I sat in the chair right next to the doctor’s desk. Head down, fidgeting with my nails as I waited for the doctor to start her evaluation.
She pulled up my file on her computer. She talked out loud, as if I wasn’t sitting right next to her desk, able to hear her.
Patient’s mother is a sociopath.
That was the first time I heard it out loud. I always knew it, and I knew other people knew it, too. But to hear it spoken like that shook me in a kind of way I can’t explain.
My mother, a sociopath. The leading sentence in my file, the history of me. It was in my record now. There was something about the permanence of that statement that was relieving to me. Someone finally got it. Someone finally saw my mother for who she was. Someone finally acknowledged how she has affected me.
The doctor continued to read out loud, reading each sentence and feeling the need to confirm everything it said before moving on. I didn’t really understand why I had to talk about things that were already included in my record. You were physically and sexually abused by your mother? She would burn you? Why did she do that? Were you sexually abused by your father?
Why does it matter? This information is already available. Just stop. Don’t ask me to go there. Don’t make me relive it all again. How am I supposed to know why my mother was the way she was? How am I supposed to know why she hurt me? It was like she was looking for some kind of reason, for something I must have done to cause it all.
But that wasn’t what pushed me over the edge.
The mother is currently in a relationship with her son.
I didn’t realize that was in my history. A bit shocking, but I dealt with it. Until the doctor started asking questions.
Are you in contact with your brother?
No. I haven’t spoken to him or my family since I ran away.
Why aren’t you speaking to him?
Because he lives with my mother. You know, the woman I ran away from.
I still don’t understand why you haven’t contacted him.
Because I’m not sacrificing my safety for him.
Her persistence in questioning aggravated me. She was making me feel bad for not reaching out to my brother, as if she thought I had some obligation to save him from my mother, to protect him from her. What a horrible person I must be to know that she’s still hurting him and to do nothing to help him.
My choices in life are mine. I chose to run away. By myself. I live with that decision every day. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about helping him before I ran. I wanted to save them all. My father, my brother, and I. But I couldn’t do it. I knew if either of them found out what I was planning, they would tell her and I would be punished in the worst way.
My brother lived in denial for too long. He was too complacent with the life she made him live. I’m not sure he saw her for who she really was. I’m not sure he fully understood what she had been doing was wrong.
He had his brief moments of clarity. I remember sitting next to him one day, myself an outwardly angry teenager, himself an inwardly angry 20-something. He saw the cuts on my arms. He turned to me, lifted his sleeve, and said to me I’m hurting, too.
In that brief moment, there was a connection between us. A mutual understanding of the pain we both endured. Yet neither of us were able to put words to it. It was never spoken about again. He went on like nothing was wrong. I went on believing that both of us were hopeless. That was the one and only time I felt connected to him.
After I ran away, I heard bits and pieces of what happened to my family after I left. I know my brother struggled. He barely left the house. People tried to get through to him. At times, he wanted to leave her, but he felt trapped, both physically and financially.
I knew that feeling. The feeling of being trapped. It’s what I felt up until the day I finally ran away. I wanted him to know the feeling of freedom. I wanted him to experience life without our mother. But I couldn’t help him. I could barely help myself.
It took me a long time to forgive myself for not saving him, yet those guilty feelings still come back every October, around the time of his birthday. I think about what he must be going through. I worry about him giving up on his life. I wonder what his life would be like if I had just saved both of us instead of just me.
But I am not my brother’s keeper. It wasn’t and still isn’t my responsibility to save him. He’s an adult. He has choices. While it’s not his choice to get hurt, it is his choice to stay. I can’t make him see reality. I can’t pull him by the leg and drag him away. I can’t protect him from my mother.
I hope my brother finds peace one day. But I cannot be his savior.