My step brother went missing May 17th.
Then on Friday this week a body was found in the river and they matched his tattoos, but have yet to confirm with dental records.
It took till June 4th to match his dental records. We knew something was wrong because the police had confirmed he had not accessed the funds in his account since he got his support payments. Plus he has not contacted us at all or walked into a hospital. Very unusual behavior for him. But had to wait for official confirmation for closure so we could properly grieve without that sliver of hope that slips in making you wonder… maybe it isn’t him.
But it was.
I have never lost anyone in my immediate family and the grief is almost a tangible thing. My mind keeps going to the day he must have died. How he died in particular. He was found in a river which meant he drowned. When we were younger he always used to tell people how I saved him from drowning twice. Once at a waterpark when we both went down a slide with a large drop and deep water and he didn’t pop up like he should. I plucked him out and swam him over to the edge. And the second time at a lake that has shallow water for a long distance then abruptly goes deep; he was following me and my older brother, even though we warned him not to, then he was just gone and I pulled him up and into the shallow water. In neither case do I believe he was in risk of drowning really, but he used to tell people that. But I was not there this time. It presses into my mind that death.
It also travels back to when we were just kids together and that at least is a happier time. Almost everything triggers a moment. Every quiet moment I find myself thinking about him. Every song in my playlist reminds me of a time.
Here are some pictures I took of my brother when he was young and I was in a Visual Communications class in High School.
I have a difficult time saying ‘was’ at this point because I still can’t imagine that he is just gone forever. My brother was schizophrenic and it made for a difficult life of balancing medications against functionality and the delusions. Even on medications he had delusional thoughts. Convoluted stories about how he believed the world worked. Our minds give us all of what we perceive reality to be. Schizophrenia shrouds that reality and can make the world intimidating and frightening at times. Can make it hard to connect with the world at other times. It meant Steven could not work and it was comforting when he stuck to his routines. He lived in a reality we sometimes could not connect with because we could not see it, feel it or share in it. But he was still our Steve. Who he was still shone through.
I remember we were out one time and he was excitedly telling me one of these stories and people around us were literally giving him strange looks and moving away. That bothered me a lot. His mind was more a threat to himself than anyone else but people are afraid of what is different… like it is catching or something.
I always did have a lot of empathy from my brother though because in a way both of our brains were against us. My brain gives me constant pain and false sensory information from chronic migraines. I see auras. My hearing is sensitive. I have photophobia. Even touch can become sensitive with migraines due to allydonia, a very painful nerve pain that develops. Sense of smell and taste can be sensitive or can also be part of an aura and be false. I know all about how the brain can contort reality. I understand false sense data. And his warped reality to fit his delusions. Both of us had issues with sleeping. My brother could not work, it was too stressful to him. I barely can tolerate work, and often end up on leaves… too stressful to my system as well. You can’t win a fight against your own brain though. What it says is real, is in fact real.
He was only 32 when he died. I know that I should think that at least his struggles are over. That he will no longer be haunted by his delusions. But it is so little time. So little time. I read this study that said in some cases schizophrenia can go into remission in time in some cases. It made me upset when I read it because he will never have that time to see if he was a case where that might be true for him.
From the moment we learned of his death, if it is in fact him they found, I have been ill. Grief and stress do not work well with chronic illness I have discovered. Having never gone through this process to this extent it caught me off guard how quickly it affected me. Constant migraines, increase in vertigo instantly, troubles sleeping and eating. Literally sick with grief. Like my emotional pain is reflected in me physically.