Dear Abby: My two siblings and I were raised by an abusive, alcoholic father. Obviously, this has adversely affected our mental health. A brother struggles with alcohol and substance abuse. The other has a personality disorder and cannot form stable relationships. I face comparatively less severe issues, but I still must work hard to maintain the marriage and my career and raise healthy children. It’s not easy.
My siblings’ issues have disrupted my emotional health and family life, which is why I keep them away. Lately, he has felt abandoned. Other family members call me selfish and say that I am bound to help them because I am a “successful person”. I feel some guilt for not being of more help, because we all survived the same toxic childhoods. Still, my emotional bandwidth is limited. Clearly, people with alcoholism and personality disorders are difficult to be around, even if they are family. Is it selfish to prioritize your own well-being over distancing yourself from your siblings? — his brother
Dear Brother: Your first priority should be your emotional health. Next should be the well-being of your spouse and children and a career that enables you to provide for them. If it is selfish to keep some distance from these siblings, then call it “enlightened” selfishness. Help them as much as you can, but don’t let yourself be emotionally harassed by other relatives who live on the sidelines.
Dear AB: I’ve lived in my apartment for about 10 years and I’ve had the same downstairs neighbor ever since I moved here. About three years ago, I started noticing a smell coming from her apartment. It’s hard to describe other than as the worst body odor imaginable. It’s so bad that I can’t open my sliding door or windows in the summer because the smell comes into my house. She is not the type of person to approach about this no matter how softly I say it. I’m at the point where I think I should file a complaint with management. This can lead to hoarding conditions, which can lead to health problems or pests.
There are only four units in my building, and I know my other two neighbors will never complain. It would be clear that it was me, which would make living conditions very uncomfortable. So far, I know that no one else has offered advice, so I’m desperate for any suggestions. – Frustrated in Oregon
Dear Frustrated: Have you talked to your other neighbors about this? Have they noticed the smell too? If any of them tell you yes, have a thorough discussion with the building management company about what’s going on, and for how long. In fact, there may be health and safety issues involved. (Could there be a dead animal in it?) Please don’t be silent. For everyone, it should be investigated.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. contact dear abby www.DearAbby.com or PO Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.