I can remember moments when he seemed normal. At your [first] wedding, I think I almost danced with him, but then I was like, No, I just can’t. I had been afraid of and angry at him for too long. But I know that when you were younger, there were a lot of times when he was just goofy. How do you reconcile that David with the other David? Do you miss your brother or still care about him?
It’s hard to say. I don’t want to find out that he got shanked in prison and died. I really don’t hope that happens. I’m not so callous that I want him to die in prison, but he can stay there. And he’s not really a real person to me anymore. I had a brother, then he turned into this person, and this person is not really related to me. He turned himself into some sort of monster from someone’s nightmare. The little kid who used to stick Legos and Tinker Toys down his pants when he was five doesn’t exist anymore, and now there’s this hardened criminal in his place. He’s still trying to manipulate my parents from prison, which makes it so that I just don’t have any sympathy for him. I can’t go soft, because I still need to be that backbone for them.
What is his diagnosis?
He was officially diagnosed as a sociopath or as borderline sociopathic or something when he was a teenager. I don’t know where to go with that. I don’t think it’s anything they can really cure, but it’s something he’s chosen to not address as an adult. And that’s his choice. He chose to do these things and he ended up in person.
He used to be medicated, right? Wasn’t he medicated at your wedding?
Yeah, he was medicated.
And he was in therapy too, right? And he decided to stop doing those things.
Having been through all that you have, I know trust is a big thing for you now. How do you build your own family, and how do rebuild your capacity to trust friends and other people, coming out of a situation like this?
[Romantic] relationship–wise, it took a lot of work and a lot of therapy to get to the level of being OK. My first marriage didn’t work out so well because of that. The second is going great so far. [Laughs] But there was also a level of honesty because [my current husband] knew coming into our relationship that this was happening and this is real, this is my life. Whereas I don’t remember if [my ex-husband] knew right away, and he certainly didn’t know how to handle it.
But I’ve actually had an easier time trusting other people since David’s been in prison. It’s interesting how much easier it is for me to connect with people and let people get closer to me.
Do you think maybe that’s because you had to emotionally shut yourself off so much while it was going on?
Yeah. I felt like I couldn’t let people get too close. I couldn’t let people know what was going on just in case I had to do a fly-by-night operation and disappear [to escape from David] or get my parents out. I didn’t want to have to explain what was going on. The more people who knew, the more people there were who would say “What can I do, I want to be here for you?” They would try to beak down the walls, and I couldn’t let the walls break like that while dealing with that situation.
You’re now in your 30s, you’re happily married, you’ve got a solid career. Are these things that you pictured for yourself when you were a teenager?
I didn’t picture anything when I was younger—except for, like, where my parents’ funeral might be. I didn’t plan for the future. I didn’t have plans. I didn’t go away to college. I didn’t move away. I lived in the area, within a half an hour’s distance from my parents, just in case. There was no planning. There was just “you can’t leave them.” I never thought about getting married. It just wasn’t an option in my head. My biggest plans were what was going to happen the next day.
How do you think you were able to get to where you are now? And if you were talking to someone else in a similar situation, would you tell them to ride it out like you did, or would you say that it’s OK to leave?
That’s hard one, because as much as I want to say people should just go and live their lives and what will come will come, the amount of guilt that would come later if something really terrible did happen would almost be unbearable. If something were to happen [to my parents] and I wasn’t available, the guilt would send me spiraling. So I would advise someone to try to look as far ahead as they can, but I would also say that it’s OK if they don’t want to move on just yet. I felt guilty enough as it was that I hadn’t talked to them in a couple of days, and one of those was the day he was there for a whole day holding them hostage. There’s still a lot of guilt there—like, maybe if I’d called or gotten hold of them or talked to them…
But in terms of my future and how I got here, I just threw myself into work, met people, got married.
I know you specifically chose to talk to Rookie because you wished you could have read someone talk about something like this when you were a teenager. So, do you have any advice or words of hope for someone who is dealing with a difficult family situation?
I would say that in any sort of situation like this, you kind of have to make your own future. You can’t say, “Oh, everything is going to be OK,” because shit may very well hit the fan before it gets better. But you just need to make choices that are best for you and have a good support network. I wish I could say things like “It will all be OK in the end,” but it is what it is, and you make what you make of it. You’ve just got to make whatever future you can for yourself. Make the best choices you can and know that there are other people going through stuff like this. You are not alone. You are not the only one.
I hope that for you, part of making your own future is letting go of some of your guilt and knowing that you did all you could do.
The guilt is starting to go away a bit. It’s not as troubling.
And you were able to reach a solution—as bad as your situation was you were able to get there.
Yes, and that was because of choices that we made. I chose to pick up the phone and call you and be completely unintelligible, and it was your choice to push me harder. You could have said, “Oh, not again,” but you didn’t. And that made all the difference. ♦