Few things make me more happy than witty intelligence.
I love my new therapist. For those of you who are in therapy, I highly suggest switching therapists at least every 3 years. A lot of growth and discovery can happen in three years when you’re committed but after that time, it is necessary to have someone else’s strategies, if for no other reason than to shake you out of your comfort zone. I have reluctantly changed therapists three times (and by therapists, I mean the 3 good ones I’ve had). This time, I took a year off and then finally realized that it was time to bite the bullet and “start over.” That is why it took me so long to see someone else – I just could not bear the thought of rehashing my entire life for someone new. I even thought it may be unhealthy for me to do so. Not so! She has an entirely new approach and expertise in areas I didn’t even realize would be relevant for me, such as post traumatic stress. I’ve learned extremely valuable lessons from each of my therapists – but there’s something different about the one I have now. She questions me, which means she’s really listening. She challenges my thinking, which means she’s not afraid to call me on my shit – who doesn’t need to be called on their shit!? NO ONE. The most important thing she has done so far, though, is to validate me in very specific and important ways.
I have come to a place where I tell “my story” as if I’m reading from a script to anyone who will listen. I almost don’t even thing about the events of my life, I just explain them and then ask, “Why am I not over it?” I didn’t have my records transferred to my new therapist because I wanted to start anew, and this was a wise choice. As I am explaining matter-of-factly the huge decision my parents made when I was 15 that I’ve always said forever changed my life, she stopped me and reminded me, “You realize that a decision means they had a choice, don’t you?” My immediate response was “Well, they didn’t really have a choice… my dad would have lost his job if…” She stopped me. “What may or may not have happened with your dad’s job is part of what they had to weigh when making the decision. But regardless of the factors that played into their decision, it was still a choice.” I was somewhat speechless and shocked that I’d never actually believed it was, which had allowed me to pity them and feel guilty for being angry at their decision for so many years. I had to think about it for a few weeks before I could make sense of it. And it seems so simple, doesn’t it?
I started to realize how often my parents, and my entire family for that matter, present scenarios to me as if another choice other than the one they are choosing is just not possible. In fact, every one of these circumstances absolutely do involve the option of a more respectful, less hurtful choice. So, I started to ponder the concept of choice in general. This realization has freed me in a way 200 more therapy sessions of hearing myself talk never ever could have. I’ve told that particular story my therapist heard at least 20 times to various people in my life, therapists and friends alike. Every time I have presented it as a tough situation for my parents in which they had no other choice. Just changing the beginning of the story will now change the way I tell the rest of it. This particular epiphany is quite monumental.
Since I have decided that this new therapy journey I’ve just embarked upon will be the one that heals me apart from my family as well, I have been pushing myself to challenge my self-talk. And, what do you know? I do it too. I make decisions and remain in circumstances as if another choice is simply not an option. “I hate my job but I can’t do anything about it because I have to stay here so my husband has the freedom to change jobs as he wishes because he’s hated his job longer than I have and our benefits are with my job.” Now, it may seem noble of me to make that decision. But I’ve been making that decision A LOT, practically for our entire marriage. I just figured out part of the reason I have such resentment for my husband – because of CHOICES that I have made. It is a choice for me to stay in my job. I have potential that far outreach my day-to-day “duties” and yet I accept that doing anything but collecting that paycheck and those benefits is “impossible.” It’s not impossible. The resentment plays in when I don’t see my husband actively applying himself to looking for a new job as I feel he should. So, he doesn’t spend every waking hour looking for a new job – the longer he spends procrastinating the longer I have to stay in my job, and you see how the tension in my house remains fairly high. What I really need to do is to make a different choice.
A wise friend once told me that taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do, because if you don’t do that, you can’t take care of anyone else. I used to think that was selfish way of thinking – and the reason I felt that was a selfish way to think is in part because I have been surrounded by people who did not take care of themselves my entire life. I was also taught that any attempt to take care of self was, in fact, selfish. I am still being taught that looking out for myself is selfish.
And, here we arrive at the title of this post. This weekend, my parents were to come to town – for their usual 24 hour visit. The details of what occurred aren’t really relevant. My parents made another hurtful and extremely selfish decision. Considering many recent events in my and my sister’s lives, we were both extra bothered by this decision. My sister has always been the peace maker and regardless of how upset she is, she will never stand up and say why. I usually don’t either, but I’ve been closer and closer to the end of my rope in the last two years and I finally couldn’t take it any more. I refuse to enable their behavior, and that is a choice that I’ve been making for my entire life now – mostly subconsciously but now that I realize there are other choices, I’m going to start making them. I called my mother and explained to her that her decision had caused unnecessary confusion, energy, and hurt. I was respectful, calm, and very direct. I am not normally direct. 10 minutes after I got of the phone with my mom, my dad called. I let it go to voicemail because I knew exactly what had happened in the last 10 minutes. My mom called my dad and told him that I was mean. My dad called me to “punish” me. His voicemail essentially said that he didn’t like my “attitude” and that I could call him if I wanted to discuss the situation. Let’s be clear… by “discuss” he meant lecture. I was not interested in being lectured, so I made a choice to save myself the pain that would have come from taking his verbal abuse in that moment. The voicemail was enough.
So, blogger friends, this is a giant step in the right direction for me. I like this study on the power of choice. I like the perspective it’s given me. The realization that my parents have had a choice in how they treated me and still treat me gives me the freedom to take back the power of my own choices. And I choose not to sit by and let their choices affect my daily life any longer. It will be and has been a long journey, but I am getting there. The first step was today, when I made the choice to SPEAK. And I think I’ll be doing that much more often.
That phone conversation sent me into the dark place… that place where I go when I feel emotionally trapped. I’ve been to that place oh so many times over the years. I’ve lived there for months at a time. I don’t go there very often any more, but when I do, I go with a new awareness that makes the pain deeper, and therefore shorter lasting. There was nothing I could say… nothing. Anything I said would have made me look like the ass hole. I couldn’t believe the tone in his voice, the matter-of-fact way with which he spoke… the absolute void-of-emotion conversation we were having. He was leaving to go back across the ocean in less than 24 hours… no desire to see your sister who is one of the greatest people you’ve ever known??? No NEED to see her and hug her and say thank you, I love you, one more time? No. Nothing but a slight obligatory tone indicative of a family member who is obligated to appease another family member just by showing up when is expected. And then my mind started spinning…
Of course he was acting distant to me now that he’d come home and my parents were completely and amazingly supportive of his situation. He’d called them and told them and given them a few days to think it over before he called back to tell them he was coming home to marry Rachel. I finally spoke to my mother about it and her word-for-word comments were these,”I mean, what are we supposed to do, but be supportive? We can make a big deal about it and worry about what everyone will think, or we can just accept that this is what it is and love them and be the supportive parents that they need us to be right now. It could be a lot worse.”
Pause still for shock and awe.
My jaw nearly fell off my face. After a few seconds of speechlessness, I managed to tell her how proud I was for her and how right she was. I told her I was proud of her three times. She acted surprised… and finally said, “Well, ya know, we’ve been through a lot, Ellie, and we aren’t going to be the kind of parents that aren’t there for our children. I can’t tell you what some of my cousins went through with their families and the lack of support they received. We’re just not going to do that.” She talked a little bit more but I tuned her out… I told her I was proud of her for the last time and we said goodbye.
I shared this apparent awakening with an old friend and was able to laugh about how I feel that I have a right to take credit for some of that obvious emotional growth and development that has occurred in my parents… I like to think I broke them in with my bi-racial marriage and all. They ignored my husband’s existence for 2 years and lectured me about how they’d burn in hell before they had black grand-babies… they told me at the age of 25 that I had no “idea” what I was doing and that I “better stop it now” before it’s “too late.” Doesn’t take a genius to figure out what they meant by “too late.” They never reacted well to any situation I found myself in. They were never supportive of me in my darkest hours when I needed them the most. As proud as I was of them for the way they were handling this situation, their ease and acceptance just dug the knife they planted in my heart many years ago in just a little bit deeper. That is a pain that is profound and very energy consuming to cover up when they are around.
So, here was my brother, home and spending time with my mom and dad who completely and almost immediately embraced him and the girl they once said they could not stand. They surrounded him with the love and support he needed almost immediately, as he said they would. He told me, “they don’t have a choice, they’ll love her and be supportive of her because our family is amazing and that’s what families do.” It has taken me years of therapy to realize that they very much do have a choice when it comes to what kind of parents they choose to be. I am finally beginning to understand this. Parents always have a choice as to how they will react to their children. Herein lies the “ME” part of this chapter.
In my frustration, I tried calling my parents, no answer. I tried calling my sister, no answer. I just could not bring myself to seek comfort from my husband, who had the knowledge to offer the most compassion, but lacks a general ability to actually show compassion, which presents an obvious problem. But, I decided to tell him anyway because quite frankly, he was the only one who knew the history and sometimes I just can’t be bothered explaining it all, nor do I want everyone in my life to know the drama that is my family. I explained to my husband that I was feeling hurt by the entire situation on multiple levels: hurt that my brother was showing no interest or even care about whether or not he saw me before he left the country, hurt that my parents had shown him such support and love when I never have been able to receive that from them. I told him that if it were not for me and all of the things I “put them through,” this would never be. His response did not shock me… he told me “Don’t even take it there, Ellie. Don’t even take it there. This isn’t about you or your parents…” I stopped him and calmly explained that the situation involves me because of the bond I have with my brother. I explained that I am allowed and should be granted full permission in my own house to feel things as I need to feel them as I adjust to the situation. I explained that he must understand my shock and awe at my parents behavior considering that I had received such opposite behavior from them on multiple occasions in my life. Certainly, he could understand that?? Apparently not. So, I told the blog. 😉
They finally came by; it was after their dinner reservations, around 9pm. I’d just put my son to bed. As soon as I saw him, all the anger and hurt I’d been feeling all day naturally disappeared. I hugged him and told him to please keep in touch once he was back home. I’m a bit of an over protective sister at this point and I do recognize that I have some adjusting to do, but who wouldn’t?
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 just had a 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.