Self-therapy breakthrough

Last night I dreamt about Matt for the first time that I can ever remember.

Yesterday I went to the mall shopping with Arabella and my mom. My mom spent most of her time worrying about getting back home because she had to give Matt his medicine. Frankly, it didn’t bother me much because I wanted to go home early because I hate shopping. It was my daughter Arabella’s choice for a girls day and she picked shopping.

As I mentioned before, my brother Matt is autistic and most likely schizophrenic as he hears voices that tell him to hurt people.

As a child Matt would:

  1. Have psychotic fits out the the blue where he would be violent towards himself or others. I don’t believe that this was within his control.
  2. Have episodes of anger where he would be violent towards himself or others when he was asked to do something he didn’t want to do. I believe this was within his realm of control.

Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference between the first and second scenario. Matt did not have a lot of chores besides unloading the dishwasher. When asked to do that, he would sometimes hit himself on the head. Matt did have a lot of trouble in school. When asked to do his school work, he would often attack his teacher or his aide.

There was a time when Matt was schooled at home due to his extreme psychotic outbursts. The district sent a retired school teacher to our house. That woman was a saint because she was strict while loving. Some days Matt didn’t cooperate and she had to leave early.

Later Matt went back to the public school. At one time, my best friend was his aide. When asked to do work, he often attacked her just because he didn’t want to do it. One time after he attacked her, she called the police. They came to the school and hauled my brother away in handcuffs.

After that incident our lifelong best friendship dissolved. And I wonder why I have trust issues with friends??

I had a dream that Matt and I were at an amusement park. I was watching him. I told him that he couldn’t go on any more rides because he hurt me physically. My mom overruled me and said that Matt could go on the rides. I told her that if she wanted to have Matt go on the rides that she could take care of him. Matt was angry at me for saying no to him so he hurt me. He spit on me. Then Matt hurled himself off of the cliff. He landed grotesquely on the pavement below. I was afraid that he was dead or seriously hurt. But the feeling that I felt the most was guilt.

I woke up realizing for the first time that Matt hurt people when he was having a psychotic fit and when he had to do something he didn’t want to do. I feel angry that he was never told that his actions were wrong. It would’ve made me feel better, like there was justice, even if he had absolutely no control over it.

Matt had total control, but no one else ever saw it that way. Was I wrong? I don’t think so. Matt was in control of our house and he wanted things his way. If we were all packed up ready to go and he wanted to stay, we stayed. If we were all too hot to sleep but he wanted the fan off, it was turned off. Anything that could set him off was taken away. One Christmas a boyfriend gave me perfume, I threw it away because I wasn’t allowed to wear it because it might set Matt off. We had to live our life around the god of what might upset Matt. Matt had to have things his way or somebody was going to get hurt.

You have no idea what it is like to be forced to worship that kind of god or how it messed up my life. I am just beginning to realize.

Chaos reigned which is why I need to live in a controlled environment today. I like my schedule, routine, and organization. It is my security blanket. I like to control the temperature and lights in my house, etc.. I learned to have control over the little things to find comfort. The things that most people don’t care to have control over like the placement of an object on the shelf. It is safe. I go absolutely crazy if someone tries to take my control away which is not even a bit logical. It gives me extreme anxiety. Turn on the lights right after I turn them off and see what happens. It makes no sense.

I have also learned to have a great amount of control over myself. Me. No one I know can beat my self-discipline with the possible exception of my brother Mark. At times I make myself hard to love. I am tough. I have high expections on others and even higher expectations for myself. I embrace pain and deny myself pleasure. I guess that is what attracts me to long distance running.

I am too old now for a baby security blanket. I have to learn to be able to rest without it. But I can’t relax.

I’ve made a tremendous amount of progress on my self-therapy.

This session is over.

Healing wounds

My mom hasn’t been feeling well since she retired. At first, the doctor thought that she was having problems with her gallbladder. But instead, she found out that she has an ulcer which she attributes to the stress in her life. I think that working and keeping busy kept her mind off of it. I understand because that is how I cope.

It has been a rough year for my mom. It’s been hard since she took my brother off of his anti-psychotic medicine due to some health issues. Matt started hallucinating again and became fixated on wanting to hurt my brother Luke’s daughter.

My mom was looking out for the best interests of Matt and my brother Luke was concerned about protecting his family from Matt. This caused a lot of conflict.

It stirred the demons from our childhood within Luke. This was a very painful time for Luke. But it was also a catalyst for him to process, deal with it, and heal. I’ve found that the healing process is very difficult. It has forced both of us to deal with feelings that are unexpected that we have never processed before.

It is hard for my mom. She says that it is very hard to deal with a child that isn’t okay. She spent day to day just trying to survive. I can understand that more now that I have teenagers. I worry all the time about how the decisions my son makes will affect his whole entire life. It’s a heavy burden to carry worrying that your child is falling but nothing you can do will pick them up. I somewhat understand.

Luke feels a lot of anger towards my mom for favoring Matt over him and even over the safety of his children. Matt will always be first in my mother’s life and I have come to accept that. I was once in Luke’s place when Matt wanted to hurt my kids. I had to have boundaries. I had to be the bad guy. I had to isolate myself from my family when I needed their help the most. I understand.

It’s not easy and there isn’t an easy answer. Some good has come out of it though. Luke started the healing process. We have been having a lot of deep conversations and working through this together. For the first time, we have each other. Sometimes good can come out of bad. This has given us strength that we never thought we had.

Matt has been back on his medicine for awhile and is passive again. The voices in his head have been quieted. It’s surprising how long it has taken for the rest of us to heal our wounds. Slowly, surely we are on the mend.

Luke’s visit, part 2

I suppose since you have a big house now that you will be hosting Christmas this year.

It wasn’t the first time I heard this comment…

I told Luke that I didn’t really like an aunt and uncle of ours.

Why?

Because of the time that they came over for supper when we were kids.

What about it?

They had the house with the piano. They wanted us to come live with them if mom and dad left us forever. That evening while we were eating, Matt hurt our aunt. It wasn’t unusual for Matt to hurt someone.  It was our aunt who was acting strange. She locked herself in the car crying hysterically. She could not be comforted. I’ve never seen her so upset before or since.

Suppose that our aunt was attacked and Matt triggered her memory of it.

Aunt left and didn’t come back. They said that they didn’t want us to come live with them in their house with the piano anymore.

Who told you that?

Mom. She cried and said that no one cared. She said things would be different if her mom was still living.

How old were you?

I don’t know, maybe 8 or 9.

You were too young, why would she tell you that you were unwanted?

Something strange happened in the course of our conversation. For the first time I was able to see the event through adult eyes.

I was able to let go of the rejection of 30+ years. My aunt has always been kind to me, but I didn’t trust her since that night. Other family members cared. They were busy living their own lives. Some were only a few years older than me. They saw what was happening but didn’t know what to do about it. Some lived far away. The ones that were near did help.

My mom just needed more help than anyone could reasonably provide.

So I became the helper. I became the adult.

I have forgiven my family.

Someday I will forgive my mother too for my lost childhood and for giving me this heavy weight to carry. I think it is time to start unpacking my baggage.

 

Luke’s visit, part 1

It happened, our meeting, almost 4 months after I sent the impersonal ‘happy birthday’ text to my brother Luke. He replied that he wanted to talk sometime in person, about our childhood, if I was up to it.

It happened the end of last year for him. He wasn’t going to lie to himself anymore. It happened right after our brother Matt was taken off of his anti-psychotic medicine and threatened to kill Luke’s daughter. The memories flooded back with strong emotion.

I understand, I take it in in small doses until I can’t swallow it anymore. But Luke took it in with one massive gulp. He set aside everything that he used to help him cope and embraced the pain.

He told me that he thought no one cared about us. No one had our best interests in heart. We were physically abused by our disabled brother Matt and verbally abused by our dad on a consistent basis. No one once said that they were sorry this happened to us. We were just expected to take it.

I agreed that our dad did not care about us. I did not agree that our mom did not care about us. I said that I thought she did the best that she could under the circumstances. But did she? Or am I just telling myself that to help me cope?? What is wrong with lying to yourself a little to make you feel better?? What is wrong with coping mechanisms if they are healthy and actually help you cope?

My mom always put Matt first over our safety or the safety of our children. Matt was like an idol we were forced to worship. Our wants and needs always took the back burner.

I feel angry sometimes. Luke does too. He said I should feel angry. But I don’t feel angry at my dad although he was a terrible father. I feel angry at my mom although I think she was an amazing mother.

There is an inconsistency there.

Things don’t add up with what I think and how I feel.

What kind of parents have a 6 year old (me) watch my 3 younger brothers swim at the lake even for a few minutes?? That was the day that my youngest brother (Luke), who just turned 2, almost drowned. I have carried the heavy weight of responsibility since then. I was not allowed to be a kid. I had to be an adult.

Luke said he was sorry that all of these traumatic things happened to me. He asked Paul if I was okay. He asked how I cope. Paul told him that I cope by running. He didn’t mention writing or this blog. I’m not ready. I’m not sure if I will ever be ready. But I am ready to start delving into the past again…slowly…

I don’t want Luke to worry about me…I think this time our brother Mark is the one that could be drowning. Maybe if we can reach him, we can help pull him out.

 

Would you rather?

Would you rather…be hurt or watch someone you love get hurt?

I’ve been overthinking again.

Maybe the dreary weather has been making me all dreary inside.

It was my childhood.

I feel alone.

If I said I grew up with an alcoholic parent, many of you could relate. But my parents rarely drank. It wasn’t that.

How could you understand?

My autistic/schizophrenic brother Matt hurt me again and again. He threatened me with a knife. He kicked, clawed, bit, hit, scratched, pulled my hair, and punched me on a regular basis without consequences.

My dad was either depressed, angry, or apathetic. He neither hit nor hugged me, but he tore me apart with his words.

My mother was more concerned about Matt than anyone else. If a person needed to pull Matt off of someone he was hurting, she was more concerned that their hands would grab onto him too tightly.

I lost my best friend from high school because Matt hurt her. I was the maid of honor in her wedding, but she wasn’t invited to mine. My mom said, “Oh well, you were going in different directions anyway.” But I didn’t have a choice in the matter.

I always defended my mother and her actions. I can’t seem to see that she did anything wrong.

I always demonized my dad. He never did anything right.

My parents fought a lot. Luke and I sided with my mom. Mark sided with my dad.

There must’ve been some coping mechanism in place to view someone as all bad or all good. Any thoughts to the contrary are declined. I can’t seem to break through it.

When Matt grew up, he threatened to hurt or kill our children at some time or another. Did I expect things to be any different?

How could I feel angry at Matt when he is severely mentally ill? His mind thinks like that of a young child forever.

So I walk this journey of healing alone, or so I think.

I was thinking about it this morning. My brothers Mark and Luke lived through this hell with me. I always thought I had it the hardest because not only was I expected to be a caregiver, I was at the receiving end of most of Matt’s attacks.

But then I thought about something else…

Is it easier to be hurt or is it easier to watch someone you love being hurt and not be able to do anything about it??

I know, I am starting to sound like the horrible ‘Would you Rather?’ game that my daughter has. Would you rather stab yourself in the eye with a needle or nail your hand to the table??

I would rather not be hurt at all. But, I would rather be hurt than to watch a loved one suffer and be powerless to do anything about it.

I recently came to the realization that my younger brothers are victims in this as much as I am. The sound of me crying is etched in their minds. They are haunted by the same demons.

It was my brother Luke’s birthday this week. I wished him a happy birthday and this is how he replied…when we have time, I would like to talk more in depth about when we grew up if you would be open to that.

We never really talked about it, our childhood, in depth.

He wanted to know if I would be open to talking…

YES!

I am not alone, my brothers were there right with me.

 

In my feelings…

Last year, at about this time, my brother Matt was taken off of his anti-psychotic meds. Slowly, the docile Matt that we came to love disappeared. It started with a grunt and a few twitches. The Tourette’s was back. Then he started flapping his hands again, the Autistic self-stim. It all would’ve been tolerable for his liver’s sake, I guess.

But then the old Matt came back in full force. He talked to my mom about wanting to kill my niece, my brother Luke’s daughter. He fantasized over scenarios of killing or harming her. The voices were back. He laughed at the things they told him to do. He had conversations with himself as he flapped, grunted, gagged, and twitched.

He had to go back on the medicine. It took months to wean him off and it would take months until it was fully effective again. In the meantime, Luke had to keep his little girls away from Matt.

All of this happened before…

He attacked my daughter at her birthday party when she was 4. That was before he was medicated and in a group home. After that happened, I cut myself off from my family for years.

Before that, it was me. It’s okay if he hurt me, we were the same size. It happened day after day for year after year.

I was told not to feel. Don’t feel…don’t feel…don’t feel. I got pretty good at not feeling.

My dad never told me he loved me or said that everything would be okay. He could sit in the next room laughing over something stupid on TV while I cried. He didn’t care. He looked at me with vacant eyes. He wasn’t there.

He didn’t hug me, nor did he hit me.

Then there was a switch that would go off somewhere in my dad’s mind. He would become angry. He screamed, he swore, and flailed out at everyone. He laughed at our fears and tears. He ridiculed us, called us stupid, and told us how much he hated us. My brother Luke got the brunt of my dad’s anger. But Luke rattled his cage.

My dad never said ‘I’m sorry that you have to go through this’. Instead he called us names like wimp, baby, or worse if we cried or showed any signs of weakness. I built a tough exterior around myself that wouldn’t even allow empathy in. For every punch, hit, or bruise from my brother, my mantra was that the physical pain would make me stronger. The bruises and scars have long faded, but the inner scars will always remain unseen to most.

My mother was the perfect mom. Except she had one weakness, Matt. She favored him over everyone and everything else. If Matt wanted to go, we went. If he wanted to stay home, we stayed. If Matt was hot and we were cold, she would crank the A/C. Matt couldn’t help it, she said. We had control over ourselves, he didn’t. Sometimes she was so blinded by Matt, that she would put other people at risk by his behavior. But, she cared.

A few months ago, my mom brought Matt up north for my niece’s birthday. I’m not sure if it was a miscommunication or if she was trying to force Matt back into Luke’s life once she deemed Matt as better. Both situations happened before. Luke and my mother got into a huge argument. He wasn’t ready to trust Matt around his daughter. My mother left crying.

This takes us to a couple of weeks back…my mom stopped by on a Friday night. I asked her why she was over. On Friday nights she goes to the group home to pick up Matt. She said that Matt wasn’t coming home because Luke was coming over the next day to talk…something about therapist…repressed memories…

I felt very anxious the next day. For a brief moment, I wept. I know how Luke feels. I’ve been there before. It rips you apart.

It’s been almost a year and a half since I had my last what I call post traumatic stress episode.

It started out innocently enough. I was decorating the Christmas tree. Then this memory came back, almost like an image in my mind that I couldn’t get out. With this memory came intense emotion…stronger than anything I have ever felt before. It lasted almost two days. I couldn’t sleep and when I did I had intense nightmares where I woke up crying and frightened. I had several nightmares a night. I felt intense fear, panic, and rage. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t think rationally or otherwise. It was very horrifying.

I fell into a deep dark depression. I drove around aimlessly in my car. I had this strong desire to end it all. If I drove fast in my car and missed a turn…well…oh well. I screamed at anyone that tried to help me and pushed them away. I remembered. I felt the feelings I tried to repress 100x’s more powerful than if I would have felt them before.

I am afraid of this happening again.

My childhood…the flashbacks…those are the times my feet have swept the bottom of the ocean floor. I honestly don’t know how I survived, thrived in fact. I am completely ‘normal’, but my experiences in life are far from it.

The meeting with my brother was all very hush hush. He talked to my dad for 3 hours and my mom for 2 1/2. It sounds like there was closure and healing. At this point, it is hard to say.

Maybe I should talk to my parents too while I still have the chance.

But I’ve chosen to write about it instead.

Past presents

I think it was my aunt’s mission to get me drunk at the family Christmas party.

Alcohol…it has a way of bringing me to life. It makes me feel emotions that are otherwise stuffed away. I answer questions less guarded. Sometimes not only do I then like people, but I become the life of the party.

I was cornered. Have a glass of wine. Once it is emptied, it was refilled by another. Normally I might have told her to piss off (but probably in kinder words)…I am in control of my body and how much I choose to drink. But for some reason, I didn’t care. My aunt through marriage is a very eccentric person and I am drawn to her because she is exciting.

After a few drinks, my aunt started talking about her college days. Apparently she was in a sorority and could drink most people under the table. She started asking questions about my college days as she refilled my glass yet again.

What I told her was that I spent a majority of my college years taking care of my special needs brother. I told her that my mother needed my help so I stepped up to the plate.

What I didn’t tell her was that I only applied to one college, the one closest to home. I didn’t tell her that I never went to one party when I was in college. I didn’t tell her that my mom had a hard time keeping minimum wage caregivers for Matt because he was violent towards them. I didn’t tell her that Saturday night was shower night for Matt, not party night for me. This was the night I bathed him like a small child, not like a slightly younger brother.

My aunt told me I was gypped. Why didn’t my mother put Matt in a group home sooner so I could have a somewhat normal life?? She told me that she saw all these things happening to me but there was nothing that she could do about it.

Her words brought tears to my eyes that threatened to drop. I didn’t want her pity. I told her it made me a better person. That is just the type of bull I say to make people stop seeing me as a victim. I view myself as a strong person, not in any way am I weak or to be ever portrayed as such even though I once was. This is the protective shell I cover my hidden vulnerability with.

Has it made me a better person?? In all honesty, probably not. I don’t believe that I would’ve been a ‘bad’ person if I went to a keg party instead of staying home on a Saturday might to bathe my brother.

Usually I just keep my mouth shut about topics that could lead to conversations about my childhood. I don’t like people picking at my scabs. I feel very hurt that I was robbed of a childhood. It has been a great weakness for me as a parent. I’ve spoiled my children by giving them the childhood I never had. Deep down inside I feel hurt, anger, and resentment towards my mother for taking that away from me. I feel guilty because I know that my mother did not want it to be that way.

I am living the best years of my life right now, but I can’t seem to escape the constant reminders of a painful past.

I am thankful I already lost my mind..

Things have been crazy busy around here. I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Or should I say turkey? Would that be more seasonal?

I am getting ready to have Thanksgiving at my house.

Tomorrow Angel is coming home from college. This has been the first time she has been home since August.

The guys just got back from deer hunting. My son Alex shot his first deer. He also played a trick on me. I asked him to send me a picture of his buck and he sent me a picture of a Bambi. Horrible thing to do. Then he told me it was too little to keep. He said he was going to throw it into the woods for the wolves. I was mortified.

He was just kidding. He found a picture of a Bambi online. Real funny! Not…He has my awful sense of humor…Oh deer..

I knew that they would get a deer because last month we got a quarter cow and this week we are getting a half a pig. The freezer is full…so of course the guys wouldn’t come home empty handed.

Alex wants his new girlfriend to come over for Thanksgiving. I feel like it is too soon since he just broke things off with Baylee. I wanted some explanation to why they broke up. Alex told me that Baylee was fake. He said that she was lying to us the whole time. He asked me if I really believed that Baylee didn’t drink at the underage drinking party at the cabin. She portrayed herself as a reluctant party goer…almost like a mother hen…or a nun. Paul and I wanted Alex to pay her share of the party damage fees. All this time he was covering for her lies..

The new girlfriend looks a little like Baylee…so the family we haven’t seen in months might think it is her..

Paul’s step-dad, Darryl, will be here. This year his wife passed away. Lately Darryl has become obsessed with online dating.

My uncle Rick will be in attendance as well. He is newly divorced for the holidays and has nowhere to go. On a side note, uncle Rick and his ex go to the same gym as I do…I have to budget an extra 20 minutes into my workout now to listen to them bitch about each other..

Then my mom will be here…my brother Matt…my brother Luke and his family. My antisocial dad will stay home and my brother Mark is not coming. This will be the first time that Matt is around Luke’s girls since he went off of his anti-psychotic meds and wanted to kill them.

Thanksgiving will be the test to see if Matt will be okay around Luke’s daughters again. I think things will be okay. His hallucinations are gone and so is his fixation with the girls since he is medicated again. We have been dealing with this for so many decades now, but it doesn’t make things easier.

So, I will be hosting Thanksgiving at my house.

Last month I had my daughter Arabella’s confirmation at my house.

Next month I will be hosting Christmas and New Year’s. Time to buy a bigger house if I have to do all of this party hosting..We are crammed in this cracker box house tighter than ten boxes of stuffing in a small turkey..

If you don’t hear from me for a few days…I am cleaning, I am cooking, I am party hosting…

Hopefully I am not prying my brother Matt off of my nieces, explaining how Alex’s girlfriend is not Baylee although she looks like her, wiping away tears for the first holiday without my MIL Martha, talking with Darryl for hours about online dating, or commiserating with Rick on how much his ex sucks..

Oh, did I mention that almost everyone has a special diet??

Have a happy Thanksgiving! Gotta love my crazy family! Thank God I already lost my mind or I wouldn’t be able to deal with all of this!! There is never a dull moment.

Maybe you are lucky to have a prim and proper boring family. That was never my lot in life…

You will hear from me in a few days, unless I have the nervous breakdown I so rightly deserve…or maybe a midlife crisis…I just can’t decide!

 

The nursery

A few days ago, I posted about trees. Sounds boring, I know. Sometimes I have an idea that scratches around my mind that I want to write about that leads to more ideas, and yet more until it takes root.

Today I am going to write about trees again and family roots.

I just want to be upfront with you right away…I do not have a green thumb. I’ve killed every house plant that I’ve ever had. Once I got a chia pet for Christmas. I ended up regifting it because it was too much pressure.

My grandpa had a nursery located on the edge of my parents property when I was growing up. Most of the trees in the photos that I posted the other day were of trees that came from my grandpa’s nursery. My grandma came to my house and helped me plant those trees. My grandpa passed away the year we bought our house. Even my grandma has been gone for almost a decade now.

We are thinking about moving in the next year. It seems silly to say that one of the things I will miss the most is my trees. It is one of the last connections I have left to my grandparents now. I remember painstakingly deciding where to plant the trees with my grandma.

Thinking about the trees again made me think about growing up. Oftentimes my grandpa would remove the trees that weren’t thriving. He would put them on a pile to discard. When I was a young girl, I decided I would rescue one of the dead trees. It was a little pine tree with brown needles. I planted it in my parents backyard. I watered the tree everyday, but it still looked dead.

Then one morning I went outside to check on my tree and it was alive with leaves of brilliant green. I did it! I saved my tree. Things went downhill after that with my green thumb. I don’t know who replaced the tree. It probably was my grandma, but I will never know for sure..

Then my memories started taking me down a darker path.

Strangers stopping by to buy trees. Grandpa coming over in his truck. The smell of fresh dirt. Fertilizer. The musty smelling plastic bags the trees were sent home in.

Strangers in our yard. We must be alert. We worry. Are there children? Are there little girls? I give my mother a report. Keep an eye on Matt while I walk over. We could prevent Matt from going places where he could hurt someone, but we could never warn the strangers that came into our yard unaware.

I never felt safe. It would probably shock you if you knew how many times we had to worry about the safety of outsiders. My brother Matt is violently autistic/schizophrenic. We couldn’t control Matt but we did our best to push other people away to protect them.

Today I sit in public places with my back to the wall…always watching. I notice when patterns are off. I do everything I can to be a protector although I am never needed anymore.

It is strange how thinking about something neutral like trees could take me back.

Journal 5, part 2

5/2/1991

I’m only going to eat one meal a day or else I will be sick. When I was younger this worked all of the time until I felt better..

It is true that sometimes the needs of the ‘normal’ kids get swept under the rug when there is a special needs child in the house.

I know now that I have been a lifelong sufferer of GERD. I didn’t know this as a child. All I knew was that I had stomachaches all of the time. When it was really bad sometimes eating made me feel sick. I felt like I had a fire in my chest. Eventually the acid crept into my throat, gave me frequent canker sores in my mouth, and wore down the enamel on my teeth as a child. My parents threatened to take me to the doctor if I didn’t eat, but they never did.

My brother Matt also has GERD which was made worse by his gagging from Tourette’s. He frequently threw up his breakfasts. There was a time that the valve completely closed between his stomach and intestines. He couldn’t keep down any food and had to have the valve surgically opened again. In the meantime, he dipped below 90 lbs and he almost died.

Whose needs were more important??

Not only did Matt suffer from GERD, he also has autism. He engaged in a lot of self-stimulating repetitive behaviors such as rocking and flapping his hands together. At one time he had to wear a helmet on his head because when he became agitated he would hit his head with his fist. He was hypersensitive to touch. He would scream when he had to have his teeth brushed. He had to be sedated to go to the dentist for cleanings. He would only tolerate having 1/4 of his teeth cleaned at a time and eventually his teeth rotted. He has difficulty communicating and understanding emotions.

He suffers from Tourette’s. He would gag when eating and constantly make sticky saliva sounds with his mouth. His body would twitch and he repeatedly blinked his eyes.

He suffers from schizophrenia. He hears voices that tell him to hurt little girls. Sometimes the voices terrified him. He had nightmares. He would talk to the voices and laugh at the evil things they would tell him to do.

He is intellectually impaired. He cannot read, write, or do simple math.

He has issues with anxiety.

Matt made anything that my brothers and I struggled with minor in comparison.

There was a 3 year period when Matt was not allowed to go to school because of his violence. After that time period, he had very limited exposure to the outside world up until he was placed on an anti-psychotic medicine that eliminated the voices and the violence towards self and others.

My mother did not want my brother institutionalized in a place for the violently mentally ill so she pulled him out of most situations where he could hurt others. That did not stop him from being violent towards me at home. He grabbed a knife and threatened to cut my eyes out. He punched, scratched, kicked, bit, and pulled my hair on a regular basis. Who protected me?? Who reported his violence against me? No one.

I want to say that I handled it like a trooper, but I did not.

I withdrew into myself. I became very depressed. Although childhood goes by fast, it seems to take forever when you are being abused. I wanted out. I cried myself to sleep at night. I woke up crying in the morning after being awoken by nightmares.

I held my body tight like I was always bracing for impact. I cowered like a dog that was beat too much. My shoulders were held tightly up to my ears. I suffered from insomnia. I fell asleep easily but was typically awake from 2 to 4 AM. In the middle of the night, I suffered from muscle pains. I had to wrap pillows and blankets around my legs. I think my muscles were finally trying to relax in the middle of the night and it hurt.

I suffered from anxiety and worry. I was angry. I developed structure, rituals, and routines to feel like I had some control over my environment. For awhile, I was a compulsive hand washer. I washed my hands so often that they cracked and bled.

With everything going on at home, I couldn’t concentrate at school. My grades were horrible. I was put on a high dose of ADD medicine. It helped me focus, but made my skin crawl. I scratched my skin until it bled, especially on my scalp. I scratched until I pulled out scabs with big clumps of hair.

I was exhausted most of the time.

I was a mess.

That was a long time ago.

I survived.

I am strong now.

I am healing.

I feel ready to fight my demons.