I’ve been hinting at this post for a while now. But I think I’ve finally worked up the nerve to tell you all (whoever reads this) the reason I’m like this. As my therapist put it today, my childhood was “the perfect storm” of anxiety.
My eldest brother, 14 years older than me, suffers from autism. Usually when I tell people this, they imagine someone bound to a wheelchair, mute, pitiful. But no, he is rather high-functioning and incredibly violent.
He left the house for good when I was about 6 years old after a particularly bad incident (I’ll fill you in some other time) but up until then he ruled the roost.
We couldn’t leave the house after dark. I couldn’t watch the television shows I wanted to watch. I couldn’t even play on the living room floor past a certain time.
The tiniest things could set him off and lead to a violent episode. These were often things beyond our control. The power or cable going out, anything. I even remember crying hysterically when I was about 5 because a glass candy dish broke. I didn’t break it, and my parents certainly didn’t care, but he would lose it.
It seems a bit heavy-handed to say this has affected my entire life (apart from my anxiety and depression) but its the truth:
– I was incredibly lonely growing up. My other brother, Ethan, was 9 years older than me, not exactly a playmate. And both my parents are only children, so that means no aunts, uncles, or cousins. They also lost all of their friendships one way or another after my brother was diagnosed.
-Its possible that Ethan emerged even more damaged. He has chosen to identify himself as a victim and feels the whole world owes him. He’s incredibly intelligent but can’t seem to get his life or career going.
– This has completely altered my relationship with my parents, particularly my mother. Most couples stop having children after one is diagnosed with autism, and they certainly wouldn’t have a baby with a violent 14 year-old in the house. But my parents did. I often feel like I was born to be my mother’s companion. Another little person she could cart around with her and my brother. She would often tell me I was her “sunshine” despite everything going on around us. Thats sort of a lot to put on a four year-old.
-Worst of all, this isn’t something I can just put behind me. It haunts me every single day. If I’m home, I have to hear about the issues my mother is having with his group home, and know that one day its going to be me having to deal with this. I will have to run myself ragged just like my mother has done. And on top of it all, I constantly feel guilty over how much I resent him.