I don’t know what else to call it. We’ve been calling it “mental illness” for so long now. And we almost called it death, more than once. My brother Scott’s chronic and severe mental illness has nearly killed him multiple times now. I’ve documented my family’s struggle with mental illness in my book Blessed are the Crazy.
Earlier this month I was sure he was dead. Late at night he told me he wanted to die. He said that we were the ones keeping him alive. It was our fault for loving him so much. So he promised us he would live another day.
But when we called, sent text messages and left voice mail the next morning he did not respond. I was sure he was dead. I knew it was my fault. I didn’t call 911 the night before when he was so suicidal. He said he had no hope of a better future. He said he just kept getting worse year after year. He just wanted the mental pain, real and unrelenting, to end.
As I said goodnight to my brother I promised to call him in the morning. And he promised he would be there to pick up the phone. But this time he wasn’t.
I began thinking about my brother’s funeral arrangements. As the family minister I worried that it would be up to me to bury my brother, me wearing the long black robe, saying the prayers and covering the grave with handfuls of dirt wet with tears.
Frantic to know if Scott was dead, I called my sister-in-law and asked her to go to his apartment. She would be the one to find him. Alive. And showered…his reason for not responding to our calls and text messages all morning long. He was in the shower.
My brother did not die that day. Exhaling fear and inhaling hope, I asked him what he planned to do. He said he was going to check into the psychiatric treatment inpatient program in Jacksonville. It’s a facility he’s been in before and the food was decent and they let him have smoke breaks.
Scott drove himself to this place, wanting to die and wanting to live at the same time. Who could blame him? I asked him to text me when he got to the treatment center. About nine o’clock at night I got a text that he had to pullover on the side of the road half way there to sleep, his body too exhausted to continue. Would he even make it there alive?
There were so many times when my brother almost died that we’ve grieved in anticipation of his life tragically ending. Despite all the treatment of new drugs, therapy, electroconvulsive shock therapy, and prayer, his bipolar disorder truly disabled him. He could not find anything that worked. We all began to think he would live with chronic mental pain until his last breath.
When Scott had finally communicated so clearly to me why death was the only way for him to find relief, during his stay in Jacksonville, he experienced a breakthrough in his treatment–a new cocktail of medications. It is a new medication combination that in the past month has provided incredible relief to him from his mental pain and suffering. For the first time in over a decade, Scott reports experiencing feelings of wellness.
Today I hardly recognize my brother. Yet, if I stretch back far enough in my memory I start to see the resemblances. The witty sense of humor, the teasing big brother, the love of adventure. That’s who Scott is and he’s coming back to us. We thought we had lost him forever.
In every sense of the word, my brother’s mind has been resurrected. His mind was once locked in a dark lonely tomb, behind a cold stone blocking any hope of light.
Depression is a tomb. Mental illness is a betrayal and crucifixion.
I am one of the women standing at the empty tomb. His mind has been raised from the dead. The stone is rolled away. He lives. My brother lives.
8 thoughts on “The Resurrected Mind”
I am glad your brother is finally on a good combination of medication! I took the wrong combination for over twelve years and was depressed the whole time with frequent thoughts of self-harm and/or suicide. I was finally correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I’m now on a combination of meds that work well. It has made a world of difference for me. I now tell people who are on meds that aren’t working to be assertive and not to give up until a good combination is found for them.
Thank you. One of the most difficult things we mentally ill people have to do is advocate for ourselves with an ever changing medical treatment plan. Different doctors and different combinations of medicines and side effects are a reality , sometimes s difficult one to deal with. Yet it is only by finding our own strong voice that we can persevere and achieve the status of a fully informed and competent consumer of mental health service. I agree that we need to spread the word and help each other in the search for the right combination of therapy and medicine so that more of us can find relief from symptoms and eventually hope for true recovery.
This is a beautiful tribute to Scott! Thank you for sharing this love!
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Love this, Sarah. Thank you for writing it. Love you!
Thank you for sharing this. Hope does exist, even in the darkest hour.
So glad your brother is doing better. So glad he has found some relief. So glad you wrote your book. I have been remiss in not writing to you and telling you how much it resonated with me having grown up with a father with severe OCD.
I was finally diagnosed and appropriately medicated at the age of 38, So I can testify to the lifesaving power of the right combination of medications. I wouldn’t wish bipolar disorder on my worst enemies, but having lived through the worst (including many periods of serious suicidality), I can truly say that I am a stronger and more compassionate person because of it. Best wishes to Scott on his ongoing victories over this hateful illness.
In 1980 I nearly ended it all before I was diagnosed with very extreme slow-cycling bipolar. The diagnosis gave hope, but I didn’t realize how many years it would take to find the particular blend of drugs that would prevent both extremes but leave me able to function on a job. Family and many faithful friends and my employer—my church, helped immeasurably and 36 years later I’m still carrying on. Thank you so much for your beautifully written accounts of Scott’s progress. May God bless you all!