Shame Had No Place

Trims and I (2)
When I lived with my brother I helped him cut trees down and split wood for the wood burning stove (the only source of heat in the old farmhouse we lived in). One day as Matt was dropping a tree it was my job to watch to let him know to jump out of the way. I gave him the signal, and it fell. I was standing between the tree and the shed when it split, and it fell on me. Somehow I did not get hurt despite it dropping right on top of me.

A few weeks later Matt decided to burn the brush pile from that same tree. We poured what should have been diesel on the limbs. It was gasoline. My brother blew himself up with a wave of flames and a loud boom. Somehow he did not get hurt except for some singed eyebrows and eyelashes.

This is some sort of crazy empathy. He felt bad for almost killing me so he wanted to understand and share my experience and feelings. Okay, not exactly the true definition of the word and not exactly how it happened.

My first year of graduate school I was balancing a full-time job, full-time school, and an additional part time job. It was a difficult first year, and I found myself feeling depressed and unstable. I had gone maybe a year without engaging in self-harm when I started again. I had been getting migraines quite severely, and the medication they gave me had many side effects including the depression I was facing. I had a plan and intent to die by suicide when two police officers knocked on my door and brought me to the hospital. I was admitted for one week. It was when I was discharged that I went to live with my brother and experienced his daily adventures. Matt was also full time in school as well as balancing a 75 hour per week job and a family that was quickly growing from a wife and two kids to a wife, a sister, and 3 kids. He was also trying to take care of his farm where he harvested fruit, keep up with the barn and a few animals, and prepare for the winter months. He left a stressful but much loved job in the military as a Special Operator in the Air Force to take on this crazy endeavor for his family. He probably understood more than I did how difficult life felt sometimes.

Because of his life, he had an amazing ability to exercise true empathy; the kind that makes someone feel like they can relax when they talk about what they believe about themselves or the crazy, stupid stuff they may have done. I told him about my experience with graduate school as well as my past of pain, shame, and anger. I shared my life with him, and I never felt uncomfortable talking with him. As a matter of fact, instead of shaming or ridiculing me, he said, “Me too, let’s do this together.” So, we did. We almost killed each other in the process, but he let his guard down so I could let mine down. Shame had no place.

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