“The only thing you have to do in life is die.” I read that in a book once, a longtime ago, and I instantly made it my motto in life—I thought, but that wasn’t really true. It just fit with the way I already lived my life. It was a way to explain it. I’ve always taken accountability for the things that happen to me. They happened because of the choices I made, and I was in control of how I reacted to those outcomes—what I allowed them to do to me—and then my brother died. That’s an easy statement to type, just 5 little words, but he was a bigger part of me than I ever knew. The core of my emotional center. The very first human being I ever truly loved, ever truly trusted, and one of the few I ever will. My concept of fate was obliterated. For someone like me the realization that you don’t always have a choice was like a self-destruct button, just one that only destroyed the inside of the complex.
I sank into my own personal version of depression, a functional depression. I didn’t get sad or withdrawn. I didn’t stop functioning. I just shut down emotionally. I went cold, because it makes more sense logically to stay functional than it does to break down. It hurt, and that hurt was harming the machine, so without really even trying I began to shut down feelings one at a time, almost like switching off fuses in a breaker. But fuses often control more than one room. The less I felt my brother’s loss, the less I felt anything. It wasn’t a rapid thing. I didn’t wake up one morning and just not feel. It was gradual, and after it almost ended my marriage, I made the realization it wasn’t a process that began with my brother’s death, that was just the event that caused a full shut down, a change I could see.
In life we all have lows. Everyday existence throws things at us that hurt, frustrate, and stress us out. For me, I dealt with those things with isolation. I needed alone time to recharge, and as I had more children, the time for me disappeared. Point by point, I sacrificed the things that I did for me in the interest of practicality to the point I couldn’t even get 60 seconds to finish a thought anymore. I’ve been interrupted 10 times in this 10 word sentence. And with the loss of that, instead of dealing with the stress and hurt in my life or reaching out to the small network of people who cared about me, I just ignored it. I refused to even acknowledge it was capable of slowing me down, let alone knocking me down. I thought that made me strong.
I didn’t just begin ignoring things either, I ignored people too. Inadvertently, I began cutting people from my life, because it no longer hurt me to do so. They were a use of time I did not have. I spent nearly a year just going through the motions—wake up, feed the kids, clean the house, feed the kids again, work, eat dinner, sleep, repeat. It got to a point where the kids telling me they were hungry was the only thing that reminded me I needed to eat. Bed time was the only thing that made me realize how tired I was—my functional depression, and you have to ask yourself, is that really living?
In a sense, I died when my brother did. It all came down, but under all that emotional rubble, through all the dust of collapse, I was still there. It did take time for the people who really loved me to dig down to me, and it took more time for me to see them there trying to lift me back out, but until you breathe your last, there is always a chance to change. You do have a choice. I lost sight of that because I let too much build up. Yes, I never expected to lose so much so fast, but that’s what it took for me to see what I was doing to me. Arrogant in my tower, I expected it to fall and crush the world that challenged me, but instead it buried me. I didn’t write this to get sympathy, and really maybe I just wrote it for me, because no matter how many times I got interrupted, sometimes just getting things out helps, one brick at a time, but if you take anything from it, I ask that you don’t let life get in the way of living, because you’ll never know when you won’t be. You have to make time for you, even if it’s just writing 800 words of what’s in your head rather than doing the dishes.