I turned 31 yesterday, which would absolutely be unremarkable except for the fact that Justin, my big brother, died when he was 31. That’s a friendly way of putting it, though. Justin took his own life at 31. There, that’s more realistic.
I’ve been dreading my birthday for almost the whole year. I was super excited to turn thirty, because it meant I was out of the worst decade of my life and that maybe, maybe, this next decade would be less shitty.
So far, it’s not off to a great start. Honestly, it started much the same way as the year my dad took his life: I lost my job, I left the partner I had been planning on spending my life with, and my best friend/fur buddy/decade-long life-saver Atreyu died suddenly and brutally. Oh yeah, and then there’s the pandemic, climate change, late-stage capitalism, and white supremacy.
So, like, this year has been super chill in the grand scheme of things.
On Tuesday, I went to my psychiatrist’s office and told him that I was doing really well despite the fact that I was about to turn the same age as my big brother. My psychiatrist, who normally spends a good chunk of our session talking about fishing, tilted his head to the side and asked, “Do you ever wonder why you’re still here and he isn’t?”
First of all, who do you think you are, my therapist? Secondly, no. I don’t wonder that. I told him that the reason I’m here and Justin isn’t is that Justin was impulsive, angry, and violent. I am none of those things, unless you count how fast and violently I can demolish a box of cheez-its.
Then my psychiatrist asked another wild follow-up question: Well, did you ever try to help him?
And lordy, I almost lost my shit. I explained, calmly, all the steps the whole family had taken during Justin’s adult years to try and help him. That all of the help offered meant nothing when he was not interested in feeling or healing any of his wounds.
AND THEN. AND THEN. I can’t believe I’m going to type this. But then my psychiatrist said, “Wow, it sounds like he really wasted his life.”
Excuse me, sir???? Like, you’re not technically wrong but you don’t get to say that. Especially not to his sister, especially not right before her birthday. That’s a thought you can keep completely to yourself, forever. Holy cow, was that not what I wanted to hear or contemplate.
Anyway, my birthday sucked. But I was in Hawaii from the 19th-26th, and while I was there, I wrote a piece for Justin. It’s on my Medium blog, and I would be honored if you’d read it. It’s called Real | Fake.