On Depression & In Memoriam

Since I was but a small girl I've nurtured one big dream, that of becoming a writer...not just any writer mind you, but a kindred spirit to the Bronte Sisters and if I had to choose a contemporary, Virginia Woolf would be it. My brother Jason had a little truism he liked to spew in his signature sarcastic drone: "Aim low and you'll never be disappointed."
It's his birthday today. He would have been 40 but he took his own life almost three years ago.

We laid his ashes to rest at Augrabies where he died
They say life begins at 40. I'm 42 now and climbing out of several years long depression. Some of it could be blamed on the shocking and downright brutal deaths that littered 2015, it really was the rat infested, mustard gas asphyxiating, limb rotting, soul destroying World War I trench of my life thus far, but a larger part of Depression (capitalised on purpose) has been living with me since those early years of just wanting to walk into the river with stones in my pocket like the greatest writer, at least in my book, Virginia. I remember praying fervently for God, or Heavenly Father as the religion I was born into trained me up to speak of him, to come and carry me away from this life of suffering. But my life was not one of suffering, at least not externally. Surrounded by suffering certainly under the horrendous Apartheid regime. No "good ol days" in this beloved country. Nevertheless, existential angst hung heavily upon my Brooke Shields monobrow.

Jason & Me - bravely facing our demons
My brothers and I created worlds in the backyard. Fantasy escapism par excellence. World building, story telling as play and therapy for our sensitive souls. Then our paths diverged radically. I found my solace in literature, it offered me the same escape as our play had done in our formative years. But the boys fell into the machismo trap and it was drinking and brawling, late night trips to the emergency room, police intervention, vulgar language and aggressive acting out. My brother Jason took this toxic masculinity to extremes and worked as a game ranger where he was well respected by colleagues and loved by guests but also more than a tad "bosbevok" as we say in South African.  He went on to join the French Foreign Legion but was booted out -- too many tats, too much aggression...he picked a fight with a guy in the line for the shower because the dude touched him. Or at least that's one version of the story.

Front & Centre as a Legendary Game Ranger at Sabi bush lodge

It feels terribly disloyal to paint such an unflattering picture, since one is supposed to never speak ill of the dead, although Jason himself would no doubt relish the accounting of his misdeeds. The fact is - depression aint pretty. It's an ugly unbearable burden that alienates everyone. Somehow I finished my degrees, traveled, sustained, hell even created jobs and kept my own family life afloat, but I certainly lost friends along the dark path because if you don't put in the energy (you simply can't) few will either allow it or compensate for the lack, nor should they. Everyone has enough on their plates, no lie. It is always so touching to see people rally to help others, but crises pass. Depression can be a long haul. A long lonely haul.

My Brother & I - fighting the good fight

My brother didn't make it out the other end. And just a few weeks ago I wouldn't have believed in an end to feeling bleak. But lately I've been feeling a sense of vigour, opportunity and the energy to put myself out there. This week I put my profile up on half a dozen freelance job boards. I was shocked at the glut of writers, the grunt work and the concomitant slave wages, but I have found some lovely things too. I'll share my (mis)adventures in Freelancing in a separate post. For now I want to raise a glass to my brother. I don't drink, my fragile mental health simply can't tolerate anything that disturbs balance - whether that be alcohol, sugar or less than a solid 8 hours of sleep - but Jason always had a bottle in his hand. And to my family grieving his loss, my amazing 90 year old granny with whom he lived till the end, my mom and dad who love him unconditionally, my little brother who misses him dearly and all the other odd bods that make up our family tree... Sterkte.

With my daughter, they had & continue to have a beautiful bond




Having a family jol
I've never felt that I can admit to my lifelong struggle with depression, hardly even in my own journals. I survived a suicide attempt in my 20s but never mention it to anyone. 
I just want you (me) to know that there's no need to compound your struggle with the shame of a dirty little secret. We live in a wonderfully open age where support is abundant. Today I listened to this delightful podcast that had me nodding and laughing in recognition every step of the way. 
Have a listen and reach out, even if you don't have the strength to lift your arm or open your mouth. 

I understand. 
You are not alone. 

Jason's final resting place
Edit: I was deeply touched by how this resonated with so many. Please subscribe to stay posted:
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Comments

Jakes said…
Wow, heartfelt respect for you. I got goosebumps reading this, so interesting. Much love for you Charisse
Unknown said…
Beautifully written and yes, Depression is an ongoing battle to surface. Respect and love to Jason, Judith
Charisse said…
Thanks you for the kind words of support. I was very hesitant to share so honestly, both because I wanted to protect my brother's memory and my own shadow self. But if it helps someone feel less alone in their struggle with depression, grief or shame then it's absolutely worth it. Please feel free to share.
Sally said…
Beautiful words – thanks for your honesty and sharing your story, Charisse!
Joan said…
Much love to you. I recognize your courage from years ago when Julia spoke of you with admiration. Thank you for letting us glimpse a little of your sorrow and recovery.
Nicola Morris said…
Thank you for sharing. My much loved nephew ended his own life leaving me with only questions and confusion.
Charisse said…
Thank you Sally and Joan I've really enjoyed reading through your blog and seeing photos of our dear Julia. Goodness we miss her!
Nicola my heart goes out to you. The pain can feel unbearable and the questions cannot be answered. I send you my love.
Arayofhope1 said…
Thinking of you, dear Charisse, as well as your family.

Lots of love and light
Aré
Charisse said…
Thanks Are. Appreciate the kind thoughts <3
Maria Petrova said…
So, so so beautifully put, as always...
Charisse said…
Thank you angel.
Unknown said…
Truly heartbreaking and uplifting all in one post. Keep going sweet girl, and remember that depression lies. You're carrying his memory in a remarkable way.
Charisse said…
Oh my, Oh my, touched by Blogging Royalty - thank you Jennifer of http://thebloggess.com/ fame. Very moved that you took the time to read and comment. Thank you!
Jacqueline said…
Beautiful. Just read your vulnerable authenticity and I salute you. PS: In a big way, somehow Jason's path has deeply influenced my path, and even the way he chose to leave this world. Perhaps I'll share the story with you sometime. XO
Charisse said…
Oh please do Jacqueline!
Sophie Billington said…
Moved is an inadequate word to express what your writing invokes in those who read it. Such courage in sharing a part of your life story but also such an amazing talent to have the reader walk with you in that story and feel some of your emotions. Thank you for sharing this and strength for each and every day x
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