Thou Shalt Not

Compare thyself to others…..

My sister and her husband were in town for the Holidays and stayed with us for three nights along with my aging and memory-impaired mother. It is always great to be around my sister. She is active, fun to be with, helps out whenever necessary. In short you could not ask for a better big sis.

Big difference between my sister and me? She did not get the bipolar. But she has always been very supportive of me and actually used to take me into her home every six months for what I call mini-breaks when I lived up north.

My problem with my relationship with my sister is I try to compare myself to her in terms of her successes in managing relationships, her accomplishments at work, her steadfastness with her faith and just her innate ability to have fun. My therapist suggests using her as a role model rather than comparing myself to her because I will likely always come up short. My therapist did not say “come up short” but that is how I feel when I make the comparison.

A word of caution – it’s not the type of nice that rubs your face in it. My sister is really just a very good person who has not had a mental health diagnosis to deal with. But if I remember things honestly and correctly, my sister has had her share of hardships. One of her sons had a chronic disease growing up and almost did not graduate high school. Her other son is an artist who is extremely talented but not necessarily financially prepared for family life with a spouse and kids. (I am not sure he even wants that….).

So why do I gloss over these facts when I think about my sister’s lot in life? She has definitely had her share of hardships. She is just expert in getting past these. I think her strong faith is main reason why.

So do any of you compare yourself to siblings or cousins when you know you “should” not? What do you tell yourself when you are comparing self with others? Does resolving the comparison or downplaying it involve faith in any way?

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Family Then (part two)

As an additional exception to the “normal life” rule, my stepmother and my father died respectively in 1988 and 1989 of cancer.  I did not have the opportunity to work through the bipolar illness with them as their deaths were within a few years of my diagnosis.  I remember feeling secure in the fact that I was able to survive my father’s illness and death without a major hospitalization or illness breakthrough. 

On the other hand, my mother and step-dad were quite present in my life from 1985 forward.  Over the next 30 years until my stepfather’s death in the spring of 2013, I would continue to develop relationships with each of them as individuals and with both of them together as parents.  Granted, they did not always know what to do to help me through my bipolar episodes.  Quite frankly, no one did.  But they never stopped trying both as a couple and as individuals.  In any case, I always felt loved if not understood. 

My sister Jane in particular was a huge help during the early years of my illness and always provided an open door for me when I was ill.  This was when I was in my mini-break period from about 1988 to 1995 and stayed with her and her family for 3 to 7 days at a time about twice a year.  This time with care in a family environment gave me the confidence to begin to seize control of my illness outside of a hospital environment but still taking meds.  

Later throughout the difficulties of the postpartum period and forward, my Mom and Step-Dad played an integral role in supporting me through my illness.  After two years into my daughter’s birth, my parents moved back to Augusta to be present in her life.  Weekly dinners together helped form bonds that were stronger than the bipolar illness itself.  My relationship with my Mom grew and grew as she became more involved as a grandmother and I had the opportunity to witness the development of that relationship.  Since the death of my step-father seven years ago, we continue to get together with my Mom on a weekly basis, sometimes more often.  Covid-19 has changed this frequency some – so we talk by phone at least once a day.