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Help..Not sure what to do? May be upsetting

Hi

I am new to this site and not really sure what to say. My older sister has had MS for approx 20 years. Up until just over 2 years ago she worked full time. She is now wheelchair bound. I live over 2 hrs away so only to get visit in the holidays, although we do chat for over an hr every week. She has a family including 2 children (16 and 23). She currently has carers that go in each morning to get her showered and dressed, and has home companions to take her out shopping etc each week. On my last visit my brother in law told me that he had discovered ‘goodbye’ letters on the laptop that she had done in November.

Part of me wishes I didn’t know this info as i feel helpless as to what to do with it. My brother in law has not told my sister he knows about the letters, and doesn’t intend to. I feel unable to say anything either as do not wish to cause problems/tensions between the 2 of them as the MS is already a strain on the family.

When i speak to my sister she seems ok as anyone can be in her situation, but it breaks my heart knowing she is feeling so down. It may be that when she wrote the letters she was at a real low, and may not act on her feelings-it is the not knowing that is hard to cope with. It is always in the back of my mind and i feel helpless as i don’t know how to help/what to do.

I think a part of me just needs to share with ppl who hopefully understand what i am trying to say?

Sorry for the babble.

Oh dear, this is a very tricky one. I think your B-I-L has left you in a very awkward position, by telling you, yet not confronting your sister - his wife.

Why can’t he speak to her about it? Is it because he was snooping where he should not, and to say anything would reveal that he didn’t trust her, and was checking up on her?

I’ve never been married, but I must say I can’t really imagine finding letters of that nature from a partner, and NOT wanting to address it with them.

Is he scared that mentioning it might push her over the edge or something, or just embarrassed it would come out he hasn’t respected her privacy?

If it was on a shared computer, and not password protected or anything, is it possible she intended him to find them, and it was some kind of cry for help?

Of course, you are right that some people use writing as a release, and may have no intention at all of acting on their thoughts. Perhaps your sister just found it empowering to think she retains the option, even if she has no intention of actually using it? I was once told by a psychologist that many people (even those deemed physically and mentally “normal”, by conventional standards) have at least thought about suicide in an abstract way, but without any realistic intent.

Might that have been all your sister was doing? Exploring an abstract idea, but with no intention to go ahead, or that the letters would ever be found?

I’m sorry to have to ask (and you might not know anyway) but did the letters make any explicit reference to self harm, or could it be that your sister simply fears she may die of natural causes? Dying as a direct result of MS is not very common, but it’s probably something even the most mildly affected of us have thought about occasionally. If your sister has had very pronounced deterioration in just a couple of years, is she perhaps fearing, rather than intending, that something might happen to her?

Although I would feel tempted to approach your sister, and confide what you know, I appreciate that risks causing a rift between her and your brother-in-law, as it reveals that he not only read “private” documents of hers, but then shared the content with another family member, not her.

What is your relationship with him like? Is it good enough that you could urge him to confess to your sister that he found the letters, and tell her he is worried?

I don’t think pretending he didn’t see them is really the answer - especially with something so potentially serious. If she was/is serious, he could miss a vital opportunity to intervene.

I wonder if speaking to a confidential helpline could give you any pointers. I was going to suggest The Samaritans (even though it’s not for you), but I have a feeling they deliberately refrain from direct advice, as part of their philosophy. However, they might be able to pass on details of organisations who do advise. Otherwise, you might try a mental health charity like Mind, or perhaps the MS Society’s own free helpline (number at the top of the page).

I do not think it advisable simply to ignore that someone is - or may be - contemplating self-harm, but this needs a delicate touch, so you and your brother-in-law are not seen as in cahoots against your sister.

I think the initiative really lies with your brother-in-law, but you cannot force him to raise it with her, if he’d rather stick his head in the sand. This is where a specialist organisation might have some ideas.

I’m sorry I don’t have any other suggestions. I really hope it was just a form of self-therapy for your sister - exploring ideas that are far from reality.

Just one more thought: do you think it may have been connected with Christmas? Many people, both well and ill, find the run-up to Christmas particularly stressful, because there’s so much emphasis on everything having to be magical and perfect. Many people’s reality falls well short of that, especially if we can’t do things we’ve always done, or that the ads keep telling us we’re meant to be doing. Might it have been related to that?

Tina

x

Ok yes, this is a tricky subject.

But thinking about how I would handle it…

If this were my sis and I do have 2 sisters…so can imagine it, as we all have health issues.

Just imagine for a moment the worst scenario…say your dear sis did go the Swiss route (whether it be here or there) and your brother found her.

How would you feel that you knew it was a possibility and you did nothing, as you were unsure how to do anything…?

I think you could feel you hadnt supported her as much as you might have.

Am I right? This is something for each person to weigh up and make a decision, if they can. Maybe it is just too insurmountable to consider.

Just trying to offer a bit of how I would feel.

much luv Pollyx

Hi Tina and Polly. Thank you so much for your replies. Its nice to be able to share my feelings and know someone is listening.

You are right Tina Christmas looming may have had an impact on my sisters state of mind. Especially as in November she badly burnt her stomach with a cup of tea, and had a fall so not the best time for her.

Shortly after i returned from visiting my sister i messaged my brother in law and actually asked if he thought she may have wanted him to find the letters as a cry for help. I also suggested counselling. He admitted he had come across the letters by snooping so was confident it wasn’t a cry for help. He also said that my sister is against counsellors, largely due to the fact that our step mum is a counsellor and not a good example . The conversation kind of came to an end then sadly. I know that they have both discussed this topic a long time ago, so i get the impression my brother in law has accepted that one day it may happen, just not yet, and understands why one day she may want to do this-does that make sense?

The sad thing is if my mum was still alive things would be so different for her. She would have much more emotional support and company (her husband works full time). As it is my dad (and step mum) plus younger sister live a maximum of 10 mins drive away yet rarely contact her let alone visit.

This evening I tried starting a conversation about her feelings, and how at times she must feel down etc-however, she chose to ignore this and carried on as if i hadn’t said it. Getting her to talk about her true feelings is very hard as she never outwardly complains and always puts on a ‘positive front’.

I really am grateful to you for listening etc-up until now it has been going round and round my head constantly so it is nice to get it out there.

Love Pootle xx

It can be very therapeutic, writing difficult things down. It can clarify the mind a bit and calm the racing thoughts. Maybe you find that works for you. And maybe your sister finds it works for her. Pootle, my guess is that, if all the carefully drafted letters in the world were actually sent, there would be mayhem! Broken relationships, disowned parents and children, bloodshed, international incidents, most likely! There is many a letter that has been drafted as a therapeutic exercise for the writer, has done its job, and has never seen the light of day. A letter only becomes a method of communication once it has been sent by the writer. Until then, it is a private document and no one’s business but the writer’s, and you intrude uninvited upon this privacy at your peril.

It is a pity that your brother-in-law was unable to suffer in silence and take his punishment for snooping like a man instead of trying to ease his burden by sharing it with you. I am sorry that you have this worry to deal with. But the phrase ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’ has been around for a long time and with reason.

Alison

Just looked at this and seen that it might reads as if this means you - which of course it doesn’t! It was a general comment about the unwisdom of barging into someone’s privacy.

The more I think about this, the more cross I get with your brother-in-law. He has put you in a very tricky situation, sharing with you private information about his wife that he has not shared with her. It might be worth your asking yourself how your sister would feel about this and whether you need to make clear to him that you are not prepared to have any further discussions behind your sister’s back. You can’t get the toothpaste back in the tube this time - what’s been said cannot be unsaid - but you can stop it happening again.

A

x

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cant get the toothpaste back in the tube`…mm, I like that.

I think the bro-in-law needed a shoulder and Pootle was the one he chose to confide in.

I dont feel so harsh towards him. I feel sorry that their`s is such a difficult situation…one no-one knows how to be open about.

I truly hope Pootles sister doesnt do what she wrote about, before someone intervenes...cos afterwards will be too late.

pollx

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Hello

Alison thanks for your reply. I appreciate where you are coming from. I do realise some ppl may use writing as a therapy tool, and i hope with all my heart that is what my sister was doing.

I don’t feel bad at all that my brother in law shared it with me- in an ideal world i would prefer not to know, but i appreciate that my brother in law needed to talk to someone, and we have a very good relationship, and always have, so you are right Polly he needed to confide in someone and I was the obvious choice.

Thanks again for the advice and support

xx

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Hi Pootle,

I know that I’ve put dark thoughts down on paper before. It wasn’t an intention to commit suicide.

On the other hand, in 2008 I was bankrupted, our guesthouse was about to be repossessed (so we were going to lose our home AND our income) and I developed optic neuritis and drop foot. One evening I just grabbed my camera and all the tablets in the house, I walked to the seafront, via an off-license, took a photo of the sun setting and swallowed everything. I didn’t even say anything to my wife. I certainly didn’t write a letter.

As you can see, I’m very much alive and more than willing to share my most shameful memories, if it will help anybody.

I still have that photo. Just as reminder of what a shit I was. And that ‘effect’ does not, necessarily, follow ‘cause’.

Yours,

A.

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