Dick: Why me?

“You can only do what you can do.”

Dick is the primary caregiver for his brother, Stuart, who is six years younger and lives with bipolar disorder. When Stuart’s manic symptoms emerged at age 19, he initially refused treatment and then the medications he received during his first hospitalization were not effective. At the time, Dick thought he shouldn’t feel the shame he experienced about his brother’s illness; he remembers breaking down and crying.

When treatment was not helping Stuart, Dick’s mother asked him to come along on a consultation with a different psychiatrist. This time Stuart received shock therapy (electroconvulsive therapy or ECT) with a good response. He went on to a decade of stability with no relapses during that time.

Note: ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) may be prescribed when medications do not work. ECT, which produces mild seizures, seems to cause changes in brain chemistry that reverse symptoms of certain mental health conditions. Although much less traumatic than in the past, a side effect could be temporary memory loss.

For a time, Stuart worked with his father in a motorcycle store and then took over Dick’s motorcycle shop when Dick made a career change. When the motorcycle shop closed due to bankruptcy, Stuart moved from a small town to a large city. Soon he was in the hospital, again with manic symptoms. Another long period of stability followed. Stuart worked in real estate and managed well. After Dick’s father died and his youngest brother moved out of the family home, his mother moved in with Stuart to care for him and help with the real estate business.

More of the Story: Becoming a Caregiver