Tonight, as we rocked by the dim blue light of Avocet's night light, I cried. Tears rolled down my face while she slept, stirring only occasionally when my silent sobs jarred her momentarily awake. Luckily she was very tired, and I was able to still my chest, so quietly off to bed she went.
Today was my sister Debbie's birth date, 38 years ago. When you are a rememberer of dates, the birth dates, death dates and anniversaries start to add up. And though you think of them every day in little ways, usually with smiles, on those handful of sad dates you really think of them. Over three months ago, I drafted the below blog post. It has sat there in my drafts, more of a therapy for myself than to necessarily be sent. Today, I decided to share it. It's always hard to decide if your decisions will impact other peoples' lives, for good or for bad. I sincerely hope my decision only impacts positively.
And so the draft went:
My sister Debbie has been gone for over 7 years. I don't type today because of any significant date that is making me remember her, because I remember her every day. I miss her every day.
She had a sparkle in her eyes, a kind heart and a quiet spirit. Two years older than I, we were close in age and close in friendship. My sisters and I never needed a lot of friends, because we had each other. But anyone who called her a friend, could tell you there was hardly a better friend out there to find.
When our mom passed away unexpectedly, Debbie had a hard time... we all did. She was quickly consumed by her racing thoughts. Her once vibrant, sharp, brilliant mind was now clouded with thoughts that wouldn't grant her rest. She was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, brought on by a traumatic event. It was difficult for her to not be in control of her mind, but she handled it with grace, like she did everything. She continued to keep up at her work, as a civil engineer. Her career came after years of college on a presidential scholarship. She was so intelligent and motivated, so diligent to work for what she wanted. But in keeping up with her work life, she generally left there completely exhausted.
Medications never seemed to get calibrated just right, even after constant tweaking and changing. Therapy was regular, but not productive. Months would go by well, followed by weeks of not so well. We were all concerned and loving and supportive, but we couldn't "fix" things. We could only be there, let her know how very much she was loved and try our best to help her work through things. For over a year, she struggled to overcome.
I think the combination of emotional loss and a complicated relationship finally wore at her. Though she loved us, she would not let herself become someone else's responsibility. She could no longer endure the struggle to overcome the control of her thoughts. She was tired.
She would not be at the mercy of her mind. She would be gone too soon. She would be missed so much. She would have been a great aunt to our girls. She would have flown to Dhaka and shacked up in our spare room. She would have journeyed through the smelly market stalls and looked back at me over her shoulder with a smile. She would have been wide eyed beside me to see every pet store window and plant nursery on the side of the road. She would have asked what fish were in Gulshan Lake as we drove through town. She would have been happy with a bologna sandwich, a girlie movie and a niece bouncing on her knee for a hot Friday night. She would have watched the Little Mermaid with the girls and sang all the songs out loud... and danced.
She would never have been a burden.
There is hardly a person I've met these days who hasn't had a friend or family member with mental illness. And though it used to be such a hushed topic, it luckily isn't anymore. No, you don't meet a new friend for coffee and discuss all your baggage, but you know you aren't the only one out there either. You know you or loved ones aren't alone. If you have a bad day or a sad day, it doesn't mean you have a problem, it means you're human. But there are times when people can't control all aspects of their lives and need to reach out for help. And there are also times when people reach back, but it still can't help. There are happy endings and sad endings and stories in between. It is the stories and the sharing that can help lead to the healing and overcoming, to the crying and the smiling, and to the living. Do all these things in any order they come, but with the last to a ripe old age.