Please note that the following text was translated from the original french wording by one of our staff members, please refer to the french version for a more accurate testimony.

To keep the balance in the inbalance

I believed that I had just gained a ticket to hell. I was upset to see my brother in that state. To be honest, I did not even recognize him.

I am 24 years old, I am a young woman full of energy that bites in life. I work as an early childhood educator and my head is filled with projects. This is a reality that is shared by the majority of the young people my age. Yet, there is an aspect of my life that I have had difficulty putting into words, I have grown in a rather particular universe, that of mental health problems.

My parents have lived through periods that I would qualify as very difficult. When very small, I already had to come to terms with MY normality, a reality that was very different from that of my friends. The mental health illness of my parents was not exclusive to them. Their problems has had heavy consequences on my younger brother and myself. As a kid, I would assume parental responsabilities that are normally given to adults. I should have been protected by my family, but it was me that would protect it. We lived in a very fragile balance.

My younger brother and me were a team. A duo where trust and complicity were ever present. We scraped our knees falling, it would not matter, we learned to get back up. We have played together, cried together, and dreamed of a better life together. Since my childhood, he was my games partner, my accomplice, my confident, the one that I could count on... My little brother!

 

Until the day when the ground crumbled.

In life, there's earthquakes that scare the population, natural disasters over which we have no control. That's what I lived with my brother, because despite himself, he made me live through a psychological earthquake. In highs choool, I knew that he consumed drugs like many others his age. I thought that I noticed certain changes in his behavior, but nothing catastrophic. When he entered CEGEP, his oddities would start taking more and more place in our daily life. The drug could no longer serve as an excuse. Our sky had completely darkened on the day that I found his writting on a trash can. He had incoherent ideas, a discourse that was completely disorganized. For me, it was as if the stories from the past came back to haunt me. I had to take all of my courage to hospitalise my brother. As the [french] expression says, "It hit me to the heart and to the bottom of my guts..." The family exploded and the friends took their distance. I thought that I had just earned a ticket to hell. I was upset to see my brother in such a state. To be honest, I did not even recognize him anymore. To see him like that, the knowledge of another world was unbearable to me. I would have loved to join him in his world for him to be less lonely.


A head full of questions.

In that moment, many questions came to my head. Why him? Where has my brother gone, my accomplice? What is happening in his head? How can I help him? What will happen to him? What will happen to us? What will people think?

It was not as if my brother had had a cancer. The mental illness does not attract sympathy or compassion, but rather fear and curiosity. My brother was ridiculed and derogatory remarks were directed at us: "He's gone crazy!", "You're next!", "A family of crazies!". The taboos surrounding mental health problems have so many repercussions, I have lived them to the power of ten, an unenviable experience.

My brother's mental health illness caused pushback and indelicacies. People's gaze became inquisitive. They want to know, but also see what the crazy family looks like. In fact, they wonder what made the person sick, but sometimes even worse, who made her sick. As if the mental health illness was someone's fault...

A glimmer of hope

At 15 years old, I had the chance to meet a social worker. She made me aware of my marginality by telling me that my parents were mentally ill. It was thanks to this social worker that I made contact with APPAM. This organism has greatly helped me. I had a place to confide in,I was supported by competent mental health workers and by the members of the association.

In this way, I was able to calm down my anger, my feelings of guilt, my shame, my bitterness. This procedure allowed me to understand the psychiatric problems lived in my family. A resource that made all the difference in my journey. Thankfully, because a few years later, I had to face the inevitable: my brother was sick, his suffering was affecting me, and I needed help once again.

Lose control over my life

When my brother lived through his first psychotic crisis, I did not know where to go or which door to knock on. I decided to pick up the phone and I joined the association. Just like the first time, I received services that responded to my needs. Throghout my journey, I understood that I had to set my boundaries in my role as care giver. Today, I can testify that my relationship with my parents and my brother has greatly improved. They know that I love them and that they can count on me. They understand however that I have recovered my life and they accept to deal with my limits. That is how I contribute to their recovery.

I have discovered my strengths, I am well surrounded and I have found my little brother. Our sky has retaken all of its colors. We have learned to walk together and to journey through a new path, that of mental health illness. The link that connects us today is for my brother and I a big source of hope. We can count on each other, no matter what comes. I love him... and even stronger!

 

Maryse Guillemette
Ambassador of the 2008 FFAPAMM awareness campaign
www.avantdecraquer.com