Dear Annie: Mother's Day and Father's Day always present a dilemma for my family, and I was hoping you and your readers could offer some advice. Unlike individual birthdays, Mother's Day and Father's Day celebrate multiple individuals on the same day. As a kid, my family spent the day visiting both sets of grandparents, in addition to trying to plan something special for our mom or dad.
As our family grows, some of us are now parents ourselves and additionally have in-laws to also celebrate. Even phone calls are hard to plan on these holidays, trying to catch Mom or Dad at home when they are not already on the phone with another sibling! How can we celebrate these two holidays without all the hassle? — Overwhelmed Daughter
Dear Overwhelmed Daughter: It sounds to me like you are overwhelmed with a wonderful family. As your family grows, maintaining your childhood tradition of physically celebrating with your kids, your own mother and father and mother-in-law or father-in-law might pose a challenge. But that doesn't mean you can't acknowledge them on this special holiday. It might take a little planning on your part, but a heartfelt letter or card is always a nice gesture. That way you don't have to worry that the phone lines might be tied up. If writing a note isn't your thing, you could always invite your in-laws or your parents over for a home-cooked meal on another day. Celebrating isn't about the actual day; it is about the love you express and show to your mom and dad.
Dear Annie: My sister is a year younger than me, 64, and I believe she has been mentally ill to some degree ever since a bad divorce in her 20s. In my opinion, she has a personality disorder of some sort, although it is hard to plug her symptoms into a specific type. There are elements of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (different from OCD) and narcissistic personality disorder. It has a lot to do with control, compulsiveness, stubbornness and absolute blamelessness, along with denying anything is wrong with her.
This has caused her many problems, most recently being restricted in her ability to see our mother and also to play piano for residents at my mom's residential living home, something she loved doing. I have gone on my own to see a mental health counselor for advice on how to help her, but since she denies having a problem and is not a threat to herself or others, there is nothing to be done. I've been to a NAMI meeting, which is a family support group, and that just showed me other people are dealing with things much worse than we are.
So, you are kind of a last resort. Do you have advice on how to help someone who doesn't think they need help and believes they are totally right and everybody else is the cause of all their problems? Thanks in advance. — A Concerned Brother
Dear Concerned Brother: Your love and devotion to your sister is admirable, but in the end it is her life and experience to live. Continue to support and listen to her patiently and with compassion as a brother rather than a psychologist.
Denying that one has a problem is a very common response in mental illness cases. Your sister could be in denial and feeling ashamed. It is understandable that this whole situation leaves you feeling powerless.
If the situation deteriorates further, I would seek out another mental health counselor who might have suggestions for how you can get your sister into treatment.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]