Thursday, May 16, 2013

Living with Mental Illness: A Sister's Perspective

This post is written by my soul sister's mom.

I'm very grateful for her influence in my life.

She has been giving me advice for more than ten years, and she has helped me through countless struggles. Claudia and I would sit at the kitchen table with her, and she would talk to us about our lives while we ate Nutella sandwiches without the crust. She treated us with respect and honored our problems. She never made me feel limited by my age.

She truly is my second mother.

This is her story.


When I was born, my sister was getting ill with schizophrenia, she was 20 years old and I never got to know how she was before the illness. When I was growing up, for some reason I relied on her for my emotional growth. She became my role model. I looked up at her for many reasons and none of them had anything to do with her illness. I am talking about her strong personality and intelligence, a sense of justice without fear to make the difficult choice, her integrity.

I had fun with her. She was interested in talking about almost anything and loved to elaborate, we talked for hours and that was pure delight. At times we fought, as sisters usually do, and often it ended up with her chasing me down the stairs, that also was a lot of fun. To this day I can’t believe the stroke of luck I had to have her as a sister, the best part of me comes from knowing her.

Yes, there were her symptoms and I would lose her to them for periods of times and I had to be patient and wait for her to get back to me.

When I met her friends, they never failed to ask me about her and let me know what an extraordinary person she was before she got sick. They felt like that person they knew was not there anymore. I was lucky I never felt that, never had to compare the before and after of my sister. And I get them, I know it must be scary to see your daughter or friend get a mental illness, you don’t know what to do or what to say. It’s like if, after a diagnosis, mental illness takes centre stage and gets all the lights.

Well, my experience is that my sister was still there for me to be with and enjoy. That’s why, when dealing with somebody that has a mental illness, to me the goal is to look for the person behind.

Thank you, Teresa.