When you spend so many hours in a day with someone, you begin to see what makes them who they are. My sister is that person. We grew up in a small community where the only friends we had were each other. Many days were spent outside in the sun, just being kids. As we grew up, I began to notice things that set me and my sister apart. My parents signed my sister and I up for soccer and I’m still playing to this day. My sister grew up and chose other hobbies. Nothing that was out of the ordinary. She loved music and art and she is very good but she lost interest. When she lost interest, she would find a new hobby but would never stick to it. I started to notice my sister’s highs and lows at a young age. We began to grow apart when she began to compare her abilities to mine. She always struggled with her weight and was always a step behind in school and I was the top of my class and a passionate soccer player. What she didn’t understand is that she had many qualities that I didn’t possess that many people would be lucky to have. She could make a whole room of people laugh to the point of tears and she could sing like no one I knew could. What no one realized was that although she could make other people happy, she was not happy in her own mind. The day I had to become an adult was the first time I had to dial 911. She locked herself in her room and began to hurt herself while my mom was outside of her door begging her to stop. She spent most of her teenage years in and out of the hospital and although she was surrounded by the people she loved, she couldn’t come out of the dark place that her mental illness placed her in. Not only did I watch as my sister lose all hope and want to live, but I watched as my parents lost all confidence in being the great parents that they are. She was bullied and abused by her peers because she didn’t fit in with others and although I am fourteen months younger than my sister, for many years I became the older sister. I would stick up for her every chance I got but to her, I was the worst person in the world for getting involved in her life.
Living in Nova Scotia, there was not many resources to help people suffering from mental illnesses, but my sister was one of the lucky few. She was enrolled in the local hospitals school program when she was in high school. She would go to this school like you would go to any regular high school but there would be at hand counsellors to support students that needed it. She was involved in many therapy sessions to help her better understand why she was feeling the way she was feeling. Just when it began to look like she was taking a turn for the better, everything would come crashing down once again. The first suicide attempt happened while I was at soccer practice on a Wednesday night. I went to practice thinking it was going to be just like every other practice. As I was at my practice, she took medication that wasn’t meant to be hers. My parents became very distant to me as I grew up because they focused a lot of their time on my sister and trying to get her better. Although I’m glad that they were finding ways to help my sister, it really took its toll on my life. They missed my grade nine graduation and even my first provincial championship because they couldn’t be away from her for more than a few hours. I spent so much time trying to protect her and I felt that I didn’t have much of a childhood because of it. Although that sounds like a negative thing, it wasn’t, because I became a more compassionate person because of what I went through to help my sister feel better.
My sister is now 20 years old, working a part time job and is enrolled in a local university in NS and although she is not “healed”, she is taking steps to continue to feel better and deal with her depression and anxiety. The biggest thing to know as a sibling or mother/father of a family member with mental health struggles is that taking a step in the right direction is the most important part to feeling better. My sister spent many years taking two steps forward and one step back but she hasn’t given up and she’s on the continuous road to dealing with her illness. I am the person that I am today because of my sister.
If you or someone you know has a similar story and is in need of help, click here for services in the area.