I wrote about my sister’s mental illness here almost one year ago, and subsequently read Dr Amador and tried to utilize and internalize the LEAP approach, and it did improve our relationship. I don’t disagree or agree with her, but try to understand what she is going through. She seemed stable for a while, but things are deteriorating rather rapidly.
My sister is completely unmedicated and has classic anosognosia. She is in her 60’s and as far as I know she doesn’t have a definitive diagnosis, but she has delusions of persecution and hears voices. She believes one of the neighbours has a grudge against her and told everyone else in the neighbourhood that she is a horrible person and someone set up a website all about her that has “gone viral” so everywhere she goes, people follow her and talk about her and laugh at her. She claims to hear them in the yard at night in all kinds of weather, and they are trying to destroy her home and garden. She has woken at 4 am saying they are pumping poison gas into the air vents. She’s got to the place where she is afraid to leave the house. She is afraid of children because she thinks they’ve all been warned that she’s a pedophile.
I drove my sister to the hardware store today, went off to shop in a different part of the store, and when I found her, she was wild-eyed and trembling saying that people all over the store were photographing her. I just said, “That’s bizarre. What kind of idiot has nothing better to do in a hardware store?” But it is absolutely real to her. She is dead serious and it is just a fact that they will all post those pictures on the website about her. How can she expect people to believe this? How can she believe it herself? I still don’t get it.
My sister was seeing a psychiatrist regularly for a couple of years, but now only has 20 minute phone consults every couple of months. The doctor tried a number of medications, but she could not tolerate any side effects, and besides, in her mind, the problem is the neighbours, not her.
I feel so hopeless and helpless. I make pathetic little gestures like writing out inspirational quotations and motivational affirmations for my sister, and sharing upbeat self-help books. I keep naively hoping that if she reads the right words in the right order, she’ll realize she can choose happiness. In fact, it has become a struggle for me to maintain my own happiness while my sister is unbearably miserable, so maybe the quotes are more for me. I try to plan positive activities for us together like afternoon tea and watching movies of her favourite Jane Austen novels, but she’ll sit doubled over and cringing. I used to be able to lift her spirits and make her laugh, but her negativity is really powerful. I usually see her once a week, and she calls me every couple of days, but sometimes I wish I didn’t have to be around her because it is so draining and takes a day at least to regain my equilibrium.
I read some of the stories here and really feel for those of you who live with your family members every single day, and it’s just relentless. You have my respect and admiration. I keep hoping that there’s a way to fix my sister, but realistically, this is probably originating in her brain chemistry, and only medication might be able to offer help. When she bemoans her situation, I occasionally suggest that she may want to reconsider trying a different medication, as new formulas are being developed all the time, and she might be able to find one that works for her. She believes that she is suffering from anxiety and depression and PTSD from being bullied, but thinks antipsychotic medication is inappropriate. I wrote a letter to her psychiatrist 2 years ago, and she felt betrayed, though I am thinking of doing so again, as I’m not sure what she tells the doctor.
Sorry this is so rambling and incoherent. This situation is really getting to me and my own thinking is getting muddled. I don’t know what I can do any more. I guess I just need some support and understanding. I don’t like to talk about it to my friends because I feel like that just spreads the negativity around and gives it more life, and I don’t want to pass that on to my friends. My partner has been patient, but I understand why he quickly changes the subject whenever I bring up my sister. Thanks for being here, and keeping us all going.