Not a happy holiday post

Personal stuff follows and certainly not Christmas happy. Skip this post if you don’t care for that kind of thing. Not looking for advice, really, just read tonight something that was spookily coincidental.

This just dovetails scarily into what the OAM & I were discussing tonight.

I have a younger brother. He has all kinds of problems. Over the last ten years or so, he’s become an alcoholic with suicidal tendencies. At least he says he has suicidal thoughts and urges. He can’t hide the fact that he’s an alcoholic. He lives in the past. He gets drunk and calls or texts people to talk about his memories of Dad, Grandpa, his childhood, movies or tv shows from his childhood, pets we had, cars we had, food he liked as a kid… everything from before he was a teenager.

I had always thought that Dad’s death, coming when he was 16, was the catalyst for his problems. He has never seemed to get past it. Then he couldn’t get past Grandpa’s death. And every death thereafter for our family has been like another personal blow to him. I thought maybe he had issues processing grief.

In talking to the OAM, who has spent quite a bit of time on the phone with my brother over the past 10 plus years, and who has had quite a bit of schooling in psychology in addition to many, many long discussions with a professional head shrinker about far ranging mental health topics, it now seems like the problems may not be that simple.

The armchair diagnosis (yeh, yeh, not worth much but it is a starting point) is that my brother probably has had a serious mental break that has only been getting worse. He hasn’t emotionally matured past the age of about 10 or 12. Increasingly over the years he’s become unable to live in the present. He is a 38 year old man who doesn’t use the internet or email. Who plays Nintendo games from the early 80s. Who watches tv shows from that time period, movies from even earlier and can’t name a single song from after 1975. None of those things on their own are necessarily bad. The problem is that with his particular mental problems, all those things do is enable him to stay in the past.

He used to be a bright guy. He’s been getting more and more incomprehensible over the last several years. Part of it is undoubtedly the damage from the alcohol. But not all of it.

He has lucid periods. But they are increasingly punctuated by an inability to carry on a conversation. He can hold forth on his nostalgia obsession of the moment but he can’t venture out of that narrative where he is comfortable. He goes over and over the same old wounds, keeping things from scarring over and healing. He relives the same old victories and defeats. He can’t vary from his monologues when he gets like that. It’s like no one is even talking to him. No new information penetrates.

He won’t get help. He refuses to see anyone. He’s paranoid that if anyone really knew what was in his head they’d lock him up forever. He’s terrified of losing the control he thinks he has over his life. I really do get that, but his control is an illusion. He’s being held hostage to his addictions, both physical and mental. He can’t be made to get help because he hasn’t had any diagnosis nor can he be shown to be a danger to himself or to others. Plus, once you start down the road of involuntary commitment, your loved one is entirely in the hands of the courts and the doctors – in the system.

He’s also convinced that anyone he pays to help him will tell him whatever they think he wants to hear and he can just lie to them anyway. Plus, none of them would understand him anyway.

He’s tried taking various medications. They all make him too fuzzy headed (which most of them can do initially until things level out) or dry mouthed, or the side effects aren’t worth the benefit. Not that he would know, really. He’s never taken any one kind of medication for long enough to see if it would do him any good. So he self-medicates with alcohol and pot. His regular doctor told him in the last few years that he does indeed  have liver damage. He is now pre-diabetic with high blood pressure. He has been to the ER twice in the last year with crashing blood pressure. He doesn’t take his meds regularly and he messes up his blood sugar by drinking and not eating right.

Like the brother in the story I linked at the beginning, he doesn’t seem violent. I’d tell anyone who asked that he doesn’t have a violent bone in his body.

But now I just don’t know anymore. I’ve listened to him, drunk and sober, making sense and non-lucid. I’ve tried to help but he is beyond any help I can give, even if he’d accept my help – which he won’t do. I don’t know if cutting off contact will make it worse or jar him to action to get professional help. Even if that was the best option, my mother will never be able to do that (and I am not judging her or blaming her for that). So he’ll still have someone enabling him.

All I know for sure is that there isn’t much I can do about it except to keep an eye on the situation and hope it won’t go sideways. Or, sadly, that it won’t go sideways for anyone but my brother.


3 Responses to “Not a happy holiday post”

  1. CGHill says:

    I went through something not quite so severe in my middle thirties. I think it’s behind me now — but not so far behind that I can keep from looking back there to see if it’s gaining on me.

    The system may hurt as much as it helps. I wish I had something resembling good advice, but no such luck.

  2. LeeAnn says:

    So incredibly sad, for both your brother and for you. Like being able to see the train coming and unable to pull anyone from the tracks.
    Like Charles, I have no advice except to keep your understanding members of your circle close. Both shield and blanket.

  3. This just breaks my heart, Nicole. I pray for him, and for you.