My brother Alistair was my best friend. We were triplets, really close and had the same gang of friends and sense of humour. He was really funny, clever and had a host of his own close friends too. He was always the life and soul of the party and was a good friend to many. He was ultra clever and wrote for children’s TV. Life was normal for a long time. We supported each other through the normal ups and downs, socialized together and laughed together.
At the age of 26 Ali had his first breakdown. This was my first glimpse of his collapse. He went from being fine, to not being able to cope with life. He made attempts to end his life and couldn’t stop the worries from circling around his head. I had never seen anyone so poorly, and felt extremely scared and responsible for his recovery.
This was to be the first breakdown that would repeat each year. Every year was slightly worse, then he would nearly recover and return to normal life. But we had lost the Ali that we knew five years previously when his debilitating anxiety had started. Five years later Ali took his own life. That shock and disbelief is still with me now.
Throughout his illness, my mum and dad were there for him, and he would return home where we would literally try to help him through each day. It was hard to see my parent’s worry for him. My brother William and I did not know how to help Ali’s fearful worries and thoughts that were to become psychotic. I experienced so much anguish and frustration that I couldn’t ‘fix’ him and was completely at sea, as we did not know where to turn for help.
I had a friend called Tash. Her brother was also suffering with mental illness. She absolutely understood what we were going through, supported me and gave me hope and strength.
She helped me with the mental health system and told me about groups and organizations that were in place to help people like Ali.
I didn’t have to explain how it felt to go through this. It was okay to talk about it, and boy did it help. Tash’s experience of her own brother’s mental ill health gave me a huge amount of comfort and strength and I no longer felt on my own. Her support was invaluable during and after his illness.