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  1. #1

    Disappointing and Stressful Family

    I'll try to keep this short, so forgive me if I come across as glib. It would just take too many pages to put in all the details.

    I come from a big family, and until a few years ago they were a source of pride and comfort. We were the type of big, happy family that always did things together, and had a lot of fun. I had a good childhood, and went on to be a normal, well-adjusted adult (mostly).

    Several years ago my sister revealed that my father had regularly molested her when she was a child. My father made no effort to deny it, and begged forgiveness. This was shattering, and incomprehensible. Today my sister no longer has any relationship with my parents. The rest of us have maintained relations with my parents to varying degrees. Over the years a fragile peace has evolved where we basically just never mention it - although it's always in the background. Let's call it family secret #1.

    Some years ago a brother, who was unstable long before family secret #1 emerged, staged a poorly considered intervention against another sibling. The result was a family feud, unresolved to this day, with certain siblings not talking to each other. Family secret #2.

    Another brother recently had an affair and got his mistress pregnant. Even though I think he's been a total idiot, I am the only shoulder he has to cry on. Some siblings are no longer talking to him. Family secret #3.

    The unstable brother I mentioned earlier recently decided that my father, and the family in general, is evil. It's important to state clearly that this brother was never molested. He has been exceptionally hard on my father, receiving money and favours in return for temporary forgiveness. He sees my father's crime as blanket absolution for his own misdeeds. He is not talking to anyone anymore. Family secret #4.

    I have emerged as the only person on speaking terms with almost everyone. Because of this I am often asked to pass along messages, find out what people are up to etc... I also represent the last vestiges of our old family to some of them, so they want to see me or talk to me all the time. No matter how much time I spend it's never enough.

    I've begun to really resent my family. Many of them have been big disappointments with their behaviour, and all of them have caused me a lot of stress. I've tried pulling away, but it's impossible to do it without hurting people, and I don't want to add to the hurt.

    I have no idea what to do.

  2. #2

    Disappointing and Stressful Family

    It sounds to me like you need a bit of distance from the intrigues and feuds going on in the family. A starting point would be to stop acting as a mediator - when someone asks you to pass along a message, offer to supply him/her with the phone number or address of the other person and let them deliver the message directly. Step out of the role of peacemaker and intermediary and let the other family members take on some of the responsibility that should never have been your to begin with. It's nopt about hurting anyone or turning your back on anyone -- it's simply about finally laying down some boundaries.

  3. #3

    Disappointing and Stressful Family

    Thanks for the quick response.

    I had begun setting boundaries before my brother's latest drama. Unfortunately his actions affected my parents very, very badly - my father almost died. He's recovered, but they are both very depressed, and very vulnerable. Because of this I felt compelled to relax my new boundaries.

    As much as I want some space, I worry that my pulling away might be the final nail in my parents' coffin. I don't want that on my conscience. I just wish I didn't feel solely responsible for my parents' happiness in their declining years. It's too much to bear alone.

    I guess the answer will end up somewhere in between. Pull back a bit, set some less restrictive boundaries, put my foot down when I have to. I'll figure something out.

  4. #4

    Disappointing and Stressful Family

    That's pretty much what I'm suggesting. You don't need to abandon your parents or other family members -- just let them know that you can't continue to be the go-between and peacemaker for everyone.

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