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Brother Causing Parents Stress, Guilty for Living in Another State

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My older brother has diagnosed bipolar disorder with anger issues (amongst other undiagnosed issues) and has just lost his job again. He has a 5 year old son, is currently separated from his child’s mom, but is dating another woman. He was recently pulled over (he gets pulled over often for excessive speeding) and got caught with marijuana and a pipe. These aren’t even my causes of anxiety- it’s that he is causing so my stress to my parents. My mom is chronically ill, and my dad breast cancer last year. They have contact with my brother, as they have a great relationship with my nephew, but it is almost constant stress because of the things my brother gets into. He can’t keep a job because he falls asleep at his desk from his meds, shows up late from over sleeping, calls out too much, blows up on someone- you name the problem this time. I live 10 hours away by car, and every time my mom calls to tell me something has happened with him, I feel such guilt. 1. For living far away and feeling helpless. 2. For deciding to not have a relationship with my brother because I feel he is toxic. I want to help, but I don’t know what to do. I go back and forth between feeling like I should reach out to him and then mad that he never reaches out to me. I won’t be a part of a one-sided relationship, especially because he uses my parents and never apologizes.

How do I get over the guilt? (From the USA)

Brother Causing Parents Stress, Guilty for Living in Another State

Answered by on -


  The work here is helping your parents by supporting them in their struggle. There is a saying in 12-step programs “detaching with love” that I believe is necessary here. I think having compassion for your brother while staying unhooked from him is the right thing. What you can do to manage the guilt is to be a sounding board or support for your parents.

This includes helping them (and perhaps yourself) find a support group either online or in person. Here is our comprehensive list from PsychCentral as well as the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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

Brother Causing Parents Stress, Guilty for Living in Another State

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

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

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Brother Causing Parents Stress, Guilty for Living in Another State. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 5 Feb 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.