The Big Issue : Edition 463
THE BIG ISSUE 18 – 31 JULY 2014 19 ILLUSTRATIONBYANNABUYS MY DEAREST BROTHER continues to win his fight against the choking voices that try to suffocate his brilliant and beautiful mind. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia almost 14 years ago, and I have witnessed his struggle with this debilitating disease. In and out of institutions, a year living on the streets – I watched my brother fight for normalcy and to silence the noise in his head. There were times I pleaded with doctors to lower his medication, so that he didn’t get lost in a pharmaceutical haze. Then there were times when I stood in front of the magistrate demanding a community treatment order, so that my older brother didn’t forget to take his meds. Despite my efforts to look out for him, it has been his willingness to live and, most importantly, his ability to laugh that have kept his spirit alive. I have accepted his controversial choice to smoke pot sometimes. Once, I was militantly against him smoking ‘the green’. But I have now learned that there is no simple answer to how he chooses the light and shade of his truth. His demon is his angel. So who am I to judge? A few months ago, after being found living in squalor with no electricity in his apartment, my brother returned to hospital for an intensive medical and psychological assessment. It was at this time that my closest friends banded together for a very special rescue mission. We armed ourselves with masks, mops and detergents and set out to scrub the sadness from his walls. For four days, we washed away the layers of darkness that had accumulated from loneliness and alienation. On returning to his peaceful new sanctuary, there was joy on his face. This is a memory I will never forget! He is back. And that is all that matters. Because life is, truly, too short. (A cliché that is never overused.) When I visited him soon afterwards, I was greeted at the door by a gentler and much older brother. He was emanating the energy of a Zen master. He had practised the ancient art of tai My Brother and I FEALOFANI ELISARA HOLDS TIGHT TO A LOVED ONE BATTLING MENTAL ILLNESS. “He was diagnosed with schizophrenia almost 14 years ago, and I have witnessed his struggle with this debilitating disease. In and out of institutions, a year living on the streets – I watched my brother fight for normalcy and to silence the noise in his head.” chi, which gave him a sense of calm during the most challenging times of his mental unrest. We headed out to a cafe in Marrickville, Sydney, so we could sip flat whites in the sunshine. I told him stories about our family and friends, and we laughed at my silly gossip. As he put his fourth cigarette out, my brother’s weary hands began to fidget. I knew it was time to go. I drove him home, so he could feel safe again. “Love you, Bro!” I said to him. “Love you, too!’ he said, smiling at me as he shut the car door. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw him chattering to himself. The voices in his head have been relentless in their pursuit of his attention. I realised I was just hoping he was telling them he was happy to have seen his little sister. Despite the tragedy of his condition, his resilience inspires me every day. I saw this quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt (US President 1901–1909): “When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.” Hope is more than waiting for a better tomorrow. It makes you stronger for a better today. » After completing a non-fiction writing course last year, Fealofani is now writing her first memoir. See also fealofanielisara.com.