You are here

A Families Shame in Mental Illness: Part 2

+ enlarge

Within an hour of my leaving the police station my twin sister went on a twenty-four hour reign of terror  sending voice, emails and text messages threatening to hunt me down and take my life. When most parents would be consoling their child and threatening legal action against the perpetrator, she was hunting me, her twin sister.  The rest of the details of that harrowing night are irrelevant at this point. Suffice to say it was terrifying to come to grips with the depth of rage my twin sister was capable of and her complete inability to deal with the harsh reality that I did not do this, her male neighbor did. 

In the twelve months since that night, I’ve sought medical help. There’s no easy way to tell your general physician that you want a CT scan of the brain and every blood test under the sun because your identical twin sister is a sociopath and you want to be assured you don’t suffer from the same ailment.  The look on his face was priceless and even after he tried to talk me down from the requested tests, he eventually agreed.  Medically speaking (if possible) I’ve been cleared of any sociopathic tendencies. Whew … that’s a relief—humor again. He did suggest an anti-depressant to help deal with the flood of emotions I was experiencing.  I passed on the drugs, I wasn’t depressed—I was angry and now I’m just very sad.

 As for coming to grips with reality, that’s the hardest emotion for any family dealing with mental illness. After the drama and the hysteria is over, you’re suddenly angry. Angry at the complete betrayal, angry and confused because it really is a “wtf” moment because in the normal mind, one could never imagine what occurred. What were the signs, how did it get so bad, how do we stop it, is there a cure? As difficult as the last year has been for me, it’s been as hard on my sisters, my mom and my children. My three children have nothing but fond memories of their aunt and cousin. And while as adults, we sisters knew her life wasn’t perfect, we tried not to reveal the problems to our children. How I yearn for those days because as it stands now, my children are to very much fear their aunt and cousin. If they ever come face to face with either of them they are to seek protection immediately.

My oldest daughter and I speak often about how or why it got so out of hand.  She still wrestles with the “no relationship” because I never let on that there was ever any issue of trouble between us until the big fight five years ago. For most of our lives my twin and I spoke every day via phone. We share the same scars, experienced each other’s physical pain and even had similar childbearing experiences.  Today I suppose I’m to blame for so much confusion but I too, never suspected that what I attributed to her pain was really her inability to feel love for another human being. She is totally devoid of compassion, empathy or an ability to love without condition. She is never wrong and my sisters and I blame my parents for not holding her accountable or apologizing when she was in the wrong. It was a different discipline for my twin than the rest of us received and I suspect because they knew all along that she was not mentally well. I know  there was an incident when we were four years old that caused quite the heated discussion between my mom and dad and from that day on we were never left alone in a bedroom or bathtub unsupervised.

The questions of the past are coming together like a patchwork quilt, every detail and stitch in time is woven into our answers these days. Some answers are hard to believe, some answers we’ll never receive. I suppose that’s the hardest part for me. On one hand I miss terribly the part of me that I used to tell people “the two of us make one great human being.”  She was the quiet, subtle good one and I was the rowdy, strong willed one who never let an opportunity to enjoy life pass me by. She was the adult, I was the teenager. What I thought was sisterly love I now know was manipulation, coercion and a need to control. 

My mom struggles with my twin’s mental illness—she’s righty-five, and this has torn at her heart. As understanding and empathetic as I am towards my mom’s loss, I’m also bewildered. She once told me recently that “I hope you learned your lesson and won’t ever read someone’s text messages again.” I almost fell off my chair when she made that statement and I quickly reprimanded her, demanding an apology. “How dare you,” I yelled. Has the whole family gone mad and I’m somehow to blame? What about our moral obligation to protect the child? Why are you still protecting my twin sister? She did eventually apologize for protecting my twin sister, for supporting her more than me. As she says, “my twin” was not as strong and needed more attention. Again a clue, not that it matters anymore.
A year later, life goes on and the pain diminishes day by day. My two sisters and I remain very close.  We band together and once in awhile the topic of “her” comes up … we’ve learned not to linger too long. You see there is no pill for what ails our sister. Sociopathy is a dissociative disorder depending on who is talking. Either way the value system didn’t connect at an early age and a sociopath does not live by the same moral code as a stable individual. Add to the sociopath’s makeup, narcissism, and most doctors will tell you “run, don’t walk.” A narcissist is never wrong, they don’t have many relationships because the minute you disagree with them, you’re figuratively dead to them and they move on. 

Writing is cathartic to the pain and shame for families dealing with mental illness. I typically am a problem solver, but I can’t solve this problem. That drives my shame more because I never thought I’d have to walk away from a family member in need. We have no idea of the situation with the thirty-four year old neighbor and that is hard to deal with. The ache for what may have happened, what we can only imagine is happening, is so intense that we cannot allow ourselves to think about it anymore. That sounds horrible to the bystander … because it truly is about protecting the child. But to the sociopath it’s not about the child, the victim; it’s about questioning their ability to control. They are their own biggest fans.

The only saving grace I have is my twin has no knowledge of her illness. Her world is a daily repeat of everything we did wrong and how she is always right. While I miss the person I thought she was, almost with an ache, I realize that person left this earth many years ago. Hopefully to a better place and that’s why I say it is a saving grace she has no knowledge. Where I live with fear for my life, although I’m told that’s just the trauma of the past events getting the better of me; I realize now she recreates that day every minute in her mind and the picture changes as she dictates. I know that we will never have a relationship and as much as that hurts, it also allows me to let go a little each day. Memories of the pain are becoming more distant. I still go to counseling to learn how to separate the good memories from the bad. My need for answers is overwhelming and every recollection is a puzzle piece. I have to choose daily to remember the sister I used to know and pray for the best. It’s the only option for anyone dealing with mental illness that has no treatment or cure. Today, on this year anniversary, I’ve removed all the pictures of her and put them away. There may not be a physical headstone to her burial plot but the sister I knew, the part I thought made me whole, no longer exists, and realizing that end, is the only way forward.


Loading comments...