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Grieving While Dealing With A Bipolar Sister


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I guess the title of this post should really be, "How can I take care of my bipolar sister when I'm still grieving for my husband?" Everything's hitting me at once.

My sister was diagnosed with bipolar syndrome (manic depression) about 25 years ago. She has been hospitalized several times, but for the last 10 or 12 years, her medication was working and her symptoms were in remission. Now all of a sudden she has decided she's not sick and doesn't need help - but she stopped taking her medicines regularly and her mood swings have become severe and extreme again. She doesn't take care of herself or her apartment, spends money she doesn't have, and is close to losing her job.

Except for a cousin, I'm the only family my sister has - and she lives 1500 miles away from me. I'm very afraid for her. I've tried to hire a health care advocate for my sister and have asked her to give her doctors permission to discuss her care with me, but her condition is getting worse and she tells me to mind my own business.

I don't know what more I can do. Legally, my hands are tied. Not only do my sister and I live far apart, I'm still reeling from my husband's sudden death six months ago. I feel lucky that I can more or less manage my own life, let alone someone else's. Some days I can't do anything else but cry, I have no energy, and sometimes still can't think straight.

I pray for strength to handle all this, but I still feel overwhelmed much of the time. Has anyone else had to deal with a situation like this? How do I hold on?

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I know how you feel. There's not much you can do if she is not taking her meds. Does she have a caseworker or someone near her that can help at all. My son, if you remember, has schizophrenia. He's had it since he was about 14 and he's 44 now, so we've lived with a for some time. He is very good about the meds, though, and that truly helps. He lives about 2 hours away, so I see him once a month and bring him food, etc. He has a caseworker that is a tremendous help. But if your sister doesn't understand that the meds are what is keeping her stable, I don't know what you can do except pray. We've gone through really difficult times with my Danny, and he's been evicted 2 times, but we're stable now I think. He got involved with drug people and they trashed his apartment. It's tremendously hard having a loved one with these types of illnesses. There are many web sites that deal with coping with mental illness. One of them might be able to give you some ideas. I have a whole notebook on this type of information and contacts. You might check into the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI). They may have contacts in your sister's area or some ideas for you. They are a tremendous organization. Try and stay strong - we know you are just in dealing with your loss. She just doesn't know she needs help right now. Take care and let me know how you're doing.

Your friend, Karen :wub:;)

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((((Kathy)))) So sorry your sis is having so many problems right now. And I know how frustrating it can be for family members of people with a mental illness. This is a conundrum for sure. Legally?? No I agree not much you can do, if she is her own guardian and hasn't been declared incompetent.

I would echo Karen's suggestion of trying to get a local case worker for her. But it depends on the state she lives in, what even they can do if she doesn't want their help.

I kinda believe that their ought to be some sort of legislation written to help these folks.. but it would be a tough write for sure. Trying to balance their legal rights with the need some of them so often have for assistance.. is dicey. I still live in hope that someday a law will be written that keeps that balance; keeps them safe as well as lets them retain their rights and dignity.

Until then though... situations like yours are unfortunately all too common.

IMO I think your plate is WELL full enough at the moment. Maybe.. do what you can via the phone and then.. leave her in Other's hands. You simply can't be totally responsible for her. And I think I hear in your post that you can't really handle this right now. So??? Going with your instincts on this may be the best course.

You have everything you can do to take care of you at the moment it sounds like. So.. this may be one of those times when a little faith may have to go a long way. Angels do appear... and I have some faith that at least one will head her way.

I will certainly include both of you in my prayers.


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I'm very afraid for her. I've tried to hire a health care advocate for my sister and have asked her to give her doctors permission to discuss her care with me, but her condition is getting worse and she tells me to mind my own business.

You are right to be concerned but technically she has the right to tell you to mind your own business and she also has the right to (mis)manage her life as she sees fit. I know as well as anyone how painful it is to be helpless to intervene effectively but the person of interest has to welcome the help and you have to be in a position to help. Considering the distance, it doesn't sound like either thing is true.

Make sure your sister knows you love her and want very much to help her in any way you can. That's about all you can really do unless and until she reaches out to you. Other than that, for now it's just an exercise in being present and letting things be as they are.

I am sorry you are going through this.


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Kathy, I'm so very sorry that you're having to deal with so much at this time. I know from personal experience - my mother has mental health issues - how difficult it is to deal with your own recent bereavement and be worried about a family member who is in need of care. It adds massive pressure on you, at a time when you're already trying to deal with so much that's happened (and is happening) in your own life.

Yes, legally there isn't much you can do. Just let your sister know that you love her and you aren't interfering in her business, you're just worried about her.

With these type of disorders, the affected person often doesn't think that there's anything wrong with them. Stopping or refusing to take the meds that keep the condition under control is a common occurrence. It's difficult to help when the person it involves is an adult, who has not been declared unable to handle their own affairs and care etc.

Karen's link is an excellent one. The NAMI may be able to help or direct you to another organization who can offer support, as well as advice on how to handle this. If your sister has a case worker, talking to them about your concerns is often a good starting point. My mother's case worker has been of real help to my brother and I, as she takes our concerns and opinions on board and takes action accordingly.

Kathy, please do make sure that you don't neglect yourself. It is very easy to do so when trying to help another, but you have to take care of yourself, first and foremost. It sounds like you are doing all that is reasonably possible to help your sister, given her refusal to accept help and the geographical distance between you.

Please keep us posted on how you get on. Take care.


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