My brother used to bully me. Now, when I hear from him, I panic

It’s OK not to take his call, says Annalisa Barbieri. You are not responsible for his happiness

I am 22 and my brother is 24. I am married with a child; he is single. We grew up in a rocky family situation and were removed from our parents’ care and placed in a children’s home when I was five and he was seven. I don’t remember much before that, but he bullied me a lot growing up. For a while now I’ve been dealing with anxiety related to him – every time I see his name pop up over text, I freak out. I hate it when he calls or visits and I feel drained afterwards. He doesn’t deal with rejection well, so I feel I have to take the call. Deep down he’s a good guy who has issues, but I really want to figure out why I have this anxiety with him; I don’t have this issue with anyone else. I can’t afford therapy but I’m trying my best to work this out.

It sounds as if you and your brother are dealing with trauma connected with your childhood. “Freaking out” when you see someone or their name pops up on a phone is a sign of this, and bullying is a trauma, quite aside from everything else you both suffered as children.

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