Monday, February 22, 2010

My Brother's Keeper

I am my brother’s keeper. I have been for my entire life. When we were kids my mother was too wrapped up in coping with my father’s illness to parent us so we were often left to make decisions for ourselves. We have a family history of mental illness; primarily bipolar disorder and depression. It is possible that my brother would have been afflicted with these problems regardless of our upbringing. But I doubt it would have been as severe or that he would have exhibited signs as early as he did. My brother saw a psychologist weekly from the time that he was three years old through high school. He started seeing the therapist less regularly once he was old enough to skip and cancel his appointments. He has been on a number of different drugs but none of them provided him with significant relief because he didn’t take them regularly and because he wasn’t going to the therapist for follow up sessions to work through his problems.

My brother has had a difficult life. He was molested as a child but because he had no adult support system in place we didn’t find out about it until 6 years ago. A month after my father died, one of my brother’s closest friends was killed in a car accident. A few years later my brother and a close friend of his were in a serious car accident. The fire department had to cut the car apart to get them out and airlift them to the hospital. My brother suffered a broken arm, a concussion and numerous cuts and bruises. His friend has been a paraplegic since that accident. My brother’s destructive behavior increased dramatically during this time. We went through several brushes with the law that led to jail time and suicide attempts but it seemed like he turned a corner about 5 years ago.

Since this time he has held down a job without any incidents. He isn’t getting into trouble or hanging out with people who could get him into trouble. He is dating someone who might turn out to be the one. He seems to have become a responsible adult. But every time I relax and think everything is fine, the old him shows up; the destructive brother who is irresponsible. He either calls me so I can fix whatever he’s screwed up or my mother calls me and tells me to call him to help him out. And I always fix it because if I don’t no one will.

Sometimes I feel selfish for not wanting to clean up my brother’s messes and guide him through life. I want to yell to mom: “Why don’t you help him you’re his mother”! But I don’t because I can’t. It will only make me upset and in the end I’ll still have to fix everything. I know that people have had a much more difficult life than I have and I recognize that my brother has made significant progress over the years and is 200% better than the person that he used to be. I get all that, I really do. But that doesn’t make it any easier when all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch movies with my husband but can’t because I have to take care of my brother. I hope that one day I won’t be needed to fill this role because he will completely grow out of it or start seeing a therapist to receive regular treatment. But until then I’ll be there for him as long as he needs me.

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  1. Sounds like a tough situation over all, I completely understand you feel obliged to take care of your brother. You're a good sister. You have to do what's right for you, but you are a person in your own right and they can't depend on you for everything. Take care of you so you can take care of others.

  2. Thanks DDG, he really is a great guy these days and doesn't lean on me as much as he used to but its nice to have a blog to vent on those days when he isn't doing so well.