Yesterday was the funeral for my 25 year old brother Kendall. As much reality as there has been and finality with the funeral, I find myself still trying to figure out if I’m in denial or if I’m dealing with things exceptionally well. I can’t let myself just break down. I don’t know why but I can’t risk the vulnerability. I remember the last few months having my mom call me and tell me he wasn’t ok. Telling me he wanted to die and I kept telling her there’s no way. There’s no way he could do that. I even had myself convinced. Although suicide and mental illness has plagued my family for generations, my brother was always so rational. Always thought it was stupid to go out that way. Yet here we are mourning the loss and feeling the pain of his choices.
I know my brother was in a dark place for a long time. And he thought getting help would make him appear weak, or he would lose the navy job he so loved. Some people want to blame his marital issues and I’m sure my sister in law feels guilty but I know that suicide isn’t only just a selfish act. It’s also a choice you make in an irrational state of mind. Everyone has their own personal hell and what’s a breeze to one can be hell to another so there will never be a way to know what exactly was in his head that night. The should haves and could haves and what ifs are a waste of energy. What’s done is done. We can’t change it. The only thing we can do at this point is to break the cycle. End the stigma on mental illness. Spread the word that it’s okay to not be okay so more people reach out instead of feeling like there’s no other way. I would like to somehow be able to get help for military people because they have such hard jobs. Long times away from family and friends and having to see and do things that most of us can’t even imagine. These people who are fighting for our freedoms against our enemies should not be having to battle inside their own heads for fear of being ostracized. These people should be a main priority in this country. And I don’t just mean military, I mean all of the men and women who’s job it is to protect and serve. These people should be our first priority and we should thank them by making sure they know it is okay to get help. It is okay not to be okay.
My brother came home from deployment on a Friday. While he was out he had already told us of his plans to end his life and we had reached out to the navy to try and get him help. I’m not exactly sure what he told them but nothing was done. He was angry that my mother had told of his plans and was concerned about being in trouble with the navy. I don’t know if he had PTSD or bipolar disorder but what I do know is he should not have been afraid to ask for help. To tell them he wasn’t able to deal. He told my mom, ‘now I’ll have to do it.’ When he did finally come home he started drinking the first night. He told his friends he was “unplugging” for the weekend to work things out with his wife. The second night he sent my parents (although we didn’t know at the time) his final goodbyes. The third night he was gone. I never thought it would be him. I look back now and see all of the signs and signals that should’ve thrown up red flags but I realize that once he made the decision anything we would have done would’ve just prolonged the inevitable. I don’t place blame anywhere, I know that he made his own choices and most of them were made by a sick mind.
I’m still sorting through my thoughts and trying to figure out a way to accept what has happened and what this means for me. I love my sister in law and I hope that she is able to find solace in some of this and be able to move on with her life without this dark cloud moving over her too. When this happened I sort of shut my friends and family out for fear of spreading this misery any further. Maybe one day I’ll open up. I just feel like my brother hurt enough people and I don’t feel like anyone else should have to hurt for this. Maybe that’s the anger.
One thing I know for sure is I’m going to try my hardest to make sure my kids know their options. I’m not going to be snowed into the thought that maybe they will never experience depression, but instead plan for them to know its ok to get help and there is help out there.
That’s all I have for now. When I get things together a little more I’ll come back. Until then, please spread the word that it’s okay to not be okay and help is all around us.