By: Revanche

When you hold the line

January 11, 2016

I’m not my brother’s keeper, I’m not my brother’s keeper, I’m not my brother’s keeper. 

Except when I am.

On the heels of That Conversation with Dad, it comes out that everyone has tried to pry Sibling loose from the current living situation, clinging to Dad despite bearing no love or respect for him.

He refuses to leave. He refuses to get help. He refuses to admit that anything is wrong even though he hasn’t held down a job in over 6 years, he hasn’t earned a living wage in 7, and he’s doing nothing day to day but eating, sleeping, bathing, and wandering.

Friends ask after him. Old teachers and mentors have asked what they can do to help unstick him. He’s only intent on telling them his latest big ideas, what they should do for a big splash and instant success.

My older aunt has tried to help. She offered to pay his way through a trade school, tried to talk to him (rebuffed).

My younger aunt has tried to help. She sends food, clothes, offers (spurned) advice.

My dad has tried to push. He’d gotten so far as getting Sibling to the doctor for evaluation, and they determined that he isn’t mentally capable of functioning independently anymore. They scheduled an appointment for him to return and complete paperwork, to apply for assistance, to apply for housing. Sibling decided, even before that first appointment, that he’s fine and doesn’t need help. He doesn’t need housing. He refused to go. Dad tried to force him, and Sibling just disappeared on the day of the appointment.

He respects no one.

He listens to no one.

Except me.

Only the few rules I set in stone remain. Only I can get him to, even a little bit, listen, or comply when I tell him to clear the yard, pick up after his pets. He doesn’t listen to everything I say but he listens to nothing anyone else will say. I’m the last one who can make anything happen.

It comes down to this: if I want to free Dad of the living nightmare he’s in living with the shambling mess of Sibling, if I want to see anything change with how that part of the family does not function, I have to personally wade back into the fray to physically make Sibling go to the doctor, make him do his paperwork, and make him move out. With no guarantee that any of my time or words will be well spent.

I’ll have to arrange childcare for LB, I’d take hir with but I don’t want him anywhere near hir. I don’t trust him to turn my back on him for a minute. Not because the mentally ill are universally violent as the media and politicians would have you believe but because he specifically has a history of being unpredictable and we used to spar together. I don’t believe for a second that he’s incapable of slipping into a delusion, or even the appearance of the delusion, that we’re 20 years younger and instigating an altercation. Especially when I’m frogmarching him (metaphorically, I hope) to the doctor and whatever else.

PiC insists that I won’t do this alone but my defenses are up, my instincts are pushing him away to protect my family from my family. I have never had help managing my sibling, I’ve always gone it alone – he can behave like a caged beast and it’s safer when it’s only my back that needs watching. I can be as firm as I need without worrying he’d lash out at bystanders. And if anything goes wrong, only I will be hurt.

It sucks but this is how I prepare for a Sibling battle after years of bloody experience. Protect your family, keep them out of the line of fire. Armor yourself. Sort your affairs.

Boy does this ever sound like a hootenanny.

18 Responses to “When you hold the line”

  1. I don’t have a sibling, so I can’t understand the bond you have or may have. So take my words with a grain of salt.

    You cannot keep doing this. It’s a drain on your, and you have few enough resources, physically, as it is. And stress/frustration affect us physically.

    It doesn’t matter if you’re the only one he’ll listen to — especially if it’s rarely completely. That doesn’t make him your responsibility. You have a hard enough time micromanaging your dad. You’ve talked about how emotionally exhausting that can be. Can you really afford to step-by-step your sibling’s care too? Because it sounds as though nothing but hand-holding (or, in this case, hand-yanking) is going to get this dealt with.

    Yes, it may be better on medication. But are you going to make sure he takes his pills? Gets them refilled in time?

    As someone with a mental illness, I appreciate that you’re not giving up on him just because he refuses to help himself. I had to practically beg Tim to get on anti-depressants when I found out how bad his depression is. And even then, only a hint of a threat (do this or our marriage will not work) got him going.

    But there’s not giving up, and there’s not giving into reality. The reality is that you don’t have the capability — probably even with help — to take care of this situation. Perhaps now, but not long-term. And this will be a long-term thing, even with the right pills/dosage.

    So at the very least, accept the help that’s being offered to you. But also try to monitor this new attempt with the realization that it’s not tenable long-term. And if he proves that he can’t be trusted to manage himself without near-constant nagging from you, you need to start looking at other options. Even if it’s something unimaginable, like giving up or long-term care from an institution. (Not sure how bad his delusions are and/or what it takes to be committed long-term.)

    We have to put our own oxygen masks on first. And now that you have LB, you owe it to hir to save something of yourself. In other words, you won’t do it for you; you probably wouldn’t even do it for PiC. But you need to do it for hir.
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    • Revanche says:

      Thank you.

      It’s not my bond to him (only a little bit) anymore, it’s more whether or not I want LB to have a grandfather until my Sibling is out of the picture.

      BUT, FWIW, while I feel like I’m gearing up for battle, I don’t have any intention of charging this fray without having thought it all through. This is the beginning of that thinking – actually facing the problem that I’ve ignored for this past year while I focused on LB.

      I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I don’t know if, in the end, there is anything I can truly do that doesn’t unravel everything. So I’m thinking. I’m thinking “aloud” here and researching options.

      • I know you didn’t have any hard and fast plans yet. I was just offering my two cents because, as someone without a sibling, perhaps I can be more objective.

        Then again, Tim cut his brother out of his life, and it was the healthiest thing he ever did. Of course, his parents didn’t give him too much trouble over it. They just took awhile to respect the “Please don’t talk about him around me. I don’t care what he’s up to or how ‘well’ he’s doing.” rule that Tim installed.

        Sounds like maybe your dad wouldn’t be quite so flexible in that regard.
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        • Revanche says:

          And I do appreciate hearing them!
          The interesting thing is that this year has been much easier for me in that one aspect: at some point, my dad stopped bringing up the subject of Sibling when we talked. I didn’t ask him to, but I didn’t ask him not to pretend he didn’t exist. It was an odd thing but I could live with the guilt of acting like I didn’t care in exchange for the relief of not hearing about new things to be mad at him over.

  2. Sally says:

    I don’t have much direct experience with this, but–it sounds like you have some legitimate concerns that your brother might physically attack you while you’re trying to get things underway. And if that’s the case, I think that it might be wiser to have PiC along. To call 911, if nothing else– given how much your father has let your brother get away with things in the past, I’m not sure you can count on your father to call 911 if you’re in serious danger at the hands of your brother. PiC, at least, can be counted on to put you ahead of your sibling.

    Also: I don’t know very much about what they can do, but– would it be worth finding out if adult social services could get involved on your father’s behalf? Aside from the mess with your brother, it sounds like some of the basics of living independently are getting away from him. He might benefit from having an official eye on him. Plus if there’s any chance that your brother might be abusing or taking advantage of your father in some way, they might also be in a position to do something about that, too.

    I’m so sorry that you’re going through all this.

    • Revanche says:

      Thanks for the thoughts. I don’t *think* he would physically attack me but I also haven’t been around him consistently enough to be able to accurately judge if he would slip into that particular delusion. I have to be aware of it, but I don’t want to be alarmist either.

      I don’t think I can wrangle social services for Dad too when he likely won’t cooperate (that has been the theme of the decade!) but at least I don’t think Sibling is taking advantage of him mainly because there’s only so much he can take advantage of. Still, if I can, I will investigate what options there are on this front.

  3. Not to add to the drama, but please be careful. Obviously the guy is really sick. He needs mental health care. That doesn’t mean he’s necessarily violent, but without some professional help, he could be unstable.

    Have you thought of inviting Dad up to the City for a “vacation” and then once you get him in hand, arranging for him — surprise! — never to go back? Either move him in with you or see if you can get subsidized housing for him up there? Then just leave the shambles to Brother.

    There may be government resources for elders in California. If you can argue that your dad is at risk living with your brother, you may be able to procure funding to move him somewhere else. But don’t tip your hand while inquiring…bureaucrats being what they are. It would be useful to know, tho’, if there are any resources. The state should have a Department of Aging (or something along those lines) that provides information and leads to resources for the elderly.
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    • Revanche says:

      I’d still have to pay the rent on the shambles, and it’d probably get a lot worse and under my name, too :/ But in any case, Dad won’t cooperate. He still won’t visit, even for a couple days, possibly because he doesn’t trust me not to do that? I’ve never threatened to, I only suggested once a long long while ago that he might do better up here with us but honestly I don’t know that he would since most of his support network is back home.

      Good thoughts on government resources, I’ve been off and on looking into them but I’ll be asking for help from a knowledgeable friend or two to figure out where to start.

  4. SherryH says:

    Oh, man, Revanche! That’s a really rough situation, no two ways about it.

    I have no wisdom or advice to offer, but you and your family – both families – will be in my thoughts. Please be careful and remember to take care of you.

  5. *hug*
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  6. mncold says:

    It seems to me, from today’s blog, that you are doing this for yourself, LB, your Dad, and your brother. You have a grand advocate for yourself in PiC. PiC wants/needs to be included, and as your spouse and LB’s father has a stake in how matters could go. Perhaps PiC could use some further info on how his mere presence could escalate things, but PiC is an adult and, just my opinion, perhaps does not need protection from family. Maybe because you are used to doing this alone it is hard to see options that include him.
    However you decide to handle this and whatever possible outside resources there are available to you, I wish you and your families the very best possible outcome.

    • Revanche says:

      I think you’ve read it right. I have multiple reasons to feel the need to do something about the situation, though I don’t yet know what.
      And you’re also right, it is hard for me to see how to include him, in part because I’m accustomed to doing this alone and in part because Sibling’s nature is such that if he thinks it’s just me, he’ll be just a shade more cooperative than if anyone else is part of the conversation. He puffs himself up and has to put on some kind of a show, and that often triggers his belligerence and argumentativeness.
      Thank you for your kind thoughts.

  7. Linda says:

    Family issues are so tough. *sigh*
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  8. Sense says:

    Really hard. Tough stuff. I really feel for you. I get the fears around unpredictable behaviour. I understand not being able to walk away from this, from him. I’m sorry this has come to a head and that you are the only authority he seems to respect.

    Not that you asked, but here’s what I know from my sister’s experience–the doc will be way more helpful (I hope):

    It sounds like he is functioning just enough to get in his own way. A proper diagnosis, medicine, therapy, and some sort of constant care to make sure he takes his meds needs to happen for positive change to occur. As far as I know, the only way to make sure all that happens is a hospital stay. Unfortunately, soon as they are deemed not a threat to themselves or others, they get released, often long before they can take care of themselves properly (ask me how I know…).

    It’s awesome he has been to the doc and that you’ve advanced to the paperwork stage. Once you go back, he’ll be registered with the state and assigned a case worker. Once he has benefits and a state advocate, the case worker *should* handle everything from there–that is their job and hopefully you can rest easier knowing that there is someone else to help manage his illness. [One note, if you can, get your bro to sign a mental health power of attorney or be appointed conservatorship. Otherwise, the case manager has NO obligation to keep you informed of what is going on with your sibling without Sibling’s permission. This has caused no end of strife for my family when my sister is incapacitated and for whatever reason thinks we are out to get her when all we want to know is if she is safe in the hospital or possibly out wandering the streets alone.]

    It sounds like low income housing isn’t an option if he was deemed unable to be independent. If it were an option, though, his case manager would do home visits, help arrange transport to therapy, make sure rent was paid, that sort of thing, but he’d be in charge of much of his free time, meals, budgeting the remainder, paying bills, taking his meds, etc. A group home could be the ticket, but I think the person has to be somewhat cooperative for that to work. They (at least at my sister’s group home) expect the client to follow many rules. If they can’t, or aren’t willing, they are moved around to various facilities until no options are left–in which case, you’re back where you started, with only your family home as a place for him to stay. (Again, this is how I understand it in my home state. May be different, or different in CA.)

    But first things first! When stuff goes down, is there a way PiC could be included, even peripherally? On the phone, listening in, nearby, just in case? Given Sibling’s previous actions, he REALLY doesn’t want his situation to change, and I think the strength of that conviction is going to come into play here. It sounds like you know not to underestimate that. I’m also sure you know how to handle him–say what you need to say, do what you need to do. You have his best interests at heart. I hope this ends up being much easier than we anticipate…Godspeed!

    • Revanche says:

      Thank you so much for these thoughts. I may not have outright asked but I was thinking of you and your experience and so much appreciate that you’re willing to share some of it with me. It gives me some idea of where to start, when I figure out how much I’m willing to be involved in.

      As far as PiC’s involvement, I have to ponder on that. I need to figure out if my instincts say Keep Him OUT of it because his presence will cause Sibling to escalate or if it’s my natural protectiveness.

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