I have a theory about older siblings: they are generally a finer example of all the genetic potential a couple can impart to their offspring. They are the better looking, pioneering edition of all that is to follow. This has certainly always been true of my older sister. She has always been the beautiful one, the talented one, the smart one, the daring one who would gallop bare-back through fields before I could even trot without having to hold onto the saddle. She was the smoker and the stray – the fearless alternative who would hand in ideological poetry when asked for an essay on John Stewart Mill, could create art that was both surreal and stunning, and who had boundless energy.
But she’s not anymore.
That person doesn’t exist now; she hasn’t existed for a long time. We lost her slowly, gradually, from one day to the next. Independent behaviour became aggressive, and then destructive. Smoking turned into smoking weed, turned into taking God knows what. Tantrums erupted, doors were kicked in, and eventually her moving away was just a relief and contact slowly withered.
Then we got a call. It was a call telling us she had been sectioned.
She had been avoiding us for months and we’d let it happen, so when she really needed us we had no idea. She hated where she had to stay, we hated that she had to stay there, but the moment had come for big changes. Between my mother and me we visited her every single day, after work through rush hour, ensuring she had her favourite food, some hope, some company.
She’s in a much better place now, both literally and mentally, but she’s not the person we remember. Through the months since we received that phone call she has regressed to surrounding herself with childhood favourites; moving backwards as a means of moving away from some of the darkest moments of her recent life. But we have not regained her. The medication that is curbing the worst of her paranoia and her delusions has also muted much of who she is. She is a blank; unresponsive, submissive, and vacant. There is no sign of her talent and daring, just a void of personality I find it hard to make small talk with.
I do feel bad for thinking this way, and I know that we are in a blessed position many would give the world for where we actually stand a chance of regaining someone who means so much to us. Yet it is still not easy to see how she is now and realise how much is missing, how much could be. There is a long way to go before treatment is over, months of healing ahead, and seeing how much better she is already can only feed hope.
But right now she’s not there.
Right now I miss her.