Written in : 2021
The biggest “surprise” came without any hints.
That day was just another normal day. It began with our daily breakfast routine; my mom prepared eggs, bread, apples, and grapes, as I prepared the coffee. My brother came as he usually did without any prompts. As usual, I was the first one to talk. I enjoyed talking with my family, but I typically spoke about myself, my feelings, and my thoughts. My brother usually hesitates to make any comments or is reluctant to give feedback, especially on topics that don’t interest him.
The day before, I had gone to an event about embracing our vulnerability and taking risks. To my surprise, one-third of the attendees that day talked about their own struggles with depression, not being able to enjoy life and work, and also their helplessness to speak about the truth with friends and family. As I listened attentively to the stories, it was hard for me to relate to them wholeheartedly; maybe I didn’t empathize properly.
At the breakfast table that morning, I retold what I saw, heard, and felt at the event, and then without any consciousness, turned my head towards my brother and asked, “It was so unbelievable, women and youth are really having a bad time these days. How about you? Do you have depression?” This time without hesitation, he said, “Yes,” and no more.
The world froze in that second; tears rushed out of my eyes. I felt lost, suddenly filled with fear, sadness, and worry. Before my tears fell from my eyes, I cried out. My mom was beside me, I was not even aware of her reaction (maybe I was not brave enough to look at her face at that moment), and I started to talk. This time, I spoke about my surprise and apologized for not knowing what my brother was going through. After a short while, my brother continued and told me he had suffered from severe depression for years, and he knew how to deal with it properly with the doctor’s instruction and medication. I kept apologizing, but he said calmly, “You don’t have to apologize, not about you. I don’t hide now because I am okay with it.” What he said soothed me, and I stopped crying and began to pay attention to my mom. She said nothing but looked worried.
Breakfast didn’t last long, as we all had plenty of work to do that day. My bother left home; first, my mom started cleaning up the table immediately. I could feel my feet again, and adjusted my tone, and tried to comfort my mom, saying that depression is common nowadays, we shouldn’t worry too much. After all, we believe in medical science, and we believe in my brother.
The days following that breakfast, I searched my memories for clues about my brother, such as why I always felt that he was in a low mood and unhappy, with little interest in others and talking to me. I thought about how he preferred to stay alone in his room for a long time, how he always looked tired and refused to go outside, how he seemed so detached from the surroundings. Now I see that I was too good at justifying his actions and telling myself he was just an introverted person with a different personality than me. We had a different mind, and I never thought about depression, not a second! How terrible, how shocking! I was filled with regret! The only positive thing my mind told me was that nothing “worse” happened before now; everything was just fine! （一切都是最好的安排！）
I was surprised that my mom wasn’t that concerned; she said it was not a big problem (indeed, she had seen worse in her life than this). Maybe my mom had a much “bigger heart” than me; maybe she was too old to care about emotional suffering anymore; I did not ask her. More importantly, she is very open, positive, and supportive—she went on with her life as usual. She still goes to the market at nearly the same time as she always did to buy daily goods and cook us meals, especially the Happy Friday Dinner. I am more attentive to my brother’s feelings and enjoy buying flowers for his room and our living room, inviting him to go outdoors with us. He doesn't resist anymore; we have captured the beautiful spring of Beijing during our weekly outdoor explorations with our mom.
Thanks to my brother’s open and honest discussion about his depression, our entire family learned more about self-care, caring for each other, and enjoying life. After all, everyone has low moments, disappointments, and frustrations. You name it; they are part of our life, accepting and understanding are all we need.
If you are unsure of how to support friends and family who are going through depression, check out our pre-treatment guidance project. With the funds raised from our monthly dog event and monthly donation, we are now able to offer a few sessions with 70% cost overed. You can also choose to join our monthly donation group by scan the QR code below.
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