Last night, after all the Thanksgiving festivities were over and I was the only person awake in my cousin's warm, fire-lit basement, I cried for an hour before I exhausted myself and fell asleep. I cried becuase I would have been fast asleep at home in my own familiar bed…if I actually felt safe there.

My brother is 14. He has SEVERE [and I cannot put enough emphasis on that word] high-functioning autism, Asperger's Syndrom, Tourette's Syndrome, OCD, ADHD, ADD, anger issues, general anxiety, and occasional depression. He's been a handful since I can remember, but now that he's going through his teen years, it's gotten so much worse. He's an incredibly jolly, loving person but once that switch has flipped in his mind, all of his inhibitions are out the window. He forgets that he once loved his family- that he actually cares about the safety of others- and like a heat seeking missile, he sets on a path to destroy anything that's upsetting him. He's never listened to me much when I try to correct him or stop him from doing something dangerous, but he'd always listened to my parents and ESPECIALLY my mother. Now? No one can stop him. He gets into fights at the behavioral school that he attends and recently got suspended for throwing a desk at a student that challenged him. However, he does not get violent with anyone at home…except for me.

I've always had a complicated relationship with my brother. When we're getting along, we get along REALLY really well. But when he's upset about anything at all, even if it has nothing to do with me, there's something about seeing my face or hearing my voice that completely sets him off and sends him into a spiraling rampage. It's like he's a bull that's seen the red cape. Then he turns on me. He says such horrible and illogical things, I cant ignore him no matter how hard I try. And the thing is, if I do try to walk away, he'll follow me. It's either face him and get hit or walk away and get hit from behind. But I do get hit. You would think it's not that bad becuase he's my little brother, but 'little' is only a relative term. I'm 5'3" and average size for a woman with average athletic ability (although I do have rather strong dancer's legs). He's 6 feet tall, as wide as a line backer, and he lifts weights in his free time. The ONLY thing that works to get him to stop hitting me or coming after me is 1.) threatening to grab a knife or my self-defense knuckles I have on my lanyard 2.) threatening to get the pepper spray (which I now carry on me at all times) or 3.) threatening to call the police. It's not unusual for me to have bruises on my ribs and back from crouching on the ground and being kicked until someone can come to my rescue. Sometimes I have bumps on my head or swollen knuckles from protecting my face and ears from his barrage of punches.

When he's upset, he forgets that he loves me. He threatens to beat me unconcious, and sometimes to put me in the hospital. He threatens to break my nose, knock my teeth out, and once even said that he'd kill me if I didn't shut up. Those threats actually tend to be helpful, becuase they give me a moment to threaten him with one of my aforementioned defense mechanisms. Things get difficult when he attacks out of nowhere. Even if he forgets, I never forget. All the while he's beating me or kicking me, I'm afraid to fight back becuase I don't want to be the adult that hurt her underage brother. I don't want to show him that violence is the solution. And I especially don't want him to ever have to feel pain. I will forever stand up for him and his rights, and I will forever defend him to all of the offensive and uneducated jerks out there that will never make life any easier for him. But I can't keep living here. I will do whatever I have to to get away because it's just not safe for me. I'm sick of the nightmares- the ones I have at night and the one that I'm living in.

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