Help Dealing with a Bi-polar Relative

Updated on July 08, 2009
L.A. asks from Beverly Hills, CA
6 answers

Hi, I have a sister who is bi-polar. This is typically well managed however she has some other serious medical conditions (not mental) that required some of her meds to be changed to avoid interactions. She is currently in the process (about a month long process) of weaning her off her old meds and starting the new ones (that we pray will work as well). We have always been close so we spend a lot of time together (I dont want that to change). Since they have taken her off her mood stabilizer med she is unable to control what comes out of her mouth. I am not the only one having issues with this. We have had several discussions about this b/c she has been rude to me on MANY occasssions. She also VERY FREQUENTLY tries to parent my child and argues with me over small decision I make that have no impact on her. In short I am getting tired of being attacked and underminded for no good reason. I am sympathetic to her illness but at the same time having a hard time dealing with being treated this way. I do not want to spend less time with her b/c other than when she comes to see me and my child she is pretty much home bound due to her other illness.

Any advice...please!!

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answers from Norfolk on

It's hard to remember it's the disease talking when it grinds you down and you start thing "Why am I letting her do this to me?". You are in a care giver position. Care givers need breaks. You need help caring for your sister so the whole burden is not on your shoulders. Your child may or may not understand her aunt is sick. If you can get some help from a group that helps out care givers while your sister makes her transition to her new medications, take your child on a little vacation to have some care free fun. Recharge yourself. You'll be doing your sister, your child and yourself a favor.



answers from Washington DC on

I find that if I stay as neutral as possible in my responses when my family member(s) with mental health issues are inappropriate I am less frustrated and the negative behavior occurs less often. "I understand your BLANK (bi-polar, depression, anxiety disorder) is causing you to BLANK (give me unwanted advice, question my decision-making, being negative about everything), but this is not your issue/business/helpful to me and we're not going to talk about it any more." If my family member tries to continue the conversation I just don't respond or I literally walk away - to another room if I have to, or around the block (take your child with you). This usually re-directs the behavior and I don't get mad or take it personally, nor does it isolate the person form the family by just avoiding them. Hang in there it is not easy, but she needs you and by being there for her your child learns empathy, compassion and understanding.



answers from Washington DC on

it's hard to remember that the rudeness is a symptom of the disease and to ignore it. since i can't handle the nonsense that comes out of my brother's mouth, i mostly just don't interact with him. i feel bad for him because he wants to spend time with my sons, but frankly 1) i sometimes don't like the way he acts around them and 2) i don't really trust him around them. he's not on any meds. lucky for you your sister will be back to 'normal' soon when her new meds kick in, so maybe you should be super busy or go away for a while (if you can) so that you have an excuse for not seeing her until she's back.



answers from Washington DC on

The thing about this kind of disorder is that the person can be very nice and appears to function normally but is not. There are also 2 kinds of bi-polar disorders. Knowing the difference and knowing which one she is will also be helpful. The thing is, no matter what you do, she will not truly feel empathy towards you even if she appears to care. I had to get that in my head. I have been seeing a psychologist about this matter. I'm going through something similar with my sister and the only way I can keep myself sane and for my child to be emotionally safe, is to avoid her. I mean, there are days when she is SO mean that I doubt my own sanity. I have spent too many days wasting my time trying to accommodate to her, neglecting my child and husband in the process.

Take care of yourself and your family first, and don't feel guilty about it. If you get sick or too hurt from caring for her, she won't have you anyway.


Oh, I also found 2 supportive websites recently:

The second one is for spouses of chronically ill people but I found it helpful because, well, a sister is as close as a spouse and I found some of the stories there inspiring. Both you have to register for, like Mamasource. They might have more insight on caring for a home bound person as well.



answers from Washington DC on

It can be just as hard for the person on the receiving end as the oerson on the giving end. When my meds don't work or I'm in a manic state it's like I'm watching a movie of myself. I see what's goiong on but can't change it. Weaning yourself off of meds is very tough and knowing that you are hurting your loved ones can make that process even worse. And since I don't know what type of BP she has this could take a turn for the worse before she gets better. Hopefully her new meds will work, but remember it may take time for them to get in there and work. But that doesn't mean that you have to endure what she is giving you. This all may be temporary, but let her know that her behavior is a problem for you. If you are together, then warn her if she is getting to you and if she keeps it up leave. Take care of you and your child. Find support groups for yourself or find some information about coping with a family member that has BP. Hope this helps some.



answers from Washington DC on

I used to have a roommate who had chemical imbalances and displayed similar symptoms. Really awesome girl when she wasn't freaking out or being rude.
I dealt with this by limiting my time with her and 'not speaking unless spoken to' (I never knew when she'd be in a mood or not). I know that you mentioned you'd rather not limit your time because her other illness limits her so much, but in this case I don't think you can have your cake and eat it, too. Something has got to give, and until your sister gets back to a place, mentally, when she can stop acting so abrasive, she should not be around you and your child. I know this sounds harsh, but maybe some time alone to think about how she has been behaving toward you is what she needs. Trying to raise a child well is hard enough without the added negativity and contradictions.