Friday, April 11, 2014

Ordinary People

I live on a quiet street where not much happens. I take out the trash on Tuesdays at the same time that the old man in the house across from mine does. We are ordinary people doing ordinary things.  We come from ordinary families that live ordinary lives. I never thought that anything could shatter this “ordinary” bubble of ours.

My neighbor was diagnosed with Alzheimer and the same time that my brother was diagnosed with Depression. My street suddenly went from “ordinary” to “not-so-ordinary”.

I wonder how it all happened. How I grew up with so much happiness while my brother, who was never more than a finger’s reach away, grew up with so much sadness. I feel helpless. My brother was always the one who fought my battles for me. He was the one who made the scary dreams float away and the scary girls run away. But I can’t fight my brother’s battle for him. I cannot save my brother from himself. I can only offer my bad jokes and burnt cakes to try and ease the suffering.

Sometimes the loud rumbling of wheels disrupts the quiet of my street. When this happens I go to my window and I see my neighbor wheeling his trashcans to the edge of the road. I want to shout out that the garbage truck came yesterday and that the trashcans are already empty, but what is the point? I can’t imagine how is wife and children feel knowing that his yesterdays are disappearing and his tomorrows are uncertain. But I can imagine that they feel a bit like me.

While I sometimes wish that I could rewind back to the long summers spent fishing tadpoles from the pond with a brother who knew nothing but laughter, I have come to accept that this brother with all his dark clouds and monsters is the same brother of my childhood. I have come to understand that he is not “dis-abled” because of his illness. He is still just as abled as he was before. Perhaps he is more-abled because he can be fighting a battle in his mind and still be living.

Things may be different, but they are not that different. I still take out the trash on Tuesdays at the same time that the old man in the house across from mine does. We are still ordinary people doing ordinary things. My brother is still that incredibly intelligent, slightly annoying person that I grew up with. My neighbor is still the reserved, quiet but awfully kind man that brought ginger cookies over for Christmas. I have come to realize that what makes a person is something more than neurons, proteins and defective molecules of DNA. It is their soul and spirit, which cannot be tarnished or destroyed by any kind of illness.

Being diagnosed with a mental disorder is like being branded with a scarlet letter A. Many look at that scarlet letter A and write that person off. But try to look beyond it. Look at that person in the eye and talk directly to them. Because after all they are just ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives.

If you are ever struggling to deal with a loved one’s illness or if you are struggling with anything at the moment, Teen Link is always ready to offer some help. You can call (866) 833- 6546 any day from 6-10 pm or chat through

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