Q: Hello. My sister lives in Arkansas. I myself, live in New York.
My sister is Bipolar and goes into her depressed mood swing, usually from New Year’s to around May or June. During that time, she refuses to talk to me. If I try to call her, she hangs up the phone on me. The rest of the family lives minutes away from her and has no clue that she is Bipolar. They think that when she goes into her mood swings, she just being miserable and they get upset with her. She is married and her husband tolerates her mood swings for a while, but then he just starts to give up on her, and then goes into his own depression. I love my sister so much, and want to help her the best way I can. But living so far away from her, I just don’t know what to do. She has no health insurance to seek professional help, and I really don’t think that she would go, if she did have insurance. I feel so helpless, living so far away. I just want to fly there, put my arms around her, and protect her from the world. But my job and finances, won’t allow that to happen. What can I do? How can I help her?
A: First of all it may be possible that your sister is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) based on the time line you give here. If she only get depressed in the winter months and does not demonstrate the highs of mania it could be SAD, which can be treated by getting more sunlight. There are several reputable companies that sell special lights for this condition. However, I am only going on limited information here. The other issue is that in my experience every state provides mental health care for those with low income or without insurance. Maybe you can do some research into community mental health centers in her area. Many times in rural areas several counties band together to offer services for the larger region. Otherwise you could investigate if anyone offers a sliding scale fee arrangement through other agencies or private practices. If she isn’t in denial altogether, you could suggest she read some self-help books or workbooks on depression or bipolar disorder. There is also information available online, as well as forums and support groups. However, as much as you love and care for your sister, you can only do so much. She is the one who has to recognize the problem and work toward dealing with it for it to get better. The best you can do is provide information and unconditional love. If she refuses to talk to you during these difficult months maybe you could send letters and cards just so she knows you still care. I know it’s hard to love someone who is hurting and won’t let you in but I believe she will reap the benefit of your loving thoughts whether or not she speaks with you directly. Good luck.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Feb 2007
Counts, H. (2007). How can I help my sister with her Bipolar Disorder when I am so far away?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 29, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/02/24/how-can-i-help-my-sister-with-her-bipolar-disorder-when-i-am-so-far-away/