Photo by Art_of_ROSH on Unsplash
Life took a drastic turn for me and my siblings when our dad died 7 years ago. He passed away while on a holiday in Egypt – a holiday my very generous brother had given him as a present. Little did we know how this one loss would start an avalanche of events in all of our lives.
You see, me and my siblings are three very different, yet on some levels similar people. Thus, we also had three very different ways of taking care of our grief. And while we also had to learn how to make grief a part of life, mental health issues started to surface in my siblings lives as well.
The past seven years we’ve had to deal with a lot of different terms of way they act and find explanations to those that did not necessarily fit the people my sister and brother were and are. Because, sometimes it is not my brother or my sister acting, but that something inside them telling them to go against their common nature. And on that note, one thing is fighting against things your body is physically trying to express, another thing is, when you can’t seem to trust your own mind and psyche.
In all of this, my siblings are growing to become two very strong, independent people who in their own ways are handling whatever is thrown at them with grace and dignity, knowing the strength of asking for help and getting to know when is it themselves acting and when is it that mental illness inside of them speaking. Seeing these two people grow up with seemingly all odds against them and still becoming the best versions they can be is an awestriking experience knowing that their fight against themselves along with everything else.
But here am I. The healthy one. And it’s not that I don’t love my family or that they could do anything different. But when everyone around you are fighting battles against themselves and is in need of extra attention due to their mental wellbeing, one thought has started to surface within me.
What about me?
I am healthy, yeah. And, yes I am strong enough to carry a little bit extra. But sometimes I am looked towards as if I don’t need the extra attention every once in a while. I am being put in the – “She is healthy, so I don’t need to ask how she is or check up on her or compliment her”-box.
Yesterday, I was calling my mother – who in her own way are trying to find a way to be mentally and physically stable in all the storms she finds herself in at the moment, and I threw a rather “on the edge of being cruel”-joke. “I guess, I have to invent a mental illness to get people’s attention in this family. ” followed up by the laughing comment whether this one joke was made “too soon? ”
But if I for a moment have to look past all the social conducts, how I am supposed to think about it all and the expectations of the strong elder sister, I find it hard to overlook the feeling of being so much alone.
I feel like standing very much alone on top of Mount Everest not knowing who I can count on to catch me? I find myself moving in the shadows of my siblings illnesses trying not to be in the way of them getting the help and attention they need.
I know one of my siblings will hate reading this, because this one already struggles with the seemingly need of getting all of this attention in order to become a healthier version of oneself. And I’m not trying to destroy this process.
However, I can’t help but wonder, when the unthinkable, unrelatable crisis hits a family – who takes care of the healthy ones?
I thought I had learned how to create boundaries between it all. Where my role as the big-sis comes with a strong mind, understanding and a shoulder begins and where my life as a human being who has needs as well gets a role too.
But sometimes the two intertwine and get mixed-up. Sometimes I have to be the stable, understanding Big-Sis without being any of it underneath it all. It can get overwhelming having to surpress one’s own needs in order to hold another ones.
When is it okay to step back to gain stable ground again? When should I be the stable, understanding family-member without showing the chaos on the inside?