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.