WARNING: This post is a bit on the deep and serious side and it talks some about suicide and abuse.
Woke up yesterday morning to a family group text that my brother started. My family has had some rocky roads to travel down throughout my life. I’m going to give you a slight glimpse of some of the bumps along the road.
I was born with a diseased kidney and by the time I was 3 I had already had 8 surgeries. Eventually, my left kidney was removed. Because of my kidney problems, I was in and out of the hospital and doctor’s offices, which caused my parents to not spend as much time with my older brother.
I don’t want to get into too much family history, but I almost lost my mother to suicide around the age of 7, which would make my brother 10. After her attempt, she went into a hospital about 4 hours away from us and was there for over a month. My family moved into my grandparents house, we left my church and school and stopped talking to the majority of my mom’s side of the family. I dubbed this my “2nd life.”
My dad felt “called” to evangelism and spent the majority of his time on the road, which meant my brother and I were left with my mom and my grandparents. My mom, who tried to kill herself, who all of a sudden discovered she had Dissociative Identity Disorder and memories of childhood abuse flooded back to her. We traveled with him some, but we mostly stayed home. My mom had several rough years and spent much of her time being counseled by our pastor and his wife. I remember days when my mom would be curled up in a ball, rocking back and forth and crying. I had to step in and take care of her in moments like this. Seven years old.
My brother, who had always been full of life, laughter and love was now full of anger and “rebellion.” I recognize now that my brother was angry at my father for being gone when we needed him, when mom needed him. However, for the four years that my family lived with my grandparents, my brother took all of his anger out on me. Every single day I was called stupid, idiot, dumb, etc. and everything I did or liked or all of my friends were those things as well. He used to grab me by the shoulders and stare into my eyes and not let me go. There were days I was afraid to come out of my room because I was scared of what he might do.
Because of the fact that my brother took this anger out on me, I assumed I was the source of this anger. I decided that it must be because of my sickness at a young age and him not having mom and dad around very much during those years. Around the age of 9 or 10 I can remember praying and asking God why didn’t just let me die when I was a kid? Maybe then my brother would be happy. I thought that maybe then my dad wouldn’t have to be gone so much because he wouldn’t have to work as hard to pay for my medical bills.
I took the blame.
Anyways, fast forwarding a few years to my brother’s teenage years…his anger only grew and he also had a lot of depression, which caused several threats of suicide. For many years, almost every night my parents and brother would get into fights and I would have to spend hours alone in my room while I heard screaming and crying and whatever else happened. It broke my heart for all of them. I felt bad for my brother dealing with all of this anger and depression, but I also thought he was selfish and mean and my parents didn’t deserve how he treated them. Even though I did understand his anger towards our dad.
When my brother was 17, my parents decided to send him to a Christian boarding school. We didn’t get to have much contact with him at all. It was a weird time for all of us. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, the people running the boarding school were very abusive and it was a very horrible experience for my brother, which only caused more pain for him.
I’m now 28 and my brother is 31. He still struggles with this pain back from boarding school and just all of the previous years filled with anger and confusion. He tries to get answers and emotions from our dad and usually doesn’t receive any, which has always caused a wall between them, even though they do work on their relationship and trying to find some common ground and show each other they love each other.
So…waking up to this family group text at 7:30 am was not quite how I wanted to wake up, but ultimately it was a good thing. My brother wrote a poem about his experience and it was all about remembering his time there. My dad wrote a quick response back saying he remembered that time too…but didn’t say too much except that he was glad we were together and he loved us. So I took some time to write my own poem in response. I love my brother and we are very close now, but I’ve never really shared my perspective with my family because I felt that my pain was so small in comparison, so I needed to be the one to stay strong.
But sometimes being strong is sharing your pain.
Here is my response poem:
I remember too
I remember not getting to say bye to you
I remember panic attacks and lots of tears
Mom and dad prayed
They didn’t know what to do
We heard you ran away
So we hopped in the van to go find you
No one knew what was happening there
I remember before you were gone too
Threats of death
Mom and dad prayed
No one knew what to do
But everyone wanted to “save” you
Seemed like almost every night I heard “Can you please go to your room?”
Locked in my room while you three fought for what felt like hours upon hours
I cried alone but didn’t show any of you
I had to be strong for someone
But why am I talking about myself?
Wasn’t my pain only by proxy?
It can’t be real
But I was scared for all of you
I thought one day you would be gone
And then so would mom
So I had to put on my face called “Strong”
I remember hatred
I remember wishing God had killed me as a baby
Maybe then you would be happy
Maybe then dad wouldn’t have to be gone so much
We all have different stories from these years
But all filled with laughter and tears
We played games
These were happy days
Panic setting in-
Where is my face called “Strong”
Ah, there it is
Almost caught with my “weak” face on
I’m glad things are different now
I’m glad despite the anger and tears
And the memories of those years
We love each other
We can find forgiveness for one another
Because we’ve all had pain
We’ve all had to pass around the face called “Strong”
Instead of always giving in to anger
We choose to love
My soul and my heart and my mind love each of you.
This is the very first time I’ve shared a wee bit of my perspective. I can’t even tell you how terrifying and relieving it was.
Sometimes being strong means sharing your pain.