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Growing up with a Sister with Bipolar Disorder

By Edited Jun 20, 2014 1 0

Looking back on my childhood, I now realize that my sister had bipolar disorder. She was never diagnosed and still to this day at 50 years old, she’s not been diagnosed, but now I know so much about bipolar disorder I’m convinced that was the cause of her problems.  

Bipolar Disorder used to be called Manic Depression, it is characterized by being excessively happy some of the time and extremely sad at other times. It is the severity of the mood swings that makes the poles of bi-polar. But a person with bipolar is also a compulsive liar and that is where I suffered from my sister’s condition.

I was always the happy child while my sister was always grumpy. Whatever we did as a family I liked and she disliked, I was happy and she was unhappy. As a young child I had a concept of reincarnation. I thought life after death was the same as life on earth, I would be happy and she would be sad. I would be in heaven and she would be in hell, but we would be in the same place.

We were in the same school for just two school years, the years when I was 5 and 6. During recess she alternated between protecting me and bullying me. When she bullied me I reported her to the teachers, but when they realized she was my sister they told me to tell my mom when I got home. When I did tell my mom, my mom’s attitude was, “If it happened in school, it’s nothing to do with me.” My sister had found a loophole that she exploited.

The most damaging were the lies she told. Being 4 years older than me, she was the leader and many things she led us to do together were wrong, but then I was sworn to secrecy. I knew if I told I would be hurt more from my sister, so I kept my mouth shut. She would steal, deceive, damage property and I never told. When my parents did find out about the things she had done, my mom would look at me and ask, “Why didn’t you tell me?” The answer was always the same. “My sister told me not to.”

My sister lied about everything. Even things she didn’t need to lie about. She could convince you that what she was saying was the truth. If I drove a white car she could tell me that the car I was driving was red to such an extent that I would eventually believe the white car I was sitting in was red.

Throughout my childhood at regular intervals my parents would cry and ask where they went wrong. They did nothing wrong. They were good, honest parents and raised us as well as any parent could.

On the rare occasion that I told a lie my mother would hold me accountable by telling me not to tell the sort of untruth my sister would tell. In fact for most of my teenage years my sister was held up as the example I should not follow. Mainly she would upset my parents and they would say to me, “Don’t you ever do this to us.” I saw their anguish and vowed I never would. This made me become the goody-goody child, emphasizing my good behavior against my sister’s bad behavior. Although I never directly reported my sister’s bad behavior, I did report on my own good behavior thereby implying I was better behaved than my older sister.

This led to my parents having a high expectation of me. So I could never complain, never have problems. When I did I was told they didn’t expect problems from me. They had come to expect problems from my sister, yes, but not from me. This led to me not being able to share any life difficulties with my parents because I had to keep their image of me being the perfect child or I felt I would let them down and they had been let down enough.

When I was 19, I’d had a boyfriend for 2 years, I thought he was the one for me. I went to see him and he told me he didn’t want to date me any more, the relationship was over. I felt my life was destroyed, I could not be consoled. When I got home, I told my parents and their response was, “Well, we have worse news, your sister is getting divorced.” To me there was no worse news. But to them, my problems were minor. Whatever problems I had, my sisters were always bigger. Always.



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