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How to handle difficult family members?


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#1 Penny

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 12:22 PM

Hi all...

I wanted to vent (just a little, maybe with some whimpering tossed in to keep it fresh) and ask if anyone had any idea how to deal with family members that give such huge mixed messages.

I will give an example...

When the idea of amputation first came up I let my family know, not only so that when and if it happens they would be forewarned and prepared but hoping for a little family support.

My parents took it with shock and grace, they understood why it would happen and even though they did not like the idea (who would?) they accepted it and pretty much dropped the subject as fast as they could.

My brother, on the other hand... sigh.

We have never been close, I see him maybe once a year. He has never visited me in the hospital and grew very angry when I would have a surgery without him knowing about it, even though he never called when he did know. Like my parents, I told him what was the probable outcome with my left foot and ankle and that an amputation will be the likely outcome. I did not want yet another rant from him about not "keeping him in the loop".

His reaction was anger and condemning. He told me that if I "let" them cut off my foot he did not want to hear about it, that I was stupid for even thinking about letting them do it and if it happened that was it, no more contact.

I currently have three surgeries in a holding pattern (hernia repair, another sinus surgery and the amputation)... because I cannot be cleared for surgery until I am able to once again take my blood pressure, heart rate and thyroid medications.

My brother is the only family that I have living in the State, everyone else is 360 miles away... so no, I do not have any support other than my husband. My old friends have slowly faded into the woodwork over the years since I became mostly bed-bound and it would be great to have my brother to at least be able to call and lean on, but things are as they are.

My only defense when I am with my brother is to fade into a terrible fantasy of whacking him with a golf club until he gets to learn some empathy until his tirade is done then saying the same thing to him every time "You have the right to your opinion, but you do not have to try to force it on me."

Spring is approaching and that is the one time of year I see him... and I am terrified that my parents might mention to him or say something in front of him about my autoimmune/connective tissue issues. I have not told my brother about them because I know what the response would be and I just don't need the negativity.

Any suggestions on how I should handle this... or should I just change it up and use a sand wedge instead of a putter in my terrible fantasy escape?

Penny

#2 JANQ

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 06:16 AM

Hello Penny:

Oh, the subject of family dynamics…….

I am dealing with issues with my family. I have been looking for answers, also. My family outside of my home, my mom, dad, and two sisters, do not understand and do not seem to care.

One friend, whose wife has scleroderma, goes to a counselor to help her deal with the subject of non-empathetic family members. He passed on a bit of advice to me. He simply said, “They won’t understand, so the problem really is yours.” He also said that you can beat it into their heads what you are going through, but until they go through it themselves, they will never understand. It is me to accept this, not them, and learn how to deal with it.

In my own way, I deal with the cruel remarks, the non-empathetic reactions by simply ignoring them. When ignoring the remarks becomes too hard, I avoid the family completely. It is not that I want to stay away, but for self-preservation, I must.

It is very hard, to say the least, when it is your family who you want to be the most supportive, not the least. It is for this reason that I found support elsewhere. I searched and found this forum, and for me, it has made such a difference. I also lean a close, life-long, friend who I know will always be there for me.

Last but not least, I know that the one I live with is going to be the most understanding, caring, and supportive, and that person is my daughter. She is the one who sees this every day. She is strong, and gives me strength to deal with the tough family issues and physical challenges I face.

I know that this is my situation, but I wanted you to know that there are people who can relate, and that I do empathize with you. I am wishing you strength to deal with your brother, and the hope that you find your answers.

With lots of support,

Janet

#3 Cher

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 09:09 AM

Hi Penny,

I am sorry you are having family troubles. I know how hard that is. I have two brothers and a sister, I am the oldest and they say there is nothing wrong with me that losing weight wouldn't fix. It always cracks me up because they usually tell me these things with a cigarette in one hand, and a drink in the other. I don't drink or smoke!

I don't tell anyone in my family about my health problems anymore, they don't want to hear it. I have an aunt that I am close to, she wants to hear how I am doing.

Is there a local support or religious group that can help you? I don't even tell anyone when I am going for tests. You would think that with our mother dying from her autoimmune at 53 that my siblings would be more understanding, but they aren't.

Well, hang in there kiddo, we are here for you.

Cher

#4 Penny

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 06:16 PM

Hi Janet and Cher,

I am sorry that you, too, are having these problems.

I have actually thought of making a pamphlet or a power-point presentation that I can put on a DVD to give out to family members, just mail it to them and not have to say anything at all personally.

"Your Family Member has a life altering condition, they have to deal with it and you need to grow up and at least fake being concerned" is the first title that comes to mind. (BAD PENNY... bad bad bad.)

Perhaps someone a tad more political correctness (PC) than I at the moment (I am dealing with a UTI, and since I can't take any oral meds and I don't want to sit in an ER for 12 hours then have to explain to a doctor that will insist I take oral antibiotics that I wish I could, but I can't, then get lectured on being stubborn because I refuse to take oral medications, when in truth I can take them just fine but I cannot keep them down which they will say is nonsense, then leaving with a prescription for oral meds that I will waste money I don't have to waste filling then try to take and end up back in the ER with extreme abdominal cramps and vomiting with diarrhea with the lovely added bonus of thrush from the antibiotics I will finally get through IV... okay, I am a bit crabby at the moment and not prone to PC-ness) can come up with a better working title.

Penny

#5 Jeannie McClelland

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 04:38 AM

Hi Penny,

Y'know, I like the idea of the DVD. Do you think you could get your brother to log on to You Tube and watch Razz's video? (There's a link on the home ISN page.)

I've discussed the sand wedge vs putter issue with my family and the consensus seems to be to abandon the golf clubs altogether and go for a nicely weighted Louisville slugger. Well, most of them are big and muscular~ I'd go for a sock filled with sand, myself. Leaves fewer visible marks. :lol:
I'm sorry you're having so many things going wrong at the same time. Nothing like a cascade of misery to wreck a girl's day. :P

Here's hoping everything improves for you soon!

Hugs (but not if you have a weapon in your hands),
Jeannie McClelland
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#6 Amanda Thorpe

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 12:14 PM

Penny

Alas our family can be comprised of people who's company we would NOT normally seek out if we were not related to them, I think everyone's got one like this in the woodwork.

I did have a family member, now an ex, whose reaction to any situation/crisis they could not control was rage and blame, your brother sounds similar. Ultimately this behaviour is fuelled by fear, fear that really they are as helpless and powerless as everyone else.

I have to confess I have great support from family and friends but even the well meaning friends can fail to understand the complexity of the disease. One friend asked how my skin disease was and I just smiled.

Apart from sclero I have a close family member who can be difficult to be around because of their behaviour (negative, complaining, childlike, etc) and I have concluded that endlessly telling them the error of their ways is a watse of time so now I limit my time with them and will avoid them altogether when I feel it necessary. We always feel so responsible for family members and we're not, you are not responsible for your brother and I do not believe that any family is better than no family.

Your brother decides how much of your illness he takes on board and no one will be able to make him take more on board until he wants to. I like the idea of the DVD but an "aha!" moment from him may be unlikely and he may continue to blame you, someone has to be responsible for this terrible thing happening to you and as there's no one else to blame he blames you.

JanQ is right we have to change rather than wait on the other person to do so and remember we are changing to make it better for US not them. I wonder if keeping your brother at a distance may help both of you.

I am sorry you have this to deal with on top of everything else, here on this forum we are for you, interested in you, supporting your decisions whatever they may be, hoping the best for you, laughing with you and crying for you.

Take care.

Amanda
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#7 JANQ

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Posted 28 February 2009 - 12:45 PM

Well, Penny, I gave it my one last shot to try to make my parents understand, against my own advice, and printed off some personal stories for them to read that were just like me.

They said that I was only giving them the worst case scenarios, needed to find the happy stories that had mainly good days mixed in with a few bad. My first thought was "there are none."

They gave me an ultimatum that I have to be healthy and normal by the end of this year. I will be sure to let my rheumatologist know that he now has a strict deadline! LOL

No need to mention the swollen lymph nodes now!!

Does anyone have an extra putter or sand wedge? Mine are all of the mini, plastic variety.

Love this group!!

Penny, you are such a special lady and hope that you have better luck!

((big huge hugs))

Janet

#8 Penny

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Posted 28 February 2009 - 09:44 PM

Janet-

I have a whole bag of clubs that I can no longer use... might I suggest the oversized three wood, it comes complete with a Marvin Martian cover... :)

The deadline made me choke on my green tea and called for a quick wipe-down of the screen... how generous to give you to the end of the year! :lol: I am actually stuck for words... would they tell you the same thing if the diagnosis was MS?

I am here for you, waving a golf club in solidarity!

Penny

#9 JANQ

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Posted 02 March 2009 - 04:23 AM

Hi Penny~

How sweet of you to sacrifice your Marvin Martian cover! I actually had to google it, thinking Marvin Martian was a up and coming young golfing sensation! Okay, I am slow.

Are you sure you would want to ruin a perfectly good cover? :lol:

A three wood would leave nicely rounded dents, good idea!

We stand united!

((big hugs))

Janet :)

#10 Jeannie McClelland

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Posted 02 March 2009 - 09:03 AM

Gee, Janet, what are they going to do if you don't make the deadline? Disown you? Never mind, we'll adopt you!! Wait, wait! We already have!

Enormously big hugs,
Jeannie McClelland
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#11 JANQ

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Posted 02 March 2009 - 09:17 AM

Oh, (tears rolling down), I go from laughing to crying from one moment to the next.

Jeannie, how you just made my day!!

Thank you!!!

:wub:

Janet

#12 Penny

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Posted 02 March 2009 - 12:14 PM

Janet-

They never see it coming when there is a cartoon cover on the club :D

Like Jeannie said... we are family. We are related in heart if not in blood.

Warm secure hugs!

Penny

#13 JANQ

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 01:06 AM

Oh, my, Penny, more blubbering!! You are the sweetest!

So happy to have all of you! So sad we are all so far apart!

((big group hug!!))

Janet

#14 Amanda Thorpe

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 02:48 PM

...it's just dawned on me who Marvin the Martian is! I used to have a Marvin mug and liked his attitude, he wanted to blow up the earth because it blocked his view of Venus, I think it was Venus. He was always getting very, very angry!!!

He'd have dealt well with difficult family members, he'd have blown them up, no messin' as they'd make him very, very angry!!

Amanda
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#15 JANQ

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 04:10 PM

Ooh, I like that idea!!

Do we have a new Mascot in the making perhaps!! :lol:

Many hugs,

Janet

#16 jaxs

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 01:54 AM

hi guys ,
yea im in the same boat, no on understands me and how im feeling , except my 2 cats and my dog they always hang around me if im haveing a bad day........ I could be lieing in bed really in alot of pain and very tired when one of my kids will ask me for a lift :unsure: or ask me to take them shopping :mellow: they even wake me if im asleep, and when I get defensive they as me wots wrong with me :( I find it so mentally and physically draining, I have sisters and brothers who dont care what so ever , they live less than 10 miles away and never come to see me not even a phone call, :angry: I sumtimes see them on line and funny they go off hahaha, I dont moan to know one,i dont have the energy , I get on with it myself and sumtimes wonder what is up with people :blink: all my pals have seem to moved on and they dont even text me ever unless I text them and them and how there flues doing its all about them, them ,them lol so why do I bother ........well I think its coz I care about people more than I care about myself at times..... wish I could be selfish and think only of myself for once jaxsxxxxxx
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#17 JANQ

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 12:11 AM

Hi Jaxs:

Well....we care about you! We care about how you are doing! We understand how you are feeling!

You don't have to feel that family doesn't care anymore, because we are family and we care! Family doesn't have to mean blood-related.

Sending you a big huge hug.

Janet

#18 Penny

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 01:47 PM

Hey there, Jaxs,

I still have plenty of clubs gathering dust in the old golf bag :lol: you are welcome to take your pick.

I am in 100% agreement with Janet... family does not have to only mean related by blood, it can also mean connected by heart, and in that sense we are most definitely family.

We do want to know how you are doing and are always willing to listen and share. It is horrible that we all found each other because of disease, but wonderful that we found each other, period!

I am heading to Pennsylvania this weekend for my Dad's birthday and will get a full course press of relatives all asking how I am as a 'social nicety' not really wanting the answer but the pat 'I am fine, how are you?', so that is what I tend to give.

My hubby has been trying to 'lead by example' when it comes to answering that question... like in stores when the cashier asks "how are you today" not because they really care or even know us but because it is a social contract he will tell them how he really feels! The poor cashier will be standing there ringing up things and he will say "My back hurts and my legs are killing me today and I think something I ate is not agreeing with me." They freeze for a moment with a blank look on their face because they did not get the "I am fine, how are you?" answer they expect. I asked him why in the world he does that and his answer is "if they really don't want to know they shouldn't ask".

Hugs all around,
Penny