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)

A:  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