[Updated September 19]
Hey, Papa Bear!
I'm so glad your column is still here. I don't know if you remember me from a letter I wrote a while ago about coming out as furry to my parents and the disaster that resulted. Well, they still won't let me be furry, but that isn't quite what this letter is about, at least not fully.
So a lot of stuff happened since I last wrote. I'm in my senior year in high school now, and I'm super excited. My future is starting to come together and it's looking good. I did some growing up and whatnot as well. I'm a whole new person from a year ago.
But it's not all good stuff that happened. Last September, my twin brother took his own life. It caught us completely by surprise and it hit us hard. It's been getting better, but there are things that are still sitting in my head and I don’t feel comfortable bringing it up to my parents or a counselor because I don't quite understand them myself. I won't go into all the details about his suicide, but I will say my brother had his issues and definitely wasn't on the right path. He and my folks had their share of fights, and they got very nasty at times. I was never told the whole story and I was ok with that, I didn't need to know his business, but I did listen to every argument and what I heard should never be spoken between parents and child.
So fast forward three months, I'm seeing a counselor. Being furry comes up somehow. Long story short, parents have the last word, I'm told to "take a break" until I'm eighteen, and I was forced to get rid of my fursuit. I gave it to a friend who is holding it for me so I'm not that upset about that. But with all we went through with my brother's death and how they've been with me about furry, I feel a measure of bitterness towards them. I still love them and care about them, that has not changed at all. But I can't help but feel so bitter and resentful towards them. I think much of it comes from a vibe I get from them that they don't see anything wrong with what they do. Like they never admit wrongs and I never remember them simply saying sorry to me or my siblings. Ever.
I'm sorry for the wall of text. I just worry that I'm being unfair by feeling the way I do and you were so great to me when I last wrote. If you've got any advice or tips for me, I would sure appreciate them.
Zanda (age 17)
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I remember you, yes. I'm so very very sorry to hear about your brother. Tell me, was he your maternal or paternal twin?
It would really help me with the answer if you could tell me anything about what your brother and parents fought about. That's important. Also, tell me more about your brother. What was he like? What did he do with his time? How was his school life?
It probably goes without saying, but I think your parents forcing you to give up the fursuit--even for a short time--is foolish. Well, more later.
Write again soon,
* * *
Ok, well my brother was maternal. He was a great kid, smart kid too. He was planning to be a doctor and he was going to be great at it. Until he got to high school where he got into drugs. My parents really cracked down on him, they took away a lot of freedoms and privacy. They started hiding money from him and going through his stuff. They also kept him from hanging out with certain friends that were up to no good and that's what most of the fights came from. The fighting never got physical but it was loud. Lots of hateful words back and forth. His school quickly went to crap. The house was really on edge a lot, with my brother and parents always angry with each other for something, my younger sibling and I had to kind of stay out of the way. I never felt ignored or anything, just that everyone was short with each other.
Does that help much?
* * *
Yes, my next question is: did they get him professional help for his drug problem?
* * *
They did. He was also ADHD and had insomnia. We had been getting him help and very good help. But I can only guess that we didn't know how bad things actually were. I know that frequent marijuana and alcohol would make any medication he was taking not work or do something completely unwanted.
* * *
I think I get it now. All right, please bear in mind, again, that I am not a trained therapist or psychologist, so take what I write here with a grain of salt.
I’ve seen what happened to your brother happen to others: over controlling parents who believe they are doing the right thing by their child, but, instead, they stifle them so much that they become miserable. The common result of this is turning to drugs or alcohol, as your brother did. Am I blaming your parents for what happened to your brother? From what information I have here, yes; yes I am. Like I said, I’ve seen it before: parents who drive their kids so crazy that they run away from home, turn to drugs, and/or kill themselves. (In an ideal world, you would have to take a test before breeding, but, sadly, any unqualified person can breed). On another note, I’m not saying all suicides trace back to Mom and Dad; often, it is mental illness, which is not a parent’s fault at all, other than not recognizing it.
How your parents treated your brother is probably why you feel resentful because you know it, too. But, as you said, they will never admit wrongdoing. Because of that (and because I could be wrong, after all), it would be unwise of you to point a finger and say, “You did this.”
There is nothing that can be done for your brother; tragically, it’s too late for him, but it isn’t too late for you.
Here’s what you do. While recognizing that (and I believe this) your parents love you and your brother at some level, their parenting style is so off-kilter that it is actually a danger to your mental well-being. Insulting your children and hyper-controlling their behavior is poor parenting. Ideally, they need some heavy counseling on how to be good parents, but you’re already 17 and it’s rather too late for that to benefit you much.
Recognize that it is okay not to agree with your parents and it is also okay, even, for you to blame them for what happened. So, stop feeling guilty for feeling the way you do. What you feel inside your heart is completely legitimate.
Once you get over feeling guilty that you believe your parents to be culpable, you need to let go of your anger and resentment. These things destroy your soul; they harm you, not anyone else.
It’s very fortunate that you “did some growing up” and are doing well in school. You’re going to need those two things, because the best thing for you to do is to get out of your parents’ house and out of their control as quickly as you can. You will benefit greatly to get out of their manipulative grip. I’m super-glad—as you might say—that you were able to give your fursuit to a friend for safe keeping, because—I firmly believe—one of the best things you can do for yourself is be furry because it is a way to express yourself freely.
You need to take charge of your life and live it as you feel best. That is the best way for you to survive. I have a feeling your brother was unable to do this. He let guilt and his heartache over not being able to express his true self get to him, and that’s why he turned down the wrong path. I also surmise that your parents—noting that you are twins—think you will repeat your brother’s mistakes, and, therefore, they are probably going to be even more controlling of you in their misguided belief that dominating your life is the solution because you are too naive and inexperienced to know your own heart.
Am I close here?
You tell me.
* * *
[Updated September 19, 2015]
Your words are very relieving and heartening to me. Like always, you've hit the nail on the head. If you'll indulge me just a few more questions, I think we can just about wrap this up.
I reflected on your words about letting go of guilt and resentment all day and what I think I should do. I think that the guilt will fade over time. My worry is about the rest of my feelings. I don't know if I can ever truly let go of the anger and resentment I have about what happened, (or if I even WANT to let go of it) without some kind of closure or understanding between mom and dad. And I'm not after them to face up to any crimes or anything like that. I don't want it to be their fault, what I want is for them to understand what I feel, why I feel it, and for them to just plain deal with it. I don't want their apologies or their sympathies. The way I see it, what we went through changed us forever, and we will never be like we were. I believe I'll always have that angry stir in my chest when I think about the night my brother argued with dad about whether he'll get pulled out of sports for hanging out with one of his "stoner" friends. I'll never forget the last thing he said. My dad's exact words to my brother were "Get the fuck away from me, you little shit, and go to your room. I can't believe you're that pathetic to be around those people." So they both went to bed. I want them to understand what that did to my brother and I, and realize that the damage is already done and mostly permanent. As I write, it is starting to sound more and more like I want to stay mad. Honestly, as much as I hate to say it, I do want to stay mad. Maybe that is wrong of me, maybe it isn't. But when they do what they did, then tell me right to my face that I have no right to blame them for my twin brother's death, I don't see why I should let that go. I don't want to let that go. Do you think I should go back to my counselor about bringing this to my parents? SHOULD I bring it to my parents at all?
Alright, my next question isn't as heavy. I've also thought about what you've said about taking charge of my life and I agree. I feel it's time for me to start setting boundaries with my folks and making my own decisions. I want to begin distancing myself from mom and dad and making my life my own. Since they aren't willing to step down a bit until I'm 18 this April, I need some help on how to get started. Do you believe looking into getting out of my parent's house now and moving in elsewhere is an option? Moving out is just another thing on the table, anything you want to add on is greatly appreciated.
I want to thank you again for how you've put up with me. I also want to thank you for listening well and being so good to me and everyone else that writes to you. You're doing great things with this column. It's obvious that you care for your writers and your advice is always considerate, wise, and well put. I wish you luck in all you do. Definitely gonna go after a copy of your book when it's done!
* * *
This might be a surprise to you, but it is not always necessary to forgive someone who has done you harm. When do you forgive someone? When they are truly sorry for what they did and try to make it right. In the case of your parents, though, it doesn't sound as if they are mature enough to recognize that they are (at least in a big part) responsible for what happened to your brother. I can well imagine that they--especially your father, sounds like--made your brother feel like he was worthless; and many people (especially sensitive people) will take that to mean they might as well die because even their parents think their lives have no meaning.
So, no, you don't have to forgive them. But do watch out for feeling hatred for them. Instead, recognize that they are severely flawed people and, therefore, what they say and tell you to do will probably do you more harm than good.
I don't think telling your parents will make them change their mind. Ideally, it would be wonderful if they would agree to go to family counseling with you (I'm guessing they would refuse that). That's just my opinion, though, and you are wise to further discuss this with your counselor and see what he or she thinks.
Before you make a move, make certain you have a solid plan and that you will be able to take care of yourself; maybe, with luck, even get a higher education. Not only should you have a plan, but you should have one or two backup plans, as well, because, God forbid, if your first plan fails and you don't have any alternatives, can you imagine asking your parents if you could move back in with them?
You say in your first letter that your future is coming together. Hopefully that means you have some things in the works that will help you to achieve independence. I'm happy to help you out with that, but I would need to know more details first.
I'm very sorry about how this part of your life has turned out. In many cases, if I had read that a young teen was upset with his parents and felt they didn't listen, I would try to figure out a way for them all to stay together, but the wrench in the works is your brother's death and their unwillingness to do anything about it (that is, anything to heal the wounds) and that they are, furthermore, doing the same thing to you as they did to your brother.
I'd be very curious to hear what your counselor says about this. Talk to him and give me an update. Remember to look before you leap.
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