December Seventeen, Nineteen Ninety Nine - A Tragic, Yet Common Story.

December 17, 1999. This day will stand out in my memory forever and ever. It was the day my whole family would change forever. Why, you may ask. Was some new family-member born? No. Did someone die? No. It was on this day that the whole meaning of family would become clear - to me, at least.

Maniac. I have grown used to that word. My brother "is a maniac", everyone says. But nobody knows him. Nobody wants to. On December 17, 1999 my brother tried to take his life by jumping off a bridge. Sometimes failure is better than success - this was one of those times. He hardly got hurt, and my whole family was thankful that he escaped with nothing more serious than a bruised back or so that's what everyone thought. Little did they know that this incident would mean one and a half years of serious treatment and a lifelong sentence to antidepressants. My brother would have to be treated for depression.

It was hard to tell who was really depressed during the next few months - my brother, my parents or me. This had come as a real shock to me, and I was shaken out of my school routine completely. I knew I had begun to do badly at school, but I didn't know why. I tried to smile and laugh as much as I always did, but this incident had left me shocked and scared. I was extremely angry, afraid and jealous inside (sometimes now I still am) - everyone had begun paying a lot more attention to my depressed brother, and I was pushed into the background. The psychologist would say "family counseling" and it would mean only my parents and brother. I'm sure the doctor had no idea that my brother even HAD a sister, and, ironically, this made me loathe everyone, most of all my family.

I needed somebody to confide in. I confided in a good friend, and that helped me a little. I tried ignoring the angry feelings, but they made me want to burst. I couldn't tell my parents, of course, not when they themselves were struggling to come to terms with the near-tragedy. I did the worst thing I possibly could have - I kept it bottled up inside me. This, in fact, is the first time I decided to tell everybody about my "family problem."

For a year the atmosphere in my house was miserable. Not even Satan would have wanted to come within 20 feet of the door. Even my cat seemed to sense that something was wrong, and she would cuddle up against my brother and purr. She too ignored me, and I retaliated by ignoring her. The year that followed was a tense one. Everyone was always on the brink of a tantrum. It became impossible to smile, because everyone around me was always glowering and glaring. Living in my house was hell.

Now it's almost two years since the day that changed my family. My family has stopped talking about it, and has decided to let bygones be bygones. Things are almost back to normal, and I couldn't be more happy.

A lot of my school friends refuse to come home because they think that my brother is a "maniac." I don't really care. Nobody knows what he had to go through that one year. Nobody realizes that it wasn't anyones fault, it just happened; nobody except my family.

As I listen to him strumming his guitar softly, I am overwhelmed with happiness. Nobody deserves to be more happy than he does. Nobody, not even me. And if it makes him happy  to sit in a corner, strumming his guitar and asking me to sing along, then it makes me happy too. After all, I AM his sister, and I DO love him very much.

And no matter what anyone else says, I always will be his sister.

(December 2001)