My big sister is one of the most brilliant women I know. She, unlike me. is poised and has a presence all her own. She is an avid reader, a full on book worm, poet and is a phenomenal creative artist (my very own Maya Angelou). She excels at everything she put her mind to, when she is in her right mind.
Unfortunately, for her that is not always the case. She has been tormented with Bi-Polarism and schizophrenia. It comes with incredible mood swings with highs and lows. The highs are considered manic and the lows deep depression. The medications offered, are in short, supposed to make her more balanced. However, over the years her medication seems to leave her “checked out” or “not present”. She is not a threat to me or anyone else, just herself.
Off of her medication she is unbearably combative, paranoid, unapproachable, difficult to deal with, overly emotional and frankly a nightmare. Our relationship, since her diagnosis, has been unhealthy and unbalanced. She often hears voices as a result of the medication and would call me before bed for prayer, just so she could sleep. I only see her when she has been admitted to the hospital for a suicide attempt or when she remains on her meds long enough to get back in the swing of life.
Where did she go? My beloved, beautiful, precious, sweet, helpful, smart, caregiving sister. The one who told me I was off key when singing. The one who could make you laugh so hard that you had a perma-grin while you would be crying, yelling and saying, “Stop it! Stop it!” She was the one who ALWAYS had the right answers, even when I didn’t need them. She was my best friend!!! I miss her terribly!!
In the past, I would hang up the phone crying, feeling defeated that there was nothing I could do to change her circumstances. I had become the big sister taking on unhealthy responsibilities in our relationship. Today, I can have a conversations with her without anger because I now understand my roll is to be the loving younger sister. Once she told me during a call, “Don’t cry sis, I will be ok, I have chosen this life.” That was the day I had this reality Gut Check! She is not my burden to carry any longer.
How I set clear healthy boundaries… I have found that being direct in my communication with her is key. Also that my feelings matter too and not to enable her. It’s not always about her, remembering to remind her that she is not a victim and from her own good choices she will have better consequence and to always encourage her. Lastly to make self-care a priority for me to seek support.
Seasons change and the years pass, As write this, I cry realizing without God my heart would be broken in pieces. I wish she could be what she once was. But God has shown me how to accept the things I cannot change about her and have the COURAGE to continue to pray. I say no to anger. She’s still alive and every time she calls it’s music to my ears. No matter what her circumstances may look like, I choose to believe for her:
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 NIV
Know that you are Loved,
Angela aka “Truffle”
Mental Illness is nothing to be ashamed of or ignored. “NAMI” The National Association of Mental Illness is a phenomenal resource for those family members struggling with mental illnesses.