Senior Member (male)
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: NY, USA
My Cousin Needs Some Help
Hi everyone. First off, I'm not sure if this is the correct place to be asking for advice on this topic. I hope it is though.
I am very concerned about one of my cousins right now. She is 21 years old, two years younger than me, and I see her following a destructive path.
She and my sister are the same age, born two months apart, so they spent a lot of time hanging out together when they were kids. However, they both had their own friends as well.
In middle school, my cousin stopped getting along with one of her best friends. She stopped hanging out with her, and I think she lost contact with some of her other friends, as well. I think it was around this time that my cousin and my sister had their own falling out, too. My mom was concerned because my sister had just lost her own best friend; the two of them had a fight or something, and they stopped hanging out together. Without her group of friends, my sister was in a transition phase and so she started hanging out more and more with my cousin. My mom was afraid that my sister wasn't making any new friends, and she didn't want her spending all of her time just hanging out with my cousin. But then, my sister would go off and do things with other girls, and my aunt would get mad at my mom for not including my cousin in on it. My mom didn't want my sister to always include my cousin, because my sister's new friends didn't really like my cousin and my cousin would always act up to try and impress them. She felt awkward around them, I guess.
So my cousin went into high school without too many real friends, and she hated it. She was miserable, and she might have even been getting depressed about it. And she was getting into trouble, too. My mom used to work in the high school that my sister and I go to, and my aunt was trying to find a way for my cousin to transfer to our high school. My mom wasn't thrilled about the idea, because she was worried my cousin would get into trouble and it would reflect poorly on her. I think she was also concerned that if my cousin got in trouble, my aunt might need to come to the school and try to defend her, and my mom might be caught in the middle of it all.
My cousin wasn't able to transfer to our high school, because her family doesn't live in our town (although they only live about ten minutes away from us). So instead, my aunt and uncle transferred my cousin to a private school. I think this was a mistake, but it happened. I don't know what happened, but I think she had trouble fitting in at the private school. So she transferred to another small private school. She graduated, and she may have made a few friends, but her graduating class consisted of only about a dozen or so students. I am also convinced they were a bad influence on her.
After she graduated high school, my cousin went off to a school down in South Carolina. We're from New York, and we don't have any family or anything down there, so she was going off several hundred miles from home on her own. We all knew it was a bad idea, but what could we do? Well, in her first year, my cousin did terribly in her classes and ended up getting in some legal trouble when her and some friends lit something on fire. I also heard from my sister that she had started doing drugs. Her parents brought her home, and she started working as a waitress in our town. Then I think they sent her back to South Carolina to go to a community college. She didn't do well there, either, and they pulled her out of that school, but she lived down there with her friends for the rest of the year because she had already signed a lease or something on her apartment. She spent the extra time waitressing, making money, and doing who knows what.
At some point she came home for good, although I don't remember when that was. Last summer, she and a friend went out to a party together. The "official" story I was told was that her friend had a lot to drink, so my cousin decided to drive her friend's car home. On the way home, a guy in another car cut them off, my cousin's drunk friend grabbed the wheel, their car went off the road and flipped over, and they were both rushed to the hospital. My cousin had some serious back and neck injuries, but doctors said she would be fine. Her friend wasn't so lucky. Last I had heard, the doctors didn't think she would ever walk again. I think she also tried to sue my aunt and uncle, and my mom hinted that maybe my cousin had been drinking and driving. My mom didn't know the details, and I'm still in the dark about that.
Since the accident, my cousin has gotten better, but her friend doesn't speak to her at all anymore. As far as I know, she's not doing much of anything these days. She's not working, and she has no thoughts about going back to school. She seems clearly depressed any time I've seen her lately. But I'm in college 8 hours away right now, so I don't know what she's been doing, exactly, or how she's been. Most recently, my sister went home for Easter. She had a few friends over to drink a little and just hang out, and she invited my cousin. My sister fell asleep, but her friends woke her up and told her that my cousin was trying to drive home. After drinking a whole bottle of wine. My sister ran out to try and stop her, but my cousin took off. She made it home ok, but she still gave the entire family a scare. And my mom told me that apparently my cousin told someone (maybe my aunt) that she had been running all of the red lights on her way home. She said she was trying to hurt herself.
My mom wants me and my sister to do anything we can to try to help my cousin out. I really think she needs to see a therapist, but my cousin has said that she won't see one because last time she saw one, they put her on medication, and she doesn't want to go back on any medication. The real tragedy here is that there is nothing wrong with my cousin. I mean, ok, if she's trying to hurt herself, then she obviously needs help. I do think she has a drinking problem, and she might have some emotional problems, as well. Her biggest problem has always been, for as long as I can remember, that she really thinks there's something terribly wrong with her. She has really terrible self-esteem, I've heard her say so many times that she doesn't think anyone likes her. She never gets along with her two older sisters (they now live in Baltimore and Chicago). And growing up, she always had the reputation of being the bratty one in the family. But now, it's like she thinks her life is really over. It's not over at all, she's just gotten a little side-tracked.
I really wish she would just apply to one of our local community colleges. That's what she should have done all along, after high school. I knew she wasn't mature enough to handle going away to college and living alone. But if she stayed home and started taking classes again, it wouldn't cost much and she could at least get a degree. If she works hard enough, she could transfer to a better school. Better late than never, right? But she has such a defeatist attitude about it all, and we're not sure how we can help her out. If she ever wants to be remotely successful, this is really what she needs to do. In today's world, it is nearly impossible to find work without a college degree, so I really think she needs to focus and get back in school.
I really want to do something to help, but I'm not sure how. My aunt and uncle aren't exactly letting the whole family know everything that's going on with my cousin, and I don't think they want us all telling them what to do for her. But I just hate to see this all happening to her.