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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul. 22, 2008
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    Rochester, NY
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    Default Extremely difficult family situation

    This is going to be very long and probably embarrassing. However, I am completely at my wits end and contemplating doing something rash.

    My only sibling is a brother who is ten years older. He is 38. Ten years ago, when I moved out of my parents home, he moved back in, supposedly for six months or so to get his feet back under him.
    He's still there.
    Over the course of these ten long years, I've watched him change from a charming, curious, outgoing man into a neurotic, petty and dangerously obsessive one. I don't know where to begin to explain this- so here are some examples of behavior.

    - He lost a job and was railroaded out of an entire industry locally after having a complaint lodged against him by an 19 year old female coworker. He doesn't understand what was inappropriate about his behavior; he felt that multiple daily calls and repeated requests to 'hang out' was just being friendly, despite her continued refusals.

    - I had a cat who went to live with my parents while I was relocating. While there the cat was diagnosed with cancer; he deteriorated rapidly. A month after the cat went to live there my brother called me sobbing, saying that he couldn't get the cat to eat or move, and he was obviously dying. I was several hundred miles away; I told him that I was going to find a vet who would come to the house to end the cats suffering. My brother launched into a profanity laden tirade so loud that my boyfriend could hear it in the next room. This was on the phone, mind you. He accused me of wanting to kill the cat, told me I was torturing him trying to force him to be present at the 'killing', on and on.

    - He has turned into a hoarder extraordinaire. My parents house has very little living space. More than 50% of the useable floor space is taken up by my brothers things. He collects action figures; there are garbage bags full of action figures in their boxes stuffed into the spare room. The hallway to the spare room is impassable because it's filled with piles of books, action figures, etc. The dining room is filled with his 'work'- he's taken up photography- and unusable and impassible spare for a path wide enough to walk through. The two unused upstairs bedrooms are literally wall to wall with his belongings. On a recent foray into one of these rooms, I found a box filled with empty condiment bottles, pasta boxes and food cans. There was also a box filled with dry goods from his old apartment that he moved out of ten years ago. The garage is also wall to wall with his things; additionally, he has a storage unit- that my parents pay for- that is wall to wall with such valuable possessions as my parents very first couch, broken down and threadbare, etc. He becomes violent when you attempt to throw anything away. I once poured myself a cup of coffee at the house and discovered that the mug was cracked; when I poured the coffee into a new mug the crack split and the mug fell apart. I threw it out. My brother found the mug in the trash a few minutes later and verbally assaulted my Mother for allowing it to be thrown out; he said that it was a gift, and that if she didn't want the gifts he gave her anymore he should give them back.

    - Which leads to- his treatment of my Mother and to a lesser extent, my Father. The verbal abuse he subjects her to is extraordinary. He mocks her intelligence, appearance and decision making skills; he berates her for not doing things 'the right way'- things like his laundry, cooking him meals, cutting and matting his photos, etc.
    My father is a difficult man, always has been, and has not always been very kind to my Mother, but he NEVER treated her like this. The stress in the house is palpable. My Father is done with my brother, has been for quite a while, and my Mother feels very trapped in the middle. The stress has begun to affect her mentally in a way that is flat terrifying. I fear for her long term sanity.

    Repeated attempts to discuss this situation with my Mother are fruitless. She feels- probably rightly- that brother is incapable of functioning in society and that his only chance of survival is with their assistance. My father won't talk to me about it. My brother is also verbally abusive and cruel to me; I'm capable of distancing myself from him but efforts to discuss this with him result in screaming, name calling and other such nastiness; he loves to talk about how 'lucky' I am to have found a husband and have a house, etc, and that I can't possibly understand how difficult his life is. He has no friends, as you can imagine. My godmother makes frequent stays at the house to help my Mother out, but she isn't capable of standing up to my brother. My Uncle and grandmother- the only close extended family- can't begin to approach the level of involvement required to help him or my parents.

    I recently had to put down my personal cat after a long illness. After hearing this, my brother spent several days telling my mother what a terrible person I was, how I have no respect for life, how I should have taken the cat to them so he could 'live out his days'. My brother had met the cat a handful of times. After this, I asked my parents to sign a health care proxy with my name on it; I envisioned horrible confrontations in a hospital on some distant sad day where one of them was suffering and being kept alive through great effort to no good end, and my brother refusing to allow them to go peacefully. They signed the proxy and gave me clear instructions as to their preferred level of intervention is such a situation.

    He lives in their house rent free. They pay for his car, food, cell phone, you name it. He did recently start making some money through photography but up until that he'd been without a job for four years.

    I'm heartbroken and at a loss. I have no idea how to help my parents get out from under his tyrannical rule or to get him the help he obviously needs. The stress on my end is such that at this point I am considering stepping away from my whole family to save my own sanity, but I can't begin to imagine what will happen to my Mother at that point.

    Is there anything I can do here? I don't know what advice anyone might have that would help, but if you have any ideas- please, please share them. Sorry for the book; I'm grasping at straws here. Psychologists encouraged to reply



  2. #2
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    Jul. 5, 2007
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    Beside Myself ~ Western NY
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    My uncle is very much like your brother. I am barely on speaking terms with him. My mother is beginning to be afraid of him.

    Kudos to you for getting your parents to make health care proxys and good luck with that. It's only going to get rougher.

    I would recommend counseling for you. You need a support system, and someone to let you know your take onthe situation is valid, and offer suggestions for dealing with specific situations. If you can get your parents to go too, that's great. You aren't, by any means, the only person suffering through a situation like this.

    Oh, and BTW, I'm in Western NY too. Howdy Neighbor!



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul. 13, 2006
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    First off is your mother or brother willing to see a phsychologist? It's sounds like your father would not be a candidate to really try it out, but another person for your mom could probably be greatly beneficial to her, and possibly teach her some skills for dealing with your brother.

    As for your brother, (I am no Dr, but......) he sounds like he has something wrong with him. Almost schitzophrenic sounding, but possibly something like a bi-polar. The hourding and verbal abuse need to stop, and he needs to learn to re-integrate back into society. Before he moved back to your parents was he "normal"? Could he carry on with his life like other people? Can you think of an event that triggered the behavior?



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct. 6, 2009
    Location
    NC
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    So sorry for you, a very difficult spot to be in. Obviously it sounds like brother has some mental health issues going on for which no one is going to address. Is it possible to call the local DSS and report elder abuse? The verbal screaming at you mother fits in those guidelines and they can send adult protective services in to make sure she is safe and possibly facilitate an exam of brother.
    No names are ever given so no one will ever know if was you that called unless you tell them.



  5. #5
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    Apr. 23, 1999
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    Rosehill, TX
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    7,018

    Default

    when they ask, then you can help -- nothing can be done until they are ready
    Nothing says "I love you" like a tractor. (Clydejumper)

    The reports states, “Elizabeth reported that she accidently put down this pony, ........, at the show.”



  6. #6
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    Oct. 30, 2004
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    South Jersey
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    361

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    I am so sorry for you and your mother. Your brother sounds quite ill. I don't have any insights, but I have found the psychcentral.com forums to be very useful in dealing with a family member who had a different mental illness:

    http://psychcentral.com/



  7. #7
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    Jun. 20, 2009
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    Northeast Ohio, where mud rules your world...
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    Default

    SGray, I understand your thoughts, standing on the outside looking in. But OP is not on the outside. She is in it, family.

    I am sure OP is fearing the worst, something that can't be undone.

    He needs to have a serious intervention. Sounds like violence towards her parents is the next step due to the anger. Unfortunately, you brother is probably suffering a serious chemical imbalance of the brain. This is a physical problem that can not be "will-powered" thru. Chemical imbalances generally need pharmecuticals to break the cycle and reset the engine. If it were me (and crazy runs in my mother's fam), I would strongly push for him to spend some time in a secure hospital situation to get some meds into him, get him diagnosed, get your parents some breathing room to try and come to grips with their son's future.

    No matter what, the situation and the solution will make the faamily dynamic worse for everyone before it can ever get better. Whatever you do, you must be fully committed to the process and it's potential outcomes.

    for your own sanity (no pun intended) I second getting yourself some counseling on how to stay focused and strong thru this. Call some in patient facilities to find out the process of getting a family member help.

    Good luck. Having mental illness in the family is so emotionally exhausting to everyone it touches. Not everyone handles it objectively.



  8. #8
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    Jul. 22, 2008
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    Rochester, NY
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjrtango93 View Post
    Before he moved back to your parents was he "normal"? Could he carry on with his life like other people? Can you think of an event that triggered the behavior?
    He has always had these tendencies but they have become much more extreme. He certainly used to have a pretty normal social life & was a valued professional member of an insular theater community before he moved home.

    I don't know if there was one 'trigger'- but he makes no secret of feeling cheated by life, and moving home was demoralizing to him. It's been downhill from there.

    I am going to look into therapy for myself. I'm very much my fathers daughter; I don't do emotion very well, and talking to a stranger is sort of terrifying, but I have to do something for myself here.

    SGray- I hear ya. I'm usually the first to trot out this valid advice. However, in this situation- I fear for my Mother's well being. I can't stand by and with that fear in my heart.

    Winfieldfarm, thank you for that post. I have no idea how to pursue treatment for him by myself. Perhaps getting my Mother to attend therapy with me would be a start.

    I know he is sick. I appreciate all the responses and kind words. This is very hard for me and it's comforting to have support.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2000
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    Default

    'Interventions' like the group meetings to confront alcoholics, are not recommended in most cases of mental illness. It's important to recongize how profoundly mental illness affects a person's ability to understand communication and evaluate information. It's not usually at all a good idea to 'gang up on' a person who's getting ill. A quiet, calm, VERY non threatening, patient laid back approach is far, far more likely to be absorbed and understood and gets a better response. Often mentally ill people are suspicious and afraid, many are having a hard time understanding conversations with more than one person contributing.

    Keep it simple, gentle and non threatening - do NOT corner suspicious, threatened feeling people. If a person wants something - shades drawn, doors locked, I go ahead and do it. If they're terrified of something - hot water, ceiling fans, whatever, try to accomodate. Letting them have some sort of dignity, being supportive, it helps.

    In most cases, keep it at one trusted person, and keep the conversation simple and non threatening. Often the person will make their own choice. An older sister, an uncle...often it's not parents. That has to be accepted - let the person choose. Often they prefer someone they have a LESS close relationship with.

    Keep it very warm and calm. Don't argue about their past actions or try to prove to them they're sick.

    Think of that first conversation as being one of many, and don't make it urgent or overwhelming. Just a single comment can help. Let the person back away and let them go think and process it.

    'Joe, I see lately you seem very worried and stressed. I'd love to help you. I've been worried too. Want some coffee?'. And THAT CAN BE IT for the first time. Just take it easy and slow. You're confident and calm and not in a hurry, you get further. DON'T SAY 'WE'. Express your OWN feelings in a simple, calm way.

    Getting counseling for yourself is a super, super idea. Dealing with an illness in the family is very difficult, and most people need suggestions about how to help their loved one as well as how to reduce their own stress.

    It's also very hard to remain calm when a person is behaving in surprising and often frightening ways. Discussing it with someone who can break the behavior down into 'symptoms, not personality' and 'illness, not choice', really helps. Knowing what you experience is just typical of an illness can actually be conforting. It's awful hard to feel loving when someone is shouting or cursing. You need help and support too.

    I think your brother needs a psychiatrist. It sounds like he is becoming mentally ill. People often go along mildly affected for a long time and get worse in their mid thirties. It's not at all unusual to hear people say, 'He's always been a little like this, but lately...'

    Such a thing is no one's fault, least of all his. It's not a choice or a lifestyle or eccentricity. A psychiatrist can help him determine what he needs - medication, therapy, supportive planning - there are so many things that can help.

    Don't blame your brother, yourself or your parents. These things are medical problems just like heart disease or diabetes. The only difference is that they affect thinking and behavior. No one event is responsible, no one 'caused' this. This is just something that happens. You didn't mistreat him, neither did anyone else. But often a life change will be when family members say, 'Oh gosh, Joe really just is not bouncing back from Grandma's death like the rest of us. What's wrong?'

    It's often tough to get people to accept help. It's embarrassing and frightening for people, and even further, often people with these conditions have a tough time analyzing and observing and evaluating their own symptoms - they don't see them as symptoms, it's more things that happen around them or things other people do. Not because they are selfish or that - but because they have trouble analyzing and evaluating.

    Not insisting they are sick or crazy helps. Suggesting ANYONE would need help after losing a job and having stressful life events helps. Emphasizing sympathetic help and support as being something everyone deserves and as a basic right, helps. Viewing psychiatrists as 'experts in helping people feel better' and as supportive friends also helps. Viewing treatment as 'finding out how to feel better' helps as does a practical, 'let's find out what to do and do it'.

    I told one friend he deserved assistance after years of being a working man and paying taxes, saying help was his right. His doc later told me that was the first thing he said when he arrived for his first appt. You CAN help and you CAN make a difference in these situations...sometimes improvement comes in 'baby steps' and it can take time to get people to accept help. Patience, kind, gentle sympathetic persistence helps.
    Last edited by slc2; Nov. 25, 2009 at 06:23 PM.



  10. #10
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    Jul. 2, 2005
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    As a mental health professional, I understand what a scarey frustrating situation you are in. Your brother's mental health is escalating toward becoming possilbly dangerous to your folks. Think schizophenia, delusions, bipolar. Obscessions like his are often seen with bipolar, as are his delusions about the cats.

    One of the problems is what you can and can't do. You or your parents can't make him go for help. You can ask for police or court committment for a few days if he is a danger to himself or others. I have known of situations where a significant other provoked an ill person enough and a little scuffle ensued, then the SO was able to call the police and get the ill person hospitalized for an evaluation.

    Calling adult protective services is a good idea and they may have resources to take care of your mother.

    Your mother needs to see a professional to realize that protecting and enabling her son is not going to make things better, and in the long run it is harming him worse. Or at the least postponing the inevitable. Your brother may or may not become more functional on medication. Finding the right meds and therapy is not easy and many won't tolerate the hassle, side effects, or expense. For example, does your brother have health insurance?

    Get as much help for the folks who want it, yourself included.

    Good luck.
    ********
    There is no snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast.



  11. #11
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    Feb. 11, 2008
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    In the middle of Texas
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    (((HUGS))) OP...I can relate to your situation.

    Hopefully your brother gets the help he needs...Best wishes.



  12. #12
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    Jan. 18, 2004
    Posts
    114

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    A&E has videos of thier show "Hoarders" on the website

    http://www.aetv.com/hoarders/video


    They also have some help resources listed:

    http://www.aetv.com/hoarders/treatment/


    (((Hugs))) for you and your brother.



  13. #13
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    Jan. 16, 2003
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    Tennessee
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    I'm very sorry for what you, and especially your family, are going through. At best it's an uneasy situation. At worst, it's very dangerous. Your parents need to take care of themselves, and insure their safety. Your brother really needs to be living elsewhere. Easier said than done. It sounds like he has no money and no health insurance. I know of one couple that was so desparate to get rid of their live-at-home-parasite son that they sold their house and moved out of state, leaving Junior behind to fend for himself. They didn't tell him where they were going, and I assume they cut all ties with him permanently.



  14. #14
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    Apr. 29, 2006
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    First off, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. It sounds like a very difficult and scary situation. There is certainly some good advice offered.

    Please, please be very careful about staging an intervention or provoking anyone. If you think there is any risk of harm to himself or others due to his behavior, please call the police to help deal with it. There is a case in court in our area where the father was stabbed to death trying to 'help' his son. Do not be embarrassed or ashamed about trying to ensure the safety of your family.

    Can you access a mental health professional in your area to discuss your concerns and get some guidance about what might be the best course of action? Perhaps call your local hospital and ask for Adult Psychiatry. They should be able to give you some direction.

    Taking care of yourself will help you take care of others. Like the airlines always say, put your mask on first.

    All the best.



  15. #15
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    May. 9, 2005
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    I really don't have anything to offer, other than I have family that is similar, but I just wanted to offer you hugs, jingles and prayers.



  16. #16
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    Jun. 24, 2005
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    OK, I admit I watch a little of Hoarders a few times, and what I saw and what I've read about it is that hoarding by itself is a long slow treatment process with very limited success. It sounds to me as if your parents are enabling him because they know if he leaves he will have no where to go, and will have no income.

    I agree with the elder abuse complaint, but I fear what will happen as a result of this. It may simply enrage him, and he'll in all probability still be living there. I hate that your parents are having to live in this environment in what are supposed to be their retirement years, but you can't help people who don't want help and that apparently means all three of them. Unless your mom wants to leave there isn't much you can do to help her. And even if your brother is involuntarily commited (which may not happen) he won't have to stay long, and will probably go off of his medication almost immediately.

    Would your mother leave if she had a chance to? That may be the only difference you can make. Or is there a city or health department ordnance that is being violated by the mess that could allow the health department or zoning to force a clean up? Your mother may be the only one you can help and that's only if she wants to leave, but would she move out permanently? or would she leave for a while and return to the same situation out of guilt or loyalty?

    Maybe therapy for yourself is the only answer for now, and it might help you decide what your future role their lives will be. And if you try a therapist and don't find help from them switch to another one until you find the right person-not every therapist is right for every person.
    You can't fix stupid-Ron White



  17. #17
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    Jul. 22, 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by JanM View Post
    Would your mother leave if she had a chance to? That may be the only difference you can make. Or is there a city or health department ordnance that is being violated by the mess that could allow the health department or zoning to force a clean up? Your mother may be the only one you can help and that's only if she wants to leave, but would she move out permanently? or would she leave for a while and return to the same situation out of guilt or loyalty?

    I have offered her an out. At this point, I think my Mother would go back home- or is staying home- for my Father's sake. Without going into dramatic detail, he isn't in any sort of physical condition to leave at the moment. He may be difficult, but he's been her husband for fifty years, and they love each other very much. He's a much nicer guy then he used to be, possibly because my brothers behavior has enlightened him- but that's all sort of moot. They can't leave, and if she were to go- she'd go back for Dad.

    I feel strongly about one thing- my brother will not hurt me. Even at his most enraged, he is sort of frightened of me. I'm not 100% convinced he wouldn't strike out at my Mother though. Dramatic intervention is unlikely for that reason.

    I want to thank everyone again for being so responsive, kind and reasonable. There is much sound advice here. I have a lot of things to think over in the coming days.



  18. #18
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    Jun. 24, 2005
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    Ruby-don't be too sure he won't hurt you. He might strike back out of fear or rage and not even realize what he's doing until after. And remember like any animal we humans will attack when cornered. Unfortunately, since he is an adult there isn't much you can do about the situation, and even if your parents were willing I don't think they could make him leave since he's been a resident in their home because they would have to go through eviction procedures that are fairly time consuming, and they wouldn't want to make him homeless anyway. I don't think there's a good solution here unless your parents move out on their own to escape him and leave him the house-and I doubt they would do that or could afford to do that financially or emotionally. I wish I could help you, but you have already found a possible source of advice through a therapist. I wish there was a simple answer but I think you have done all that you can, and now need to watch out for own emotional situation. Sometimes being the responsible, grownup person in the situation sucks.
    You can't fix stupid-Ron White



  19. #19
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    Ruby, I am very sorry to say, you are wrong. 'He wouldn't hurt me', 'He's afraid of me'....no. No. You have to remember that when a person has a brain disease they are not guaranteed to do anything that one expects - they may behave as they have in the past, and they may not. No how much I care about mentally ill people I know one thing. Assume nothing - NOTHING. NEVER put yourself in a position that assumes 'he won't hurt me'...or for that matter, 'he WILL hurt me'. Assume nothing.

    Your family needs to come to an agreement on what to do. If your mother is putting herself in harms way, Call adult protective services. Look - I've been to enough funerals in my life. Severely ill people are in the grips of distorted thinking and behavior they are unable to control - and a few of them, yes, will become violent. If your family member is in danger, call the police, call adult protective services. Raise hell. Call the mental health services for your county. You can have your brother removed from the home, and all the better for him if he gets in legal trouble - sometimes it's the only way to get them into care.

    Yes, family members get angry. It can make you want to tear your hair out and run out the door and never come back, it gets so bad. But a person can intervene and help.



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Come Shine View Post
    First off, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. It sounds like a very difficult and scary situation. There is certainly some good advice offered.
    ^^^^ Worth repeating.

    I don't have anything more than a BA in Psychology, but gosh darn, it sure does sound like having a safe place to bounce some ideas around would be good (i.e. therapist). If money's tight, maybe you can find an email buddy (maybe even a COTHer) to share ideas. Sometimes, just having someone who can listen and is "on the outside" can really help.

    I don't know much, but I do know that parents always try the very best they can for their kids- given their circumstances.

    Sometimes, you just have to let go, and distance yourself, which it sounds like you have. At least your parents have one "successful" child- don't let this drag you down and ruin you, too. Say your thoughts, offer help, and relieve your guilt.... then wait for them to accept your gift of helping. They may never accept, but at least you know, you did the best you could given the circumstances, and you tried. A lot of others, wouldn't.

    ((Hugs)) I understand far too well.



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