Since the time we were young children, my sister and I have never gotten along. She was born two years, three months, and thirteen days after me. I’ve always been the good daughter, and she has always been the one in trouble.

My sister isn’t like other sisters. She has had a lot of problems since birth and has always been hard to handle. She had to have a gastronomy tube to eat, she had seizures, and she required a lot of attention from our single parent mom. We were constantly making trips to the children’s hospital to see doctors, the dentist, and other specialists.

But that wasn’t the half of it. As she got older, my sister was diagnosed with ADHD, ADD, bipolar disorder, and eventually with pervasive developmental disorder, which falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. She doesn’t show her emotions, doesn’t talk about things, and is very angry and self-focused. I can’t hold a conversation with her, show my feelings toward her, or do anything normal with her. I walk on eggshells when I’m around her, because I never know what will set her off.

When we were younger, we would play with Barbies together. She would always throw a fit when I wanted to clean up and go do something else. It was hard being her sister. We always fought and I would usually lose. I became her punching bag somewhere in our growing up years. She would hit me, leaving red handprints, sometimes drawing blood with her fingernails. I also became her verbal target. I’d hear things like, “I wish you were dead!” “I hate you!” and “There’s no excuse for you.”

I don’t know how many times she left me in tears after one of her rages. There were times I would hide in my room because I was so afraid of her anger. Everyone around me kept saying, “Oh, it’s just sisterly love. She’ll grow out of it.” I really grew to hate that saying. It wasn’t sisterly love, and she wasn’t going to grow out of it. I kept waiting for her to, but she never did.

I was put into counseling when I was in middle school, and the focus quickly went from what I was in there for to what was going on at home. My “relationship” with my sister was one of our main focuses in counseling. It was always frustrating for me, because it seemed no one was on my side. My sister got away with so much. In counseling, my counselor would call me the instigator, saying that I spurred her on. I was so angry with my counselor, I began lying to her when she asked about how things were going with my sister. I was tired of having it blamed on me. It just wasn’t fair.

Right before I went away to college, all I kept hearing was, “I can’t wait until you leave! I hate you, and I hope you never come back.” I know she said it in anger, but it still hurt. I was relieved when I left for school. Home was once my refuge from the torments at school, but my sister took that refuge away. On breaks from school, I would go home and things with my sister were the same. We still didn’t get along, and I was still scared of her when she was in a rage.

I’ve always observed other sisters and have been jealous of their relationships. I want to be able to joke and tease with my sister and not make her angry. I want to hug her, cuddle with her, and show her my love for her. I want to be able to sit and have talks with her. I want to hear about what is going on in her life. But I know these things aren’t possible.

So, I’m doing the best I can with what I have. I send her text messages that let her know I am proud of her and that I love her. I leave her notes that tell her she can talk to me about anything, and I promise her that I won’t tell Mom. She never takes me up on these notes, nor responds to my text messages. I’ve come to realize that she doesn’t really hate me. She’s probably just as frustrated as I am in dealing with all that is going on with her.

I’ve always wished that I could be in her shoes for one day so I could try to understand how she thinks and feels. While this is impossible, and I still don’t understand her, I am beginning to understand a few things. I understand that if I refuse to argue with her, things don’t get loud and explosive. If I watch, I can tell when she is getting aggravated and will stop whatever I’m doing that is causing her aggravation. I’ve learned that I can have a good time with my sister if I’m careful.

I wish I could understand more. I wish I could understand her disorders so I know how to interact with her. But I know things are not my fault. I’ve had to accept and love her for who she is, and I’ve stopped wishing she could be someone else because, while things are tough sometimes, she is still my sister.

M. T. C.

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