Hi all, I'm new to this in a sense. My 24-year-old sister had a psychotic episode one week after our Grandfather died. She became obsessed with death and the devil and the earthquake in Haiti. Our mother died after acting out on bipolar impulses so we are sadly familiar with the disorder, but this time I am old enough to understand. She has been in a treatment center for 4 weeks now and is still having delusions mostly about God and the Devil (she was religious before this too). She was diagnosed with Bipolar I and had a hard time with the diagnosis but can not wait to come home. Every time her release date nears, she gets so anxious she has panic attacks and delusions and needs to be sedated and have her medication changed which pushes back her release date a week later. All we want is for her to come home, but obviously not before she is ready. I can not move on with my life without her being well. My boyfriend and I were going to get engaged soon, but I don't know if I can be happy without her being 'well.' Any advice will help.
Bipolar I Disorder is the most severe form of manic depressive illness, and religious obsession and delusions are common. I know it's tough, but you must accept that your sister may be hospitalized for some time, and will need treatment for the rest of her life. The fact that she gets worse again when her release date nears is a good indicator that she's really afraid to get out, even though she says she's eager.
The treatment center is the best place for her at present. She is safe there, monitored around the clock, and has immediate care at hand when she needs it. Until she is truly stabilized, her condition is such that she really needs to stay there.
Although the impulse to "put your life on hold" until she can come home is natural, it may not really be the best thing for you to do. You just can't know how long this will take, or even if she will be able to stay home for long once she is released.
One way to approach this is to ask yourself how long you (and your boyfriend) are willing to wait because of your sister's condition. A month? Six months? A year or two? Have a talk with yourself and decide on a time limit that works for you. Then discuss that time limit with your boyfriend to see if he is also comfortable with it.
Your statement, "I don't know if I can be happy without her being 'well' " concerns me. Are you constantly unhappy now? Does the thought of engagement and marriage give you no joy? If your sister's illness has put you into a depressive state, this is something you need to monitor and perhaps talk to your doctor about. On the other hand, what you may really be thinking is, "I have no right to be happy when she is so ill." Yes, you do.
Based on what you've said, I believe you're grieving for your sister and haven't really reached acceptance yet - acceptance that she has a serious, lifelong illness and most likely won't be stable all the time. As you look forward, think about the positives in your own life - your love, your marriage, the things you most enjoy doing, your hopes and dreams. You have every right to reach for those things. I think you'll come to realize that your sister's bipolar disorder doesn't cancel them all out.
Take care, EngineHeart.
Thanks for your response. I am slowly beginning to understand more and in turn am becoming more optimistic about my sister situation. I really appreciated everything you said. I am absolutely happy to get engaged & married, it's not about me - it's about me wanting her to be a part of everything. I guess it's mostly that I know she deserves to live just as normal & happy a life as I will. That's all - I am working every day to reach acceptance, but that doesn't make it less unsettling knowing all that she is going through. I am realizing now that it will be a long road, but not one that I won't try to help her fight all the way. Thanks again, your words were very inspiring and caring. :)