Find answers to some of the more frequently asked questions on the Forums.

Forums guidelines

Our guidelines keep the Forums a safe place for people to share and learn information.

Poisonous family members

Community Member

Feedback and shared stories welcome.  

My brother and I have been loosing our once impenetrable relationship, he passes heavy judgments on me no matter what I do. When he attempted suicide (I imagine his behavior prior to this may have been a sign) it was necessary for me to take on the emotional load for my family because they fell apart, mum was catatonic and detached, the rest just couldn't cope. I held him in my arms from the moment he rocked up on my door to the moment they took him away to stay at the ward. He gets out and has met "the one", she was also in the ward for a similar reason. He seemed happy. But as time went on the both of them began to pass judgment on me again. I've been accepting of all the emotional baggage the two of them have and been there for them in hard times. They just had a baby, two weeks, I still have not been allowed to meet him. I spent the last half of the pregnancy sourcing and collecting things they would need for new baby because my brother lost his job and they were in big trouble. I have expressed that I understand they need time alone and I can wait to meet my nephew. This was met with comments about how I was being impatient and making this all about me and blowing things out of proportion. I'm confused about this response.

Needless to say there is much more and I am beyond crushed. Unfortunately it has gotten to a point where I don't really want to meet my nephew now and don't want to be in the same room as my brother and his partner. I too battle with depression and have come a very long way from my darkest point.

My brother has a regular group he goes to dealing with violence and mental health in young men and his partner refuses to get help. Doesn't change the way I'm treated unfortunately so I have decided to quietly move myself out of the firing line. I've been there for long enough and my health is just as important as anyone else. I've gotten rid of all the poisonous people in my life and now the only ones left still hurting me are a handful of family members. My partner and I will be moving to a place that I've always dreamed of living and I will no longer come running at the beck and call of harmful people. They will have to learn to cope with life without me carrying them all the way from now on.

This has been years in the making and the hardest choice I've ever had to make.

beyondblue's clinically-trained moderators often work offline (invisible to you) on issues relating to suicide or self-harm. At the same time, general supportive comments from the community are encouraged. If you have concerns around suicide or self-harm, please phone our support service on 1300 22 4636.

12 Replies 12

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi KA, welcome

And a choice that's yours and yours only. but it makes you feel guilty because caring for these family members has been your life.

We cant choose our family. But we can choose if we want to continue in contact. And if in the future they do contact you...you can let them know that all the clothes and toys for your nephew went to charity.

I've been in a bind myself. My older brother died in 1979- suicide. My family, like yours grieved so much I had to be the strong one. But the following years my mother placed incredible stress upon me with demands. In 1992 my father died and that pressure became too much. Eventually in 2010 I discontinued contact with her. This is permanent.

Was my decision hard to keep? Yes, the first 2 years was riddled with doubt and guilt. But the thought of returning to her life - well I had to be realistic and recall the stress and unnecessary obstacles she placed on me. 

So what has happened since then in 5 years? Well I've lost about half my family. A daughter, a niece and her young children, an auntie, 5 cousins and many family friends. Such is the power of one. But it not bother me because I know this split was required for my sanity and my future. I know she is unwell. All evidence points to BPD but I'm no doctor. As she is and always will be in denial, I'll never know. Her denial of any adverse input to the split is evidence in itself of her stubbornness. That's her problem.

But the last 5 years has been a rebuilding experience that I've enjoyed albeit difficult.

Sometimes you just have to back yourself. But if you decide to alienate members of your family you need to stop playing their game. The game in my case was and still is, manipulation of other family members to "make" me run back to my mother.

I had one such example. One of my loving cousins, more like a brother, asked me once "if you mother was on her death bed and not long to live..you'd go to her wouldn't you"?  "No" was my answer. Then "I don't get in between your mother and you, why are you involved in this issue?". And, "My mother has some good qualities but her poor qualities I cant live with". And this "only the children of my mother know what its like to live with her as a child of hers....no one else would know what that's like".


Some people can portray themselves as a wonderful person that has been unfairly dealt with. Manipulation is a handy tool. But it will never break the will of some.

Tony WK

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

dear Kara, hello and I'm so pleased that you have reached out to us for support.

It is a sad story as is Tony's past, and we can never justify the reason why, as logic doesn't prevail, even though we have helped them through thick and thin, so our only option is to just leave them with no more contact.

I am pleased that the team behind the screen, the Moderators  have replied to you, and given you advice more than I can, but I know how you feel because there has been a few 'friends' who I have helped through thick and thin and once everything has settled down I don't get a thank you and never see them again.

Yes we do feel used and taken advantage of, but now I'm oldish and can let it go, but that's never easy and very upsetting, but you can now enjoy your life, and please get back to us. Geoff.

hi White Knight. Agreed on all accounts, and the craziest thing is that you have perfectly described the relationship I have with my own Mother, it's likely that this is a contributing factor in the degradation of my relationship with my brother. Manipulation is a trait that my mother and brother share. I have in the past cut my mother off from contact with me, it lasted only 3 years but they were the most stress free years I've had yet. I can see that I'm going to have to do the same again with both my brother and mother this time. There is no mending the grief between me and my brother's partner but I accept this and feel no distress over it.

 "Some people can portray themselves as a wonderful person that has been unfairly dealt with. Manipulation is a handy tool. But it will never break the will of some." this is exactly what my problem is, I have the will to be free, safe and mentally healthy while they continue to spread poison about me through the family. I have been trying to accept that those who allow themselves to be swayed by this are not worth my agonizing over, but it is hard as you know. 

 Geoff, thank you for your support also, I am off to see a phsyc who specializes in this kind of emotional distress. I hope that they can help me to get through this. I've had enough of being the punching bag, it has been going on since I was old enough to question the abuse my mother dished out and the lack of concern that was given to my brother when he too began to cause pain both physical and emotional, which unfortunately was at a very young age where the word of a 6 year old could not be heard over someone as manipulative as my mother.

KA, I'll take this one step further. I've mentioned this many times on this forum. Until a few years ago this manipulation didn't make a lot of sense. I needed to make sense of it before I could move on.

Eventually I read many articles on the www. Google "witch, queen, hermit, waif mothers" 4 characters based on research by Dr Christine Lawson. Briefly- the witch will pursue you to the end of the earth with revenge, the queen believe you are an extension of her a sort of ownership, hermit sees the world as dangerous with calamity everywhere    and waif will seek the attention and sympathies of others to achieve her power over you.

This is why you might not ever find peace with your mum and brother. Furthermore, sufferers of Borderline personality disorder rarely seek help for their mental health issues. And when they do they last only a short time. All sufferers that seek help please don't take this personally, it is courageous that you are getting help.

Children of BPD mothers also end up with severe mental problems themselves. My sister and I are good examples. We have got depression and I have dysthymia and bipolar type 2. Our brother suicided in 1979 at age 27. The illness seems to have followed the females of the family over many generations. Some follow in their mothers footsteps as your brother has done but be assured he will become a target eventually and I did.

Do as much research as you can on the topic of "children of BPD mothers". You'll be amazed how the pieces of the jigsaw come together.

My mother needed a headline everyday. Her pastime was to gather several people together for support then hone in on the subject. As a child she'd discipline us then hours later as our fathers car arrived home she'd meet him at the front door. Ten seconds earlier she'd forcibly bring on tears. She'd tell him how bad we were and he'd dish out the beltings. Our father was a wonderful man but he would never stand up to her. He would allow her to decide their fate with his siblings...3 of which he'd never see again after an argument. The efficiency of her exploding small issues into life long resentment was unsurpassed.

In my case I've been left with insecurity, anxiousness, depression, bipolar 2 and fear of the next problem with life coming out of nowhere. These issues follow me around in daily life. I'm on disability...I'm 59yo. My mother is 83yo. She ruined my first wedding and threatened to ruin the second some 25 years later.

Tony WK

WK. wow, thank you! I have only just started reading and mind blown! I used to jokingly call my mum a witch, it's actually the category she seems to fall under. I need not explain further as I believe you know what I mean.

I am saddened to hear your story yet glad to know that you have found some measure of piece. I am 29 and have been on a journey over the last 5 years to bring myself into better health both mentally and physically. I was at a point where I could not work let alone get out of bed so I decided to change my mindset, what was success to others was not to me. I quit my job and started getting the help I needed instead. I still have not returned to work, it's been around 6 months, but my mind is much healthier.

The information you have opened me too is already providing a lot of understanding, I spend so much time being confused by my mother or brother and the things that come out of their mouths. I'm just blown away. Thank you, this is already more than I got from the lovely woman I went to see the other day, needless to say I will not be going back to her, nice lady but no help in my case.

The effects of my mother have been such that my siblings and I all suffer some form, varying severity, of depression, anxiety and other mental illness and sociological issues. It has, and I believe always will, cause tension between us as a family. Sadly, in reading this, I feel that there may be nothing I can do, these people are not going to change and are unlikely to find the right sort of help. All I can do is to continue my journey working on my own mental health and strength and maybe attempt to find tools to help me deal with them while easing myself out of their grasp. I am not ready to cut ties completely but I know that there will come a day when I realize I've had no contact with them in a long time and then my objective will be complete. Until then I will do all I can to take the bruises and fade into the back of their minds. Having said this I am unsure just how much more I can take so who knows, it could all blow up and then ties WILL be cut, who can see the future. 

Again you have my gratitude

And FYI, I continued reading and my Brother fits the Queen too well. Again we always did say he was a "drama queen" so that said we have one witch and one queen, you can imagine how that has been for us all. I am amazed and a little saddened, but this will hopefully help me get on with my life apart from the both of them.

Hi KA, thankyou as well for replying back. The queen is sort of saying "how dare you" when it comes to you exercising your own mind. You should of course follow her lead and be a pawn of her....such is the mentality. The witch will hunt you. If you drive off in anger she'll follow, usually with a chauffer lol. a confidant!!

Some people in your situation can drift away from their family, visit them once a year, risking conflict. Not I. In the 1990's my sister left us for 7 years. Every visit my mother made she'd say "I just don't know what I've done". But all the while I was well aware of the stalking practices of her with my sister the latter in her 30's at the time. I even spotted my mothers car being driven past my sisters house at slow speed. Add to those actions our own paranoia of the witch being a predator and you get the overall view of the fear.

These people hunt in packs. They will not likely proceed without the support of another person. In my case I'm struck out of the will. Mother is 83yo now. It matters not. She is a fool.

Finally.... in 1985 my mother ruined my first marriage. She created a storm when she wanted to gift us a large TV. But my wife to be and I were to live in a caravan for 4-5 years so I asked for a compact 12 volt one instead. She hit the roof. I would later find out it was pure jealousy. Fast track to 2011 and I was to marry for the second time. I was estranged from my mother permanently. She found out we were to marry in a park in my town. She told my daughter she would "just happen to be in that town that day" (she live 4 hours away). She knew the hurt that would bring. So, I applied for a court order to stop her being there. The judge said " you are doing this to a 79 year old lady"? Yes I said. Then he began to read a letter she had sent him. I stopped him and asked him not to "because I've heard it all before. In that letter would be "if your father was alive" and "all the things I've done for you". The order was granted. We had a fine wedding.

Some times you have to take their power away. The witch cant make an evil brew without ingredients, your input.

It may mean we lose our inheritance, family members and friends that follow the pied piper of hurt. But there is no other option. You'll read that emotionally these people in some ways don't mature and act like a 6 year old. It all makes sense doesn't it.

If only she got help. Take care and post anytime

Tony WK

oh and KA, most important....always be prepared for your brother to jump ship also. He will also become a target over time. As he has severe mental health issues, you might wan to give him the benefit of the doubt.

At least listen to him. He might have gone through what you are now.

Tony WK

Community Member

Hi Guys,

 I've been thinking about posting on these forums again for a little while, as I'm having a bit of trouble with my older sister at the moment. I figured this thread seems as appropriate a place as any!

So. A little background. I was diagnosed with major depression at the end of 2013. I'm currently on medication, and have been feeling pretty control of myself and my depression for a little while now. Looking back, I cannot believe how far I've come since prior to my diagnosis.

However I haven't really disclosed my depression to anybody except my ex-boyfriend who was the one who encouraged me to get help at the time. I have often felt a bit disconnected from my family, and don't feel comfortable talking about this with them. Don't get me wrong, my parents are very supportive, and I feel kind of bad coming here and writing all this. But we don't have the kind of relationship where we talk emotions.

 My sister and I could be considered quite good friends. But I often find our relationship exhausting. I've tried to approach the subject of me getting counselling etc, only when she was telling me she was seeking counselling for some anxiety. Howvever she never seems interested in my problems. However she says that's just because I don't tell her things - but she knows I'm a very private person. Often I find that she takes frustration out on me. Frustration with her work, money, friendships etc. I often feel that I can't win with her, and never seem to be able to do the right thing. She also doesn't seem to understand that I have other friends, and expects me to always visit her when it's convenient. I have recently moved house, and she has only come to visit when it was convenient for her to be in the area, or if she needed something. Every time I try to approach the fact I'm stressed or burnt out, and hence couldn't make plans, she snaps at me. I apologise, and she tells me not to apologise sarcastically. We do get along well when it's good, but I'm just getting so exhausted spending time with her. If it were any other person in my life, I would stop spending any time with them, as long ago I made a conscious decision to not spend time with people who make me feel negative. I don't know how to approach this with her, and let her know that her words and actions often hurt me. If ever I try to stand up for myself, she bites back saying I'm not being assertive, I'm just being cruel. I'm very nervous to talk to her, but want to sort it all out!