LOS ANGELES (CBS) — It was a crime and verdict that stunned a nation, but the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson — O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife — literally destroyed her younger sister, Tanya.
The years that followed her sister’s brutal slaying left Tanya depressed and she admits now, physically and emotionally wrecked. For one, she ended up in a psych ward.
Brown recently sat down with CBS2’s Suzie Suh, to talk about how she overcame her pain. It’s her first TV interview since battling, and beating, depression.
The story begins with how a journal she started writing during her darkest moments saved her life.
“Some painful pages,” says Tanya, as she flips through the journal, reading. “I’m tired of fighting with everyone. I have been so debilitated and paralyzed.”
Writing down her innermost thoughts started to give her a small amount of closure. “What happened happened. And there’s nothing I can do about it.”
She chooses, these days, to recall how her sister lived and not how she died. “We [grew up] a hop, skip and jump from the beach. So we were always down playing in the sand, barbecuing all the time.”
Tanya Brown says she was eternally bronzed by the sun, and spoiled and babied by the warmth of her three older sisters.
Brown tells Suh she went literally from being “the life of the party,” to crashing down and becoming anti-social after the horrific night of June 13,1994.
The two siblings were close, even though they were ten years apart.
Brown first dealt with survivor’s guilt. “Why wasn’t I there? Maybe I could have said something or maybe I could have saved her. We always live in that ‘what if’ moment when something [tragic] happens.”
Then the real pain started coming. Not having the chance to kiss her sister goodbye before she was taken. Never have the chance to really mourn, she says, feeling like she and her family couldn’t escape the public eye.
Life for Brown soon became “a tumultuous nightmare.” Brown admits she started abusing food, pushed people away…including her own family. “I almost hit my dad. I called [my sister] Denise horrific names — we didn’t talk for almost a year.”
Tanya Brown canceled a wedding. And then continued her downward spiral. “I found peace and solace in food and became an over-eater.”
And then more drugs to dull her pain. “I was angry, and self-destructive,” she recalls, “I was popping pills. I was drinking wine.”
Ultimately, Brown decided to seek help. “I said, I’m done. I want out. And the second you look at the Coronado Bridge, like…wow, that looks like a way out, you know you need to make a lifestyle change.”
She made that change, remains positive and vigilant to help others who have seen dark days. She’s in a position to help others. She continues her work for domestic violence organizations in the memory of her sister.
Brown says one of the biggest steps she took was letting go of her past. More specifically — perhaps remarkably — she says she’s forgiven O.J. Simpson for what she believes he did to her sister.
The act of forgiveness, she explains, is not the same as forgetting. “It’s forgiving somebody so that you can cut that chain and be free of what has happened. It’s so you can move on.”