I'm writing this post because I have to get it out. It's deeply personal, and at the same time it doesn't directly effect me. I say that it doesn't directly effect me for this reason: while it is happening to me, in my life, ultimately I am not the one who directly suffers. And that is precisely the reason it is so important for me to post this. The impact that this indirect event has on my life, on my emotional state of being, on my heart, soul and every fiber of my being is so intense, and for that reason the magnitude of the effect it has on this person directly must be considered. I have debated even writing this post for months. Then, I had to reach a decision about which blog to post it to. I have decided, ultimately, that while this post is very intimate, that it is imperative that I make this post public. Perhaps it will help someone else, and the writing of it will surely help me. Letting it out at all will be therapeutic, as I have not discussed this most recent event with anyone other than my husband and parents.
Let's talk about mental illness and addiction. I am not an expert on this subject. All that follows is personal experience mixed with my own knowledge, all obtained during my own experiences.
People don't want to talk about mental illness or addiction, and certainly not together. That's part of the problem. It needs to be changed. Mothers experiencing postpartum issues feel ashamed, and only very slowly is that stigma lifting and allowing them to open up about it. That's only the tip of the iceberg. Things that aren't seen as the norm are pushed down, swept under rugs, or whispered in hushed voices in a back rooms. They aren't talked about openly but they effect everyone surrounding the person who is suffering. I personally suffer from depression and anxiety and I know how debilitating this can be.
But let's talk about the real issue at hand. At my hand. It's really hard for me, to even type this but I'm going to do it....my brother has a long standing mental illness and addiction history. He is twenty-seven years old and I am afraid that in the next few years (or months, or days) I'm going to be attending my little brother's funeral. Every time the phone rings a little too late at night, my heart skips a beat. Every time I don't hear from my mother by a certain point in the day I wonder if something has happened to him that she isn't telling me. (She won't tell me a lot of times because she is ashamed, because she is scared, because she doesn't want to ruin my day, because she doesn't want to talk about it, because because because....it's valid, really, I get it. I don't want to talk about it either. All the time I live in the shadow of this fear, and some days it sinks me in a depression so deep it is hard for me to move. My limbs feel like lead and the air feels like peanut butter. And all I have to do is fear. I don't really have any contact with him anymore. I don't think he wants to have contact with me, particularly. Contact with people who care about him holds him accountable, and he doesn't want to be accountable. The thing about getting help for someone in this situation is that they have to desire to be helped. And he doesn't.
Some days, I want to call him and ask him if he wants to die. I think he must. I try to tell my heart that he is already gone, that his soul as I knew it, the boy I grew up with, is gone. Try to tell yourself that someone you love and is physically breathing right now, is dead though. It doesn't jive with your heart and your mind.
Drug addiction alters the make-up and functionality of your brain fundamentally. Honestly, I don't even know what drugs my brother is hooked on anymore. It used to be methamphetamine but think the addiction has moved past that. Methamphetamine alters the way you feel emotions. You lose the ability to love. I don't have a source link on this, it is something I learned in a class but I'm sure you can google it. So you put that in a pot. No more love. Then you mix in some serotonin inhibitors and releasors (think ecstasy) , fuck with the mental balance a little bit more in someone with a family propensity towards mental illness. Throw in some barbiturates and some depressants. Throw every class of drug you can think of into the bucket, basically, and stir it up. You know how crazy drunk people act? Imagine the person who has been drinking from this concoction for ten years. It's insane. You can't imagine what they'll do next because they don't know themselves. They'll steal your last five dollars. They'll become irrationally angry and belligerent. They'll hurt themselves, they'll hurt you, they'll hurt anyone that stands between them and what they want: getting high.
If you've ever experienced a panic attack, you know how your mind can trick you sans drugs, just your mind, all by itself. Imagine having a panic attack while highly intoxicated. Can you? You're out of control, you're not in control of yourself and yet you are there. I imagine that is how my brother feels almost all of the time. Sometimes, I think he wants help. Sometimes, I think he is trying to help himself feel better emotionally because really, depression hurts. (There was a long running commercial about depression and it said something like "where does depression hurt? everywhere. who does depression hurt? everyone.) I'm pretty sure that's where the drugs began and that his initial addiction was due to him trying to self-medicate with street drugs. Now, I don't know what he wants. Which is why I want to ask him if he wants to die. I think he surely does seek escape, although hopefully not death.
Right now, at this moment, he is in a facility being held against his will for the third time in as many months. He won't stay. He's mad right now because they are holding him longer than the 72 hour time frame. He needs long term treatment and refuses to be admitted. If he goes for "day therapy" he is able to do what he wants the rest of the time, and he doesn't need to be allowed to do what he wants. He is currently detoxing and having withdrawals, which is why he's mad. It hurts. Withdrawals hurt. But I think if you added up my pain, my other brother's pain ( i have two brothers), the pain of my parents, the pain of his wife, I think if you added all that pain up, and put it against his pain and anguish, I think we'd stand on the heavier end of the pain scale. I truly do. I wish he cared what it does to my mother. She is watching her child kill himself slowly. The fear I feel for him cannot compare to what she feels. My father has to watch her suffer every day, see the pain in her eyes magnifying the pain in his own heart. My brother and I, we're minor. And let me tell you, it hurts. It hurts so goddamn bad. There is no way to help someone who doesn't want to help themselves. And so we continue in this cycle: we wait for an incident, we put him away for as long as we can and breath a sigh of relief for those 72 hours, and then when he's out, we wait. The cycle exhausts us all. We're drained and our nerves are raw. Our own depression magnified painfully as we move our arms and legs of lead through a world filled with peanut butter air and try to keep our chins up, the face we show the world a brave one concealing our hearts as they beat in our chests ready to break when that phone call comes all the while hoping endlessly that it never does.