Day 8 with Takkin

Back CameraI’m only human. But I’ve been trying my absolute hardest to be better than only human. I think my exhaustion has caught up with me and patience is wearing thin.

Exhibit A – Text to my dad: I don’t know what the fuck to do with this kid. I’ve taken him out all day everyday and it’s never enough. He doesn’t want to be at home but any suggestion I made he says no.

Exhibit B – Death wish: We drove around for hours, including a trip to one bowling alley, which was deemed to crowded, and another bowling alley, which was allegedly even more crowded. This sucks, he said. There’s people everywhere. There were less than three cars in each bowling alley’s parking lots. I got back on the highway and it took all the strength I had not to drive us straight into the guard rail. Maybe that will take up some time, I thought, what with the ambulance coming, a trip to the hospital, etc. Or, maybe better yet, we’d both die and not have to deal with this situation anymore.

Exhibit C – Cry #3: We finally ended up at my friends’ house to visit their family for a little bit before his appointment with his caseworker. He was grumpy and I was trying to be bright and cheerful to get him out of his funk. We parked at their house and he got out of the car as I grabbed my phone and bag. “Well,” he snapped at me. “Are you coming?” I stood and looked at him–he on the sidewalk, me next to the car. I was frozen in place because I knew if I made even a micro-movement, I would lunge at him. Because he was rude. Because I had given up every second of every day for a week to him. Because he got everything he wanted all the time or else he’d throw a tantrum. But Takkin sensed something explosive in me, and softened a bit. “Are you ready to go inside sister?” I broke from my trance and we rang the doorbell together. As soon as I saw my friends, they hugged me, and I started crying because I never wanted to let go. It all of a sudden dawned on me how much I needed even a modicum of support, of which I’d had none this whole week. I wanted to collapse. Those hugs brought me back to life.

I chatted with my friends and played a little with their kids while Takkin talked and laughed and seemed to enjoy being there. Pretty soon it was time for us to leave for his appointment with his caseworker. “They’re so nice,” he said as we got into the car. His mood was completely different; a true Jekyll and Hyde situation if ever there was one.

“I haven’t seen him like this in a long time,” said his caseworker a few minutes into his session. It’s true: he was laughing and joking and in great spirits. It was a complete turnaround from the week before where he’d been sullen and agitated, waiting for my father to depart on his trip. “What is different?” his caseworker asked. I told her about the increase in medication, the consistent schedule we had been on, the help from the tutors, the mini trips we’d taken, and the activities I’d been doing with him.

“You’re not moving back from Chicago…right?” the caseworker asked.

The million dollar question.

If I moved back from Chicago, my life would no longer be my own. I would be sucked into the vortex that is Takkin’s life–organizing appointments and meetings, keeping a schedule for him, caring for him, coaxing him out into public. I’d be working two full-time jobs: managing editor and keeper of my brother.

I smiled weakly and shook my head no. The caseworker nodded; I’m sure she’d seen that sad smile many times before. But we both know what will happen come Friday when I get on a plane back to O’Hare and my mom comes to take over his care. All the good I’ve done, all the schedules and consistency I’ve provided, all the intake assessments and forms I’ve followed through on will swiftly disappear. As I was making dinner, Takkin called my mom and was rude and aggressive with her on the phone. He hung up and I recommended he text her and apologize for acting that way. He did. She asked him what we were planning on doing tonight, and he said maybe watch a movie. You should watch a funny movie, she texted back. You should watch “La Chevre.”

La Chevre.
A sophisticated French movie.
With subtitles.
And complex themes.
Is what she recommended.
For her developmentally delayed, ADHD son.

Has she ever even met her son????????

For all the times I complain and get annoyed with Takkin, say things like he always gets what he wants and we all have to serve him and he’s just spoiled, it’s little comments like “La Chevre” that make me realize, this poor kid has got so few competent people working on his behalf. Don’t get me wrong, he is loved, but unfortunately most of those people are completely inept and out of touch with reality and can’t seem to make the right choices that will serve his best interests in the long-run.

He doesn’t always get what he wants; he never gets what he wants when it means something real.
We aren’t all serving him; we’re just barely tending to his most basic human needs, if that.
He isn’t spoiled; he was never given the tools to grow into a reasonable person.

When we were visiting my friends and their two children this afternoon, I saw how the parents interacted with the kids. They were kind and loving, but firm with boundaries and rules. Their house was filled with warmth and color and sounds of laughter. I remember none of that from our childhoods.

Takkin was always going to be born with developmental delay; he was always going to have mental illness set in during his early 20s–these things are genetic, an inevitability, there was no changing that. But things didn’t have to turn out this way for him, he had a chance to live a happy, healthy, normal-ish life.

That window is closing, and I feel like I might be the only one keeping a sliver of it open. And when the weight of that window gets to be too much… will I find some deep well of strength I didn’t know I had, or will I let it slam shut and walk away?

I think I know the answer. But I’m too scared to say it aloud.


Family, Mental Health

Day 7 with Takkin

I used to volunteer in the Alzheimer’s Care Unit of a retirement home. Each guest had their own IMG_2886special needs–there was no one-size fits all way of attending to those needs or mollifying the eruptions of confusion, sorrow, or anger that would often arise out of nowhere. One man liked to be sung too–old Americana tunes. One woman would calm down and get very docile when you retold the plots of TV shows like the Brady Bunch or Leave It to Beaver, as though the idyllic tales were stories from her own past.

I will never forget one old French lady with no teeth. She would scream and scream and scream until someone held her hand and stroked it. And then, like magic, she would lay back in her seat, complete serenity and peace overtaking her face. Her body would relax, her screams would dissipate into soft whimpers, and her eyes would shut as she’d dream of some better time, some better place.

Takkin always wants to hold hands, with everyone. He holds my hands when we’re walking into an unknown area and he is frightened there may be too many people around. He holds my hands when he’s telling me how much he loves me. He holds my hand in the car as I’m driving. I am always the one to let go first. And then he reaches back out again.

“Why don’t you want to go in public places?” I asked him today.
“Because I don’t want to get in trouble.”
“Why would you get into trouble?”
“Because I will touch someone and they don’t want to be touched.”
“Then don’t touch them.”
“I … can’t.”

Takkin went on to tell me that if strangers allowed him to high-five them, or shake hands with them, or embrace them, or hold hands, he’d feel better about being in public. So I’ve been thinking about touch.

He doesn’t touch anyone; there are so few people who hug him or kiss him or stroke his cheek. He didn’t even have much of that when he was an infant. It soothes him, it helps him regain a sense of himself. When he is feeling unmoored, someone’s touch shores him back up. When he reaches for your hand, or mine, or his, or hers, he is asking “show that you are here for me, that I am not alone, that I am worth being loved.” But it’s not up to strangers to provide that to him. It’s up to the one’s who love him. And we’ve somehow gravely failed him.

I recoiled from his touch today. It was just too much–there had been too many hand holdings, too many kisses on the cheek and head, too many hugs, it was all starting to feel… icky. And overwhelming; like with every touch, some phantom energy was being sucked from me. He sensed my half reticence/half disgust, even though it was a microfacial expression at most. But the damage was done. “Fine. You hate me. You don’t even want to be here. You are mean. Forget you. I don’t like you. Mean sister. Bad sister. I’m leaving. No one likes me. Go to Iran.” I tried to give him a high five but he saw right through it, so instead I gave him some time alone. Fifteen minutes later all was forgotten and he kissed me on the forehead and laid his head on my shoulder.

At the retirement home, as soon as I’d let go of that French lady’s hand, she’d take a deep breath and scream her high-pitched screams as though she was being buried alive. Takkin’s screams aren’t audible; they are happening within. But they are just as loud, just as unsettling, and only one thing abates them–the one thing he can only rarely have.


Day 6 with Takkin

B875E79B-D1A9-4D18-A740-8E7D9C8DAF4FI awoke this morning to the pouring rain and a pit in my stomach.


Which meant I had about 14 hours of one-on-one time with Takkin, nonstop. I decided, despite the rain, to head 2.5 hours down south to Charlottesville to visit my alma mater, UVA, and my friend Michael. That was the pretense anyway, the reality was that 5-6 hours in the car would kill about half the day and the rest… well, I’d figure it out.

We grabbed a cup of coffee and started off on the trip, stopping every 20 minutes or so to get a drink or go to the bathroom. Takkin was in good spirits and kept pointing out which cars he liked, his encyclopedic knowledge of makes and models astounding me as it always did. We had hooked up my iPhone to the bluetooth in the car and were listening to a playlist I’d made. Every time an Avett Brothers song came on, he turned up the volume and started swaying to the music. I smiled to myself when I heard the twangy folk guitar and saw my brother singing along off key and with his own made-up words.

As we neared Charlottesville, the rain let up and the sun came out. By the time we reached Michael’s house in the mountains, it was 85 degrees and beautiful outside. Michael gave us a tour of his property, we picked some tiny peaches off his peach tree, sat on the porch and talked, and left after 45 minutes because Takkin was getting antsy.

We went up to a scenic overlook and took a selfie together, the valley below. There were people around and that made him anxious but he held my hand and powered through the anxiety because he knew I wanted a picture of the two of us to commemorate our day together.

On our way out of Charlottesville, we took a quick drive through the Grounds at UVA. I pointed out my old dorm and other houses where friends had lived. I showed him one of the buildings that all my English classes were held at. We stopped in front of the amphitheater and I ran toward The Lawn to take a picture of the Rotunda and a statue of Thomas Jefferson. All of it brought back so many fond memories.

We passed some old cars on the side of Route 29 and Takkin got so excited. “Look at those,” he said and pointed . “Can we go look at them?” I said sure, and made a u-turn. We pulled into the lot with the garage and the classic cars and we both got out to take pictures. Takkin walked into the office before I could stop him but by the time I got in there to shoo him out, he’d made fast friends with the proprietor who was shaking his hand and laughing along with him and telling him where each of the cars came from. We eventually hopped back in our car and headed home. “Thank you for stopping, sister,” he said.

It was a lovely day.

Then the rain started. The farther north we got, the heavier and harder it poured. And the deeper I went into my own thoughts. Takkin had never gotten his license; he’d never drive a car. He hadn’t gone to college, or had true friends who lived in dorms nearby. He would never see the Avett Brothers in concert, or go to any concert at all.

He would never kiss a girl. He would never stand across the aisle from the woman he was about to marry. He would never hold his newborn baby. There were too many nevers, and my mind was flooded with them as the clouds coalesced and the rain beat down. It was dark. Everything was dark.

He would never have a life like you and I have.

Cry #2.



Day 5 with Takkin


Welp, the dinner party is off. And Cry #1 of 5 has commenced.

I had to cancel an hour beforehand because Takkin is a monster. I am sitting at my grandmother’s house shaking as I write these words because I just got two remote controls thrown at my head and was yelled at for 10 minutes: “Fuck you, you stupid sister,” “Bitch, get the hell out of here,” “You’re just a fucking asshole.” “Get the hell out, leave.” He told me to cancel the dinner party so I did, and I left, as soon as I pulled the baked brownies out of the oven, which I am certain he will eat the entirety of by the time I get back. I offered him an Ativan and he threw it in my face. I was told by the people who experience this daily that leaving is the thing to do.

So, here I am at my grandmother’s house as she rattles off ridiculous ideas about taking him out or her coming over, thinking these attempts to give him what he wants will soothe him in some way.

News flash: the kid doesn’t know what the fuck he wants.

And therein lies the problem. He doesn’t want to be home because he’s bored. He doesn’t want to be out because he’s scared. He goes out anyways sometimes for hours with his tutors just driving around and going to get sodas and then comes home and is immediately bored again. He doesn’t want to play cards, or help me bake brownies, or watch tv, or play Xbox. He just wants to bitch and grumble and moan about his MOTHERFUCKING PHONES. I can’t, I just can’t, I can’t do this. I am cracking.

And the worst part is that he’s not a monster. If I could hate him, everything would be easier. But I opposite of hate him–the farthest end of the spectrum from hate. Which is why I cry, which is why I always go back, which is why 20 minutes from now I will be sitting on the couch playing blackjack with him as though nothing happened. Because he has already forgotten, even though I will never forget because each incident chips away at you until you are a cracked shell of yourself with nothing left to give. He has drained the life out of me and I am a prisoner these 10 days.

I knew we wouldn’t get along incident-free my entire stay, I anticipated this exact situation, but it is jarring still. He has no way of tempering himself or his moods. And he is too low IQ to learn. I might be fucked for 10 days, but I am not the tragedy. I’d rather have a million remotes thrown at my head than to be living inside his.

Pray for us both, friends. But keep your hands folded and your head bent over a lot longer for him.


Day 4 with Takkin

IMG_2850I managed to get away for a few hours today to see some coworkers and then visit my 90 year old grandmother. She was sitting up in bed, her legs sticking out of her torso like toothpicks. I kissed her once on each cheek and sat down next to her so we could chat for an hour before I had to take her to the the doctor. In Farsi: “How’s everything going with Takkin? Has he done anything bad? It’s not his fault you know. He can’t control himself.” I tried to respond to her as best I could in my broken Farsi, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain all the nuances and intricacies of his situation. Instead of telling her that yes, he can’t control himself to some extent but he’s also got behavioral problems that stem all the way from his early childhood and two completely inept parents who made the exact wrong choices at the exact wrong times every step of the way, I said “Yes, it’s hard for him to control himself but… he can a little.” The language barrier was deeply frustrating.

When I got home, Takkin was with his tutor Connor, and was flipping out because two of his five phones weren’t working–or something like that. I honestly couldn’t even tell you what the problem was, something having to do with sim cards or extra phone numbers, or not enough phone numbers, or god knows what. It’s always something with phones. We finally managed to get it sorted, and he calmed down a little. I’ve always believed that Tak’s obsession with phones is a result of his inability to clearly communicate what is going on in his heart and mind. He can’t express himself because his cognitive impairment doesn’t allow him to and he wants so badly to get his ideas and thoughts across. When he freaks out over his phones, he’s actually freaking out because of some internal turmoil that no one can understand because his words come out garbled and nonsensical. It breaks my heart.

We headed out to see his psychiatrist, and in the parking lot Takkin started yelling at some young guy getting out of his car. “What the fuck are you looking at?” he screamed. The guy wasn’t even looking at him. I quickly grabbed his hands while he continued cursing and yelling and flipping the guy off and I dragged him to the car. Why Takkin, why? He attempted to explain to me who the guy was; what I gathered was that there had been an altercation between the two of them before. I couldn’t tell much more beyond that. He was agitated the entire rest of the way there and throughout his doctor’s appointment. He was finally mollified when we went through the McDonald’s drive-thru and he was able to eat. Sometimes I can’t help but liken him to an infant–he throws a tantrum when he’s hungry; he throws a tantrum when he has to pee but can’t get to the bathroom; he throws a tantrum when he doesn’t get every single little thing he wants or when things don’t go as he wants them to go.

He was bored when we got home, so I interviewed him to kill some time:

An Interview with Takkin

Q: How was your day?
A: So-so because of not doing fun with Reem [another tutor], all we did was go to look at boats at GW and then come to her house and read

Q: Besides Reem what did you do today?
A: In the morning time me and my sister went and had coffee and came back here with a sandwich, ate the breakfast, Reem calls and I go down and see some boats at GW Parkway. Next Connor came, Reem brought me back and delivered me to Connor. Connor and I just moped around the house while sister was doing her thing. It was fun, then we went to the doctor and came back home and ate a delicious sandwich that Tara bought from McDonald’s for her brother. But I’m a little sad about dad he’s not here but I’m still having fun times with my sister. It’s good. I guess the same thing is gonna happen tomorrow.

Q: Why are you sad dad isn’t here?
A: Mostly because he’s a father to me and I look up to him, I look up to my father and my dad, he’s a doll to me and I like spending time with him. I can talk to him on the phone, that’s easy. I’m happy he’s in a good place with his family and get quality time with my sister. My sister tolerates me for being a good son, I mean brother.

Q: If you could do anything in the world right now, what would it be?
A: Work with mobile phones or cars. If I had an occupation, I’d do either cell phones or cars, either/or because I like both of them easily, like take apart of fix a phone.

Q: What do you think about all the medication you have to take?
A: So-so, it’s helping. It’s doing some work but not a lot of work. Because sometimes I feel like I have the urge of doing something to someone because they’re just random people on the street. Your brother doesn’t want to be a homeless person on the outside. That I’m thankful that I have a home and a sister and my family next to me instead of being homeless. Little bit worried about being homeless.


At my grandmother’s house this afternoon, I tried to talk about Chicago and about my boyfriend and about politics and about her. We’d spend a minute or two on those topics, but the conversation always found its way back to Takkin. The language led us there, like it always does. I wish that language would help us find a way out.

Takkin doesn’t have to worry about being homeless. When everyone else is dead and gone, I’ll still be here, still keeping track of his meds, still setting up appointments, still trying to decipher “I’m more happy to be with sister than side effects.”


Family, Food, Mental Health

Day 3 with Takkin

IMG_2846Time is an interesting thing. It goes fast and slow. It creeps up on you, and then recedes, slinks away into the shadows. Time is a flat circle. Nah, just playin’. But time sure is a son-of-a-bitch. For one thing, my time in Virginia feels never-ending.

We spent almost the entire day out. Takkin didn’t have any “tutors” today, so it was just me and him. We got coffee, I took him to get a haircut, then headed to Hartwood Foundation for an intake assessment.

Hartwood Foundation is a respite home that provides services to people like Takkin and their families. One can stay in the home for up to 21 days to allow for the caretakers to have a break and the individuals with mental health problems to sort of reset and spend time with others like themselves. They also offer drop-in services, where service providers come to the home and help the individuals with things like going out into the community, learning to cook and clean, balancing budgets, and other activities meant to promote health and safety. In order to qualify for this type of help, we first had to have an intake assessment. I knew my parents could never convince Takkin to go, so I gave it a shot, and amazingly enough, he went.

We were there for an hour, and in that hour, he drank 5 bottles of water and went to the bathroom every 10 minutes. He stood up and walked around the living room every 7 seconds. He shook hands with his caseworker 16 times. And I was on the verge of tears thrice. Numbers. Time. Timing. Sometimes they are small and sometimes they are big.

The intake specialists asked a million questions, ranging from “what’s your daily routine?” to “do you ever fall down?” to “what kinds of foods do you like to eat?” He answered as best he could, and deferred to me when he could not find the words. Finally: what’s your diagnosis. A term he was unfamiliar with. So I stepped in and tried, though I was unsure of the answer too, as are his parents, as are his caseworkers, as are his doctors.

Bipolar. OCD. Anxiety. ADHD. Developmental delay.

With each passing one, the world around me moved in slower and slower motion. I saw the women sitting around the table set their pens down and pause taking notes, their mouths growing ever more agape as the severity of his situation dawned on them, became more real. The fidgeting was bad enough, the retelling of every encounter with the police, the sad truth that he has no interests and can’t be at home because he gets bored but can’t be outside because he has severe agoraphobia–but this panoply of prognoses was too much for even these trained professionals.

And then it was my turn to be overwhelmed. They passed over 20 sheets of paper that needed to be filled in, they told me he needed a TB test, doctor’s directives, a copy of his prescriptions, this, that, the other, and more. I knew I couldn’t get it all done in the 10 days I am here. And I know if I don’t do it, no one else will. So here we are. It was all for naught. And we are stuck forever in the same cycle of day-in and day-out nothingness.

After the intake assessment, we went to Taco Bell for lunch, and then to my friend Scott’s house. Takkin shoveled the tacos into his mouth and after less than an hour said he couldn’t stay anymore and wanted to go home. On the car ride he expressed frustration about going to the house and how he was going to be bored and what was there to do there anyway. I am Sisyphus. He is the boulder. The mountain is each day. And I am so very tired.

We had dinner at my uncle’s and now we are home again. But first we stopped for ice cream at an empty quick mart. Well, it was initially empty. As soon as he got out of the car, a man walked by and Takkin fist-bumped him. The man obliged but walked away looking perplexed and uncomfortable. At that moment, I wanted to drive away, so far from there, so, so far away, and forget I ever had a family at all.

We were almost home when he said he had to pee even though I told him to pee at my uncle’s. “I’m peeing myself,” he said. And then he did, a little. And I am not even phased. Because in time he can change his pants. A small and simple thing like urine does not upset me when there are so many worse things to shed liquid over.

This morning, on our way to his haircut, we decided to take a detour and drive past two of our old houses–ones we lived in when Takkin was in his early adolescence up to about 20. I call it “the time before.” He rambled on about old friends, about taking the bus to different programs and the data entry and Trader Joe’s jobs he had during that time; he recalled living in a home with his mother, living in a home with his father, and our old dog Tiger. He remembered all the things about his past life, before his illness set in. The time before.

And I wondered–am still wondering now–how can time stab you in the back like this Tak?



Day 2 with Takkin

He doesn’t IMG_0015ever stop talking. An incessant stream of words come out of his mouth with hardly a breath in between. He talks to me, he calls random people (like my grandmother’s 90 year old friends), he says hello how are you have a good night to people on the street–even it it’s the middle of the day. It’s this word vomit that makes me realize he has zero control over this, it’s a compulsion; one of the many manifestations of his OCD.

We walked into the elevator in the apartment building this evening and before we got to the second floor to go to our apartment, the elevator stopped at 1. “Oh no,” he whispered, because he knew he wasn’t going to be able to stop himself from touching and talking to whoever set foot in there. And of course, he wasn’t able to stop himself, no matter how tightly I held his hand and how many reminders of “personal space, Tak, personal space” I gave him. “Hello,” he said. “How are you sir. How is it going? Have a good night. Take care. See you soon. Thank you, sir. Goodnight. See you later.” It’s nonstop. Just… just nonstop. Luckily this trio of people were kind; not everyone is. And I don’t blame those people. Most people don’t want a random stranger embracing them, or even giving them a high five, or saying a million words to them as they walk by. But this is what gets us in trouble. When people don’t engage with Takkin, he feels completely slighted and then lashes out. He’s scared to go in public because he knows he can’t control his compulsive behavior and is worried about how he’ll react. That’s the strange and interesting thing–he’s fairly aware of his behavior, but this awareness does not yield self-control at all.

We had a pretty good day overall: we got coffee in the morning, did some reading and writing, his “tutor” came, we made lunch and did some cleaning, I was able to coax him to go to my grandmother’s for dinner, and then we finished the night by playing some basketball on a nearby court and driving around a little. At my grandmother’s house he was getting louder and louder, talking faster and faster, fidgeting more than usual. I asked him if he wanted an Ativan to calm his nerves; he did. “Am I getting antsy?” he asked. I nodded. He gladly took the pill. This, combined with the three other medications he takes every day, seem to at least keep some of the demons at bay.

Together, we wrote an essay which he emailed to numerous members of my family, including my mom: Takkin should respect his mother for all the things she does for him. Glad his sister is in town. We are having a party together. Tak and sissy are having a play day to drive to UVA and bowling in Leesburg. We have a few appointments together to go to which I will attend to with sister. Also have fun walks with sister and brother Takkin.

I wonder how his brain works. I wonder what goes through it, how he makes the decisions he does, if he’s even making decisions as opposed to just following his urges. I think it’s almost always the latter. He does the strangest things sometimes: no matter how many times I tell him, he sits at a diagonal across from his breakfast plate and spills food everywhere; he pours water in Diet Coke and drinks that; he’ll forget to put on one sock and his shirts are often backwards; he waits in front of the elevator and as it’s closing, he’ll push the doors together (which makes me cringe because I am certain one of these days his fingers will get caught); he mixes up languages and will throw in French, Spanish, and Farsi words when speaking to complete strangers who understand nothing he’s saying; he wakes up at 4 AM to eat something, then goes back to bed for a few more hours; he talks so loudly on the phone that neighbors knock on the door and ask him to quiet down. There are so many things, and each thing is a reminder to me that something in his brain is slightly askew. It’s like the wires weren’t connected correctly, and so everything is just…off.

And then, out of nowhere, he’ll do something completely normal. Tonight he wanted to show me something but wouldn’t tell me what it was. We got in the car and he navigated us to an adjacent town. He directed me perfectly, telling me when to turn right and left and which streets to take. Eventually we ended up in a neighborhood and he pointed to the road and said, “Look!” And there was an entire street and driveway filled with dozens of the same make and model car: an old Saab convertible. It was the funniest, most random thing. “Isn’t that hilarious?” he asked.

And it actually really was.

Family, Mental Health

Day 1 with Takkin

I arrived at 8:30 this morning and was greeted by my dad and brother at the airport, which w176836317-612x612as somewhat shocking since my dad was supposed to be on a plane to Iran. His flight last night had gotten canceled. He’s leaving tonight, fingers crossed, since Takkin seems to be much worse around him and my mother than he is with just me. In fact, there was a big to-do last night when my dad got back from the airport. Takkin got angry—for god knows what reason—and slammed a glass against the counter; it shattered to pieces. He then hit my mom on the back, all while yelling obscenities at everyone. Today seemed a little calmer though he is always amped up and antsy; he can’t sit still for even half a second.

One of his “tutors” (really just a companion who spends time with him and gives my dad a break for a few hours a day) came and picked him up and they went to play basketball or go on a hike. Takkin called my dad and I approximately 20 times in 1.5 hours to tell us the park was too crowded, the hike was too crowded, the road was too crowded. They came back to the apartment and attempted to play Xbox. But I was pleasantly surprised that Takkin stayed with him as long as he did.

Luckily we immediately had an appointment with his caseworker so he was busy all afternoon. He and I drove to the community services board center where his caseworker and psychiatrist work, and we met with her for about an hour. They talked about feelings, and the incident from the night before. She encouraged him to try and get rid of one of the five phones he is currently carrying around. She went over the agreements they made about him not touching walls, not touching other people, and not acting aggressively. “Things have been going kind of downhill Tak,” she said. “Why do you think that is.” He got up and reenacted last night’s events and said some things about needing to be respectful. He put his head in his hands and said he did a bad thing and was sorry and tried to apologize to mom.

An interesting thing happened. His caseworker did an exercise with him. She asked him to identify his feelings in a given situation. At first he didn’t really understand the prompt but then he caught on when she gave some examples.

“How do you feel when your sister comes to town?”
“How do you feel when you’re with your tutors?”
“How do you feel when you get to eat pizza?”
“How do you feel when Mom comes to visit?”

He backtracked. And changed his answer to “dislike.” But it was already out there. And I could see the years of abandonment had gotten him to this point. And he went on to talk about how much he disliked her husband because he wouldn’t interact and was withdrawn. But I was somewhat disappointed his caseworker didn’t probe further on that subject. She went on to ask one final feelings question: “How does it feel when dad is leaving on a trip?”


She explained that sadness sometimes manifested itself into anger (though she certainly didn’t use the word “manifested”) and that maybe Takkin was acting out because that was the way he was expressing his sadness. I don’t think he understood, though he nodded. Maybe he got it a little. It’s tough to say what gets through and what doesn’t. The thing is, he’s in a rough situation: he’s got his mental illnesses and issues, but he’s got it doubly hard because his IQ is low and he can’t understand how to navigate out of the mental state he’s in. He doesn’t have the cognitive functioning to control his OCD urges or his aggressive behavior. He’s just in a really bad situation and I feel for him every day, even though I want to strangle him sometimes. Again, I truly don’t understand how my dad does it.

My dad is his primary—if not only—source of affection and attention. Takkin hugs and kisses him and holds his hands, no joke—150 times a day. I would go insane. Even when he holds my hand 15 times a day, it gets to be a lot. My dad leaves tonight and Takkin keeps oscillating on whether he is going to take him to the airport with me or not. I know this is a lot for him, but it’s a lot for me too. I can’t believe I’m here for 10 days. I’m already exhausted.

At least we’ve got some plans in the works. We’re going to drive to Charlottesville for a day, a dinner party with my friends one night, two psych appointments, an intake at a respite home, an attempt to go to this life skills and building program. We’ll see what the next two weeks bring. I’ll consider it a success if the cops don’t come, if I don’t have to take him to the hospital, and if I only cry 5 times.

You think I’m kidding. I am not.

***More to come tomorrow***

Family, Mental Health, Writer's Life

I Stopped Writing. Here’s Why.

pencil-and-paperI’ve spent 25 minutes looking at this blank screen in front of me. I don’t think I know how to string together a series of words anymore. It’s been at least two months since I wrote something, and even then I believe what I wrote was probably hot garbage. At this point in my life, I would rather be doing anything else than writing, and boy do I find some stupid things to fill my time: watch The Office for the thirtieth time, grab Ernie by the face and tell him that he’s a small baby man, organize my medicine cabinet, Twitter, Instagram, Twitter, Instagram, look through old emails by searching for keywords like “drunk,” “ugly,” “boyfriend,” etc., watch Parks and Recreation for the thirtieth time, eat everything then eat more, stare into the void. Anything to avoid writing.

So how did I get here? I wanted to be a writer from a young age. I wrote my first story when I was four. I took on massive debt to get an MFA in creative writing. I published a couple things. I submitted to dozens of literary journals. I started a blog. I applied to writing workshops. I followed other writers and journals on social media. I joined a literary discussion group. And I have very little to show for all of this. And I wish I could blame it on my circumstances, say that it’s because I have a demanding job and no time to write and too much else on my plate and blah blah blah. Those are all valid reasons for many people, but not for me. It’s all bullshit and I need to admit that to myself.

I don’t write because the things I have left to say are too scary for me to put down on paper.

Here’s the situation: I spent my twenties writing a good deal because I went through a lot. I felt like I could broach the issues I was facing with a fresh honesty. People sometimes even called me brave for laying bare my struggles: with my developmentally delayed/mentally ill brother, depression, loneliness, my childhood. I felt like I was truthful to a fault. But now that I’ve exhausted those topics, I realize something new about myself.

I am not brave. I’m afraid.

What I want to do is write about the things I think will make people stop loving me. I want to talk about drug and alcohol addiction, admit the complicated feelings I have toward my little brother’s illness, divulge the pain of growing up in a deeply dysfunctional family, recall my sexual past. If I was a stronger person, I would be writing about those things instead of writing about wanting to write about those things.

It all comes down to one thing though: my desire to write my truth is outweighed by my desire to be loved, liked, accepted. I don’t know how to change that, or even if I can.

I don’t want my friends to judge me, my family to shun me, my brother to be humiliated. I don’t want to feel ashamed or alienated. I think this is a quality that is missing from me, that many great artists have: they are willing to forsake everything for their art. I am not. And that sucks and I kind of hate myself for it.

Where does this leave me and my writing? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll write an essay about grocery shopping or create a listicle of my top favorite Saturday morning activities. Maybe I will wait until my parents die and then I can be free enough to write about my family. Maybe I will somehow magically stop giving a fuck about what anyone thinks when I turn 40. Or maybe I should just be ok with the fact that I am unexceptional.

I wish I had some clever, pithy, enlightened way to end this piece. I don’t. So I’ll just end it and hope I wake up tomorrow with something to say and the guts to say it.

Family, Mental Health

Conversations with My Brother

Image-1My brother talks in haiku. He has his phrases, his bits and pieces that fly from his fingers as he grips his iPhone in his hands, a whole universe in his palms–but what does he know to do with it?

How you
I’m sorry
Where’s daddy

The words are not the thoughts that live inside his head. They are something like a molecule of the entirety. He can’t express himself. He can’t tell me what he’s thinking about. His words have a chokehold on him, and he fights so hard against that grip. But he will never win that fight.

I speak I rant I rave I talk I soliloquize I chat I convey I declare I utter I voice I whisper I say I yammer I write. I choose each word with care and deliberation, and they work their magic for me–for me, when I am reaching for you, for you all.

How lucky I am…

Language is the barrier between him and me. Language is the barrier between him and the world.

But in the end–let us not be naive, friends–it’s language that does us all in.