Over the weekend, I got a text saying my older brother had been talking about taking his own life. He had threatened to do this so many times we brushed it aside and even laughed about it. Little did we know that he was serious.
The next text I got said he had climbed onto the power lines (NEPA lines) with the hopes of electrocuting himself. Somehow he was talked down and then disappeared for about 2 weeks.
A little backstory. My brother is not only the smartest in the family but the most talented. He is a self taught artist; he can draw, paint, sculpt, mould, sing, write, you name it. However, at some point in his life, he fell into drugs. When the pocket money he got could no longer sustain his habit, he resorted to stealing. He was/is the type of relative that when he comes around, you hide all the valuables. I always protected and defended him because he was my smart and handsome big brother - until he stole my new shoes. Even then, though, I gave excuses for him. I recall one time we were woken up at 4am by policemen holding my brother who had our TV with him. He had told the policemen that he was on his way to fix the TV - at 4am. Looking back, they were really nice policemen because they brought him to the house to ask if this was true and if he truly stayed there. As we slept, he left all the doors open, took the TV and he went out with the hopes of selling it. We were saved that day. Another time he stole something very valuable from my mother. She insisted he take us to where he sold it. He took us around the neighbourhood until we got to a deserted house and then he took off. This was about 10pm on a dark, cloudy, starless night. As no cars were passing, my mother and I had to walk back hoping we did not run into hoodlums.
Another thing that my brother is, is a charmer. Once he was done with all his shenanigans, he would return home and our mother would be strict with him but he would play her tune (and the rest of ours). For 2/3 weeks he would be the perfect brother/son and just when you lower your guard, he would strike. I recall my mother crying because he stole her gold watch and sold it for peanuts - just to get a fix. She tried having him locked up, kicked him out of the house but he always charmed his way back. One time, he took rat poison and we all got scared and tried to ‘understand’ his situation as best as we could.
There was always a darkness about him. Other girls would describe him as ‘dark and brooding’ but maybe that was the beginning of depression and we missed it. He did write several suicide notes as well as other dark literature. He found pleasure in inflicting pain on my younger brother but never me. He attempted suicide more than once but he got a scolding instead of a listening ear and treatment. Now he is older, married with children. Sometimes he calms down, best husband and father ever and then he goes on a bender. He’s been missing for two weeks. His phones are off. The family knows he will eventually turn up but what if he does not?
As Dr. Stella Iwuagwu once said, empathy costs no dime. Perhaps if we had listened, paid more attention, gotten treatment for him, anything really, we might know where he is. He might have gotten the treatment he so desperately deserves. Even worse, what if he succeeds? How does the family recover? How do we pick up the pieces?
Written by Susan