Since my last phone call with my Mom where she suggested “smelling flowers” to entirely cure my depression and struggle with suicide (aargghhhhhh!!!) I’ve changed her contact details from “Mom” to “Do not answer this call until you feel better” on my phone. I’ve done the same for my Dad.
“Do not answer…” flashed on my screen yesterday and with a breaking heart, I let it ring and ring. Voicemail answered and my phone beeped a few moments later. Mom or Dad had left a message.
Sighing, I sent out a prayer. Please God, protect my heart. I have no idea what’s waiting for me when I call voicemail. This could break me or frustrate me – anger me and push me further into depression – or just be a casual ‘hello’…there’s only one way to find out.
Heart thumping hard and my hands sweating, I dialled voicemail.
“You have one new message”
Deep breaths, JD.
Ok. Let’s have it.
“Hello my Janny” Mom’s chuckle “I just wanted to call and see how you are. I love you. You mean the world to me. And I miss you! Give me a call when you can, ok?” – Mom rummaging around with her phone, muttering to herself and chuckling away at something…then dial tone.
How much I want to call you – but I can’t get into this with you.
What do I say?
No I’m not fine, Mom. I was at the end of my rope on Tuesday and my Doctor wanted to hospitalise me because I was suffering that badly and had decided to end my own life. Alun had to take the week off work on unofficial ‘suicide watch’ for me? I can’t work because I just cry all the time? I’m scared all the time? I feel a brick in my stomach all the time and from the minute my eyes open in the morning until they close at night (only with strong sleeping tablets on prescription from my Doctor), I’m in an incredible amount of pain?
She wouldn’t understand.
“…just jump up and down a few times” echoes in my head.
Oh Mom…you’re breaking my heart.
But I don’t want her to worry. I don’t want to push her away when she’s my Mom. She honestly wants to help, she just literally DOES NOT GET depression and anxiety. To get Mom to understand how completely INAPPROPRIATE jumping around or smelling flowers or “changing the flavour (???) of my thinking” (wtf does that even MEAN!?!) is to someone holding onto the brink of life with their very fingernails – would be like someone trying to explain astro physics to me – completely lost on me.
Trying would just make me suicidal again because I know Mom will NOT understand. A wooden box with me in it – that she’d get.
So I can’t call my Mom.
But I don’t want her to worry.
So I have to lie. Again.
And oh how I hate to lie!
I’m going to have to text her tomorrow “Hi Mom, yeah I’m fine – just busy with work (lie lie lie). I’ll give you a ring in a few weeks when everything’s calmed down. Love you xx”
And it makes me cry. It grieves me that the very people who are naturally meant to love and be there for me are the ones who hurt me most. My Mom by blindly not getting it and getting upset when jumping up and down doesn’t ‘fix’ me, My Dad who bellows down the phone line at me to “get my ass into gear” when he knows (or does he?) that just getting up out of bed in the morning is sometimes all I can do that day. “Pulling my head in and getting over myself” is not something I’m capable of – and to hear him have a go at me like that – feels like he’s kicking me in the teeth when I’m already beaten and laying on the ground.
And my brother?
The last time – in 2009 when I tried to hang myself – I rang him.
“This is…inconvenient for me” he said “It’s…uncomfortable for me…I don’t want to get involved”
I DON’T WANT TO GET INVOLVED.
Those words – that pure dismissal of me – of my very life hanging in the balance – hurt me more than anything anyone else has ever said.
This time, I can’t even call Jay because he’s blocked me on any and all forms of contact.
Even if I wanted to ask for help – which he well knows I need because he’s grown up with me and knows how I battle with sadness, depression, anxiety, fear – he has made sure I can never ‘inconvenience’ him again.
I fast-forward in my mind to if I did die – and I honestly think – no word of a lie – that Jay would like it.
There he’d be – in his Armani suit, flicking his stupid ‘too big for his wrist’ watch around and smoothing his thousand-dollar tie down the front of his personally tailored business shirt – not at my funeral – because that day would have been “inconvenient” for him. It would have been filed in his “Too hard. Don’t care. Can’t be bothered” basket. I know – because I’ve been in that basket of his many, many times in my life.
No, in this situation, he’d be showing a house to a new couple. A couple he well knows can’t afford it. He’d be spinning the best tale, building ‘the dream’ right before their very eyes “Yes, this is a perfect 3 bedroom little beauty – we can have this built in 6 months with all the optional extras. Family is so important” he’d say – flashing his well-practiced, even smile “I should know…” and then he’d lower his voice and make his lip quiver just so. He’d clear his throat for added drama “I lost my own sister just a few months ago to suicide” and he’d shake his head sadly and wait for the sympathy. And he’d use it to make a bigger commission on the house that a beautiful new couple cannot afford “No no – I’m okay” He’d assure them – and they would have no idea but he actually WOULD be okay with it. “I just want to make sure you know that family is at the crux of all my house sales – you never know when you will lose a loved one” and he’d let that sentence hang for just the right amount of moments before smoothly corralling the couple into the kitchen “Did you know all our kitchens come with state of the art Italian finishes?”
Good one, Jay. Good one.
Oh my heart. My heart.
I loved you all my life, Jay. I worshipped you alongside Mom and Dad – cheering you on, believing only the best in you and it wasn’t until that one day – the FIRST and ONLY day I DISAGREED with you that I saw you for who you truly are.
A spoilt shit.
I finally took you off that high and mighty pedestal Mom, Dad and I have put you on since the day you were born and I addressed you – face to face – equal to equal – as I never have before.
I told you off.
You didn’t just dislike it – you responded with quiet, seething hatred of me. Oh the way you simply drew a line through me and cancelled me out of your life. Oh Jay – it hurts me deeper than you’ll ever know how easy it was for you to do that.
“Can you untag me from your wedding pictures, Mom – I don’t want Janet to see any of my life from now on“
“I’m not coming if Janet’s going“
“She’s uninvited from my wedding“
Just like that – get rid of me. BAN me from your life.
Because I told you off. That once.
I love you now and I will always love you…but I don’t like who you are as a person. You’re an extremely selfish man obsessed with wealth at any cost. You’re building your empire on the huge financial risk of innocent people who just can’t afford the dreams you sell them. You treat people without money like garbage. You look ‘through’ anyone who is not going to add ‘value’ to your life and you are not a good person.
Most of all, you are not a good brother to me.
I look back on our lives together and in the last 20 years of it, you haven’t been very nice to me. I can’t believe I didn’t see this. I can’t believe I allowed you to do this to me. I can’t believe I stubbornly defended you and believed in you when all along, you were the first to abandon me. The first to leave me in a rough situation. The first to back away from me when I was suffering. How shocking it has been for me in the last year to turn and find it’s been you stabbing me in the back all this time.
You’re a smiling assassin, little brother. Smiling across the table at me at family dinner, laughing, joking – enjoying the good times – but whenever I’ve been hospitalised with depression – you’ve never come to visit. When Mom and Dad threw me out on a winter’s night – you didn’t want to pass me a jumper from the back window. When Anne completely annihilated me – you took her side. When I’ve been homeless – you again “Didn’t want to be involved”.
I couldn’t even sleep on your couch!
What is that all about?!?
Shame on you, Jason. SHAME ON YOU.
My image management and my own fears of being rejected and abandoned have made sure I paint the picture of a perfect family life.
I don’t tell people about my Dad who is a raging alcoholic. He used to have a fridge right by his BED so that the second he woke, he could be popping open a beer. I don’t tell people about how I’ve lived much of my life walking on eggshells when Dad is drunk at home because I’m so afraid of what will tip him off into a rage. Being too quiet can make him angry. Too noisy. Too careful. Not careful enough. There is never a set formula for safety so It’s made me an incredibly cautious person – especially around people and alcohol. Once people start getting drunk, my fear rises to new heights. I can’t stand it.
(Apart from Alun who over the years has shown me a different side to alcohol – that it can be enjoyed occasionally instead of hourly – that he can have just a few beers and not an entire slab and be satisfied. That he is giddy, cheeky and just so happy and nothing to be afraid of – if anything, he’s overly loving and drives me nuts because he wants to sing to me and talk to me when I need to sleep. Bless him).
I don’t tell people how much my heart used to break when I would get ready for school and I’d smell it from outside – the strong, immediately recognisable smell of marijuana. My Mom would squat beside the washing machine, inhaling deeply on her pipe – “hiding” what she was doing; but I saw it all. I worried. I didn’t know what it was when I was young and when I grew older and did know, It just made me sad. Mom grew it, smoked it, dealt it, bought it, sold it – the whole deal. All my life. I used to pour orange juice into her plant pots to kill them.
A stoned, confused Mom who often flew into violent and unpredictable rages and an unpredictable, often frightening Dad who wouldn’t remember what he did to me the next day – that’s my real life. That’s also why I’m fast at assessing a situation – is it safe? Do I need to leave at any second? I’m a quiet, careful speaker – because I’ve learnt from my parents that keeping an even, calm voice at all times is a necessary survival skill. This is why I ‘perch’ on chairs and couches no matter where I am because I’m ready at all times – to flee if I need to.
This is my real life.
What I post on Facebook – they’re the good times in between all the darkness and fear.
The times where in the last 7-10 years they’ve both softened in their old age, I guess. Dad is less angry, bitter and hurtful when he’s drunk and more melancholy and upset. Mom smokes marijuana hardly at all now and is focused on her work and on supporting her family in the Philippines. Where she used to hit me – she now holds my hand and smiles up at me.
They’re good people, my parents. They are now – but 30 year’s worth of damage, of fear, of comparison and hurt…it’s there under the surface and it’s the reason I hold my breath the entire time I’m around my family.