My 40 year old sister has stolen from me again and, this time, I turned her into the Sheriff's Department. She supposedly has bipolar disorder--although there are times when I think she is abusing prescription drugs as she "doctor shops" and has all sorts of prescriptions at various pharmacies. Less than a month ago, our family, a Deputy from the Sheriff's Department, my sister's psychiatrist and therapist held an intervention and she was told that if she ever stole anything again, she would be prosecuted and likely spend time in jail. Two days after that intervention, my bank noticed a large number of checks coming through my account made out to my sister and various jewelry stores signed with a signature that didn't look like mine. So I went to the Sheriff and filled out a complaint with a detective.
I'm bothered by a number of things and was hoping someone could help give me some perspective:
- My sister claims she doesn't realize what she's doing when she's doing it or thinks the amounts she's stolen are much less than the actual amounts. She blames it on her bi-polar disorder.
- She also can't account for where the money goes. Says she just doesn't know. Between my mother and I, the amounts she's taken, the cash advances she's made on my mother's credit cards, and the jewelry she's stolen is close to the $100,000 range--and the only thing she will admit to is sometimes she buys expensive jewelry, then feels bad and is embarrassed to return it so pawns it. What she does with the money from the pawn shops, again, she can't/won't say. My mother pays all her bills so it's not going to those.
- She hasn't held a steady job in six years and is living with and being supported by my mother. Her 11 year old son also lives with my mother and is the greatest little boy but it's easy to see his mom's behavior is ripping him apart.
- My mother has enabled my sister for nearly ten years now and, even though the problem is getting worse, she called me last night to say my sister's psychiatrist "couldn't believe anyone in the family had turned her in to the police" and that my sister could be facing sixteen years in prison. So my mother is now finding and financing a good defense attorney as my sister has a meeting with the detective in charge of the investigation this Friday. In the past--and I am ashamed to admit I bought into it--my mother has done everything she could to keep me from pressing charges, even after my sister took nearly $40K from my checking account. My mother cried, yelled, cajoled and finally said I wouldn't have a family if I proceeded. She wore me down and I gave up, which was so stupid on my part.
The most baffling part of all of this is that my sister did not start doing things like this until about ten years ago. She was pretty, fun, honest, thoughtful and took pride in her appearance, her work and her son. Now, she's very overweight and doesn't treat anyone or anything with respect--including herself. It seems she just doesn't care about anything. She's doing things which would have been totally out of character for her ten years or more ago--like sleeping around with married men and running to the ER or some doctor--she has many--on an almost weekly basis (seriously; the last time I picked her up in one, the doctor said very pointedly "this is her 72nd visit here this year.")
She's on a cocktail of drugs, including mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, hormone replacement therapy (she' had a hysterectomy two years ago--even though her doctor said it wasn't really needed) and pills for migraines.
I am beyond baffled by this and it frustrates me no end that she steals the way she does--and is almost supported in it by my mother. I feel this is a hopeless situation and want to know how/if someone with her condition--if it is, in fact, bi-polar disorder--gets their life together and goes on without hurting others. Is it even possible? Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I love my sister but I am not loving what she's doing to all of us and don't buy the "gee, I can't remember stealing or what I bought or why I did it" excuses she uses constantly. Do I want her to go to prison for 16 years? No; but it just keeps getting worse and nothing seems to deter her. I don't think she'll stop till she bankrupts us all--and then she'll just move on to another friend or relative.
Okay some ideas. First of all perhaps its more than bipolar, was borderline personality disorder ruled out? Because of the manipulative behavior. Or other psychotic disorders? Even bipolar with psychotic features? Also I know as women with bipolar approach menopause post menopausal psychosis is common so it appears they are worsening but it passes afterwards. Also substance abuse will always worsen things. She needs to be in a recovery group.
But let's start with what I know. First of all she should apply for SSI (she must be off illegal drugs and in a recovery program though, they will not approve a current user). The money could be managed by a "representative payee" since she can't manage her own money. Then she could apply for supported housing for people with psychiatric disabilities (and they have specific ones for people who are substance users, term they use is MICA, Forensic refers to a past history of committing crimes, they have specific housing for this population as well). The treatment issues should be talked over with her psychiatrist (and her present as well) but the other issues could be dealt with by your local independent living center. There's one in every county of every state. Here's a list:
She has been warned by you and your family, you've had the police involved, you've had an intervention. If you keep in contact with her, allow her in your house, assist her in any way you are enabling her. I work for a bank. Change your chequing acc't, switch everything including credit cards and pin codes for all cards , make sure anyone who's had contact with her do the same. Make sure you block non known phone numbers, do not take her calls. If you mother still enables her that's her own issue not yours, you have to distance yourself. Do not aid in any way. Advise your mother that you will not assist her in anyway if she continues to enable the sister.
Unless your absolute sure of her diagnosis, don't guess. If she has an addiction she will say anything to get what she wants. Addicts will manipulate to get what they want. If she has stolen money from you, get a restraining order. They will arrest her, and maybe she will get forcefully hospitalized. She can only help herself. An ex of mine is an addict and so is my brother,both bipolar/borderline personalities, so I know first hand what you are going through. She obviously doesn't want the help after the intervention, so there is nothing you can do until she is clean and sober. I repeat there is nothing you can do.
Most bipolars are getting help, stable and very functionable in society, they (including myself) want to be productive. I can't work right now, but I'm sure working on getting back to work. In my 20's I was very hypomanic, though not delusional, and I was very manipulative in many ways. I curtailed that behaviour before I was even diagnosed. I think I just grew up as well.
Take care of you, as hard as it is, you can do nothing for her but set down "the law".
I wish you much luck, LCC
Sorry I do understand but I disagree. Its not a matter with sympathesizing with their behavior, its understanding its a manifestation of their psychiatric disability. I'm not going to post what I did before recovery but some of it ended me up in the psychiatric hospital and before taking medication if I had kept up on that route it would have been long term. The point is I have schizoaffective disorder and I was psychotic. Bipolar is different. There is some self awareness even off medication. If a person has schizophrenia and they are off medication they are psychotic which by definition means as part of it lacking self awareness. Also some psychiatric disabilities such as anti-social personality disorder by their very nature have destructive behavior as part of them.
But there are means of intervention when a person gets out of hand. Adult Protective Services for example. I used their services on a couple of occassions but I can't describe it as its confidential except to say I never called on behalf of a consumer I was working with except at their request. But outside of places I worked and volunteered with yes I did twice. Again I can't describe. But they did help the people. And most people who are severely addicted to drugs are self medicating for a psychiatric disability. They will do anything to get them . If they have a psychiatric disability, prison is the wrong place for them, they will be abused and their symptoms will worsen, a rehabilitation facility or a psychiatric hospital is but judges aren't very lenient and even when they are sometimes the law doesn't allow them to be. You don't have to accept her behavior but you can't just throw her out. Make sure she's well taken care of. And when she is off the recreational drugs and on the proper treatment she may very well be a different person.
First, my heart goes out to you. I have a sister in federal prison who is bipolar - among other things. She stole from all of us, lied to all of us, and tough love meant literally putting her on the street. It is a sad situation, but please know you aren't alone.
I think it's hard to reflect thoughtfully on her situation without having a firm diagnosis. It sounds like there is more than bipolar going on but whether it's a personality disorder, addiction and/or something else, the first step toward helping her is to find a psychiatrist she can't manipulate. It sounds like her current psychiatrist did a complete 180 since the intervention. Is it possible that your mother was not truthful with you about that? Anyway, it sounds fishy. But, there are privacy issues, so if your sister does not cooperate at all, then you will not find out her actual diagnosis unless things are done through the courts.
It is a shame that no one has given her a drug test. If you are concerned about your nephew (and ready for nuclear war), you could request that your mom take her for one. Or, she could get a home test kit. Your mom can tell her it's a condition of living there or a condition of not getting legal custody of her grandson. Or, you can take on both of them by letting social services know that you suspect there may be drugs around and your mom hasn't taken control of the situation in her home. I normally wouldn't want to immediately involve social services, but especially if she is on drugs, it could be a real and imminent threat to her son. She could leave drugs where he could get into them or he could get a disease if she uses needles and he gets an accidental stick. My sister left syringes in the front of a drawer when our house was on the market and we had showings before I found them; I kept thinking about some little kid saying, "what's this?".
I may be very unpopular after saying this, but if I had it to over again, I would have let my sister go to jail years earlier than she did. You think you're helping, but later you may find out that stealing from family wasn't the only stealing she did. Steal from the wrong people or business and she could end up hurt or dead. My sister eventually went so far as bank robbery. Would I want a cop, security guard or business owner to shoot her? No. I'd rather see her alive in prison. Even though it's not ideal, I would see what can be negotiated with the DA and find out if there are any other options available for your sister. Some places have more than others, but it is worth talking to someone about mandatory confinement options. I hope they have something that can help your family.
And, a word about the sentencing - if she hasn't been in trouble before, it is not likely that she would serve 16 years. If she has legal counsel or is appointed legal counsel, there is a strong probability of a greatly reduced plea deal, especially if you are in communication with the prosectors and cooperating with law enforcement. It may not be a lot of comfort, but we've been through this with my sister and it has never turned out as badly as we feared.
Sorry this is so long, but I did want to toss out another explanation for where that money goes. If I used the expression we use, I don't think it'd fly here, but it's basically like big man on campus. Does she like to try to impress others with her money? Does she spread it around extravagantly when she has it? "Drinks on me", for example, or buying everybody's lunch or dinner - and the fancier the place, the better. Anything like that? Like to give gifts - possibly inappropriately valuable gifts or gifts to people she hardly knows? There are a lot of ways to spend money and have little or nothing to show for it. My first instinct is still drugs, but if she seems manic and/or grandiose, she could be throwing money around or supporting not only her own habit, but someone else's. Just a thought. Best wishes.
In reading through your original post more carefully I would say your obligation is to call Child Protective Services. If she has decompensated to that point the kids could be in danger of child neglect. Not for her sake but for the kids sake I'd call them before the police who would arrest her and then where would the kids go? I can't detail in a post because its confidential and its a public forum but if you want pm me. When I did it where I was the report could even be filed online or called anonymously. I suggest before worrying about anything else or protecting yourself, both valid concerns, think of the children. Read through their website. They only remove the children in extreme cases and then its warranted. Otherwise they deal with it practically. They'll deal with the legal violations if neccessary but if she needs psychiatric help and drug rehabilitation they will demand it as a prerequisite for keeping the children. I know the outcome of two calls and the people were thankful afterwards even if they didn't say it and certainly the child was. Better safe than sorry. The police can worsen things. C.P.S. are trained in how to deal with crisis situations and if there have been legal violations that doesn't make her immune from charges but worry about that after. The safety of the children is pre-eminent and her mental welfare comes next. Then you can address the other issues and in addressing the first two they may be settled. I've seen it work in real world terms.
Enabling her behaviours is like being involved with her addictions and illnesses, if there is a child in danger, Social Services should be involved. He shouldn't have any contact with her, she's not only hurting herself but her son. I'm blunt, but I used to work with 6-12yr olds that were at risk, and I've seem some pretty messed up kids because of their parents addictions.
Thank you for your post. Our 18 year old daughter was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder when she was 13. She took herself off of her medication when she was 17. Recently we had to have her arrested for stealing from us. She was taking jewelry from the house when she came over to visit and selling it. We were finally able to prove it when her 16 year old sister noticed a ring was missing. I was able to recover some of the jewelry 2 hours before it was going out to be melted down. My engagement ring was melted down a month before. We confronted her about this but she lied. We also suspect she has been stealing other things from the home such as cash and video games but we can't prove it. The prosecuter is going to offer her mental health court. This has been very painfull for me. I appreciate what you said about wishing you had let your sister go to prison earlier in her life. Every one tells me this is the best thing for out daughter but it hurts me so much.
There comes a point in time where you must protect yourself. Don't let her in your house for any reason for example. And be firm. If she shows up at your door, make her wait outside until take her home. Unfortunately you can not control your mother and it sounds like she is as sick as your sister is right now. She is enabling her to be this way and she isn't doing her any favours.
It doesn't sound like just bipolar to me. The manipulation isn't hallmark of bipolar. Bipolar people tend to be grandiose. They steal and give it away for example, or they take the money and invest in some ridiculous scheme. They will steal but it will be for a reason that they can articulate post episode. I know one lady who racked up $30,000 on her credit card in a month buying 'gift' online for everyone. I have never been flouridly manic so I don't know for sure. I am going on what others have told me about their experiences. One person thought that George Bush was coming to them to talk about world peace so bought a fancy suit with his rent money. Things like that. The manipulation sounds more like borderline personality disorder or some other psychiatric illness.
And the memory loss is a bunch of hogwash. Unless she is drinking or drugging and blanks out (which isn't bipolar). I would be extremely surprised if she doesn't know where that money goes.
I would also echo some concerns about your nephew. I don't know if foster care is the answer because there is such abuse in the system. If you could take him in for a while I would consider calling social services. She isn't a fit mother right now and she is permanently damaging her son.
It is tough. You don't want to lose your family by pressing charges but pressing charges may be the only way to help your sister and protect your mother. Because she isn't going to change until something changes. The system is working for her. She gets to do whatever she wants, cries bipolar, is obviously not taking a treatment plan seriously, and has no repercussions. And she won't get 16 years in prison for a first time offence when there is mental health issues involved. She will probably face jail time, but she will get medical care there and will be dried out if she is on any prescriptions recreationally.
It is a shame there isn't another system. We shouldn't be sending the mentally ill to prison. They need to be confined to prevent them from stealing or whatever else they are into but they need treatment by force not punishment. It is such a shame all around. There is no winning in this situation.
Here is my question, why us? My bipolar stepson steals from us, gets loans from us, destroys our things (wrecked vehicles), breaks into our things for no reason, etc. He has also done so to other family members. But for some reason it is only family that he victimizes. Does this make sense to anyone for any reason other than family keeps letting him get away with it?
I think you hit the nail right on the head. I think our psychiatric community is out of control with the excuses. Does Bi Polar exist? Yes. But I think it is way over diagnosed. It is amazing how well some of these people do in prison, many time with no meds. My child or not-My dad or not-My sister or not-no one gets to steal from me, abuse me or in any way treat me with anything other than basic human dignity and respect. Being sick is no exception. What happens to each of us is a direct reflection of what we have ALLOWED to have happen to us.
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