As an adult, setting boundaries with family members can be tense or daunting, but it is essential to maintaining healthy, respectful relationships. Just ask this Redditor, who drew a line in the sand with her parents after an unfortunate series of events involving her special needs brother — and a lifetime of emotional neglect.
Writing on the infamous /AmITheAsshole Subreddit, user @ScreamingAH gave some context: She (27F) grew up with a sibling with autism (30M) who was “doted on” by their parents at every turn.
“Growing up, I never felt important,” she recalled. “Everything I did was for my brother. I got high marks, my mom would say it’s for my brother. I won a high jump competition, my brother got to keep the medal. My presents were suited for his needs. Nothing was ever mine. And I was never allowed to touch any of his stuff because that might upset him.”
Years of this neglectful dynamic have led @ScreamingAH to harbor a lot of frustration toward her parents, “maybe even resentment.” But she refrained from ever bringing it up. Her brother wasn’t able to control how he acted. Plus, she honestly believes her parents were “doing their best” by triaging the siblings, even though it negatively impacted her.
Things got better when @ScreamingAH moved out of her childhood home for college. “I’ve felt so free ever since,” she wrote. “I visit them twice a year, for maybe a couple days each time, and therefore don’t mind the treatment as much as before.”
Alas, her true feelings came out when her family decided to surprise her for Christmas this year. They came over to her place unannounced and stayed for almost a month — which, who does that?! That’s a major red flag if I’ve ever seen one.
The whole holiday was an unfortunate pressure-cooker situation, she explained: “Either all the pent-up childhood frustrations compounded or his behaviors got worse, but I snapped by the end because [my brother] rummaged around my stuff and broke something every day (some expensive, some of sentimental value). That last time, [after] he broke the door to my room and ruined a lot my treasured possessions, I screamed at him to get away from me and that I don’t ever want to see him ever again. I think I even said something along the line of wishing he never existed.”
“My screaming upset my brother, and my words hurt my parents,” she continued. “He threw a tantrum, my parents were stressed. I made a mess.”
Of course, @ScreamingAH feels “extremely guilty” about her wording. She doesn’t actually wish her brother didn’t exist; she was triggered, angry, and exhausted after nearly a month of hosting family members who were never invited to her home in the first place. But even now, her parents are unable to hold space for her feelings: Her mom has been calling her “every day” since they left and crying, and her dad rang her multiple times to tell her how “disappointed” he was.
AITA Redditors overwhelmingly defended @ScreamingAH. Even though her outburst was cruel (and misdirected toward her brother), the sentiment underlying it was understandable after a lifetime of emotional neglect from her parents.
“Absolutely NTA. The parents are the biggest AH in this,” one user wrote. “OP was not allowed to have anything of their own. All achievements were the brother’s, and he got the medal to prove it. … No wonder OP felt free after leaving that oppressive environment.”
“You shouldn’t have said what you did, but most people would have snapped at that point,” another person commented. “Your parents are the biggest AHs in this scenario.”
Let’s not forget that her family showed up — and stayed in her home for an extended period of time — without warning! That sort of behavior would be unacceptable from even the most compassionate parents out there.
“To be completely honest with you, it was inevitable that this would happen,” someone else opined. “Between your parents showing up without your knowledge to your brother completely demolishing your things, your blood slowly boiled inside until you mentally combusted. [Your parents] destroyed your boundaries, but now it’s time to reinforce them.”
Before you go, check out these affordable mental health apps:
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