Monthly Archives: May 2012

My brother: Chapter 2: Echos

My brother is one of the few people in my life who I feel understands me.  The distance that grew between us in the months following his stay with us created a bit of a hole in my heart.  I have never been very good at letting people go – I understand that people change, but when I feel as strong of a bond as I do with my brother – it is difficult for me to let things be as they are and go about my day-to-day life without thought or worry.  I watched, mainly through pictures and emails from my mother, my brother breeze through the initiation into the Navy, graduate first in his class, and thereby taking the privilege of choosing where he would take on his first assignment.  He chose Spain, and thus, he fulfilled a dream.  He’s always loved Europe and never really wanted to settle down in the US.  So, his move to Spain was something that I both admired and feared.  His entry into the Navy was something I’d feared for many reasons, the obvious ones and the not so obvious ones.  My worry proved true as he continued ignore his alcoholism because he entered a world where drinking alcohol came with the job, much like it came with being his father’s son.

When he called me to tell me how scared he was about unexpectedly becoming a father, his voice was rattled and heavy with reality.  He spoke with conviction and desperation and I did what I knew I had to do… what he had done for me so many times.  I had to validate him, encourage him, and allow him to feel everything he was feeling without judgement.  After he admitted to me that he is an alcoholic, I immediately told him that this was the first step in his recovery – and I don’t mean that in a 12 step program kind of way.  My brother isn’t one who would benefit from AA.  He was trained very well not to accept such formal treatment.  After all, he was the one who got to hear my dad’s reaction on the day I sought formal treatment for my disease.  I didn’t use the word recovery, either.  I did encourage him to consult his commanding officer and reach out to someone for help.  I explained how helpful therapy has been for me and that I, of course, would not suggest he join “something like AA” but I did highly recommend that he give himself the gift of an objective listener so that he could work through is feelings and grow and change as he was so desperately telling me he wanted to.  His response to me?  “I’m doing that now.  That’s why I called you.  You are my therapy.”  Few things are more complimentary than that.   While I was flattered, I immediately told him “Thank you, but I am involved in this, honey.  I am not an objective listener, as much I want to be, it’s impossible.  You are my brother and I am emotionally involved in this situation.”  But, at the same time, I took such incredible comfort in that comment and I clung to it… thus allowing myself to believe that this meant I had a little piece of my brother “back.”  I thought, as I had a couple of times in the last two years, that he was coming back to me… that our bond was rekindling, that my friend was mine again.

The next time we spoke, his voice was once again, less familiar to me.  He spoke with authority and an almost robotic confidence and conviction.  My heart sank a bit, as I knew there was no way I could reach him in this place.  I had written him many things in the aftermath of our conversation, including what I thought was valuable information for him to consider.  I explained to him that he should wait as long as possible before telling mom and dad.  I told him that he should probably tell them in a letter rather than face to face or over the phone, as their immediate reactionary words could be almost irreversibly cruel and hurtful.  I still have the Skype chat…

Hey hon… need you to touch base with me, please. I really wish we could make a date to Skype – I know weeks are hard for both of us but if you can just drop me a quick line so I know that you’re okay. I really want to talk to you before you tell Mom and Dad – just to give you some advice. I don’t want to alarm you or make it even harder – but I want to caution you to give mom and dad as little details as possible about this situation. I hope that you will trust me on this and that you will also trust me when I tell you that you must not internalize anything that they may say to you. In fact, it may be better for you to write them a letter so that you cannot hear their first thoughts because they could potentially be very, almost irreversibly hurtful. You know that I’ve been through a lot with them and I’ve shocked them and challenged them in many ways. I really want to make sure that you know that regardless of anyone’s reaction – I am here for you and I want and need you to communicate with me and stay focused on my support because you need to know that you have it. Just like I knew I had yours – knowing that kept my heart beating at times.

Prior to that, I’d sent him many message in my immediate reaction mindset… looking back I realize it is fairly intense, but I know why now. These “My brother” chapters are obviously eventually going to come back around to me. Here are pieces of what I told him after finding out about my new niece/nephew:

I have to be truthful here as well… as much as mom and dad love us and their grandchildren, they are far less involved in their little lives as your sister and I both imagined. This has been extremely painful for both of us and it’s something you probably are very surprised to hear… but it is true. Mom and Dad are very much in their own world and visit the cabin more than they visit their grandchildren. They make excuses for why they can’t make it to birthday parties – mom rarely wants to leave dad’s side so she hardly ever (and I mean once or twice year) comes on her own just to spend time with her daughters, and when she does, it’s almost always when dad is traveling. Two reasons I’m telling you this: so that you know that this is how they are and when they are this way with your future wife, you’ll know it isn’t just because of mom’s fears about her. This is just the way they are. The second reason is because you won’t be able to count on mom and dad’s help and support like you may think you can. Because your sister and I have both been shocked, humbled, and hurt by how often they have been absent. When Dad is with mom on the weekends, they are rushed because dad is anxious in a crowd and can never wait to leave. (when I say dad is anxious in a crowd, I mean anxious outside of his own house… anxious even when it is just our families that are present. He can only handle being away from home/mom for so long and it changes even the way mom interacts with the boys when they are both here.) We have told Mom how we feel more than once, and nothing changes. Our feelings are ignored. This is probably way too much to put on you, but I just want you to have a realistic picture of what things are like – so that you aren’t shocked or disappointed when you don’t get the support that we should all expect from our parents/grandparents of our children. It’s just the way it is.

Here is what he wrote back to me:

Yes, the message I just got was WAY too much. I wouldn’t like to have any other way. We will have to speak, and I wish it could be in person…….. my frickin brain is overflowing. It is my fault that we have not been able to communicate enough. My fault. But, the energy that you just stirred up in your brother, I have told my father once, only once, twelve years ago, that he better not say another fucking thing about this girl, and he got the message. Mom was there. I am truly lucky to have you in my life. I consider you as one of the best influences, and simply one of the best human beings the world has ever seen. And you don’t have to apologize to me, sweetheart. I am the one who has laid this crazy news onto the planet. I’m just lucky to have a great sister that I can spout my mouth off too… they will support us. That is what families do. They do not have a choice. And neither do I. There will be another life on this planet because of me. I just hope it has my last name. The fact is that I am a sailor in the US Navy and my future wife has to go through this all by herself. I know you will be a part of the support structure that she needs and that i can’t give from 3000 miles away. I know you support me, so get on board. I know you already are. goodnight, sis.

And, as our chat continued, this is what I wrote back to him while he was sleeping in Spain:

I love you so much. After talking to you and realizing the incredible bond between sister and brother and how powerful it is, I feel the need to have another baby. Because your little nephew shouldn’t be alone in this world. All I think about is you taking me on that date when we lived in Europe, giving me that rose, showing me that I was human when I felt so very far from it. I remember you walking into the hospital and hugging me, despite the fact that our sister, Mom, and Dad all walked past me like I was an insect. You were the only one that didn’t. And you know what the counselor said to me? She said, “You aren’t the one that needs to be in here… your whole family, save your brother, needs to be in here.” Because what kind of family doesn’t support their own DAUGHTER when she feels so incredibly sad that she wants to end her life? Remember dad’s reaction?? He said it to you. So, remember, above ALL ELSE, that Mom and Dad are NOT perfect and they DO NOT know it all. You are about to feel the wrath of this family – and I have only felt it like you are about to feel it. My advice to you is to tune out as much of it as you can. It does come from love but it will eat you alive if you listen to it. I have had time to think and really reflect on the whole situation and I feel SO much better having talked to you and hearing your voice and knowing that I have my brother “back.” I have missed you.

You need to stay focused, stay strong. No. Matter. What. I am here for you. Fuck religion, fuck tradition, fuck judgement, fuck presumption. Fuck the past. I want more than anything for you to do the same. I have so much faith in you that I know you will rise to this – I know you will be who your dad never could be. I know you will face your worst fears, you will fix your demons, you will face yourself – and you will conquer everything that attempts to defeat you. You are one of the strongest people I know. You can do anything you set your mind to, you’ve already proven that. Alcoholism is no joke and you, more than anyone I know, can squash it like a small bug that lives in my house and is very, very annoying. All it needs is a little vinegar down the drain and a LOT of discipline. You know a little something about discipline, ey? I already love this baby and I already love his/her mother, because I know that if you love her, I will too. Whatever happens in this, I am with you.

And, that is that. That is the last time we spoke from the heart. It saddens me that I miss who he is when he’s drunk, because most of the heartfelt things he said were said when he was drinking. No wonder it is harder for him not to drink that it is for him to drink – that is how he described alcoholism to me. My confession is that for part of that conversation I had consumed a fair amount of alcohol as well.  I rarely do so, but in familial stress especially, it just comes natural to me to deal with that particular anxiety with the old familial remedy more commonly known as red wine.  I’m never particularly proud of that fact, but it is a fact; and I only do it once in a blue moon.   As you can see, our bond is one that only sister and brother could share.  The fear and confidence we exchange is incomparable and irreplaceable, and unfortunately, also happens once in a blue moon.

So, my brother is now on a plane back to Spain.  He was just here for a week.  He flew home on Thursday, came to our house for dinner on Friday, had lunch with Rachel (not her real name but it’s getting difficult to leave names out) and her parents on Saturday afternoon, went to my parents’ cabin to have dinner with them on Saturday night, got engaged on Sunday morning, drove back to town that night to have dinner with us again… but never showed up.  He called to say they’d had a long day, told me the ring fit, and apologized for waiting until 8:30pm to call and tell me he wasn’t going to make it.  All day I’d been telling my son that his Uncle was going to come back.  All day I’d been preparing food and anticipating the time with him.  When 6:00 came and I hadn’t heard from him, I called and texted Rachel.  No response until 8:30.  This is the brother that I don’t know, the one I’m not bonded to, the robot that seems almost void of connection and affection.  On Monday, he obtained a marriage license, they were married in a courthouse on Tuesday (while the rest of us worked) and left for their honeymoon.  They returned to town on Friday.  I didn’t hear from him all day on Friday.  Apparently he had dinner with our sister that night.  He had told me on Monday night that he’d call me when he got back to town.  He didn’t.  I didn’t hear from him until I called and texted again, on Saturday.  When I finally got to hear his voice again, he explained to me that they had a busy day of running errands ahead of them, furniture shopping and such.  I told him that I’d really like to see him before he left because I had something to give him.  His response cut a knife in my heart, reopening the hole that I thought was full again.  “Okay, well, do you guys live near any furniture stores?”  In fact, we do.  So I explained where he could buy furniture for Rachel, and how to get to my house from the stores.  I asked what their plans were for dinner… again his response all but broke my heart.  “We don’t know yet, we may go out, we may just order in.”  He had no desire to see me again.  I practically had to beg him to just stop by long enough so that I could give him what I had for him.  I had a card for him, that was it.  I didn’t want to mail it, I thought I was going to get to give it to him on Sunday… and if not then, when he had returned on Friday.  I had no idea he was content leaving town without seeing me again at all.  That’s not the brother I know, that’s not the brother that is my best friend and one of the few people on earth that understands me, and vice versa.

 


My brother: Chapter 1: Shotgun

My brother just had a shotgun wedding.

1. shotgun wedding
where one or both parties are forced into marriage due to an unplanned pregnancy
– Urban Dictionary

Everyone must know what that is, but for some reason I felt the need to google it.  Gotta love the Urban Dictionary.  So, I have a new sister-in-law!  That I barely know!  This is all fine and well.  My brother and I have always had a unique bond and I’ve always felt that he has some kind of 6th sense when it comes to me.  Well, maybe not always.  He came to live with my husband and I for a while after he almost drank himself to death and could not go home to live with my parents because after 3 times of this happening before, they finally shut their door to him.  My husband and I were happy to welcome him into our home with just a few adult rules, including “no drinking” for the alcoholic who wouldn’t admit he was an alcoholic.  My mother begged me not to let him live with me, swearing up and down that it would ruin our relationship.  “That’s impossible,” I’d tell her, “Me and my brother have a bond that no one understands… it is impossible to ruin.”  He lived with us for four months and witnessed a lot of the same problems between me and my husband that we still deal with.  At one point, he made the gigantic mistake of inserting his 2 cents into the “problem” that he presumed he understood.  He’s always really looked up to my husband for many reasons.  He said to me, “Sometimes you just have to let things go.  I hear you talking about the same one issue over and over and it’s exhausting.  That’s one of my pet peeves!  I hate it when people do that!  Just let it go!”

Maybe that was the point things started to change… but over the course of the last month he lived with us as he completely ran out of money and as a result became very anxious and unappreciative, he finally told me to “Shut up” and that was it.  I told him to get out.  My brother and I hadn’t fought since we were kids.  Adult fighting really is so much worse.  I hated it.  I had hated the last two months he was with us, because he had turned into someone I didn’t recognize again.  You can never really know a person until they live with you, though.  It’s the truth.  Living together as children, again, is very different from living together as adults.  He would sit on my couch and watch South Park and Reno 911 for hours.  I would come home from work, at a job I could not stand, and he’d be on my couch, laughing as if he didn’t have a care in the world.  I’d find myself asking his permission to change the channel on the TV that I paid for… the channels on the cable plan that I paid for.  He had ultimately no respect for what we were doing for him towards the end of his stay. And, much to my mom’s heartbreak, it definitely did ruin our relationship for a couple of years.  He never called me.  I didn’t exactly seek him out either, it was pretty hard to swallow the disrespect in the end mostly because I had never experienced anything but the utmost respect and friendship from my brother.  When he finally got himself back together and moved back in with my parents, he would always call my sister first if he needed to come to our town, which was quite often as he was prepping for the NAVY and had frequent check-ins.  It was painful – I’ll never know if it was painful for him because he has re-entered a shell over the years.  He pokes out now and then, usually when he’s drunk.  I’ve gotten an email or a phone call about how wonderful I am and how much he loves me in the last two years since he’s been in the NAVY now.

The latest call that made me think he was truly “back” involved the latest news.  He was drunk, and shaky and scared out of his mind.  The details don’t matter – what happens next does.  My brother and I have a wonderful talk and he admits for the first time that he knows he’s an alcoholic and that it is harder for him not to drink than it is for him to drink.  He tells me he is afraid of failing and afraid of screwing everything up – afraid of not being man enough to raise a baby or be a good husband.  He tells me all his fears and I pump him with the confidence I know he needs although inside I am crying in my fear.  I was so honored that I received that call; that he had reached out to me first.  He told me that he loved me and that he knew I would know just what to say to make him feel better about things.  I told him that I would do anything to help him because he had always been there to help me in my darkest hours.  I relied on him for my only support system many times.  And, he’s my little brother.  But numerous times when my mom and dad did not have the emotional capability to mother and father me the way they should have, my brother stepped up and did his part to be sure I knew I wasn’t alone.  The fist time I ever experienced major depression and felt trapped (because I pretty much was) in my parents’ dysfunction emotionally and physically, my brother invited me to go on a date with him… out of the blue.  He just asked me one day if I’d let him take me on a date.  It was honestly the first genuinely no-strings-attached nice thing anyone in my house had asked of me for as long as I could remember.  So, I said yes.  We rode the bus to the movies downtown, he bought me a single red rose, and we even held hands.  People probably thought we were actually on a date, it was so sweet.  I’m sure my parents gave him money and admired his gesture… they had told me just weeks before that I should consider how my depression was affecting my “little brother.”  It didn’t seem to be affecting him at all; he seemed to simply understand that I was very, very sad.  Sad enough to want to end my life.  He understood that I needed some positive human interaction.  He probably saved my life that night.  I’ll never forget it.  I didn’t really understand why he was being so nice to me – he was only 14 years old and I didn’t comprehend how he could be so tuned into the situation.  Especially, because my parents obviously had no regard for his emotional intelligence because they had no concept of “emotional intelligence” at all themselves, and certainly a 14-year-old child could not have the ability to think rationally for himself.  We’ve surprised our parents, many times over the years.

About 3 years later, I had to be hospitalized because I calmly explained to my roommate that when she left to take her exams the next day, I was going to take my entire bottle of Ambien sleeping pills and call it quits.  I was scared to call my dad to ask for the insurance information required for my stay, so my roommate did it for me.  I am pretty sure I have an idea of what he said to her that day, but she never told me.  She just told me “Your dad’s an ass hole, no wonder you’re here.”  Somehow we managed to get the insurance information, which means someone was able to convince my dad that I actually was in need of some serious medical intervention… that depression is actually not something people just make up for fun or boredom.  What I didn’t know at the time was that my brother was home the day my roommate called him and got to witness and hear out loud my father’s thoughts after learning that his daughter had been hospitalized for wanting to end her life.  I would come to learn that the words he first uttered were “What are people going to think of our family?”

Eight days later, my family was required to come in for a family meeting so that the doctors could be sure that I was going home to a safe environment.  Here’s out that played out: two therapists sat in the room with me as my family entered one by one, a small room full of chairs placed in a circle.  I stood up to greet them but every single one of them walked past me without even acknowledging my existence, except for my brother.  He was last to come in and he gave me the biggest hug you can imagine.  Again, he’ll never know that hug saved me because there’s no way to verbalize that to someone.  I’ve told him many times how much it meant to me… but there is no way that he could ever know how powerful it truly was.  It will not surprise you that approximately 60 seconds later, the head social worker/counselor looked at me and asked me to come outside the room.  “That was all I needed to see, honey.  Your entire family needs to be committed, save your brother.  You’re the sanest one among all of them.  We’re not going to have that meeting because what I just witnessed was enough for me to know that it is not safe for you to go home with them.  But you are ready to go home; do you have anyone else who you can stay with for now?  Is there anyone that you can call?”

And there it was… maybe for the first time in my life… some solid validation that I needed in a major way.  There were actual reasons for my depression, particularly this episode, that had nothing to do with my family.  They just couldn’t separate themselves or their need to “keep up with the Joneses” long enough to comprehend what was actually happening and what horrific parents they were proving to be in this particular situation.  But, my brother could and did.


What it’s all about…

This:

“Forbidden to remember, terrified to forget; it was a hard line to walk.” – Stephanie Meyer (New Moon)

Pretttty much sums it up.  But I’m determined to remember and to write it all down.  So that I can forget and move on with my life.

 


Opposing Lenses

“Everything you see is, is through a lens, huh?” He said, as if he understood me.*

*conversation with my father, tonight.


Breaking truth

“We create all sorts of lies, all sorts of stories and metaphors, to avoid the final truth, which is the fact of falling.  Our stories are seizures.  They clutch us up, they are spastic grasps, they are losses of consciousness.  Epileptics, every one of us; I am not alone.”  – Lauren Slater, Lying

I have no lies to tell, only the truth that up until this decade has haunted my every breath.  It is getting easier to see between the shoulds and should nots, a little easier every day.  Although, I’m still hiding in myself.  I hid in this blog for a while… I hid and then snuck out to see some old friends and people who would be able to validate and corroborate my stories… that wasn’t the right thing to do.  These are stories that I need to tell by myself.  If anyone who knows me is listens, the stories will surely exit as lies because I cannot trust my perfectionism to tell them.  So I owe it to myself to keep it a secret, a secret name in a secret town in a secret world through a secret mouth.  I’ve always lived two lives – I’m whoever you need me to be at the moment… and who I am when you leave… I’m taking control and finally turning the mirror back around and breathing the truth back into every crack and crevice that breaks me.

I am tired of walking on broken glass.  I’m changing the tone of my stories… I’m letting the heaviness reign.  There is no other way to get it out OUT of me.  And I have to get it out… the truth is lying dormant underneath my fear that it will never come out.  I’m not sure what I’ve been waiting for.

No more waiting.  The truth doesn’t tell itself.  I think if I could understand the truth, then I could know and come to understand myself… and I need to understand myself or my life will never change.  Today, I sat comatose at my office desk, staring into my computer screen… I felt like I was caught in between two movie sets: Alice in Wonderland and Office Space.  Pretty insane side by side, ey?  Well, I can’t think of a better way to describe how I felt.  I felt like I had no future, motivation, or hope in the present moment… however in my mind I was the little rabbit, running around telling everyone how very late I am for a very, very important date… only the “date” is my life.  I feel like I am late for my life.  I think if I don’t start telling my stories and telling them raw and open and uninhibited, they will continue to eat me alive and steal away my happiness.

I have an obligation to my concept of happiness – which currently resides in my 2-year-old.  I owe it to him to not give up on trying to figure things out inside of my heart.  To try and figure out why I can’t seem to shake depression, why I manage to always convince myself that I don’t belong where I am…

While I was rocking him to sleep tonight after he had a crying fit for almost a solid hour, I think something changed inside of me.  I realized that I was letting him cry because I felt like that was what a good mother does… assumes that he is being manipulative or sneaky or defiant.  What I forgot was that this morning my husband and I were screaming at each other almost at the top of our lungs… and we did the same thing yesterday morning, and evening.  I have taught pre-school and I know what a tense household can do to a child and yet here I am, living in a tense environment and somehow letting myself actually yell in front of my child.  I forgot about this for almost a whole hour… I forgot about it until I was holding him and he was clinging to me for life… in that moment I realized why he suddenly could not calm himself to sleep like he’d been doing every other night up until tonight.  We took away his security with our voices.  We stole a bit of his peace because we couldn’t control our anger.  So, in that moment with my son, I carried him to his rocking chair and started rocking him and singing to him and holding his cheek to my cheek… giving him all the assurance he needed that I was not going anywhere.  I stayed in his room for a half hour, restoring, hopefully, some of the innocence my anger had stolen earlier.

I’ve been writing this blog for over a year now, and have come to realize that I’m dancing in this circle as it turns, just like my husband is.  Except, neither one of us is joyfully moving.  We are just doing the dance of marriage and of life and we are both miserable and stuck and for what we’ve just figured out are very physical reasons, we have not had the appropriate energy to make lasting changes.  I’ve evolved in many ways in the last two years… in the last six months my body has taken over and I have been kicking and screaming in the form of one physical infection after the next.  My husband was just diagnosed with diabetes.  We have just been hit with an enormous wake up call.

So, I decided to take my blog back, take my secret story telling time back, take my voice back.  I want to change, I want to make things better and right.  And I can’t do that if I’m constantly looking back behind my shoulder to see who is listening, approving, judging, validating.  The only validation I need now is my own.  And so, here goes.  I’ll continue telling you things I can never tell anyone – only this time, I promise a little more raw truth… a lot more weight, and a few hundred deep breaths…


Reformation

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted and there are far too many reasons to explain why.  Ultimately, I am finding that blogging is getting harder instead of easier.  I realized that while I started this blog as an attempt to try and explore myself and write my own story, that instead I ended up writing the story of my marriage.  Which, I will never understand, has been easier.  The story of my bipolar marriage is not a fun one to tell, I struggle every day with what my love for my husband means and what his love for me means.  I struggle with the concept of a soul mate… whether mine really does exist out there.  I struggle with the lack of solid support in my life, I struggle with strength of self.  I struggle with the idea that I have settled for a life less than what I imagined it should be.  A very good friend remarked that having an oppressive marriage feels at times like your life is being stolen away from you, day by day, hour by hour.  I’ve felt that way.

But.

In the beginning of my blog journey, I wanted to to explore myself.  I wanted to tell my stories.  I didn’t want to harp and hound my marital circumstances.  I don’t think they will change, regardless of what drastic measures do or do not happen.  I don’t think my marriage is ever going to change.  I think this is the life I chose for myself and am still choosing to live in for the moment and so that I need to make the most of it.  I don’t mean this quite as cliche as it sounds.  It just is.  I’ve not accepted inexcusable behavior, nor will I fight for myself any less.  I am a different, stronger person than I was when I met my husband and that is irreversible.

For now, I need to stop focusing on what I can’t change.  I need to focus on what I can change.  The blog was titled “the colors of me” because I wanted to tell my stories.  I have so many stories to tell.  Telling them will no doubt bring me closer to myself.  I need to be there, I need to understand what makes my heart beat before I go blaming someone else for not making it beat stronger.  My strength needs to come from within.

I have come a long way in my search for understanding.  I’m still young and I have a long life ahead of me.  I also have a past that is filled with family secrets, denial, shame, fear, hypocrisy, tragedy, and abuse.  I need to write these stories down.  I’ve told them… many times… to many friends and therapists.  I don’t think I’ve ever told them to myself… so I’m going to make a promise to myself to start telling myself these stories in an effort to get to know myself through them.  They are ugly stories, but they are necessary truths that I must embrace.