It’s like gifting all your children the same sweater without checking the size. It's to think that you’ve seen a loved one before wear it before, so you know what it’s like. Mental health is not one-size-fit-all, so if you’ve seen it before, you’ll just know the type. What a ridiculous lens to insist upon wearing, shielding yourself from what’s really unfolding in front of your eyes.
For we all know the basics – sometimes you can get out of bed and dress in style, make everyone else laugh through your own plastered smile, but sometimes its wearing the same sweatshirt for days as you binge watch shows multiple times that allow your mind to go numb for a while. We all know there are shades and nuances and degrees in theory, but then a loved one of yours starts behaving unpredictably and you begin to recognize all that you have to relearn one more time.
After Bhai I became obsessed with making sure I can somehow learn everything overnight, terrified of ever making a similar mistake where someone I loved felt so misunderstood and distant and alone, they thought it easier to die. And I’m under no delusions myself, I know how exhausting it is to simply stay alive. To wake up every morning in a world that continues to turn its back on you, yet to keep putting another foot forward while recognizing the futility of your tries. But watching one of my own helplessly say goodbye pushed me out of submission for I knew this couldn’t be the only respite. I began dissecting his life, finding shades of clues that he always disguised as black and white, learning to see him through his own eyes to understand where he lost his grip on hope and why he wasn’t able to confide. Armed with information and pure intent, I ventured into the world again, certain that now I’ll be able see through the lies and this time no matter the occasion, I’ll be able to rise.
But the umbrella of mental health barely covers one head, let alone five. Our family strives to be better and do better, to not let him go in vain and to learn from his loss so no one makes the same mistake again but our younger brother still clams up despite knowing the pain and I still walk around feeling like an imposter even though that very feeling is the reason you bailed. I’m surrounded by people who wear their pain like new-born butterflies – each of us weighed down by the uniquely different patterns on our backs, confusing and all too consuming perhaps, unsure of how carrying this heavy load will allow us to continue our strides.
What a foolish thing to believe that his experience would be the cheat-sheet to everyone else’s lives, even mine. For while there are theories and concepts to align, his life cannot be condensed into a manual for those of us still alive. His pain remains his,, and it is a disservice to him and anyone else to come, for me to look at them through the lens of my brother dying. Some of us may share similar shades, but our strokes remain our own, a domino effect of our own unique lives. Looking at my reflection in your bathroom mirror tonight, and seeing the sharpness of your jaw and crookedness of your nose within mine reminds me that simply knowing your mistakes isn’t enough to keep me from being like you; it isn’t enough to toe the line. That I too can be plagued with similar truths and others around me are still struggling too, because each of us is grappling with mental health perfectly tailored to our size.