I live with a toxic sibling, and this is how I cope with it

Trigger Warnings: Mention of Abuse

Family is meant to be a source of support and love; a group of people we can trust and rely on as we grow older. In the Philippines, it is a very strong and important trait to be family-oriented. Within the 7 days of the week, where a majority of it may be quite busy, we make sure to dedicate at least one day just for the family and catch up on what we’ve been up to. 

Narrowing it down some more, some of us may have been blessed with siblings. Older or younger, we have other people we can connect to at home especially since there is a generation gap between our parents. It often means that we may share similar views on life and they are more open to listening to us. Also, they may be someone we may see at home first before our parents, so we have more time to spend with them or ask for help with work or school.

Even if sometimes we don’t verbally express it, the appreciation and respect we have for them is there because as we grow up together, going through weird stages of life (ahem, puberty), and maybe ally together when your parents aren’t right, we bond more and inherit different traits from each other. They become a big help in the construction of our character, making people feel very lucky to have them. 

However, there is always the counterpart of good and ideal siblings: the toxic ones. 

In terms of toxic family members, it’s always the extended family or relatives that are always put under the light as showing traits of toxicity. But siblings being viewed as toxic hasn’t been brought to attention as much. Though it’s quite unlikely, I’d like to confirm that it is existent. And boy, it hurts so much.

But wait, what are possible signs that count as a trait of a toxic sibling? 

Rather than being helpful and respectful, they become a nuisance. They go way beyond in getting what they want by disrespecting their parents, fighting and going against them without feeling any pity. They become manipulative towards their parents and also towards their other siblings, often being abusive verbally and/or physically to establish a sense of power. In effect, they make you feel worthless and fill you with trauma. They may also sneak out of the house and engage in bad habits and vices, wherein even if those concerned tell them to stop, they won’t just because. They have no boundaries, always finding and getting into trouble. Some of their friends try to lure you on the dark side, and they support them on it. 

Based on these insights, let me welcome you to my daily life. My life where I have no choice but to live with a toxic sibling. This person cursed me with almost a decade of hurt, anxiety, and self-hate, which is already half of my life. I’d say that I’ve already cut him/her off like I don’t talk nor associate in activities with them anymore. But because we live under the same roof sadly, I have to just cope with it and find solace in the situation. 

Only last year did I actually felt at peace with my life because this person finally reached out for rehabilitation with no relapses. As I didn’t see him/her every day at home, I was able to slowly rebuild myself and regained my motivation to live my life fully. That was until early 2019, my parents brought him/her home. From what I believe happened, none of my other siblings prepared for this because neither of my parents told us. I was annoyed, to say the least, but I had no choice. 

Now, he/she is trying to get his/her life together after wasting years of making bad decisions. To be honest, I’m glad that he/she’s doing that, but it isn’t enough to gain acceptance from me. I don’t want to be viewed as heartless, but the pain still stings. Nothing can change the fact she delivered us pain for years. It isn’t simply forgiven nor forgotten overnight.

If ever your toxic sibling was an older one like mine, it urges you to grow up faster. While they were busy messing up their lives, I was busy picking up the broken pieces of our family and tried to make things feel less tense. As much as they didn’t show it, my parents suffered the most especially when he/she got into college and left home for months. Even if they were very mad, they were hurt. They would then conceal that with their faux smiles and distract themselves with their jobs and continued taking care of me and my other siblings. As for me, I made sure that I excelled in school, associated myself with good people and extra-curricular clubs, and remained kind. However as life continued on, I lied to myself a lot and it messed with my character development. I kept saying that I was fine when I really wasn’t. Yet I couldn’t tell my parents because I didn’t want to add as a burden.

Good thing that was in the past. Eventually, I opened up and they respected my decision of cutting ties with this person. After all, it was understandable. Never did they force me to do anything with him/her due to the discomfort. 

Back to his/her disappearance, another thing I really disliked was having to brave the questions brought up by my relatives during family gatherings concerning that toxic sibling.

Where is he/she? It’s been a while na!

Sorry po, pero he/she had to do some group assignments for school.

So many similar and follow up questions like that, it was like second nature to prepare for them for my family’s sake. 

This person’s destruction of my family may be over now, but the trauma I gained will live with me as I age. Even if I’m more at peace and happy with my life now because I achieved a lot of goals, it can take a single glance of his/her face for all the bad memories to haunt me back.

So how do I cope with it?

I get bothered emotionally so easily, so I make sure I avoid being in the same parts of the house as him/her. Sometimes, I stay in school longer or hang out with my close friends if I can’t stand it. Luckily, these friends are very trustworthy, so they know what I am going through and stayed so I wouldn’t struggle. In fact, I actually sought help for the first time recently with a counselor for a few months, which lessened my baggage. I didn’t hold back in telling her my worries and she listened with an open heart. She would often remind me that who I am now is the better version of who I used to be, that my pain shaped me into a stronger person and made me smarter in terms of knowing what kind of people are worth my time. I also commit to different hobbies for fun and improve myself. Most importantly, I pray. Every day. 

Overall, I may have lost a decade of innocence and youth to fill in the shoes of my toxic sibling, but it helped me mature emotionally. I don’t take nor accept *swear word* from anyone. Because this sibling was so toxic, it gave me the ideas and hints of when someone in my social circle is being toxic. Thus, I bring out my scissors to cut them off. No need to give a reason because, in time, they’ll realize why when other people do it to them. There will still be people who may view this as an overreaction, but at the end of the day, we are our first priority. Health is wealth; physical, mental, emotional, all of the above.

To the toxic sibling in my life, whether or not you find this. Even though I’ve cut you off but still cope with you around the family because I have to, you are aware of why I can never forgive you in this lifetime. I know how hard life has treated you, and I want you to overcome it. I noticed your improvements, and it’s great and all. But on behalf of the younger and current me, we can’t let back in the epitome of our self-destruction anymore. I’ll be stepping into the real world quicker than you, so please make up for all the times you broke our family. You’re also aware that our parents especially had it the worst and they masked it so well.

For now, you’re a complete stranger, and you chose this path. My friends served as better older siblings than you ever did. I just hope in the next life, we’ll have a better relationship. Rather than being each other’s enemies, we can be the close siblings we and our parents wished for.

I’ll be fine in time, just not with you in this life.

We’ll only be related and bonded by blood, and that’s all it’ll ever be.

ALSO READ: Why is it so hard to leave toxic relationships?

What do you think? Should we cut off toxic siblings or just cope with them? Tell us what you think.


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