Dear Anni: My sister and I reunited about five years ago after we had not spoken for at least 10 years. Unfortunately we didn’t have a good childhood; As we got older, our own dynamics became toxic and I had no choice but to keep them out. I was glad we started talking again earlier this year, but I’ve noticed a few quirks since we’ve been reconnected.
She believes in many conspiracy theories and practices a religion that has some strange beliefs. She says very hateful things about certain groups of people. Sometimes we are having a good time at the mall or at lunch, and seemingly out of nowhere, she starts advancing some of her crazy or hateful beliefs. She did the same with my children. Another thing is that she just happens to get incredibly scared and calls me crying begging me to buy supplies for her in case the world goes down or borrow her money to leave the country because she thinks so the government is trying to kill them. She gets all of the information from videos she finds online. I begged her to stop and I try to be patient, but it annoys me and I stay stressed for days after one of her episodes. I don’t want to lose my sister again, but our relationship is wearing me down. Can you help? – Sorry about sister
Dear sad one: The internet has flooded the world with conspiracy theories. Millions are lost in this sea while the rest of us, our friends and family, wait on the shore. In your sister’s case, it sounds like there may be a deeper problem at play. Their extreme paranoia suggests an underlying mental illness. While you can’t force them to seek help, you can encourage them to do so.