There is a lot of talk about what it is like to be a relative of a sick person. About what it's like to see someone you love so much disappear into illness. But what is not talked about is what it is like to know that you are creating relatives.

Photo: av Milan Popovic of Unsplash 


Maria writes this in a guest post on helpseeker.net. Here you can read the whole post. She writes:

I am the big sister who has not been present in my siblings' upbringing.

I am the one who has been more in hospital than at home in recent years. I'm the one who has demanded all the attention from our parents, because I've been so ill. 

There is a lot of talk about what it is like to be a relative of a mentally illl person. About what it's like to see someone you love so much disappear into illness. But what is not talked about is what it is like to know that you are a burden to your relatives.

Knowing that you demand so much, that others can feel bad because you feel bad. I have always been the one who was there for everyone else, who was conscientious and helped at home and helped with little siblings. Then I got ill, very ill. 

I was 11 years old when I started struggling with food, food and body. I have never had a good relationship with myself, my self-esteem has always been low. But before this point it went well, I was alive and I was healthy. Now it suddenly went very fast in the wrong direction. Then I was hit on the way to school, got a serious pain diagnosis, and my life was turned upside down.

I was then 13 years old. Life after this became difficult, Now I was more and more in hospitals, with different doctors, to specialists and my life was suddenly everything but normal. Food became a bigger problem, I had to control something, when the pain ravaged my body and I had no control over it.

At this time I had a little sister who was 9 years old and a little brother of 7. They needed mom and dad, as all children do, and I felt cruel who needed them as much as I did. It had always been me who took care of them, now it was suddenly the opposite, and they were forced to understand that I needed mum and dad more, and that they did not always have time for them. 

Don't get me wrong, Mom and Dad were there for my siblings. But it hurt to know that I, the oldest of us, demanded the most. When I was 14 I got a new little sister. This was my only bright spot for many years. It was good to have a new sister, and I enjoyed spending time with her.

But illness does not take a break, and I gradually became worse.

I came under the child and adolescent mental health services, was finally going to get help with anorexia. But there they only saw how complex my medical history was, and I was sent from one specialist to the next. Mom and Dad were forced to look after me when the system failed, I was chronically suicidal, and no one was able to give me the help I needed.

Then came the admissions to the psychiatric ward. One followed the next, and I was not at home with my family, we were not together, as a normal family is.

When I first got home I was mostly so bad that I sat in my room and cried. My family became familiar with the concept of self-harm, where they repeatedly experienced glimpses of severed arms and legs, and blood.

I did everything I could to hide, both the self-harm and the eating disorder. But it was not always easy. Sometimes they saw, my siblings had to see so much too much to be so small.

We were tired. My whole family and I were tired of the fact that the health care system did not work and that they, as my relatives, had to take care of me around the clock. I was terrified that some of my siblings would pick up my ways of dealing with things.

I was afraid they would get depressed, I was terrified they would develop an eating disorder. There are things that I'm still a little scared of, because what if one day they wake up and have a little trouble, and think that big sister cut herself when she was in pain, and choose to do the same herself. 

I have spent the last 3,5 years on a long-term post for psychosis. My youngest sister was 3 years old when I was admitted there. For her, it became natural to tell her friends that her older sister lives in a hospital. In her 7-year-long life, she has only experienced me as ill.

My other siblings have known me as healthy, but mostly as ill. And now, now that I'm finally discharged and living in my own home in a housing complex, I'm trying to be there more for them. They come to visit, I go home to visit, and it's good for all of us to be in teams on fresh things. Not to sit in a sad visiting room in a hospital.

It hurts to be the reason why others worry, it hurts to be so ill that you can not take care of those around you. It's hard to know that you have not been involved in the lives of the people who mean the most to you.

But I am eternally grateful that I was born into a family that accepts me for who I am, that allows me to be part of everything I can. It has far from been easy, and I hope everyone who is a relative gets the follow-up that is needed. Because when I know how painful it is to be the reason why others become burdened, it must be very painful to see someone you love getting hurt.

- Written by Maria