Welcome To The Bitchery

Familial Obligations



I have no happy memories of my brother. I've seen photos from when we were little where we look like we're having a good time. In one he's reading me a bedtime story. I was two and he was five. I don't remember it at all.


My first real memories of my brother are of him getting so angry at me that he'd hit me - and it wasn't normal sibling wrestling. I'd have bruises and scratches for days and one time he broke my finger deliberately. I was terrified of him. Occasionally he was weirdly sexual with me - nothing explicit, but I remember knowing even at the time that it Wasn't Right. We found out much later that he was raped by a school employee around this age. It breaks my heart for him but it doesn't help me.

By the time he was in his teens it was clear that something wasn't right. He'd been bullied mercilessly in middle school and he developed a horrible rage as he got older. He punched a hole in the wall and hit my mom one time. His girlfriend told him that my parents liked me better and he believed her so he started asking my parents for money to make up for how little they loved him. At the suggestion of his therapist they kept the two of us apart for years. We at meals separately and never talked. My parents' house is 1200 square feet, so it took serious effort to make sure we never saw one another. He was not the protective older brother that my friends had and I resented it.

Things got worse for my brother while they got better for me. His girlfriend beat him up and left him in a field, unconscious. I graduated college. He was raped again. I got a great job. His depression got worse and he invited more and more dangerous people into his life. I got married. He tried to kill himself.

We found out much later that he was suffering from bipolar disorder (which explained his outbursts of angry and suicidal depression) and Asperger's Syndrome (which accounted for his inability to tell when someone meant him harm and his interest in monetizing feelings to help him understand them). By then he also had PTSD and agoraphobia. He's been living with my parents for five years and can't work, nor do we expect that he'll ever be able to. He's safe, though, and that's a comfort. He hides in my parents' basement and I see him rarely. I now know that he's just very limited in his ability to handle and express emotions. I view him as a little brother rather than an older one.


So what happens when my parents die or can't care for him? Well, he'll live with me and my husband. He'll never agree to move out of our hometown which means that I'll probably never get to live by the beach like I wanted. He'll be financially dependent on us, so I guess I should put whatever I can in retirement savings now since I might not be able to later on. He can't be alone for more than a few days, so we should probably do our international traveling now. My husband has met him ten times in the last five years and as I said, I have no happy memories of my brother.

I know I'm not unique in accepting that I'll care for a disabled family member. But I'm not a good person. I'm not nurturing or forgiving of weakness. I get impatient with my own limitations and I'm not much better with other people's. I'm not planning on having kids because I don't think I have it in me to be a caretaker for a special needs child so I don't want to risk it. I'm selfish to the core. When I think about having to live with my brother - who I grew up scared of and who hated me for years - I cry. Knowing that my brother couldn't control a lot of what he did to me is little comfort - it's only an explanation. I pity him, but I also pity myself and my husband.


So how to I accept this part of my future? Seriously, guys, how do I?

ETA: My brother isn't able to deal with change or new people so we haven't considered group- or assisted-living to be a viable option. This is sounding more and more like an avenue that we need to explore seriously.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter