I’m a overthinker. I’ll admit it. I always have been. I get lost inside my own mind sometimes if I’m left to my own devices for too long.
It’s one of the characteristics I hate in myself because in the long run it really does me no good and it frustrates other people. The more I try to stop the more I seem to make it worse.
I have this need to understand the events of my life. So much has happened to me that I couldn’t control and it has had a big impact on me as a person.
Doing the CBT course I had to ask myself some difficult questions that I would never previously have considered. In truth the questions made me explore deep parts of myself I keep buried for the simple reason they are too difficult to reopen.
I have my therapy review next month which will be interesting. To see where I ended up from where I was at the start of the year is a vast improvement.
It hasn’t been easy getting here and I wasn’t always helped by the people around me but the course was definitely what I needed at the time and without it I know I wouldn’t be here now.
Not that I mean that in the sense I would have ended my life, I wouldn’t. No matter how bad or how low I have got in my life ending it is never an option I will consider.
I won’t lie, I did consider it once. After my brother died. I didn’t want to live, I couldn’t see how I would ever be happy again. Catching myself laughing over something meant that I was being unfaithful to his loss.
I was 7 years old at the time and I sat with a knife pressed against my wrist, admittedly a butter knife, locked in the bathroom and as I did he appeared in front of me, shook his head and said ‘No’. I never considered it again.
I went downstairs and looked at my parents and knew I could never do it to them. They never knew at the time but I think they are aware of it now. It’s not a conversation any of us would be capable of having.
They didn’t know how to deal with his loss themselves, let alone help a 7-year-old child get over it. No one is equipped with the life skills to do that, unless they have been through it before.
Looking back we should all have had professional help to deal with it. We went through counselling when I reached my teens because we started having issues but by then the damage was already done to the relationship I have with my parents.
It wasn’t any of our faults. We were all doing the best we knew how but we all became damaged by it in different ways. I didn’t only lose my brother that day, the world I knew ended and part of me and my parents died too.
I’ve been thinking about my brother and that part of my life a lot lately. He will be 30 on the 4th September this year and the big milestones always hit me hard.
Notice I can’t even bring myself to say would have been instead of will. In the same way that seeing the name on his headstone with died aged 2 3/4 years written underneath hits me for six every time I see it.
I’ve always found psychology interesting. In order to help find some answers to why things ended so badly for me, I decided to search the internet for help. It’s a topic I intent to spend more time learning.
I came across some interesting articles that I thought I would share. I know I’m not the only one who has had a difficult life.
I’m not the only one to get hurt by people I cared about and lose people I love so maybe others will find help in the articles too.
I found occupying my mind helped with the spare time I found myself with. Now I have overfilled myself with projects, it beats missing something I can never have and it’s certainly more healthy!
This is going to sound morbid but I need to say it anyway.
Today I went to the cemetery to spend time tending my brother’s grave. It’s 27 years next month since we lost him and the stone is looking quite weathered, the mud is not as fertile as it once was and the roots keep choking our attempts at planting flowers.
Incidentally if anyone knows how to clean marble effectively without sand blasting it, feel free to share!
I always talk to him whilst I’m tending to the grave. Just a general catch up on all the things I’ve been up to since I last visited. I was lamenting over my aching heart and missing someone when I looked around me and really looked at what was surrounding me.
When my brother was laid to rest the hill adjacent to his grave was empty. Now the hill is full of headstones. I was surrounded by people who would all love a second chance at life and there I was feeling sorry for myself.
I looked at the headstone and the inscription my Mum had penned through teary eyes as a lasting memorial to my brother. A little boy who never got to experience much in the way of life.
I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and head home but to avoid the traffic jam that was piling up I would stop off via the crematorium see my Nan and Grandad. Well if you’re going to be morbid do it all at once.
I found something quite beautiful, something I must have walked past a dozen times and never noticed before.
A fountain and pond in a garden of remembrance with a white daffodil lined pathway running up to it. The thing that caught my eye about it was the stone statue of Peter Pan sitting by what looked like a gate on the edge of a walled flower garden. I couldn’t help but walk up the path to have a better look. As I got nearer I noticed the stone toadstools with little brass plaques on them.
The plaques were memorials to children. It was the children remembrance garden with Peter Pan watching over the lost boys and girls. I quickly felt like a fraud standing and admiring the beautiful flowers so left and found the plaques I was looking for.
I haven’t been able to get that pond and the statue out of my mind since. It really was moving. I’m sure the idea has been a small comfort to many a grieving parent.
When we were looking for a resting place for my brother we chose where he is as it overlooked a football ground. When the trees are bare you can see more of the pitch and when they are playing the sound from the ground fills the air. My Dad has refereed there and felt comfort in knowing my brother was watching. Small comfort in such a dark time, but a comfort none the less.
The Peter Pan statue gave me an idea for a story and as soon as I got home I began writing. I might even enter it in a writing competition as there are quite a few closing this month. Sometimes even the most painful of life’s experiences can give you writing ideas.
On the 4th September 1984 my life changed completely. I was four years old and it was my first day of school. It also happened to be the day my brother was born.
I can still remember now, (approaching 30 years later) walking into that room to meet him for the first time. This tiny person lying on his front with his hands either side of his head dressed in a white towelling baby grow with a white blanket pulled up to his neck.
“Mum, why does he look like a tortoise?” To my child’s eye his head and hands looked like they were coming out of his blanket shell.
I always thought my parents knew right away about the Down’s Syndrome but only in recent years did I learn that this wasn’t the case.
Gary was born with a hole in his heart, which his lung was partially inside. He had one strong lung and one lung damaged by his beating heart.
My memories of my amazing little brother have become clouded by discussing them with people who remember things differently to me or don’t remember the incidents at all. So I prefer to keep my memories separate from my family.
Even now writing this I have tears forming in my eyes. Tears for the brother I always wanted, who taught me what love was and who sadly is no longer with us.
But I’m jumping ahead to the end and selling him short. He was with us for 2 3/4 years, dying on the 12th May 1987. It wasn’t long enough, but he was never mean’t to stay forever.
Being born in the 1980’s means we have no record of his voice. I really wish we did. I recently got our home cinefilm’s transferred to DVD. The sub total of his short life was a couple of minutes of film.
We don’t have a lot of photo’s either. I guess not knowing how short a time he would be with us we didn’t think to take more photos. With the invent of digital cameras and camera phones there aren’t many days that go by now when I don’t take a photo but back then things were so different.
My mind is full of some wonderfully vivid moments that over the years I have shared with most of the people in my life. You see unlike some people I don’t think talking about him is a bad thing. I don’t want one of the most important people in my life to be forgotten. Because not a day goes by when I don’t think of him.
I wear his picture in a locket around my neck and have a photo of me and him playing in the snow on my wardrobe door. He is always with me, because I chose not to let him go. My parents told me I should move on and even now they don’t think it’s healthy for me to hold onto him but he is my brother and he is a part of me.
I was the lucky one. I never saw the Down’s Syndrome only Gary. I saw his pain and suffering but I also got to see his face light up when I walked in the room. I miss the way he looked at me as if I was the most amazing thing he had ever seen. I got to hear him laugh, so much sometimes that he would literally gasp for breath and you’d have to leave the room to let him calm down.
I got to be the person who taught him to walk. He was walking for a week before I could get him to do it in front of anyone else. As soon as he started walking I’d scream for them to come quick but by the time they got there he was always sitting on the floor laughing at me and clapping his hands
I told my Grandad and he said he had an idea. He would call me into the kitchen and see if Gary followed us. He used to call him my shadow because he was always two steps behind me. The first time he came crawling through the door, but we didn’t give up. We tried again later in the day and he came walking through the door. I wasn’t the only one who knew any more and after that he walked more and more.
Although it should be noted walking was a difficult thing for him, he would only manage a few steps before needing a rest.
I often wonder what it must be like for my Sister (born the year after Gary died) and my brother (born 5 years after Gary died) to have a sibling they never got to meet. I know my brother thinks about him sometimes and has always been curious and asked questions. I don’t ever remember my sister asking questions about him.
I’m not sure why I decided to write about him. I guess the fact he would be 30 this year is making me miss him even more. I always visit him on his birthday, so I can sit and talk to him and fill him in on what I’ve been up to. To mark his big birthday’s I have a wreath made with his age on it and I make a donation to the Down’s Syndrome Association in his name.
I made a choice to allow myself to keep him in my life. To sit and talk to him when I need to. To cry for him like I am now when I miss him. But the truth is he never left me. I can’t see him anymore but I know wherever he is he’d be looking out for me.
I owe him so much. This little person who changed my life completely, not once but twice. Once in the best way possible and once in the worst. I guess in writing this a few more people get to know he existed and the impact he had on my life and in that he gets to live on in memory a little bit longer.
The truth is without having him in my life I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him or wish I could see him again but then I believe one day I will. I know this because on the day of his funeral I saw him playing outside and he told me when my time came he would be waiting for me and I wouldn’t be alone and in knowing that I have nothing to fear.