Family Life Stories Life

This is my open letter of apology to my sister

Growing up, I had only a few friends. From the ages of twelve to sixteen, I had a grand total of three people I would talk to and even then, I only felt comfortable messaging one out of these three friends. But, the one consistent person in my life has always been my older sister, someone I owe a big apology to. 

When we were younger, my older sister and I were often called twins – we were so in-sync all the time whether it was sentences, responses, or even emotions. My sister is in fact just under two years older than I am and although she can be a bit up herself for being the older sibling at times, I can’t say I’ve never connected with her even though my sister was always a little more sympathetic to things than I was or even still am; if I shed a tear, she shed a waterfall. 

Exhibit A; I slipped headfirst into the side of the building and got a concussion at school one time in year three and she cried more than I did as she went off to get a teacher who basically told her to calm down because not a single coherent word was coming out of her mouth. Though I had to stay home battling a throbbing headache for the upcoming weeks, my sister would spend her time at school making get well soon cards for me and coming home to just sit with me. 

I remember when she was leaving primary school and on her last day, I was filled with dread because I realized that if I now had a spat with my friends, I couldn’t run off to my sister. She was now going to be somewhere that would require me to climb out of the school gates undetected, crossroads safely and not get kidnapped by the white van that appears to be everywhere. Far too much effort for the kid who barely got off the sofa once she sat down.

I got through that year anyhow and remember my sister giving me a pep talk before my first day of secondary school with the same sentence over and over: “I’m there if you need me.” It got really sour, really fast. 

Although undiagnosed at the time, social anxiety has always been a lifelong struggle of mine and I always took comfort in familiarity in my surroundings. I expressed to my sister how nervous I was about starting school on our walk there and she agreed for both of us to meet during break time in the school canteen. The first day had already been awful for me with the highlight of it realizing that I would be picked on by this one girl for the next five years. Her reason? She thought I was ugly. 

As I sat at a table waiting for my sister, a group of girls from my class walked past me making comments about how ‘ugly’ I was. I became the focal point of their laughter when my sister walked up to me and gave me a hug asking how my first few lessons were. I was suddenly torn between being in my safe space and fitting in – would I have been spared the embarrassment if I didn’t talk to my sister? I didn’t know it wouldn’t matter either way; the class bullies ran with it, teasing me relentlessly for the next five years. 

I got teased for a myriad of things during my time at secondary school, but it was all largely in comparison to me and my sister. She was tall, fairer-skinned (colorism at its finest), pretty, and above all, skinny. It didn’t help that she was also smart so whenever we had the same teachers, I would have to face comparisons by the teachers which would just become more ammunition for the class bullies. One girl in my class spread the rumor that I was adopted because there was no way one sister could be so beautiful and the other one so ugly. Another girl told me that my sister should be embarrassed to have such a fat sibling. The comments only got more demeaning from there.

I took it all out on my sister. I started arguing with her every morning so she would leave for school without me and purposefully get out of class really late so I wouldn’t have to walk home with her. Everything anyone has ever bought me down for, I would blame on her and I made sure she knew it. I bullied my own sister for my insecurities and that is a regret that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I regret my actions especially because my sister is a kind soul who has only ever encouraged me and waited patiently for me to work through any issues I was having.

It wasn’t until I got out of secondary school that I realized how awful I had been to someone who had never been mean to me – we came out of school with an overwrought relationship on my behalf. The road to healing has been long but my sister deserves to know that none of it was her fault and if I could undo it, I would.

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Love Life Stories Wellness

How I practice self-care as someone who is mostly bedridden

While growing up, my parents taught me the importance of self-care.

Self-care to my parents meant playing sports and living an active lifestyle. Until a few years ago, I practiced self-care by taking dance classes and playing soccer. This has changed since I developed an autoimmune disorder called vasculitis. Vasculitis is a condition which makes my blood vessels inflamed.

I would want to tell the story of how I got my autoimmune disease under control, maybe by doing yoga weekly or training for a triathlon. Unfortunately, that would be a lie. Also, I would not have to motivation to train for a triathlon even if I wasn’t sick. Due to severe symptoms, I often find myself alternating between being bedridden at home and dragging my body to doctors’ appointments.

Is this what I want my self-care to look like? No, but this is where I’m at right now. My practice of self-care takes on two different forms. The first is to make sure I practice basic hygiene and take care of my health. The second is to practice self-love.

When your body hurts a lot, staying in bed all day looks like the appealing and the safer option. These might sound very basic, but I need to hold myself to taking a shower and brushing my teeth daily. My excuse often is that no one would see me anyway, so why would I bother. But, when you are sick, hygiene is as if not more important than if you are a healthy person who is meeting important people all day. I also can congratulate myself mentally for sticking to completing these tasks.

I also need to hold myself to taking my medication. Even though I know how important my medication is to keep me alive, part of me does not want to take them. The side effects of my medication drive these thoughts. Unfortunately, one medication, a steroid, that I have to take, causes me to have severe depression and mood swings. Another has caused me to gain roughly 20 pounds. Sounds lovely, right? But I need to take them to manage my health, despite their side effects. Like brushing my teeth and showering, I can congratulate myself for doing this.

The second part is to practice self-love, which I admit I am terrible at. Yet, I am holding myself to try and improve my self-love. A few years ago, I would have described myself as someone who worked on a million projects at once. I would also describe myself as someone who people liked. Whether this was accurate, I struggle to not compare myself to who I was before I developed vasculitis. I judge myself for not being able to keep up with projects and have a burdening fear that everyone hates me.

My self-love is a work in progress, but here is how I am working on it now. I recently started a Trello board where I am tracking the progress of all the articles that I am working on. Instead of beating myself up for all the work I have to do, I try to spend some time focusing on all the articles that I have written and were published. I can’t say I have the fear that everyone hates me under control at all. But I am trying to take baby steps. The first step that I am trying to work on is to spend less time on social media. Although, this is difficult, as social media and texting is often the only way I can interact with people.

I cannot say that I want this to be how I practice self-care for the rest of my life. Sure, I would much prefer to have my symptoms managed and be working in a media office. But this is where I’m at right now, and I am learning to be okay with it.