The Brother I once knew..

by Alishia
(Champaign, IL )

I have a 19 year old brother who a few years ago was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I've always tried to be understanding especially because the disease runs in our family, but he is out of control. He abuses drugs, refuses to take his medication most of the time, is highly manipulative towards my parents, lies constantly, is very angry and violent towards family members calls everybody names, even calls our own mom a dumb crack whore cunt. Hes even made violent threats towards my little sister, claiming he would kill her in her sleep. He also seeks out guys on the internet to meet up with to have sex with. His most recent guy apparently is 50 and he knows where my parents house is. Which seems dangerous to both him and my other family members. He has faked suicide twice, claiming he took a handfull of pills, i even believed him the last time, because his pupils were dialated and he looked like he was going to die. I had to pick him up and carry him out to my car myself. Then half way to the hospital he's laughing and calling me names. I've had it with him. It's the point where he has hurt me so much that really have no feelings left for him. The brother i once knew is no longer in that person's body. It got so bad that i moved out of my parents house to get away from it all. But every time i go over to visit my mom and sister, things just keep getting worse and worse. I'm afraid he is a danger to both himself and my family and I was wondering what it is i could do about this?


Ben's Answer:

A very painful situation. Learning to live with Bipolar Disorder in these early adulthood years is especially hard to do. Here's what you need to understand: Bipolar Disorder is a cyclical, episodic condition that changes over time. Some people only have episodes of mania/hypomania every few months, or even years apart, while some people have mood swings every week, or within a day. If your brother is being abusive, manipulative, hurtful, violent, reckless and irresponsible all the time, then it's not all because of his Bipolar Disorder.

Bipolar episodes of mania or hypomania do tend to bring out whatever is normally suppressed within you. So if your brother has some antisocial tendencies, then he might become very antisocial when manic. (Another person might go around hugging everyone and wanting to heal the world while they're manic).

Your brother really does sound out of control, and whoever is providing him with food, clothing and shelter (I guess your mom), is enabling him to continue this outrageous behavior, even threatening his little sister. This really should not be tolerated at all. A threat of killing someone in their sleep should be taken seriously, even if he's only saying it for shock value. A few days in jail might be a good wake-up call for him.
I realize that may sound harsh, and a lot of parents dread the thought of having their child locked up, but what's the alternative? She obviously can't control him. It's one thing to endanger his own life, and another to endanger his family in their own house. It's likely to just get worse if your family doesn't start practicing some "tough love."

People can and do recover from being in this state, but it doesn't happen until they hit bottom. It sounds like he's had a free ride for a long time and hasn't had to face any negative consequences of his horrifying behavior. So what incentive does he have to change his life?

Medications are by far, not the only way to stabilize himself, but for someone as reckless and irresponsible as he is, it's unlikely anything else would have any impact right now. But again, if he has no motivation or desire to change, he's certainly not going to have the discipline to take his medication every day.

He should be given some choices, like: Half-way house; Rehab; Psych Hospital; psychotherapy, etc. Continuing to live off your mother while behaving this way should not be an option.

It might be a great help if you and the rest of your family (not your brother, yet), had a session with a good family therapist who has experience with Bipolar Disorder and Drug Abuse. It would help you to feel less powerless and to come up with a plan for how to help your brother, while protecting yourselves.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT

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