Entry 7 – June 17 ‘Survivors Guilt’

This was the first question my father asked the policemen who knocked my door on Saturday 18th March. I recently found this out from my mum, who discussed in more detail the events that happened that resulted in them finding out that my brother had passed away during the night.

They were told separately and within ten minutes they were handed a piece of scrappy paper and the police were gone. In my personal opinion, I see this as neglect of the highest form to two vulnerable people during the most devastating time of their lives. The police did not know what state my parents were in.

What if one of them had a fight with Zachary that night and blamed themselves? What if they were not mentally stable enough to process the information that had just been given to them? Anything could have happened between the time they found out and the time my dad was able to phone his best friend David and I could have lost another immediate family member.

Back to the ‘Is it my Daughter?’ question, I will never know nor ask why my dad said this. The context of this blog post will drive back the time period of 18th March – 6th May, because during this time, I wish it was me.

I do not wish I was dead, I just wish it was me that had of died that day. Then my mum would cry a little less, the house would be a little less empty and a room would not be bolted closed at the top of the stairs. The dogs wouldn’t mope around, the community wouldn’t have been affected and there would be no reason to why fundraisers would have to be held. My mum, dad and brother could simply close that chapter in their lives and move on. I am not saying that they would not have been sad about my passing, I am simply explaining that if I had passed away, the last way I could have died would be suicide.

But it wasn’t me, it was the youngest of the four of us. He chose to leave us, he chose to leave the pain of life behind. We don’t blame him, we don’t even blame ourselves because deep down we know we did our best. He told us regularly, Mummy is the best Mummy in the World, Daddy is our protector and I am such a good Sister.

So why did I suffer with survivors guilt? Why did I wish it was me every time I seen my mum’s heart break over again and watch my dad’s eyes turn red with anger that we have been subject to a life time punishment which is something we do not deserve.

Zachary did not deserve to be mentally ill, Zachary’s illness was not caused by a traumatic event that happened in his childhood/adolescent life. As I have said before, Zachary was very open about his feelings, the conclusion through the years was that he was born this way.

As my mum explained to us many years ago, Zachary’s A side of his brain does not speak to B side. Sometimes I think, that if it was me that was chosen to have a mental illness, maybe I would have handled it better, maybe I would have fought it. Every time I seen Zachary suffering, I begged to fight his demons for him. Take them on, one by one, tackle them to the ground and scare them away. Unfortunately I couldn’t do this for him.

I suffered with the thought of survivor’s guilt for a long time, I was able to grasp myself out of this feeling through writing. It was through my writing about Zachary and about his mental torment that I was able to realise that Zachary felt the same way about me as I do him. If I had of passed away in March, and through knowing about Zachary’s mental illness would he be able to handle my death? Would it send him into a despair that would ultimately lead to his early departure regardless? My death would not take away his demons, they would maybe increase them to a point that would lead him to snap.

Survivors guilt is a horrible thing for anyone to have to deal with, the questions of why wasn’t it me that died? Why was I not born with a mental illness? Why did God choose my brother to give this death sentence too? Every morning I remind myself that I can no longer change what has happened, I cannot live with the guilt of surviving, maybe I survived for a reason, to tell this story?

Even though this is the case, if God came down to me know and asked me:

You can trade places with your Brother right now

I would.