Monday, October 25, 2010

Love and Schizophrenia

Right now I'm sitting on one side of my broccoli green sofa at home.  It's supposed to be a neutral green color but really it's impossible to match anything to it.  It is one of the few things I let my girlfriend pick out.  I hate it.  I can't wait until we have to get another one...or really I can't wait until I have enough money to buy another one.  On the other side of this dead moss colored sofa sits my sister.  We both have computers in our laps and a cheesy horror flick running on the television. Neither of us is paying attention to the film, but I think we are both grateful for the distraction.  The movie provides us with an excuse not to socialize.  We don't have to talk to each other because, well-- we are watching a movie.

Part of me wishes she would fall asleep so I could stare at her.  Creepy, I know.  I want to stare at her until I understand her.  I want to know what goes on in her brain.  I want to know what she thinks about me.  I worry about every single word I say or every movement I make around her.  What is she thinking?  My sister has schizophrenia so I have reason to worry.  She believes celebrities are stalking her, poisoning her, and stealing her poetry to turn into hit songs on the radio.  Any song she likes on the radio, she wrote it....even if it came out before she was born.  I want to know how her brain works.  I want to know why she thinks these things.  I want to understand her brain, partly because I'm fascinated by the disease, partly because I want to help her, and partly because I'm scared to death that this disease is in my near future. 

My sister and I don't have a very close relationship.  We hardly know each other really.  We were close as young children.  I was her big sister, her protector, her playmate.  She followed me around like a puppy.  I changed her diapers, fed her, and took care of her when we weren't in foster care.  We were split up in foster care and then she moved back to the middle east when I was 11.  I only saw her once after she moved away.  The photo booth pictures are from that visit with her.  I was 16 in those photos.  I didn't see her again until she was 15 and I was 19.  I became her legal guardian so she could come back to the US and finish high school.  Her father put her on a plane and then sent me an email with her flight information.  I didn't really have much of a choice in becoming a parent of a teenager while I was still a teenager myself.  To say I failed as her parent is putting it lightly.  I tried to be a good sister/guardian for her.  I set limits, helped her with school, cooked for her, drove her to activities and tried to give her some structure, but how does a 19 year old sophomore in college parent a 15 year old girl?  I worked full time and had a full course load at school but for a while I made it work.  This was my chance at a family--my REAL family.  I didn't want to ruin it.  I was willing to do all it took to make it work.

My sister did not want a parent.  She wanted a friend, someone to party with, to drive her to parties.  She would sneak out, meet boys, do drugs, and skip school.  I never did these things as a teenager.  I tried everything.  I tried to win her love by driving her to friends houses and letting her smoke pot with them.  I even tried it with her.  When I set limits she hated me.  I didn't want my sister to hate me.  When I didn't set limits I was worried she would hate me in the future because I let her ruin her life.  She was not a normal teenager.  She was suspicious of everything I did.  If I forgot to throw out some bad food in the fridge, she believed I was saving it to make her eat it later to make her sick so she couldn't go out.  When people in cars glanced at us sitting at the bus stop she believed they were thinking disgusting things about us or that the same person was driving by over and over again, keeping track of us.  This isn't normal behavior and it scared me to death but I didn't have health insurance and couldn't convince her to go to the doctor.

Eventually I called CPS to help me.  I was worried she would get hurt or ruin her life with drugs.  It thought at least she would have health care and some adults to help her get her life together.  I hated myself for sending my sister into the same system that ruined my life.  I failed.  I couldn't even take care of my own sister.  My own sister hated me. Since then our relationship has been a love-hate relationship.  I love her, she hates me...except for when she needs money or rescuing.  When she found our mother, they bonded quickly.  They had something in common.  They bonded over how much they hate me.  They both wrote me emails to tell me so.

She is so impossible to read.  I have no idea what goes on in her brain.  I want so badly to please her and take care of her.  She touches every insecure nerve in my body.  I feel like I might explode from anxiety when she's around.  I try so hard to connect with her.  She spends most of her time with a flat affect--except for brief moments when she thinks I am funny and then she does something goofy in return.  There's my sister!  We connect and laugh for a brief moment.  I live for those moments when she is around.  I live for those real moments of connection with her.  

Most of the time I look at her and I want to cry, except I can't cry.  I want to cry for her--for the relationship I will never have with her.  I want to cry because I feel so guilty.  Guilty that I failed her.  Guilty that I couldn't save her.  Guilty that I can't do more for her.  Guilty about the negative thoughts that lie beneath the surface of my love for her.  Guilty because I know she can't help it.  I feel guilty and I'm terrified.  I'm terrified of what the future holds for her.  I'm terrified that this disease waits for me.  I'm terrified that if I get sick, no one will take care of her.  She will be totally alone.  She will never have a normal life.  She has never had a normal life.  She will always be suspicious of me.  She will never love me, never trust me.  I want to fix her.  I want to love her schizophrenia away.  I want to take away her constant fears and anxiety.  I hate myself because I can't.  I hate myself for not saving my baby sister.  I hate myself for not being able to fix this. 

I hate myself for surviving foster care when my brothers and sisters did not.  All of my siblings are mentally ill.  All of them are unable to hold down jobs, keep a lease on an apartment, or finish school.  My brother is in and out of prison.  He's violent and scary and I no longer have contact with him because I'm terrified of him.  I truly believe he will hurt someone someday.  He has been discussed all over the Internet and on conservative talk radio.  He hates me too.  I tried to take care of him once and he ended up emptying my bank account and opening credit cards in my name and charging them up.  My sweet, caring, sensitive little brother was replaced by this scary violent man.  Where did my baby brother go?  Where did my best friend go?  I miss him. 

Why did I survive while they did not?  How am I able to hold down a job, finish school, and keep a relationship?  WHY?  It's not fair!  I don't deserve a normal life when they can't have one.  I don't deserve to live while they suffer.  Maybe my guilt is premature.  I fear that my functional life is beginning to end.  I fear I will eventually plummet into severe mental illness.  Maybe I already have.  I seem to really be drowning right now.  I'm not sure how much longer I can stay afloat.  Maybe this is my fate and fighting it is futile.  Maybe I am already crazy.