My cousin’s strange be­hav­iour is wor­ry­ing me

The Peterborough Examiner - - Arts & Life - EL­LIE Ad­vice Colum­nist

Q: My im­me­di­ate and ex­tended fam­ily all get along, liv­ing in the same city. We share a lot of love and mu­tual re­spect.

Over three to four years, one cousin’s been act­ing strangely. I first thought she was on med­i­ca­tion — gen­eral ner­vous­ness and vague when asked per­sonal ques­tions. She’d been in a cou­ple of ac­ci­dents. But she didn’t ap­pear to­tally strung out.

Yet when she’d ask for a ride home from a fam­ily event she’d AL­WAYS in­sist she be dropped off on a cor­ner, not at her place. A first sign that some­thing was amiss.

I re­cently had her and some cousins over so­cially. We were openly shar­ing sto­ries about our lives. This cousin wasn’t forth­com­ing about her­self (which is fine), and later asked to sleep on my couch be­cause of a headache. I was happy to have her.

The next morn­ing, she said she was feel­ing bet­ter.

Re­cently, she reached out, want­ing to have an­other girls’ night but asked to have it at my place again. I replied that I likely couldn’t swing it, but if she wanted to host at her place, I could try to at­tend. I in­quired, “Where are you liv­ing th­ese days?” No re­sponse.

I’m concerned that she’s home­less, or in a precarious liv­ing sit­u­a­tion. I’m also slightly an­noyed that she won’t be hon­est. I un­der­stand pride may be in­volved, but I have prob­lems shar­ing my time with peo­ple who can’t be hon­est with me.

Should I be more straight­for­ward with her about telling me hon­estly about her liv­ing sit­u­a­tion, or sim­ply choose not to spend the time? I feel badly about not see­ing her since I think she’s a nice per­son.

No one in our fam­ily can fig­ure this out. We’re tread­ing gen­tly.

Cousin’s Mys­tery

A: Tread quickly as well as re­spect­fully. She’s part of your close fam­ily, you like each other and she has a prob­lem she’s try­ing to hide.

Maybe she’s home­less for rea­sons you don’t know. Maybe she’s liv­ing with some­one she be­lieves will be un­ac­cept­able to the fam­ily … or worse. Or, the ac­ci­dents have caused her to self-med­i­cate with choices that are af­fect­ing her neg­a­tively.

What­ever the an­swer, it’s se­ri­ous enough that she needs help from pro­fes­sion­als — likely a doc­tor, re­gard­ing her anx­ious state, and a coun­sel­lor to whom she can open up con­fi­den­tially.

But she also needs sup­port, not judg­ment for keep­ing quiet.

In­vite her over again, on your own. Then tell her that you’re wor­ried about her and that she can trust that you’ll help her find di­rec­tion to­ward what­ever so­lu­tions she needs.

Say that a health checkup from her doc­tor will help with anx­i­ety and that talk­ing pri­vately to a ther­a­pist about her liv­ing sit­u­a­tion will help her make de­ci­sions to im­prove things or change them.

If she won’t open up and re­fuses pro­fes­sional help, she could be in a very se­ri­ous prob­lem, and/or in­volv­ing a men­tal health prob­lem. If so, gather a few other clos­est fam­ily mem­bers and dis­cuss whether an in­ter­ven­tion is nec­es­sary and fea­si­ble, in­stead of let­ting her sink deeper.

Reader’s Com­men­tary Re­gard­ing “Dev­as­tated” whose hus­band of 15 years sud­denly moved out and asked for a le­gal sep­a­ra­tion (Nov. 10):

“Af­ter 28 years of mar­riage, my hus­band did the same to me. I had a hard time emo­tion­ally and used a lawyer through my work em­ploy­ment plan. I wasn’t happy with that lawyer.

“When you’re blind­sided, and emo­tions are high, in­ter­view a few lawyers be­fore hir­ing one. I didn’t, and it was an ex­pen­sive and un­fair re­sult.”

El­lie’s tip of the day

When some­one you care about ex­hibits changed, wor­ri­some be­hav­iour, sup­port seek­ing pro­fes­sional help.

Read El­lie Mon­day to Satur­day. Email el­[email protected]­tar.ca or visit her web­site, el­liead­vice.com. Fol­low @el­liead­vice.

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