(I sometimes wonder if I talk too much, write too much, reveal too much? But then I remember that not talking is what got me into trouble in the first place. And then I think that that is what might be keeping other people in trouble. So, I write.)
It was one of the strangest conversations I have ever had with my older brother. It started out normal enough, just two brothers chatting as I drove him to pick up his motorcycle. Then, my big brother started being my big brother and we started talking about financial stability, the future, retirement and safety nets. The conversation then turned to disability insurance.
“No, I can’t get that,” I said
“Why not,” he asked.
“I don’t know why but my diagnosis from 15 years back is still in my file: depression, PTSD and anxiety disorder. No insurance company will touch me with that on my record.”
Joe stopped, looked at me, and said, “Why would you have PTSD?”
If he had taken a crowbar and cracked me on my jaw, or maybe a human sized fly swatter, the effect would have been the same. I stopped, and for the briefest of moments, I disengaged from the present and tumbled through my past. A part of me screamed though 15 years, and then I was back in myself, complete, whole, and the only thing I could do was shrug.
He jumped on his motorcycle and drove off and I sat in my car for a moment or two. Then I drove off. When I pulled up along side of him on the highway, I almost ran him off the road. But instead I just made my way home with all of the almost responses percolating in my head.
For every action, there is a reaction. When the scream through my last 15 years hit the far wall, it came back with an echo of anger. The memories were softer and diffused, the anger softer and diffused. The knowledge of my present, where I was, steadied me.
I have to ask myself whether he was not aware of what I went through or if I just did not communicate it. And if I did communicate it, was he listening?
He’s been a good big brother. He’s of the old school, cut in the same form of the caricatures of the 50’s man. Emotionally stunted but prepared to do whatever he must, whatever he thought was right. I will be eternally grateful for the home he gave me when I moved back up here, when I was stuck someplace else. It was the stepping off point, the foundation, for all else that came. The good stuff.
Echoes of echoes. When the anger hit the far wall of the last 15 years, it came back with a soundtrack, the opening chords of my favorite Peter Gabriel album, Secret World Live. In the rising tide of the audience’s applause, the anger diffuses. In the opening percussions, it dissipates. And then Peter sings to me:
Come talk to me.
Oh, my brother, where do I begin? It was my secret world, my private world, known only to a few, and most of those exposed to it should not have been. But how I can explain it now without writing yet another introduction to my Coffee Chronicles?
The great play took place on stage, and that is what most saw. I was the adventurer and traveler, the college student and the reservist. I was the romantic and the lover, the friend and brother and son and nephew and cousin. I was the dreamer and doer and spender and chef and writer. And to this day I am not sure if it was all a lie.
Please, come talk to me.
On a side stage is where another play was taking place, the secret world, the private world. It was where the depressive lived, and the savior, the writer, and the lost one and the broken thing. It is where the cast was populated by demons and imps and devils. It is where I struggled to keep a tenuous grip on sanity while I arrogantly tried to force the first stage to become the only reality, the only world. It is where I lived the lie.
Just like it used to be, come on and talk to me
The truth was the struggle between the two stages that I never wanted anybody to see. It is the nature of depression, to isolate yourself, to not reach out, to keep the battle contained from spilling over into the “real” world. To not contaminate others with my own failures? The struggle was titanic at times, and I lost many battles. But I became pretty damn good at keeping the mask on so that nobody, even you, would never know.
And more anger dissipates as the echo of the echo of the echo comes back to me. People saw what I wanted them to see. But when the mask that you wear does not fit with the actions on display, or the inactions in most of my cases, people make their own assumptions. And without further evidence, without further communication…
We can unlock this misery, come on, come talk to me…
I wish I had been there for you more than I had.
This is so beautiful.