Toxic/Narcissist Family Member

I’m just going to put this out there.
As most of us have, my family life growing up was very complicated and I’ve spent years of therapy, education and the like to break the mold!
My parents and siblings have all died including a twin brother - the only family member left is my oldest sister.
She has always been a bitter and hurtful person and from what I’ve been told was diagnosed as Narcissistic Borderline Personality Disorder. We have had a fractured relationship for years and only began halfway speaking a few years ago when it was forced because my/our mother had passed away and there were issues and conversations with my sister associated with a family trust.
For years I’ve stayed clear from a relationship with her based on the advise (of more than one) professional.
At the first of this year she was ill and fast forward was diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer. Surgery and chemo have not done what they wanted and her prognosis is grave.
The most recent conversation we had was her saying “Well, you’ve always wanted to have a kind and loving relationship with me - bond and everything - and now here is your chance! You get to take care of me.”
I try… really I do but everything (in her eyes) has an angle to it. If I get help for her at home, she tells them to leave because I didn’t ask her first. If I ask her first, she tells me she doesn’t want to make decisions and wants me to do it for her.
Any suggestions?

Since the OP is looking for advice, let’s move this to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

“She has always been a bitter and hurtful person”
“Narcissistic Borderline Personality Disorder”

I have a suggestion , but it is not what you want to hear, so you won’t follow it.
Cut off or limit contact.
**She ** is not going to change.

I agree with steatopygia that your sister is not going to change. 100% agree. I disagree about cutting off contact. In most situations I would say have no contact. But, your sister is dying. If you can find it possible, help her as much as you can. But also set clear and realistic limits. Have your own support system, and, if she gets better and she is alive in 6 months or a year, then you can reduce contact.

I do not know how to tell you to be able to get along with her better or tolerate her difficulty in a better manner. I think that is one of those things where it is simply going to be difficult and we try to withstand and persevere the best we can.

There are 2 places you can talk to people online that I know of late at night (like now), or during the day:

The first site you can make a “profile” and talk to the same person on the other end more than once, talk to them again if you want at a later date. The problem with that site is the hold time is 10 or 20 minutes. The second site is very informal and wait time is less but you are randomly connected to someone to talk to and you have no profile or way to talk again after the first chat. Both sites are pretty good for “talking” to someone and by internet standards, relatively drama free and relatively helpful.

Was she correct when she said that you’ve always wanted a loving relationship with her?

Welcome to the SDMB, BTW. :slight_smile:

She’s not going to stop being a scorpion just because she needs your help. If you’re going to do this, take whatever steps you can to protect yourself. Personally, I’d sit down with her and tell her that there’s too many miscommunications, so each decision you two make with regards to her care needs to be written down and signed by both, to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Some folks are just toxic. One of my older sisters sounds much like yours, except she can still care for herself. Let me call her Darla. She has alienated all but one of her siblings, myself included.

The doctors, at least five of them, give her, at most, eight months to live. Our sister that is two years younger than her, has kept in touch with her weekly, & has acted as a liaison between her & the rest of us siblings. Let me call her Eve.

When the news of her failing health came out, I was very skeptical. She has claimed to be at deaths door before, just to play her sick mind games with the family. I actually talked to two of her doctors & she truly is gravely ill. The doctors are well aware of her mental issues. They will not discuss her case without her OK, but they did confirm that she will not be around to celebrate the 4th of July next summer.

For the last two months Eve has been keeping a much closer eye on Darla. Darla has been harassing Eve unmercifully every chance she gets. Darla plays mind games, much like the ones that Just Jenny has described. She just gets her jollys by hurting anyone who tries to be close to her.

Eve is the one of us siblings that thinks that our family should be a lovey-dovey family much like “The Waltons” of 1970s TV fame. Not going to happen, but it is her dream & I am not going to be the one to tell her any different. Darla is doing that by her actions & by her spitefulness.

I will stay away from Darla & her hate. I might attend her funeral, maybe. I do like her kids. They are adults now & they all live across the country from her. If they attend the funeral, I will as well, just to see them again.

Just Jenny, unless you are a glutton for this kind of abuse, I would recommend that you let her hate eat her up & let her be by herself. Do not take anything that she says to, or about you, personally. If you can not do this, have as little contact with her as possible.

You really need a support system to deal with the feelings that she is trying to put on you. It would be best to have folks that you can sit down with & have tea with while you vent. This forum may not be the best for that, but I doubt that you will find any group better for this in cyber space. Some of the Dopers on here are really good at this. I am not one of those though.

I wish that our siblings were easier to be around, but I seriously doubt that they will change in the next week or two.

Hang in there, I’m pulling for you, 48.

If she is diagnosed with an actual mental disorder, it’s not her fault. I don’t think that all toxic people are cruel and uncaring. In fact, I think most of them aren’t. I think they usually have good intentions in mind. They don’t even see that they are toxic - but their needs and way of existing in this world force us to compromise ourselves and our happiness.

Often times they aren’t inherently bad people, but they’re not the right people for us. And as hard as it is, often times we’re forced to let them go. You have every right to leave and create a safer and healthier space for yourself. Life is difficult enough without being surrounded by people who bring you down (even if unintentionally).

As much as you care, you cannot destroy yourself for the sake of someone else. You must make your well-being a priority. And you are NOT obligated to explain yourself or go out of your way to justify your actions.
I feel for you and wish you the best.

She wants you, and only you, to do her care so she can have the pleasure of tormenting and torturing you with her suffering. She needs it, to make her feel alive. We both know she’s not looking for a ‘loving’ relationship with you. She’s simply using your desire for one, as a weapon against you.

Normal people do not deny the offered love of a sibling over a lifetime, then, when it’s crunch time, demand care and dangle a ‘loving relationship’, in exchange. That’s NOT how it works! It’s the building of life long loving relationships that move others to step up and volunteer care when it’s needed. Horse BEFORE the cart, as it were.

She’s got it backwards, now that she needs care, she’s offering up a relationship because she thinks that’s your Kryptonite, having longed for such in the past. Except you’re not now, who you were then. (Also her’s is a bullshit approach and thinly veiled manipulation. If you value your soul resist the urge!)

I believe you know this is an attempt to manipulate you. And I think you know exactly why it’s an exceedingly bad idea.

(I tell you all this as a person who spent 6yrs as primary caregiver to my paralyed MIL, in my home, a woman I loved and who was always loving toward me. A mere few years after denying my own mother such care when she wished it. For exactly the same characteristics, your sister has demonstrated. I had removed her from my life as she was toxic. Her needing care did not change her toxicity to me. I simply valued my own, hard won, mental health too highly, by then, to put it at risk, on the off chance the tiger had changed it’s stripes!)

Good Luck, I know exactly how hard this decision must be for you!

I think that sometimes, all we can do is the thing we’ll regret least.

And there’s that other thing - forgiveness. It’s not for them, its for you; life is much less jagged when whatever dragging emotion that saddles every thought of them, is no longer there. It truly is a freedom - and it’s harder to get when they’re gone, no matter what the relationship really. It’s just something about them being family.

I generally figure that people like your sister JustJenny, and yours 48Willys are like that because somehow, sometime, they interpreted something that just made life itself a whole big, fearful, hurtin’ mess. They could’ve been 5 minutes old. They could have been 10. Or 23. Or in the womb - doesn’t matter. Something happened to them that didn’t happen to me. Maybe the same thing happened to me and I interpreted or processed or dealt with it differently. All I know for sure is that I’m always eternally grateful that I’m not them.

The lives of these people are generally shit. They know they’re shit. They make them shit - they don’t know how not to. I think of them as frightened, viscious and destructive dogs. And honestly, I don’t see that they don’t deserve some kindness too.

We all know that dying doesn’t make someone a better person. But it shouldn’t make you a worse one either. Only you have to live with yourself after all the reasons and the justifications and the principles have been forgotten. And they will be. Because funnily enough the only other person who really knew (or not) what went on between you, is dead.

So do what you think will have you feel lightest of heart and most proud of yourself in years to come, JustJenny. Sometimes it isn’t walking away, and sometimes it is. Both take an equal amount of courage.

If someone has an Axis II personality disorder and doesn’t acknowledge that it’s a problem and genuinely seek help for it, including sticking to therapy and medication, just get away as fast and cleanly as you can. If someone is showing the major symptoms of one and hurting you but doesn’t acknowledge a problem, same thing. They are dangerous and manipulative individuals who will tear your life to shreds, and use every bit of your decency as a tool to hurt you. For some it’s deliberate, for some it’s due to distorted perception from the condition, but for all of them they will make your life Hell.

Yes, it is her fault. People are responsible for their own actions, unless they have a mental condition bad enough that they are in custodial care and can no longer make decisions for themselves. This kind of thinking is EXTREMELY dangerous - you end up allowing someone to treat you horribly because ‘it’s not her fault, she has a ‘condition.’’ There are people with mental conditions that own their actions and get help. Choosing not to acknowledge the condition, not to treat it, and not to moderate her own reactions is a CHOICE, it’s not some third party entity.

Abusive behavior is something you should not tolerate in your life, period. Making excuses for it is a big step on the path to a miserable, codependent life.

Yes, it is. Mental illness is not an asshole license. There are all sorts of people with mental problems who manage to do the necessary work to suppress their destructive impulses or at the very least attempt to make amends for past poor behavior.

Why not just call her on her bullshit?

“Look, stop being a dick. If you want help then I will help you but I’m not putting up with all the nonsense, I just don’t care enough any more. I don’t care what you think about it, thats how it is, I’ll help you but I’m not listening to any more crap.”

These people can only affect you as much as you let them.

I would cut her off. But I know it is easier said than done. That being said, I am speaking from experience and not out of my ass - I did, in fact, cut off my mother. She was just too toxic.

And yes, she was probably mentally ill, and it’s still her fault.

That would be way too much contact, given that it implies you’ll continue to attempt to help them.

Unless and until they acknowledge a mental health problem on their end and actively start working to fix it, they’ll lock you in a cycle of abuse, misery, and torment because that’s the definition of what they’ve been diagnosed with.

People with these disorders aren’t above using the police or other authority figures to ruin your day. They aren’t above putting on a great weepy show to get on someone else’s good side and, more importantly, to get them to think you’re the scum of the Earth.

Your entire post was absolutely beautiful.


My sympathies, and I really mean this. I have a middle sister with Borderline Personality Disorder. A medium case; she’s pretty high-functioning most of the time, but under certain kinds of stress, she becomes a total witch. Violent, sometimes physically abusive rages. Paranoia bordering on psychosis. Verbal assaults on family members. Been this way for forty years.

You should research her diagnosis online (if you haven’t already done this). BPD actually has a physical basis: persons with this disorder “think” with the limbic system (emotions, fight-or-flight reactions) way more than with the pre-frontal cortex(logic, reasoning). It’s the opposite of the way that most of us react.

NY Presbyterian has a program to treat this and some good documentaries about it.

None of this is likely to make any difference to a person who won’t/can’t acknowledge that she has this condition and should seek treatment. But **you **will have a more objective approach to those moments when she tries to blame everything on you. It’s part of her illness.

If you are trying to get her home health aides, and she keeps firing them, she may need to be placed in legal guardianship. Get a court-ordered guardian that isn’t you. Explain the diagnosis. Show that guardian all the material you’ve got. Let the guardian, who understands that mentally ill people do crazy things but doesn’t take it nearly as personally, deal with getting your sister the right kind of care.

Then, despite everything, tell your sister you love her. She’ll probably start a fight and claim that isn’t true. Say it anyway. End every conversation with it.

I wind up saying that to my sister a lot. “I love you even when your emotions are out of control. I’m hanging up now; call me back when you aren’t angry and frightened.” Sometimes–not always–that works.

You can only do the best you can. They’re not kidding when they say “You can’t fix crazy.” Trying to reason with someone whose brain has shut down the section in charge of reason is pretty much hopeless. Not your fault that logical discussions don’t help.

The only advice I can offer is “don’t argue with them”. If you hire home care for her and she sends them away, don’t hire any more home care for her, and don’t try to convince her that she said she wanted you to make the decisions. Just say “I’m sorry they weren’t what you wanted, let me know what you decide”.

Sometimes crazy people try to make other people crazy, so they have company. It doesn’t help them and it won’t help you.

It is not my experience that being sick improves one’s disposition. Eventually she will be too sick to act, and you can act as you think best instead of trying to untie the knots that other people try to tie you into.

One more thing - I wouldn’t expect gratitude. Ever. People can change, but they mostly don’t.


I cut my brother off. The one whose last words to me were “I hate you” screamed in a parking lot. I did not speak to him for over 2 years. But guess who ended up having power of healthcare for him when he went into multiple organ failure, was in a coma in CCU for 3 weeks, and finally was taken off life support? Me. I don’t regret doing it, but I wouldn’t have lifted a finger for him if he were conscious.

I will tell you bluntly that if you take care of your sister, she will make your life miserable. Doesn’t matter what her problem is, she hates you. And that ain’t gonna change.

People like that are incapable of changing. The decision is ultimately up to you, but I’d say get far, far away.

My stepfather was like that. Always has been, always will be. Sad but true. You have to look out for yourself, and you don’t need that in your life.