This month, our Advice Columnist addresses family estrangement issues related to disability, caregiving roles, financial independence, setting boundaries and sibling involvement.
Q: “I don't know how to live with or without my family. I'm back in contact after 3 years but at arms length and nothing has been addressed. I'm still expected to help my autistic brother who is stuck in an abusive home and my parents refuse to step in and resolve it as they are comfortable with him not living at home anymore. I've tried everything I can to help my brother in his situation but authorities won't help nor my parents, it breaks my heart and I can't keep it up. I am so lonely and sad here as I am isolated. I know I will be happier if I can restart my life moving away but feel so much guilt as I would abandon my brother in the process. Please share your thoughts.''
A: Dear Amy, Thank you for sharing that you are from the UK, 34, Female, Welsh, Bisexual, with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) and early onset Dystonia. Estrangement puts another painful complication to marginalized identities and vulnerable life factors. The loneliness, sadness, and isolation you experience is real. I believe you. The fact that you are thinking about restarting your life, is an example that you are healing from Estrangement from your parents. I wanted to acknowledge your life realities before digging into advice giving.
I strongly believe it is ableist and neglectful of your parents to abandon your Autistic brother especially if they have the financial and/or have access to resources to be at his assistance. To place you, another disabled person, in a Carer/Caregiver role is unconscionable. You are a thoughtful sibling to include him into your Estrangement advice submission.
It is healthier for your well being to care for your own CPTSD, Dystonia, and work through your valid Estrangement grief feelings before you can “rescue” your brother. Ideally, helping your brother is a community action. I'm sad on your behalf, that your community didn’t show up for you and him. I’ll share with you some reflections I would think of if I were in your shoes with your life realities:
My guilt is misplaced. As a sister, society puts extra expectations for me to be a Carer/Caregiver. Am I open to working with this unfair role and place the accountability where it belongs - to my community?
Do I want to actually live with my brother in the future?
Do I have the income to have my own housing, housing that is suitable for both me and my brother?
How can I safely communicate with my brother to let him know that I have to get set up with a new home firstly, obtain services for him (if needed), and then move him in with me (if wanted)?
Am I open to reaching out to the Bisexual community in my area or online for social support while I work through getting my life redesigned? For example, Bi Con is having a conference 3rd-6th August – Nottingham Trent University City Campus. https://2023.bicon.org.uk/. This con could be a place for new connections!
Feel free to connect with other Estranged community members facing Carer/Caregiving to siblings via our Private Facebook Support Group. You may also wish to join our Monthly Virtual Peer to Peer meetings which typically take place on the 4th Saturday of every month. Details are posted on the Together Estranged website.
Green Henry (They/Them/Theirs), has been a part of the estrangement community for over 20 years. They enjoy vegan baking, writing poetry, and practicing walking meditations.
Please Note: The peer to peer Advice Columnist is not a licensed mental health professional. If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, please go to your local urgent care center to talk to a professional counselor.