I remember a lot from my childhood. My first bike, my record player, the books I read and things that I should probably be too young to recall, like a doctor removing the green bead I’d inserted up my nose when I was three.
For the most part, I remember that it was a happy time; the friends I made in Primary School, songs we sang in the playground, TV shows I watched and most of all I remember playing with my big brother. He was two and half years older than me and the closest person to me but back then, my nemesis. We fought constantly and we hated each other as all good siblings do.
And then when I was fourteen, he died.
I remember the moment my dad told me. Every single second of it. And that was the moment I stopped remembering.
When you’re fourteen, your coping mechanisms are limited at best. Everyone deals with grief in their own way and my way was to go numb. Completely and utterly numb. I have a vague recollection of his funeral and I remember crying until I thought I’d throw up but after that everything goes a bit fuzzy for at least ten years. I just blocked it out.
I changed high schools shortly after he died and huge chunks of my time there are missing. My inability to grieve properly resulted in a battle between the girl who was desperate to be liked by her peers and the girl who was so badly damaged she could hardly function. I barely remember the names of my classmates (they Facebook request me now and I have no idea who they are) but what I do remember is an eating disorder, being bullied and ditching school regularly. At seventeen I left with hardly any qualifications, feeling completely hopeless and wanting to be anyone else but me.
My late teens and early twenties are a blur of random jobs, poor decisions, excessive behaviour and desperation, all accomplished by a woman I don’t even recognise now.
In hindsight, I see that I should have talked to someone. Anyone. Perhaps that gaping wound inside of me might have started to heal but instead I stayed numb and allowed all manner of destruction to fill it instead. The things I do remember about that time are the things I’m trying very hard to forget – all the mistakes I made just trying to feel something. Anything. The hardest part is when the numbness wears off and you start to feel again. And fuck me, it hits like a freight train.
I’m 37 now and I have the awareness and comprehension my fourteen year old self understandably lacked. I’ve allowed myself to grieve, not only for my brother but for the girl who was crushed under the weight of her own grief. I used to feel angry that my parents didn’t do more but now that I’m a parent, I can understand why. When your heart is broken to that extent, the only thing you’re capable of doing is surviving and sometimes even that’s a big ask. If anything happened to my child, I’d be ten minutes behind her.
My brother’s name was Simon and even now, 23 years later, I get a very real, sharp sadness when I think of him but I’m grateful that I do think of him. I’m grateful I remember him because those memories are worth a thousand missing ones.