Sometimes you need a few whacks in the head before something really starts to sink in.
You know how Facebook’s “on this day” reminds you of all the things you commented on and shared every year before on that date?
Two years ago exactly, I wrote a post about how I was struggling —
“…My head is pounding. Constantly.
Like it feels like my brain is too big to fit in my skull.
And I’m extremely emotional.
It takes nothing more than a slight breeze for me to burst into tears.
For the past three days I have been intermittently crying.
And not just crying.
Three years ago around this time of year, I wrote a similar post. Again.
Every year it seems, the same thing happens.
So it might have taken me four years to pick up on it.
But thank you, Universe.
Now I get it. I see the light.
Today is my youngest brother’s birthday.
He would be thirty-four today.
But he died just two weeks after his third birthday.
Here I am, thirty-one years later, struggling, and finally putting two and two together.
Every fucking year it’s the same thing.
But it’s been thirty-one years! I have should have a grip on this by now! It should not still be laying me out like this.
Looking back, it’s pretty clear.
This current bout of depression… I should have anticipated it. I can see that now.
Sure, there are other factors contributing.
I once had a therapist suggest I have seasonal affective disorder. He may have been right.
The less time in the sun and the shorter and colder days don’t help.
Depression and other mental illnesses run in my family.
That’s part of it, too.
I’ve always been sensitive and emotional. Ever since I was a kid.
But the root of the problem, I think, is that when my brother died, so did a piece of me.
And I’ve never dealt with it. I never really mourned. I never felt.
I’ve been sitting here doing a lot of thinking the last couple days.
Not just thinking.
I’ve been trying to allow myself to feel. To feel the bad stuff without trying to numb it.
When my brother died I was in high school. I was sixteen, and my body and brain went into survival mode.
I felt nothing. I showed almost no emotion. And I don’t remember a lot of those first few years after his death.
Then in my twenties, things really started bubbling to the surface.
It was brutal.
And rather than feel it, I did everything in my power to shove that shit back down.
I used men and sex and drugs and alcohol, sometimes separately and sometimes siimultaneously to stop the feelings from coming.
Then I became a mom.
And then things got even harder.
The death of any loved one is shattering.
But one of your own children?
How would I survive if one of them were to get sick?
It was simple.
I wouldn’t. It would simply be unbearable.
Living with the irrational fear that something could randomly, at any time, steal a literal piece of you when you are least expecting it is no fun. It’s debilitating.
This is part of my problem.
And then recently Number 7 failed her hearing tests at school. And then she failed them at the pediatrician.
We discovered she had an ear infection that could have slightly affected the results, but the uninfected ear still failed the test, too. So she was put on antibiotics to clear it up, and when she finished those, I needed to take her to a specialist.
It was looking like she would need tubes put in her ears to correct the problem.
Nothing major, and a quick fix.
But that was how it started with my brother.
One morning he went to the hospital to have tubes put his ears, and later that day he came home without tubes, and with a diagnosis of leukemia.
A year and a half after that he was gone.
Not surprisingly, I still haven’t made that appointment for Number 7 with the specialist.
I know it’s irrational. I know the chances of her coming home with a cancer diagnosis and eighteen months to live are basically nonexistent.
The memories were stirred up, the bees are going crazy around the hive, and my brain has been gradually descending into panic/denial/survival mode.
Thirty-one years later, the memories are still brutal.
And then, the other thing I’m realizing is I have guilt.
I have tremendous guilt.
Not that I could have done something.
But that I got to keep going.
And he didn’t.
Why me? Why didn’t I get sick? Why am I the one who got to be healthy?
And am I doing enough?
Should I be doing more?
Am I making him proud? Am I honoring his memory?
Shouldn’t I have my shit together more since he never really even had the opportunity to get his together at all?
I know. My rational brain is saying to me What the fuck, Woman! Take it easy on yourself!
But my irrational brain speaks much more loudly than the rational one.
Much. More. Loudly.
That’s where my issues lie, I think. I have not located the volume controls. I need to turn that irrational knob way down.
I don’t really know what the solution is except I think I need to, as they say, feel all the feels.
I don’t like to feel all the feels. I only like to feel the good ones.
It’s why I make jokes. It’s why I’m sometimes over the top. It’s why I’m loud.
Because that’s the only way I know how to drown out that irrational voice.
So I guess it’s time to find a way to turn down the volume on that irrational voice rather than cranking up the volume on the other one.
Because having two different stations blaring at full volume is just pure chaos.
How do I turn down the irrational volume and allow myself to work through the pain?
I have no fucking idea.
But it’s not by numbing myself.
And it’s not by overscheduling myself and taking on way too many things in an effort to fill my brain with so much stuff that the sadness can’t find a way in.
It’s going to take some time to figure this out and get through it. And I know there isn’t a quick fix.
It’s going to be hard. And sad. And really really uncomfortable.
But you know how I feel about moving out of my comfort zone.
It’s the only way to grow.
And it’s time.
I owe that to my brother, I owe it to my family, and I owe it to myself.