"At times I think my coffee and tea addictions truly drive my artistic energy. It’s a small sacrifice for the greater good."

Sunday: birthdays, death, and uncontrolled emotions

Posted: 3/14/10 | Written by Jeannie |

I went to the movies, a completely innocuous thing to do on a Sunday. Who knew I would come out, rush to my car only to weep uncontrollably for the drive home and much of the afternoon. Now before you start, I am not one that gets overly emotional when watching a chick flick. However, this was different. The movie should have had a warning label: may cause PTSD symptoms to those who’ve had family suicides or traumatic 9/11 experiences. Because of this movie, I found myself realizing three things. First, yesterday was my deceased brother’s birthday. Second, that he killed himself at 27. And third, I am still not over it. To quote badly, “to write is like taking a knife to the vain and bleeding for your work.” So as to hopefully heal old wounds I find myself, once more taking a knife to my emotional vain.

There are things which I detach myself from. Unfortunately I remember them quite clearly. Thanks to an artistic mind, even sketchy details—which were thrown around the dinner table—can bring full blown memories of events passed. A friend once told me that I have the uncanny ability to look at a personal situation from the outside, watching it unfold and later recording it. There were many events in my life when I had to do this. I had to step outside of the situation just to make sure I could survive it. These events usually started with my brother Matthew.

Very rarely did it happen in which I was the reason for his abuse. It trickled down, rippled out, whatever metaphor you wish to use, I was never the cause which made it worse. As a kid you think if someone is yelling at you, yelling horrible things it has to be because of something you’ve done. Because of this I grew up with the viewpoint that I was worth less than the air between your computer and its WiFi signal.

When Matthew killed himself it was a relief. I know that’s horrible. I know that makes me sound horrible, and maybe I am. But his death meant I was no longer under a constant barrage of mental and physical abuse. I’ll be clear it was more mental than physical. There was an occasional kick here and there. But my brother Mike always stepped in. He stopped it from going any further than the initial strike. Eventually Matthew knew he could not get away with it and returned to belittling his only sister.

To show how much of an ass he was, he didn’t just kill himself. He took the life of his children’s mother as well. He couldn’t let the world be better without him, so he had to leave his beautiful children under the care of two families rather than their mother. Selfish bastard.

I can still remember—word for word—my mother’s conversation with him over the phone. Till this day it’s a haunting reminder of why we must choose our words carefully. And I am sorry that I cannot relay that conversation to you. Still, ten years later it hurts too much to write in detail about that night.

When watching the movie this afternoon. A movie all about birthdays, death, and how one person can help rejuvenate—it hit me. I am the same age as my brother when he took his life. And as the movie is ending, a happy note—the family is starting to work once more—I see that I’ve never gotten over what he did. I compartmentalized the tragedy. Packed it away in little boxes around my emotional baggage and left them taped loosely, only to have them roll over and spill at will. I am not over it as proven by today’s emotional spill, toxic waste oozing out. Yet, I look at each box which has sacrificed its life already. I’ve broken each one down and realized each spill means one less in the future.

6 replies:

  1. Debra V. said...
  2. That was actually interesting to get some insight on how you felt about your brother. I never realized what a difficult relationship you had with him. Still doesn't make it any easier to accept his death I'm sure, just more complicated.

  3. Jeannie said...
  4. Debra, we hide our crazy well. Yes, it does make things more complicated.

  5. Susan Reep said...
  6. Nothing easy about life. Or death. Your words reminded me of myself - taking the practical view of getting through things and much, much later, realizing I haven't dealt with them. This movie today may have opened the floodgates so you can finally finish processing this most horrible of events. I hope you do, because I hate to think of your life still being controlled by someone else's actions, no matter how horrible or how you were related. Your life is yours and you have a right to it - to live it on your terms, not someone else's terms. Lots of love to you.

  7. Jeannie said...
  8. thank you Susan. *hugs*

  9. alyson said...
  10. Great post, Jeannie. That couldn't have been easy to write. I never really think of something like that actually happening outside of movies and news so it was interesting to see if from a perspective of someone I know.

  11. Jeannie said...
  12. Alyson, I cried all the way through it. But it gets easier. Today I read it and only teared up a little.

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