My sister had a breakdown (AKA - letting go of anger toward truly crazy family member) - Mothering Forums

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Old 05-30-2012, 09:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My sister has been mentally ill for 15-16 years. She received no treatment because she is very religious. She and my family of origin are Southern Baptist, and all believe that therapist and psychologist are quacks.

 

So the situation finally blew up last week -- she no longer knew who her were children were, she packed a bag and tried to run away from home (by running into a highway). My BIL finally had to snap out of his denial, call my mom, and the two of them took her to a hospital with a psych unit (where she still is). 

 

She's been getting message from the TV and the whole bit. Total psychotic break.

 

So now she has been diagnosed with bi-polar (I could have told them that years ago) and she is medicated (not sure what). They are working on getting her dosages right so they can send her back home.

 

I've been wanting her to get help for years and years. A couple of times, I even called her husband at work and BEGGED him to get her some help. I remember the lovely person she used to be, who has been gone for some time.

 

When I first heard the news, I felt relieved that things had come to a head in a way that no one got hurt and she was FINALLY getting help.

 

But as the days go by, I'm feeling more and more anger at all the crap she has pulled in the last 16 years. The horrid, horrid things that have come out of her mouth (some directed at my kids, lots of it directed to me). I haven't spoken to her in 3 years because I felt like I had to protect me and my family from her, and so this had made me the black sheep. We don't go to holidays or family meals because they were just too crazy.

 

All this time, I thought I was letting all of my negative feelings about it go.But now I find that am angry and hurt. And I'm not sure what to do with those feelings.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 05-30-2012, 09:16 PM
 
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That sounds awful for your whole family.  I hope her hitting rock bottom is the start of better health and relationships for her, and that it will help improve things between the two of you.

 

You and your family will be in my thoughts.


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Old 05-31-2012, 12:57 AM
 
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You had your safe way of dealing with things and making the situation stable.  Now that has changed and is unstable (in the sense that there have been a great many changes and you can't predict how this will go).  That is disorienting and frightening and it's understandable if you're also pissed off about it.  A break that was so severe that it pulled your SBC relatives out of their anti-treatment mentality (my extended family is divided between SBC and AoG so I know what you're talking about) is pretty damned horrific, and that in and of itself is an event.

 

I think your reaction is normal and to be expected.  Give yourself time to find the new equilibrium.  Are you worried now that there will be pressure to suddenly change visiting or contact arrangment by your other family members since "she's getting help now and is better?"  You don't have to change anything, you can take this slow.  It's okay to be pissed.  Seeking help earlier might have avoided some of the suffering that is happening right now, and the vindication isn't satisfying.

 

I have been through this several times as my mom has gotten "help" or things were acknowledged by other family members (and then swept under the rug again with a 'Yay we're done now" mentality).

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Old 05-31-2012, 03:02 AM
 
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I'd try to somehow let her know that you're there for her. People don't change overnight and I'm afraid for her that her/your family will tell her this is all her fault because she didn't trust God enough. After seeing severe symptoms of depression in my brother for almost TEN YEARS my mother is finally starting to admit my brother needs help. She still thinks he should be able to "pull himself up by his bootstraps" though. Mental illness doesn't work that way. Just let her know you're in her corner even if you can't allow her to be in your life on a regular basis. At least she has someone to go to for help/backup if people continue to ignore her obvious need for professional involvement.

 

I have multiple relatives with mental illness (though almost none of it has been successfully treated) and I've learned to let their horrid comments roll off my back. But it really takes a lot of time to get used to doing that. I will still have times where I get upset at my dad for something crazy he did like 20 years ago. Working on yourself really helps. Do you see a therapist of any kind? It might help to go, even if you don't "need" it (like even if you don't have a mental health diagnosis) to help you work thru your feelings about your sister and start to have a more healthy outlook.


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Old 05-31-2012, 08:20 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post

 

Are you worried now that there will be pressure to suddenly change visiting or contact arrangment by your other family members since "she's getting help now and is better?"  You don't have to change anything, you can take this slow.  It's okay to be pissed.  Seeking help earlier might have avoided some of the suffering that is happening right now, and the vindication isn't satisfying.

 

I have been through this several times as my mom has gotten "help" or things were acknowledged by other family members (and then swept under the rug again with a 'Yay we're done now" mentality).

 

Thank you for your comments. You hit the nail on the head. I am happy she is getting treatment, I also fear that things will be swept under the rug. I suspect that my family as a whole is unable to make the kind of real changes needed. At best, a movement toward less crazy seems possible, but a shift to actually wellness does not.

 

I'm sure that my sister should be on medication, most likely for the rest of her life, and I suspect that because of the deeply held beliefs about psychiatric treatment, compliance with that will not happen.

 

So, yes, even though I couldn't articulate it, I'm expecting and "yay, we're done now" mentality combined with pressure on me to show up with the kids in tow for another round of her being hateful and unstable.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by alicewyf View Post

I'd try to somehow let her know that you're there for her. ...

 

I have multiple relatives with mental illness (though almost none of it has been successfully treated) and I've learned to let their horrid comments roll off my back

 

... Do you see a therapist of any kind?

 

 

But I'm not there for her, and past experience has taught me that communicating with her in anyway only causes problems.

 

My sister went through a stage where she would call me and scream and then hang up. After months of this, I couldn't take it anymore and I had my numbers changed. The last time I went home for a visit (3 years ago) she told my special needs daughter, "I so wish you were different than you are. It would be so much more fun for the rest of us."

 

I don't need to be her punching bag - and I refuse to let anyone treat my children horrid. That's not a holiday. That's not vacation.

 

This is a woman who can take a Hallmark card the wrong way. And if I do anything that she then focuses as being part of the reason she is unhappy/angry/nuts, my parents and BIL blame me. It's not her fault she crazy, it's mine -- for sending her the wrong card.

 

I have spent years and years in therapy. I also do lots of yoga. (if she had taken her own mental health seriously YEARS ago, this all could have turned out different. )

 

I think that part of what makes me feel angry right now and have a desire to dredge up the past is a fear of being judged as a "bad sister" for not being there for her. But I don't see a point in being there for her. I don't want to be in her line of fire again, nor put my children in it.

 

I hope she really does make progress, mostly just for the sake of her 3 kids. I don't want her to suffer. As much as I'm annoyed with her DH for sticking his head in the sand, I also really feel for the guy. How miserable these last 16 years must have been for him. How scared he must be right now. 

 

But no, having been blamed over and over for her behavior, I've no desire to "be there for her."


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 05-31-2012, 03:21 PM
 
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Linda,

 

First of all *HUGS* I don’t post often on MDC, but sometimes I do when something hits close to home. My paranoid schizophrenic mother had her first breakdown when I was 2. I’ve been the parent, sole caregiver, punching bag, and the one who is always at fault. I have PTSD as a result of the trauma and abuse I experienced.

 

Mom is now in a nursing home. She’s in a safe environment and getting help and treatment. I’m happy for her. The dynamic between us (super toxic for me) has been a certain way for so long that it will never change, she will never change. I’m constantly judged by her, my family and even some friends as the bad daughter who locked her away in a nursing home or the neglectful daughter who doesn’t do <insert whatever> enough.

 

What I say might sound harsh to some, but in my opinion you owe your sister nothing more or less than what you are willing and able to offer and it should never be to your detriment. IMHO I would keep doing what you already are doing, staying away and controlling the type of interactions you have with her and your family. You have a right to be angry and hurt. You also have a right to protect yourself and your family from toxic people and situations.

 

If you’re not in therapy, really consider going back to deal with the anger and hurt that’s cropped back up. Major changes tend to bring all that back up and now that they are attempting treatment (after 15 years of being used to her being a certain way) that can be another kind of roller coaster ride and keep in mind that you might see glimpses of her old self and that can be very painful to deal with when it comes and goes.

 

Please try to remember it’s not your sister’s fault. It's very hard, but I sometimes have to remind myself that it was my Mom's illness that caused her to do and say awful things, but it wasn't who she really was and she loves me the best she is able to. It's just the nature of mental illness sometimes to not seek help, think you need meds or even believe you are crazy.

 

Best wishes to you and your family.

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Old 05-31-2012, 05:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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For those of you for whom this person in you life was your mother, I'm so sorry for what you have gone through.  What could anyone do to help support *you*?  I really feel for my sister's kids (17, 12, and 10). I have almost no relationship with them because being around my sister has been so toxic to me and my kids. Yet, I would really like there to be something that I could do at some point for them (may be this isn't possible until they are young adults and out of the house).
 

As much as it is difficult to have her for a sister, I can't image having a mentally ill mother. Really cannot image the depth of that pain.


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Old 05-31-2012, 06:26 PM
 
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I was (and am) close to my favorite auntie. Though she had more access to me since I always spent a few weeks every summer with her and my uncle and cousins. She didn't do anything overt I guess but just was a save and stable person. She would listen and never tried to defend my mom or make excuses. It was also nice to be a kid around her, she actually parented me which was a novelty and was very careful to emphasize that she could be mad at something I did but still love me and be respectful. Hell, just seeing normal family relations, from marriage to parenting was very helpful.

Your sister's kids are older...do they fb or text? I know lots of people hate those things. But if they are into them it can be a good way to build or maintain a relationship and keep in touch. And then just be there if your so inclined.
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Old 05-31-2012, 06:59 PM
 
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If you are near the psychiatric hospital, can you reach out ot them and see if they have any family support groups? I don't have any experience with anything close to this, but I can imagine that you are not the only family member who has spent years being abused by a mentally ill person and is now feeling conflicted and confused. Just knowing you are not alone may help you and you might be able to find  more resources and strategies. 


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Old 06-01-2012, 07:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post

Your sister's kids are older...do they fb or text?

 

 

I'm going to find out winky.gif

 

I live half away across the country from my family of origin, which really limits things.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 06-04-2012, 02:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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quick update -- my sister is getting out of the hospital tomorrow. I got a very nice call from my BIL on saturday. He's a bit of miss, really beating himself up for not realizing that there was a real problem sooner, but we had a good talk.

 

There seem to be good plans in place for supporting my sister when she gets home -- private counseling for her, and whole family counseling with her husband and kids. I'm hopeful, not for my relationship with her, but for her and her immediate family.
 


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Old 06-05-2012, 03:34 PM
 
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We have a lot of people with bipolar in my family, and some people with unipolar depression. 

 

When I was a kid, just having a safe space where I didn't have to worry about things getting weird/violent/dramatic helped a lot. Girl Scout camp every summer was a haven. I was safe there and could just be a kid, without worrying about what bad thing was going to happen.

 

I worried a lot about whether I was going to go crazy, too. I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I passed the average age of onset. I wish someone had told me that the genetics of bipolar are complicated, and just because it runs in the family, I wasn't THAT likely as an individual to get it. The risk for a child of a parent with bipolar is probably around 10-12%. It may be as high as 30% for depression, though.

 

I wish someone had emphasized to me that depression/bipolar in my family has nothing to do with character or personal strength, and everything to do with bad brain chemistry. It's like diabetes. It's not really anybody's fault.  It just is. You have to decide how to handle it, but that's the only thing you can do with it. You can't will yourself out of being sick.

 

As an adult, dealing with people suffering from bipolar, I had to learn to let them make their own choices. Accepting bipolar is hard. Accepting treatment is hard. Meds have side effects and can be unpleasant. Adults have to make their own choices about treatment. I don't get to control the treatment decisions, even if I think I know better than the person who has to chose. Unless the family member has safety issues or is a danger to others, I try to let them go. If that means they are off meds and running around crazy, so be it. As long as they have housing and food, I don't care. (Well, I care, but I'm not going to stop them from living their lives.)  I'm not going to protect them from the consequences of their actions, though, or sympathize if there is a negative result from refusing meds. "Oh, your boss fired you because you thought someone was talking to you out of the computer printer? He's right. You're delusional. Take your meds."

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Old 02-28-2014, 07:32 AM
 
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Dear Linda on the move:

 

i am wondering how your relationship with your sister is going. i have a similar situation (which is how i found this thread) but my sister has not hit rock bottom with the rest of the family, yet. Our parents and one of our brothers (all former "punching bags" of my sister) are now gone, leaving me as the bad sister who moved away. 

 

i am attending a family wedding next summer - wondering how you handle those wild emotions at events where you will be together. Living a continent away, daily interactions ceased years ago and i made peace with that. The anticipation of knowing she is likely going to verbally attack and spread lies about me next summer to other family and friends is a bit daunting.

 

i am headed into a therapy session for a 'tune-up' but curious about your outcomes.

 

thanks,

-BSS

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