Having a Mentally Disabled Sister

Growing up was a difficult experience. I was not abused nor was I neglected, but my oldest sister made things difficult. She is mentally disabled due to a seizure giving her some brain damage. Along with that, she is also autistic, epileptic and is deaf in one ear. She is a 29-year-old trapped in a 2-year-old body. She is not fully incapable- she can walk- but she cannot feed herself or go to the toilet. She also cannot speak, except for the occasional “mum.”

As much as I love her, it has always been tough to live with her. Being the youngest, I was always yearning for the constant attention she got from my mother. As my other sister and I grew older, we would be her caretakers, too. I did not mind much, but when you are a teenager, stuff like that was annoying and embarrassing. I used to get so nervous seeing people I knew in public when we took her out. You never knew when she would throw a tantrum.

I also grew more and more irritable when I was stuck babysitting. Sometimes I felt that was all I was there for. Around the age of fifteen, my mental illness became noticeable and being stuck in my home watching my sister made it more unbearable. I would lay in the living room and cry uncontrollably over everything.  I wanted to be in a normal family, I wanted my sister to be “normal.”

It took a few more years before I realized how much my family needed my sister. I was cheerleading at a football game and I could see her in her wheelchair, rocking back and forth with my mother close by. From the corner of my eye, I saw the stares that people gave her, some middle schoolers made fun of the way she was acting. Something in me broke and I tried not to cry.

They were making fun of her, yet because of her disability, she remained completely unaware. She continued to rock and smile at what seemed like nothing. In her hand was a sippy cup and she wore a glow stick bracelet. They could have come right up to her and said something, but she would never know.

It was then that I realized that she was my family’s rock. While we would feel bad about her situation and ponder what things could have been like, she did not mind. She was happy with herself, playing with spinny toys and watching reruns of “Scooby-Doo.” When any of us were sad, it seemed that she would take notice, even if it was distracting us by making it clear that she wanted a drink. She taught us how to deal with hardships and how to keep care of another person. She kept us grounded and made our family closer together.

Since that day, I have not felt embarrassed or annoyed whenever I have to watch her or change her. I’m happy to help her. I try talking to her more, though she just stares at me. Sometimes she will rock happily to the music I play, and even starts to laugh. Even though she pushes me away, I give her hugs and kiss her on the head. I tell her I love her more. She can’t say it, but I know she loves me too and hates when I go back to school.

Growing up was definitely a huge struggle, but my sister showed me so many important lessons. She is still my rock. If I need to vent and cannot tell my mother, I know I can tell my sister. I am glad I have her in my life and would never trade her for anyone “normal.” Even if it feels like she is the little sister, she is my big sister and she is still the boss of me.

I love you, Sissy, and I always will. But please, if you can, I would prefer you to stop sitting on me.