Myself with my brother and mum on her wedding day

The death of my brother and how it affected my mental health

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This month sees the five year anniversary of the death of my brother, and I’ve never really truly spoken about how much it has affected me. So I am going to try and give you a little insight into what is going on in my head.

I’m on anti-depressants and have been for over a year, and as part of 2020 goals I wanted to seek support from a counsellor and look to come off them, however, I don’t think that will be happening just yet.

At the beginning of the year, I had a mini-meltdown at work and had to take a couple of days off. During that time, work put me in contact with a phone counsellor…and I’ll be honest, I came out worse. I kind of felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously. So I didn’t continue pursuing that avenue.

I then spoke to my doctor, who directed me to where I need to go to get face-to-face therapy. Covid broke and that was scuppered!

Friends and Family

My friends and family have been supportive. I just want to clarify that. The issue is, I haven’t been forthcoming. I’ve put the wall up because I don’t know how to talk about things like this. On my brother’s birthday or anniversary, I know that they are there and I thank them for it.

Me and my brother with his daughter and girlfriend in a photobooth

Those that know me will back up that I am quite a sensitive person, but at the same time, I can be quite emotionally guarded. I know people are there to talk to me, but it’s not that simple. How do you say ‘I don’t want to live anymore’ when you actually don’t know why you’re really having those thoughts?

With medical specialists, they don’t know me, so they can give unbiased support. And they are more likely to understand what to do/say if someone said that. I’ve seen a counsellor before, and it really helped that time, and while it took time, I was able to come out of my shell and discuss.

So by writing this, I’m hoping that the people I love, understand some of what is going on in my thick head. I can get an understanding of what is going on in my head. Plus, it’s easier to write without people asking questions.

My relationship with my brother

Before I start, I think it’s best by giving a little bit of a background about my brother and I’s relationship. You’ve heard of sibling rivalry? Well, I think the book was based on us.

My brother and I are totally different people. And we fought like cat and dog! He hated school, I loved it. He was always in trouble with the police, I wasn’t. He was a proper bloke, I was, well you can guess that I wasn’t.

We always fought. We couldn’t be left in the same room together alone, or we’d end up fighting. It was a difficult childhood for me. But at the same time, we were brothers and we would be there for each other when needed.

Myself with my brother and sister as kids

When our sister died, he was there. When he learnt I was being bullied at school, he was there. When I came out to him, he was there for me! As much as he was a shit, he was my shit of a brother!

Stubborn Mike

When I was in my late teens, we had a massive fight. Over a remote control! But it wasn’t really, it was years of pent up anger from childhood, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I snapped! I wanted blood!

I was kicked out of the house to cool down, but I never spoke to my brother again for around five years. Mum tried to get us to talk, but I refused.

I agreed to meet my brother, and have a chat. I was in a better place and I felt like I was in a position to discuss the past. It was a frank and honest conversation. And I got more out of that conversation than I ever wanted: an apology.

Things were going well until he got married and his wife, who put a divide between him and his family. He chose them. It was rejection, and personally, I was angry more for my mum than anything.

When the marriage fell apart, he came back with his tails between his legs, and the family accepted him back, but I couldn’t. I just felt like a used toy, that is only being played with because he broke his other. While the family could forgive him, I couldn’t.

To start with, I couldn’t even be in the same room with him. But with my mum’s wedding approaching, I needed to be a little civil for that special day. And I was, we did the things that we needed to do, spoke when we needed; but apart from that, there was little interaction after.

When we were at mum’s together, again we were civil with small chat, but I’d keep out of his way. Go sit in the sitting room and chill while he was chatting to mum.

I remember one day, he came in to see said ‘See ya bro’, kissed me on the cheek. I was just thinking ‘whatever’!

Little did I know, the next week he’d be dead!

Brother’s death

I was working when I got a call from the husby, telling me to call mum. My brother had collapsed at work, and mum was getting a few things together and heading to Wales.

I went to the kitchen and phoned my mum straight away, during that call the landline rang. Mum answered, and all I could hear was her screaming, then the line went dead. I knew what this meant. I just collapsed on the floor and started shaking uncontrollably.

A work colleague noticed and came in and asked what was wrong, and I just said ‘I think my brother is dead’! I phoned my mum back up, who confirmed it.

It was such a weird moment, my colleague was phoning everyone in the other office to let them know the news and that I was going home. In the meantime, I am finishing off my work. Then when I was pushed out of the office to get home, I was calling my manager and giving them a breakdown of what I’d done and what was left to be done. I don’t know what was going on in my head, because it seemed my priorities weren’t correct.

The family

When I arrived at my mum’s, I didn’t know what to do. She was inconsolable, all I could do was hold her. I remember I didn’t cry.

I had the job of having to speak to the two ex-wives, whom I wasn’t a fan of either. Mum wasn’t in any right frame of mind so that I took on the responsibility. I don’t know how I did it, I remember thinking logically and talking unemotionally and just matter-of-fact.

Like when any news breaks, it was sombre. I remember hearing my mum saying ‘I’ve lost two of my kids, I only have one left!’. I started to get emotional then because I knew the severity that this had on her. I walked out of the room, gained my composure, and returned to support my mum and his kids. I needed to stay strong for them. I needed to support them and help with the funeral.

The funeral

Prior to the funeral, the family went to his laying place and said our goodbyes. This was the first time that I have ever seen a dead person. It just looked like he was sleep, I just felt like it was going to be one big joke, and he’d jump up shouting ‘Gotcha’ because that would be something that he would do.

When I had some alone time I remembered saying (because talking to a corpse is normal, right?) that I would make sure that his kids would be okay. On reflection, I am not sure what that actually meant, and I’m not sure that I’ve kept to it.

When the family arrived for the funeral, it was weird. I hate the big family get-togethers because it always seems to be at funerals now. I remember being pulled to one side by one of my relatives, who told me that I needed to stay strong, you’re the man now! Little sensitive Mike has been told that he needs to ‘man-up’. Hilarious! Nothing like pressure, eh?

I did a eulogy at the funeral for my brother, and I don’t think I was the right person to deliver the message. This was a big task, but I knew my mum wouldn’t be able to do. But I also didn’t feel right delivering it either. I felt a fraud. I mean, I was a dick to him that last time I saw him, and now I have to stand in front of family and friends and pretend everything was normal.

The following months

There one thing that I noticed is that I hardly cried, if ever. I didn’t speak about it, and even if I was getting emotional, I would leave the room and regain composure. Like I said previously, I had no right to shed a tear.

After the news broke, I was back at work after one day, much to the surprise of everyone. It was my way of dealing with it. I needed to keep myself busy and take my mind off the situation. I think it was a way of me trying to gain control and strength, well as least looking from the outside that would be.

I did eventually cry…in January. I have spent months not talking about it, as much as the husby was there, I just placed myself in a little cocoon, blocked everything out, apart from me and my thoughts. It was only until one night while watching TV, the husby turned around and said ‘You know, it’s okay to cry!’

And I just cried uncontrollably, in his arms, for what felt hours. And I felt so bad for letting my guard down.

Guilt

Mr brother and I posing for a school photo

I have no right to grieve. We weren’t talking, and that’s my fault. I should of just stopped being a stubborn little shit, and sorted out the problem. Instead, the last few memories that I have are of us not talking, and I can never fix that. I am going to have to live with this for the rest of my life.

I’m also guilty that I am alive, and he isn’t. Him dying has an effect on many more people. He will never see his grandson (and vice versa). He has a family that love and adore him. He has kids that he can never support as they grow older or walk down the aisle.

I don’t. I’ll never have kids. I’m not going to be carrying on the family line. So wouldn’t it be better if it was me gone, instead of my brother? So he can spend the time with his kids, and watch his grandchild(ren) grow up?

I haven’t brought anything to the family that makes my life more valuable than his!

Health

With my brother dying in his 40s from a heart attack, it means that his kids and myself had to be tested to see if the underlying issue was heredity. And this is something that was never on my radar as being an issue.

From a young age, my family have always died of cancer. My sister died of cancer at the age of two. And as a kid, I always said that it would be cancer that takes me. Now, I am being told that there is a risk of it being a heart condition.

I discovered that we have a history of heart issues in the family. I was aware of the ailments, but I wasn’t aware that these also happened when they were in the 40s. So as someone who was approaching theirs, it was a kind of awakening for me.

I got in contact with the GP and had the relevant tests, and I was given a clean bill of health. Although, they’ve said that it’s only a snapshot at that moment. Nothing is confirmed.

Turning 40

On the run-up to my 40th, all I was thinking is ‘this is it’. This is when the ticking timebomb starts. This is when I could go to work and never come home. I spent every day waking up and asking myself: Why am I still here? Will this be the day? Will I be missed?

I started to plan things out for when it eventually happened. I started to document and organise the bills, so it would be easy for the husby to ‘not forget anything’. I spoke to two friends and dealt with my ‘what if’ strategies that they are there to support him and to make sure that he is okay. When right, I have randomly brought up conversations on how I want the funeral, the music or where I want the ashes scattered (I don’t want them left on a shelf).

As the weeks, months, and years passed, I was getting annoyed and frustrated with these constant thoughts. I wanted them to stop. I wanted to stop. I just wanted it to be over and done with already! I got to a stage where I was no longer scared of dying but more that I just wanted it to happen already.

And apart from a few medical professionals and the husby, until now, this is the first time I’ve been public with that thought. But I want to reiterate, I did not want to kill myself, I just wanted to die!

2019

Last year, something happened. Let’s call it a mistake. A ‘mistake’ happened, but the repercussions went a lot further than I expected, and this was just the tipping point for me.

Quite early on, I started to suffer from panic attacks. The thought of going out, put fear into me. This ‘mistake’ made matters worse by twisting the truth, telling people (even those I don’t know) lies about me. And it felt that people were staying away from me, and believing what was being said.

I was starting to regain some control and went out one night, I found out that this ‘mistake’ beat someone up…purely because they spoke to me! It now felt that I couldn’t go out anymore in the fear, that I am putting someone else’s life at risk because of the ‘mistake’.

I started going into a darker place, and my Logical Mike was trying to sort out Fucked-up Mike. Everything that the mistake had said about me, I started to believe. I’m emotionless, I’m worth nothing. And let’s not forget the way he attacked the way that I look. I started to believe everything.

Feeling worthless, just fed my desire to no longer wanting to live. I felt hated, walked away from groups and people because it was clear they believed the ‘mistake’. This self-deprecation that I had, felt like it had the ammunition it needed to prove its point!

Getting the support I need

My brother and I posing with a donkey

The thoughts of dying became more regular and had developed into other ways that I could die. As I said, I didn’t feel like I wanted to kill myself although occasionally the thought crossed my mind. I am too weak and pathetic to take my own life.

When I went to a doctor’s appointment (for something totally unrelated), they asked how I was, and I just broke down. I don’t know why I just broke, but I did. But this was the realisation that I needed help, and I was in the right place to get it.

After the appointment, I returned home and told the husby that I didn’t want to live…and I didn’t know why. A lot of questions were asked, and I honestly didn’t know the answer. I’ve asked those questions to myself many times, and I didn’t know why I thought like that.

I was placed on anti-depressants to help support me for a while. And I have no problems with the stigma that comes from that. I’ve been on them before and they supported me while I was getting the required help.

While I was thinking about my brother, which normally happens when it’s around his birthday and anniversary, I realised how much guilt I still felt. So writing this blog, I was hoping to give myself some clarity of what’s being gone on in my head. And I hope that my friends and family can finally understand what Fucked-Up Mike has been up to for the last year or so.

I am feeling a lot better in myself. I still have bad days, but not to the extent that I have been having over the last year or so. I’ve not been having many thoughts of not wanting to live anymore, but I still fear that my time is coming soon.

I turn 43 in a few months. The same age that my brother was when he died. This is a birthday that I don’t want to come or celebrate. Well, I can’t anyway can I? We’re in bleeding lockdown!

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