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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11 responses to “Tragic Hero

  1. Wow! That is powerfully written. A tragic story that is so often repeated in our society. Your love for your brother is beautiful. Perhaps he will receive support in prison (but that is probably me being hopelessly naïve and idealistic). If only love were enough …

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    • It is often repeated in our society – that is so awfully true. I try to tell myself that perhaps his being in prison is for the best, that it may be safer for him to be there than at large. I hope love is enough for him to want to live out the rest of his sentence.

      Thank you for your kind support and insight!

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      • You are walking a hard path – if I can offer any support I will. I hope he receives the support he needs. It’s sad that damaged parents result in damage in their children. The cycle is difficult to break. You sound like you are breaking it, one barrier at a time. It’s inspiring.

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  2. I’m so sorry for your loss. It can be very difficult to see a loved one suffer from a mental illness like our brother’s have. I’m here to support, encourage and uplift your spirits anytime so please let me know if there is anything I can do. One Love.

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    • Thank you so much for your kind encouragement. I’m so glad that we have this avenue of online support for our community. It is heart-wrenching to see our loved ones suffer – you’re right. And I feel so helpless much of the time. We can love and we can hope. I hope your brother continues to do well!

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  3. robeobi

    Lulufille, your posts give me hope and make me realise how blessed I am. The struggles in my life are nothing compared to yours! You are one strong woman to have overcome such difficulty in your life. May Allah bless you and your loved ones.

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  4. LaVancia Phoenix

    This post first made me laugh at the punching of that poor mattress; but then as I continued, it really saddened me to hear that your sister-in-law committed suicide and the struggles your brother faces…I am fortunate in that when I committed my crime (which I won’t post about here), after being in the county jail nearly a year, I was given NGRI (not guilty by reason of insanity). That is what sent me to the state’s mental institution for over 12 years…I got lucky for I got the treatment I needed.

    Can you write to your brother? Would he be willing to read information about schizophrenia? or do you think that may depress him even further? is the jail giving him any medication for schizophrenia? I know of several websites with information, if you’re interested. Sending hugs your way-LaVancia

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    • Wow, that’s so interesting. I’m glad you were able to get treatment instead of being locked away in a prison – that’s amazing.

      I do write back and forth with my brother. The tricky part is that he truly believes that he has a healthy mind. He believes that the irregularities that he experiences are due to spiritual warfare occurring in his mind and heart. I’ve tried talking to him about his mental state and his schizophrenia diagnosis, but have not had any luck getting through to him in that area. But I’d love any website recommendations, for sure.Thanks for your help!

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      • LaVancia Phoenix

        Please read my page under “Recovery” entitled “The First Step.” And at the bottom of the website, you will find two links I’ve already posted about mental illness. I’ll add more as the days go by and I continue to receive copyright approval from other organizations.

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      • Thanks – I will look into it!

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