My older sister has always been irresponsible and selfish. She’s stolen money from me, lied to me too often to count, and even attacked me physically. I told her years ago that until she’s clean and sober and ready to make amends to me and the rest of our family, I don’t want anything to do with her.
She contacted me recently and told me that she’s bipolar. How can I tell if that’s the truth or if she’s just trying to get sympathy from me and other family members? I need to know what’s really going on with her because I don’t want to be manipulated again. If she really does have a mental illness, I want to do the right thing. Please help me figure this out.
People with bipolar disorder experience intense mood episodes, which greatly affect their behavior and energy levels. Sometimes, they are manic and feel very “up” and “wired.” Their speech may be pressured (talking fast on a variety of topics). They may be quite agitated, having trouble sleeping or even relaxing. They may be much more active than usual, engaging in risky behaviors (spending a lot of money, stealing, engaging in reckless sex, speeding, etc.).
Sometimes, people with bipolar disorder may be depressed, feeling empty inside, worrying, having difficulty concentrating, forgetting things, losing interest in regular activities, feeling tired and inactive, unable to sleep, and experiencing suicidal thoughts.
If your sister is indeed bipolar, she has been assessed by a mental health professional. Think about asking to accompany her to one of her doctor’s appointments and learning more about her condition. You’ll get the corroboration you seek and be supportive of her, as well.
For additional information, contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI has a directory of support groups for people with mental illness and their families. I strongly encourage you to reach out to other people in your situation.
Readers, please comment on this post. I welcome your feedback. Additionally, I look forward to receiving your letters at AskKathyMFT@gmail.com.