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Desperate to do something for my brother despite difficult circumstances...

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Old 28th November 2017, 6:08 PM   #1
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Desperate to do something for my brother despite difficult circumstances...

Hi there LS family - I've been a silent reader of the many forums here, and have been saved and comforted many times from the advice and thoughts the community here give. Just wanted to say thanks first to all

I've been in a bit of an emotionally draining and distraught period for over half a year now, and it would be really great to get anyone's advice or suggestions on my situation. Have been driven up a wall and don't have anyone to seek advice on this, unfortunately...

The situation is that my younger brother (25) just recently disclosed about 7 months ago to the family that he has been feeling depressed, and at times suicidal for over 10 years, also suffering from extreme low self-esteem and motivation to do anything in life. He disclosed this in an email written to my aunt, after an argument at home with my mom and I when I pushed him to tell us why he was always so uncaring towards family and didn't want to do better.

This was a very difficult moment, and none of us really thought beyond the fact that he is very introverted and a bit of a recluse, thinking he'll grow out of his "gaming" habits if we gave it enough time. Since young, our family has relocated multiple times due to my father's job, and while I was able to make friends being the more extroverted child, he has always suffered from it (especially after receiving negative feedback from teachers on his grades) - as a result, he has not made any friends in schools through university, and prefers to stay in his room whenever home to game till late. For many years now, it has been difficult to have a decent conversation with him about things, as he usually just utters one-word responses when prompted, and he doesn't show any care or interest in what's happening with the family.

My aunt shared the letter with my family, and we eventually confronted him gently about it. We emphasized for him to talk to us if he feels a particular way, and suggested for him to perhaps seek some professional consultation, to which he declined. I tried to suggest small steps for him to take to slowly build his self esteem (e.g., going to the gym more often, joining a sports club, etc), but he also refused. The conversation ended on a not so productive note.

I am desperate at this point to help him get out of the rut he has been in for so many years of his life. The situation is difficult though...I'm the closest family member with him and the one he talks and reveals to most, but recently had to move halfway across the world (just when he revealed the letter). Not being able to be there physically with him and talk to him is very difficult. There is a big dependency on me as the only family member to really get through to my brother and talk to him, which puts a lot of stress on me while overseas. My father is not so much of a compassionate person to get involved to this level, and my mother is already trying to deal with the stress of having to take care and watch out for him at home that she's not in the best state to really approach him on anything at this point.

He just started his first job at the company run by my relative. However, there are some clear cultural differences, as well as the nature of the work and working environment that really limits his engagement/opportunity to interact with other colleagues to pretty much almost zero (he is in a very small IT team of 2 people, including himself). Initially, he was opening up a bit as he was excited about the fact that he had a job and was making income, but has since then reverted to his usual quiet self.

Aside from work, he continues to hole himself up in his room gaming for the most part. Any suggestion I come up with is refused, and he doesn't show any active interest in seeking help or doing anything. The fact that we are both third-culture kids make it difficult for him to relate or assimilate in the local society. Is there any gentle way to slowly get him to come out of his shell, despite the many years of him already feeling like this? I'm desperate to help him out as the only family member who can really do something, but it's almost impossible when I live so far from where I need to be. Would really, really appreciate any advice anyone has on this forum! Thank you so much!
make1thappen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 28th November 2017, 6:41 PM   #2
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Hi make1thappen.

I've learned a lot generally about psychology, depression, mental illness, etc., from the articles on the following website but, fair warning, it is from a spiritual perspective.
If it does not fit in with your personal philosophy or belief system, then please just ignore.

One of the list of topics is Relationships, General, and you can access other, more specific articles from the left-hand side menu (not the top menu).

Wishing your brother the very best; and also you and your entire family.
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Old 28th November 2017, 7:03 PM   #3
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Honestly, it's extremely difficult to help someone who doesn't want to help themselves. It sounds like he's completely closed-minded to solutions that could help him improve his life. I think this is a combination of two reasons: (1) he clearly has an unhealthy addiction to games. That means anything that involves leaving the house (and leaving his comfort zone) is going to seem far less appealing than staying in playing games, (2) He probably feels like there is no hope in these solutions. When someone is stuck in a rut for this long, any potential solution can seem like a distant pipe dream.

The first step is to make him see and believe in a potential alternative future for him. He approached the family with a letter. You've tried reasoning with him verbally. Why don't you try writing him a letter? The advantage of writing is that the words don't disappear as soon as they're said, and he's more likely to re-read them and maybe give them some more thought. It also gives you an opportunity to put a lot of thought into what you say and be careful to phrase it in the most persuasive manner that you can.

Try relating it back to an example he can understand and believe. I think that example is you. You're the more extroverted one, you've done those activities you're suggesting for him, and it's worked out for you. He can see that that is true.

You could also try suggestions that strike a middle ground between where he's at now, and the extremes of his comfort zone. Try looking for meetup groups for people who are similar to him (people with social anxiety) and / or have similar interests. These things do exist, particularly in major cities. It sounds like he's very isolated and needs to make some friends.

He needs to really understand that if he continues the way he's going, nothing will ever change or improve for him. At the same time he needs to believe that he is capable of doing things differently, and that doing things differently will actually have a positive effect. Your first goal is to persuade him of these things.
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Old 28th November 2017, 7:05 PM   #4
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You may also want to suggest that he read this thread, once you've generated a few replies!
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Old 29th November 2017, 4:47 PM   #5
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I understand that you are concerned about your brother because he is so isolated. He wrote a letter to your aunt so he knows he has to change. Have you thought of asking him why he wrote the letter and what response he was looking for? Pets are always good therapy. If he liked dogs that might be helpful because a dog needs to be walked and dog parks are a fun way to meet new people.
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Old 17th December 2017, 1:39 AM   #6
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I agree with others that it is very difficult to change someone unless they want to change, but he has made a tiny start by reaching out to your aunt. Does he have a good relationship with your aunt? Maybe she could encourage him to talk to her. He is clearly shutting out the problems he feels in his life by gaming and shutting out other people. He may feel beyond help so he doesn't bother socialising.

I would encourage him to get some kind of therapy with a counsellor or similar kind of therapist, even though he may refuse it. I say 'encourage' because someone suggesting these things to a person who is struggling can seem to be criticising. Telling someone they need therapy kind of implies there is something wrong with them when that is not the case. People have stresses and worries; it does not mean there is something inherently wrong with them and that is the last thing he needs to feel.

It sounds like you have really spotted one of the difficulties he has had if he is introverted. Constant moves would put pressure on someone retiring and shy. Eventually, they might give up on building a social life if they feel they are failing repeatedly. Perhaps it is worth mentioning to him that the moves were not fair on him and that he should not feel he has failed in any way because he did not bounce back so easily as you did. He has great potential to build a good social life for himself if he gives himself chance to find the kind of people he will feel at home with. It is important to reassure him how much you love him and care for him and that his happiness matters to you.

I can see how hard this is for you. You feel so responsible and yet you cannot take all this upon yourself. Encourage your family to reach out to him (the sensitive ones amongst you). You can try to stay in touch with him and tell him you are ready to talk any time he wants to. Let him know you are in his corner with him. Ultimately, your brother has to want to respond to offers of support. If you feel he is so depressed that he is a risk to himself, then maybe talk to local mental health services or encourage him to talk to someone there about his depressed state. It is really hard when someone is down like this. Men in particular can be difficult to help because of this need to be seen to be strong. I think the suggestion of writing to him is a good one. He may not listen or shut off if people talk to him but a letter gives him time to think and consider things.

I really hope your brother responds to the support you and his family are offering, for your sake too. You are offering your support and showing you care. I think that's a great thing to do. You need to live your own life too and forgive yourself for not being able to solve all his problems. He has to take some responsibility for himself too.
"You ain't a beauty but hey, you're alright" ('Thunder Road', Bruce Springsteen)
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