Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

I want to cut ties with my brother (never be forced to interact with him again) - how do I tell my family?

My brother was diagnosed with Schizohphrenia (Paranoid) when I was 13. I lived with him and my parents until I moved out at 26. I have been extremely scarred from the trauma of living with a brother afflicted by this disease and largely unresponsive to medication. Though he is medicated still, he is almost always looking and sounding as if he is in an active phase of the illness (word salad, strange behavior, paranoia, etc.).

Somehow my parents still insist I meet with them three, see my brother or at least talk to him on the phone. When I refuse invitations they say: it’s not so bad, or focus on the positive. Then they send me pictures of him.

I am still at 30 years of age just barely breathing trying to keep myself sane from all the trauma I endured and the trauma I somewhat still have to endure as the crises keep happening.

I do not want to see my brother at all, I do not want to talk to him. I want to give MYSELF a chance to rebuild my life.

How do I tell my parents, my family?

Advice? suggestions…

thanks

I have four adult children. One, the oldest at 35, has sz. When she first got ill, her two brothers and her were living in my big old house. That was 3 years ago. Her siblings have pretty much distanced themselves from her without anything sudden or obvious being done. One moved to WA state and he pretty much just stopped calling bit by bit. The other boy moved out, getting an apartment together with two other young men. My daughter wanted to go live with them, and they just said “no” it’s a guy place, a bachelor pad. (My daughter couldn’t pay to move out anyway). The WA state son moved back to town and in with his brother, but by then, my daughter and I understood that they “had lives” and were “busy” and didn’t so much miss that they never came around.

They were here for 2 hours on Christmas, and went to the movies with us for her birthday. They just sort of disconnected slowly without any obvious upset.

I agree that you shouldn’t feel obligated to see your brother. I wouldn’t really “tell” anyone, just be busy and distance yourself.

I used to ask the boys to come visit both of us, but they just say “no, ma, it’s uncomfortable”.

My boys separately ask me out to dinner or breakfast or something, or even just Starbucks, and I go out to see whichever one is free. My daughter rarely talks of them anymore.

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Hi Anonymous ~
First, I’m no psychologist. Or even close. But sometimes as family and caregivers are concerned, sometimes one of the best things we can do for ourselves is find a good one (a therapist I mean) for ourselves.
Second, I’m glad you were able to find us here. It’s a good community…
As far as families go, that can be dynamic and some of the hardest struggles when dealing with a loved one.
I want to say that I worked in a medical field where end of life was common, and as hard as my patients’ conditions could be, there was nothing ever harder than the families that waded through it…
Some days I feel that these types of illnesses that we talk about here beat it out ten fold…
Family dynamics are hard.
I ask myself:
Is our whole family communicating openly? Can we make that happen?
What are the repercussions with the individuals in the family to our relationship with them if we choose to take care of our own mental health?
ARE we taking the best care of our own mental health? And why would our family, supposed to be a support system, not support my choice? Are there financial aspects that need to be looked at? Are there religious or other community expectations that we feel won’t be met, and how do we ourselves as individuals honor ourselves if we have to make the choice?
Families come in a large variety of form and life and practice and expectations.
I’d say if ever the word ‘abandonment’ or the word ‘negligent’ ever come up, simply interject that we are no good to our loved ones if we are not able to be strong and healthy ourselves…
Sounds like you’ve had a long struggle. I am so sorry for that. Unfortunately the struggle doesn’t end when our loved ones are not well.
But if we CAN be better ourselves and stronger, there’s no better way, in my opinion, to show our families that they can be part of more life too. (Never know, maybe your brother sees and feels that too…)

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Thank you for your response, although I am not interested in showing anyone how to be “part of more life too”. As far as I’m concerned, my brother has had all of my living life to be a brother to me, to learn from me and to rely on me for moral support. I have been an example at many times in my life. Through victories and struggles, he’s decided to pretend I’m just someone else in his life he can be happy FOR (rarely) but not really happy WITH. He has never taken my advice seriously and I think he’s so far gone he doesn’t even know how to love anymore. I’ve spent much time trying to help him both directly and indirectly - all the while taking the best care of me I could. He, in return, rewards me by not applying the guidance I give him, upsetting my parents often, and making 0 effort in being well again or at least better.

Recently, every year it’s crisis after crisis and every time he calls he’s symptomatic - I have decided it’s high time to release myself from the burden of feeling obligated to maintain any kind of connection.

We were never that close to start. I love him because I know him, but I don’t feel attached in fact I look forward to seeing what my life will be like if I pull this off correctly and manage to escape this dyfunctional family dynamic for good.

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I think you’re totally right. I was so upset the night I wrote that message and I think that idea was very bad. I will just keep dodging invitations and phone calls until my family gets the message. If they ask me questions - I’ll be as honest as they want me to be.

I’m not spending a minute longer involving myself in his life to try to help him. He clearly doesn’t care for my help and honestly he doesn’t really love me - he’s selfish about everything and the illness has taken away his capacity to think clearly about most things, even feelings and morals. He keeps saying he wants to see me but I really really don’t and I guess I’ll just have to find ways to be very busy or lie and understand I need to lie to get my position known and for my position to solidify. It is the only way I see out of this mess. Otherwise I will live my life under the shadow of this illness and of his selfish behavior.

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Family members have to make serious choices when a sibling or child or spouse becomes ill. I would never judge anyone’s choice because each situation is very, very individual.

One family I know got their son into county housing after taking care of him for 6 years (from his age 17 to 23). The mother, grandmother and brother all have separate lives and separate housing from the ill one now. They used to all 4 live together before the illness.

One family (mother, father 3 siblings) sent their ill son to a home out of state, paid for him to be there for 3 months, and then totally disconnected from him, never allowing him to contact them or come home. He moved out from the home after getting on meds and worked at Dunkin Donuts last anyone heard of him. It has now been 5 years since last contact. And this is a VERY wealthy family who could have done more, but they cut him off.

One family (father with dementia, mother caregiver) has taken care of their ill son for a decade, losing their own freedom and money and giving up much of their lives for him (who is still unmedicated and psychotic) while the brother lives a separate life in another part of the country. The mom is now thinking of turning out the psychotic son, since weather is good and he can live homeless right now. She is in agony of decision.

What you do is your choice. You need to do daily what is best for your own future. Your parents should understand (my opinion) that you had a very hard childhood, and you are off to live your own life. However, they may not be any more capable of understanding your feelings than your brother is.

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I think the advice to not make any formal statement, but just getting the space and time you need right now is the way to go. There isn’t really a need to explain or defend your actions, and making a statement now may be something you will regret later.

Time and space… and on terms you are comfortable with… you never know what might happen in the future.

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Switch roles and my Brother would be you and I would be your brother.

ALL that you have said in a lot of ways is that we are similar. This switch is complicated because i had Schizophrenia and now we think he might.

I have treated him like shit
He said it’s always been
he has done all he can for our relationship
organising short trips and being caring with all his soul and supportive
I have spent years trying to improve but all i have now is my dad and mum is out of the picture almost.
my brother’s position my brother is in sounds exactly what you are saying

my brother has had all of my living life to be a brother to me, to learn from me and to rely on me for moral support. I have been an example at many times in my life. Through victories and struggles, he’s decided to pretend I’m just someone else in his life he can be happy FOR (rarely) but not really happy WITH. He has never taken my advice seriously and I think he’s so far gone he doesn’t even know how to love anymore. I’ve spent much time trying to help him both directly and indirectly - all the while taking the best care of me I could. He, in return, rewards me by not applying the guidance I give him

This and all that you say almost has been the same as his path and our path

except in our case he is also unwell
alcoholic, lives with our Dad and is psychotic himself.

The third sibling was our middle sister
psychotic for years
now we 3 have been psychotic for years at a time each.

I have had a lot of advice to stay away from the chaos. To take care of myself
that i have the point of view that my dad says to take care of me first
Losing me would be a double tragedy
My dad saying that to me really makes me feel he must know exactly how uptight i get and afraid of him. I have to walk on eggshells
I know he does too.
He recently decided to get his own life back… along with some of the most floridly psychotic things happening with him yet.

It feels pointless talking about all the similarities
i would like to share insight into his cold behaviour towards you

I can only explain that he loves you very much
and probably freezes a lot out of fear of getting it wrong
I love my Brother and i know he will have to stop drinking and psychosis his own way
at the same time i feel that you have written exactly the kind of post my Brother would write

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Unfortunately your message reads in a somewhat confusing way, at least to me. I can feel the sentiment behind it, and I appreciate your reply nontheless. It does sound like you’ve had it hard - pretty sure you’ve had it harder than us according to what you describe.

I feel a little judged but my decision is not made coldly - it has been thought out, analysed, reflected upon and carefully selected among the many ways I thought about handling the rest of my life with this ordeal.

My brother, like I explained, is perhaps too sick to even be able to love me the way I need to be loved, or the way most humans want to be loved in general if we should speak of all people he might know. I know he can love me in his heart, but that also depends on his own skewed perceptions and thoughts. At the soul level I cannot comment, there I believe we can all be pure - therefore all these discussions would have little meaning. At soul level we transcend certain problems maybe even scz or deep mental illnesses. That’s what I want to belive but I have no way of knowing if it’s true.

I have the ability to distinguish what is merely a belief, what is a sane tought and what is an insane thought. My brother doesn’t, or has very little self-awareness in this type of knowledge of the self. Knowing that about him I have only compassion for him. I know what it is to feel lost in your mind, somewhat.

I wish you all recovery and health in all possible ways.

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I TRY not to judge but even in the worst case I would never let my brother be homeless.
My distance is healthy only while I know he has active support and enjoys at least a minimal amount of physical comfort.

I’m sorry - The small paragraph I wrote:

“It feels pointless talking about all the similarities
i would like to share insight into his cold behaviour towards you”

At this point i meant to give insight that possibly your brother - so like me - and - I myself - could be called in some way cold.
I have never been there for him. I have not helped him in his struggles but have added to them.
He has tried in many ways to help me. i have been distant
i have such limited tools… my best intentions always fall short.
I want to somehow tell you that your brother, i’m sure, loves you, and effectively, can’t help his behaviour

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You’re right about that and I know he loves me. I just can’t keep fighting and at the same time can’t let go while keeping close to him… Thank you for clarifying - now I understand better what you meant.
If there was help, some sort of guidance, signpost, and real life support I could count on to help me stay present for him…with him… I would use it. I’ve searched for it and never found it and unfortunately I am basically alone with what feels like way more than the weight of the world on my shoulders. It’s the weight of the world + the weight of my brother’s world (that I don’t understand, and that causes me anxiety just thinking about it). Life isn’t supposed to be like that. I can’t let mine slip away from me. I only have so little of it left and already spent most of it suffering.

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And I can relate about the walking on eggshells part. I feel like that around my Dad all the time and he feels the same around me so often it’s completely pointless to meet since it hurts us both on a mood level and it brings no joy.

This is what I’m getting at. Sometimes, if you can afford to take distance and if you’re strong enough to do it while accepting the consequences (like hurting feelings, hurting people who don’t get you) - then by all means I think you should do it. What use is being around anyone if you can’t be yourself - or worse, if you have to always walk on eggshells around them?! None at all. I have gotten very well acquainted with my own being through the years of mental pain I endured and I don’t require much interaction with people who don’t make me feel fulfilled or loved the way I need to be loved - parents included.

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I know what you mean that it is constant
the only thing i have ever found that helps is Al Anon, ibecause my brother is as well alcoholic and angry
I have only been twice, but it seems I’ve found a group of like minded people -
I am moving away in a week with my husband to a place an hour drive from here.
He is angry with me for so many different reasons. It is a heartbreak that he can’t see anything loving about me.
Decision to move away was always on the cards,… now it is happening and i will have to visit when I can.
mentally it is a difficult thing to move house and keep relationships
i fear i will only see my Dad safely when he visits
otherwise i never know what i am walking into on any given day
they are both supportive towards me whenever they can be
He has tried everything to get me to be able to be friends
I seem not to have the capacity very often the way he abuses our Dad and me

how are things going ?

I just wanted to reach out and say that the urge you are having is totally healthy and normal and that you should feel 100% okay about protecting your own mental health.

My Mother developed schizophrenia when I was young and I think that the automatic response in a family is for everyone to take care of the sick person and that often leads to putting their perceived needs ahead of your own. I am 30 and for the past 3 years I have finally been allowing myself the distance from my mother that I have been craving for so many years but felt guilty about wanting. I don’t make it a hard rule— if I feel like seeing her or answering a phone call I do. But if I don’t feel like it I put zero pressure on myself to do so. Maybe one day I will want more contact with her— but I have to let myself have the space to make that decision on my own terms…and the space is finally giving me the distance I need to begin to sort out my own trauma and feelings.

So this is just a validation— your feelings are every bit as important as your parent”s feelings and your brothers feelings. Part of growing up is learning to parent ourselves and take care of our own needs. Kind of like the oxygen mask in the airplane— put it in yourself first, then help others.

Hope this helps :slight_smile:

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Things are going well in that, I was able to meet with my parents and have a wonderful day where we talked a lot and I told them almost exactly how I feel and why and they understood me.

They also took my suggestion seriously regarding seeing the doctor again and changing or adjusting his meds to help with the symptoms I was talking about.

In the end. I decided that I can be involved from a distance but I can choose not to see him as long as he is in denial about being sick and needing help and as long as his symptoms don’t allow him to enjoy a relationship with me. Litterally, if he calls or talks to me I will make it clear to him, as softly as I can, that if he maintains that he is better than everyone and doesn’t need help then he definitely doesn’t need me either.

As long as my brother keeps denying his issues of course there’s nothing we can do and the medication can only keep him stable enough to survive - not live. So it’s a matter of time patience and a hope that one day he will finally let go and help himself by FULLY accepting and doing the things we are suggesting. Such as CBT, learning to accept and love his medication for saving his butt from more pain, and establishing trust with the people who attempt to help him (I know the system sucks but there are honest good people out there who truly want to help and know how to).

So not only I am now okay with my decision the reasons for it are becoming more clear and I am able to see what kind of future I can build if he decided to cooperate. If he doesn’t then my next task is to get my parents to let go too and stop investing so much emotional energy in him. It will be hard but necessary because otherwise they will spend the rest of their lives with broken hearts trying to keep him happy while he just remains complacent and inapt and like a child.

The whole family needs therapy and I’m looking to find a person who can be a pillar of strength for my parents to help them be healthier in their rapport with my brother. I can’t accept just standing by and letting them deal with it while he continues his denial.

Hello Seaflower! This helped a lot! Finally someone who understands how I feel very well and is on the journey I was supposed to be years ago…Like you said, these three years of safe and healthy distance from your mom have helped you sort out your own trauma. That’s the place I’m trying to get to as well, and I think I will get there in time if I manage to do it. I say I want to keep my distance but I assure you it’s not easy in my context and I’m constantly pulled back in.

I know however, that even right now I breathe a little better, I think a little better and I can see a better future for myself AND my family because I made this committment to myself and I’m doing everything I can to keep it. It helps a lot to read everyone’s messages here but yours is particularly close to my heart. Thank you.

Like I replied to “three” I am interested in therapy and I want to explore this option both for myself individually but most importantly for my parents. They seem untrusting of the system and that’s an issue but I think I can get them to see it differently and try expanding their circle a bit to feel less isolated. I think if we find a good person to fit with both my parents this could be monumental. To have someone not only ready to listen to their perspective as parents but offer them real guidance they can apply and rely on daily. And a human being their age who they can trust with their feelings.

That is probably not going to happen. Your brother is not in denial but has Anosognosia. It is fairly common with brain illnesses.

The meds you think he should learn to embrace are powerful and have many side effects. They may sedate the symptoms enough for you to tolerate him, but at the same time he make feel worse–not saving him from pain but rather adding to it. Your insistence on cooperation at your level will make you an untrustworthy person. And your decision about your parents interaction with your brother is not yours to make.

I am sure you have had a struggle with your brother and need some space. Take it as you are no good to him or your parents when you are feeling as you do. Certainly therapy would be a great tool for all of you.

You may well think me harsh but that is not the intention. You certainly have the right to do as you feel as is right for you. My opinion is from the prospective of a mom of a sz/sza child, wife of a husband with GAD and daughter of Alzheimer dementia victim. In it all, I see their struggle as far greater than mine. At least I am still mentally sound.

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Thank you @thereisalwayshope for sharing that information about anosognosia with members of this forum. Anosognosia, or lack of insight into ones illness, is such a difficult yet critical concept for us to understand about our ill loved ones.

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