His entrance into this world gave no clue to his intense uniqueness, or how his very existence would profoundly change our lives. He views his uniqueness as a constant burden to those of us who deeply love him. The truth is that even the worst day with him is a billion times better than a single day without him.
He was unique from the start. A beautiful baby boy with chocolate-colored eyes. So loving, and happy. He literally beamed when you spoke to him. He would lie flat on his back, and simultaneously lift both legs up, and then slam them both back down out of sheer excitement. I had never (and still have not) seen any other baby respond to interaction that way. I am 25 years older than my baby brother. My Mom, and I actually found out we were both pregnant at the same time. My first child and Mom’s fourth. Although she is not my biological mother, she is very much my mother. We are just like that movie with Steve Martin, and Diane Keaton.
Looking back now I realize that there were many signs along the way regarding his developmental stages. Things like the unusual way he would scoot along his backside instead of crawling, significantly delayed fine motor skills, his very unusual way of socializing with his peers. I think we all dismissed these characteristics as him being a lot more sheltered, and spoiled by our much older parents. Our other two siblings were in high school when the baby came along so in many ways he was like an only child.
He was pretty incredible in other ways. His memory for details was simply unmatched. If he was interested in a particular subject (trains, garbage trucks, sports team mascots,geography, and music on M-T.V.) His extensive knowledge was also unmatched! His love of these particular subjects made him oblivious to the fact that he would speak about them for hours on end never noticing that his listeners were unable to share his enthusiasms to the same extent. He was equally oblivious to other emotional ques which in turn made it extremely difficult to fit into social situations.
This was the early 90’s, and very little was known about Asperger’s Autism, so our brother missed out on the kind of therapy that children receive at a very early age today with this diagnosis. He spent his childhood always on the outside looking in desperately wanting to fit in and always unable to do so. It was so hard to watch, and we were completely at a loss on what to do to help him. This led to him being very isolated all through middle, and high school. The immense toll on his self-esteem increased on a daily basis.
Then at the age of 17 new, and even more confusing behaviors began to take place. We thought that he may have been drinking/drugging. He was extremely angry punching holes into doors, kicking his foot through walls. He seemed to be quite paranoid particularly towards my sister and I. He had even taken a metal object and scratched our faces out of a family photo. He remained in a constant state of agitation. After having him tested for substance abuse another doctor suggested it was time to see a psychiatrist.
We could clearly see that he was in emotional pain, and immediately made the appointment. It was sadly the first thing we had done correctly for our brother. We stumbled upon an excellent doctor who had him tested in a variety of ways. Our brother’s primary diagnosis is schizoaffective disorder this is closely related to schizophrenia except for the fact that our brother does not hear voices. He does experience bouts of delusional thinking, extreme anxiety, and paranoia. This disorder is sometimes referred to as the “college disease,” because it seems to exhibit its symptoms around the age of young adulthood around the end of high school, and the beginning of college. His secondary diagnosis is Asperger’s Autism.
His doctor put him on the lowest possible doses of medication, and we immediately saw improvement. His doctor explained that this condition can not be cured by can be continually managed, and since he would have to take this medication the rest of his life it would be best to begin with the lowest dosage increasing slowly as needed. His diagnosis was both a blessing, and devastating to us. We grieve for his circumstance, but feel relief that we can manage his symptoms to a large degree.
My brother views his struggles with his mental illness as a burden to the rest of us. We are unable to convince him otherwise. This is absolute heart-break for us. He can not understand my level of admiration for the way he is, and has handled his life circumstance. He is not my burden in this life. He is my example, my teacher, and he is irreplaceable. 😉