Earlier this week, we had a friend kill himself — literally shot himself in the head in his bathroom… not long after having a baby who is still in the hospital.
My friend and I were rocked by the news — not only because we didn’t have any inclination he was depressed, but because it hits so close to home with our brothers both suffering from depression.
We share a perspective, always wondering if that phone call from mom will start with heavy sobbing, indicating it happened.
My brother has suffered from this mental health disorder since he was eight, when he held a massive knife against his chest in the kitchen, strongly contemplating pushing it through his sternum.
The thought shakes me to my core.
The awareness of my brother’s depression didn’t come to light when he was eight, though, and he was still functioning in the world with relative ease — sleepovers with friends, telling on his sisters for having boys over, and playing competitive hockey.
He planned to be a pilot and participated in JROTC his freshman year of high school; I specifically remember finding the perfect model plane as a Christmas gift one year, and the elation that washed over his face as he unwrapped it.
At a certain point (I can’t recall when), he started seeing a therapist that diagnosed him with depression, which he was later told meant he would not ever be able to fly.
As a note, I haven’t looked into the legalities of that statement, but it seems absolutely asinine and ignorant… are we just going to pretend the stats on depression aren’t real and assume every pilot’s mental health is in tip top shape? I’ve seen the movie Flight…
Anyway, learning this news deeply discouraged him, producing a real sense of loss and lack of direction.
So, he soon started smoking weed and hanging out with what a concerned sister would consider shady characters.
After graduating, my brother didn’t have the same plan I did after throwing my royal blue cap in the air… he didn’t enroll in college.
I won’t pretend to know how he spent his days, or how he continues to spend his days under my parents’ roof, but I do know what happened the day I received that dreadful call.
My mom was frantic, saying she needed me to go to the house; my brother wasn’t answering his phone, but apparently he’d said something to his then ex-girlfriend that worried her.
I raced home with tears blurring my vision, praying I wouldn’t walk in on my brother’s unconscious body.
Once I pulled into the driveway, I threw my car in park and sprinted up the concrete stairs, fumbling with the house key before finally watching it turn left and pushing my way in as Dolce barked and jumped up with excitement.
I darted up the five oak steps towards his room. His bedroom door was closed. I gave a courtesy knock, just in case he was… doing what a young boy does when they don’t have to be anywhere. No answer. I flung the door open with force to find him lying under his covers — eyes closed.
I shouted his name as I hovered over him.
His hazy eyes started to open slowly…
“What? I’m just sleeping,” he practically scoffed, looking at me like I’d lost my mind. He wouldn’t be far off.
I exhaled deeply and called my mom.
“Check around him for pills,” she demanded; I could tell she was speeding home.
She was right — he’d downed almost an entire bottle of Aspirin.
My dad arrived shortly after my mom, followed by a group of medical professionals… I want to say the fire department was there, but I don’t know why — perhaps I blacked out a part of the experience myself.
He was soon en route to the hospital where they pumped his stomach and my parents made arrangements for him to be transferred to a mental health institution.
The tears in his eyes made my stomach turn. He pleaded not to go — he screamed that he wouldn’t do it again… that it was just a moment of weakness — a temporary lapse in judgement, but they couldn’t risk it. Despite the heartache caused from his wistful petitions, my parents knew how much greater it would be if they didn’t at least try to get him help.
A few weeks later, I was able to pick him up from the over-sized building… on his birthday; he seemed alright — happy, even. We went to the outlet mall and I let him pick out a pair of Nike’s that he would wear frequently.
But as the weeks turned into months, his desire to be alive lessened and my brother turned into a shell of himself.
I would ask my parents how he was doing, and the answers didn’t change.
“He’s the same,” or “he just locks himself in his room, barely coming out for food.”
For a stretch, I didn’t ask. I told myself they would update me with anything important.
Months turned into years, and while he received Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), he still doesn’t have that spark back.
I feel guilty when I worry less. I feel ashamed when I wonder how this is affecting my parents. I feel damned when I don’t ask how he’s doing.
But when my friend and I shared our experiences, I felt solace in the fact that her turmoil matched mine.
I wish I had a nice bow to wrap on this, but in truth, there is no formal conclusion — I just wish my brother was okay.