Loving someone with Schizophrenia

(Trigger Alert – Not an easy post to read)

I have something else I NEVER get to share, and feel it is time. I love my big brother. But it is very complicated, and with a heavy heart. He has schizophrenia. And he molested me many times when he was 12 and I was 4. Or close to those ages, don’t recall perfectly.

I’ve never attempted to write about my brother before. I have shared these thoughts with a therapist though. Being molested by your big brother is not the same as your father, for me anyway, it was easy forgive him and move on – to say he was just a kid, and possibly had the roots of schizophrenia forming in his young brain. And it was more innocent, experimenting, like playing doctor, than all the things my dad put me through. And I assume he was also being abused my father, but we will never know, as he is trapped in his mental illness and can’t tell us. He turned to drugs in high school and lived in a rehab center his junior year. Senior year was humiliating for him, and took off to California to be in band – and lot more drugs there – as soon as he graduated. He was in jail a few times, had started and lost several jobs, and finally we found him in a park one day, after months of searching for him when his girlfriend called and said he never came home. He no longer knew who he was or how to get home. My dad does not believe in mental illness and refused to care for him. So my mom took him in and did her best. She still does.

She manages his meds, doctors, psychiatrists, insurance, food stamps; tries to get him to eat properly, sleep properly; calms down his obsessions. My mom does an amazing job with him. She works full time with no retirement in sight, even though she has her own health issues. My dad offers nothing in the way of support, only takes my brother on road trips or buys him dinner for helping him with errands. My dad still thinks my brother is choosing to live this way to avoid working, that he is lazy. So my dad basically uses him whenever possible now, which is nearly daily since his emphysema has him contained to a scooter.

Let me explain that Schizophrenia does not make someone violent. He has a gentle soul, and it is heart-breaking that he has to endure this disease. My own struggles with depression and PTSD pale in comparison. (But it isn’t right to compare – suffering is suffering) He lives with my mom, and can not work or function outside of the home or family setting. He has better days and really bad days. On the better days, he can tune out some of the voices that constantly scream, whisper and laugh in his head. On the bad days, he sees people committing terrible violent acts. He can look right through you as he watches a hallucination where someone cuts off his own head. He constantly battles to define the line of reality. He always knows we are real, but when he meets new people – he is never sure if they are real. Wow, just imagine that for a second.

Here’s an article I found yesterday which got me thinking about my brother, and an image from it.


Image captures of the brain show how neurons are activated in healthy control subjects when hearing actual voices (top row) whereas activation fails to occur in patients who experience auditory hallucinations. (Credit: Kenneth Hugdahl)

His memory goes in cycles, or perhaps his past guilt goes in cycles, and usually about once a year, he apologizes to me for molesting me as a kid. I have to listen to him, as if he has never said it before, tell him it is ok, and that I forgave him long ago. If I don’t do this, the guilt could overcome him and cause to him to take his own life. He once accidentally put something into his pocket that was not his, and the voices in his head attacked him and said he was so bad, that he should jump out the window. We found him passed out, a bloody face from repeatedly smashing himself into the closed window on his first floor bedroom. He needed a hospital stay, some meds adjusted, and he returned home again.

Because of his illness, he does not know that my dad abused me. My other brothers know everything. And because of this, everyone feels that it is ok for this brother to go places with my dad and for my dad to be at our family gatherings. My mom and other brothers thought it would be too much to tell him again. I have told him, but just as he can not recall his own confessions to me each year, he quickly forgets what has been said about his dad. His dad is one of the real people in his life.

And so it is that my abuser is still a part of our family, as it seems gentler to everyone than explaining repeatedly to my sick brother where his dad has gone or why we are angry with him. Especially, since this brother is guilty of the same act. I feel like if I say I can’t forgive my dad, then I can’t forgive my brother, and then my brother could hurt himself. What a flipping mess.

I really don’t know any way out of this family mess. More to come as I try to sort it all out and see if changes are needed or possible.


12 thoughts on “Loving someone with Schizophrenia

  1. What a brave post this is. I’m so sorry to know that you suffered so and that he did as well. These family bonds can be so complicated and confusing when mental health and abuse is also in the mix. I’m “lucky” in that all my past abusers are either dead or staying as far away from me as possible. It makes it easier to move on when I don’t have to relive things by seeing them all the time.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Yes, confusing and complicated, but ‘normal’ for my family. It used to be painful, debilitating at times, to face my dad and brother and relive events. I am happy to say that I have made so much progress that I can now freely discuss without reliving or triggering panic, PTSD. Mostly, usually. So now I am trying to support others along this journey.

  2. Thanks for the insights. This is really helpful. I also understand the dilemma of forgiving one but not the other, with a slightly different twist. I’ve forgiven the brother who molested me, long ago, because I knew he was molested by the neighborhood pedophile. I knew I was a secondary victim. However, I’m less forgiving of my parents and another brother. I’m working on it, but I don’t feel guilty about it. Each case is different. The first brother stopped when caught and treated me with respect from that time on, never violating me again. The method has changed, but the others continue to disrespect me.

    • Yes, although I have forgiven my dad, I choose not to have him in my life, because of his continued disrespect. And to protect my own kids. I thought it would be better if they never knew or loved this man. There was a time when I was estranged from my whole family, but time has brought us together, and for that I am glad. We support each other now. Somehow, each of us kids were able to overcome (mostly – we all have depression/anxiety) the abusive childhood and grow into caring adults and parents.

  3. It does get very complicated, especially if you are in a position where you are around your abuser when you would prefer not to be around them, or before you are really ready to allow them back into your life. I have my own issues with my brother, (not in the same way, but because he abused his daughter). Family is so complicated.

  4. Pingback: A good day for someone with schizophrenia | Roots to Blossom

  5. Pingback: When you can’t trust your Mom, but still love her | Roots to Blossom

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