So, me and my brothers are close. Not like, see each other every weekend close, but we’ve always got each others’ backs, and always have. We play video games together, we talk on occasion… not much, though. Neither one of my younger brothers are much for picking up the phone.
Last night, I went to a group meeting in Second Life, and we all just kinda shared how we were feeling and commiserated together about what a rough year it’s been, the stuff that’s going on in our lives, how we’re working to overcome it… I’ll be honest and say I usually go to these meetings if for no other reason than to kind of meet the new people on sim and see if I can get to know them even the tiniest bit, because sometimes I feel like I’ve been there forever and know no one… but this time ended up to be a bit different. It was strange, and a bit comforting to hear how so many people were in the same spot but in different ways. It was nice to laugh and joke and talk without judgment and just be with this group of people who were, in essence, mostly complete strangers… but who offered unconditional support.
Then, I post something on Facebook, and I get a message from my little brother. He says he heard from mom that I attempted to make gran’s noodles, and how did that go? So I sent him a picture from the night I’d finished them because I’m one of those people, and griped for a moment about how I’d left them in the water too long and I thought maybe they were too thick and I was trying to remember her recipe from watching her make them when we were little. And my little brother says, “No, sis. No I remember them being thicker. I think you did a good job.”
And for a moment, we get quiet because we both have shiny syndrome and the news that the Cheetoh in Chief and Melania have Covid just broke, so we’re distracted… and then I get this message from my brother about how he’s been extremely depressed since our gran died in April, and how he’s been drinking a lot to try and cope with the depression and the anxiety, and… how he’s made an appointment with a doctor because he wants to get help, get something to calm his mind a bit, and stop drinking as much.
Yeah, this is one of those posts, so if you’re easily offended or triggered, feel free to look away now.
He then went on to tell me that most of his childhood memories when we we’re supposed to be visiting our dad because of the custody arrangement after our parents’ divorce were actually memories with our gran. She cooked for us, took us to the park, took us to the library. She encouraged our passions and cheered us on, and she always seemed like she had everything so figured out, you know? She was like the epitome of successful adulthood in our eyes, and she showed us the time and attention that our father couldn’t be bothered to show when we were younger. I felt that. Not just because it was so true, but because up until last night I thought I was the only one of my siblings who remembered what our life was like back then. We talked about how our parents were toxic to one another and how neither one of them really grew up until we were adults, how much better they were doing now, but how angry we’d both been for so long at each of them for different reasons. And we just…. We’ve never talked that much. That long. About anything, really. That’s just not our thing. I literally loathe phone conversations. But we realized together last night that our parents kinda got the shit end of the stick when they were growing up – they emulated the toxicity they lived in – and we just happened to be caught in the middle a lot, whether they realized it or not. Now that we’re all older, we can see it for what it was, and we can see that as angry as we were, as insane as our family is, we came out alright – minus some scrapes and bruises on the inside. Our father just sort of missed out on so many years of our lives. He was completely absent most of the time even when he had the opportunity not to be, and then he married my mom’s best friend from high school, a woman who is to this day still completely unhinged, and let her treat us like second class citizens when we were children. My mother was young and stupid and stirred the pot a lot, but I think she thought she was defending us. Still, she did what she could so that we never realized really what a shit lot we got. While my dad had a nice house and everything, he’d skip paying child support to spite her. This just continued the cycle. Me and my brothers shared a room for a while. We ate lots of PBJ and hot dogs and tuna noodle casserole. We didn’t realize we had grown up poor until our mother remarried and we moved into a house on base where our living room was bigger than our whole apartment had been, and we had our own rooms. Mom didn’t have to say no to things as much. She just dealt with the hand she had, and she made sure we didn’t notice. If I look back on it, I can remember things like fights between my parents, my dad dropping us off at my gran’s on the weekends, and my mom sitting at the table with us watching us eat.
But in spite of all that, we came out on the other side, and until recently, we all had our gran to talk to and vent about things.
I didn’t realize my brother had taken it so hard because it’s something he doesn’t talk about… probably because for so many people in our family, it’s not okay to not be okay. When I ended up in the hospital and got diagnosed with depression, my dad called. I was in the hospital, standing there with these other people who were just at these horribly low points in their lives, and my father told me, “you don’t need medicine to get better. You just need to smile more. What could you have to be depressed about?”
I told my brother about that later, because that was the point that I realized talking to my mother often led to her overreacting, and our father didn’t seem to understand at all. I was 21, and that was the point at which I realized my parents loved me of course, but something in my head told me that I shouldn’t burden them with my problems. That I couldn’t, because it might be too much for them, or they just might not understand at all.
It took me literally years to realize that it was okay to ask for help, and that even after my depression diagnosis, it was okay to not be okay, and that I really could talk to people who wouldn’t either treat me like glass or judge me for the things I couldn’t control. Years of bottling things up and trying to find my own ways to cope and being completely surrounded by people all the time and feeling completely gutted. Years of learning who my friends were. More and more, I feel so enlightened to finally have people around me who understand and love me unconditionally. It’s allowed me to let go of some of the anger I’ve had for so long, and to recognize that even though I’m in my 30s now, like, hey, mom is doing so much better and she’s stable and happy and that’s wonderful, and dad tries… kinda. It’s just he doesn’t know us. But he’s trying now, and I suppose that counts for something as long as we’re all still breathing, doesn’t it?
But you guys, I am so fucking proud of my little brother. He reached out, and that shit is hard. It took me damn near a decade of battling my demons by myself before I recognized that reaching out and getting help would not be the end of the world. I want to bake him a cake, don a set of pom-poms and a giant foam finger, and give him the biggest, tightest hug…because I know how hard admitting that you need help and you might have a problem is in a family like this. Sometimes, you spin the wheel, and you just don’t know what you’re going to get, so it’s terrifying. Our family loves us, but so many of them have never confronted their own demons, so asking them to take on ours feels like trying to climb Mount Everest without a coat or any safety gear.
Last night though, he did it, and I have never been prouder.
The thing I learned from last night, the thing that was re-enforced in my brain, is that we all have shit going on that we don’t talk about because we feel like we can’t, or we shouldn’t, or we feel like other people have it worse. And the thing is… sometimes, you just need help. We can’t all save ourselves all the time. Sometimes, you just need to vent, or you need someone to listen. You need to know that someone else is in your corner. Sometimes, that simple piece of knowledge that you have someone you can really turn to can mean a world of difference.
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