricate yourself.

    Take care of yourself, and let me know if there’s something I can do.

  2. lauraw said,

    It is difficult to have these kinds of people in your immediate family- -manipulative people who want to use your genuine emotions as stage dressing for their dramatic scenes.

    Refuse to be controlled, Muslihoon. If you stay away from her, she can’t play cute games with you. No one has the right to take and own even one little part of your life, except the person you choose to spend it with.

  3. lauraw said,

    Oh, and one more thing before I head out to work; there’s no innocents in this little epic you’re describing. You all made conscious decisions to get on the stage at one time or another. Though you might be the most reluctant actor, you did your part anyway. When your parents ask you to do something for your sister, the word ‘No’ falling from your lips will immediately elevate your standing in the house.

    And what’s up with all the texting and bullshit? There’s a lot of chitter-chatty talk going on in this family, but little actual communication, except for the subtext of emotional control. Your Dad hides your sister in the house?? WTF?

    Lot going on here. Lots.

  4. lauraw said,

    Interesting. I posted two comments this morning and they have both disappeared. Was it something I said?

    Muslihoon, if your sister wants to remain a dependent child her whole life, this is the show of weakness she needs in order to secure that end. And apparently your father is OK with letting her continue to be a child.

    All you can do is get away from the situation and let them have their relationship, while you become a responsible independent adult. That’s what you want, isn’t it?

  5. Dave in Texas said,

    Anger is not un-Christian Muslihoon. Don’t do that to yourself sir.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  6. Michael said,

    My prayers are with you also, Musli.

    My two cents: you do not need to help anyone get through this. You need to look after yourself, and make sure you are not just enabling sick relationships.

  7. cranky said,

    M., my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Speaking as one who has, at least for the past 18 years, not had a drop of alcohol, I see the drama your sister is performing as one coming from an alcoholic. Until she no longer wants to drink she will continue to manipulate and lie to those around her. Until she no longer wants to drink she will not be able to quit. From my perspective you should be understanding but firm with her.

    God Bless you all.

  8. lauraw said,

    Ugh. Sorry for being so awful today.

    Take care of yourself, Muslihoon.

  9. Lipstick said,

    Wow, I’m so sorry to hear this, Musli.

  10. nicedeb said,


    Have you folks looked into Al-Anon?

    Obviously, your sister needs AA, but until she’s willing to go, the rest of you should be going to Al-Anon for coping strategies, and to learn how to not to be manipulated. Your parents, especially really really need that.

    Oh, and Merry Christmas, pal.

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