Sometimes she just gets so angry.
I can just be talking,
And if she isn’t fully awake,
Or if she’s not 100% paying attention,
Or if I’m saying it in a confusing way,
Or if she doesn’t like the way I’m saying it,
It’s frustrating, it ticks her off,
And her voice raises,
She gets angry,
And her eyebrows furrow,
And you can tell she’s about to give up.
Give up on me.

It’s like I’m talking to the children and adolescents at work,
But when it’s my own sister,
It hurts so much more.

It just feels like I’m a let down.

Her tears remind me of the 16 – year old who was smiling and laughing at med pass, only to have me send her out to the ED for eating the smashed glass from her compact just 2 hours later.

Every cut I see on her body reminds me of all the pain I cannot help her bear,
The load I’ve done nothing to lighten,
The 17 – year old boy struggling with his sexuality who drank 2 liters worth of Purell that I ended up sending to the PICU.

You are laying just -5 feet away from me to tonight,
But I still lay in bed crying silent tears over all the Nothing that I do for you.
I wish I could do so much more.

It just reminds me of my failure.
It makes me question who I can ever help as a provider,
When I can’t even help you.


Marsh conducted one of the first studies of well siblings of the mentally ill and wrote about it in her book, Troubled Journey. Her co-author, Rex Dickens, himself the brother of three mentally-ill siblings, says that over time, sisters and brothers of the mentally ill become frozen souls.

“You sort of shut down, emotionally, in part of your life,” says Dickens, “and that carries over to other areas. You can’t trust, you can’t feel, you can’t talk. There’s a core that gets frozen in time, maybe to be dealt with later, but it never does get dealt with.”

Marsh and Dickens found that well siblings have higher rates of depression than the general public.

“When you have to grow up early, when you pick a fruit that’s … too green, it doesn’t have a chance to mature and ripen,” says Dickens. “They get kind of stopped in their development.”

Other siblings worry they might “catch” what their brother or sister has.

Diane Marsh, Rex Dickens, Troubled Journey


I actually don’t text many people.
Only roommates and friends when I’m meeting up with them.
I think I’m one of the few in my generation that hates to text.
If random people do catch me “texting”, it’s normally only because I’m trying to look normal, and busy.

The only person I regularly text is my sister.

And I think that’s partially why.

My heart physically races when I hear the sound of a text go off.
If it’s early morning or late at night,
My hands shake when I know there’s a text.
If it’s an acute week, I’m in shambles anytime it goes off during the day.
Where is she?
What is she thinking?
How is she?
What should I be bracing myself for next?

What if I can’t handle it?
What if I fail?

So I don’t like to text usually.
I don’t like getting surprise texts messages from people.
Because I think you’re her,
And my heart races,
My palms get sweaty,
And I cover my eyes and have to count think to 3 before I open the message.

My head preemptively starts to hurt,
To fear.

And then I feel stupid when it’s just a friend.
“Some dumb friend.”

I’m not a good friend when this happens.

And I can’t turn the notification sounds or vibrate off.

Because I still go to bed in fear that if I don’t hear it,
If I don’t wake up to it,
I’ll miss something important,
Like a chance of being there for her.

I’m a light sleeper.
I don’t like text messages.
And I’m a horrible friend to be around.


This is the first time I’ve driven home drunk.
Drunk. Drunk.
As in four gin and tonics drunk, one consecutively stronger than the next.

I should correct myself.

This is the first time I’ve driven Home, home,
As in four gin and tonics drunk,
one consecutively stronger than the next,
To the point where I pulled over and passed out on the road for God or Buddha knows how long.

Drunk, drunk.

Probably because all I ate before was a a banana strawberry smoothie.
After having run 6-miles this morning.
And 8 miles before that.
And 9 miles before that.
I’m not normally such a light weight.
But tonight I guess I am,
having lost 5lbs in the last week alone.

Drunk drunk.
Like I scared my parents drunk.
Like I scared my parents,
Who’ve probably never drank for pleasure in their lives,
Like I scared my parents,
When I tried to hang my–
My parents—keys,
On the banister in the staircase at Home,
Home, home.

And missed.

And my mom knew what was up.
She raised me since I was cut out of her stomach at 4 lbs,
And she knew what was up.

My Dad knew what was up.
When he came out and found me sitting in the driveway in his car,
Because I was so….
Drunk. Drunk.
Because I drunkenly–
Drove home on my own,
Drunk drunk.

In my defense,
I had made it to our driveway just fine.
It was my own bed room that was the problem.
When I couldn’t stand still,
And missed the stairway banister when I tried to hook my keys in it,
That was when they knew.

And I cried tears,
Knowing not because this is the first time I’ve been Drunk drunk,
But that this was the first time I’d been caught in the 25-yrs of my life,
Even though I’ve been Drunk. Drunk,
Farther than Drunk drunk,
Many times in my college and grad school life.
I’ve gone home with strange men,
Old men,
Gay men,
Straight men,
Mostly old, straight men.

But this is the first time I’ve looked my Dad in the eye,
Listened to my Mom’s voice crack.

They think this is the first time I’ve been Drunk.
They think I’ve been drugged.
They talk to me about being raped,
Even though I know what that’s about.
They cry to me their tears,
And wipe up my own,
And I have to wonder,
Did I want to get “caught”?

They’ve checked up on me twice so far.
Like my heart is going to stop or something, even though it won’t.

I’ve overdosed on nothing illegal tonight.
But I’ve never seen my own daughter seizing in the ED due to an intentional overdose.
Which they have,
So I guess I can’t say much as someone who is not a Mom or a Dad.

I know no one is sleeping tonight.
And I am ashamed.
That I could not hold my alcohol,
That up until 25 years old,
I suddenly could not handle my shit.

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