Children, Parents, or Relatives with BPD => Parent, Sibling, or In-law Suffering from BPD => Topic started by: Pepper77 on February 14, 2020, 01:48:01 PM

Title: I'm new! Sister to a BPD sister
Post by: Pepper77 on February 14, 2020, 01:48:01 PM
Hello! I am posting in part to practice acknowledging the truth to myself and others, even when the truth is uncomfortable!

I am the 42 year old only sibling to a 36 year old whose diagnosis has waivered from Bipolar to BPD. It's funny because we don't even live near one another, hundreds of miles apart, but I still feel very affected by her mental illness. In large part it has to do with my aging parents. They don't have a great relationship with her but they also won't move closer to me, where I would like to help care for them as they age. (My job keeps me here where I live, other side of the country). They would rather stay where they are, "only" 5 hours drive from where she is. I think they sort of enjoy how much she "needs" them when she is in crisis mode?

The diagnosis of BPD is only a few months old but is a relief. It helps me understand, if nothing else, how little I have understood about my sister's mental state! And maybe those raging attacks against me weren't anything I "deserved" but ALSO weren't just her being "mean"...?

An important milestone for my parents is coming up this summer and, while I wanted to plan a big to-do, I have (with help from my supportive husband) realized it's best to keep it simple and no-fuss. The book Walking on Eggshells, which I am reading now, talks about how big holidays can be a trigger and that has definitely been a pattern in my family.

I have to say I feel a little guilty posting here, and am beginning to see that setting healthy boundaries is not something that I have ever really learned how to do. I need to learn now! Thanks for reading and I welcome responses!

Title: Re: I'm new! Sister to a BPD sister
Post by: Panda39 on February 14, 2020, 02:58:50 PM
Hi Pepper,

 :hi: Welcome to the Group  :hi:  I come at BPD from a slightly different angle my Partner has an undiagnosed BPD ex-wife (uBPDxw) and while each relationship is different it is amazing how much we all have in common.  As you explore this site, you will see it frequently.

I'm glad to hear you talking about setting healthy boundaries that is a big tool to have in your toolbox.  Where do you feel you need to put boundaries in place?  What are you struggling with most?

I've pulled a couple of links you might want to check out on boundaries...

They don't have a great relationship with her but they also won't move closer to me, where I would like to help care for them as they age. (My job keeps me here where I live, other side of the country). They would rather stay where they are, "only" 5 hours drive from where she is.

This is their choice.  What kinds of things are you getting sucked into regarding your parents/sister?

Again Welcome, I look forward to hearing more of your story. 


Title: Re: I'm new! Sister to a BPD sister
Post by: zachira on February 14, 2020, 04:25:45 PM
My heart goes out to you learning a few months ago that your sister has BPD. You are wondering about how to set boundaries with your sister. Panda has given you some really useful links. Both my brother and sister have BPD. Setting boundaries with a family member with BPD is something that we learn to do as we go, so do be patient. The most effective boundaries that I have with my siblings with BPD are to go low contact and share as little as possible about my life with them. You are sad about your sister having BPD and this is normal. It is a tragedy to have a sister with BPD, when you really want the best for her, and wish you could have a more rewarding relationship with her. Do keep us posted on how you are doing. There are many members who are dealing with a sister with BPD and it can help to go through past threads to hear how they are coping/have coped.

Title: Re: I'm new! Sister to a BPD sister
Post by: Pepper77 on February 15, 2020, 12:34:40 PM
Hello and thank you for your thoughtful and helpful responses!

zachira - You put into words something that I had not yet found words for, which is that this does feel like a tragedy to me.  In a way I am grieving the possibility of having the relationship that, while it sometimes has seemed possible, has never quite been what I thought it could be.  On the other hand, as I type this, I realize that accepting the reality in front of me may also mean I have the opportunity to craft a new relationship with my sister - a relationship based on honesty. 

I have started going low contact, or at least less contact, and I too have shared less about my life with her over the years as I noticed that she seemed to be using that information to cause pain to me and, probably more frequently, herself.  "Comparison is the thief of joy," I have told her many times.  I feel kind of guilty being "secretive" about myself but it seems to be the best way about certain things.

Panda39 - I greatly appreciate your thoughtful post. I have been reading around this site, and also the Walking on Eggshells book. Anyway the posts you provided gave me a lot to think about.  In fact I talked to my husband today about one of my main fears: that next time I see my sister she will "rage" again and I won't know what to do. He helped me see that I keep assuming "if I only handle it perfectly, I can solve/fix my sister."  Of course stated out loud I see that sounds ridiculous, but I think that since I did a lot of the parenting of my sister growing up, I got a lot of implicit and explicit messages from my parents that I am responsible for how she behaves/her moods/her wellbeing. Of course I cannot control her, and this is a boundary I need to establish internally, in my mind - surrendering the illusion of control over her (or anybody else).

You asked me:
What kinds of things are you getting sucked into regarding your parents/sister?

Well - I think what I mentioned is the crux of it - a long time ago (back as far as our childhoods, even?) my role in the family sort of became "the therapist."  My parents really do not ever talk about their feelings, good or bad.  So, when someone - usually my sister - was having a hard time, I would maybe be the only person in the family she would talk to about how she was doing.  Because of that, and because I'm also older and did a lot of her childrearing, I guess I have always assumed her [state of being?] is my responsibility.

I see reading through here I have already established some boundaries, but my inconsistency in enforcing them has rendered them not very meaningful. For example, I will not stay in the same house as her. Last time I visited family (we all met at a location in between where she and my parents live) I I  failed at enforcing that boundary by allowing her to stay with me at the AirBnB I rented for myself.  This was because she and my parents chose to stay together at another AirBnB (because "they are all so poor" and "this is all they can afford"), and of course she and my parents always end up in conflict, so she "escaped" to my AirBnB.  The family "vacations" (I use this term in the loosest sense of the word! haha! they are not relaxing!) are I think a high-pressure point and she tends to always have some kind of problem or another. 

Anyway I see that I am trying with that boundary, and in fact have already told my parents that I will not be staying in the same house as my sister this summer.  I am going to work on: articulating my boundary clearly to myself and others, and then, you know, actually enforcing it!

Last weekend I told my parents that, although we had all talked about going somewhere together this summer for their 50th Wedding Anniversary, I think we should just stay in the town where they live.  I can rent myself (and maybe my husband) an Air Bnb for those days when my sister (and maybe her bf) come into town, and I can stay at their house for a few days before or after her part of the trip.  I said that I thought this would be the easiest and most "low-fuss" way to do it.  They said their priority is spending the time with family, not necessarily any particular trip or destination.  I know this sounds like a really basic discussion but I see now that I was maybe making another boundary: I will not participate in over-planning an event that will likely lead to a blow-up.  And, again, I will not stay in the same house (rented somewhere else or the actual house where my parents live) if my sister is actually staying there. 

I emphasized to my parents that this wasn't about my sister being "the bad guy"  - I am very tired of the dynamic of me being "the good girl" and my sister being "the bad girl." I read somewhere on this site about (maybe it was called family systems?) and the "golden child" and "scapegoat" roles really resonated with me.  I see now that my angst over my parents choosing not to move closer to me is because, even though I chafe against the "good girl/golden child" role, at some level my parents are still asking me to play that role - but for there to be a "good" girl there needs to be a "bad" girl and I actually don't think my sister is that bad girl! Especially now that I understand she has had this pretty serious mental illness for literally her entire adult life (she is 36 now) - she's done remarkably well considering! And I see that she is hard at work right now in therapy with a therapist and a group (DBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy). 

Okay this got really long so I will stop typing, but thanks so much to both of you for your replies. I love reading on this site and books - I like having a theoretical framework to help understand my experiences. I am so impressed with your empathy, kindness, thoughtfulness, and helpfulness zachira and Panda39.