My younger sister, 5 years my junior, at 18 years old, has always been a bit of a cause for worry for me. Its a little hard to process my thoughts and to process them in a way that results in a blog post that makes sense, as her quirky character sometimes makes my brain feel like its about to spontaneously combust, however I shall try my best!
A couple of weeks ago, after years of turbulence, arguments, anger, attention-seeking, troublemaking and family destroying, I found out that my younger sister has been self harming. She’s been acting out for a long time, but this truly shocked me.
Despite always being a difficult child who loved attention, she began to struggle from the age of about 9 years old in school. She was bullied for being different, for being extrovert and immature for her age and as a result, my Dad and her mother moved her to 3 different schools across her school career to evade this. As a result, she never really faced these bullies, never dealt with it head on, never overcame it. She was moved away from the problem instead of the problem being fixed. This led to a lost of misunderstanding from her and a lack of actions-have-consequences ideology as these bullies had no comeuppance for their treatment of her, nor did she ever really understand what had gone wrong. When my Dad and her mother split up due to an affair her mother had, my sister was never the same. Her behaviour began to spiral out of control: causing arguments, shouting and swearing, falling out with family members, causing arguments between others, developing a deep seated hatred for my Dad’s new wife, smoking, drinking, befriending 35 year old women, becoming obsessive about individuals…
The list truly goes on and on.
To say she has been difficult to be around and have in our lives would be an understatement. The truth is, she is lost in life, frankly still living in the past in the hope that her parents would eventually reconcile their differences. (something that simply is never going to happen). She is immensely immature for her age, has admitted to acting out for attention and has an intense bitterness for the world around her. She is obsessive to the point that I think she could be potentially dangerous. She is angry.
She makes me feel an intense sadness. Sadness over seeing myself in her, sadness that in her core she is genuinely a lovely girl with a heart of gold, but also sadness over not being able to fix her. And believe me, I have tried. I have spent hours fighting her corner, protecting her, talking her down, giving her advice. And all to no avail. To find out she has been self harming has really hurt me. I should have done something sooner. I have been watching her suffer, fall and break apart and maybe I haven’t tried enough to prevent her from entering this hole. Maybe I haven’t seen the warning signs, and how could I miss them seeing as I’ve been there myself? How could I not have seen this coming?
The thing is, its a cry for help with her. Self harm is not always for attention – I know this. Sometimes self harm is kept so secret that nobody ever knows. Sometimes its simply an attempt at relief from a life that is like a pressure cooker with no relief. Sometimes it isn’t so that someone comes to your rescue. With my sister, I know it was an attention seeking move. She wants someone to see her. She wants someone to look. She wants to be noticed. She wants the limelight. And this is why I need to do all I can to stop this from happening again. Self harm for this reason will never work. Self harming to get the attention of others is like screaming and screaming into the wind on top of a cliff where nobody can hear you. Hurting yourself will not get the attention you so crave. It will not fix your relationships with people; in fact, it will change the way people see you forever. Self harm for attention is not productive.
I only wish that she had a literate way of asking for help, for saying I’m lost in my life and I need help, direction and love. Because this is the truth of it.
How have I been helping her since finding out?
- Trying to be there as much as possible
- Making her aware I’m here
- Pushing her to remember what is good in her life
- Creating exciting things to do for the family to include her – making her feel there is a true support system in place
- Brought her a little necklace to wear to think of happier times
- Trying to encourage her to go and speak to someone – despite the fact that she point blank refuses at the moment
- Speaking to other members of my family and ensuring that they are working with me to help her and get her better
- My older sister sent her a box of “happy things” to include chocolate, relaxation bits and pieces and a photo book of happy memories
- Regular contact, even if it is not reciprocated, to let her know we are here, even if we are in the background
One good thing about this situation is that it does make me remember my darkest times and be extremely proud of myself. Nobody knew about what I was doing, and nobody did find out. I pulled myself out of my own darkest hole. And for that I will always see myself as brave and capable.
Through going through it myself, I was able to both sympathise and empathise with my younger sister, whilst also remembering that I was not the easiest teenager to deal with, and that our actions are a direct reflection of our past experiences.
It is important to remember to always be kind to everyone you meet, as you simply do not know the internal battle they are facing to get up everyday. Treat everybody with kindess, patience and sensitivity.