Two Different Lives

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Sophomore year: I had just returned from a home football game. There, I had shouted and cheered, but the vibe changed once I arrived at my house, hearing chaos behind my parents’ doors. There was tension within my family. I had just conducted my marching band in front of the whole stadium. My brother, Charlie was kicked out of his swim lesson because the instructor didn’t understand him. My parents’ hope of him living a regular life was starting to slip away.

There are nearly five years between us. He is a genius who struggles to write a coherent paragraph. Thinking about the deepest levels of philosophy, he sees the world as a series of deep questions, but at the same time, he may never be able to live on his own. He looks normal - even perfect. His outside image maintains the fantasy; but once he starts talking, the façade fades away, tripping over that boundary between brilliant functioning and forever dependent. He has been poked, assessed, and then reassessed. He takes medication and has a team. The only official diagnosis he has is social anxiety disorder; a more accurate description would be life-altering social anxiety (with the likelihood of autism).

Charlie’s situation helps put me in place. We come from the same gene...

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