So, time to get serious on everyone. I wanted to get this out and there is no amount of my dry wit that will perk up this blog entry. And this will be a long post, so bear with me.
In January of 2003, my second oldest brother woke up on a beautiful Sunday morning and had an epileptic seizure. I remember the sounds of his feet banging against the ground before I realized what was going on. He had gotten fired from his job in August of the previous year and had woken up faithfully every morning, got dressed, and looked for a job. Yet, from the point he got laid off onward, my mom, my oldest brother and I all knew something was wrong (we just didn’t know what).
And there he was, on the floor of his bedroom, having a grand mal epileptic seizure.
We called 9-1-1. I remember my mom took charge and I watched her as she spoke to the 9-1-1 operator and followed their instructions. She tried to keep my brother calm, and made sure he didn’t try to stand. I remember he blew in her face, because he wasn’t fully conscious and didn’t know what was going on. The moment now plays out in my mind in slow motion, like I could step in and watch it play out before me all over again.
When the firemen came, it took 5 of them, to hold down my 6’5 brother. Five of them. They needed to get him on the gurney to get him to the hospital and that was the only way.
Then when they finally got him on the gurney, my brother yelled and screamed. He had no idea what was going on and I remember his eyes to this day – wild, terrified, confused.
Jump ahead a few hours, and there we are in the hospital – the three of us – my mom, oldest brother and I – waiting on him.
When they take us to see him, and this part sort of blurs in my mind, somehow in someway he tells my mom that he’s been considering suicide for a while now.
Suicide? My brother?
This next part I remember – my mom then asks him if she can tell the nurse, because it’s really important that she let someone know. She said it in such a caring way, her voice was careful and concerned and very mom like all at the same time. And he says yes, she can.
When she does tell the hospital – and this is next part blurs in my mind as well – we learn they need to keep him for a 72 hour hold. They end up taking him to another hospital that’s about an hour away.
Jump ahead three days and there we are in the hospital, those cold white walls with the bright lighting, and we are listening to this doctor tell us about what’s going on with him. I remembered thinking she sat too close to us.
She tells us that my brother has the beginning signs of Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia? I don’t even remember knowing what that meant exactly. What is that?
Little did I know. Oh, how I didn’t know. You know, we long to return to the days of our youth, somehow forgetting about the bad times we’ve had. I wouldn’t want to relive those days for all the money in the world.
Jump ahead 10 years…10 years. I’m 26 now. My mom her early sixties. My two brothers both in their early to mid 30s. My brother who now has battled with Schizophrenia for 10 years has somehow, miraculously, survived. Each day he is alive is truly a gift.
I’ve been inside countless mental hospitals to visit him. I’ve even read an article about him online about a crime he did – nothing too serious, but enough for him to be put in jail. I’ve heard things from him that I’ve had to respond to in a calm, understanding way when I was feeling anything but. I’ve heard my brother admit he didn’t know how long he could last. There have been countless cops called, more suicide attempts, and more seizures. More time that has passed with the endless, unforgiving battle with his mental illness.
And more recently, I’ve faced a sad realization that my brother may really die someday soon. A brother who was my best playmate growing up. The one who played disco party with me and my stuffed animals. Who I recorded pretend radio stations with. Who I played the video games Vandal Hearts, Final Fantasy VII, and Mortal Combat with.
To save our own sanity, we now live in a different state from my brother and don’t see him as much anymore. I speak to him regularly. So does my mom. To explain how bad things got would take more than just one post and even then you may not comprehend or fully understand. Trust me, though, when I say it was necessary for us to leave and put a distance between us and his mental illness.
I’m writing this today because 2013 marks the tenth year we’ve been dealing with this. Ten whole years. And yet here we are, my mom, my oldest brother and I, still waiting on my brother to come back. We’re still waiting.
I’ve been struggling to find meaning and purpose in the pain we’ve faced these past ten years. And lately, I’ve come up short.
Instead, I can’t help but want those ten years back. I want those ten years without my brother having to face that. I want those ten years without mental illness hitting my family.
I’m at a loss for how to end this post tonight, except to say thank you for taking the time to read. I know all of us have trauma we’ve handled and difficult times. Thank you for taking the time to read about mine. In case you are curious, for more information, please take the time to visit National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. They’ve been a wonderful support system for my family during these years.