My brother Bubba, or as I have renamed him recently, BJ, has a sizable mental issue that has impacted my family for about forty years now.
My mom and dad would tell stories from when he was a tiny baby. He would bite and throw tantrums, refuse to do what he was told, and always want to be the center of attention, no matter the cost. There were home movies we used to watch where one of my brothers would attempt to do something for my dad and his camera and BJ would just flip out and throw them to the ground or something similar.
Talking with my mom recently, I learned that things were incredibly hard for her almost at all times. There are definitely things that I recall where I question my parents’ judgment, but years ago, around the time Cisco was born, I decided to make peace with both of them. That meant no longer holding those old transgressions against them. It worked out too, because I was able to come from a place of understanding with my mom, and even though what she and my father back then did wasn’t right, it made me look at the situation objectively.
Over the past two years, I have spoken with a number of therapists to try to get past some issues in my own life that popped up when I was with Francisco’s mother. We almost always come back to my brothers. The compulsive lying, the smear campaigns, and everything else always seem to draw light on the fears and insecurities I faced as a child.
We didn’t have guidance back then. It was mainly my grandmother, or my Nana, trying to referee four boys. She was old and in chemotherapy. Not just that, but she loved all of us, and even though BJ had his issues, she still loved him unconditionally. That is always something I think back on. My Nana had a very checkered past when my mother tells me portions of it, but she was the most loving grandmother you would ever find, and I think when she ended up passing, it left something empty inside of BJ. I know it did with me.
From there, things just snowballed. BJ always had to be the center of attention, and he always had to have his problems at the forefront of the family. My other brothers didn’t get a fair shake either. Also, with me being the youngest and smallest, BJ always had a punching bag.
It wasn’t just me either. We had pets that were killed or maimed. I know for a fact one of them was kicked by BJ, right on its spine, like a football, but nothing ever came of these instances. My parents at this point were trying their best to salvage their marriage. My father had demons that prevented him from being a decent husband, and human being for that matter, and I suspect that left an impression on the four boys, myself included.
BJ was a monster. He was one of those that broke something and then swore that it was an accident, all the while bragging about tricking the ones he duped just hours later, sometimes minutes. It was exhausting. You never had a chance to come up for air.
The worst thing is that BJ had a wife who was uber-promiscuous. She actually even tried to have an affair with me, at 15 no less. The main problem that stemmed from that was that BJ somehow twisted that narrative into me having an affair with her. Even my other brothers participated in the smear campaign. The reason I can write about it now is that I don’t feel ashamed. I was a young boy, and his wife was a grown woman. Not just that, but my brother’s job was to protect me at that age. There was no protection inside that house. Ask anybody in your personal life if you would vilify someone who was a victim of sexual abuse like that. I think you would be hard-pressed to find that no one would want to.
When BJ and I split paths, that was the main story that he spread around to our social circles. What is worse is that even some friends picked up on that. But now I don’t care. I have no qualms over what happened back then. I clearly should have been cared for. BJ allowed a predator to enter our house and turned a blind eye when it came time to protect us from her. That’s the sum of the story.
It sucked to hear other people in my life pointing to traumatic moments in my childhood and making light of it, or even telling me that I was in the wrong, but that’s life. Those people were never my friends to begin with, and looking back on it now, I dodged a huge bullet with having anyone like that around my son.
I had the urge to write this piece because it’s freeing to talk about these things without BJ’s presence. He will never have a role in my life, and that is something I smile about every single day that dawns on me. Last winter we had our FINAL falling out, along with my other brother, Matt, which is another story, and when the dust settled, I was so happy. Not because I lost a brother, but because I didn’t feel any pain and I realized that I had finally moved past it. I had finally moved past BJ being in my life.
My current therapist swears that BJ has BPD, which is Borderline Personality Disorder. Here are some traits of people who suffer from BPD:
Signs and symptoms may include:
- An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection.
- A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person doesn’t care enough or is cruel.
- Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values, and seeing yourself as bad or as if you don’t exist at all.
- Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours.
- Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship.
- Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection.
- Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety.
- Ongoing feelings of emptiness.
- Inappropriate, intense anger, such as frequently losing your temper, being sarcastic or bitter, or having physical fights.
You could check each and every one of those boxes for him. You can find more information on BPD here. It’s a fascinating disease, and I suggest if you suspect someone in your life deals with this that you encourage them to seek immediate attention. They may not go through with it, but at least you are helping them.
I don’t even feel anger or malice toward BJ. When his odd messages and childish interactions come across my screen, I usually just laugh now. There is nothing to be scared of. BJ also has his own hell he is dealing with, and adding to that is just cruel. He will most likely live this way for the rest of his life, and at least I don’t have to go down that route. I have my friends, I have my family, and I have my writing. Things couldn’t be better at this moment.