"Protect the Undiagnosed"
“Protect the undiagnosed.”
I saw this post on Instagram, and I stared at it for a minute. I felt so clueless about who I am and the struggles I’ve been recently experiencing.
The first time I went to therapy was shortly after my parents had divorced. I had just graduated from high school the previous summer and I was nineteen – struggling to find where I fit in this world. My mom wanted my sisters and I to have a controlled moment, where we could each express our opinion and feelings on the separation. I thought it was the stupidest idea. I remembered repeatedly telling her that it wasn’t the divorce, it wasn’t the fact that my dad didn’t live in the house anymore, it was something more. I don’t think she listened… maybe it was because I yelled so loud that I might’ve ruptured her ear drums and maybe that’s why she can’t quite distinguish my pain, whether I am silent or vocal — it goes unnoticed.
The first time I hurt myself frightened me to my core and I ran to my mom, terrified and confused. She called me dramatic. I kept hurting myself throughout high school; cutting and slapping myself in the face anytime I had an anxiety attack late at night in my room. I prayed and I yelled, I hurt and isolated myself until I couldn’t recognize myself, and my mother thought it was because my father left.
The first thought of suicide I had was when I was walking down the math hall, freshman year. I had this unwanted feeling of jumping in front of a car. This is roughly a whole year before my parents split so, her timeline wasn’t well-thought out. The last day of our therapy session, our therapist asked us if we received any positivity and change from our experience with her. My mom and sisters each said yes, I knew my younger sister was lying. I truly believe that my mother thought she felt better, and I observed that my older sister just said yes so she could leave. When it was my turn, I rolled my eyes and said “no.” My sisters turned with discomfort, mostly because they wanted to get out of there, and my mom was shocked…why wouldn’t she be? She’s deaf to my pain until a therapist gives her a hearing aid. The therapist asked me a bunch of questions and then I became defensive because they were questions that I had been asking myself, but hadn’t said out loud. Questions like: “Have you been hurting yourself?” and “Are you a danger to yourself and others?” When I finally said, “Yes… I think so...” they pulled out a piece of paper. It was a contract, stating that I wouldn’t hurt myself or take my own life. I tried killing myself twice before and once after signing that contract. I hurt myself quite often as well… so I’ve breached that contract several times, regrettably.
In all those times where I have hurt myself, in those moments when I tried to commit suicide, I found that I was alone. I was alone because that’s how I always felt.
Growing up, I was the dramatic daughter. I was the one with the big feelings, the one with the most outrageous temper tantrums, the one that cried too much, talked too loudly, the one who stomped too often. I was stuck in this idea of myself to the point that now, as an adult, I cannot properly distinguish what is a small feeling that will stay only for a minute, between something bigger than sadness. For a while, everything was going well. I had a job that I loved, I was making friends that encouraged me, loved me, and made me feel human. I was still depressed, I still had anxiety, but I was happy. I had overcome the hardest of days. The only struggles I was experiencing was an episode here and there, mostly around the holidays. But I was fine. I wish I could write that I have a happy ending, that I am living it right now, and that I’m solid, but I’m not. I have officially entered a completely different realm of sickness.
In the past two weeks, I have had four panic attacks. My body has been sore, stiff, and tense for months and I have been in and out of this consistent state of fear and worry. I have a hunch as to why I have been feeling this way. I am not an in-denial person; let’s remember that I am the one who has been holding onto myself for years. I notice when things change, I can sense when something has turned for the worst. It’s become the worst sixth sense anyone could gain. I honestly wish I had received a better gift than discernment, but here we are. My younger sister, in our teens, decided to date this guy who just so happened to be an alcoholic/drug addict. She really knows how to pick them. From the first moment I met this person, I knew deep down that my sister could do better. I also remember defending her choices when everyone called her “fucking stupid” for even thinking of jumping into a relationship like that at such an impressionable age. I defended her because I wanted to believe that she could take care of herself. What I didn’t realize was that she revealed herself to be one the most codependent people that I knew. Before I knew it, my sister was on her way to becoming a drug addict, who was leaving the house late at night and coming home fucked up with the front door unlocked and open. So, I started to get angry and annoyed, and vented to whomever would fucking listen to me, and now everyone hates this kid that she’s dating.
Long story short, we had to kick him out of the house a couple times. I got pierced with all the carnage and shrapnel from their explosive arguments, and again, I was alone. No one would listen to me when I said that their relationship was toxic, no one took me seriously when I said that I wasn’t comfortable with being home alone with the two of them in the house. At the time, I didn’t have a car or a license, I was afraid of the bus and walking around on my own, so I felt like I couldn’t do anything or go anywhere.
I was constantly calling my mom, asking her to come home, begging her to not stay the night with her boyfriend because I didn’t want to be the first responder to their bullshit. It felt horrible and I was suffocating. I was in my room all day, too nervous to get something to eat or drink. I felt like I was being shoved into this dark corner and anytime I would protest or state a fact, I would get beaten back and told to shut the fuck up because it wasn’t my business.
They finally break up. Thank God. She promises that she will never see him again or go back to him, she even vows to never talk to him again. I believed her, we all believed her. Weeks go by. Then months. Then a year. They’ve broken up before and we always found him back the next day, high off his ass, in her room and eating our frozen pizza. This time it seems like it was sticking and I felt like I could breathe. Then my sister tried to kill herself.
I found her. The cut wasn’t deep but the intention was. I could see it in her eyes. I had a friend over and we were going to watch a movie. I had the popcorn made, she brought the snacks. She asked for a blanket — I’m glad she did — so I hurried up the stairs. I didn’t see my bedroom door. I went straight to the bathroom where this song was playing: “I need you, I need you, I need you now.” I can’t tell you what flashed through my mind when I saw my sister this way. Not her life. I didn’t get this random flashback of when we were little, playing in our backyard. I became immediately focused on getting her to safety. I wanted to help her.
We called 911 and I took the knife and wine glass away. She stayed in the tub, yelling for me not to call anyone. I didn’t listen. She finally got out, dressed herself then waited on her bed, crying. First responders always look so huge in your own home. I swear the tops of their heads and helmets brushed against the ceiling. Their footsteps are heavy and burdened. They have to be there to protect and serve, but I am sure their favorite part of the job isn’t asking a young woman why she tried to kill herself. The next day, I just cleaned her room. The day after that, we celebrated Easter Sunday. The following Monday, I left work before I even clocked in because I couldn’t stand looking people in the eye and seeing my sister in the tub with her wrist cut halfway open in their irises.
No one wanted to talk about it, but the moment happened. Every time I opened my mouth, their weapon against my witness was, “You did everything right?” I would cry and shut my mouth because I know I did everything right, she’s my sister, why would I do anything of the opposite nature? I love her. I learned that night that I had saved not one, but two lives. She was pregnant. I want to say that this is the ending, how I wish it
could all end there. She has her beautiful boy and we have all decided to move on, but this incident was the first thing that would cross my mind when I woke up and it was the first thing I would think of before closing my eyes to sleep. I started to isolate myself again because I would’ve rather been locked up in my room than answer ridiculous questions like:
“Why are you so angry?”
“Are you going to eat?”
My sister never moved on. She went back to this ex-boyfriend of hers, whom she told me just months ago that he was bad, and he was doing heroin… Before you get confused, I have to say that he is not my nephew’s father. My nephew’s father is some random person I knew in high school. I was confused and shocked that she would ever continue to talk to someone who had affected not only herself, but her own family in such a negative way. Before I know it, this person is back in my house, wreaking of alcohol, and saying hi to me from the bottom of the stairs. The flood gates opened. Every single worry that I had when she was with this person breached the surface in an explosive way. So, through these most recent incidents, several things happened.
When I first experienced this traumatic incident as an adult, my mind began to unearth all of these unexpected memories that I had as a kid throughout various stages of my life; it did not hold back. It was like having your memory bank just blowing up and all of a sudden, all of these fragments kept weaving in and out of one another, always making a full circle to my sister. It was much like I was having the most painful brain surgery ever, but without anesthesia, and the surgeon is not a surgeon, but a pirate with a fucking hook, poking around looking for something valuable. But there’s nothing valuable in there, it’s just memories of people dying, an accident I had when I was eight, passing out in class way too many times, and me trying to kill myself, and then my sister… You can’t really trade any of these wonderful thoughts, for any amount of money. Unless you know something I don’t. Now, this person is back and they are on the road to recovery, which is great. Power to him. But I am the Wicked Witch of the West because I can’t be in the same room without wondering when he or she will explode. I can’t accept this relationship because no one ever seems to remember that there is another person involved in their fucked up history. Me. My own well-being is being challenged and threatened every day, and I can’t say a single word about it without being portrayed as the asshole sister who just doesn’t like someone.
I honestly wish it was that simple.
Then it brings me back to that post.
“Protect the undiagnosed.”
I am an undiagnosed individual, who is suffocating, and wanting to rip off my own skin. I have relapsed, I am hurting myself again, and no one seems concerned.
All they need from me is to drive my niece to school and to take out the trash.
Who is protecting me?
Are they invisible like me? Ghosts wandering around hoping to be seen?