There were always two of us; I can’t remember a time when my little sister hasn’t been with me in some capacity. As a family of three, I think you rely on each other a lot more, especially in an all-female household. It’s something that becomes part of you.
I’m not sure we noticed at first when the change began, it was so small at first.
Eating disorders don’t only affect the sufferer themselves but also their families: the people wrapped most tightly in the fabric of their lives.
My experience of anorexia is from the perspective of a sibling, and during that time my identity as a sister was deeply shaken. I felt I wasn’t worthy of the title and all it entailed. That I should have seen more, done more, and I let the guilt grind me almost to the floor for a very long time.
I really hope to change this perception of mental illness for others – the idea that disorder somehow must always arrive hand in hand with blame. This isn’t true. It is an illness, for the most part as random and indiscriminate as any other. I think this blame is also rooted in the incorrect idea that it is somehow the choice of the sufferer. This is something I felt at the time, that my sister had chosen to leave me. That I had lost the part of her that made her my sister. She had split in half and it was not the two of us anymore, it was the two of them. A horrifying partnership with some invisible infirmity. For a long time this was something I believed, and that blame oscillated between myself and my sister.
‘Why are you doing this? Why did we let you?’
It is an endless, fictitious and crippling cycle… but it does end.
I realise now, and I hope in some way this helps others realise, that there was no way you could have loved them more, spoken differently, or chosen better. Something can be terrible for no reason at all. Of course, I think it is right to examine our own actions, biases and prejudices and evaluate what we find there with professional guidance, but these thoughts should not consume you. There will always be exceptions, but from my personal experience, I wish there was someone to tell me that there was nothing I could have done to prevent anorexia.
I still think of my little sister as two, but that double is not the disorder, it’s the overcoming. She is so much more because of what she faced, and that doesn’t detract from what we are to each other. She is my sister and a survivor, and I feel very lucky to know them both.
-Contributed by Katie
If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this story, or are concerned for yourself or a loved one, you can find support and guidance on the help pages of our website.
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