Dear Abby: My brother, who is 48, has mental issues. I have always tried to be there for him as much as I could without interfering with his independence. Although he is antisocial, he isn’t dangerous to anyone. He has low self-esteem and takes things literally.
My parents have always been emotionally detached, but my brother has always craved Dad’s acceptance. Because he felt that Dad favored me, he pushes me away and isolates himself. I have tried to stay in contact, and if I see him at the store, I speak to him, but he is so full of anger. Should I keep trying even though it’s painful? I have tried telling him how I feel about the situation, but he lives in his own little world and can’t relate to my feelings. I just worry that if he were to pass, I would feel guilty for not trying harder, but he makes it so difficult and painful.
— Facing Obstacles in Pennsylvania
Dear Facing Obstacles: You are a good sister. But for your brother’s sake as well as your own, it may be time to distance yourself emotionally from his mental problems. He may treat you the way he does because he is incapable of interpersonal relations, not because of anything you did or didn’t do. Because you would feel guilty if you disengaged entirely, contact your brother every six or eight weeks or so to check in. If you encounter him in a store, be polite. If he’s angry or belligerent, back off, continue your shopping or leave. Please don’t take this as personally as you have. Your brother is unwell. YOU CAN’T FIX WHAT’S WRONG WITH HIM. Follow your conscience, which is more than your parents have been doing — and forgive yourself for not being able to do more.
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