Struggling With the Vicissitudes of Life

I’m still struggling with the vicissitudes of my life. The major stress continues to be my homeless brother. He is camping out in the garage, which isn’t a problem. Nor is it a problem for me to buy a few groceries for him, do his laundry, sympathize with his plight, and even, on occasion, get him a beer. I’m glad to do what I can for him, even if only out of a perhaps misplaced sense of guilt that I have it easier than he does.

If he would leave me alone, I’d have no objection to his being here, but his anger seems to be centered on me. He speedblames me for his estrangement from our father, he blames me for . . . well, just about everything. I suppose, from his point of view, I am to blame. When he gets in one of his “states” (whether bi-polar, the manic part of manic-depression, narcissistic rage, or whatever his as yet undiagnosed problem is), he is truly appalling, demanding attention by banging on my windows, sometimes up to forty times a night, calling me an evil bitch, screaming invectives at me, explaining ad infinitum that I, as a woman, have no integrity. (And these are the most pleasant things he says when he is in his manic mode.) Afterward, he doesn’t remember how ghastly he behaved. He only remembers my reaction. And there is no right way to react. If I yell at him in frustration, trying to get him to shut up, he perceives me as the instigator of our conflict, never remembering he was the one who banged on the window for my attention. If I have no reaction, that too is an affront to him. If I ignore him, he goes into rage overdrive.

I can’t track his moods. He likes to read the newspaper. Sometimes he gets mad at me if I don’t remember to give it to him. Other times he gets angry when I do give it to him because I am “invading his space.” (This is the same man who, when he stayed in the house for a couple of months, came into my room every single night to harangue me.) He hates that I buy food for him (hates the food I buy even though I buy things on a list he once gave me), and yet, most nights, he knocks on my window to see if I have something for him to eat. If I’m nice to him, he gets upset with my “sugary sweetness,” seeing it as phony. If I stop doing things for him, he gets angry with my selfishness.

In addition to his mental issues, he has a lot of physical problems. He goes for days without being able to keep food down, but he won’t let me take him to the emergency room. Oddly, when he is at his sickest, he is at his calmest. Either his anger at me cools because he needs my help, or else he is too weak to sustain a rage-full state.

Added stress comes from the situation between my father and brother. My father doesn’t want to deal with my brother, though he likes the idea of helping him. So it’s up to me to be my father’s surrogate. Not a pleasant situation, by any means.

The hardest part for me was when my brother’s anger would bounce through me and back to him, because I was afraid I’d fatally hurt him. (I even kept a journal for a while in case I did hurt him and needed a defense.) I don’t have that problem any more. I make sure I never get close to him when he is in a rage.

But still, it is an awkward situation. When he goes through calm times, I feel like an ogre, keeping him from the comforts of the house, but always his cycle comes around to rage again, and I am grateful that he is locked out.

I wish he were strong and healthy. I wish . . . oh, I wish so many things, but my wishes tend to have little strength. Writing about the situation gives me no peace, no answers, but it does help to vent my frustration and my sadness, which is a big help to me if no one else.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

8 Responses to “Struggling With the Vicissitudes of Life”

  1. Joy Collins Says:

    Pat, I try to stay away from commenting too much about your brother because, honestly, it frustrates me. You are dealing with an abusive situation and it is not going to change. What would you tell someone else in this situation? Probably to get out of the situation. Why do you feel the need to put up with this abuse? Why don’t you feel that it is all right to walk away and take care of yourself? Especially now. You have/are going through grief and you do not need this kind of treatment. If your father won’t address this and wants to be an enabler perhaps they should be left to their own devices for a while. You can’t fix this.

    • rami ungar the writer Says:

      Pat, I’m going to have to go with Joy on this. It can’t continue. These are all classic signs of a mentally and verbally abusive man who won’t stop and won’t change–you’ve admitted he won’t in previous posts! And your father may want to help, but unless he pitches in a swell it’s unfair to put all the work on your shoulders. What you need to do is put a lot more space between you and your brother, even if it means doing it the hard way.
      You’ve said it yourself, it’s a misplaced sense of guilt. Don’t let it manipulate your brother into doing something you know you wish would end because of the stress it causes you.

    • Carol Says:

      I’m feeling like Joy, in that I shouldn’t comment because what I want to say isn’t likely what you want to hear. But…

      I don’t understand why you continue to tolerate this situation. I don’t believe you’re a masochist, and I do remember you said you feel some guilt associated with your brother’s treatment of you. But it’s just not reasonable to continue enabling his abusive behaviour. He needs to be receiving treatment; you need to be receiving knowledgable support. If you can’t leave your father to get away, then you need to pursue a way to get your brother into professional care.

      There! I’ve stuck my neck out again, and probably offended you. But as someone who is genuinely concerned for you, I hope you’ll consider what everyone is telling you. If you don’t, nothing is going to change until someone in your family gets hurt.

  2. Malene Says:

    Pat – what a mess! You have my heartfelt sympathy for this truly no-win situation. I lived with a man once who, years into our relationship,was diagnosed with BDP. I did eventually leave him, but it took years for me to convince myself to do so and I was only able to do so, I believe, because I wasn’t a blood relation of his, meaning familial matters were not a complicating factor for me at all. Your situation is much less easily resolved and it seems to me you are doing what your heart, mind and conscience combines to deem best.

    I believe (or perhaps want to believe) from reading your blog, that you are finding strength. joy and sustenance from your inside,from your environment and from the universe to manage this situation for whatever the duration is for you,

    Please, have a virtual hug!

  3. Paula Kaye Says:

    It is even beyond my imagination to have this going on at my house. I would have no problems, at this point, in just calling the police. I am so afraid that one day he WILL hurt you.

    Paula at /Smidgen,Snippets,&Bits

  4. Pat Bertram Says:

    I appreciate all your responses. I haven’t been able to get professional help for my brother. My only other option is to leave, but I can’t find it in me to walk away from my 97-year-old father. He needs someone here to help him be independent. I am protecting myself, and if ever I get to where I can’t handle the situation, I’ll leave. And who knows — the situation might take care of itself. He has a court date next week, and that is a bit of a wild card.

  5. leesis Says:

    thanks-goodness that not everyone chooses to dump those who struggle with living life. As someone who has worked with people suffering…both the ‘damaged’ and their carers…all my adult life, I WISH there was ‘treatment’ for all human psychological suffering but there isn’t. The bottom line is all we really have is those closest to us and if they reject us what then?????

    There is always a line where we need to protect ourselves but until then you Pat have my greatest admiration for trying!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you, Leesis. It’s good to know that not everyone thinks I should push him out of my life. He’ll be gone soon enough, or I will. When my current responsibility to my father ends, I will also be ending all responsibility for my brother. I will need to think of only myself, but that time has not yet come.

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