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Author Topic: family
moon_goddess
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I've been dealing with a situation for a while that I finally figured out how to sum up in one sentence:
What am I supposed to do when, in order to have contact with the ones I love the most, I have to be around those who hurt me the most?

I'm referring to my family. I have three younger siblings, the two youngest who I adore, and the third who has lots of behavioral problems (basically an explosive temper, often gets violent and throws things and/or attacks people physically). What complicates this a little bit is that he also has a disability, and the behavioral problems are tied in with that, and sometimes, he needs to be physically restrained by me or one of my parents.

Not entirely unrelated is that my father (and rarely mother) used to get physical with me when I was younger.

I don't live at home anymore, since I'm in college, but every time I think of going home I get sick to my stomach. They're my family, so I can't not go home for Christmas, even though I will be putting myself in an unpleasant position where I don't feel physically safe. (My parents know I hate being at home because of the violence and chaos, and my brother has been in therapy for ages.)

Honestly, if it weren't for my youngest siblings, I probably would have cut off contact with my family by now, and even so, I'm considering it.

I have a counselor that I talk to at school, but I'm afraid of talking about this stuff, because I'm afraid it might invoke one of those "must notify authorities" clauses.

After going home for Thanksgiving I decided that I was going to take some sort of decisive action about how to interact with my family, but I haven't come up with anything. I'm trying to make the best out of a really, really shitty situation.

My options so far:
1) Do nothing (aka continue going home once in a blue moon and grinning and bearing it for a week, which then I need about a week of being away from home to get my equilibrium back.)

2) Cut off all contact and lose financial support for school as well as emotional support and getting to see my siblings.

I don't like either of these options at all.

My other options are

3) Refuse to have contact with my one sibling (this seems unfair, since he is usually genuinely remorseful after he is done being explosive)

4) Only consent to meet with my family in neutral settings (aka restaurants etc where there are other people and the likelihood of explosions and slipping back into old patterns decreases)

I really don't like 4) either because I always feel on edge in restaurants as well, like I'm on display, and it makes me pretty anxious.

Basically, I'd like some advice, and/or some moral support, since I'm going home this weekend.

Posts: 48 | From: Northern Hemisphere | Registered: Feb 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jacob at Scarleteen
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Hi moon goddess, I hope you're ok,

This sounds really hard. I think trying to work out what your options are is good, like you have done.

I was wondering how long you spend at home when you visit?

If you wouldn't feel comfortable not going home, and you wouldn't feel comfortable not doing so either perhaps cutting down could be an option, going home maybe every other christmas, or going for a day trip, might be something manageable depending on how you feel about it.

I've realised that there's a bit of a honeymoon period when I visit home for the first couple of days. So taking advantage of that is a good solution for me... after a few days I realise I really want to get away.

Would you like to just post on here and vent when you're home?

One thing I realise from being home is just how strong I can be... I think "wow, what I can't handle for more than a few days now, I was strong enough to survive for 19 years!"... you obviously have a lot of strength!, and there will always be some aspect of this to deal with.

Another aspect to consider is just that you don't have to make one rule forever... like cutting contact, or only meeting in neutral settings... unless of course it works really well. Meeting for a picnic in a park might be better than a restaurant, or meeting members of your family separately, all could be things that you decide along the way are something you'd like to do?

I don't think there's any obligation to have christmas with your family if it's something painful for you by the way. And even if you'd like to do it some years, it doesn't have to be most years, and you might feel better to meet with them at a different time of year.

Of course cutting contact is still an ok thing for you to do, but it sounds to me like it's not really what you're looking for yet, and maybe just looking at the near future would be better...

Is there anything you feel might help over the Christmas weekend?

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moon_goddess
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My limit for staying home is usually a week, because, like you said, the first couple of days are usually pretty good, except that for various reasons I ended up staying a week and a half for Thansgiving, which was objectively too long.

I'm going home for five days at Christmas, which will hopefully be better.

I'm not really proud of the fact I survived 17 years of this; now I feel like I have all of these coping mechanisms that aren't useful anywhere else.

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moon_goddess
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Also, does anyone know what, exactly, psychologists are required to report?
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Heather
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Report about you or about your siblings? And what are we talking about here: any physical or sexual abuse or serious neglect of anyone?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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moon_goddess
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Possible physical abuse of my siblings, but I'm not really sure that I understand exactly what physical abuse means.
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Heather
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That'd be things like slapping, hitting, kicking, choking, throwing things at, etc.

If you're not reporting that this is happening to you, or something you're doing to a therapist, they may not be mandated to report. (Though personally, if your siblings are being abused, I would encourage you to report it to someone so there is some hope that they will stop being abused.)

But the best bet is to just ask them to tel you, before you disclose anything to them, what they are and are not mandated to report and what their own ethics are per reporting.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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moon_goddess
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TRIGGER WARNING

To my knowledge, it's only with my (14 y.o.) brother who instigates the violence.

So a situation would look like this:
Parents tell him not to do something, or they will take away his electronics. He does something; electronics get taken away. He explodes and attacks that person physically, often picking up toys and throwing them at the person. He is told to go to his room. He refuses. Sometimes my parents try to take a time out for themselves to cool off and they go to their room, but he follows them into their room, continuing to yell, slam doors, punch/hit etc. When he is being physically violent, my parents try to restrain him physically by grabbing his arms/legs and/or doing a hold-down on the floor (which was recommended by one of the behavioral people they have seen). I have also occasionally been in this position of needing to restrain him. Sometimes my parents completely lose their temper (these fights go on for over a half hour sometimes) especially when he manages to actually injure them painfully (like kicking my dad in the groin) and sometimes they hit him back.

This happens about once a week, I think. I know this is not a healthy situation for anyone to be living in, but I don't see, short of getting him out of the house (which my parents have considered), how this could be improved by reporting it and taking the kids out of the house. Like, other than that (ha!), we're a close family. And, like I said before, he has a bunch of therapists and is on a bunch of meds and my parents are trying to deal with it.

Basically, everyone in my house constantly lives in crisis/coping mode, instead of thriving mode.

Also, since I'm not really sure what 'explicit' means, I'm going to put a trigger warning at the beginning of this comment.

[ 12-22-2011, 02:05 PM: Message edited by: moon_goddess ]

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Heather
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Am I getting right that it sounds like everyone in your family has been earnestly trying to do the best they can when it comes to your brother, save the times your parents themselves have retaliated with violence (not talking about nonviolent restraint, but about hitting him back) to him?

And that, if I have this part right too, the issues here are primarily about everyone being unable to manage your brother's behaviour?

If so, have your parents been very clear with this therapists -- and their own, hoping the whole family has someone they see -- about how much violence is happening and how out of control everything is? If they have, what have the therapists suggested? have none of them yet suggested new methods or approaches, including potentially considering residential care for your brother?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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moon_goddess
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Everyone is trying to do the best they can, and yes, the current issue is my brother and his behavior. To my knowledge, my parents have been upfront about the violence and how much they hate it and want to change it to the family therapists, I don't think they are seeing their own personal one.

The psychiatrist that works with my brother has been really helpful in finding medication that helps him moderate his behavior a lot better to the point where, if he forgets his meds, we notice the effects within an hour. So that's helped a lot, and reduced the frequency of these episodes, but as he's gotten older and bigger, the actual physical threat to people's safety has increased.

Honestly, I'm not sure what kind of residential care would even be available for him. My parents have been talking to the therapists about this (without my brother's knowledge), and they say that he would get eaten alive at a normal place for troubled teens because he's a nice kid, and he would get introduced to behaviors like cutting, etc. If you know of anything for people with a physical disability (eventually he will almost certainly need to be in a wheelchair) as well as a behavioral one, I'm all ears. He's really bright, though, and hates being grouped with people with cognitive disabilities. Also, thanks so much for your advice and answers. I've been dealing with this for such a long time that it's hard for me to figure out how much is normal and how much is not.

I'm really frustrated because I thought once I stopped living with my family, I wouldn't have to deal with this anymore. But every time I think about my family it's stressful, and I don't like introducing friends to my family, and I have a lot of weird tendencies that my friends think I'm paranoid about (like wanting to sit with my back to a corner kind of thing) because of it. And then sometimes I go home to visit and I just dread it. And then it's good for the first few days and I allow myself to hope and think that everything has changed, and then something will happen and EXPLOSION. It's impeding my ability to form good relationships (friends and romantic ones) and trust people, and a severe contributor to my anxiety and depression, which, in turn, affects my schoolwork and my ability to be responsible and show up to stuff regularly and on time.

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Heather
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I'm pretty distressed to hear the way his therapists have talked to your family about residential care.

That's not to say that residential care is always some kind of Valhalla: realistically, there are causes for concern at some places for ANYONE who lives in them, not just someone like your brother.

At the same time, the quality of care varies, and all places aren't the same. To boot, a good family therapist with these issues will work hard to try and consider the needs and care of your whole family, not just your brother. It seems your family members are suffering the same kinds of things they're saying your brother would, you know?

I totally understand how hard this is for you, even though you're not living there anymore. I know, too, that a lot of family members in this kind of spot can feel a lot of guilt about feeling the way you are, so I hope you're cutting yourself a break here.

My very best advice as a place to start is to ask your parents to please try and arrange for a family therapist for ALL of you, and for them, rather than just talking to the therapist for your brother. Their needs, and the needs of you and your sibs, are separate from your brother's needs, and really require care and attention of their own.

Do you think they'd be open to that and understand its import?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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