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She Couldn’t Make Me Hate My Brother
Writing helped me escape
Hector Ariel Medina
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Starting when I was 4 years old, my twin brother Ariel and I lived with foster parents who told us that our birth mom was crazy and our dad was an idiot. We knew as little kids that we only had each other. We even said, “We were born together and we will die together.”

Even though I couldn’t remember my parents, I had dreams about them during those years. I dreamed that my mom was beating my brother and me, while my dad just watched.

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We moved back to our parents’ when we were 8, rejoining our older sisters Eileen and Crystal. My mother was kind and smiling when we arrived. We were both excited and afraid.

Four days after we returned, I went to school for the first time from my parents’ home. I had to take pills for hyperactivity, and that morning I forgot to take them.

Without those pills, I was very hyper. At school that day, I talked back to the teachers and was loud in class. The teacher called my mom. When I got home, my mother’s face was stiff with anger and disappointment. Her hands were behind her back, holding something. I was scared.

As I walked to my room, I was shocked to feel a lash on my back: She was hitting me with a leather belt. I turned around in pain and fear, and she hit me in the face with the belt, then more on my back. All I could do was scream and cry.

When she stopped I ran to my room, took off my bloody clothes, and went to the shower. I told myself to never forget my pills again. That night, I prayed to God that she would forgive me and be cool the next day. I told my brother what happened, and he told me he was scared. I didn’t want him getting beaten either.

But he did get beaten; we both did every single day after that. I don’t know why she was so angry all the time. If her phone broke, for example, she would take it out on us.

My dad never protected us. My parents had a weird love for each other that it seemed nothing could break. They would fight in rage about things that would lead to divorces for normal people. My mom caught my dad cheating on her, and she threw his clothes out the window. Then he threw out her expensive clothing. She yelled some of the crazy, cruel stuff she said to Ariel and me, but the next day they were getting along like nothing happened.

My mother treated our sisters, meanwhile, like angels or princesses. My brother and I envied them and hated them for not helping us. Later we understood that it wasn’t their fault. They were as scared as we were.

A New and Horrible Torture

Sometimes to stop her hitting me, I’d say “I’m sorry!” My mom would reply, “Sorry is just a word. It’s worthless. Just like you and your brother.”

The abuse got worse over the years. My mother began to hit us with harder things—spatulas, pots, hammers—when we were 9. When we were 11, she withheld food from us, then made us sleep in closets. She made us drink hot sauce. My brother and I coped by mocking her behind her back; it helped us stay sane. I’ve always liked how funny he is.

When we were 12, my mother started torturing us in a new and horrible way. One night, we were in our room; I was trying to draw “The Starry Night” by Van Gogh and my brother was reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid for the 10th time. My mom called us into the living room. The lights were dim and the windows were open. The cold winter wind made the floor cold.

My mom’s face was stiff and her eyes were dark. We knew she was going to say something crazy. She sat down and said to both of us, “Do you see that boy standing in front of you?”

We both said, “Yes.”

She said, “That’s your enemy. That’s not your brother.”

We looked into each other’s eyes, confused and scared. We wanted to stick together, but we were scared of our mom. If we didn’t do what we were told, she beat us. She started to make us hit each other and say, “I wish you were dead” to each other. I felt guilty even though it wasn’t my fault. It felt horrible to have my anger at my mother twisted toward my brother.

In 8th grade, I began failing my classes. It was hard to focus because I was so freaked out by the abuse. And if a teacher told my mom that I failed a test or didn’t participate in class discussions, she would beat me.

When we were 13, Ariel told me, “I can’t stand to live this way. I hate her. I want to kill myself.” I said, “I know. Just hang in there,” even though I also had been having suicidal thoughts. If one of us committed suicide, the other wouldn’t function correctly. So I stayed alive for Ariel’s sake—and he did the same for me.

Relief

One cold spring day in 9th grade, I said something disrespectful to my science lab teacher. He took me aside and said he was going to call my mother.

My heart jumped into my throat and my eyes watered in fear. I ran through the hall and down the stairs to the basement. After a long time, I went upstairs. The teacher asked me where I’d gone and why. I told him that I went to the basement because I was scared for him to call my mother.

His face went from mad to worried. He asked me why I was scared. I told him that my mother hit me and abused me and my brother.

I realized that I could not take back what I was saying. I never thought about foster care until after the words were out.

The teacher gave me a pat on the shoulder and said, “Let’s go to the counselor.” I felt like I was being taken care of, finally. They brought my brother into the counselor’s office, and he told them the same thing.

When we returned to our classes, our teachers gave us a look that seemed to say, “We’re sorry. We never thought that y’all were going through something like this.” I felt relieved to know that there were people who actually cared.

The school had us admitted to Jacobi Hospital. We weren’t allowed to call any family members. We stayed in the hospital for more than a month. Ariel had deep cuts from my mom’s beatings on the backs of his knees, and it took them a long time to heal. We were scarred mentally, too, and were both put on medication.

In the hospital we fought each other. I don’t even remember what about. I felt like there was a war inside of me—at night I had nightmares and in the day I had flashbacks to the abuse; I’d see blood.

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For the first time, adults were telling us, “You two are brothers; you’re all each other has.” It took at least four days for us to realize that it was true. We started hanging out—first just watching TV and playing video games, then cracking jokes.

After a month or so, Ariel said, “Bro, I’m happy we’re out of the house and brothers again.” I teared up hearing that.

Anger I Didn’t Understand

Finally, we moved into a foster home together. My flashbacks and nightmares continued. And again he and I fought. I was surprised to see the amount of anger and the strength I had. I didn’t understand why we fought so much; I couldn’t control myself. All the hate was still trapped inside me. I felt possessed.

Because of our constant fighting, my brother was sent back to the hospital. I stayed with the foster parents, who were very patient, for five months total. I left that home because I was taking my anger out on the foster parents all the time, and they finally got fed up.

I didn’t communicate with Ariel for two months, and I felt like I’d lost the other half of myself. I looked all over the internet for his contact information and finally found him at the home he’d been placed in. I cried as soon as I heard his voice. On the phone, we made a promise to never fight again.

Over the next few months, I went from anger and fighting to depression. My fourth foster mother, Mrs. De Los Santos, noticed that I wasn’t going out or watching TV or playing games. I was sleeping the whole day and only waking up to eat or use the bathroom. She decided to take me to a therapist when I was 15.

I wasn’t comfortable telling the therapist what I had experienced and what I was going through. I was afraid she would call the hospital and have me admitted to the psychiatric unit. I hated that place. It was dark, and the doctors didn’t seem to care about my feelings. In response to anything I said, they gave me more medications.

Mrs. De Los Santos said if I didn’t want to talk about it, how about writing about it? So I did.

Words Flowing

The first time I wrote, it felt like my hand was floating. I wrote down everything that had happened and my feelings. I couldn’t stop writing. I was amazed at all the words and ideas flowing onto that piece of paper. When I finished, I was relieved for a moment.

From writing down my feelings, I moved to writing songs. I took paper and a pen everywhere I went. Mrs. De Los Santos noticed that writing helped me. She was happy that I was making progress, and it helped me to see an adult care about my happiness.

The only person I showed my
writing to was my brother. Sometimes, he added to what I wrote and sent it back. It felt good to write with him and to get the full truth out. For the eight years I lived with my parents, we were forced to lie. Together, we wrote about the abuse, in songs and raps.

I started opening up to my therapist, but I didn’t tell her details. I was afraid recounting the abuse would push me back into the anger. She responded to what I did tell her like I was an equal, saying she could relate because of things she’d been through. She also told me other kids had been through similar things, and that made me feel more normal.

She said encouraging things that turned out to be true: for example, that if I tried, I could do better in school. My grades got better and I was able to graduate sooner than I expected. I felt less useless. I began to feel free from the abuse. People complimenting me and laughing at my jokes helped me open up more.

It took lots of therapy and writing to forgive myself. I felt bad for hurting my brother, even though our mother forced me to. It wasn’t until two years ago, when we were 16, that the court allowed Ariel and me to have weekly visits. That was when I finally said to him, over the phone, “Mom abused us physically and mentally, and she messed our brains up. I said some horrible stuff to you, and I hope you forgive me. I forgive you for the things you’ve said and done.”

That was a big step in healing, and in appreciating our unique bond. Ariel and I learned we both have a great ability to forgive—we’ve come back together after her attempts to make us hate each other. We are less fearful than other people because we’ve faced the worst. We’ve come through this, and we know we will be there for each other until the end.

My mother still tries to come between us, in Family Court, but now we’re 18, and we have our words. As children, if we could have spoken up in court, we’d have been out of our parents’ house sooner. Being listened to makes me appreciate the power of language. My goals are to become a better artist, rapper, and writer. Heading toward those goals makes me feel less useless. My mother doubted and undermined me and my brother, but she couldn’t take away our voices or our bond.



Help Teens Use Their Voice

After reading this story with teens, ask them to find places in the story where expressing himself helped Hector. For example:

• All along, he told his brother what was happening and warned him; they provided a reality check to each other.

• He and Ariel vowed to each other, “We were born twins and we’ll die as twins.”

• When Ariel said he felt suicidal, Hector said he did too. Saying and hearing that helped them both stay alive.

• In 9th grade, he told a teacher about the abuse, and it got him out of the house.

• He reached out to Ariel for forgiveness and reconnection.

• He began writing down what had happened and “felt like my hand was floating.”

• He began writing songs and poems.

• He talked to his therapist and lifted some of his self-blame.

• He advocated for himself in Family Court.

Ask your teens:

Can you think of times it’s helped you to speak up and tell the truth? In what ways did you express yourself (through writing, art, music, dance, or talking)? What helped you do that?

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(FCYU-2018-10-09)