Tonight, however, in the midst of the holiday baking and planning, I need to stop and write. And, again, it has nothing to do with midwifery. (Or, at least not directly...) Three days ago, media outlets exploded with the tragic news of an attack. Elementary students, teachers, administrators, terrorized only hours after the warm glow of their holiday concert the night before. So many lives broken, with too few answers...
Together we mourn, a collective heart ache, river of tears washing into a tumultuous whirlpool of angry, confused blame. The mother who provided access to the firearms, the system that allowed the sale of the guns, the school's security system (or lack thereof), the sensationalization of shooters... Anyone, everyone, no one are at fault for the loss of these innocent futures.
I don't have an argument for or against any of it. But, in reading Liza Long's reflection (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother-mental-illness-conversation_n_2311009.html) I recognized much of my own struggle with last week's events. I woke up several times the night before, dreams of my brother haunting me; the same old guilt, longing, sadness lingering as I struggled out of the fuzzy sleep state and realized that I had nothing to give. Throughout the long night and Friday morning - and intermittently since then - my "little" brother has been on my mind, more so than ever since last spring. Only after reading Long's piece does that really make sense.
If Liza Long is Adam Lanza's mother, I am his sister. My brother never lashed out at me with kitchen knives, never threatened to kill me or routinely verbally assaulted me out of anger - but in the last years of his life, he did frighten me. My brother lost the bright, clear eyes I'd always known; a haze and darkness replaced them. He abused over-the-counter pills, manipulated and stole, and drew further and further from the person he had been. He admitted to hearing voices, feeling as though he was re-living days, in an "alternate" world. At times he was the same old kid - fun, goofy, sensitive and caring, but in barely an instant could spin into an angry paranoia. Filtering truth from lies could be exhausting, and was heartbreaking. Depression, hopelessness, despair filled his days; my brother used knives, hunting guns, pills to mark his pain. Together as a family, both with and without him, we traveled the path of reaching out to help our hurting kin; the ER, the county social service department, involuntary and voluntary behavioral health programs were all approached with little to no avail. Programs were full, or simply not accepting clients, or did not see "evidence" of mental health disease in my brother; with no cause for treatment, he could not be kept involuntarily. Third-party commitment was unlikely to work; in fact, the best likelihood for getting him into a real mental-health facility would be through the criminal justice facility. Pulling away to avoid enabling seemed to be the best option, but in the end, there were no options.
After going through the same trials over and over, we did pull away. We explained that we were afraid to have the Mini's seeing the fear, the anxiety, the confusion caused by these behaviors in the family, and that until he got help and got clean, he wasn't welcome in our home; in all honesty, we feared for our family, for the Mini's, for my elderly grandparents who said "no" to him, for those who were in his path when he was angered. At the Mini's school, it was known that only the Warm One and I were to pick up the girls - no others.
I did not fear my brother, but my brother was gone.
Eight months ago, my baby brother was found alone, dead, in the room being rented for him. My heart aches to think that he took his own life - he was working and seemed happier than in a long time - but deeper within myself, I recognize the loneliness and pain he felt, the struggle he knew.
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But. My husband hunts whitetail deer in order to provide venison, which feeds our family throughout the year; this is not simply sport, but a matter of tradition and stability for families that might otherwise go hungry. Similarly, my father, my grandfathers, my uncles all own guns - all of which are known to my brother. (Even if in locked cases, accessible through broken glass...) If, in a simple cruel twist of fate, this tragedy had occurred in different circumstances, would I be villified? My elderly grandfather? Though the guns were all moved following my brother's attempts to harm himself... though he had never made any attempts to harm anyone but himself... though we had tried, and tried, and tried to get him help until we were desperate ourselves...
In all of this pain and heartache, there are no real answers. Perhaps that is the real answer.
Love, prayers, tears to all who hurt...