My Family Treats Me Like Garbage

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dear Residential Therapists,

I am the youngest member in my household and I have an issue with regards to how I am often treated by my closest family members. I guess you can say I’ve lived an alternative lifestyle. I pursued post secondary education later in life than my other family members. I’ve often opted to do things I wanted to do such as write a book, created interactive digital storybooks, pursued some of my life long dreams such as traveling to study languages abroad.

I love my family however several of my family members treat me like utter garbage. It has become so open and offensive that I have a feeling that the only way I can cope is to simply cut ties all together. My eldest brother projects his own insecurities on me. He always mentions my age, like he hates the fact that I am far younger than him. I asked him why he didn’t want me to work at his workplace once in the past (they were hiring) and he told me that I am taller and better looking. I get it, I intimidate him but we’re family these things really shouldn’t matter! He tells people in my own neighborhood I’m a loser and a nobody to ANYONE that will lend an ear. Another example? I was helping my little sister with her homework (she’s in highschool). He sees this and says that “I am an uneducated loser and should not help anyone with anything”. I am not even remotely joking when I say that he is borderline illiterate. He can’t even construct basic sentences without seeking help or approval from someone (often times it’s me!). I have no clue how he made a career in the information technology industry… To each his own!

I try to excuse this behavior but it has really destroyed any respect I have for him. I can’t let his behavior erode me any longer, that’s the feeling I have. I deserve better than this. I deserve to have a real brother who cares about my well-being. If anything I pity him. He loves to talk about his own personal problems but immediately ignores any input I have period. He would actually just turn away once he’s finished talking. What kind of disgusting behavior is this?

My elder sister has two faces. She’s my best friend in front of my face but she attempts to drive a wedge between me and my younger sister. My little sister loves me to death and my elder sister has tried her best to destroy our relationship on several occasion. She is bipolar, I guess that just comes with the territory?

She recently got married and after I went to great lengths of helping with the wedding, help her move, kissing / hugging her and giving her my blessings. I found out she has been talking behind my back to her husband the whole time. I went to great lengths to setup their entire apartment. Her husband told me he defended my honor. He barely knew me besides the good impression I left with him (I was very supportive and welcoming) but he felt the need to let me know what was happening.

My father has an issue with displacement. He bottles everything up and just explodes in a violent rage. He curses and says the most satanic things so often that I learned to just stay silent. There’s definitely something in our bloodline. If I talk back he explodes and cuts me off, if I even say anything at all or some how speak out of turn I am the rude person and don’t know my place. I am very patient by nature but I absolutely refuse to tolerate and more name calling or put downs, it’s unhealthy.

My mother and father both gladly accept my help with several of the things they are incapable of doing themselves anymore. I am the best son at that time in their eyes. I understand as a son I MUST honor my parents and take care of them as they age. I love to help them out anyways so no problem there. However, when they get angry they show this really ugly side. They would literally insult me and try to ruin my image in front of their own friends and extended family. I can’t stand it, no family should act in this manner. I have nothing but love for them and wish to be a close knit family but I cannot tolerate this degree of slander and backbiting. It’s too destructive, I want no part of it anymore.

Whenever I even try to confide with anyone in my family they just stay silent or say I am overreacting.

What are my problems?

I feel like I am not the same person I once was. I’m somewhat of a calm, patient, introverted person. I wasn’t always like this, in my younger days I was much more outgoing. My father verbally abused me throughout high school and back then I was a tad bid insecure / lacked confidence. Awkward teens years haha.

Now as an adult, I feel much more confident however I feel empty inside. I used to be able to connect with people so easily but now I feel like a drifting spirit. Time just flows by and it’s a constant struggle to get through the day and complete tasks because I simply don’t care about anything anymore. I lost a lot of the passion I once had as a youth. I feel like even I try to will myself to be more outgoing I simply cannot get rid of this feeling of emptiness. I am forgetful, I am not as confident in my abilities as I used to be. I’ve lived in depression for the last 10 years of my life and I’ve come to terms with that.

Some days are better than others but that empty and fleeting feeling has remained with me since I was 15 years old. I hardly talk about this problem to anyone. Perhaps that’s why it has manifested itself to this degree over the years. I learned to just simply just live with my demons. No one’s perfect right? I just don’t want to grow old and bitter. Some of my family members seem that way, I want more from life.

Many times throughout the day I feel this sensation of an outer body experience. I am walking but I am just this zombie getting through the day. When people greet me sometimes it takes me several seconds to snap back to reality. I want to feel alive again.

These are some of the steps I’ve taken over the course of 2 years:

I’ve COMPLETELY changed my diet for the better for one and exercise regularly. I am pro life, my love for nature and wildlife knows no end. I love learning new things, I love pursuing things that make me happy and helping others along the way. I especially love languages and learning about cultures. I’ve spent a lot of time improving my well being both physically and spiritually. These steps have helped a great deal towards rediscovering myself.

I feel like I am at a point in my life where I cannot expose myself to my families destructive personalities. I don’t want to backpedal.

What should I do? How can I maintain ties with several of my immediate family members without regressing?

A: Thank you for sending us your detailed and poignant email about the struggle you are having with your family. There are three things that I believe will help. It sounds from your letter as though you live at home. If you do, then it is time to move out. Being out from under your family is important. Even if you can’t do it now develop a plan to move out as soon as possible. At the age of 25, it is time to start moving toward a more independent life than being the child in the family. Setting limits on time and contact with family members will be important. The boundaries you can set with them will be one way to limit your vulnerability.

Secondly, you will want to look for a therapy group in your area. The main value of group therapy is that it offers a corrective opportunity from your family of origin. This will be important as you make the changes toward independence from them — and afterwards.

Finally, I would read about codependency. Typically when we give out more than we receive in our important relationships there is a drain on our emotional resources. Learning how to manage this will be important.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jun 2014

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2014). My Family Treats Me Like Garbage. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/06/22/my-family-treats-me-like-garbage/