Can mere miles truly separate you from family and friends? Love is unconditional, isn’t it? If you want to be with someone in spirit, aren’t you already there? The answers here are yes, yes and no and suggestions to the contrary are nonsense. Yesterday was a welcome reminder of that reality.

I no longer have any close older relatives in Britain. They’re all dead, many long gone. That’s just how it is. Loss is a painful thing because you want everyone to live forever. Sadly, no one lives forever and, in the words of Bruce Hornsby, that’s just the way it is.

I saw my younger brother Vaughan yesterday for the first time time since our father’s funeral in 2011. Then, we had both flown to Ottawa where he lived and died. Afterwards, we flew home, he to Vancouver, me to Bristol via London Heathrow.

Technically, my brothers Vaughan and Noel are half-brothers, but I call them my brothers. I call them what I like and I don’t care about technicalities. We all have our father’s blood, we all carry some of his attributes, possibly some of his faults and limitations, too. Whatever. We are definitely our father’s sons. So meeting Vaughan in Salisbury, along with his partner and some friends was very special.

I did not always value family or friendship. Sometimes I still don’t. In times of self-medication for my mental health issues, I have blanked people, ignored their approaches, not opened letters, not answered the phone, declined meetings, hidden in a metaphorical hole. My childhood summers were not comprised of blue skies and green fields. They were usually confined to four walls. They were occasionally happy days, they were often days where I just wanted night to come. Then, when night would come, I would suffer panic attacks and night terrors. Other times, I would go for long walks in all weathers, sit alone in our local park, sometimes freezing cold and soaking wet. I was so sad. I wished my dad was there. I wished it all had worked out differently. I still do.

Feeling the love I have for my brother yesterday was tinged with sadness. I cannot pretend it didn’t. Sadness for the ‘normal’ family life I never had, sadness because my dysfunctional life started out at an early age and never recovered. I never had the tools at my disposal to do anything different. No father in the house, no siblings, no one to provide vital advice, guidance and support. And so the long journey of muddling by at just about everything began. I’m still muddling along today.

A few hours in Salisbury and shortly after 6.00 pm it was over again. I was on the train home to Bristol, Vaughan was on his way in the opposite direction. If I have to wait so long to see him again, well, I might be dead. I’ll certainly be much older. Christ: anything could happen. I might never see him again. That’s what circa 6000 miles in between can do to a man.

It was an incredibly special moment after what I have to admit was a messy week in the mental health department. Just for a few hours, my senses came alive, my thoughts more lucid and ordered than they had been for many weeks; there was a glimpse of the stability I so desperately crave. And then it was gone.

My therapy this week did and didn’t help. It helped because, after an inordinate wait, I finally got some treatment at a time when, I don’t mind admitting, I was near rock bottom. The didn’t help bit, you might not realise if you haven’t been through this shit before, is that therapy can go into some very difficult areas if the therapist is any good at what she or he does. I don’t mind admitting that I was absolutely exhausted in the days that followed. Then, taking my emotions to the other extreme I was meeting up with my long, but not lost, brother. I loved it, but I am suffering today.

All I can do today is write about it. The newspaper still sits there unread, there is a lawn to cut (I hope it rains, to be honest) and there is other stuff going on in my life that is adding to the instability of my mind. I’m functioning at a desperately low level but I suppose I should be grateful that I am even functioning at all.

And with my family, it’s those miles. The miles separating me from my two brothers and my father’s widow who was truly the love of his life. I didn’t choose for it to be like this and I can’t see anything positive about being thousands of miles away from some of the people you love, both family and friends, in any circumstances whatsoever.

I am so glad I saw my brother yesterday. The memories will probably have to sustain me for a very long time until we do it all over again. I hate myself for what I am and have always been. No matter what anyone says, I know I am a hopeless failure with scant achievements in anything meaningful, bar perhaps the most important one in bringing up a family of my own, which in itself should be enough. But tell that to a clinical depressive with the added ‘bonus’ of several versions of anxiety stirred into the pot.

My dad always told me never to worry about the things that you cannot affect. He was right. But I am not him and my brain doesn’t work like his and I do worry about the things I cannot affect and I do regret that life has passed me by and left me like I am, no better mental health wise than when I was a child seeking a cure for those night terrors and panic attacks. In my ways, it’s much, much worse.