Stigma Fighters: A Sister’s Love

One August day two years ago I stood on a deck, cold beverage in hand enjoying those golden moments of summer. I was with my best friend, my sister. We were talking and laughing. Then she looked at me and said “I have something to tell you.” Right away my heart started to hammer in my chest. She didn’t have an icy cold beverage in hand, could it be I was going to be an Aunty again? Then she said these words:

“About two months ago I decided I was going to walk out of my life. I was going to get in my truck and drive and never come back. My husband and kids would be better off without me. I knew it would hurt them but it would be better. I know my family would have been sad, but I knew my kids would eventually be ok and my husband would be happy. If I just left and drove away and didn’t come back everything would be better for them and for me.”

I had to sit, and in a hurry, before I fell. How she stood there so calm in appearance, and told me this without emotion, without inflection. The only give away were the tears streaming down her face I don’t know, because in that short space of time MY life changed.

My role as the big sister and protector altered and skewed, fell off its axis and stopped.

She looked the same. Huge brown eyes, her killer smile, and that perfect messy ponytail that I can’t ever copy. Nothing amiss. But I looked a little closer, her brown eyes were tired and that smile the one that got us into and out of more trouble than I can count, looked slightly forced.

She wiped her tears and said in a choked, watery voice. “So out of the two of us I am actually the crazy one!”

CRAZY!!! It has always been determined that I was the crazy one. The SPECIAL ONE, the one who’s “VOICES” got the blame for my sudden outbursts or seemingly good at the time ideas. But it was always a joke a tease not for real.

Now one of the strongest women I have ever known was standing before me and telling me she was sick. Not an illness that shows on the outside. No lumps, bumps, goiters, nothing missing all limbs in place. Physically intact and perfect. But inside she was a hot mess.

She had to take a pill every day. She had to go and see her doctor once a month, and if he didn’t like the answers to a pre-set list of questions, specific to her diagnosis, that truck ride she was going to make was pre-arranged for her. She would have to go to the hospital. Left in the care of people who didn’t know her but would help her.

And I was at a loss. Me the speaker, the keeper of the voice(s). The one who could always find words, talk non-stop and still have so much to say was struck dumb.

You see my sister has been my best friend forever. It was love at first sight. NO ONE hurt her, and I have taken my lumps more than once protecting her. Her wins were my wins, her loses too. Her moments of glory were moments when I thought I would burst with pride. Her heart aches were mine and it was up to me to make it better. She never asked me to but I always did because that was my job as the big sister. Even when I stood beside her as she married her true love I decided: He might be her true love the one she lived with laughed with and loved for better or worse till death did them part…but I was her protector he couldn’t have that role.

But this was not something I couldn’t fix. I couldn’t protect her. We couldn’t go for a hike and after that hike and a six-pack everything would have worked itself out, we couldn’t go for coffee and cheese cake and figure it out. Shit we couldn’t even sip a glass of wine while the kids played in the yard and work it out.
My sister was sick and halls and ice cream wouldn’t work either.

I started to shake a little on the inside, and hoped I wasn’t on the outside, and in a voice that wasn’t my own said “Good, good sister now you know. Now we know and WE can beat this thing”

WE would beat this thing because nothing brought the sisters down. We were goddamn unstoppable and this was a bump in the road. That was it a bump and we would lock in the hubs and crawl on.

Rah Rah sisboom bah…I was pumped I knew I could beat this for her. Watch out world I was on a mission to kick this problems ass and that was exactly what I was going to do.

That was two years ago. And until recently I thought that I was doing a great job beating this “thing” for her. I thought my non-stop “identifying” with her by making comparisons in my life was helping. Turns out it was solving nothing and I wasn’t protecting her. That realization was horrible. What had happened to the big sister protector? Had I lost my edge? No. I had assumed that because I had said she was better that she was. How awful of me. I have since learned that educating myself is the first step in helping. Listening is another step. As long as she is talking I need to listen, not identify or compare. She doesn’t need a cheerleader, someone telling her to dig deep, try harder, it will be ok, you can snap out of this. She needs support, she needs the understanding. Does she need a protector? No. She needs her sister to understand, to hold her hand and to just be there, through the good, through the bad and through her journey. But it is hers to take, she has told me I can walk beside her because she needs me to, but I can’t fix it for her. That the hardest part.

Thank you for letting me tell part of my story.

Fight On.


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