Tag Archives: sad

‘My brother is a worst-case scenario’

This is the best personal essay I’ve read in ages. It starts like this

I received an email from a Department of Corrections social worker about four years ago. She had a message for me from my older brother Michael. He wanted contact with his family after fifteen years in a prison psychiatric treatment facility, to which he had been sentenced after trying unsuccessfully to murder my mother, father, and younger brother in an arson attempt at our home in suburban Tidewater, Virginia.

and concludes

I wish I could offer some kind of easy prescription here—something to do with politics and policy, with therapeutic philosophies or biochemical treatment protocols. But the mystery of mental anguish, of the mind on the outs with itself, of a version of hell made manifest in a suburban living room, is the one thing in my life that has brought me to the point where my only option seemed to be to pray. 

We hear stories of personal tragedy or disaster and we try to process them through a frame of ‘What can politicians do?’ or, perhaps more relevantly, ‘What can I do?’ I sometimes wonder if, faced with a situation you are utterly powerless to comprehend, it’s better to just shut up and listen.

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