After that day when my sister left her first suicidal note everyone in the family knew that something was terribly wrong with Ileana so my Mom and Dad took her to the Psychiatrist immediately. For the first time ever my sister had the opportunity to share with a professional all the things that were in her head. She talked about voices asking her to do certain things, about impulses that she could not control, about being obsessed with ideas that didn’t make any sense, about not trusting people around her. At that point she clearly understood how her mind was taking over her life and she hated it. It was as if her mind was becoming a second person within her body. She was really articulated about explaining all these things and that helped the Doctor start a profile that later turned into a diagnosis: Paranoid Schizophrenia. That was exactly the final answer to my sister’s transformation, two words that broke our family world in one million pieces.
The Doctor explained that there was no cure for this mental illness and that the only thing that it could be done was to keep her under medication and to watch her closely because real suicidal attempts were very likely to happen in the future. Everybody wanted to believe that the Doctor was wrong, that maybe something was going to change, that maybe because my sister was so smart she was going to be able to control her own mind but again, all these ideas were wrong and very soon reality started showing us the darkest side of my sister’s condition.
After the final diagnosis, every member of our family had to go through life with a deep pain and each one of us coped with that pain in a completely different way. I would need to write a book just to explain how my sister’s condition affected each one of the members of our family, specially my oldest brother Rene, my Mom and my Dad. I remember how the atmosphere at home became more difficult everyday. I remember arguments, sadness and fear. The fear to lose Ileana made us forget about other things that were also very important in our lives, but at the same time that fear became the thread that kept us all connected.
The suicidal attempts started happening and gradually they became something regular. Every single time that my sister attempted to commit suicide it was a traumatic experience for all of us. My Mom had to spend half of her life in the hospital with my sister and the other half working hard and taking care of the other children. Eventually, the pressure on my Mom and Dad was so deep that their marriage deteriorated at the point where they couldn’t save their relationship so the divorce became the final solution. The divorce was devastating as you can imagine but we had to keep going.
In the middle of everything falling apart in our lives my younger brother Alex and I became role models. We just wanted to be perfect, do everything perfect so my Mom had something to be happy about. We did great at school, we did great at home and we just became adults a lot sooner than we were supposed to. We became my Mom’s pride and hope in the future. Alex and I were so lucky to find our vocations early in our lives. We both went to art school, my brother Alex studied music and I studied visual arts. In the meantime our older brother Rene went to school far away from the family, my Dad became a distant (but loved) figure and my sister Ileana started having some periods of peace. Her crisis were a little less frequent and then something wonderful happened: she got married.
My sister fell in love with Eduardo (my art teacher) who was the sweetest guy ever. He was skinny and had long hair. I always thought that they were the cuban version of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, that's how cool they looked together. Eduardo was crazy in love with Ileana and she was crazy in love with him. They got married in a beautiful weeding that I remember as one of the happiest days of my life as a child. I think that it was the very first time in years that I had seen so many members of our family in the same place; Mom, Dad, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and also neighbors wearing their best outfits. We were so sure that this was the miracle that everybody was waiting for, we thought that Ileana was going to find her cure in love. In my imagination I saw Eduardo singing All you Need is Love to my sister, holding hands and walking in a beautiful flower garden. To me, Eduardo was a real John Lennon because he was changing the world (our family world) with his love.
(I will continue tomorrow)
Have a great Monday!