Last week, I called my sister Amanda and said, “What does it feel like to love someone who suffers from a mental health condition?” This was her response. I never doubted her love for me, but I was still taken aback by how deeply she understands my everyday struggle. For those who battle (often in silence), it means more than we could ever express to be seen in this way.
I love the way she laughs. It starts in her eyes, creeps to wrinkle her nose and then her head goes back and a real, open mouthed laugh is released. When you really get her going, she’ll collapse forward and bury her face in her hands, unable to contain herself.
I have a knack for getting Sister to laugh. I use the way she loves me and the fact that she finds me quite funny- and sometimes I try to get her to laugh. Because it’s beautiful. She’s beautiful. And, I want her to be happy.
Sister knows all about my joy. “You light up the room. You bring joy wherever you go, Sister,” she tells me. She also knows my fears, my pain. That I’m not always fucking happy. And she knows to ask, “are you OK, Sister?” Because I’m not always OK.
Sister is a long time sufferer of depression and anxiety. She also had extreme postpartum anxiety following the birth of her baby girl, Claire. Oh, how Sister immediately fit the mama role. Her face lit up at the sight of her.
She was beautiful and she was depressed.
I remember each moment of the day I told Sister I was pregnant. I was worried. I worried that she might feel overwhelmed. Worried that she might think I was brushing off her feelings and journey (she was only eight weeks postpartum) and asking her to, “Look! Look! Me too! Me too!” Sister squealed with joy. She jumped up and down. She cried and she shook. She couldn’t wait to be an aunt and a sister-mama.
Here’s the thing people don’t seem to get. Sister knows my joy while knowing her pain and I know Sister’s pain while still knowing my joy AND Sister knows joy. Oh, does she know joy.
She runs and feels joy.
She sees my baby boy and she exudes joy.
She claps and cries and speaks joy for me and those she loves during our big moments.
She sits and writes with a calm joy in knowing this is what she was made to do.
Joy is her. And so is depression and anxiety.
I could almost see her pulse quicken as my brother lifted Claire just a touch too high.
She was serious when she went to the hospital and told them she couldn’t breathe. Part of her knew it was her anxiety. She still had to check.
She meant it when she asked her husband to check the locks on the doors and the windows for the tenth time while lying in bed unable to sleep.
And she still means it when she laughs.
I don’t want to change Sister. She isn’t broken. She is perfectly real. I’ve never know someone more real. Sister has shown me that I can be joyful and still have pain. She has taught me so much about speaking MY truth because she so eloquently and bravely speaks her own. I always think I’m saving her with my hugs and laughs and my love for her. Truth is, Sister saves me every day. And together? Well, forget lighting up a room. We’ll light up the world.
“Maybe we are here not just to be saved by you –– but to save you back.” –– Glennon Doyle