PART 2 (Monday, 11/12/07)

Monday morning I'm rushing around, surely on the verge of being late to a massage job. My brother is wandering aimlessly around the kitchen, having eaten a peculiar breakfast of a chicken breast and a protein drink. He stops me on my way out to the car to ask if I am really sure I want to go to work. I give him some smartass reply and grab my keys. He stops me again and asks for a ride over to my sister's house. I agree, despite the fact that this will most certainly make me late and put me at risk for getting fired from this contract, because he is acting strange, something is off, and I feel uneasy about leaving him alone for the day.

Halfway to my sister's house he tells me to turn around and take him home. I refuse, impatient with this mercurial behavior. As I pull out of my sister's driveway and speed into downtown Dallas, I feel relieved that he is someone else's problem for the day. My sister and grandmother are taking him and the children to the aquarium; we are all clueless as to how the day will unfold.

I'm in the middle of the chair massage job when the texts and emails start. My brother has left the aquarium to take a walk (the crowds and chaos were too much to handle) and is now missing somewhere in Dallas. My sister and Monk are going to call the police. I am working on someone's shoulders, peering out the fifth floor window of the company's conference room, as though I will be able to spot my brother wandering the streets.

He turns up. He's rambling on about the animals and children and wanting to go home. An emergency psychiatrist appointment is made and my sister takes everyone back to her house for lunch, in the middle of which my brother starts shouting at her to KNOCK IT OFF, KNOCK IT OFF, before going outside and performing some kind of dancing kung fu theater on her patio.

Somehow they get him in the car (after a strange confrontation between the two of them on her front lawn) to his psychiatrist's office. Monk and I, driving separately, pull into the parking lot 2 minutes apart, a few minutes before my sister. I manage to prevent my brother from mooning the receptionist, after he has raised his shirt at her and asked if it offends her. He has removed his shoes and socks, however, and we all have decided at this point to pick our battles. The appointment does not go well- my brother is unable or unwilling to answer the doctor's questions, choosing instead to ask his own or simply stare hostilely over the doctor's head. Monk ends up sitting outside on a curb with him, talking about physics or quantum mechanics or something (after preventing what was about to become an absent-minded striptease in the parking lot) while my sister and I remain with the psychiatrist and are informed brusquely that my brother seems to be in the middle of a major psychotic break; immediate hospitalization is recommended.

Monk is driving, my brother's in the passenger seat, my sister sits behind him, and I am behind Monk keeping a worried eye on my brother, as we speed towards the emergency room, trying to keep things nonchalant so my brother does not flip out and refuse to go along. The front windows are rolled all the way down and normally I would be bitching, but this seems to be another pick-your-battles moment. On the highway my brother becomes convinced he can somehow influence the cars around us. Most of his rambling is drowned out by the wind, but he tells us his heart is hurting, he is having difficulty breathing, he takes off his seatbelt and puts his hand on the door lock. Monk and I tell him to put his seatbelt back on, that we'll get a ticket if he doesn't, but logic is not working at this point. Suddenly my brother whips around in his seat and yells at the top of his lungs to my sister to STOP IT!!! KNOCK IT OFF!!! We tell him she is not doing anything.

We are finally near the hospital. My brother seems to sense something is going on and decides it is a good idea to try to climb out of the car window. We're all yelling at him to stay in the car. He reaches back to my sister's door and tries to unlock it, to get her out of the car. Then he tries to exit via the car window again and Monk tells him, with panic in his voice, to hold his hand. For some reason my brother agrees to this, and now Monk is holding my brother's hand tightly, while trying to drive a stick-shift, find the emergency room door and not have a stroke.

We get to the emergency room. We sign my brother in for an evaluation and then we wait. And while we wait my heart is continuing to beat in such a way that I am sure I'm going to pass out. My brother gets confrontational with the people in the ER waiting room. He practices his kung fu. He starts to walk off several times and I manage to convince him to come back. He becomes emotional and glues himself to my sister, hugging her and rubbing her back, and although she is mortified and uncomfortable, at least he isn't going anywhere so she hugs him right back.

They only let one of us into the triage room with him. So I sit there as my brother's heartrate is monitored, as the pretty triage nurse asks him questions that he occasionally answers, as he weirds her out with his random, acid-trip-like musings. He talks about infinity, about just wanting to walk in the sun with his sisters, starts feeling the walls behind him and making ecstatic noises. His eyes are closed, lids fluttering as though he is mid-seizure and my sister and Monk are right outside, wondering what is happening. The triage nurse tells me my brother can't be admitted to the psych ward until his heart rate slows down. But it shows no signs of slowing. She tells me we're going to have to take him back out to the waiting room and "make small talk" for a while to try to calm him down before someone from the psych ward arrives. I look her very calmly in the eye and shake my head to tell her no, we will stay here, you will put in the psych order, and we will all go wait somewhere else because- small talk? Out there? At this point? Right. She calls in the order.

We go to another room, my brother takes off his shirt and shoes. Monk is following behind him, picking his clothes up off the floor, I'm leading him to a desk hoping he'll sign the forms we need, my sister is looking around at everyone looking at us and I wish I could make her see that these people? Eyeing us and commenting to their companions and judging the situation (however incorrectly)? Just do not matter. I threw away any remaining self-consciousness the moment we all entered the ER and I wish she would do the same, as there is no time for that, it has no place here. After a slight confrontation with this new hospital form person, I tell my brother where to sign (Dog Whisperer-style, calm, cool and assertive) and he does.

Then he needs to leave us and get through a metal detector and go to the emergency psych ward but instead walks off and won't come back. The staff reluctantly allow me to accompany him to the psych ward. My brother and I walk the long hallway and enter yet another waiting room, where again, despite the sense of urgency implied in words like "psychotic break" and, I don't know, "EMERGENCY ROOM," no one seems in a hurry to talk to us. When they do, they send a 12-year old with a mustache masquerading as a nurse to interview my brother. Name, address, job, etc. My brother stands up and gets in the boy-man's face. I tell him to be nice. He apologizes. We sit again for what feels like ages. My brother reads a sign in Spanish about patient confidentiality to me, and lets me know that this sign? Is a SIGN. Very important.

Eventually he is invited to step through the door in front of us. He looks back at me to see if I am coming, a flicker of doubt in his eyes, but I am not allowed to go any further. This is where I get off. He is unsure but I smile encouragingly, hoping he doesn’t catch the false bravado in my face.

Now he is alone two doors and a hallway from me, in an evaluation room. Every time someone slips in and out of the room I catch a glimpse of his shoulders, the back of his head. Then someone lets themselves out of the room and he twists himself around, sticks both hands between the door and doorframe and is trying to pry open the door and lift himself up out of his chair at the same time. I see two large shadows fly in and a syringe being handed through and my brother is ripped off of the door, the door slams, he is yelling, panicking, I hear thuds, I see everyone at the nurses station gather at a far off window to watch, like kids swarming to witness a schoolyard fight. And then, silence. I sit in the waiting area for what feels like an eternity. No one comes out; I cannot get any information from the nurse at the window.

I’ve been texting Monk and my sister this whole time, despite being instructed very sternly at the metal detector to keep my cell phone off, letting them know I don’t know anything. Finally I catch a tech on his way in and beg him to have someone come out and at least tell me that my brother is physically okay, that other people there have not been hurt. The doctor comes out and gently informs me that, because my brother is 21, legally she cannot tell me anything about his status. But then she guides me into the outer hallway and tells me that I can tell her anything I want about my brother, to help her help him, and I give her his history, the day’s events, and ask her how long it usually takes to get someone calmed down. She takes my cell phone number and promises to contact me when that happens.

In the end, I meet up with my sister and Monk and we wait until almost 11, sitting outside the emergency entrance of the hospital, the sound of helicopter blades and ambulance sirens occasionally breaking up the cacophony of birds in the trees above us. We watch people come in an out, a grieving family member here, a head wound over there, and speculate on the day and what will happen next. When we don’t hear from the doctor we head back in, all three of us, and manage to conduct an entirely ‘hypothetical’ discussion with this young, empathetic doctor outside the psych ward, that at least lets us know what will happen tonight, who will be contacting us, and where my brother will end up, as he is obviously in no condition to be home for a while.

It is after midnight and the three of us are driving home in silence. My sister sits up front with Monk. I sit in the back again, numb, next to my brother’s backpack, watching the lights of Dallas and its late night traffic slide over the canvas, over and over, and with every stroke of light I think I’ve just committed my brother. I’ve just committed my BROTHER.

We drop my sister off at her house and I pick up my car to follow Monk home after a quick visit with my grandmother. He is already in bed when I pull up to the curb, exhausted. Devastated. I drag myself up the front walk, gazing at my brother’s bedroom windows, wishing he were fast asleep in his bed tonight. I unlock the door, walk into the kitchen and freeze, unsure of my next step, knowing I will not sleep tonight. In the dining room a sweatshirt is draped over one of the chairs and I pick it up to fold it as the image of my brother trying to get out of the evaluation room fills my head, followed immediately by the clear thought that he is spending the night in a hospital, confused, alone, and scared out of his mind. And within that second, the numbness cracks, I am doubled over, gasping for air, tears streaming down my face, clutching my stomach and unable to stop the oh god oh god oh god oh god what have we done from coming out.

My brother is 21 and we had him committed tonight. My brother will be on his way to a mental institution tomorrow morning, and his birthday is next week, and we don’t know how any of this will turn out. But we do know that nothing will ever be the same. Something has been completely shattered in the last 14 hours, and there is nothing to be done to fix it. I think about my irritation of the last few weeks, the broken furniture and general mess my brother left in his wake, the loss of alone time and resentment that grew from having an additional (and difficult) roommate. But I know I would happily take all the busted up furniture, ruined bedding, ripped rugs, destroyed peace and upended schedules… I would deal with the broken trust that now exists between my brother and me, the collection of broken hearts in this moment, if we could just undo THIS day, un-break my brother’s brain, and our innocence. But we can’t. This is real life. This is really happening.


PART 1 (Last Week)

My brother has grown increasingly agitated as the week progresses following his diagnosis. It’s the first week of his new job and he has been putting himself under additional pressure by working overtime, to hopefully impress his new boss and earn extra money. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights he arrives home hours after he should have, getting lost on the highways of Dallas. Twice we’ve talked him through to finding his way home, one time our call gets cut off because he forgot to charge his phone; I spend the better part of three hours that night wondering if I should be driving around Dallas trying to locate him.

Throughout the week we have increasingly strange conversation topics, verbal retracings of high school events and college experiences, loud laughter in the bathroom when he should be sleeping, conflicting stories of his job and boss (one day they’re fantastic, the next they’re horrible); he also speaks of an overwhelming sense of appreciation and nostalgia for his childhood and our parents.

Saturday morning he loses his paycheck and after helping him search his car and his room he accuses me of stealing it. I tell him matter-of-factly that I did not, but he smirks and says it’s cool, he just wants me to know he knows. Later that morning he finds it and apologizes. We hug it out.

My sister’s in-laws and our grandmother are in town, and my nephew’s 1st birthday party is scheduled for that afternoon. The crowd and kids and chaos prove too much and my brother locks himself in her bathroom halfway through the party. I find him and we go for a walk. He rants and falls silent, again and again, sometimes tearing up at how much the world has changed and how overwhelmed he is by adulthood and love and children etc., at times he doesn’t make any sense and frequently he is unable to finish a sentence.

Saturday evening my brother opts out of the “family” dinner as we are on our way to my sister’s. Monk drops me off and turns around to get my brother home as he insists he just needs a break, a good dinner and early bedtime. Monk and I return that night to find him just starting to cook and obviously stressed about something. As the three of us talk (and talk, and talk) he informs us that my sister’s friend was messing with him earlier, he feels bad about how he handled the party, behaving (in his view) badly, how fucked-up my sister’s in-laws are... We dismiss most of it in good humor, but agree whole-heartedly on that last bit.

It is a long night (and has been a long week) and I’m growing impatient with the conversational loop, just wanting some downtime, a little peace and quiet and, honestly, a break from my brother and his constant presence (and neediness) in our house. I start to tune out here and there as the words continue falling down around us like snow knocked off a tree branch. Later that night my brother is still awake and too restless to stay in his room; finally he asks me for an Ambien so he can sleep. I give him one and eventually collapse into bed myself, exhausted, with a vague sense of unease.

Sunday I work (massage) most of the day while Monk and my brother visit with my sister and grandma. After another uneventful dinner the three of us go home where my brother has a complete and total meltdown. He insists my sister said something “really shitty” to him which has made his blood boil and his sense of betrayal is sharp (even though he can't remember exactly what she said). He tells us he's scared and doesn’t know what’s happening, why he accused me of stealing his money, how sorry he is about that, how lonely, how touch-deprived, he just needs someone to love, he’s fucked-up… There is sobbing and yelling and distrust and I’m holding and rocking and reassuring him and exchanging ‘oh my god holy shit’ glances over his head with Monk to acknowledge we have landed somewhere foreign and bigger and scarier than we might be able to handle. When he finally calms down my brother seems… different. Confrontational. Still restless. He comes downstairs twice while I am having a late night phone call with a friend, striding purposefully into my space, pointing a finger assertively at me and giving me (I know this sounds absurd) a very hostile thumbs-up gesture. I go upstairs for bed after this odd, semi-challenge thing and the dogs get into a fight on our bed. Short-lived but ugly just the same, an obvious result of the weird energy that is threading its way throughout the house. Monk and I end up sleeping with the bedroom door locked, for reasons we can’t quite (don’t want to) articulate.


Brief, Spotty

I've been really slacking on keeping up with everyone else's posts, and obviously haven't been great at the updates on my own. Things have been a little hectic as usual, with Halloween parties (roller derby girl was a big hit), massage jobs, weekend classes, etc. I'd like to give a proper update here, today, but my mind is kind of reeling from the latest development in the twisted version of Three's Company going on in Quinnland.

Thanks to a visit with my brother's psychiatrist, we now have a somewhat solid, additional diagnosis that has shoved the ADD to the backseat and will now be riding shotgun with the depression. I'm still researching what this means for my brother and for the people around him, short- and long-term, socially, financially, etc., and the more I find out the less prepared I feel. For now I'll just tell you that an antipsychotic drug has been added to his daily prescription repertoire.

So, we're all still processing... The thing is, if I'M scared, I can't imagine how HE feels right now.