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Help --possible disorder in family member

katie lu

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Hi all,

I'm a first-time poster here. I came across the site today and wonder if any can help me as I figure out how to relate to my brother in law. I am wondering if he might have some mental illness because of some interactions we had. I have known him for 20+ years but I feel like I just saw a new side of him this past summer.

My father in law (his father) passed away in May 2008. When I called my brother in law (BIL), he said that he would come to join the family immediately from 1000 miles away where he was visiting his son. He did drive back right then and came to our house. One thing I noticed was that he was not emotional at all even though he had a good relationship with my FIL. He even said "It was for the best" since my FIL had chronic heart problems. He was very helpful with the funeral preparations but again, did not cry at the funeral and gave a rambling speech as his eulogy.

Then his son came to visit for the summer and he stayed with us (my nephew) every other week while my BIL worked. I noticed that my BIL would not communicate with me when he was going to pick up his son on the Friday he got off work (we watched him Friday to Friday). He got off in the a.m. so I naturally assumed he would come get his son right away. I mean, what if I had plans or something? Instead, more than once, he would show up in the evening--never having notified me--only telling his son when he would come by and visit a few times during the week he worked.

It also seemed strange when he came to visit his son. He would drive an hour to spend a few hours with him but more often than not, he would arrive and then after talking to his son for a minute, would be sitting in his car.

Another odd thing was that when he asked me to watch his son for the summer, I told him that we were not available one week since we were going away; however, once his son arrived, he asked if his son could come with us on our trip (which we said no to). He said he would try to work something out but then he never told me the outcome. I happened to ask him if it worked out like he wanted (switching schedules or whatever) and he told me that he had swapped weeks for the remainder of the summer. This meant that the weeks I planned to watch his son, he was now working and the weeks I planned on having free, I was now watching his son. He never asked me about whether this was OK in advance and there was a problem since I had other relatives coming to visit during one of the weeks I thought I had free. When I told him about this scheduling conflict of visitors (from 2 different sides of the family--didn't know each other), he said, "Well, I certainly think that these other relatives should have the guest room and my son can sleep on the couch." He never admitted that he should have asked me before switching his schedule and never apologized or offered to make other arrangements.

There are so many more bizarre stories like this, with the problem of my FIL's estate being the most recent. My BIL was named the co-executor and he was enraged when my MIL started cleaning out the house, which was full of junk. He was so mad that he wasn't getting the respect he deserved as the co-executor and that everyone was making decisions without consulting him (his view). My view is that my MIL actually HELPED by cleaning out the house instead of saddling my BIL with that job. My hubby and I housed some of the stuff from the house that was worthwhile keeping with the full knowledge that it belonged to both sons. Well, BIL approached us and asked to have the entire coin collection while we could keep the record collection. We all agreed that we would talk again in a month about it if we hadn't talked before then. Well, before a week had gone by, BIL became sullen and withdrawn and we later found out that he told his son that we were being selfish and keeping it for ourselves. When we confronted him on this, he reluctantly admitted that he jumped the gun by telling this to his son but felt that the deal he was offering was so "worth it" or "in our favor" that if we really wanted to do it, we would've responded immediately. However, he never communicated us to this when we spoke about the initial idea! It finally boiled down to us splitting the coins but after a heated phone conversation where he hung up on me, he wrote us a rambling letter that hardly made sense but basically severed contact with us "for his own spiritual good." That was September 1. We haven't spoken since.

Anyway, I could go on and on. My BIL does not have close peer relationships--particularly no male friends. His main contact is writing to female prisoners to counsel and befriend them. He has mechanical skills but chooses a low-paying job caring for adults in a group home, where he works alone with the mentally challenged adults (no work peers). He does not respond to criticism well and usually feels that he is right. He is very impulsive.

Can anyone help me know whether there might be a mental issue with my BIL? What other questions would need to be answered to know for sure? Thanks to any who can help. We feel like we don't even know this person anymore.

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His behavior sounds pretty fishy the way you describe it. We don't give diagnoses out on this site, but it could be mental illness or it could be drug addiction or some other addiction that is starting to take him over, maybe? Is there any way to have more direct but caring communication with him? That's a tough one to master, showing a family member you care and have noticed he seems to not be himself, but also not letting them walk all over you. I'd be super concerned about his son!!!

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Thanks for your response. Yes, I can understand how you can't give out diagnoses. I guess I was really looking for confirmation that the behaviors are out of the ordinary or COULD signify a mental illness and maybe what illnesses might exhibit such behaviors so that my husband and I might explore it further. I have know my BIL for over 20 years and he has always had "oddities" that we just overlooked since they never affected us in a negative way--that is, until this past summer. I am almost 100% sure it is not a substance addiction. He is a person who considers himself a Christian and is very concerned with "following the Bible" and would consider alcohol and drugs to be forbidden.

I don't see how we could communicate with him. He has cut off contact. We have tried calling and emailing in a sensitive way but he does not return calls/emails at this point. We most recently sent a Christmas Card with kind works that expressed we hoped for reconnecting in the new year but so far there has been no response.

In regards to his son, thankfully he lives with his mother and grandmother in another state far away; however his mother is diagnosed as bipolar. The grandmother is stable, though, so she provides continuity for him. I don't think his son will come and stay for an extended visit this summer since my BIL most likely will not ask us to watch him again after our relationship disintigrated. Thanks for your response.

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Katie lu,

Welcome to our site and I hope you find lots of support here.

There is no way any of us could diagnose your brother in law, as was correctly pointed out to you by Findingmyway. Thanks Finding:)

Upon reading your description it appeared to me that he was attempting to put distance between himself and his son. Of course, there is no way of knowing why but it does seem as though his son, your nephew is better off with his grandmother and mother, even if she is Bipolar.

How is your sister doing with and managing her bipolar disorder? Anyone else in your family with bipolar?

Hope to hear a lot more from you.


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