Tag Archive | mental illness

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.

 

Traveler’s Tummy From a Mental Vacation? Only Me

pepto

Reality’s cocktail (Photo credit: chris.corwin)

Smokey Cocktail

Mental Cocktail (Photo credit: MaugiArt)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple days ago I decided to treat myself to a lovely mental vacation. All day I played fun, relaxing music and looked at pictures of beautiful beaches. Apparently, I did not heed common advice and must have had (mentally) some of the local water to drink. My mental vacation was ruined by terrible stomach pains and general nastiness that I will not detail.

So yes – I am that powerful. Just imagining a tropical visit gave my body the full effect! If it had been only me getting sick, I would have had many theories on self-punishment, not allowing myself to be happy or to be relax. But luckily for me, not so luckily for Hubby, he was also sick, and so I did not have to explore any psychosomatic tendencies. We just got sick, and shared our germs, because that’s what loving families do.

Interesting though, how being sick all night, having a pounding headache, stomach cramps, and very little sleep is so much easier to handle than the mood swings and uncontrolled emotions and fear from mental illness and PTSD. I was able to carry on, to work and think and function with a physical ailment. I asked for the day off work, and was granted, except I ended up working 4 hours on my day off, just delegating tasks as emails still poured in. I guess it’s good to be needed. I guess.

Thank you Life, for being so funny, I get the cosmic humor. Good one, really, a point for the universe, none for me – yet.

 

 

A good day for someone with schizophrenia

Once in a while, I get to talk to my brother without the schizophrenia getting in the way. I had a talk like this recently, and my heart is still warmed from it.

The part that made it truly great, was that he answered the phone. On bad days he won’t even pick it up. On average days he will answer the phone, but get rid of me quite quickly. But once in  a while, I get not just a glimpse of my amazing brother, but I get to see that he still completely exists.

Treating his symptoms of auditory and visual hallucinations requires 2 meds. Treating his anxiety requires 1 med. Treating his blood sugar fluctuations caused by antihallucination meds requires 1 med. Treating his sleep disorder requires 2 meds, 1 for sleeping and 1 for waking. Treating his stomach troubles caused by the sugar meds needed to balance the antihallucination meds requires 1 med. Treating the migraines requires 2 meds, 1 med daily, and 1 at onset. Treating the mood swings requires 1 med and causes overeating and weight gain. I may have missed some, but luckily my mom keeps track of all of that for him. Each med is adjusted each month, some up, some down, based on his tolerance and symptoms.

So, to have him answer the phone at 9am while mom was out, was shocking and pleasing.

Me:Good Morning. How are you?

Him: I don’t know yet, just woke up.

Me: Oh, did you sleep well? Are you back on the sleeping pills? (He has to take breaks once in a while to rest the liver and make them still be effective as he builds up tolerance)

Him: Yes, I’m back on the sleeping pills, it is working better now. But I had insomnia and did not sleep for the 4 days I was off them, so doc put me back on. That first night back on was such great sleep. I love that. I actually sleep all night when I get back on after a break. And I fall asleep right away, the voices just all shut up and I can sleep. (apparently the dreadful voices he hears never sleep – so he has to tune them to fall asleep each night. He has special sleeping music to help drown them out too)

Me: That’s good, you need your sleep. I don’t hear your coffee pot yet.

Him: No. I got a diet coke – too tired to make the coffee yet.

Me: I understand. Mornings are rough for me too. Hey is that your guitar I hear? Did you get it fixed?

Him: Yes, got it back yesterday. All new frets, it sounds brand new again.

Me: Wow, you play it so much you wore out the frets?

Him: Yes, frets are like car tires, need replaced once in a while. They might not look bad until you look real close. The frets are soft metal so you can push on them, and they start out a bit rounded. After you play, they get flat. Which is funny, because it makes the notes sharp. (he laughs at his joke)

Me: (I laugh too.) Good one! I’m so glad you got it fixed the way you like. I bet you’ll play it all day long today, right?

Him: Yup. I have a new mix I’ve been playing in my head waiting to get it back. Think Mom’ll mind if I eat one of her chocolates?

Me: No, I think she’ll be happy you saved her some calories. She’ll be happy to share.

Him: MMmorkay (mouth full of chocolate) but if she gets upset I’m telling her you said it was okay.

Me: Deal! Enjoy your day – good talking to you, I’m off to work.

Him: MMMoooodguy (Goodbye still full of chocolate) Thanks for taking time to talk to me. (Awww – he feels like we’re all too busy with real lives to waste our time on him sometimes)

The Cmaj chord in guitar, with bass in G

Image via Wikipedia

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.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120203092031.htm

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.