Tag Archive | wisdom

Rehab and Serenity – Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother – Part 4

1986 was very difficult for my family. My brother was living in a drug rehab facility, and we were attending weekly, all day family support sessions. It was intensive counseling to support every member of the family, which pissed off my Dad entirely. He did not buy into any of this psycho mumbo jumbo garbage, and didn’t think we should all have counseling and suffer because of his one messed up son. I do think he attended each week though, because my family was all about appearances, and would only show grace and charm to outsiders. I also think it was a condition of my brother’s release with no jail sentence.

The support sessions used a divide and conquer strategy. Each of us went into a different breakout group in the morning, based on age, and then back together to share in the afternoon.

I recall one breakout group, the counselor gave us little kids a paper and asked us to draw our family, but, and this is a big but, we were supposed to rank our family members in closeness and trust. I was in fifth grade. I drew my dog at the top of the page, bigger than anything else. Dad had let me pick out a puppy over the summer, after our old dog died (because my Dad poisoned it, but that’s a different story) and was threatening me daily to return that dog to the pound. I was not having much luck training my puppy (on my own as a 10 yr old), and she was wild, and growing bigger by the minute. I was so determined to save that dog’s life, not to have it hurt or abandoned by my Dad, so it was top of my list. My cats were next – I told them everything, and they hugged me anyway. And then my brothers, and then my parents. I still remember the counselor looking at my paper in shock, open mouthed. I asked if I did it wrong? He said No. But then he patted my shoulder and gave me a look I did not understand until many years later. He knew how messed up my family was, but could not say what he was thinking.

Mornings usually started with a video. Every morning I would struggle to keep my eyes open, as a video showed corny stories about families in trouble, but always coming together for each other in the end. I knew these weren’t real. Real families did not love each other or hug or talk openly. My head would nod as I struggled to focus, in the darkened room. I think that is when my sleep troubles started full force. I was staying up at night to keep my Dad out of my room, finally realizing at this age that he should not be touching me, and feeling like I was completely to blame for it. This was when I learned that sugar and caffeine helped me stay awake. We didn’t have time for breakfast at home, so I always brought some change for the vending machines and had M+M’s and Pepsi throughout that video to stay awake and pass the quiz on it later. I also learned to tap my finger nails into my thumb – a nervous act I still do today to remain present.

We always had one hour with my newly drug free brother. We would talk about how he wasn’t supported in the past, and how he needed our help to stay off drugs when he returned home. We learned how he was an invisible middle child, My oldest brother was the Super-Star, My other brother was the Angel, and I was the scapegoat. I thought it was all stupid. I felt insulted that they thought they knew anything about me. But I answered every question the way I knew they wanted me to. I noticed everyone else did that too. I don’t think any of us spoke an ounce of truth during any of these sessions. We all had secrets, and we all had years of practice keeping them hidden.

Each day ended with a group hug – for at least 30 seconds, ugh, stop touching me! – and the Serenity Prayer. I learned to hate that prayer. I still cringe when I hear it.

At the time, I felt this prayer meant I had to accept every terrible thing in my life. I felt powerless as a child. I did not gain the wisdom to know the difference until just a few years ago. This is a terrible prayer for an abused child from a dysfunctional family. My mom bought a plaque with that awful prayer on it and hung it up in our dining room. I would look at my brother’s empty seat, look at my abusive father who insisted I sat next to him, look at my mom, too afraid to eat in front of us because her husband called her fat, and then I’d look at that plaque and ask to leave the table. But I had to clean my plate or hear about kids in Ethiopia, so I ignored my urge to vomit and mechanically shoved in all the food. Each bite made me more numb, and numb became my status quo for years. Fine I thought – I may have to accept my life – but I don’t have to feel it. That’s when I started disassociating mind and body and mentally living somewhere else fairly regularly.

I assume my brother did the same, lived mentally elsewhere, or maybe the schizophrenia was doing it for him, now that drugs could not.


You can educate a fool, but you can’t make him think

Lips 41
A foolish man tells a woman to stop talking, but a wise man tells her that her mouth is extremely beautiful when her lips are closed-Author unknown”

My husband has not yet learned the power of words with me, or the lack of words. 

He was away on a business trip for an entire week. I’m proud of him for working so hard and supporting us. Financially.

Yes, I am home all day, I chose to work remotely from home to avoid daycare costs and be here for my kids. (and to work in my jammies) But I do work here in between the chaotic life that comes with having many young kids.

A fool may be known by six things: anger, without cause; speech, without profit; change, without progress; inquiry, without object; putting trust in a stranger, and mistaking foes for friends-Arabian Proverb”

I’m done censoring my speech to my husband to avoid his anger without cause – and instead I tell him this: I know you are tired and stressed and don’t want to talk, but I need to talk, so yell if you must, but I am not going to control my words and tone for you. I am going to speak to you like I speak to everyone else int he world and no one else thinks I am out of bounds. He instantly stopped raging and just blinked his eyes all confused at me. Then he listened. So what did I need to tell him?

I wanted to ask if he could take a break from his 12 hour days, 6 days a week. He looks very tired and not healthy, so I was getting worried. He has not had a break for a long time, and is still adjusting from the time-zone change from the trip I think.

He mistakes my concern as an attack, that I am not happy, and that he does nothing right, and shouldn’t I be happy with all the overtime he is bringing home? I have to control him? (after he gets angry, I can sometimes wait for days to bring up ANYTHING with him, for fear of the backlash)

It makes me sad that it takes such a huge effort on his part to just be decent to me,(and the kids)  let alone actually treat me (and the kids) with respect and love. He felt bad for this outburst, so came back to me in about 5 minutes and tried giving me a big hug and saying he loves me. I just freeze. If he had offered the hug and affection before the yelling, I would have felt close to him. But after, it just always feels like he is just using affection as apology – not real affection. And I have enough experience with artificial affection.

By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed – African Proverb”

So I appreciate his income, but think I could do without the overtime cash if he weren’t so tired to tune into us. I feel foolish for complaining about his hard work, and all he wants is for me to be proud of him – Something his mom still won’t do. And I think he is foolish for missing his kids growing up. Once these little ones are grown, all we have are memories, and I’m so sad that all he’ll have is pictures of my memories. And it makes me sad that all of this doesn’t seem to bother him. It is my problem. So who is the fool here?