Chris’s aunt and uncle are staying with us the next few days, and on their first night with us, we spent the evening enjoying Chinese Indian food, wine, and also talking about a lot of different topics, including mental health. It inevitably led to conversations about Ed, his struggles, my family and how they handled my brother’s illness (or, well, chose not to), and just how I have dealt with it the last two decades of my life. And then I learned all these new things about Chris’s aunt, about her own struggles with her family, especially her dad and her brother. Her brother was never able to garner enough of his dad’s approval and love, and despite being very talented and well educated, went through a downward spiral and ended up having electric shock therapy to his brain, similar to lobotomies as what people in those days had because no one understood the concept of depression or mental illness. So he was pretty much rendered useless, like an immobile child who could not function as an adult anymore. He’s now living at the same nursing home that her 100-year-old mother is living at, but neither has any idea that the other is so close. As a result, his aunt has a lot of anger towards her father. Even though he’s 105 years old, he is still critical and unaware of his negative effects on her brother and his life. It’s very similar to how I feel about our father, how he didn’t help and if anything, really made Ed worse. I always wonder if he ever contemplates it when he’s alone. I’ll never know, though, because discussing emotions is off limits with my dad. We realized our similarities in feelings immediately.
They asked me multiple times if I was okay to discuss it and apologized if they were making me feel uncomfortable. It’s never a fun topic that anyone enjoys, but it must be discussed. There are moments when I felt a bit uneasy or tense, but the openness is needed to address the complex feelings and thoughts around this. If anything, I am grateful when people ask me to talk about it all because it means they want to learn and they also want to be heard. And that’s what we need more of in a world that is facing an increasing rate of mental health problems and suicide ideation and risk.