Helping Siblings

Helping Siblings

Moving DayHello and welcome back! Sorry I haven’t written in a while. A lot has changed…. this past month has felt like a whirlwind…. I quit my job of five years, moved to a new town, started a network marketing business (in a new town, gosh!!!), and began taking Psychology classes at the local community college. What’s more, I was doing some research three days ago and… I think I know what I want to do with my life now!

How I Hope to Change the World

One of my clearest memories from childhood was the sound of my brother crying… sobbing hysterically. Shouting things like, “That’s not fair!” or “You never let me do what I want!” Those sobs and accusations shaped how I viewed the world…. I only realized that three days ago. I listened to my brother’s description of the world (unfair and disappointing), and I believed him.

Tiger SiblingsSiblings… we grow up together. We learn from one another. Because we are family, we stay in touch throughout the years, even after we’ve lost touch with other friends. And we’re the same age, so we grow old together.

Yet there is very little research into how mental illness impacts the sibling relationship. I Googled this phrase: “developmental impact of having sibling with mental illness.” Each search result I reviewed said there was almost no research into this matter. Most research so far has focused either on the illness itself or on the parent-child dynamic. And there are very few resources for the siblings of those suffering from a mental illness.

And yet… there must be an impact….How does a “well sibling,” the one without the significant mental illness, learn to trust others when life is a dangerous, chaotic mess? How does the child learn autonomy and initiative when the sick sibling consistently lashes out against him or her? How does the well sibling discover his or her place in the world when he or she constantly feels overshadowed by the presence of the mental illness?

Please understand: I’m not blaming the child suffering from a mental illness…. That child did not ask to suffer from schizophrenia or a similar disorder, and should never be blamed. I’m just wondering about the dynamics….

My Plan of Attack

Collin_CollegeOver this next year, I will take four basic psychology courses and one class in elementary statistics at the local community college. In September, I hope to take the GRE and finish researching placement options, so that I can apply for grad school before the end of the year. …Whew… I still don’t know where I want to study….

If everything goes according to plans, I’ll start graduate school in August 2017 and eventually earn a Ph.D. in Psychology. Then I’ll apply for positions on staff at a university where I can conduct research into the sibling relationship, exploring how the presence of one sibling with a significant mental illness (such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia) affects the early childhood development of the other sibling.

After that, I hope to develop resources for both siblings and parents. Small workbooks that could help siblings learn how to understand and cope with the situation. Other pamphlets or books that could teach parents how to better balance the responsibilities of raising a special needs child without neglecting the emotional needs of the other healthy child.

Workbooks

That’s the goal anyway. I have to say I’m nervous…. The idea of getting a Ph.D. sounds like a long, scary journey…. But at least right now, I believe this is what God has for me. It’s surreal and exciting! Jesus take the wheel!

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