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Running Down the Hallway, Again & Again

It started about a year ago. My sister runs down the hallway, then she goes back to the start. Maybe she lingers there for a few moments, but after that she starts running again. She does this with headphones on, listening to music, for several minutes, every few days.

A month ago she was out with her friends and they got drunk, which isn’t unusual. However, she posted a message in the family chat back then, although she probably only meant to send it to our dad whom she’s closest with. He also was the only one that got addressed directly.

Paraphrased, the message was as follows: “Have you ever thought about what would have been if Ben was still alive? That’s why I’m running up and down the hallway every day. I can’t take this anymore. Please, dad, I want to talk that out sober but I’m scared that you won’t understand. Nothing is working anymore. It’s not normal to cry all the time. I need help.”

Ben was our brother but he died seven years before she was even born. Our parents told us, it’s not a taboo subject. We all were born after him, my sister is the youngest.

The day after the message, everyone was quite pensive. When she came home, our dad talked with her but I don’t know how that went because nobody else was there and our dad never brought it up.

The topic wasn’t mentioned again since, my sister is not in therapy, she seems completely okay, nothing is out of the ordinary. Except she is still running down the hallway every now and then, though more infrequently.

I’m worried about her but she won’t talk with me. I don’t know if she talks with anybody about her issues. I just really don’t know what to do.

If your sister is unwilling to talk to you, you can’t force her to do so. All you can do is suggest that she seek help. If she’s interested and wants to take your advice, she will. Otherwise, she may not. Unfortunately, your power is limited.

People have to want to seek help. You cannot force someone into treatment except in cases of imminent danger to self or to others. Short of that extreme circumstance, encouragement is your best course of action.

You might also try suggesting family therapy. Since these issues involve both your father and deceased brother, your family could benefit from counseling. Again, you can suggest it but the family would have to agree to participate. It’s not something you can force. Make suggestions but realize there are limitations.

Even if the advice your offering is good, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be taken. That is a difficult lesson to learn in life. I wish you and your family the best of luck. Thanks for writing.

Dr. Kristina Randle

from Ask the Therapist

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