He called the other day. He doesn’t have a phone or at least not one from which he can make long distance calls. The Assisted Living Facility frowns upon that, and I guess it makes sense, but I can’t help but wonder then how all those people living away from family members reach out to someone in that moment. You know the moment don’t you?
I know it.
I’ll be going about my day, some times all is routine, nothing new, and some times as the day progresses and Murphy’s Law seems to be in full effect, I think of how nice it would be to pick up that phone and call a friend. How quickly my day can get turned around with a simple phone call. At times, it’s just about laughing out loud at something and as I listen to the sound of my laughter almost echo in the empty kitchen, I feel the need to share it with someone, hear their laughter too as they smile on the other end of the line. That need to connect with someone instantly must be one that people have experienced for years. Otherwise, why would Alexander Graham Bell have found it necessary to progress from letter writing and long roads travelled to connect with a loved one, to being able to dial them up in that moment when the sound of their voice is something we crave.
And then, there are those other moments.
Through the years, I’ve answered many phone calls from him. Some were filled with grandiose plans of how he would one day rule the world, and as he described his dreams in the utmost detail for me I couldn’t help but wonder if given his intelligence those dreams may have become a reality if not for the fact that the brain filled with such promise was the same one who betrayed him on a regular basis. Maybe his big plans weren’t so much about taking over the world, but more about taking over his mind, allowing him some sense of control of his brain, his thoughts, his life.
I don’t know.
I’m not Bipolar or Depressed or whatever label the mental illness experts have come up with for him. I’ve never stayed awake for nights on end too afraid to close my eyes for even an instant, needing to keep watch lest my own mind betray me in the dead of night, giving life to my darkest of thoughts. I’ve never had to pick up the phone and dial someone’s number because I knew my survival depended on it.
Those particular calls are ingrained in me forever. The times he called because he had lost all sense of control and needed the sound of my voice to drown out the voices in his own mind. At times simply hearing me breathe on the other end of the line gave him a sense of calm. Seconds would turn into minutes as I was equally soothed by the sound of his breathing as he was by mine.
Then, there were the calls when he knew he needed more than my voice to soothe him and the call was simply a prompt for me to jump out of bed, throw on some clothes and go find him…get him somewhere that would provide the help I so desperately wished I could give him, but knew in my heart I couldn’t. Those were the times when I experienced my own sense of betrayal. How could I not help the person before me, the little brother only eleven months younger than myself, the baby who shared a crib with me? What did my own brain have that his needed? And, why couldn’t I find a way to share it with him much the same way I shared my bottle of milk? What was I missing?
Many a calendar page has been turned since I’ve received one of those phone calls and I’m thankful for it. I am on my knees with gratitude kind of thankful. My brother is doing well, on the right meds, in therapy, living a normal life with assistance. He hasn’t had a “crisis” in years and his phone call recently (from my mom’s phone) wasn’t out of fear or desperation.
Instead, he had an idea his therapist had suggested during their last session and he wanted to tell me all about it. It was the first time in a long time I heard true excitement in his voice. I had almost forgotten what he sounded like when he was so pumped about something that he couldn’t wait to share it with me. His therapist suggested he work with me on a book about his life journey with mental illness. I can see why the therapist thought it might be a good idea.
My first book, Red Circle Days, is about those moments in our lives that are imprinted into our very soul. Moments that don’t require a photo album or memory book for us to revisit them time and time again. Some may bring to life the very feelings of sheer happiness they brought the day we experienced them. Others bring the heart wrenching sorrow we spend years trying to erase. These are moments that don’t need a reminder or a red circle on a calendar date, our hearts wrapping around them much like the tiny box on a calendar, keeping them contained only to bring them to the surface each year.
He even threw out a title, Blue Circle Days, and immediately many a calendar day flashed before me… hospital stays, doctor’s offices, the nights the phone woke me in the middle of the night, and the nights it didn’t ring.
As my brother’s excitement travelled across an ocean to me, I couldn’t help but wonder if I am up for that challenge? Is he up for that challenge?
He says he believes his stories will help others out there, and I believe sharing them alongside the perspective of someone who loves him and shared in the journey would likely help many families who have stood where we’ve stood, afraid to take another step for fear of what comes next, knowing at times the only comfort comes from listening to each other breathe.
And yet, as I wrap up this post if not my thoughts, I can’t seem to catch my breath.
Also in Mental Illness by Little Miss Wordy:
Dear, Mom Can You Tell Me How You’ve Done It?
The Official Blog For Mental Health Project
24 thoughts on “Blue Circle Days – You Can’t Schedule Mental Illness”
Hi Leah(feels weird writing that..lol),
I am proud to have so many fond memories of you and Machi that it gives me a sense of jubilation at his idea but much like you, also a little apprehensiveness. Will his memories be therapeutic because he will realize that he is past those dark days or will he be brought back to that dark place that can only exist in his mind and your memory. I pray for you and know that you will do what is best for him, you and your family, as always!
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I think I may have been holding my breath the entire time I was reading this post. These are always hard because I can relate. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to write. It is not my brother, but my daughter and she is dual-diagnosed. The phone calls. Oh, boy! I think your brother has a point about the book but I can feel your trepidation as well. I.m sure, in time, you will do what is right. Thank you for being so brave and posting these words to share with those of us who have been there and are helped by knowing that we are not alone.
Thank you Sandy. I appreciate your comment so much. Although I’m sorry you can relate, it is comforting to know we aren’t alone. Thank you for sharing a bit or your journey here with me.
Leah – You’ve conveyed the perfect amount of tension between the red and blue days. I’m thrilled you posted this blog. I’ve yet to find the words easy but know I’ll have served no purpose if I don’t tell our story. Thanks a bunch for the shout-out.
Thank you Sheri. It’s definitely not easy to write, but I’m glad to have found people like yourself who inspire others.
I’m in two minds on this. Like it could go either way. It could be the most incredible, healing, renewing idea. It could strengthen your bond and cement your relationship and allow so much water to pass under the bridge.
Or it could not.
I think you need to wait. Think. Pray (if that’s your thing). And let some time pass before you offer a decision either as a knee-jerk reaction, or from guilt or excitement.
I hope you reach a decision you feel peace with.
And SO well done for being there for him, all those times.
Lizzi, YES! Exactly! I can see the good it may do for him and others, but I fear of the damage to him too. He’s doing well, and I would hate for this to send him spiraling back to his darker days. He’s so excited about it. I spoke with him again today and just told him to start writing some thoughts down and if at any point it become too emotional or overwhelming then he should stop and discuss with his therapist. Maybe it will be therapeutic for him on some level to start writing his thoughts down. Who knows. I am certainly going to take it slow and wait for a direction to become clear to me. I am the praying kind and will definitely pray about it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.
As with most decisions, it helps to “talk” it out with someone.
I think its amazing that he reaches out to you in those moments. It says a lot about you. I suffer from depression and when I’m feeling that way, I can’t reach out to anyone. I just sink into my own world. And mark the really bad ones with a sad face on my calendar. Maybe a blue circle would be less telling.
Yeah, he doesn’t always reach out which is okay. Some things he’s needed to work out on his own, but I am glad he’s felt like he can come to me. Funny thing is I’ve always been able to tell if he’s about to go into crisis mode or stopped taking his meds within a few sentences into a conversation even if it’s over the phone. He hasn’t always taken my advice of course, but none of us take other’s advice all the time do we?
I’m sorry you have to go through depression. While I’ve witnessed my brother’s journey and been there for him. I’m not him. That’s the bottom line, and I can’t truly comprehend what it’s like. Hugs to you!
OH my heart… what a profound idea. I think there is nothing greater than this purpose- both for all to read and be helped in some way, and for your brother to feel a sense of passion and validity in his life.
That bible passage and date? Takes my breath away. God is in this…
And btw- I am glad you and Beth have connected- I immediately thought of her too.
And although I am still completely behind on my book review for Red Circle Days, count me in to promote your Blue Circle Days as well. 🙂
(Hope to have the review out Next Friday- the 14th.)
Thank you Christine. That bible passage on my brother’s birthday kinda blew me away. Like i mentioned in an earlier comment, I am not one to claim I can quote the bible though I definitely have my faith and my beliefs. I’ve had that calendar for years and truth be told weeks go by before I think to turn the page. And yet, that was the verse I turned to for just this photo for just this post.
Most importantly, if this project can touch someone, can give my brother “a sense of passion and validity in his life” and let those who’ve experienced the life’s journey that is mental illness know they are not alone, then it would be worth the challenges we are sure to face if we in fact dive in to this.
Please take your time with Red Circle Days. There really is no hurry. I appreciate your review, but completely understand if you can’t get to it with all you have going on these days.
BTW – so glad the internet connected me with Beth. I feel closer to her already as though we’ve been friends for years. Funny how that works. 🙂
OH. MY. GOD. This brought me to tears. We have so much in common I’m sort of breathless at the moment. My brother. He’s younger, too, but 27 months. The phone calls. HEART SQUEEZE.
I wrote a post about him that is eerily similar to yours. You MUST read it. Solidarity, sister.
My heart goes out to you, your family, and your brother. I know – oh do I know – how hard it is.
sending madlove to you, Leonor.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I just read (heart squeeze) and commented (through tears) on your post which is definitely, eerily similar to mine. I’m so glad our paths have crossed. BIG hugs my friend!
Those phone calls. I know. And yet, we always answer, and we always run to them. I’m so happy to hear that he’s doing well. I am certain that you might be able to help others by sharing his/your story. Mental illness wraps his gnarly fingers around so many people today. It’s such a frustrating and confusing phenomenon.
Yes. We always answer, we always run, we always worry even when they’re doing well. In the darkest of times there were moments when I didn’t think I could go any longer, being supportive, pleading for him to get help, being there. And yet, I would remind myself that he didn’t choose to be this way. It is an illness. And, it could’ve been me.
This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read.
“Some were filled with grandiose plans of how he would one day rule the world, and as he described his dreams in the utmost detail for me I couldn’t help but wonder if given his intelligence those dreams may have become a reality if not for the fact that the brain filled with such promise was the same one who betrayed him on a regular basis. Maybe his big plans weren’t so much about taking over the world, but more about taking over his mind, allowing him some sense of control of his brain, his thoughts, his life.”
Beautiful. Heartbreakingly beautiful.
Thank you so much Karen. That means a lot to me. Hopefully, we find the strength and courage to share more in hopes of reaching others who’ve had similar experiences.
What a soul stopping post. I so understand those phone calls. My first experience with mental illness was my first boyfriend’s mom and later in my first marriage, my sister in law who was ten months older than my husband who was almost four yea
rs older than me. You describe them well. Tha
t feeling you get when a phone call can change the
course of your day. I think that book project might be a
great project and a positive experience for you both.
Thank YOU for sharing♡
You always inspire me with your WORDS¤
Thank you Diane. It was soul stopping and emotionally difficult for me as I wrote as so often seems to be the case when I write about this particular topic. And yet, it seems like something I should do. Every one seems to have an experience, either their own or a loved one’s. Then, I went to take photos of calendars around the house and flipped the one in the photo here to March 22nd, my brother’s birthday. I’m not one to claim to know bible passages, etc. but I found it interesting that this was the one I flipped to.
As always, I have appreciated your visits and comments from day one and feel blessed that you keep coming back!
I think you already have the opening to your book. And you are right… just about everyone does have a mental illness story so I bet your book would sell well. Especially with the right title. Just like the title of this blog pulled me in! Funny, most people do well hiding what’s on the other side of their closed doors, I find that those of us willing to be honest are appreciated. And for me, if I can help one person not feel so alone, I am happy.