I was lucky enough to have grown up with a brother who was a great play mate until I was about 10. He is 2 years older than me and has epilepsy, various learning difficulties & is quite high on the autistic spectrum (closer to aspergers but not quite as intelligent). His IQ is below the norm and to add to the mix, he thinks he is normal & is stubborn when people tell him that certain behaviours are not appropriate.
Growing up with him was ok up until a certain age, as we did what most kids do: played together, had midnight snacks in our wendy house, talked about kids stuff and fought over who watched their favourite cartoons on tv. After I was around 9 or 10, I started noticing how different he was and I slowly became more & more frustrated.
The hard part for me was the fact that due to my parents’ narcissism and lack of empathy, I became overly responsible from a young age worrying about my brother’s epilepsy. My mum actually admitted a year ago, that it was easier for her to let me help her out with my brother and allow me to take on the role of ‘mini parent’. She actually included me in the parenting & didn’t stop me from being ‘bossy or mother like’ towards my brother. This was a huge mistake! I was only a child..She should have supported me too, but instead completely forgot that I should have been mothered too.
Not only that, but because of my brother’s disabilities there were many times where he was the centre of the universe and I didn’t matter or the other way around…I had to be perfect, responsible & maintain the perfect family image to make up for his disabilities..
There were times where I became so frustrated that my brother couldn’t understand certain ‘simple’ things that I would yell at him or tell him to go away..I never got the chance to grieve for the fact that I didn’t have a ‘normal’ brother..I would get upset with him and then get told off by my parents at the same time..
Of course this happened the other way round too..He also got told off for things..Luckily in this case, my parents were equal in their discipline (from what I remember)..
What I felt devastated about was that nobody understood me…Not my parents, not my brother, nobody..My Dad didn’t have brothers or sisters and his mother died when I was 8, so I didn’t have other family around to talk to. My mum’s family on the other hand was much bigger, but they lived abroad so we only saw them once a year.
Nobody knew how stressed I felt, how sad I felt or how embarrassed I felt when my brother would scream at me & tell me to ‘shut my trap’ in a shop. ( he got the money wrong when trying to pay and I was just trying to help)..This happened many times, over & over again..It felt so unfair that I was treated this way..Don’t get me wrong, I love my brother but at times he was a huge burden, his disability created so many problems in our family. This of course I believe, is mainly due to the fact that my parents narcissism prevented them from keeping the family unit healthy & weren’t able to ‘cope’ with the additional stress of a special needs child.
Something that I want to mention is ‘dream analysis’. This fascinated me from a young age, as did psychology & Freud’s theories.I had 2 recurring dreams from a young age until I was 20. The first dream was always about my brother. I would be shouting in the dream ‘ Nooooo…don’t go there, you will fall’ or ‘Billy, nooo ..you will hurt yourself’. It was a recurring anxiety dream that apparently I had every night, as my brother would wake up and say’ what? No want? Why are you talking to me in the middle of the night?’. I always woke up and didn’t understand why he was talking to me..this continued until I was sleeping next to my first boyfriend and he also mentioned that I was talking in my sleep about my brother..Once we were living apart, the dreams stopped..
The second recurring dream, (which I swear was so vivid that I felt the emotions and saw the faces even when I was daydreaming at school) was a constant repetition of seeing myself trying to explain something to a group of people, and they just couldn’t understand. Instead they laughed and laughed and laughed. The desperation in the dream was truly horrible and I felt so alone, so sad, so ridiculed, so invalidated..I kept trying to explain, they would laugh then I would say ‘yes but listen to me, why won’t you listen to me’.
This last dream sums up my childhood & pretty much my adulthood…My 3 closest family members made me feel alone, unheard, rejected & neglected..
They were all disabled in one way or another, whether narcissistic or epileptic..
I suffered at school, I had no confidence, I found it hard concentrating & daydreamed most of the time about a boy out there that would love me and take me away from my sadness…This unfortunately led to the known ‘love addiction or toxic bonding’ that occurs when you make another person more important than yourself..I didn’t know how to love myself & fill my void, so I looked for it elsewhere…and of course in the wrong people that resembled my ‘family of origin’..
Luckily I am much healthier nowadays and after years of failed relationships, 1 breakdown and many sessions of therapy, I have managed to meet a healthier partner who is now my husband..My parents have still been tormenting me but at least now I finally know everything I need to about their disorder & am starting to distance myself in a healthy way.
My brother is luckily in assisted living and has carers that go in and keep an eye on him. This has been so very helpful but there is always the chance of something going wrong and him not having the support he needs. I dread that day! He also attempted suicide several years ago, and my nightmare of ‘something happening to him’ became a reality on New Year’s Day in 2008 when I found out he had overdosed. It took me a long time to forgive my Dad & his wife for leaving him home alone on New Year’s eve, because they were too embarrassed to take the ‘disabled son’ to a party! They took their 2 year old to the party & left my brother at home with a pizza and didn’t even call him to wish him Happy New Year. In the morning, my Dad called to say that my brother was dizzy like he was drunk & all his epilepsy tablets had gone! I couldn’t understand for the life of me, why my Dad called ME IN ENGLAND, when he was in Greece and not only that, but why ‘AS AN ADULT’ he couldn’t figure out what to do..I screamed at him to take him to the hospital to get his stomach pumped!! I was utterly devastated & felt completely helpless..
My brother is a lot wiser & knowledgeable nowadays and keeps his distance from our mother. He idolizes our Dad however, partly because he misses him as he lives in Greece. Unfortunately we still have to protect my brother from things that will hurt him..He has no idea our Dad tried to kill himself 4 weeks ago, which makes it harder for me too as I can’t share this with my closest family..
I would love to hear from anyone out there that may have similar experiences with a special needs sibling or recurrent dreams..I know there is a lot of you out there with narcissistic parents and have suffered a great deal. I wish there was a ‘quick fix’ for all the pain endured!
Thanks very much for reading, if you actually made it to the end of my ramble..x