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Growing up with a Sister with BPD

As a younger sister I was quite oblivious really to a lot of my sisters difficulties...

Looking back I presume my parents worked hard to protect me from knowing about issues that would have worried me. I accepted everything about my big sister and didn’t question anything really. I remember times when my parents were under immense stress and upset and them desperately trying to help my sister with her eating problems. As a child I picked up on the emotions around me and was affected by them, even without understanding the full extent of the situation.

My sister wasn't diagnosed with BPD until later on and I remember being relieved that their was finally an explanation behind some of the issues that affected her. I had never heard of it before but was reassured to learn that certain medication could help and also some behavioural therapies could also help to enable a certain level of control over it.

My sister is very open about the condition and works hard to raise awareness of it and I feel able to ask her questions about the disorder. I don't really talk about how it affects me and try not to give it much thought really because it is what it is and life is too short to dwell on negative feelings. I have some close friends who I can talk to about absolutely anything so I confide in them during difficult or frustrating times and as they are detached from the family I can share all of my emotions/feelings with them without offending or upsetting other family members. I think because I am quite an open person it enables people to ask questions and not feel awkward about talking to me about my sisters illness and I think generally people are more accepting of mental illnesses now.

As a parent I try to bring up my children to be accepting of all people around them and to have an understanding that everyone is different. I have always chatted with my children when family/friends are poorly or through bereavements and I have explained to them that sometimes people can be poorly in a part of their body, for example legs, heart, lungs etc. but also that some people are poorly in their heads so they might behave a bit differently or find some things more difficult to do etc. They accept this happily as children do and it enables me to not have to go into details of incidents as they happen, for example overdoses/stays in hospital etc because I can tell them that the doctors are just helping to look after their Auntie’s poorly head. As they get much older I will explain more about mental illness but it will be age appropriate to their comprehension.

I think the hardest thing about my sister having BPD is seeing the affect it has on my parents and I worry about them when they get older and how they will cope with it. Having my own children I just can't imagine how heart breaking it must be to see your child struggle through life and how much you must worry about what will happen when you’re not around anymore to support them. I feel very blessed in my own life with my husband and wonderful children, the security of my home and good job opportunities and I feel very sad that my sister may not have everything that she hopes for in life. I also find it hard to differentiate between the condition and her own character/motivation so it is difficult to give her advice or challenge certain behaviours (that I would do if it was my other sister) because I worry that it will distress her or cause a drastic reaction. But I don’t think that this is necessarily helpful to her if people around her don't feel that they can be honest with her but at the same time when you love someone you worry about them hurting themselves if you upset them. I also find it difficult reading her articles about having voices in her head because, for me, this is very distressing because it makes me realise that she has an extreme mental illness which I find hard to comprehend and it is extremely worrying.

When she is really poorly obviously it is very difficult, upsetting and distressing because I love her very much and want the best for her. I also find it difficult to see the impact on my parents and I try to support and reassure them and my other sister and do whatever I can to be positive for them and my children. Also sometimes after an incident I will distance myself from my sister until I have dealt with my feelings of anger and frustration as I don't think that these would be helpful to her (but I’m hoping are natural!). I think as well I have now prepared myself mentally for the next incident and almost expect something to happen to protect myself from the element of shock-but obviously I hope and pray that she remains safe and happy.

I love my sister dearly and have a nice relationship with her, I enjoy spending time with her and she is a wonderful auntie to my children. I accept her for who she is and will be there for her no matter what. I just hope that she will not lose her own identity to the definition of the illness and that she will have the strength and character to do her best to control the illness and not let the illness control her.

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