How to Be a Good Role Model?

My sister is depressed. She’s seven years younger than I am and working on her final internship prior to college graduation. I feel like it’s my duty to be a good role model for her, to somehow be able to say that it all gets better, that life is hunky dory, that our parents didn’t f us up so deeply that at 30 I still need weekly therapy and spend hours lost in introspection over how much I suck at just about everything. But I can’t, because I’m no good at lying, and I’m not sure that would help either.

In terms of how we got to our depression, our stories are quite different. Our parents were the same, so I’m sure that had something to do with it. But as much as they told me on and on that I was not working up to potential (and thought I was some genius who clearly was not performing to my own abilities to spite them), my sister had a learning disability and therefore was lauded for every tiny achievement while also overhearing many discussions regarding her inability to succeed. Both of us, needless to say, grew up with confidence issues and major anxiety problems.

Listening to her go on about her own insecurities is a frightening reflection of my own. We both struggle in relationships with other people. She’s good at memorizing data and organization while I’m good at writing and being somewhat creative. She’s an ISTJ and I’m an ENFP — polar opposites with similar problems. I’m worried for her. I’m worried for her because my parents will support her staying in the house should she not be able to obtain a final internship or job. While I don’t at all want her forced onto the street, having such backup is not at all motivating to just do something. But it’s having parents that don’t require you to work growing up that lead to this, where one graduates from college with only a few hours of work under their belts at best, and nothing to show for it.

She needs one long internship to graduate from college, as all of her coursework is complete. I’m trying to help her apply for programs but ultimately she will have to complete the interviews, should she be called for any upon her application, and she’ll have to be able to convince someone else that she’s the right person to hire for the internship role. But without any confidence (and a sincere disinterest in working with people or leading anyone) her opportunities are greatly limited. Especially due to her major which has to do with, well, people. (Long story that I shall leave out for reasons of anonymity.)

But the frustrating part is that she does have a lot of abilities, it’s just challenging to align these with a role – internship, job or otherwise – as many of the types of positions she’d be suited for (such as research) require masters-level credentials. She really doesn’t want to have to get on the phone and talk to people, though, as she suffers a severe case of social anxiety (I guess mine is only minor compared to hers — though my backlog of voicemail would say otherwise) and what makes it harder is she has problems speaking properly due to her jaw placement. She’s definitely a little strange in that she isn’t the typical enthusiastic young employee, but she’s super smart and I believe in the right role would excel. Again, she’s best suited to research, but even that requires some level of interactions with other people. What can I do to help her — esp when I’m dealing with my own level of feeling like I’m not good enough for any role, and I’m past 30?

Like me, she’s seeing a therapist. But I know therapy alone won’t get her out of the funk. She needs a lucky break, to find a job where she really feels like she’s doing something productive and is seen as an asset to an organization, versus someone who doesn’t belong. And she needs the opportunity to meet other people her age who are not complete alcoholics to become friends with (unfortunately her few high school friends decided to defriend her because they’re assholes, but that’s another story also.) I really want to be the good big sister I never was but I just feel helpless. She knows I’m there for her. But that can’t kick her ass out into the big bad world. She’s deeply depressed and I know what it’s like. I’ve never really escaped my depression but it goes in waves. There are some days I know EXACTLY what she feels like. How can I tell her that it gets better?

All I can think of to tell her is that making money is important. She can live at home for a while but eventually she has to pay for her own life. To be happy, or somewhat happy, she’ll need her independence, which requires moving out. I’m helping her apply for internships away from home. She lived away from home for college but spent the whole time focused on studying because she struggles academically due to her learning disability but is an amazingly good student. She didn’t have time for friends, but now she’s home from school, moping around, lonely, and, well, moping around some more. My parents who have constant shouting matches are no help. I don’t know what to do.








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