Blood on My Hands

Mental illness, abuse, suicide. These things are laced throughout my family history.

My mother was sexually abused by many growing up: her brothers, their friends, friends of her parents, and so on. I think that because it started so early on in her life, she might have thought that it was normal or that it was her fault in some way, and she never told anyone. And you can imagine the effect that years of sexual abuse from many individuals can have on someone’s mental health.

My mother met my father and it was instant attraction. My father was recently divorced and my mother was currently engaged to another man, but they hit it off. After a while, my mother threatened my father that she would kill herself if he didn’t marry her soon, and this was how it all started.

Shortly after they married, my mother became pregnant with me. My father was in the military and they lived on base, doing drugs and living it up. They were caught, and my father was dishonorably discharged. After I was born, my mother’s brother committed suicide.

My mother slept through most of my childhood and into my teenage years, suffering from bipolar disorder and depression. During this time, my father was physically and psychologically abusive to myself and my brothers. My mother never intervened. She was like a wilted flower, always lifeless, always frowning, always sleeping, never present.

One day, I came home from school and found her, more lifeless than usual. She had overdosed and was waiting to die. That was the first of many times she has attempted suicide. After this point, she left our family and spent much time in and out of mental institutions. When she wasn’t institutionalized, she bounced from girlfriend to girlfriend’s house. Lovers that she met at bars. She started doing drugs again. At one point, she was raped by a strange man as she laid on the ground in front of some house or apartment, paralyzed from the effects of narcotics. She would come back to live with us periodically, claiming that she’d kill herself if my father didn’t let her stay.

During this time, the abuse with my father continued as I tried to take care of my brothers. My mother returned somewhat permanently toward the end of my stay at that dark place. At that point, I could hardly look at her or speak to her. Knowing her history of sexual abuse and psychological diagnoses, I wanted to have pity on her and to love on her. But at the same time, I felt that those things shouldn’t be acceptable excuses for neglecting your children and allowing abuse to continue.

Years later, much more disappointment and pain has come. My mother continued her maddening indifference as my brothers grew up in that place. I’ve always struggled because I want to express to my mother my feelings regarding her behavior, but feel that she is much too fragile to hear what I would have to say. And I can’t have her blood on my hands.

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Tragic Hero

I always knew there was something a little off about my brother (see Degrees of Reality – Bro 1). I figured that the fact that he hears voices can’t be a good sign, but my parents chalked it up to his being “immature.” He and I fought often as we were close in age. The usual really… At one point the four of us were sharing one small bedroom – triple bunk beds and a crib for the youngest. I slept on the middle bunk because the top was too close to the ceiling and gave me asthma trouble. Bro 1 slept on the top and every time he moved, the bed creaked and drove me batshit crazy. So I, of course, would threaten his life, saying that each time he moved, I’d punch the underside of the mattress so hard. And I did. I beat the shit out of that mattress.

We fought once over who should do the dishes, and I threw a Magic 8 Ball at his head. I’m starting to sound a little violent… but that’s the extent of it – I promise. He got me back by stealing my tooth from under my pillow as I slept, and putting it under his in the hope that the tooth fairy would bring him money instead of me.

Later, when he was about 16 or so and had his severe mental break at church camp (see Crazy), he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His wild behaviors had calmed down quite a bit when he was finally released from the hospital, but his mental illness was no longer shy. Sometimes, it was like he forgot that I was his sister and he would come on to me. Other times, he’d visit me at work and then take off sprinting into the employee-only back office area and run around like a maniac. He received no treatment for his illness because our father had convinced him it was a false diagnosis, which he still believes to this day.

Around this time, he met the love of his life. She, too, suffered from some mental illness as well as a serious blood disease. He decided that he would marry her when she was 17 and he was 18. I tried to talk to him about this decision once prior to the wedding. I told him that I was concerned, that he has some serious mental issues and so does she, and I’m worried that this union may not be the healthiest to start off from. He told me so sweetly confident that “she understands me” and that’s why it will work. So I supported him.

Their relationship was rocky, to say the least. Both were physically abusive to one another, and both abused drugs and alcohol. My sister-in-law was affiliated with a local gang, and when they would have a nasty breakup, she would send her gang-bangers out to f*** him up. With an axe and other terrifying weapons in broad daylight in a restaurant parking lot. However, they would usually just kiss and make up. Then, she got pregnant.

During this time, there were more fights and divorce was filed but was never finalized. Shortly after giving birth to my beautiful little niece, she committed suicide in the hospital at age 18.

My brother tried so hard to be the father his little girl deserved, but he had so much going against him. The unthinkable grief of a lost spouse, untreated mental illness, a history of drug abuse, and a childhood filled with abuse and neglect. It would be enough to bring anyone crashing to a destructive end. After a couple years of immense turmoil, it did.

He now faces life in prison for a string of armed robberies, drug trafficking, and other crimes. He said he had lost his job and was mad with grief and thinking that his wife’s death was his fault, and he couldn’t bring himself to ask for help. So he sought “easy” money, and even enjoyed the little bit of fleeting “power” he felt. He now takes full responsibility for his crimes, but struggles every single day to cope with his decisions. He has tried to take his own life twice while in prison. He needs psychological help. It’s what he’s needed all along.

I’m powerless in that I can do nothing to save him from this misery. All I can do is try to be there for him, but those fifteen-minute phone calls now and then hardly seem adequate.

I think about those sweet times in our backyard as children. I used to make him eat mud brownies. We used to try and dig to China. He always played Peter Pan and I was Tinker Bell.

My brother.

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