General Etiquette > Family and Children

Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story

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This is such a long story that I'm going to shorten it as much as possible, but I can provide more details if necessary. And for those who've been following my babysitting problems with my grandma and cousin, this question is about relatives on the other side of my family. Just thought I should point that out to avoid possible confusion.

Several years ago my uncle, his wife and two kids did not make any efforts to visit or call at Christmas. Several months later, my uncle tells his parents (my grandparents) that something is going on with his daughter and that she stopped talking, had to be taken out of school, and is seeing a therapist, but no one knows what's going on. This information was meant only for my grandparents, who are usually good at keeping secrets. Worried, my grandparents called them back several weeks later and no one ever answered or called back. They had their youngest daughter write a letter to their son which had threats that if he didn't call back, they would come visit him (idle threats, but he didn't know that). Shortly after that he had their phone disconnected. A few years pass with no contact at all until he sends them a greeting card from the county they previously lived in. The family assumed he packed up the wife and kids and moved back to that county (on the other side of the state). A few other family members attempted to contact him with no luck. He has not contacted anyone else since then. My grandparents are very upset as their health is declining and they would like to see their son and grandchildren, and are of course concerned about their granddaugher.

I have spent the last several years discreetly looking into this situation because my grandparents have been so upset. I have found several disturbing things but don't know what to make of them because of the timeline and lack of information.

Here's what I know: my uncle's daughter stopped talking and had to be taken out of school (he told that to his parents). I found out that around the time she stopped talking, she had gone missing for about 24 hrs, but that no foul play was suspected. It was thought that she simply got lost (there was an online article about it). It sounds like she was already being homeschooled by then but I'm not sure. So it's unclear whether this incident is what caused her to stop talking or if it's unrelated and came after.

I found out that my uncle still lives in the same place, but the wife and kids moved back to the county where they previously lived. I checked court records and they appear to still be married. Considering they are living hundreds of miles and several hours away from each other, it leaves me wondering what's going on. That seems awfully expensive for a couple who isn't divorced when my uncle is the only one working. His job pays well, but it can't pay THAT well. It leaves me wondering if my uncle did something to his daughter, because he should be able to work anywhere with his qualifications, so why not live closer to the kids?

To top it all off, I found something that indicates that my uncle's daughter may have a very particular anxiety disorder. I have no way of knowing exactly how accurate the information is, but I'm certain she does have some sort of anxiety disorder. Depending on which disorder she has, it could be caused from a traumatic event. The disorder she is listed as having is something anyone could get, but it actually runs in our family, which is something no one else but me realizes. Even if she has the hereditary disorder, that's no reason to cut them off from the rest of the family. And if something happened to her, my uncle doesn't have to tell us. He shouldn't have said anything in the first place. All he needs to say is that she suffers from an anxiety disorder, she's getting treatment, and they don't wish to discuss that matter any further. There is no reason to cut themselves off from ALL of us.

So I'm left unsure of what to do with this knowledge, besides keeping it a secret from the family. Do I contact my uncle and let him know that I know about the anxiety disorder and that I support them? I also have the hereditary anxiety disorder (no one in the family knows) and know exactly how debilitating it is so I am genuinely concerned. If my cousin doesn't try to fight this, she's going to end up in a bad place (figuratively speaking) like me with no way out. So I want to make sure she doesn't follow in my footsteps.

I realize it's not my business, but I'm concerned for my cousin and my grandparents are upset and concerned that their son has cut himself off from them for unknown reasons. They're concerned for their granddaughter because they don't know what's going on with her. Remember, no one else knows what I know.

So I don't know what to do. My grandmother's health is going downhill and I feel like something needs to be done.

My other thought was that I could simply just play dumb and "friend" my cousins on their Facebook page. I could put info in my profile about me having the disorder and see if anyone "bites." And then if there's no contact, I could maybe email my uncle.

Thoughts? I just don't know what the proper thing to do is. I don't want to stick my nose where it doesn't belong, but I don't know the boundaries. I need help figuring them out. The last thing I want to do is make things worse.

None of this is your business.

Not the tiniest bit of it.

However, I think you *can* do this, which is to write to the uncle or to the wife and say, "I've recently been diagnosed with XYZ disorder, which is hereditary. I'm letting everyone in the family know so that they can consider whether they want to share this info with their own doctors, or be able to recognize symptoms, should they develop."

And that's it. No follow-up, nothing.

You'll have to give up some privacy to do this. But that is all you can do--you cannot ask to see if they need to know this info. You just drop the info off on their doorstep, so to speak.

(My aunt, with whom there is no estrangement, was diagnosed w/ something that is hereditary in the female line. She made a point to give this info to every woman that she is related to. She'd give a baby girl up for adoption many years before, so she forwarded this info to the adoption agency she had worked with. That's about the equivalent of what you're doing.)

This is not really an etiquette thing other than, yes, mind your own business. In this day and age if someone wants to find someone else it is relatively easy to do.  It's not always the right thing to do, though.  Your Aunt could have at any time reached out.  She has chosen not to do so.  It's best to follow her lead. Your cousin may contact you on her own when she is older.

It's always better to let an injured party decide when to do the contacting.

Please don't insert yourself into this situation.

I agree with Toots.  Let your Uncle/Aunt know that you have the disorder, but leave the ball in their court.  As  long as you feel everyone is safe, it is their lives.


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