MOURNING THE LOSS OF THE BROTHER
I ONCE KNEW
I guess I would like to talk a little about how mental illness affects family. In this case, a sibling. I think it's safe to say that I have had a rough time accepting my brother's illness. Since I am a very nostalgic person, I often compare the past to the present. I dwell on how happy my brother was before his diagnosis. Everyday is a struggle for him. He seems to have a hard time making sense of everything that is happening. It must be very hard.
The first time I had a chance to talk to my brother (after his first break) was over the phone. He was in Italy, heavily medicated at a hospital. He did mustered the strength to turn himself into the embassy, though. The first words he uttered were, "Amber, what's happening". To this day, I still remember how fragile and helpless his voice sounded. It was at that moment that I had my first wave of empathy rush over me. I couldn't help but wonder how scared and confused he must have been. Now, after 3 years of coping, so many possibilities run through my head. Will he gain insight, stay on the medicine, never gain insight, or worse, commit suicide. These are the things you never get out of your mind. Some days you worry less, but in the end, there is still this sense of loss. I have lowered my expectations because that's what they tell you to do. That was a hard one to accept. All I wish for now is that he chooses recovery. When they tell you to have patience they are telling you to become numb to the pain. I understand it takes time, but during that time, you can't ignore what is right in front of you. It almost feels like the old Josh is in a coma and he may come back some day. Do I wait or do I accept that he is gone.
I don't want to sound selfish, but I dread phone calls from my parents. The tone of the call is never upbeat. Well, at least with my mom. The call always ends up dwelling on what is happening with my brother. I sometimes feel like I am a therapist during these phone calls:) I have felt that way my whole life...like the mediator in my family. It does put a lot of pressure on me, mentally. I empathize too much and this can be very painful. I wish I could see a therapist, but I don't think my insurance covers it. That is why I paint, it is my own therapy. I sometimes wonder why this affects me so much since my other siblings seem to cope better than I do. Are they stronger? I seem to be an optimist in this situation but convincing yourself that things will get better is difficult when nothing seems to improve. I have to stop getting my hopes up and just accept that this illness has its ups and downs.
Over the summer, I got a taste of what recovery is like. It was like I had my brother back. He was laughing, joking around and just happy. At the same time, I could tell he was struggling with the weight gain and everything else. Just as my brother is still learning how to cope with his illness, I am trying to cope with seeing him go through it. I am constantly reminded of the boy I grew up with. He is the sweetest person I've ever known. He would do anything for you. I once asked him if he wanted to help install wood floors in my new house. Not only did he help, but he stayed an entire week and practically did all of it. No questions asked, no complaints. All he wanted was dinner:) This happened right before he left for Italy. Looking back, I could tell he was acting different around this time but no family is ever prepared. That is why I want to educate the pubic so they can view others, such as my brother, as inspiring individuals. I just had to vent, thank you for taking the time to listen:) Luckily, I have a very funny husband who makes me laugh. Laughing makes all this pain disappear.