Years had passed since we last discussed it. Why talk about something that is no longer relevant? The thought rarely appeared on my radar because I thought we had grown past this, we were greater than our depression would ever be.
So what if we were 11 years apart in age, he was my brother, and that bond we shared was unbreakable.
He and I became connected through our depression when I was enduring adolescence. There was so much going on around me that was beyond my control, but for whatever reason I felt responsible for the radical changes occurring in my environment.
He could relate.
In time, the need to internalize these feelings became stronger, as did my impulse to hide it all. At the moment, my brother was also experiencing internal crisis. Like me, he too bottled it all inside. Talking about it strengthened our bond as siblings.
It wasn’t that our mother was judgmental; our reason for hiding likely stemmed from a desire to protect her from what was beyond our grasp or understanding. She had endured enough already. She needed a break.
Despite a rough start to 2011, he seemed to be on the right track. It had been years since we had discussed our ailments of sadness and despair. Everything seemed on the up and up in his world. He was working full-time, had just got his license back after paying hefty traffic fines, and had a busy social life.
He seemed to radiate a a glow of fulfillment, and at the time I felt like I was trying to catch up. He was making great strides and culminating amazing friendships. I was struggling to get out of bed to use the bathroom, let alone see the light of day.
He still was there, and in an older brother-kind-of-way, he encouraged me to get my act together. By encouragement I mean that he nudged me, and poked me and yanked on my ear until I stopped wallowing in my own self-pity and did something with myself.
I decided to return to school. Summer Classes.
This appeared to bring him some relief. His sister was one less concern on his path to perfection. Another thing we had in common.
The night of his death I remember being sick with worry. There was no apparent reason for these feelings, but they were there. The darker the sky turned in the night, the stronger this sick feeling became.
At the time, he and I had a disagreement and had not spoken in days because he was disappointed in my decision making. I was 19 and thought I didn’t need his approval. He was 30 and believed differently.
At 2:00 a.m., July 16th 2011, I got an urge that was un-explainable.
“You need to apologize, call Billy.” This voice kept repeating itself over and over in my head.
I called him, no answer. So I waited. I tried again, no answer. This was unlike him. No matter how upset he was, he never ignored family. Family was always his first priority.
I didn’t sleep a wink.
The next morning as soon as light broke, I was out the door and on my way to my moms. I don’t know why, but I just felt like I needed her. To be with her, near her, by her. When I arrived, she was still a little bitter over some dumb choices I was making at the time, but was at least open to discussion.
It was 7:00 a.m., I had been there no more than 15 minutes when a knock came at the door. It was a local detective, she had some questions regarding my brother.
At that moment time slowed down, everything was surreal.
She needed to verify my brothers identity using a swatch of his hand writing.
She held a piece of paper in her hand, on it was a list of numbers:
He listed each of our names, and in parenthesis beside it, identified our relationship to him.
The detective informed us that my brother was found in his car at 5:00 a.m. – two blocks away from my mothers house with a bullet wound to his temple. His heart was still beating. He was air-vacced to the ICU where he was in surgery.
They couldn’t confirm anything as it was still under investigation, but I knew.
I felt sincere guilt about this incident for a long time. I was one of the few people who were aware of his battle with romanticizing suicidal ideation. The worst part is that I felt I had deceived myself and failed him in that I perceived it just be ideation. I began lying to myself: had I known he was struggling I could have been more available as support for him. I could have prevented this.
But he suffered in silence, just as I preferred to do.
He was never selfish.
It has taken me years to come to terms with his death. A lot of blame, confusion and volatile emotions. As time has worn on and emotions have dissolved, I discovered MY TRUTH.
All the awareness in the world could not have prevented him from making his choice. We could have strapped him down to a gurney and force fed him for the rest of his life. But if he really wanted to, the moment we became distracted, he could find a way to asphyxiate himself……. or worse.
My point in this story is that, yes, suicide is preventable to an extent. The extent of how willing the affected person is to accept help and begin healing.
Loved ones should refrain from blaming themselves and internalizing something that was far beyond their reach.
In my perspective: if love and compassion were enough to prosper, depression and despair would not exist. One cannot recognize beauty in the world without having seen the ugly too.