Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Spotlight on Mental Health - Nat's story

Hi guys, welcome to another in our series of spotlight on mental health. I hope you guys are enjoying these stories as much as I am. For any of our new readers, if you want to read the first two posts, you can do so here and here. Otherwise, it's on with the show.

Now today's guest is a little bit different, because she doesn't suffer from depression. But that doesn't mean she isn't affected by it. Today my little sister Natalie has offered to come along and share with us how it feels watching the people you love go through mental illness.

Hey there blogosphere and loyal readers of Erin’s. My name is Natalie, I’m 22 years old and I am Erin’s second youngest sister. Let me tell you a bit about myself. When I was 4 my mum enrolled my younger sister, older brother and I into dancing – I instantly fell in love with dancing, singing and later acting. Dancing was a huge part of my life. For 14 years I competed in dancing, and only stopped because I turned 18 and my mother told me I had to pay for it myself, and let me tell you… dancing is frigging expensive. So now I take part in the occasional amateur theater  I work in childcare and love every minute of it. It’s such a rewarding job!
I’m here to talk about my experiences of being in a family where depression plays a big part.

Being the second youngest of a family of 6, with 4 out of the 6 officially diagnosed with depression, I've seen my family go through a bit. A lot of it I didn't fully understand, as being the second youngest, no matter how old I was, I was still treated as a kid in some cases, so it wasn't really something they would talk to me about. (I was 12 when Erin was diagnosed, so I guess I was still a kid). I knew about it, just didn't understand why they were acting the way they would. One thing I remember is when Erin was in her teens, she would spend a hell of a lot of time in her bedroom, my mum would tell me that that’s just what teenagers do, so I really didn't think much of it. Sometimes to be honest it would annoy me the amount of time she spent in her bedroom, don’t ask me why. It may have been because I felt like she didn't want to spend time with me or something. I don’t know. But of course looking back now, I fully understand.

There was something that happened when I was 12 that took me a while to forgive Erin for. It was the second week of term holidays and my sister and I had just finished a week of competing, and it was a routine of ours to go to Melbourne to enjoy our last week of freedom before school started back. It was one of my brothers, my younger sister and I with our mum visiting our oldest sister, doing the usual fun things we’d do. This time though, it wasn't like it usually was. Our trip was cut short when one night, someone got a phone call from our other brother (I can’t remember who took the call) but all of a sudden we were having to pack everything up and head back to our home town. No one was telling my brother, younger sister (who was 11) and I what was happening, so we were pretty upset that we had to go home early. We pulled into a petrol station and while our brother in law (I think) was paying for petrol, our mum decided that she would let us know that Erin was having a little party with some of her friends and had cut herself. I of course at first thought that she’d had an accident and it must have been pretty bad, but then mum said she had done it deliberately. And that’s when the anger set in. I didn't understand why Erin had deliberately cut herself and it wasn't until I was a little bit older that I sort of understood, but being someone who has never been in that frame of mind, I still don’t fully understand how someone can actually harm themselves. So I was angry at her for making us have to go home early when she had brought this on herself, harsh I know… but come on, I was 12.

There have been other times that Erin has made me angry, that wasn't the only time she had self-harmed.  Only a couple years ago, she had this a-hole of a boyfriend that treated her like dirt, and she seemed to be the only one that couldn't see it, no matter how many talks I had with her saying that she deserved better. At about 12am or even later, she came over to mum’s while we were all in bed, and I remember being woken up to her in tears. I walked out to see what was going on and she had an ice pack on her wrist. She had taken her lighter and burnt her arm in multiple spots because she was in a bad frame of mind and had finally realised it, but with her form of depression, there are times where she can’t think rationally, so on this occasion again she thought it best to harm herself for a bit of relief.

It was really hard to watch my sister go through this, and I know I said she made me angry when she would behave like this, but it’s only because I don’t understand. I love her more than words can say, and just want to see her happy, and recently I have. Having Miss K was probably the best thing for Erin. She still has days where the depression is overpowering her, but luckily for her she is part of an extremely loving and caring family who are obviously always going to be there for her. And also it’s really hard to be angry or upset with Miss K around, that girl has the cheekiest sense of humor  if she senses you’re angry or upset, she’ll do anything to make you laugh.

Now as I mentioned before, 4 out of the 6 kids have been diagnosed with depression, but there are 2 of those 4 who seem to suffer from it the worst. One is Erin and the other being the brother that’s closer in age to me. He’s name is Ben, and he is also going to contribute to Erin’s “Spotlight on mental health”. Ben has been diagnosed with bipolar and borderline multiple personality disorder. Now that doesn't mean that he goes around talking to himself, or has actual different personalities that join us for dinner sometimes… instead it means that he is a very impulsive person and finds it extremely hard to sit still. Let me paint a picture for you. Ben lives in Melbourne and is heavily into theatre and at the moment he is musical director for a production in Gippsland (roughly 2 hours away from where he lives), he is also musical director for at least 4 other shows in Melbourne… and that’s just for this year, and I know he’s already talking about other shows. So do you see what I mean by he finds it hard to sit still?

When Ben and I were kids we never got along, and I don’t mean just normal sibling rivalry… I literally mean we NEVER got along!! It was really hard as he is close in age with my younger sister and I, so we’d spend a lot of time playing together… but with Ben and I not getting along, it would all depend on if he was talking to our younger sister at the time as to whether I’d be allowed to join in… I’m not kidding. When he was about 14 he was voted off the island and went to live with our dad. This made things between us heaps better and we finally got along. Then in 2011 I thought it was be a good idea to move to Melbourne and move in with him. This was when I witnessed the full bipolar-ness. His moods are up and down like a yo-yo, which would make it difficult for me. When we fought it was an all out screaming war and would result in one or both of us storming off to our room. The problem was Ben would be over it in a matter of minutes while I’d still be fuming, so he’d come in and try to act like nothing happened and would just expect me to be fine with some of the things he'd said to me. Or there would be times where he’d be angry at me for more than a day and when I’d go and see if we could get things sorted he’d tell me that he didn't want to talk to me at that moment and it was best if I just left him alone (and then 5 minutes later he’d ask why I wasn't in there asking if he was ok). It’s quite an unpredictable roller coaster with Ben. When he’s angry there is no reasoning with him because that’s when his mind takes over and he finds it hard to control. He’s even admitted to being angry or upset for no reason whatsoever on more than one occasion.

I only lived with him for 9 months because I found it a bit hard to handle when he’d have his bad days, but since moving out, I've had Ben’s partner text messaging me with things that Ben may have said and done and has asked me for advice. Sometimes I have advice for him and other times the only advice I have is leave him alone and let him come to you. With Ben you never really know what you should or shouldn't be doing.

He’s struggling a bit at the moment, as the medication he takes for the bipolar is fairly strong and has possible side effects such as liver failure, so he doesn't like taking them but his doctor at the moment feels it’s the best for him. He goes off his medication frequently because he doesn't want the possible side effects to happen to him and it frightens him, but in doing so his bipolar gets worse. 

Ben, Nat and I in our younger and more carefree days.

First of all I have to say thank you to Nat for sharing her story with us today, it just goes to show that the sufferers of mental illness aren't the only ones who are affected, so it has been great to hear from the other side of the fence. There is actually a lot in this story that I didn't know before now, so even I am getting an education today. Natalie mentioned that Ben's story will be told soon too, and that is actually coming up next week, so stay tuned to hear from the craziest person in my family to date. 

Well that's it from me for another day, comments are always welcome below, and if you or anyone you know has a story you think my audience would benefit from hearing, please contact me via the contact me button at the top of my website, and I'm happy to include it in the series. 

Well until next time, stay awesome.

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