My older brother is one of the strongest people I know. At least on the exterior. Anyone who knows him would fully agree with this. He was the essential king of our high school, the tough hockey player with a Division I scholarship who everyone wanted to talk to but most were too afraid to. He seemed to have it all. And what's more, he seemed to most people relatively emotionless, immune to pain, and purely dominant. If only they knew. Underneath it all he's still just the little boy I grew up with. Despite him only being a year older than me, I always looked up to him like he was a giant. I was always proud to be his little sister. And though he might not know it, I still am now.
Maybe even more so.
The hard thing for me to admit and especially to write about is that my tough-as-nails giant of a big brother broke down a few weeks ago. And I mean broke down completely. Always a Mama's boy from the beginning, I watched him cling to our mother in a complete and utter anxiety attack just hours before his flight was scheduled to bring him back to Canada. He was playing juniors hockey up in Ottawa, Ontario and was one of the captains of their winning NAHL league team. But he couldn't go back. Despite every being in his mind and body that knew it was still what he wanted. The depression and anxiety had absolutely engulfed him. And as my parents and I looked at each other through pained faces we knew, we couldn't let him go back. Not like this.
It didn't take a doctor to know that my big brother had depression. And anxiety. But what did that mean? What did it mean really, not just according to the cheesy commercials advertising over-the-counter antidepressants? I don't know the exact medical analysis of this condition. I don't know exactly how to treat it or even what causes it. Essentially I don't know the formal medical truth, but I do know my own truth.
My truth is that depression is nothing to be ashamed of. My truth is that my big brother is still the strongest person I know and that showing your emotions to others and being vulnerable with those you love is the bravest thing someone can do. Just because someone is depressed doesn't mean they have a bad life, and it for sure doesn't mean they don't appreciate their blessings. It is simply a condition, an uncontrollable one that is half the time hereditary. It doesn't define my brother. I know who he is, and I know that person is still in there, maybe somewhat suppressed but still fighting each and every day.
My truth is that anyone who has struggled with depression and found their way out has utterly unparalleled bravery inside them. I think they are stronger than I could even comprehend or make up in my mind. I think that once they find their way back to the light, they appreciate life like they never did before, that they are made new again. Beauty without struggle isn't really that beautiful at all. That is my truth. And I know that my brother is slowly climbing his way back to the light. But even now, even when he's not quite there yet, I love him the same way I always did.
Maybe even more so.