Diagnosis – Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, Part 7

We now come to the part of this biography, that although expected, is devastatingly sad. The part where we find out my brother, at age 24, has Schizophrenia and will likely never recover.

First I need to back up a bit, to my Junior year of High School, when he was 23. The last post he was still living in CA, still independent, though definitely living dangerously with his choices and affiliations with drug dealers, and using drugs himself.

An update on the rest of my broken family:

My oldest brother got married during my Sophomore year, and I became an Aunt during my Junior Year. I can not recall if my CA brother came back for his brother’s wedding. I doubt it, but I just can’t recall if he was there or not with all the holes in my memory, and not one person will discuss this time period with me to confirm or deny anything. I was not interested in my niece at first, and in fact tried to ignore that I had one. I think I was just not overjoyed at another little girl starting life in my family.

I was still living with my father when school started that year, but at some point my boyfriend that year (who I used to refer to as my First Love although I now know how tainted that love was – this past year has taught me so much about love, that I will now give that title to my husband) gave me the strength and encouragement I needed to tell my Mom about my Dad’s abuse, and get me out of his custody. My relationship with my Mom at that point was non-existent and I wasn’t even sure she would take me in, but she did. And I wasn’t sure I was actually any better off over there. I don’t recall moving out, more holes, but I do recall having Christmas at the apartment that my Mom and the youngest brother shared. Perhaps that is another reason my PTSD flares up and causes me great pain each November, just figured that out as I was preparing to write this post.

But before I moved out, my CA brother came to stay with Dad and I for a bit. He brought his live-in girlfriend too. Our apartment was suddenly very crowded. His girlfriend dressed like Madonna and was a professional groupie and lawsuit fraud specialist – meaning she specialized in falling in various McDonald’s across the country and suing them for fraudulent pain and suffering. She showed me he neck brace. She said it was so easy, and as long as you started a new case in a new state, no one ever looked up that you had done it before. Her Mom taught her how to do this, that is how her mom supported her family. Her appearance was so startling in our little town, her bleached blond wild hair, black lace bustier, low cut super tight jeans showing her navel ring and thong panties, 6 inch heeled boots, and so much jewelry on each finger, wrist, earlobe, eyebrow, toe that she jingled with each breath. And the makeup, all the makeup, wow. This girl was as tacky and trashy as they come, and she tried to become my best friend, or big sister or something. I politely listened to her stories of “banging” band members back stage to get passage on the latest tour bus. She showed me pictures to prove many stories. But she also assured me that life was all done now, because she loved my brother. I did not want her to love my brother, I wanted her to disappear.

At first it was great having my brother there with us, hearing him play guitar and just hang out and play computer games. But I noticed that when I came back from school, he’d still be laying right where he was when I left. He’d ask me to borrow cash for cigs. Told my Dad he was looking for a job and would get his own place soon, but it was pretty obvious he was not trying to get a job. My Dad got angry, and kicked out his good-for-nothing butt, and said not to even call us until he had a proper job, that he didn’t raise any free-loaders. Or that’s what my Dad said he told him. I didn’t get to say goodbye, I just came back from school one day and he was gone, and my Dad was so proud of himself. (Soon after, Dad decided it was time for me to have a “real job”, that babysitting was not enough and he was terrified I might get ideas from my brother’s ways. So he made me a fake birth certificate with our computer and scanner to show me as 16 and not still 15 to start earning some money and not be a loser like my brother. I did start working, and was then required to buy my own clothes, bus fare home from school, and even contribute to household expenses, like using the laundromat and my own medical bills. He often showed me his paycheck and the alimony deduction, and made me feel so guilty for any expense I caused him.)

We didn’t know where my brother and his girl went for quite some time, but apparently they crashed at his girlfriend’s parents’ house for a while, in some Northern state, until the girlfriend completed another lawsuit, and my brother stole a car. Now some of these events may be out of order, but did occur within that year or two. I remember hearing the word felony, and that he won’t get off easy this time, that he crossed a state border with a stolen car. My parents just pretended it wasn’t happening. My Dad felt my brother was getting what he deserved, as he always knew he was good for nothing. My Mom said nothing at all – nothing was wrong. I overheard something about early release if he was willing to cooperate with a halfway home. I had no idea what that was. I thought it was like a free shelter, I had no idea it was a prison, and he was only allowed out to work, which he was for some reason unable to do.

At some point he got out, and he and that girl got an apartment with her latest settlement cash. Here are some other events that may be out of order:

She called the police and had him arrested for domestic abuse on many occasions. We learned later it was when he would try to break up with her (from the girlfriend’s father), and she would attack him, and he would push her away. We learned that SHE actually hit him quite often. You don’t often hear of this, but I do believe my gentle brother never raised his voice, and definitely not his hand at her, and instead fell victim to another abusive relationship. (I now know my first boyfriends were actually toxic, if not actually abusive to me, but we didn’t know better or how to help ourselves)

My brother disappeared. Vanished. Missing. His girlfriend called and said he had not come home or gone to work for several days. She said she called the local police (they were living a few states away from us, not as far as CA, but still very far) but they weren’t helping much because they were so lazy (not because of how often she calls them).

Park Bench

Park Bench (Photo credit: pigpogm)

My Dad, and I think one if not both, of my other brothers loaded in a car and went up to search for him. It took several more days, but they found him. They found my brother sitting alone on a park bench, a few blocks from his home, staring off into space. Sitting in the same clothes he had left in days ago. He did not know who he was or how to get home. He did not know his own Dad and brothers. He was dehydrated, shivering cold, and hungry. I guess he mostly slept in the car, on the long way back to us, but never did figure out who he was or where they were taking him. He just went with them because they asked him to. No fight in him. My oldest brother told me he seemed grateful to be going some where, and acted more like a lost 4 year old than a lost 24 year old.

I was living with my Mom when my Dad came in with my brothers. (I think, real fuzzy about this too, I may have just gone to my Mom’s while my Dad went away to look for my brother depending on the timing) My Dad just said to my Mom, “Here he is. I found your son.” And then he sneered and left, acting disgusted. My Mom tried to hug my brother, but he was not making eye contact with any of us, and instead was staring through us, and laughing. Not a happy laugh, but a disconnected laughing sound that came from a non-smiling face, and empty eyes. I think at first, everyone thought he was high on something, so they just sent him to the couch to sleep it off.

But sleep did not improve him. He was talking and laughing to himself and seemed to be very busy, although he was sitting all alone. He would respond when we spoke to him, but he was also responding to the invisible people he saw and heard next to us. My mom took him to the hospital. They tested for drugs and found him to be clean. I’m not sure how long it took, days I think, with many referrals, many specialists, and many appointments, but one day my Mom came back alone, without my brother, and plopped a huge binder on my lap. Told me that my brother was not well, that he was going to be in the hospital for a while, and that I should read that binder, that we should all read it, but that I could not tell anyone, not a soul, this was not to leave our family. I said nothing, but opened that binder and read the title, “When someone you love has Schizophrenia.” My mom just stood there as understanding crept in my brain, and then must have showed on my face, but she said nothing else to me. She motioned to the binder again, as if begging me to read it, and then left the room. I heard the stifled sobs coming from her bedroom as I sat on the couch with this weight. The binder itself was heavy and imposing on my lap, but it felt like the ceiling was sitting on me, not just a binder.

I read that title again, and immediately thought it was stupid. They had to be wrong. I, like most people, only knew about Schizophrenia as a stereotypical joke. I was in the habit of calling my friends “schizo” if they were acting nutty or two faced. It was part of my teenage vocabulary, like “lame” or “gay”. It didn’t mean anything. And then, all I could think about was one of the terrible poems my Dad had taught me when I was little.

Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
I am schizophrenic
And so am I

I remembered laughing at how clever that poem was, because to rhyme, it should have ended with “you” but ended with “I” instead, because obviously schizophrenics think they are more than one person. So clever, so funny. Wrong. I closed the binder as that poem taunted me, pushed it aside, and left. I just could not be in the same place with those terrible sobs and that terrible binder. I don’t remember where I went, probably to the parkway for a drive. I had no friends at that point, everyone had abandoned me when they found out about my creepy Dad. But even if I did, I was forbidden to share this burden and embarrass my brother (or my Mom in reality) any further. So it was one more thing to swallow down and feed my ulcers. I had two actively bleeding by then.

My brother does not have a split personality, or multiple personalities. Instead, he sees and hears multiple personalities all of the time, and can’t distinguish which sounds and sights are real. He lost touch with reality, but he does know he is not one of those voices. His senses lie to him. He hears people talking, and the real ones and the hallucinations all sound the same.

I’ll share more on what it was like for him those first few years of experimental meds and hospital stays, and living and struggling nonstop, 24/7 with this terrible disease in another post.

I did eventually read that binder, multiple times, but just as my family could not cope with my recent news of being molested, I could not cope with this news of my brother not being able to be my brother any more. That there was no hope of recovery-ever, and that managing symptoms would be difficult, if  not impossible. It also said his lifespan would be greatly reduced, and hope for assimilation in any normal lifestyle was severely limited, if also, not impossible.

And so we all continued in our lives, as shells of who we really were, living in shock and denial, hiding our painful pasts, hiding our painful current lives and just trying so damn hard to be OK on top of all the pain and secrets. We all withdrew into ourselves, into our work or studies or boyfriends or girlfriends and had taken the final step to becoming not a family as I now understand a family can be, but separate strangers tied together only by the same last name.

 

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5 thoughts on “Diagnosis – Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, Part 7

  1. “separate strangers tied together only by the same last name”

    what a beautiful way to illustrate how a family can become fractured and broken, and yet remain connected … my guess is that the people who might read your words can really relate to this … my own family was similarly disjointed and always slightly askew, even though from the outside, it might have appeared we were a family

    this entire series about your brother has probably been difficult to write, but my perception is that you are doing good work here … sometimes it helps to try to organize events and recall how one thing led to another thing which led to the next thing, until you create somewhat of a mental memory map that helps you discover how you got from one place to another … good work, really good work

    • I didn’t cry writing this post, but your comment brought tears. It means so much to me that someone, anyone understands some of this and can relate, and also sees the value of these stories and how they are helping me to heal – and my greatest hope – is to help others who have been silent to live through my voice a bit and feel hopeful.

  2. What ntexas99 said. Yes.

    How very painful to set all out. No more lying. No more denying. No more pretending. It doesn’t change it. It makes it more real. At least that’s how I always thought of it: If I didn’t say it, then it wasn’t quite so real. Once I said it, I couldn’t unsay it. For me, telling the story made it more painful at first. Again, ntexas99 was right about finally being able to map things out so they make a little more sense… it also was no longer all in my head. It was real. I wasn’t crazy.

    • Yes, it is real, that is my life, and I no longer feel the shame or need to hide. Instead I see all the hurts and think how strong all of us actually have been. I’m writing this story out of love for my brother, telling a story he is not able to. And somehow, focusing on him, allows me to investigate some of those memory holes without devastating me.

  3. Pingback: Coping, Denial, Delusion – Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, part 8 | Roots to Blossom

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