MY SISTER'S KEEPER: Learning to Cope with a Sibling's Mental Illness by Margaret Moorman

MY SISTER'S KEEPER: Learning to Cope with a Sibling's Mental Illness

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The younger sister of a woman with lifelong disabling mental illness describes her struggles to oversee her sister's care after their mother's death, and to acknowledge the deeply pervasive effects of the illness on her own self-image and outlook. Sally Moorman's manic-depressive emotional disorder first required hospitalization when she was 18 and her sister Peggy, the author, was ten. Over the years that followed, Peggy tried a few strategies to cope with Sally's problems: denying her sister's existence; trying to become perfect in order to banish suspicion in others (and in herself) that she herself might be mentally unstable; and, finally, fleeing from the family home in Virginia to live and work in New York. Meanwhile, the sisters' widowed mother made Sally's care her life's purpose, and it took all she could give, and more. Peggy dreaded what would happen when their mother died, and she helped her mother set up a trust fund for Sally's future needs. When Sally was 47 and Peggy 39, their mother did die; the nightmarish year that followed realized all of Peggy's worst fears as she was forced to shuttle back and forth to Virginia to ensure that Sally did not self-destruct. The trust-fund money allowed Peggy to hire a private social worker and the services of an agency of advocates for the mentally ill; this helped--but not enough to keep Peggy from being driven to exhaustion and despair. Finally, Peggy found a self-help group for siblings of the mentally ill, and they and Peggy's therapist helped her to begin to get on with her own life. The memoir ends on a happy, cautiously hopeful note, with Sally stabilized and Peggy married and a mother. Moorman tells her family's story with courage, honesty, and generosity. Those close to people with mental illness should find insight and gentle guidance here.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton