Since I was 14, mental illness has been something I have had to learn to understand. My younger sister has had many problems, from self-harming and depression, to most recently, anorexia. Whilst I try and live my life, it is a constant thought that this illness is slowly taking away her life, and how is that fair?
For the second time this year, she has been admitted to an inpatient unit. However, this time she is 165 miles away. At first this was an overall relief, knowing that she was in the hands of experts. Anyone who has not experienced being around someone with this illness won’t understand how emotionally drained you become when you’re battling to get someone who is mentally ill to understand life logically. It is a losing battle. I know something I struggle with regularly is if I feel emotionally drained, how does she feel? My relationship with my sister is a very close one that I value exceedingly – if anything happens in my life, she is the first to hear about it. This is the furthest we have ever been apart and I am struggling with not being able to provide her the support I feel she deserves from me.
My only aim in life is to see my sister be happy. She is the most intelligent, strong and caring person I know, and I know that this illness is completely ruling her life. I will be there for her in the only way I know how: forever, as a sister who loves and cares for her unconditionally.
I know my parents worried I would feel left out and that I would be upset if they devoted too much attention to her and not me. I know that is a way I have felt, but now I am older, I would not change the level of care my parents provided for me and my sister. My sister needed more support in certain situations than I did; she was unwell and I will never resent that. My parents are the most supportive two people in my life (apart from my sister) and for as long as I can remember, me and my mam have done things together like going for coffee and anything I needed to talk about I could talk then. I get asked almost every day, “How is your sister?” but only my parents ask “How are you?” and that is the best support anyone can offer: someone to talk to and listen.
Thank you for being you. I do not blame or resent you. I love you with all of my heart and I will always be there for you. I cannot begin to understand how hard it is for you right now, so far away from home – just know I am here and I always will be. I am eternally grateful to have you in my life.
I don’t know how anyone deals with seeing your sibling so unwell, but I know the best advice ever given to me was to take everything day by day. This advice has got me through the last eight years and saved my mental health. I know that looking forward can be very difficult, not knowing what to expect, and this is why I find it helpful to focus on what I can do to help my sister in the here and now. I have gone through periods of time where I have had resentful feelings towards my sister – I think this is completely normal and everyone feels differently in these situations. I know I felt I had to be strong for my parents and my sister, that if they watched me break down they would not be able to cope, but I know now they would have supported me. PLEASE do not feel like you need to be strong for everyone else. You deserve the support too. If you need help, I urge you to seek it, as your mental health is such an important thing.