Family Matters

I’ve been thinking about what my brother went through after my bipolar disorder emerged when I was 14. He got ignored. He resented me. My behavior embarrassed him. My parents had to spend a lot of money for my treatment. My parents spent more money for my education too. I went to Interlochen Arts Academy, an expensive private institution for talented youth. My brother went to public school. He went to community college and I went to one of the most expensive private college in the country – Rollins College. My parents were blamed by my therapists and psychiatrists for my mental illness. They were made to feel guilty. I think that they tried to mitigate their guilty feelings by spending more on me. This increased my brother’s resentment. I read an article online about how much emotional damage can happen if the well sibling doesn’t have a close connection with at least one parent. My dad was frequently away as my brother and I grew up because he was a navigator in the Air Force. After my dad retired from his military service he went on business trips as a quality control consultant. That left my mother to meet both my brother’s and my needs. She had to spend most of her time managing me and my brother simply didn’t get the support he needed. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It just happened. I often feel bad about what happened. When my brother was unemployed for 3 years my parents supported him financially. I was worried about him, but I felt gratified that my parents focused more of their resources on him. He was finally getting the support he needed. I found a resource online for the siblings of mentally ill people that features short videos of others’ experiences and that provides a network of support. My brother isn’t a reflective person. Even if I told him about these resources he probably wouldn’t take advantage of them. He’s pretty busy with his new job. There’s a book on this subject called “Mad House: Growing Up in the Shadow of Mentally Ill Siblings” by Clea Simon. I haven’t read it, but it may help someone understand the family dynamics involved with families that are facing serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Even though my brother and I aren’t close, he seems genuinely excited when we do get together. His resentment is gone. I wish I could see him more. I miss him.

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