My older sister tried to kill herself two days ago. This came as quite a shock to my family and me because she'd never shown signs of depression. When she was brought to hospital, it was found out that she had a chemical imbalance and was suffering from bipolar disorder. I was in the dorm when I heard about it so I was really freaked out. Now I feel as if I might've been able to help her if I'd only known what she was going through. I haven't seen her yet, but I'm going to home this weekend to see how she's doing. Thing is, I don't know how I should interact with her. Do I ask her why she did it? Please help me.
Oh, I am so sorry to hear about your sister. This is a very difficult time for you and your family.
Your sister has bipolar disorder? If this is the first indication of her disorder then there is no way for anyone to have known or helped her. A manic or depressive episode can come out of the blue. Many people that suffer from this disorder have a traumatic episode and then the disorder is diagnosed.
I don't know that your sister will have any concrete answer for you if you ask her why she attempted to end her life. Deep depression is very hard for many people to understand if they have never felt that way. Depression of this magnitude goes way beyond just the blues. People that suffer from this type of depression have such profound sadness and despair. Life seems to hopeless and they feel powerless and helpless to see beyond the despair. This type of profound depression zaps the energy from you. You are unable to perform the simplest activities of daily living. Getting out of bed, showering, grooming and eating take monumental effort. There seems to be no way to end the deep sadness and pain. This sadness and pain may not have any specific reason or cause. When the chemical imbalance in the brain occurs, neurotransmitters are not released in adequate levels. This results in deep depression and excessive bouts of energy. It is not something that is easy to see in many people, especially when it is a new onset of the disorder and symptoms are not recognized as part of a larger problem like mental illness.
The most help you can be to your sister is to support her. Try not to be judgmental about her behavior. You are seeing the worst side of depression. Bipolar disorder has two spectrums to it. Mania or hypomania (a milder form of mania) is the other side of bipolar disorder. You may have seen some of the moods and behaviors that are associated with mania and not recognized them as manic behavior. Educate yourself. The university of Google is a good place to start. There is sooooo much information out there. When you go to see your sister ask the nurses and the doctor to help you and your family get information about bipolar disorder. They can get you literature to read, refer you to support groups and assist you with finding the answers to any questions. I can not encourage you enough to get educated about this disorder. Knowledge is power. Your parents will need to empower themselves to be able to help your sister. You will, too.
I don't know that you could have helped your sister if she did not have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder prior to her attempt to commit suicide. This may have been her first episode with the disorder. Your sister will need medication to restore normal balance of the chemicals in her brain. She will be given medication while in the hospital and remain on meds, probably for the rest of her life, unless there is some breakthrough in science and a cure is found. Bipolar disorder is treatable and can be managed but not cured. Many people live productive, happy lives with bipolar disorder. When you see your sister just show her love and support. Let her tell you things as she feels comfortable talking about it. That may be right away or it may be never. She may not have any answers herself. Just being there and showing her you are not angry with her will be tremendously helpful. Let her know she is loved, cherished, and valued - no matter what.
Keep coming back to this forum. Many of the participants here have bipolar disorder themselves. They can tell you about life with this disorder first hand.
Again, I want to say how sorry I am that your sister is sick. She will recover and manage her illness. You can get through this! Get support and education so you know about her illness and can support her.
My thoughts and prayers are with you, your sister and your family. Let us know how all of you are doing. Peace.
"Deep depression is very hard for many people to understand if they have never felt that way"
This is sooo true. It's extremely difficult to even begin to get someone to understand how you are feeling. Whenever I seem extremely down my dad would always ask if something is wrong at work. It doesn't work that way. In fact, on some days I can have loads of stress and not be affected by it. Then on other days when everything is going 100%, I would feel like ... you know what I mean.
The best you can do is let your sister know that you are there for her and even if you don't understand, you will support her.
The worst thing you can ever do is to blame, criticise or make her feel as if what happened is her fault. Even subsequent side-effects of how she attempted suicide should not be placed on her shoulders. Be supportive in her recovery and always mindfull of this fact.
A lot of people think..."Oh common, we all get sad and blue from time to time". Deep depression is not something you can ignore or that happens necissarily due to events. You can't turn it on and you can most certainly not turn it off.
Thank you for the support. I'll certainly use the information you've provided to try and help my sister. I know that this is a very tragic phase in a person's life, and I only hope that my sister can fully recover. We're all just worried that she'll try to commit suicide again. She's currently under very close observation. She's resigned from her job, and is living with my parents again. Wish us all the best, and I'll definitely be checking out this forum again in the near future.
When you see her, tell her you love her. Talk with her, laugh with her. IF she wants to talk about her disorder, let her talk about it, but don't ask her, don't expect her to understand yet and don't expect her to have to explain herself.
Just be there for her, that's the best you can do. Luckily, now you are aware of the diagnosis. Go learn about it! Do your research. I know it sounds stupid, but Wiki is a great resource to start learning about mental disorders. She's getting treatment now, which is the first step- and all you need to do is be there for her, and be her sister.
I've just come back from visiting my sister from home. She seems all right now. She talked to me about the situation, which surprised my family. Apparently, she didn't want to open up to them about it. I'm just glad that she's getting her feelings out now. From what I gather, she just got so fed up with all the bad luck she's been getting lately (getting 10k stolen from her, getting held up at knife-point). I just hope she gets better soon. She's back at work now (it's at a magazine, so it's pretty flexible hours). I'm looking forward to seeing her again this weekend.
I've done quite a bit of research about the treatments she should be getting. The doctor recommended lithium, but my family and I aren't sure we approve since it has known side effects such as delusion and mania. Any advice on alternative medication?
Lithium can be really great- it's not for everybody, but for some people, it's the only thing that works. If it is prescribed in the proper amounts, the person taking should not experience delusions or anything of the sort. Other anti-psychotics have similar risks though, but newer ones are more refined.