Hello to the Hurt and Grieving -
This is my first time reaching out to a support group forum after my Big Bro/Best Friend took his own life 13 years ago. It is time I stop holding in the pain. I need to tell my story and release this weight that has been on my shoulders for so many years. I am tired of pretending to be tough, tired of ignoring the pain and holding in my emotions. Yes......it still hurts 13 years later. It comes in waves. Sometimes it hurts more then other times. Right now....it hurts
I was 17 years old when my brother, then 20, took his own life. THE. WORST. DAY. OF. MY. LIFE. He started struggling with depression in his early teens. My family wasn't picture perfect as it sometimes seemed. My father was physically and verbally abusive to my mother and on rare occasion to us (me and my siblings). There are 4 of us all together.I believe my brother got the worst of it because he would stand up to my father. My Father's abusive ways did lesson over the years with his faith in God. He wasn't physically as abusive as he was in our younger years but still dished out quite a bit of verbal abuse.
With this background and the fact that mental illness runs in my family my brother grew depressed in his early teenage years. He swallowed a whole bottle of tylenol once and was rushed to the hospital. He was smoking pot, drinking alcohol and took a few hallucinogens in his late teens. Not good for someone that already has a mental illness. He was in and out of public psychiatric facilities a few times throughout his teens. He was medicated off and on and eventually was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder. The drugs they gave him made him like a zombie and my parents couldn't bear the sight of him like this. He wouldn't smile, laugh, or show any emotion. It seemed as though he was just numb to the world. My brother convinced our parents that he didn't need the medication anymore. He said that he was fine and started to show life again after he stopped taking it. Unfortunately this was a mistake as we all have come to learn. I just don't believe my parents were knowledgable enough about mental illness and how the medications work differently for different people. So instead of going back to the doctors and suggesting another medication or lowering the dosage, they just stopped giving it to him.
Things were somewhat back to normal after stopping the meds. But that didn't last long. A couple months after he stopped taking them things started to worsen. He was talking to himself a lot. I would ask him what he was talking about or who he was talking to and he would just say - "Nothing. Don't worry about it." That just didn't seem right to me. He seemed to be getting angrier and angrier everyday that passed. I would try to comfort him and show him I cared and ask him questions but he would just block me out. He was going silent.
We had a trip to my sisters house planned, out of state, for our nieces 5th birthday party. My brother adored our nieces and they always made him smile. So I thought this trip would be great for him. He would possibly be happy again. At least get some happy time before possibly going back to the psychiatric center as my parents were talking about.They were somewhat in denial but they knew things were getting worse. So we decided the trip would be nice and then we would deal with the doctors upon our return. So me, my dad, my boyfriend and my brother piled in the van to take the 6 hour trip to my sisters for the party. My little bro and mother stayed behind because my mother had to work.
We were half way to my sisters, 3 hours into the trip, and we stopped to grab a bite to eat. My brother started saying strange things out of nowhere. He was talking to himself and was talking about the voices that were in his head. I was worried and a bit scared. I could see the worry on my Dad's face. My boyfriend, who is also good friends with my brother, was worried as well. My Dad said that we should cancel the trip and turn around and take him straight to the hospital. My Dad finished ordering our food to go while my brother and I sat outside on the curb and talked. I told him that I loved him and that I was sorry he was feeling this way. He calmed down and said he would be fine to go on the trip. I told my Dad that I thought it would be good for him to see the girls and that we should continue on. I was convinced that seeing our nieces and sister he would snap out of this funk. So again we continued on.
We got to my sisters house and spent some time with our nieces and had dinner. My brother was still acting a little strange but was excited to see the girls. He played with them and was laughing and smiling. I was so glad to see that but he still seemed somewhat distant. We all went to bed after a nice day of spending time with the family.
We woke up the next morning and my brother seemed even more distant. He was upstairs laying in bed most of the morning while the rest of the family was downstairs having breakfast, chatting and preparing for the birthday party. My sisters husband was out of the house, I believe at work. My Dad went out to get a hair cut and the rest of us stayed in. Me, my sister, boyfriend and my nieces were downstairs hanging out when we heard a loud thump coming from upstairs. My brother was up there alone. We all thought he was sleeping in. I told them I would go check on him so I ran up the stairs and found my brother laying in the closet with a pool of blood around his head. He had shot himself in the head. I screamed,"CALL 911" and ran down the stairs to get away from the sight. I didn't have the courage to check for a pulse. I just couldn't bear the sight. My sister was screaming at me, "what is wrong, what is wrong, what happened ?" but the words just wouldn't come out of my mouth. I couldn't speak. I just told my her not to go up there. Keep the girls away and stay calm for them. My boyfriend ran up to see if there was a chance he was still alive, but ran down speechless. I was crying, he was crying, everyone as crying. My sister's husband arrived before the ambulance and he went up as well. There was no hope, he was not alive. The ambulance was there moments later and they made us leave the house. My father arrived back and we were out on the corner crying. He saw the ambulance and had no clue what was going on. We told him and he burst out in tears and couldn't say anything. We then had to call my mother to tell her. Who would do it? I volunteered. My mom and I had a great relationship and I felt best telling her. So I picked up the phone. It hurt to dial the number. I didn't want her to feel the pain I felt, but we couldn't keep it from her. She answered and could hear the worry in my voice. I burst into tears. I asked her if she had a friend close by and that she needed someone now. I was thankful to hear that she had her best friend visiting her. Someone to comfort her. I proceeded to tell her what had happened. She cried and cried and said no, no, no! She was devastated and I felt bad not being there to hold her hand, hug her, comfort her. I wouldn't let her get off of the phone until she said she would be okay. I talked to her friend to make sure she would stay with mom to keep her company. We then hung up.
We were still outside the house crying, torn and lost. All I could think of is what have I done? I convinced my Dad to keep on going with the trip. This was my fault. This was all my fault. And honestly, after years of people telling me this was not my fault, even many therapists - I still believe it is. If I would have let my Dad turn around like he said then none of this would have happened. And that is a lot of pain to live with. A LOT OF PAIN.
A priest arrived and we all sat in the ambulance as he tried to comfort us. We had to get a grip and come up with a plan. None of us were going back into that house that day. We still had our niece's birthday party planned. We had some hard decisions to make. Do we go on with the party or cancel it. We decided as a family to go on with the party as not to traumatize her. Even though she did not understand what was going on she could definitely tell that something was wrong. We needed clothes and stuff from the house so we had to call a friend and make of list of things to grab for us. We had to shower at a friends house all while trying to keep our emotions under wrap for the sake of my nieces.
It was now time for the party. The party was planned at a local farm. Time to put on a smiling face and try and forget what had just happened. We were actors that day. Holding in our tears and hurt while we watched our niece blow out candles, open presents, play games with her friends. We tried not to let the guests know about the tragedy that had just consumed our lives. It was so hard to do. That day is a blur in my mind now. I don't even know who came. All I can remember from the party was looking out over the farm trying to find comfort in the sunshine and the beauty of the nature around us.
The next few months were blurry. I don't remember much at all. My brother and I had a lot of friends and I know they were there to comfort me. They are the reason I made it through. I had a lot of friends supporting me, comforting me and just being there. I have flashbacks of that day a lot. They are vivid and scary and I hate them. I only want to remember the good things. I hate that I had to see him like that. I hate it. I have realized that I will need comfort and support from this for the rest of my life. I need comfort from others who know how I feel. I also want to comfort you all too because I know the pain. I know how hard it is even years later. It never goes away. The pain lessons but it never truly goes away.
Now I am all grown up. I have 2 sweet little boys and a wonderful husband. Things couldn't be better. But not one day goes by that I don't miss him or think about him. I wish he was here to meet my children. My boys would have loved him. He was so kind, sweet and funny. He loved kids and acted like one himself so kids loved him. I still have pain in my heart. I just can't bear to think of the internal struggles he was dealing with. The pain in his heart and mind. It makes me sick to think that there are so many people out there with mental illness. Some get the help they need and some don't. I want to be part of helping save lives from this terrible illness. People need to be educated about mental illness and medications and warning signs. Learn from me, learn from my story. The first sign of a problem needs to be acted on immediately. Not put off like we did. It could save a life. A life so dear to your heart.
Jerri's Little Sis