My brother is a blast: the kind of person that turns a catch-up into a cautionary tale. He’s lovely and sweet while being a whole other level of off-the-cuff funny.
Having said that, he’s also a partying, finagling, tyre-squealing, red-lining so-and-so with a great job, a beautiful car and crippling debt. He is my opposite in all the exciting aspects of personality. But we do share one big similarity, that being mental illness. Ours is Bipolar, served with a side of borderline personality disorder. We go through the stages; soaring, jabbering excitement where we can do no wrong, then plummeting to crippling lows when it’s not even worth getting out of bed. From this comes an indescribable isolation that I embrace. Brother, being an extrovert, doesn’t enjoy it so much.
When we get together our social problems evaporate. In each other’s eyes our emotional range is normal. We talk about our parents and how their whack perspective on raising children was toxic to our real-world progression—nothing too traumatising but enough to make the average person ask WTF? We grew into barely functioning adults: me, shut away from the world; him, tumbling from one turbulent year to another. Relationships and habits were always getting the better of us, we’d act on impulse and then spiral in the ensuing chaos. Brother was reckless, dangerously so, and more often than not ended up in hospital. When I’d pick him up from the hospital (or prison), I couldn’t help but lecture him, and he’d grin, maybe a shrug or two, then make jokes until we’d both laugh. Afterward I’d wonder if he’d realised the point of my moaning was not to be a killjoy, but actually because I was so damn worried about him.
Then came an arbitrary point where he decided he’d had enough and started to get his life on track. He went to AA meetings and got to rebuilding all those bridges previously burnt. I felt crazy pride in him, because I too had recently run the gamut of self-analysis, truth and realisation. But I had a partner; she inspired me, and held me up the entire way. Brother was alone and still decided to change his life for the better—that takes strength.
He used to call and vent to me over the phone but if I missed it or didn't say the right things, he would feel I had betrayed him and would be lost to me for weeks. I started to pick up, every time, and after a while began to fume (selfishly) on the inside, that my phone would ring whenever I sat down to dinner or a movie. I would fume that he wouldn't even ask me how I was or what I was doing, just talk about his troubles and hang up—feeling somewhat lighter, hopefully. There were times he would passively threaten me, saying that “since no one cares”, he may as well start drinking again. And he would, regardless of the love I gave.
It feels hard, almost impossible to tend to our own needs when someone dear to us is hurting. But there comes a time when we have to and it’s unfair to deny that. Sometimes it can even work out for the best.
During my own self-analysis, I had realised I was stagnant and had made poor life choices. I realised that I’d been alone so long I’d never questioned myself, I realised that things in my life needed fixing: So I left the country.
Moving away helped me, even though they say it isn’t reasonable behaviour to run away from our problems; that we are just the same jerk somewhere else. But I think what works about it is that when we move away from the things that weigh us down, we minimise blame factors in our life, leaving no one to use as an excuse for our behaviour but ourselves. Brother followed that line of reasoning and also moved out of town, heading south to greener pastures and a better job. Once again, I felt a ridiculous amount of pride in him. That he could take a big step and change for the better for no reason other than wanting to do so. Brother and I had complained for years about our situations, about how our parents were to blame for all the things wrong with us, which was right, to a point. But there comes an age where we have got to take responsibility for our own actions, and we had reached that age some time ago.
For both of us, getting to a point of self-sufficiency has been stressful, really stressful. We’ve realised that living good lives and loving ourselves are major factors to true happiness and we’ve taken shaky first steps in that direction. It’s a long trek, with ravines, mountains and the occasional storm.
But who doesn’t love a good journey?