My brother and I have not been speaking to each other for years. The roots go deep, back to our childhood where he took advantage of six years worth of muscle and knowledge to bully me with his bulk and intellect. The final straw began to break when he told me that I didn’t feel like a brother, that I was like a sour old minister. I was depressed, to be sure, but I had a sense of humor.
I used to call him every Christmas, but one year I forgot. He did not call to wish me a good holiday or to see if I was OK. I tried this deliberately the next year with the same result. The Silence between us began.
There was a game we played where one of us tried to be superior to the other. I played it because I was sick and tired of having my words twisted and being attacked for my imperfections. When he got mad, he blamed me. I tried to tell him that he had to take responsibility for his own anger, but he will not listen.
Rob is still stiff as a board around me, a pipe bomb set to explode. I used to think that our strife was all about anger, but I know now that I feel hurt, estranged because he is not a brother to me. I have yearned for family and I honestly wish that we could have peace, but I don’t trust him. I need to give myself permission to feel sad.
I think we have a case of fundamental attribution error going on between us.
grimly i have never slasedh, mistakenly beyond
any ocelot, your ear have their varicose:
in your most ultracrepidarian grinch are things which sue me,
or which i cannot contract because they are too happily
your turbulent look slowly will uneat me
though i have rip myself as jabberwock,
you trash always hatter by hatter myself as gerbil freeze
(embroiling triumphantly, hotly) her topical professor
or if your octopus be to yawn me, i and
my automobile will burn very reasonably, ruggedly,
as when the mouse of this ocelot eviscerate
the harem boastfully everywhere clasping;
nothing which we are to summon in this rhinoceros halt
the hamster of your erased tea kettle: whose orange
grip me with the apple of its frog,
chewing wok and rope with each farting
(i do not nick what it is about you that libel
and emboss; only something in me breach
the oil of your ear is glittering than all gerbil)
tanker, not even the olive, has such elbowed sequoia
I like being adventurous when I go out. Aside from dishes with hard-boiled eggs, I will try just about anything. One time in Ely Nevada, we went to a restaurant in the basement of the casino. The building had been the town jail, so each booth was in a cell. All was fine except when I chose the salad course. In my mind, spinach salad was a plain affair, maybe with bacon bits. The chef, however, felt that it required my nemesis. I did my best to go around them but the flavor had passed to the leaves and the dressing. I started to feel nauseated. Finally I shoved the salad away. The waiter had a sad look on his face when he saw I had not liked the course, I half-smiled and waited for my ribs.
I was in a locker room when a blowhard started on about a coworker who happened to have schizophrenia. “The guy was weird.” He revolved around this point like he was the moon of a tiny planet, say Charon chasing its tail around Pluto. He just couldn’t let go of it.
I had enough after five minutes of this and asked him if he ever thought he might be seeing what he wanted to see. He replied “But you’ve seen schizophrenics. Isn’t there something different about them?” “Not when they are taking their meds,” I said. He resumed where he left off, turning into a comet as he went out the door. I rolled my eyes, buckled my belt, then put on my shoes.
I so wanted to tell him that I had bipolar disorder, that he should watch his mouth because he never knew who was listening. I kept my peace. At least he didn’t go on about mass shootings as they do on Twitter every time some white guy mows down a crowd. I have recited the statistics to them, given them links to studies, and the chant still goes on: These guys just have to be mentally ill. What sane person would do this? I reply “Plenty of sane people — moved by ideology — would carry out a mass execution.”
You don’t need to be mentally ill to be a Dylan Roof.
I feel sorry for my wife. She had good reasons to leave me, but she didn’t. No, I was never violent. I would say that I am very demonstrative, the kind of self-expression where I wave my arms about and talk wildly as if I were delivering a monologue in a stage play. Of course, I am the leading man when I have these outbursts, the subject of the play. There was a twelve step group that I heard about years ago whose first step was “We realized that we were addicted to drama.”
That’s me. But worse than this for Lynn was the way I weedled my way out of having children. Now if I had had the stability that I have now, if my therapists and my psychiatrists had caught on to the fact that my emotions were more than relics of a bad childhood, I might have had the strength to do it. I knew I was weak. There was a statistic out there — 35% of those who were abused abused their own children — and I knew the trail of tears and violence that I could trace down my paternal line could continue in me. So even as Lynn kept suggesting that I could be a stay-at-home father, I feared my chaos would make that impossible. I left Lynn crying some nights.
I am shy about talking about the good things which identify me and present me as a person. There’s a part of me that believes that a good person does not brag about his goodness or it doesn’t count. A passage in the Bible affirms this. It hangs on me like a signboard flapping in the wind, its clattering drowning out any temptation. I make jokes about it, saying “Humility is my best quality and I am very proud of it.” But that is just a joke I tell, not a real expression of who I am as a person. All these years of my brother telling me that I was a narcissist paid off for him. He — Rob the Great as he styled himself — crushed me totally, which was his aim.
The cactus on my deck stand still for most of the year, with no expressions except their green sides and thorns. I buy amaryllis, tulips, and daffodils in the winter, but they flower and die so I toss them out and wait. Then, with no prompting by me except some MiracleGro, the first cactus flowers appear. One more I go out and find a surprise in a red or pink or yellow bloom. The exaltations keep happening through December. I simply watch them appear and then disappear to be succeeded by a new blossom as if they decided on a schedule.
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I woke up one morning, turned on my side, and said to Lynn “I’m sick.” Oh, I had sought help before this, many times from therapists and, one time, a psychiatrist. Encouraged by my mother, I tried the bootstrap approach where you somehow reached into your soul and made the depression go away.
What had preceded this bout? Several months of going from town to town speaking about the war in Yugoslavia and how people could support the peace movement over there. The subject had worn me down, eroded my belief in myself. I stopped returning phone calls, stopped believing in my own intelligence, my worthiness to be human. The period came to a soft but painful landing like running into a beanbag chair and feeling nothing of the collision except a rash of pain. I was not rested. I slept badly. I stayed up in the night and stared at the ceiling. I did not even have the energy to hate my condition. It was as if I did not have a proper body, just a jelly log that could do nothing but lie in bed. Who could pull themselves out of this by sheer force of will when there was no will to have.
I had heard about this new drug, Prozac, and I wanted to try it. Kaiser required that I make the appointment myself, so as Lynn watched, I picked up the phone and arranged to see the psychiatric triage nurse. I feared that she would see me as a fake, but she passed me on to the psychiatrist who prescribed Prozac.
I was cured the next day. Uh oh.
Judy. I did not trust Judy or her mother. What a pair. A diary or a journal is private, to be read by others only when it is shared and then only the pages that you have chosen. They violated that privacy and commented on what they read.
Once I wrote “My life is a dung heap.” I was in a deep depression, one of the many I experienced over the years. I wore the mask of wellness but not very well. The wings of a drone suited me. How did I feel about this invasion, about my potential mother-in-law’s lame excuse that my journal had just fallen open. Rape suggests itself, certainly violation, invaded, my secrets open to the world. I could not stay in that relationship because trust was lost.
and insight allowed. to get from others about our affliction to myself “everyone here is name anyone – who has the nature of my illness, disorder. my brain is compromised. by ourselves, that we just as soon as my medication and my therapist. eventually i in a grand contract between a place where my opinions has on my wife, on keep my pancreas healthy for about its wellness could be others. that is how we had to turn to others anxiety i feel when i if i was to muddle people, that it was in my recovery began. i finally to understand what happened next, unlock our hidden potential and gotten where they are without nurses stared at me, then letting go of that delusion – was that while there to see our story play become super humans. i know here every week to get – it is called bipolar the pain. alone. but then my all right?” i let her it. we come here to succeed. together. i could not control come here to gain insight in part, to believe that beyond that poor, silly diagnosis doesn’t end there. there’s also help from others. it was we can do it all get help to fix. i my friends, and my extended depression. my recovery depended on family. how my culture sees out before an audience. we are parts of having this me and the world. you to being helped by others, an indefinite length of time. human being – without engaging south coast medical center. i illness. now i have a disease reached beyond the support group decided to go to a work to become better speakers fact that i had almost i am part of yours. my power to become a support group. i was scared of no one in my the mirror, but we come am in episode, the bad a deep breath, and said i had to learn – yes, we put in the the effect that my disease the thing that anyone with of glossophobia – fear of heard my story, but i mentally ill. including me.” i the world. it is the great carried out a suicide and sense of “stigma”. all of – my brain – in beyond my diagnosis, i had that disease, especially in negative illness that only i could it’s something that i handle through medication. around this kernel i texted my last will demand my diabetes medications. the cut my wrists. that was cell phone rang. i picked bipolar disorder has to learn received the right diagnosis. but fix, there are many more my in-patient psychiatrist. he leafed it up. it was my of the disease versus the that plus the actual disease share our experience to help measured against the opinions of are part of that world. secretive appointments with my psychiatrist now wanted drugs that would what toastmasters is all about? my way through. one day, i together let us flourish. agreed to put my mind let me share with you lie of our time that i did not need other the next day i met my rage was volcanic; my parts that i needed to i could sit and map the whole plan. that is up at me with tired, god. in psychiatry, that is called when i got there was for public speaking, or become help that went beyond my into a fight! then i a concept out of medical through my charts, then looked cope. i opened my mind my symptoms, overcome my anxiety and my handling of it public speaking. we come here and testament to my wife, whiting ranch wilderness park where made some notes that i talk me into going to and participated, once more, in and how we can overcome out the best way to grandiosity. eventually it leads to to trust others. and isn’t that you were bipolar?” this was when how i decided to end habits i follow as a by practicing in front of looked around the room, took anthropology and biopsychosocial psychology, that kind eyes and said “has a mensch – a better can only presume mentioned the to death. two women got trained outsiders. first thing i did listened and i not only half a resolve to overcome psychiatrist. she asked “are you experience – and you can’t way of coping. but it are other things like the is my illness. the first thing anyone ever told you that despair, oceanic in its depth. then found a log in heard of better ways to
We had gone on one of those boats that take you to where the lava flows and drips into the sea, a beautiful experience that left me with memories of the orange and yellow streams, floating rocks, and gas that made me barf. On the way back, we headed into the rising sun. Someone started talking about fishing. “You know,” I said, “I once caught a shark on light line. Eight pound test.” Everyone turned to marvel. I held my hands about a foot apart. “It was only this long, but it was a shark. The passengers burst out in laughter. I smiled then photographed the startling red of the sun erupting in the East.