I grew up in Portland, Oregon the youngest of four kids. My second oldest brother was always a bit different from other kids. He had an amazing imagination, was a gifted writer of poetry and artist. He also told wonderful made up stories. I used to love to sneak out of the house to go on his paper route with him in the pre-dawn hours. He held me spellbound with tales of the people who lived in the houses we passed. Even with all these qualities he had few if any friends and the kids made fun of him for his size and thick glasses. At age twelve I went to our basement and found all of my brothers fish dead laying in rows on top of the tank. That was the beginning, his behavior spiraled from there. Eventually we went to a group family therapy session which resulted in seeing my dad cry and hearing for the first I time the term “scapegoat.” By then Scott couldn’t live with us anymore. He went first to a group home then to a mental hospital where his condition was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. My broth Scott was 18. I was 13. The neighbor kids when I passed their house would say “there goes one of the crazy Edmonds!” This was the 80’s and nobody knew much about what it was. I sure didn’t. I learned to keep my head down. My brother would look for me at my high school when the mental hospital couldn’t keep him any longer. He didn’t bathe, change his clothes. The kids would say “there’s some guy here tripping on acid!” I found it was amazing how small I could myself pressed inside my locker. The guilt though of hiding from my beloved brother never left me. The look of pity on the school secretary’s face when she would call me to the office to tell me ” your brother was here looking for me” burned into my memory. The system failed my brother and when I was 15 and Scott just 21 he jumped off the Fremont bridge ending his life. He never got the chance to live to be understood. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss him.

4 responses to “Heidi”

  1. aprilsunshine says:

    I know the feeling.. my older sister was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and we were in the same school when her symptoms came to fore. From being a sister i was proud of and told constantly by teachers how i should study as hard as she does, i went to feeling embarrassed of her because all the kids would look at me and make snide comments like Whats wrong with your sister? Your sis is a freak! etc.. i wish now i could’ve fought back but i was 10! so confused cause even i didn’t know what was going on with her and why my “perfect” sister wasn’t so perfect anymore. I wish my family had gone for therapy at that time and explained to me what was happening.. i think my relationship with my sister would’ve been a lot better.

  2. Suz says:

    Heidi and April Sunshine:
    I am so sorry that you and your siblings and families had to suffer so. As if the disease is not enough to bear, the taunting and then the guilt can be almost unbearable. Even the well- meaning folks and relatives can be awful!

    My younger brother suffered from the same disease from the early 80’s to the time of his death 4 years ago. It was agony to see my bright, happy, beautiful little brother, that I adored, slowly change before my eyes. It was witnessing a death of sorts. After the first signs, then the first big episode and diagnosis, I too saw my father cry… this a pain I will never forget.

    I can’t count the number of hospitalizations, homeless shelters, jails, group homes. apartments, State Institutions, etc. that he ended up having to be admitted until I finally was able to get him on on a medicine that helped his symptoms.I had the help of a great doctor. I had to work hard with the courts. It was NOT easy. It took years. It can be done.

    I had many sleepless nights before this happened. Many nights when I did not where he was. Nights when a call would come and he was wandering or even at the worst of times in a drainage pipe. I would go and get him. My parents could not take the stress. Dad had a stroke. Mom a full blown breakdown. Sisters did not want to be part of the process.

    I share this because I did get my brother back. Not like he was. And not without his disease. But with his kind loving heart. His sense of humor, his compassion, his gratitude and love of his family and sports and music and school were all still there. He managed. It is the thing in life I am the most grateful for… Helping him get help! To others reading this: Do not give up on your family members. Keep asking for help. Bang on doors. Keep asking. Do not accept a low level NO.

    Our family was put back together.

    My brother passed away from complications of pneumonia. But before that he had said to me, ” you know, I have a pretty good life. I have everything i need. I don’t have anything to complain about.”

    How many people do you know who can say that? God bless you all!

  3. Heidi says:

    I’m just now seeing these comments. Writing this was very cathartic for me. Thank you both for the support and well wishes. It’s comforting to read other peoples stories and remove the stigma of mental illness.

  4. Chris says:

    Very touching to read. I have always said that mental illness is a family disease – it affects everyone in the family.
    My younger sister was brilliant in high school – star basketball player and had an excellent career which all ended.
    She is no longer the person I knew and this is like mourning a death of your sister & best friend. I wish I could help her – but have not been able!

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