Growing Up With A Mentally Ill Sibling: My Narrative

Upon glancing down at the old photos representing my childhood, I recalled the many adventures I had experienced with my friends and family. They weren’t huge adventures, we actually never really left the city often, but just being outside in the warm summers heat or being exposed to a chilled winters breeze was all I ever wanted in life. In my mind I had the largest backyard, probably the biggest in the world with measurements equaling that of your average garage; I didn’t know it was small, I just knew that it was where my imagination came to life. I would invite my brothers to join me in my expeditions, gathering the village in preparation of a brave African-American girls speech and climbing rocks that I believe would keep us from things unknown, away from the common dangers lurking on the ground. I wanted everyone to experience this, to join me and to have fun creating the memories and stories derived from my backyard… but one person that I cared about always preferred to stay indoors.

Gaston couldn’t relate to me, heck he had little sense of the world around him. Fast forward to present day and he still maintains a characteristic of being anti-social and keeping primarily to himself, more so in his mind than physically. My experiences growing up with Gaston are sometimes difficult to describe because it entails so many emotions, with the continuous ups and downs and changes in his behavior, it feels like a daily roller-coaster ride. Regardless of this, I love my older brother Gaston to infinite and I feel free sharing my thoughts and experiences to those of you who can relate and may be in similar situations dealing with an autistic or mentally handicapped sibling. This weeks blog post will be a short narrative of how I grew up with Gaston, my autistic older brother.

In my own experience, I found that I would at times blame myself for the suffering my brother faced. I felt that I couldn’t find ways to include him during interactions so as a result he would usually end up being isolated. His lack of communication and inability to verbalize his needs made me frustrated and ashamed that he couldn’t relate to other people; and, like a cycle, my frustrations only further fueled his desire to keep off. I blamed him and myself for a lot of his behaviors because I needed an answer for why he couldn’t act normal. I slowly began to feel embarrassed to even be associated with him and seldom mentioned him when describing who I was in social gatherings. With time and maturation I have learned to accept my brother and his disability. I have learned ways to love him in spite of his unpredictable thinking/ behaviours and lack of communication. I realize that he is more of a treasure than a burden because he has taught me to be empathetic and gain insight on those with mentally illnesses; serving as an asset in my nursing career. I am still learning him more and more every day, but I am blessed to have the privileges and opportunities he created by him being himself in my life.

Nowadays I, along with Gaston’s caregiving team and family, are planning ways to optimize Gaston’s care and give him the best quality of life. Presently, he goes out and delivers packages with one of his male caregivers which he completes in the morning. This is just one of his many activities which includes cooking, swimming, sports, movies, walks, gym and the like. Gaston is not the highest functioning autistic individual that is why we as a team set forth ideas to try and help him blend better into society. Lately He has been showing more efforts to speak and verbalize his thoughts and feelings. He knows more of what is appropriate and what is not appropriate behaviour (like walking around without pants or pouring his food in the trash while no one is looking) and tries to act the best he can. He can perform simple maths and engage in light chit chat. He is a genius in paying attention to gossip and he can remember all the birthdays of all his brothers, sister, aunties and uncles. He is a bright autistic boy, with a promising future and like I said earlier, I have grown to love and accept him just the way he is. He was given to me by God for a reason and although I felt upset earlier with his situation. I now know that all things are made for good for those who believe and that includes Gaston, who deserves the best the world has to offer. He is my ray of sunshine and my sign of hope. Watching him discover new things and be reminded of our love for each other is truly a blessing I wouldn’t change for the world. He is my brother Gaston, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thank you for joining me this week and reading my blog post. Next week I will be discussing ways to deal with racism. Let me know in the comments section your thoughts and if you also have experience dealing with a relative or friend with special needs. Thanks and see ya in my next weeks post!



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