Content warning: suicide, mental health, addiction
On Wednesday I sat down and mentally compiled a tribute to my brother, whilst assembling an IKEA table. There’s something strangely therapeutic about putting flat-pack furniture together (at least when I’m doing it by myself).
My brother, Robert ‘Bobby’ Addison, took his own life some time around the 21st-22nd July. Securely fixed a piece of wood between the rafters in his loft directly above the access hatch, attached the rope, and… well, you get the idea. Obviously something he’d planned out; who just happens to have a piece of wood exactly the right width to slot between the rafters just sat around the house? He was found on the 25th by a neighbour.
Although we were once close, my relationship with my brother was complicated. He had extensive mental health issues, in part exacerbated by the suicide of our eldest brother Ian back in 2000, the fallout of which (long story short) broke down his relationships, his connections with his children, family and friends.
I hadn’t seen him in 7 years, since Isabel was tiny; bumped into him in a local shopping centre. I kept meaning to write, to find him, but put it off: I wasn’t sure I could cope with the risk of introducing someone explosive into my children’s lives, and I felt I needed to ensure the safety of his children too.
Part of me feels like I shouldn’t be talking about this – we’ve not even had the funeral yet. But how do we break down barriers about mental health if we don’t talk about it? Particularly when someone with issues is left with no support network. Yes, actions have consequences, but where do we draw the line if it means potentially saving someone’s life?
Anyway. Bobby had threatened suicide multiple times since 2000. Part of me was sure he’d never go through with it. I liked to believe that he would not want to put us through “it” all over again. But if you feel ostracised, if you feel nobody cares, would that have even crossed his mind? Either way, having to deal with a suicidal brother for 17 years… it numbs you. I grieved for him again and again, every time I thought it was the end. Watching him jump in front of a moving train. Seeing him surrounded by drugs and drink. Every text telling me he’d had enough, that he couldn’t cope, that he didn’t want to be here without Ian. I cried and I grieved and then he didn’t die, he missed the train, he survived the drug cocktails.
And now he’s gone, and I expected to grieve once more, and mostly all I feel is a complicated mess of shock, regret, and relief that he is finally free from his pain.
Unfortunately, being relieved doesn’t make this shit any easier. I have been drinking. Not “bottle of vodka on a school night” drinking, but drinking nonetheless. I use it to escape my head, my own mental health, but it’s cowardly and it doesn’t work. I have also slacked off at the gym and avoided people and responsibilities.
I like to think that I have the self-awareness to nip the unhealthy behaviours in the bud before they get to a “point of no return”. (And by self-awareness, I mean my habit of constantly over-analysing the minutiae of my life and then wondering why I have so much going on in my head that I can’t escape from.)
I like to think that having the privilege of a support network, of an unwavering rock of a husband, of friends who are there for me 24 hours a day, and a counsellor who willingly listens to my swear-filled rants punctuated with sobs and sniffles… that all of this means I will go on. That I will grieve, that time will heal the wounds of regret, that I will forgive myself for not being there.
Until then? One day at a time.