Living with family members who are dealing with various kinds of mental health issues can be frustrating. There are certain moods and behaviors that can be tough to deal with at times, and there can also be sadness and irritation that because of the mental health problems the nature of the relationship is not exactly as you would wish it to be. It may also feel like the person with the mental health issues gets more attention and focus put on them – which can also be frustrating.
While FX can appreciate your frustrations, we are wondering what is going on that you are feeling like you “hate” him. It sounds like you are feeling real rage towards him and we are curious what makes this such an enraging situation for you as opposed to something that is frustrating and trying at times. FX thinks it might be helpful for you to pinpoint what your anger is about. Consider the following:
· You may be feeling particularly angry towards your stepbrother because you are not educated about what it means to have Asperger Syndrome, bipolar disorder, or ADHD. Sometimes when we do not understand why a person acts the way they do, it is easier to feel angry rather than more patient and compassionate.
· Are you feeling the focus and attention mostly goes to your stepbrother? If your stepbrother is living with these three diagnoses, FX would imagine that your mother and stepfather spend a great deal of time addressing his behavior – which might leave you feeling somewhat neglected of the love and attention you would like from them.
· How did you feel about your mother remarrying? If you were not thrilled to begin with that your biological parents are not together and/or that your mother remarried, the fact that you now have a stepbrother with these mental health issues will probably just intensify anger you are already feeling.
· FX wonders if you are the kind of person who is very compliant with rules – doing what you have to in school, generally behaving well, helping out at home, etc. Sometimes, for people who tend to be very compliant, it can be very irritating to watch others who are not as compliant. There are a variety of reasons for this.
· Sometimes parents of children with mental health issues like Aspergers, bipolar, and ADHD will simply excuse their child’s behavior saying that they have a mental health diagnosis rather than finding a way to deal with the behavioral issues. Children with these kinds of diagnoses may need special rules and routines that fit their particular needs, but they absolutely do need rules and routines to be put into place by their parents and to have these rules and routines used consistently. Are you feeling like your parents are addressing your stepbrother’s behaviors sufficiently or does it feel to you like he has free reign to do what he wants? If you feel like they are not providing adequate supervision, rules, and routines for him, then some of your anger towards your stepbrother may really be for your mother and father if you are angry with how they function as parents towards your stepbrother.
These are just a few of many possible reasons why your anger about this situation is so intense. FX suggests that you start by discussing your feelings with your mother and/or stepfather. Let them know how you are feeling, how angry you are – and talk together about what the underlying issue is for you and how you can best address this problem so that you won’t be feeling quite so intensely angry. There may be things you want your mother and stepfather to do differently, such as needing some extra quality time with your mother for just the two of you, or you may even need to speak to the mental health professionals treating your step-brother so that you can be better educated about your stepbrother’s diagnoses and how to best deal with his problematic behaviors.
If you find that speaking to your mother and stepfather isn’t adequate in addressing this, consider speaking to a mental health professional on your own. A therapist could help you to identify the underlying issue(s) that are feeding into your anger, as well as work with you on ways to address this anger. If there are issues in how you feel your mother and stepfather deal with your stepbrother, a therapist could conduct family sessions to deal with their part in this as well.
FX is sorry that you are experiencing so much anger around this situation. We absolutely appreciate that living with so much anger can be a very difficult thing. But rather than focusing your energy on your stepbrother’s behaviors, put your focus right now onto figuring out what is making you so enraged about this situation, and, since you cannot change your stepbrother, what is in your power to do about it. And make sure you have the support and guidance you need from trusted adults as you try and work through all of this.
If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.
For more information about the mental illnesses your stepbrother has, please read the following:
· Mayo Clinic: Asperger’s syndrome
· NIMH: ADHD & Mayo Clinic: ADHD in children