I have two purposes for creating this thread. I wanted to be able to have a thread where people can speak of their mental and emotional health in a productive manner. I don’t intend this to operate in some kind of function where the forum replaces actual therapy. As it’s been stated many other times on the internet, “X isn’t your therapist.”
At the same time, there should still be a place where you can speak of these things, even if you’re just looking for a way to express them, be it a rant or simply hoping someone will listen.
My other reason for creating this is because I want to try put some kind of closure to my own struggle, something that I’m very cognizant with that I struggle with, even now. I haven’t really written about it, or spoken much about it, beyond a few select people. I value my privacy, I value that I’m just a name here, as I have little desire for people online to actually know me as a person. It’s a boundary I have pointedly put in place. There are of course exceptions to this and I admit to have friendships online, but those are very few simply because of who I am.
The following story is about the person that I lost in my life. The names have been changed to protect mine and their real life identities as well preserve their privacy.
I didn’t know Greg at first. Not really. A friend of a friend of a friend of my brother’s, and they never really interacted. Greg was a junior in high school when my brother was senior. My brother is not very relevant to this story, beyond him being present in my first interactions with Greg. It wasn’t until later that I had that I had met him when I was younger, in Cub Scouts while he was a scout leader.
When my brother entered the military in mid-90s, I was more or less on my own to two working parents, but my brother and I were never what you’d call close, as he was almost ten years older than me. And for the next number of years, that’s generally how it was. It wasn’t until I was around 16 or so that I ran into Greg again, who was in mid-20s now. I admit, he had a certain charisma that made able to talk to just about anyone. Always jolly and forthcoming, while also extremely intelligent.
Those first few years were honestly some of the best in my memory, especially during teenage years where little to nothing makes a lot of sense. For the first time in a long time, I felt as if I had a real older brother, who helped me figure out of things out. Stuff about myself, about life, about survival. He got me involved in so many things, my love of creative writing, and a number of other hobbies I have that would be categorized as ‘nerdy’. How to depend on yourself while also not treating yourself as an island. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that Greg, for all of his wisdom and intelligence, was also something of a conspiracy theorist, though not nearly how we associate that term these days. Generally weird stuff, not insane shit we see today when someone brings up the phrase. Simpler times back then. It wouldn’t be wrong to call him a kind of socio-anarchist. And me, by this point being young and impressionable 20-something that I was, idolized everything he said, absorbed just about every bit of information he was willing to give, even if I didn’t wholly ascribe to his particular political beliefs, which I always thought was more slight left-of-center.
It around this time that I learned that he did have something of a vengeful streak. I learned that he came up from a pretty broken home, having to literally fight for a lot of things he had now. A decent job, a home, education, etc. And I had watched personally the kind of hardships that life would throw at him. It made me wonder who he had angered that gave him such consistent bad luck. If I hadn’t seen some of these events first-hand, I likely wouldn’t of believed his stories. I realize now that behind the smile, was a jaded and perhaps bitter man. As one of things I can still recall that he told me, over and over, something I try very hard to block out is “You don’t beat someone just to beat them. You beat them so bad that they fear you. That they will never bother you again. Because they will do the exact same thing to you, given the opportunity. Don’t give anyone an inch.” At that point in my life, I believed that, wholly. Sometimes, I think I still do. I think that’s partially why I still pick fights online with things that perceive as injustices.
Greg thought this way because I later discovered, through him telling me that, “Generally, most people are cowards. They’re afraid of face-to-face confrontation. Like that saying that everyone is a badass until they get punched in the face.” There is a certain toxicity in those statements that I see now, but that I didn’t then. This is what initially started the separation between us.
As the years passed, I started to notice this more and more. At times I would try to put him on the spot about it, asking if that outlook was really necessary, to which he would generally make some statement that "Everyone is a threat until they prove otherwise, and even then, never tell them everything." I asked him if that included me, and he shrugged, giving some kind of non-committal comment that “Everyone is capable of betraying you. You should be ready for that.”
I can recall the amount of self-reflection I was doing after that. I was trying to come to terms with so much of the knowledge I had learned from him, the wisdom he had given me. The books and philosophies that he had introduced me to. Hobbies I had come to love. The help, both emotionally, mentally, and financially, he had done for me. I was trying to put that next to the person that either he had been slowly turning into that I didn’t notice until that point. Or if he had always been that way, and his commentary about ‘not trusting people’ was some kind mea culpa or a wink and a nudge about some joke that I was only just now figuring out the punchline.
It was around 2014 that I started to notice the undertone of racist commentary that he was starting to make. At first it was jokes, which I tried shrugging off. And then he started to make some kind of socio-political commentary about things that I believed weren’t exactly fair to say, that he’s applying specific instances in way that generalized. There were a few arguments on his porch about, and I still remember how the cigarette I had been smoking had been so vividly pointed in his face. I remember being so conflicted, utterly uncomfortable with the things that I felt he was trying to say but wasn’t fully willing to commit to saying outright. I was torn, between the things I believed in or my loyalty to one of the few people in my life that I thought gave more than a damn about me. Through my broken relationships and troubles(at the time)with my parents, there was Greg. When I was homeless, it was Greg that took me in. But this had been a step too far for me, and I couldn’t agree with this.
We didn’t talk for years after this blow-out. And the times we did, it was always so tense, like people walking on broken glass while trying to have a conversation. The racist comments he had said and the conviction behind them were like a very large elephant in a very small room, we both tried to act like it wasn’t there. But it wasn’t the same, and it felt more like we were going through the motions. How you been. How’s your family. How’s your job. It was very little more than that. It wasn’t the same anymore. And never in person.
It ate me, and there were times I wanted to say something, try to mend things with Greg. Build bridges, bury whatever hatchet there may of been. And I could tell, or maybe I felt that he wanted to apologize to me. But neither of us said anything, and the conversations became more and more sparse. People move away, relationships and friendships change, people change. I know that, but there was always this sense of loss that never truly left the back of my mind. I wanted my brother back, I wanted it to go back to how it used to be. But it won’t. And I was too afraid to fail at trying to fix his views. when I knew, deep down, that you can’t fix people, they can only fix themselves.
Our last conversation was two months ago. Greg, somehow, found out about my engagement to my fiancé. He texted me, saying his congratulations. I said thank you. He asked me when the wedding is, I said in the fall. What I didn’t tell him, what I wanted to tell him, is invite him. I hadn’t. I had intentionally hadn’t. I didn’t want to risk opening any kind of wounds on that day. So he never got a save the date. And I would back and forth mentally on wanting to invite him. I had never come to answer before two weeks ago finding out that he passed away due to heart complications. Complications that I didn’t even know about. That he hadn’t told me about.
There was so much I wanted to tell him. I wanted to reach out, I wanted to apologize for being so distant the last five years. I wanted to try and make things better between us. I wanted to thank him for everything he had done for me, how he had helped shape me into the person I am now. That he had been, always had been, more of an actual older brother to me than my real one. That I’m fairly certain he saved me from suicide a number of times in my life. To try and juxtapose that next to the person that he had become, it tears at me. It still does. I think it will for a very long time. I just know that when I look back at the entire thing, the almost two decade long friendship, there are a lot of complicated and complex feelings going on. Mourn the person that was, not what they ended up being maybe.
So this is the weight that I now carry. The regret of not saying something when I should’ve. That I will never know how it could’ve been between us. I have to live with that regret. So that’s why, when I started to post on this forum, that implore you, if you take any kind of lesson away from this, do not leave things unsaid. Do not wonder ‘what if’. Because you may run out of time, you may not have that chance. And you will have to live with the weight of things left unsaid. Because you’re going to carry that weight.
In the time since, I have found it very difficult to RP on a mush. There is simply nothing there. Little drive. I would like to go back to Arx characters. Go back to my characters on my own game. To try and find some kind of inspiration again. But nothing comes to me. I have hope that, in time, it will return. The drive to be creative and contribute to a larger whole. I get ideas though, inklings. Ideas that I think would be neat. How to make a character feel special to the larger whole. To help run stories for people. I don’t know when, but I know that I can’t say it’ll never happen. Maybe next week, maybe next month. It’s frustrating that I don’t know when
So, that’s the story. I wanted to bring closure to this, and because I wanted to tell the story to the void on the internet. I’m not me, I don’t feel like me. I feel like someone else. I feel like I make jokes and commentary because it’s better than wallowing. Like I’ve become the personification of Hide-The-Pain-Harold.
Before anyone asks, yes, I have a support structure. I have my therapist. Who said that writing this all down wasn’t a terrible idea, to try and get some of those feelings out, to stop letting them build up. Mostly so I don’t have another meltdown and post something that I’ll end up regretting because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind and I wanted to seek out vengeance on someone. Collateral damage.
Thanks for listening, and I hope this gives others the courage or perhaps safety of wanting to post their own struggles here. Because I do think a thread like this should exist, but I didn’t want to hog it all for myself.
Edited to cut some stuff out that I thought was too personal.