Living Inside a Disordered Mind

People keep asking me why I have anything to do with my verbally abusive, demanding, and dysfunctional brother. To be honest, I don’t know what else to do. I realize he is not my responsibility, but neither is he the responsibility of the state, the penal system or whatever social services might be available. (He does have a court date coming up for being intoxicated in public, so it might be taken out of my hands, but even if he shows up, which I doubt, I don’t think he’ll get a severe sentence.)

Partly, I put up with his abuse because I feel sorry for him. He seems to have gotten himself in way over his head, augmenting poor genes and a hard childhood with bad decisions, bad luck, and self-medication for emotional disorders. Partly I put up with him because I sense that inside of a tornado of unfocused energy that manifests itself as rage, the real person is scurrying around, looking for a way out. And partly I put up with him because . . . well, contrary to what he believes, I am a kind and compassionate person.

Yes, I know I have to take care of myself first, and I do. In fact, I’m going on a hike tomorrow, will be gone for most of the day, but that only gives me a respite. When I return, it will be to his demands, his anger, his hatred. Though he exhausts me, I can only believe he exhausts himself even more. Because of his various disorders, he seems to project himself onto me, and if it is true that what he says to me, he is really saying to himself, he hates himself beyond belief. To be honest, I don’t much like him, either, and would just as soon not have to deal with him at all.

Still, he is so broken, not just physically, with many badly healed bones and various painful maladies, not just emotionally, but also mentally. It must be hard living inside a mind that harbors, protects, and polishes to a high sheen every hurt no matter how great and every slight no matter how small with equal fervor. It must be hard not to be able to differentiate between important thoughts and trivial thoughts since all thoughts are given equal weight and voice. It must be hard to be so needy, and yet be unable to meet those needs or to ask for help. It must be hard to be closed off to anything good, to be so caught up in one’s misery, hatred, and fury, that nothing can breach the walls.

I guess in the end I put up with him because I am so very glad I am not him, and I feel a bit guilty about that.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

10 Responses to “Living Inside a Disordered Mind”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Have fun on the hike. I hope it lasts a very long time.

  2. Paula Kaye Says:

    Isn’t it true about the times we get away….a short respite but then you return to the same thing! I hope you enjoy your hike. Maybe he will disappear while you are gone.

  3. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    Sounds like you are a good sister or at least trying to be. I have a pretty good sister too. Actually I have two sisters who are gems. Both have looked after me at times. I have tried to help them where and when this was possible.

    I have two nieces I get along well with but it does take an effort. I remember the Buffy series being one way when they were younger. Now there’s the Big Bang Theory.

    There’s a dark side to everyone. If it has to come out of me it usually does so in some of my darker writing. It’s a great outlet much better than alcohol or drugs.

    Sounds like your brother needs an outlet other than being unpleasant to you. I don’t know if you’re letting him get away with it is of much help to him or yourself.

    I wouldn’t know how you’d go about getting him to be creative rather than destructive. Sport is the answer for some. Hitting nails into boards and pouring concrete seems to be my niece’s new husband’s way of doing things. He’s in the building trade.

    Visualizing a finished product before I arrive at it always gets me out of the blues. That seems to work for most people.

    As for goodness…well, my day stated off with a good breakfast and good company. The simple everyday stuff we don’t always appreciate. Even getting your brother to make a plan, any plan and stick with it might help. My thoughts at any rate.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I wish it were that simple. There is no way to get him to do anything. He’s an adult, not a child. He’s not misbehaving, he’s got mental disfunctions. It’s not about letting him get away with things — he doesn’t have the reward/punishment frame of mind that affects most of us. Being good to him doesn’t make him behave either better or worse. Withholding treats in an effort to “train” him to leave me alone doesn’t work, either. He’s missing those synapses in his brain. And anyway, I don’t “let” him do anything. He is a force of nature, a wild creature, who does what his impulses dictate.

  4. Says:

    Pat – your description of your life with your brother reminds me – in a painful way – of the old adage, “Your friends you can pick; your relatives you’re stuck with.” The blood-bond often keeps us trying to salvage a relationship we would not abide with a person other than kin. Good luck to you.

  5. Malene Says:

    Amen to your approach and your thoughts about your brother’s experience in this life.

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