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Tuesday, October 27, 2009 Bella, Community Member, asks

Q: My 50-year old sister is bipolar.

I am trying to learn how to cope with the maddening verbal abuse and accusations, her insistence that nothing is EVER her fault.  Is refusal to accept responsibility for one's actions typical of bipolar people?  She can do or say something nasty, then flip it around to where I'm to blame for what she did.  It's exhausting.  How can I handle that? 

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Answers (2)
John McManamy, Health Guide
10/30/09 1:57am

Hi, Bella. I'm going to leave your sister out of it and answer your question directly: NO, refusal to accept responsibility for one's actions is NOT typical of bipolar people. YES, in an episode state such as mania, our behavior is uncharacteristically outrageous and we deny everything. But when things settle down, we tend to be mortified by what we did and show remorse.

 

This differs from what I call the a-hole diagnosis. These are people with serious personality issues whose behavior tends to be predictably and characteristically outrageous. They make excuses, don't show remorse, and make lives miserable for others.

 

I don't wish to oversimplify, but ask yourself: Which description more closely matches your sister?

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Bella, Community Member
10/30/09 7:27am

I'm starting to think there is a serious a-hole component.  She's always been difficult, all of our lives, but it is hard to know where her personality stops and the disease begins.  She can be thoughtful and generous and fun.  Right now she is the opposite.

 

This stemmed from an incident in which she asked me to do a huge favor, and kind of rigged it so "no" wasn't an option.  I went along with it, and of course was angry at myself and at her.  I later talked to her about it, saying I felt she'd treated me badly and whoa -- she had done nothing, and it was my fault that she not only asked a pretty sizable favor and then deliberately never thanked me for it.  And I was a terrible person for even bringing it up.  But we do know she's been messing with her meds, so...?

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John McManamy, Health Guide
11/ 6/09 3:00am

You might want to read up on borderline personality disorder. I'm not saying your sister may have it, but familiarizing yourself with the illness may give you more insight into her behavior than you will get from finding out more about bipolar.

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lawyer100, Community Member
10/27/09 4:07pm

Is she seeing a psychiatrist and/or on meds for the bipolar?  She may need different meds because if she is on them, it sounds like they are not controlling her symptoms.  If she does have a doctor, I would ask her if you could go with her to the next appointment so that you may talk with the doctor about what is going on.  If she doesn't have a psych, I would strongly urge her to get one.  It can be typical for some with bipolar to do what she is doing.  I know it's hard, but I would try to stay as calm as possible when she does this.  Yelling at people with the disease will just make things worse.  You might sit down with her and talk about all this when she is calm and not in one of her abusive moods.  I would tell her that you care and love her and would really like to see her get help or get help from her doctor.  Tell her that you worry about her and that it really isn't fair that you have to put up with the abuse.  Hopefully you can get through to her when she is in a calmer mood.  I would also think about getting some therapy for yourself.  A therapist might be able to offer you solutions in dealing with her and you can get your thoughts and feelings out to someone (which will help you feel better, help you to vent).  I hope I have helped a little bit.  Good luck.

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Bella, Community Member
10/27/09 4:15pm

Thanks for your reply, it is helpful.  She had been seeing a psychiatrist, and has been on meds for years.  But I believe that she is tweaking them herself, being unhappy with the weight gain.  My other sister, with whom she is less abusive, is trying to calmly talk to her and get her some help.  She asked about her doc and the meds and got a squirrely answer...so we think the doc is still unaware that she's adjusted them herself.  It's having bad effects on her judgment and behavior, but she seems unaware of that. 

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lawyer100, Community Member
10/27/09 6:45pm

Believe me I know that the meds can make you gain weight-I gained 40 lbs!   And it is hard to get off.  But at least my husband said he'd rather me be a little overweight and no mood swings, than the other way around!  At least she talks to your other sister.  Maybe she should suggest talking to the doc about the weight gain.  I believe there are other psych drugs that can be added to her regimen that will counteract the weight gain/food craving.  Maybe your sister will let your other sister go with her to the doctor so that she can mention what's going on.  I know that the doc will not talk to you about your sister and her file, but I'm not sure if maybe you can call and leave a message for him about what is going on-I think you can do that.  And then he'll bring up that family members are concerned about her and her meds and he can get through to her not to adjust her meds herself, because it could be dangerous.

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Bella, Community Member
10/27/09 7:18pm

Yeah, the thing is we don't know her doc's name or anything like that.  Or even the type of bipolar she has.  The "nice" sister, for lack of a better term, lives in another city.  I just moved to the city where the bipolar sister is this year...I had no idea of her mental state.  She fakes it pretty well most of the time. 

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lawyer100, Community Member
10/28/09 1:32pm

Is it possible to get a hold of her med bottles to see who the doctor is on them?  I don't know if she even lets you come into the house, but if so, you could just casually look around or in the med cabinet to see if you can find the bottles.  Or you could mention that a friend needs a recommendation for a psychiatrist and see if you could get the name that way.  I was just trying to think of sneaky ways to get a hold of the doctor's name!  I wish I had more advice for you-I probably would if I had lived with someone with bipolar, but I am the one with it and recognized on my own that I had a problem.

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Bella, Community Member
10/28/09 2:55pm

Darn, I had an opportunity to do that.  I think I know where she keeps the meds, and she was out of town.  I was checking her cats so I had access.  But it was after that when this whole thing blew up, so I didn't think of it then.  Thanks, though!

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By Bella, Community Member— Last Modified: 10/26/11, First Published: 10/27/09