It all started when I broke up with my boyfriend of 3 years. I was madly in love with him, we were going to get married. But it was a bad relationship, a really bad one. I was constantly pulling him out of trouble, constantly trying to prove to my friends and family he was everything I thought he was. It became exhausting; he had destroyed my trust in any way imaginable. But I still loved him. After he cheated on me, I put my brain in charge instead of my heart. We broke up. His last comment was, “But I still love you” to which I replied, “Not enough.”It took a while to even think about moving on from him. But when I finally started to, I began having what I thought were nightmares. The nightmares were always a little different, but very similar. And part of some of them involved my brother, who was 3 years younger than me, standing by the side of my bed. He would touch my breasts, feel around under my underwear. Sometimes they even involved him taking my hand and touching his penis.

The first time this happened I could have swore was real but my brain couldn't make sense of it.  I remember looking at my brother the next day. I remember thinking, how could I ever even think he would do something like that? He’s my sweet baby brother. That same day I asked him if he had been in my room the previous night, he answered no. I believed him.

A few weeks later, I had another nightmare. During the nightmare I woke up, and I pretended to be asleep. He remained in the room with me. He took my hand and made me touch it. As soon as I thought he was gone, I ran into my mother’s room barely able to spit out what had happened. Part of me was convinced it was real; part of me wasn’t sure what to believe. I remember puking up water, then dry heaving. Then I remember having my very first panic attack, I felt like I was going to suffocate. My mother calmed me down, I explained to her how real it felt. She believed me and went to check on my brother. When she came back she told me he was sound asleep, there was no way he could have just been in my room. My mom and I talked, and concluded that I was having hallucinations that were perfectly rational in moving on from my abusive boyfriend.

Something still didn’t seem right. Why did the nightmares start all of a sudden? I began to wonder if this was what it was like for people who become psychotic. Was I crossing the line from reality to crazy? I did not want to be someone who was too weak to handle life. If I crossed into imaginary land, would I ever be able to find my way back? If I became crazy, did my ex win? Surely I was stronger and better than that. My parents and I talked the next day. The plan was to get through the next few weeks until graduation. If the hallucinations continued, we would see about putting me in an institution. We all agreed that they would have the best resources for me to get help. I made one of my best friends make a promise to me. I made her promise that if I ever was in a mental institution and became crazy, that she would come visit me.

Later that week, my mother came to me. She had been having doubts about the “hallucinations” too. In a car ride she had gotten my brother to confess. He came to me later that night, to say he was sorry. I told him to get out of my room. How dare he think that this was something that could be forgiven with a simple “sorry?"

My ex- found out what had happened. He didn’t call, he didn’t text, he didn’t offer any kind of support.

At first I couldn’t even look at my brother, but things eventually got better. But even after what he had done, I still loved him. I wanted him to get help. As a family, we slowly began recovering. It is fall now, and that was last summer.

For part of my counseling, I did tell a couple of my friends. Most of them just sat quiet and nodded. That being said, there are some of my friends who I will never tell.

As for my abusive ex? I have since raised my standards, by a landslide! If I ever do meet someone who is worthy of me, I probably will tell him about my brother when the timing is right. Part of me is a little scared about getting to the intimate part of a relationship again. Will I be able to have a normal sexual relationship with anyone again? To be honest, I’m not sure. Some things may never be the same. But, if these past few months have taught me anything, it’s that you have to have faith. Three months ago I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to look at my brother again. I’m very proud about how far I’ve come.