When we were younger my brother and I both listened to punk music, but he dyed his hair and tore the sleeves off his shirts while all I wanted was a T-shirt with a plastic Corvette logo.
He spent most of his time being himself, while I once spent an entire morning begging my mother to rename me “Dave or Steve” like everybody else in my class.
It’s his birthday today.
He’s been having a weird mix of good and bad over the past year. He lost a great job, but found another… which he lost just a couple of months ago. He’s also getting married in February*, to an incredible woman who he has been dating for close to four years.
*…they both work in the hospitality industry, so they know how to keep costs down.
My brother and I share the same past I write about here. But he’s never been able to talk about it with anyone. At least not someone trained in asking the right questions at the right time.
Any clarity I’ve gotten, any perspective I’ve been able to gain surrounding my family, has come from having a relationship with a psychiatrist for the past four years. My brother saw the same doctor about eighteen years ago, and when he came out of his appointment he told our mother he was cured.
I don’t think he’s ever gone to see another one.
Sometimes when I think of what we’ve gone through, of what he’s going through now, I see him as being alone. As if he’s fighting his own battle somewhere without even the little support I’ve received.
We have the same roots. The same things happened to him which happened to me. Because it’s my blog I use personal pronouns to describe events. My family. My life. But every time I write “me” I mean “us”. Because it was our father who abandoned us.
Because it was our extended family who neglected us.
My brother never exhibited any of the symptoms of manic depression. But we have both been trying to make sense of the clinical stuff for about the same amount of time.
He says he doesn’t remember much, if anything, from when we were kids living in and around the collective. I’m sure it doesn’t help that when we were very young we moved a lot. But you don’t have to remember in order to live with the effects.
We were really the only constants in each others life, but when our mother took us away he was able to bounce better than I was. And that took him places where I couldn’t go. And that pissed me off.
My brother is one of those rare people who can turn thirty strangers into lifelong friends just by walking into a room and willing it to happen. But he’s been able to do it since he was born. When we were kids we were abandoned by all the people our mother escaped from. So that, when I was nine and my brother was eight, we were all we had.
But the thing about extroverts is they don’t stay alone long. I’ve both admired and resented the way he can make friends so easily, because I was the introvert with the severe abandonment issues watching my brother, who shared those issues, deal with them in an entirely different and fairly nonchalant way.
When we were both finally in high school together, for example, I still hadn’t made many friends. I think I may have had two. By his second year my brother was a star athlete with multiple regional track and field records, and he was a volleyball and basketball all star.
He and I were still very similar, though. It was mostly a matter of degree. We were both heavy binge drinkers before we were seventeen. But where me and my friends would spend a weekend getting high, playing Risk and shooting guns at a barn, his younger crew would be barhopping or crashing parties.
The problem with writing about other people on this blog is I can bring up the points I feel necessary to tell a story, or to explain their actions but it’s like pulling letters out of the alphabet. I can write “t d x w” and be right, but still piss the person off because they think I’ve gotten the order wrong or ignored all the letters which give the ones I’ve chosen context.
The thing is it’s not high school anymore and he still hasn’t dealt with any of the “father” stuff and I think it’s weighing him down. So when he starts to feel depressed about losing a job, it quickly spirals from there because there’s so much he hasn’t been able to deal with. So the issues are still there to take him deeper into depression than the situation might require. And our way of dealing with deep depression is to ignore phone calls and emails from family, and retreat into ourselves.
When people don’t talk about their problems everything turns into assumptions. And generally those assumptions end up being wrong and inevitably keep us from being healthy in the choices we make and the things we try to do.
For the past four years I’ve been able to voice my assumptions twice a month in my psychiatrists office. Just saying stuff out loud allows me to determine whether it’s bullshit or fact. For the past two years I’ve also had this blog. Editing what I write until it’s as close to the truth as I can possible come to has helped me get rid of most of the bullshit, lies and obfuscation I’ve built up around a lot of my problems.
We were both abandoned by the same father, both had the same mother who was trying to recover from her own problems while raising us, and we both were neglected by our extended family. And we dealt with those problems in very different ways, but at times they’ve been equally self-destructive…
Because we didn’t fucking know any better. It’s not like we had a lot of instruction growing up. My little brother has done remarkably well. He started out as a bartender and became part of the management team for several of Canada’s top hotels. Despite everything I’ve won awards for doing my job. But we both end up spending sixty to seventy hours at our offices, trying to do what we think is right to get the job done better. Then we get fired.
We both have resumes filled with jobs we were able to keep for only a few months. We both have the intelligence and skills, but it’s like we level off and can’t keep up an interest in what we’re doing. Or something. Most of my job losses have been related to the disease. But we both tend to be very frenetic when we first start a job.
We adopt the job, like it was our child. Like it was our product. I was putting in sixty hours a week at the first newspaper I worked at after college. Not only was I reporting, but I created their photography department and I was laying out a third of the paper.
Which was great, until they hired a new managing editor who couldn’t see the value in a photo and thought reporters should be on time and only be reporting. So I got fired.
It’s like we’re both a half of who we’re supposed to be. We both missed so much of the instructions we’re meant to be taught when we’re children. It’s like, in some ways he and I imitate what we think adults are meant to be doing. But we can only keep it up for so long, and then we get caught.
We were raised in a collective/political commune in a way which left us on our own most of the time. Then after the divorce our mother had to work long hours because there was no alimony or child support. She did the best she could for us, and it was pretty good most of the time, but we were still on our own everyday after school until dinner or the early evening.
I don’t think that’s the reason though. I don’t know exactly why we do the things we do. I don’t really know why we were both binge drinkers. I don’t really know why we both disappear from family when we’re depressed. I don’t know why we’ve both had such a difficult time staying with the women we care about.
What I do know is that I love my brother. He’s an intelligent, funny, witty, artistic man who has both a family and a fantastic woman who love him.
And if he’s having problems he should come home so we can play Call Of Duty. And to make it fair I’ll only use the handgun, and one hand on the controller.
Happy birthday little brother.