Dear Annie: My sister-in-law is going through dialysis. She is able to do it in the comfort of her home with help of a nurse, so she can be close to her young kids. Her husband dotes on her. She isn't able to get out much, but she tries to see my in-laws for supper or coffee whenever possible. My husband and I make an effort to come over to say hi and be supportive, plus our kids love seeing their cousins.
The problem is, whenever I ask her how she is doing, she says something dark like, "I'm still alive, but why would any of you care?" Last week, she said she is going to get a motorcycle because she's going to die anyway. If you try to steer the conversation to something lighter, she drives it right back to her illness. I offered to help with her cleaning, and to read her a book while she is getting treatment and give her a foot massage. She told my mother-in-law that I was "showing off" and stopped speaking to me. My husband calls her an emotional vampire.
Annie, I have suffered from depression for years. I go to regular meetings with a peer group, take a good medication and have the full support of my husband. When I am around my sister-in-law, my own dark feelings go to a place that I don't like, and I once came home from seeing her and contemplated suicide. I also don't want my 12-year-old, who already shows signs of depression, to be near my sister-in-law.
My mother-in-law won't let me say anything to her about it. How do I handle this situation without breaking my mother-in-law's heart? -- Going Crazy
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Dear Going Crazy: Your sister-in-law is terribly depressed, as you know, and feels so sorry for herself that she cannot see beyond her own unhappiness. But you should not compromise your health in order to be supportive of someone else. Make your visits brief, and let your husband go without you when it gets too difficult. Don't try to cheer her up. She only wants to vent. And when she rebuffs your offers of help, ignore it. She is not capable of appreciating the kindness of others. We also suggest you check out the National Kidney Foundation (kidney.org) for additional suggestions and insight.
Dear Annie: We have been married 58 years, are in our mid-80s and happy, reasonable healthy and financially secure. On birthdays and Christmas, we always give monetary gifts to the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Two of the grandchildren never acknowledge this with a "thank you" or even a phone call. I say, "It's time to close the bank." My husband says, "It doesn't matter, because we have the money, and they can use it."
To send or not to send -- that is the question. We have decided to abide by your advice. -- The Bank of Grandpa and Grandma
Dear Bank: You are certainly justified in stopping, but we say, give them the chance to learn: Tell the two reprobates directly that that there will be no more gifts unless they let you know, via note, email, text or phone call, that they were received. Otherwise, you will assume they do not appreciate your generosity and you will stop. You'll feel better knowing that the final decision was theirs.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailboxcreators.com, or write to Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at Facebook.com/AskAnnies.
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