A Brother’s Nightmare

Some of you might not know that I’m the oldest of four kids. This might come as a shock to you seeing as how I sometimes act like an annoying younger brother. To that I say, shut up, you poopyhead. As an older brother and the oldest sibling, I feel that I am in a position of great responsibility. I’m paving the way for my younger siblings. Treading the path for the first time. Making mistakes that I hope my siblings can avoid. Participating in victories that I hope my siblings will take part in. Basically, providing my siblings with a role model that’s been there and who can give them pieces of wisdom that my parents might not be in possession of. In fact, whenever I talk to my friends about my much younger siblings, I always call them “the kids,” much like a father would (or maybe that’s just me).

Now, my youngest sister is what you would call “melodramatic.” She acts like a regular on the Disney Channel. Every situation is to be exaggerated by a factor of 10, every laugh is to be extended in time by a factor of 20 with the decibel level increased by a factor of 3, and very problem is to be made 30 times more dire than it really is. Because of this I can admit that she gets treated like the black sheep of the family. We’re not keeping her in a cage and throwing tomatoes at her or anything, but she’s definitely the “oddball” of the group.

This past Thursday, I was visiting my alma mater, the prestigious UMBC, and got a phone call. A sigh softly came out of my mouth when I saw that it was my mom calling. Expecting the phone call to be about some trivial errand she needed me to take care of, I picked up the phone nonchalantly. But what I hear is something that I never would have expected to hear. She told me that she got a call from my 11-year-old sister’s school saying that she had written a suicide note.

Words that no brother, or sibling for that matter, ever wants to hear.

Coincidentally enough, just a year ago I had to deal with a student of mine who came up to me and said that she had been having suicidal thoughts and had, minutes before, prepared to kill herself. To this day, me and her are very close and she was able to get the counseling that she needed to improve her condition. But this wasn’t some student. This was my little sister. My family. My first reaction was utter shock. Not only could I not believe what I was hearing, but I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do. I was scared. Was I about to lose my sister? What kind of mental state is she in? Did I miss the signs? Were we pressuring her too much? Could I have talked to her more? Spent more time with her? Told her that I loved her more?

I didn’t get a chance to speak with her that day, but the next day I waited at home until she got back from school. When she got home, she threw her face into the couch and started crying before I could even get a word out. She explained to me that the kids on her bus had been making fun of her. They kept calling her “wet dog”, reenacting the “seat’s taken” scene from Forrest Gump, and even telling her that “no one would care if you died.” My sister seemed to take those words and believed them.

I had a long talk with her about it and I made sure that she understood that a lot of people love her. I encouraged her. I listened to her. I told her that I loved her. I gave her advice on how to deal with bullies and made sure that she understood that if this harsh treatment continued, she was to let me or my parents know so that we could get my nun-chucks the administrators of the school involved. She seems to be doing fine now. She talks about her episode candidly and without hesitation. It was only a few days ago, but she doesn’t seem to be phased by her tormentors as much. She told me today about how one of her bullies asked her for one of her mini muffins on the bus and she gave them one on the condition that they promise to stop bothering her. Later, her bully broke their promise and bothered her. At this point, I was prepared to break this kid’s nose/arm/leg/neck (don’t worry, there wouldn’t be any witnesses). But my sister made a decision to not give their insults power and saved their lives in the process. My sister promised to talk to me if anyone or anything ever bothered her in that way again and I believe she will. I never used to call home that much, but I plan on calling every week now to check up on her. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if a teacher hadn’t found my sister writing that note. If her pain had gone unnoticed and she eventually built up the courage to execute her wishes. And I refuse to let her fall into that place again.

I actually talked to her before I decided to write this post. I don’t like to put family business out in a public forum cause some of you guys aren’t my family. So I asked my sister if she’d be comfortable with me writing about her on my blog. She said that it would be fine. I repeated again and again that it would mean that people she knows and people she doesn’t know would know about this very personal event in her life. She still gave me permission to write about it. When I asked her why, she said “I want other people who might go through this to know that they don’t have to deal with it by themselves and they should talk to people about it.” In that moment, I was the most proud I had ever been.

“If each man or woman could understand that every other human life is as full of sorrows, or joys, or base temptations, of heartaches and of remorse as his own…how much kinder, how much gentler he would be.”
–William Allen White



9 thoughts on “A Brother’s Nightmare

  1. She’s so grown for an 11 year old..
    It’s crazy to hear that you went through that.. That your sister went through that. I can’t even imagine if that were someone that I knew, worst of all, family..

    I’ll shout out a prayer for you and your whole family..
    You’re such a good older brother, not many people take that role seriously.
    I’m glad that she has you…

  2. Your sister is a very brave little girl and she should be proud of herself for being willing to let other people read her story. Hug her for me and let her know that she’s loved even by people that she doesn’t know. I’ll be praying for her and every kid like her 🙂 I work with kids so if your family needs info on resources please let me know.

    This is just another example that words have power and we all need to do a better job of speaking love and life into each other.

  3. Wow, Berook. I am so glad that your sister is doing fine now and I am glad that you stepped up as Big Brother to talk with her (not at her) about how her thoughts and feelings. As the oldest child, that’s something that I never want to see my little brother go through, but I appreciate you sharing this story because it’s important to take people’s feelings seriously even when they seem trivial. Surely, in the end, this will make you, your sister, and your entire family stronger. This has inspired me to show my brother more love more often. 🙂

  4. wow. powerful post. i’m glad your sister is doing better. i couldn’t imagine how it would feel having a younger sister. even though i have 4 siblings and i’m second to the oldest my younger siblings are all boys and my older sister is 9 years older than me so she actually feels more like a mom.

    people really don’t understand the effect that bullies have on children. i used to get bullied a lot when i was in elementary school. it wasn’t until i stood up to the main bully and bloodied his nose did they leave me alone. i really don’t like bullies.

    suicide is a very serious matter. one of my close friends from college (and my line brother) had a sister who killed herself our sophomore year of college. when people take their lives they really don’t understand the effect that has on the people who loved and cared for them.

  5. @Nick: Thanks for the prayer. It was such a shock cause I never thought that would happen to someone in my family (as if we were invincible to depression).

    @Esquire: I’ll hug her for you 🙂 and I’ll let you know if my family needs any info on resources. I def appreciate that. “we all need to do a better job of speaking love and life into each other” = truth.

    @Courtney: It’s real important to know when to talk at kids and when to talk with them. I’m glad this post spoke to you.

    @Mad: Yeah, bullies are serious, but obviously they’re psychologically/emotionally flawed in their own way. I didn’t have serious bullies growing up. Some kids picked on me here and there, but never anything consistent. Glad your experience didn’t end up worse.

  6. thanks for sharing this, b. its really unfortunate that your sister felt the need to even contemplate suicide. i am definitely going to keep her and your family in my prayers.

    awhile back my mom sent me this article about a high school senior who was a talented softballer in my hometown who had committed suicide. she had received a full scholarship to attend a d1 school for softball and had a lot of support from friends, teammates, schoomates, and of course family. but for whatever reason, she didnt have the will to live anymore. it was so heartbreaking to read this story and how other ppl viewed her. it was like she was dealing with this secret pain that NO one else had any clue about. all that to say–im glad your sister had the courage to write her feelings out and allow herself to open up about the pain she was feeling. that alone put her on a road to recovery and healing. i pray for your strength to continue to guide her and support her.

  7. “When I asked her why, she said “I want other people who might go through this to know that they don’t have to deal with it by themselves and they should talk to people about it.” In that moment, I was the most proud I had ever been.”

    Ok, I let out a proud smile at this one. She hit the nail on the head regarding the sharing. Knowing that you can help and/or inspire someone out there that you would’ve never been able to touch otherwise is what makes the decision to share such personal matters to the world…a bit easier. I’m proud of her for giving you the permission, and proud of you for opening up and sharing your own feelings on the subject.

    Great post, homie.

  8. Wow, it took a lot for her to be able to let you share this on here and she is quite brave for doing so. Her reasons make me admire her even more.

    She’s lucky to have a brother like you and an entire supportive family, not everybody has that. I’m glad that you were able to be there for her and that she opened up.

  9. Thank God for big brothers. I know I’m late on reading this entry, but I had to comment. I too was affected by insults and the need for acceptance at your sister’s age. And many times it was my brother (who was also away at school) who reminded me how special I was. Your sister will be just fine. And you handled this situation perfectly. She needs to hear that she’s special often and she needs to believe it herself. I think as children it’s very hard to build self-esteem on your own unless you fall into one of those cliquey, popular groups. And even then, you’re constantly being evaluated. I will say this, if these insults continue please encourage your parents to change schools. It’s not worth it to fight administration if these bullies are tormenting her that much. Especially girls, we can be downright cruel and psychologically damaging to each other at that age. I went to an all-girls school for 9 years. Believe me, I know firsthand.

    And also, remind her from time to time that these individuals will mean nothing -and i mean nothing- to her in just a few short years. Her tormenters will likely be under-achieving nobodys when they grow up.

    You’re a good brother, TDA. I’m proud of you. Please call me if you need a partner-in-crime for an a$$-whoopin’. I would gladly join you.

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