Last night I got additional bad news about my brother. I’ve mentioned before that he has cancer. I told you that I fear a meltdown at his loss. I already have mini meltdowns each time I hear some bad news. His fate is hanging over my head all the time. I try to shove it to the recesses of my mind, but it effects me–it drains me and it “depresses” me. But this is not depression–this is grief. Grief is another natural phenomena that often gets medicated but it is a natural part of being human. We grieve for a time and we heal. Drugs can halt that process. Stop us from feeling normal feelings, so that we don’t recover. I intend to feel my grief to the fullest and I know it will take time–perhaps a very long time to process.
I had hope for my brother for years. When my sister, the doctor, told me over four years ago he would be dead in six months, I refused to listen to her. She’d made a similar pronouncement about my father now four and a half years ago. He’s still alive and did quite well until just recently, though now I face his imminent death as well. I have the prospect of death all around me right now.
As I was saying I had hope for my brother for many years. I was optimistic for a miracle and he did keep on beating the odds. But now the odds are worse than ever before and we are all exhausted holding out hope. He has completed every conventional treatment available and all that is left is clinical trials. The cancer is growing rapidly and at this point I don’t have hope. My brother’s quality of life is miserable. Though he is still functional physically his emotional state is horrible. His marriage has broken up under the stress of the disease. (apparently terminal disease breaks up a lot of families) His kids are acting out and he just wants to escape all responsibilities. He is leaving his family. He will be thousands of miles away from them. I am sickened by this. He was the one family member I had on a pedestal. He could do no wrong. He always supported me. He believed in me. He GOT that I suffered bravely through years of pain and mental anguish and he appreciated what he saw as a fighting spirit that never gave up. No one else got that in my family. He was my spiritual super-hero. He seemed to have insight into the nature of being human. I naively thought of him as close to being enlightened (granted I don’t really know what that means, but I suspected my brother of it.) Well…he has fallen off the pedestal. He is a mere human being. He is not dying gracefully. This makes it a double whammy. He no longer confides in me. He is withdrawing from all who love him. I feel I have already lost him.
I, too, am not dealing with this gracefully. I feel angry with him as much as I feel pain for him as well. I want him to do right by his kids. I am afraid of how they will interpret him leaving them when he has only a short time to live. That he chooses to not spend his time with them. How will that effect them once they actually lose him to death. I fear they will feel a sense of double abandonment. I hope that he will come around. There are stages to the dying process. Before the end many people come to a place of acceptance. I hope with all my heart that this possibility of acceptance brings him back to the ones he loves. That he stops withdrawing.
My husband pleaded with me last night. “Don’t be angry with him.” I am almost ashamed to admit to anger–but alas it is there. Anger in many ways colors my life. I have spoken about it often now. I need to let go. I need to love and have compassion. For my brother, for my psychiatrists. For myself. I am also angry at myself. I sometimes hate myself. I blame my predicament on myself as much as I blame my doctors. This is all poison, this anger, this hatred. It will impede my healing if I don’t get it under control. It will eat me up. I need to accept and forgive my brother or else it will cripple me when he is gone. I have so much fear.
I know that I must feel all of this–accept my anger and negative feelings as part of the process of letting go. I can’t stuff the feelings. That will make them worse. I’m just not sure how it will play out. How do I let go? How do I love? How do I have compassion? It is not all as foreign to me as I make out. I have done all these things in parts of my life for many years. I do have a vague sense of faith that it will work out. That I am capable of achieving all that I need to. I am in the end optimistic. My brother always said that I was optimistic and he was right. I’ve never given up. I’ve always believed things would improve and that is in and of itself a miracle. I need to hold onto that insight he had in me, as before he said that to me, I was not aware of it. I was only aware of my anguish, my “mental illness.” But his telling me that he saw optimism in me and undying belief that I could find answers; years ago lightened my load. He made me think, “yes, I am hopeful.” It made me believe that ultimately it is what made me different from all my other mentally ill brother and sisters. The people who were my clients who really had given up hope. Yes I had long periods of hopelessness and helplessness, but I always kept searching and finally I’ve found this path, which I finally for the first time believe is healing me. I never felt anything else was healing me. But I did keep looking. I never gave up.
And so now, I must not give up either. I will heal my anger. I will heal my fear. I will come to a place of love and compassion. And I do believe this in my more lucid moments. I also get caught up in the negativity and lose sight. But I have found my way here–to this journey of healing and I don’t believe it will end with the loss of my brother and my processing of my negative feelings. I am on a forward moving trajectory and it is clear to me now.
Nonetheless, I know I face some of the hardest times of my life. But I come to it with the strength I’ve developed in the last year that has created a health in me that I’ve never had before.
Thank you for being there. It helps to write this all out. Thank you for witnessing my journey. And as a final note–in the past my way of coping would have been to take more drugs. I’ve not needed that and found that I have vast amounts of coping skills I never trusted I had before. The sad part is that they were always there. No one ever suggested I might have them though, and I didn’t trust myself. Here is an indication that I do not hate myself, that instead I trust myself and do have love for myself. It is a process as I said above. Ambivalence about my strengths is part of it.