My older brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia 10 years ago. Before his psychotic break, we were close. After he got sick, I moved away for college and never moved back to my home state.
For almost a decade, he’d only communicate with me in person. He was afraid to use email or the telephone because he thought people were spying on him. We I did talk to him, depending on what meds he was taking, he might be talkative or might not speak at all.
He’s not really in treatment. He sees a psychiatrist every 2 or 3 months and takes a long term injection. That’s all. Other than that he never leaves the house. Technically he’s been medicated for 10 years, never off antipsychotics, but his delusions are always a problem. He still believes that certain people have betrayed him and tried to ruin his life. So I can’t say he was ever recovered or stable. His psychiatrist is aware of his ongoing delusions.
In the beginning I encouraged my parents to get him to see a psychologist or other therapist and work out a treatment plan. They said, “He doesn’t want to do that.” So it never happened.
Now I’m not close with my brother. He’s missed much of what happened in my life over 10 years, including my wedding because he didn’t want to go out of the house.
My parents are trying to get us talking more. They use group text or Facetime. At first it was strained, and a year later I feel like I just don’t like the guy anymore. I don’t like the way my brother acts now. He’s rude, pushy, arrogant. He’s always criticizing and belittling me. He tries to manipulate me into buying things for him online. He starts fights about politics that seem endless and he won’t ever let them go (and we all have the same politics, we’re all registered democrats, so I don’t even know how we manage to fight).
He never asks me about my life, job, husband, hobbies, house, town, etc. When I talk to him about my life he changes the subject. He only likes to talk about his interests (movies, politics, music). If I talk to a friend I haven’t seen in 10 years, we catch up. My brother’s not interested in that. It feels really one-sided. There’s no give and take the relationship.
I currently have health problems and my physician asked me to avoid stress. I just feel like it’s impossible to do that with his toxic tantrums once a week. But I don’t know how to tell my parents to just leave it alone, let us grow apart, we have nothing in common and just shouldn’t be talking. If he was in REAL treatment maybe things would be different but he doesn’t want things to change.
If a friend was this judgmental, rude, abusive, manipulative, I wouldn’t associate with them anymore. I think I shouldn’t have to be subjected to that.
I appreciate how difficult it would be to have a brother with schizophrenia who is hard to communicate with, paranoid, abusive, and irritating to talk to. I don’t think there’s any merit in forced communication — just because your parents think it’s good. It doesn’t sound like it makes him feel better, and certainly doesn’t make you feel better. Your parents can hardly see it as a success.
I suggest three things: first and foremost to take care of your self. Don’t be doing these talks out of some kind of weekly obligation. Doing it out of guilt or responsibility isn’t healthy — for anyone. Instead I would encourage you not take part in the group FaceTime and shift to more individualized contact. Be direct. Let your parents know you’d like to talk to them separately from your brother so that you could call and catch up, this might also include talking one-on-one with them, but importantly this is these are conversations without your brother.
Secondly let your brother know that you’d want to talk with him individually from time to time. Put the responsibility on him for calling you once a month and you could call him once a month. Make sure you keep up your end of the bargain regardless if he does, and he can decide if he wants to keep up his. Just be sure you don’t let him abuse you when you are on the phone. Hang up by saying you are uncomfortable with how you are being treated. This isn’t a debate. It is the last thing you say before you hang up. Letting him berate you serves no purpose.
Finally I recommend doing a loving kindness meditation for your parents and your brother. Generating these compassionate feelings as you are lessening your contact with him should help emotionally with the process. You aren’t doing this to be mean — you are doing this to take care of yourself.
Wishing you patience and peace,