Katie: Trying to Help

Katy spent years searching for ways to help her brother and provide emotional support to her mother.

I think it was a common reaction of feeling scared, like where is my brother? Where did he go? Wondering is he addicted to drugs. What’s happening? Twenty-three years later, I’m really educated on everything. Back then I had no idea about anything. I ended up getting the “I’ll save my family” complex and did that for many, many years, where I was always the one helping him and trying to help my mom. . .I finally went to therapy and realized that’s not necessarily the healthiest role.

She remembers having “survivor’s guilt” because her brother struggles so much in comparison to her own experience. Katy experienced postpartum depression with her second pregnancy and has some ongoing anxiety and depression, which she manages well with medication. Her experience helped her to relate to her brother, although his symptoms are much more severe with auditory hallucinations and mania.

Katy confided that the situation with her brother sometimes feels hopeless. He is getting worse with age. She has become more realistic about the difficulty of helping her brother. She reflected, “I kept really wanting to help him, and thinking for many years that I could and then realizing he’s got a really tough diagnosis. Bipolar is such a big pendulum in terms of symptoms.”

Kevin has difficulty making friends. He makes do financially with Social Security disability and spends his time watching sports on TV and playing the guitar. Katie named the feelings she experienced as she tried to help her brother and support her mother--“Fear, sadness, depression, like someone had died, hopelessness, guilt.”

He does not have many good relationships. He knows I’m always there for him. He’s been mean to me so often. Then he calls back, and says I’m really sorry. It’s always, “You know I’m mentally ill. I also have a brain injury.” He’s learned that over the years how to get excused from bad behavior by saying, “I’m sorry, I have this illness.” He calls me every day. We talk maybe for a minute or two. Some days he’s not very nice and sometimes he’s great.