Caroline West-Meads: I’m jealous of my brother’s perfect life

Ask caroline

Q. I’ve never got on well with my brother – we’re very different – but I find myself feeling very resentful of him. He is not a nice person, and hasn’t always been kind to me. But at the moment it seems life is so unfair as not only is he rich and successful but he has two lovely young adult children who seem happy and well-balanced. Meanwhile, our younger daughter (in her mid-teens) is struggling with debilitating anxiety and has developed Tourette syndrome. It is very distressing and exhausting. My husband and I have a good marriage and are kind people, while my brother is quite selfish and uncaring. His wife is OK, but I think their marriage has been rocky. They both worked full-time and had nannies while I only worked part-time because I wanted to be there for our children. I know I shouldn’t think it – and I am genuinely fond of his kids – but why does he get the easy children when things are so hard for us? Why, when we have a stable and loving marriage, do we have such problems with our daughter while my brother seems to breeze through life?

A. This is hard for you. I think many of your feelings might be about how unsupported you have felt by your brother. In your longer letter, it is clear that your daughter has been troubled for some time which has now escalated. I suspect if you had a brother who had been supportive, loving and kind and tried to understand what you have gone through, you would not feel so resentful. Tourette is tough and can initially be frightening for both the sufferer and their parents. You are already exhausted from dealing with your daughter’s anxiety and you probably feel as though you are at the end of your tether. Unfortunately, we can’t choose our siblings and your brother is unlikely to change – sadly you probably need to distance yourself from him and find better sources of support. Try not to give in to the ‘why me?’ feelings. This is not easy, and believe me you have my sympathy for the enormous challenges you face. But the more we rant against our problems the harder they become to deal with. It takes practice, but the best way to feel calmer is to try to find acceptance – to understand that life can be unfair but, for now, this is how it is. It is important to believe that things will get better. You need lots of support, so get on the waiting list for professional help – there has sadly been a major increase in cases of Tourette syndrome in the past year. Meanwhile, as in the case of all carers of people with mental health problems, educate yourself, read all you can and become your own expert.
Tourettes-action.org.uk is a good place to start for information and to find support groups. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and seek counselling for you and your husband to help you get through this. Google ‘counselling NHS’ or see your GP.

How can I fix my past mistakes?

Q. I realise I didn’t behave well when I was young. Because of the public schools scandal, our daughter, who’s in the sixth form, has been talking about the appalling way some of the boys treat girls. Luckily, she is strong, feisty and has a nice boyfriend – but I have been thinking about my past. I wasn’t evil – I would never have forced a girl to have sex – but I behaved callously. I found it easy to get girls to sleep with me, and then would often ignore them. I never thought about their feelings. But now, watching my daughter grow up, I realise they were all like her – nice girls who deserved better. I feel racked with guilt. Should I confide in my wife? Should I track down the girls and apologise?

A. This is a difficult thing to live with, but it is good that you have realised you behaved badly and feel genuine remorse. Sadly, you can’t do anything about the past, and tracking down the girls whom you treated badly could risk hurting them more – they may have done their best to forget a painful experience and may not want to be reminded of you. Whether or not to confide in your wife depends on what she is like – is she the kind of person who would accept you have a past you’re not proud of but understand you are not that person any more? Or do you think it would affect how she feels about you? In which case, you would be better off confiding in a counsellor. You can change the future. Be mindful to treat women with respect and perhaps support a charity or campaign that can make a difference to women’s lives.