My siblings have always ment the world to me. When life and the people in it was unfair, we always had each other. While I admit that being a part of different generations sometimes makes it difficult to connect and stay connected, they are important in my life.

In Denmark every third person considers themselves next of kin to someone with a mental health illness. 61% feels the psychological burden.

Bedre Psykiatri, 2018

8-9 years ago, a lavine began that became impossible to stop. What normally would have been considered young people having fun turned out to be self-medication. Self-medication became psychotic incidences. Psychotic incidences developed into memory loss after treatments, suicide attempts, visits to the psychiatric department, even one time where the police was called to ensure hospitalisation.

How many families is it normal to have a record over how many attempts there have been?

It is difficult being the sister nothing new, but still. It seems to me, with mental health illnesses that there’s never really a way out. It’s always there luring under the surface, threatening to come out and break the quiet moments with hurricanes. At one point we can talk as adults and the next I’ve done something wrong and fire comes down.

Standing on the sideline, watching the circles of denial they almost have to walk before realising where the help might actually be, eats me alive if I allow myself to become a part of the circle-walking. Bottom line is, no one can force help down any one’s throat before they want to be helped.

No one can force any one to stop their destructive behaviours before understanding the ruination of it all.

But where does that leave me? When we find ourselves in between a system that has all the professional help but doesn’t seem to listen and a sibling that seems to not see the issues where does that leave me as the sister?

Sometimes it seems that family is left doing the job society have educated professionals for. A job the family is not equipped for professionally or emotionally and it feels like being left behind figuring out what others are spending years to learn at universities.

The thing just is, when you are family, you are already involved. You are already deep in all the dirt that is a family. But when are you so involved that it is okay to step in and overwright the story being told by the people involved? When is it time to step out of the way, recognise that everyone are adults and should get a chance to go their on their own?

In the end, you don’t learn how to cook by being served the finished meal.

Some cheasy quote someone once made up, but quite fitting for the purpose
Photo by Art_of_ROSH on Unsplash

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?