Personal

World Mental Health Day 2018: Letting Go of Guilt and Grief

The anniversary of my brother’s passing was on Monday. This year, I didn’t do anything on social media. No childhood photos, no tributes, no music videos from singers and bands he loved. I usually find it to be cathartic. However, this year, the feelings have been different. This year, it wasn’t simply “I miss Matty, I’m sad he’s no longer with us,” this year it was more about what the anniversary represents.

At this point, whether anyone has wanted to or not, my family has adjusted to life without him. It doesn’t mean we don’t miss him or don’t think about what life would be like if he were here (I went to text him a few weeks ago over something dumb Ronnie had said on Jersey Shore Family Vacation and it was like, “oh…oops. Guess I can’t.” I hadn’t done that in years.), it just means we’re past the initial shock and the pain has slightly lessened. Now, the anniversary represents the day life changed forever, and I am angry.

I am angry that it happened at a time in my life when things were coming together, only to have it be blown apart in roughly 24 hours. I am angry that someone made a horrible judgment call and he lost his life because of it. They don’t realize that they took a part of my family with him, and I hate them for it. I hate that I constantly feel like I’m bobbing along in water, fighting to not completely fall apart, especially this time of year. I hate feeling like I’m playing catch up in life, knowing that a large part of it was having to “take time off” so to speak to mourn, for the initial shock of his death to wear off. The year after he died, I tried so hard to go back to “normal” in a short amount of time. I tried everything to speed up the process, and it bit me in the ass and I feel as if I’m still paying for it.

I know I hinted last year that I wasn’t still in sad mourning mode, but I couldn’t articulate what it was. I wasn’t sure what it was either. I think this year I hit the nail on the head–now that the dust has fully settled, I’m seeing just how big the impact of Matty’s death really is. I don’t want to keep the feelings in, I want to normalize them. I want someone else who is going through the same thing to not feel guilty that they’re angry about their own lives instead of wearing all black and weeping over a photograph on the anniversary. Death has a ripple effect on the living, it would be weird if it didn’t. It doesn’t mean you hate the person, it means you hate what happened to the person and what the anniversary does to you, and that you even have to acknowledge an anniversary. My brother was only 30 when he died. I’m going to be turning 33 in a few months, it’s fucked up and not fair.

With today being World Mental Health Day, I really wanted to share this. Again, I don’t want others feeling alone and I don’t want to keep it bottled up inside. It is okay not to be okay every once in a while. It’s important to tell people things you may be feeling as they may be able to help. If they don’t like it, they’re probably not worth having around. I do miss my brother, I’m just unhappy with the aftermath. Perhaps now having said it, the guilt will ease up and I can actually relax and begin to let go. Let go and allow myself to enjoy things, to make the most of life as I’m still here. 

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getting fine at 29, Health, Love, Personal

The Painful Awareness of Aging

While trying to come up with a loving tribute to my brother to post as a Facebook status as today marks three years since his passing, I just couldn’t. I tried so hard, but everything came out so angry and negative. Earlier today, while shopping with my mom (our tradition to help distract from the day,) we walked into a Disney store, and the first two displays were Star Wars and Marvel Comics. To make matters worse, a very wistful version of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” was playing in the background, and all I could think of was that he’d either be angry that there was so much merchandise (angry that Disney, Disney!! of all things owns Obi-wan and Wolverine, and that Disney is totally fucking over X-Men because of Fox, blah blah blah) or beyond excited that there was more access to things that he once loved. I burst into tears. I had to leave the store. Last night at work, every minor thing was pissing me off. I couldn’t focus, I felt panicky all night.  Obviously, this day is always going to be sad and weird and hard. But the last two anniversaries, I didn’t cry on the day. I didn’t have borderline panic attacks at work the night before. Things were always just…meh. The weeks leading up to the day have always been anxiety producing, but as it got closer, it would kind of stop til I was just…meh. Why is this bothering me so much on this particular anniversary?

Oh, that’s right. Two months from Monday, I’m going to be thirty. I’m going to be the same age as my brother was when he died. Barring any sudden terminal illnesses or freak accidents, once I hit thirty and three months, I will be officially older than my older brother. To me, that is the meanest and cruelest of reminders that he’s gone. I can’t wrap my head around this. I mean, logically, yes, it makes sense that since my brother is no longer alive and I am, that I would out age him, but emotionally, it’s scary and weird. Thirty is crazy enough, but this? This just adds a whole new layer of hurt. I am dealing with this alone, and it’s hard. Who do you even talk to about this? This isn’t like a dating problem or something more universal, this is something most people don’t ever have to even think about. The last time I sought professional help in dealing with grief, the shrink more or less told me that the solution was to get a better job and a boyfriend. I’m not even kidding, that is what I got for $120 a session. I’m not trying to be a special snowflake, poor Princess Furey, but this is really hard. Anything age related, and I can’t handle it.

The most recent example: crush gone wrong rejected me for a girl that is significantly younger than me. Again, not the worst thing that ever happened to me. It’s not like he cheated on me or the girl he went after had a vendetta against me. But since I have “oh shit, I’m coming up to an age that should be celebrated, not scary but is because of my stupid brother” attached to me, I wanted to punch this guy. I felt so old, so ugly, and so horrible about myself when shit went down. But I couldn’t quite say to him, “You don’t like me that way, I get it. But for fuck’s sake, could she just be a little closer to your age so I’m not feeling shitty about my age more than I already am thanks to my dead brother? Thanks, jag off!” I admit, this is selfish and unfair on my end–I’m totally taking my anger out on this guy simply because I can’t grasp this weird, weird, weird fact. Yes, getting rejected sucks ass, but overall, it isn’t his fault. It’s not Matty’s, either. He didn’t plan this. It’s a hard, strange fact that I’m having trouble with and can’t process. Will I ever get over it? Is this going to taint every birthday? Because those are hard with or without this “death age” thing hanging over my head.

And that is why I can’t do the, “I’ll always love and miss you, brother!” type post on social media this year. As much as I want to, I can’t. I do want people to talk about him. He existed. I can’t pretend he wasn’t born; wasn’t a major part of my life as well as other people’s, like his widow, his friends, our sister, our parents, our extended family. He was. He still is. It’s just that this age thing has me freaked out. It’s not supposed to be this way. But it is what it is. And now that I’ve had the breakthrough (if you’ve read this far, thank you very much.) I can ease up a little more and actually enjoy what’s ahead, which I know he would want.

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Celebrity, Personal

Leave Bobbi Kristina Brown Alone. Seriously.

It was announced today that Bobbi Kristina Brown’s family may (some sources say definitely, others say it’s a rumor) take the 21-year-old off life support on February 11th, the third anniversary of her mother’s death. Whitney Houston drowned on February 11th, 2012. Bobbi Kristina Brown was found unresponsive in a tub on January 31st, and has been in a medically induced coma ever since. Reports say that Brown had been struggling personally, with recent photos of the 21-year-old looking gaunt surfacing and reports of incoherent messages on various social media accounts.

So, naturally, instead of people offering Bobby Brown and other relatives condolences, people are criticizing the decision as to when to take Bobbi Kristina off life support. It’s “tacky,” it’s “ghoulish,” it’s “for publicity.” Are you fucking kidding me? I’m enraged right now. Yes, I know, internet commenters think they can say whatever they want, everybody has an opinion, but this is not about a poor celebrity fashion choice or calling out politicians on bad behavior. This is about someone’s life and the heartbreak a family is going through. No parent should ever have to decide when their child dies, let alone watch.

And yes, I do have a personal stake in this. Not with the Houston-Brown family, but I’ve been involved in a similar situation. Most people think that my brother died instantaneously. The truth is, it took him a full day. We got the call that my sister-in-law found my brother unresponsive in their bathroom while we were at the grocery store. We flew down to the hospital forty minutes away, where he was in the critical care unit. I’d never been more scared in my life. I knew that it was dire. Deep down, I knew he was gone. But because there was a small chance that he could recover, we held on to it. He’d gotten out of life threatening scrapes before, why couldn’t he do it again? I don’t know how my parents stayed relatively calm. I was a wreck, I didn’t even see him. I couldn’t. I physically could not gather the strength to get up out of my chair in the waiting room and go see him. We went home that night, with word that they were going to do one more test early the next morning to see if he could eventually recover.

The agreement my parents and I had was that if he was going to make it, they’d call. If he wasn’t, they’d come home and tell me to my face. Imagine my surprise when the phone rang, the number from the hospital. But it wasn’t my parents. It was the receptionist, looking for my sister in law so they could discuss what to do with his personal effects. Which meant my brother was gone. About ten minutes later, my parents came home and told me that Matty looked so at peace, how they watched him go. My sister and I both yelled at them “no parent should ever have to watch their child die!!” And they shouldn’t.

Now, that all happened in a matter of hours. Granted, my parents didn’t have to decide anything as my brother went, but they watched their child die. I still have trouble talking about it. Can you even begin to imagine what Bobbi Kristina’s family is going through? That they had to make the decision as to when to end her life? They’re watching her die. And people have the balls to talk shit? That’s really not okay. I hope that a majority of those commenters never, ever have to go through something like this. If the Houston-Browns want to pull the plug on the anniversary of Whitney’s death, let them. Remember, Bobbi Kristina was still a teenager when her mother died. Yes, her family had issues, but it’s still her family. You can’t expect a teenager, let alone anyone to know exactly how to grieve.

I can see the argument for people getting up in arms about choosing to end life support on the anniversary of Whitney Houston’s death. But that said, it’s the family’s decision. They were holding on to the idea that Bobbi Kristina could recover. That history wouldn’t repeat itself. They didn’t carefully orchestrate this to garner publicity (notice Bobby Brown has kept pretty quiet about the whole ordeal) but perhaps it’s a way for the family to help ease the grief a little. We don’t know, and we won’t know. And yes, Whitney Houston became a punchline towards the end of her life, but she was still a person. This is not easy for anyone involved.

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