There is a lot that I have never told anyone before. There are stories that I wish I could forget, that sometimes seem like just bad dreams. I’m hoping through writing this the weight on my chest might lessen just a little. Thank you in advance for listening.
When I was in 8th grade, I wasn’t doing too well. I was suffering from depression (not that I knew that’s what it was yet), ridiculous amounts of social anxiety, and was on my way to developing an eating disorder. But no matter how badly I was doing, my brother was doing worse. Having taken the brunt of my father’s abuse (even purposefully deflecting it off of my mom and myself), he was falling apart. He went off of his OCD and ADHD meds, his emotions were always boiling tightly under his skin, and his eyes were frantic. At least, that’s how I remember him.
It wasn’t too long until his “I hate this” and “I can’t stand this” turned into “I want to die”. But it wasn’t until that morphed into “I’m going to kill myself” that anyone besides me was panicking. After what felt like forever (but was probably less than a month) of him mentioning suicide, one night it all bubbled over.
I was working on my homework one night when I heard my brother and my mom screaming at each other. That much was nothing new, but I figured I would stick my head in and see just how much damage control was needed. When I walked into the living room, my brother was in hysterics. He was sobbing, shaking with the force of it, and acting like a dog backed into a corner. My mom just looked fed up. Soon enough, my brother stormed upstairs and slammed the door. I turned to my mom to find out what happened, and received just the pretty vague answer that my brother was being unreasonable. We sat together for a while until I saw a crumpled note sitting on the table. Reading it, I realized it was a suicide note. My brother’s. My mom told me she read it earlier, that he has reached a new level of dramatic and that I shouldn’t worry.
Needless to say, I panicked. Ironically enough, we were learning about suicide in health class that week. I had all of the pamphlets in my backpack on suicide hotline numbers, the local police phone numbers, and counseling resources. I grabbed the house phone, my bag, and raced upstairs. My mom followed me, telling me to give my brother space and not get involved. Hoping she would leave me alone, I went to my room and sat myself down in the bathroom, ear to the wall. My brother’s room was on the other side, and I knew that I would be able to hear any movement or commotion from that spot.
My mom sat next to me, telling my to lock myself in my room and not leave it for the rest of the night. She said that she wanted to make sure I was safe, that I shouldn’t get involved. As if to reassure me, she said that she was locking herself in her bedroom that night as well. I think that was the exact moment that I lost all trust and respect in my mom. To this day, I haven’t been able to build it fully back up with her.
I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was speaking before I even realized it, defending my brother, begging for her to understand. He was depressed. He was scared. He needed help, not fear. I only stopped talking when I couldn’t see anymore through my tears or breathe through my sobbing. My mom went to hold me, and I flinched away. She left my room, locking the door behind her. I held my breath, hoping beyond hope that she would turn left down the hallway and into my brother’s room.
She turned right, punctuating her decision by the click of a lock.
My next move was obvious, to break the lock if I have to and run to my brother. I started moving to do that and froze.
It’s this fear that I will never forget. This was the first time it actually occurred to me what I might find in his room. My brother was my idol, my best friend, and my protector. If I found him hanging from the ceiling or bleeding out in the bathtub, I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I would have no life after that; I wouldn’t want one. I don’t know how long I stood in front of my door, screaming in my head to just move forward, but powerless to control my body. After an infinity, just as I finally turned the handle, there was a knock on my door.
My brother was outside my door, eyes swollen and ashen skin, but for the most part whole and in one piece. I met him in the hallway, and somehow we ended up back downstairs, tucked behind the couch. From the moment we sat down, it was like a dam broke. My brother just started talking, from his anxieties and fears to his issues with my father and mother. He didn’t stop until the sun came up, until he was out of breath and out of tears. And even after that, we didn’t move. I wanted to comfort him, but had no idea how. So I settled for just being there with him.
I don’t remember much more of that day (technically the following morning), but I think we went back to bed at some point. Or maybe we snuck off to school early. All I know is that was the last time my brother seriously threatened to kill himself. The depression didn’t go away and the ideations were still there for a while, but he found other ways to cope. We worked on it together.
Looking back on it, I’m still surprised we got through it. We didn’t have the help we needed, but we made it anyway. Trust me, though; it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing after that. Our family dynamic started falling apart and things even turned more violent than usual. But my brother wasn’t bottling it up all alone anymore. He never fell that hard again. I finally go to be the protector he always was to me. And while that didn’t work out that well for me in the long term (and I ended up traveling down my own terribly dark roads), I know I did the best that I knew how to do at the time. And I’m proud of where we are now. Who we are now.
I'm a bi female undergraduate student majoring in Psychology, with minors in Women and Gender Studies and African American Studies. I am passionate about issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, and intend to get my masters in social work in order to serve those populations.