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A Letter I Can’t Send: Dear Littlest Sister

Dear Littlest Sister,

I wish, for so many reasons, that we were closer. It seems that all your life I’ve watched you hurting, and I’ve never been able to help you. Either it was out of my hands or you wouldn’t let me close enough to be any good.

I know I’m a disappointment to you, and that there are times you wish we didn’t share a name. I’m sorry. As difficult as our relationship has been, I have always been proud to call you my sister.

When you were five and our parents divorcing, I should have been more sensitive. I should have seen the Little Sister that needed reassurance.

Looking back, I don’t know why I minded it when you followed me around – you were so darn cute!

When you were playing softball, I wish I hadn’t been so wrapped up in my teenage-self. I wish I’d praised you for all your hard work; told you how great you were. Had I praised you, would you have felt shadowed by our middle sister’s spotlight? Would you still have given up sports?

Maybe it would have changed your future to hear how proud I was of you.

When you were experiencing your own depression, I wish I hadn’t been thousands of miles away. I’d have held you as you cried. Maybe then you wouldn’t have tried to overdose. If I’d been there to listen, would you have started cutting?

When you enlisted in the military, did I tell you how my heart swelled with pride? When you came back from your basic training and tech school I was, once again, wrapped up in my own stuff.

Did I tell you that I loved you?

Did I tell you that I missed you each day you were gone?

And now, when you’re hurting – when your life is spinning- the distance between us is more than the five-hour drive. I want to call you and listen to your tears. I want to to tell you that broken hearts hurt worse than childbirth, but that you’ll heal and be stronger.

I want to comfort you and give you the compassion and support that I know you won’t get from our mother or our middle sister.

It’s silly, really. We’re so much alike, you’d think we’d be closer. But, as I look back, I can see all the wedges I drove between us.

And so, I’ll write this letter to you; a letter you’ll never see. I’ll keep you in my thoughts as I wait to hear news of you. And I’ll pray that this isn’t the thing that causes you to hurt yourself again. 

You are such a beautiful person.

You give so much of yourself to everyone. You, who never wanted children, are my son’s favorite aunt. He glows when he talks of his time with you and he tells anyone who will listen that he wants to join the military, just like his heroes. Do you know you’re one of his heroes?

Do you know you’re one of mine?

I love you to the depths of my soul. And no matter what, you will always be a part of me.

I am so infinitely proud of you.

Love,

Your Big Sister

I Am Complicated

I am neglected.

I’m the product of parents who didn’t know how to fulfill my emotional needs. I have an eating disorder,

I alternate between believing both that “my parents gave me everything; I had a happy childhood; I don’t have any reason to be this messed up,” and “my parents emotionally neglected me; I had an awful childhood; no wonder I am this messed up.“

I fantasize about being in the hospital because that seems like the ultimate (and only) way that people might finally see me and care about me. Logically, I know that it’s not true, but my emotional brain is convinced that being sick or hurt is the way to get the love, attention, and care that is not present in my daily life.

I am ashamed.

I’m a 22-year old who is still desperately attached to my mangled childhood stuffed animal, Lambie.

I surreptitiously, but uncontrollably, pull out my own hair. I know have trichotillomania (and dermotillomania while we’re at it), but it’s one of my most shameful “secrets.”

I eat spoonful of Nutella straight from the jar, and sometimes that will be the only thing I eat for the majority of the day.

I am depressed.

I am pained getting out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to relate to people who casually say, “Yeah, I didn’t want to get up this morning,” but may not understand the gravity of depression. It hurts to the bone.

I have trouble taking my daily antidepressants because a hidden part of me doesn’t believe I’m worthy of feeling better.

I am obsessed with filling my brain with as much information about mental illness as possible.

And yet, no matter how much I read books, articles, and studies about eating disorders, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or impulse-control disorders, I struggle to control my own mental health.

I have a hard time with “I’m depressed.” Maybe because I don’t believe that the real me is just buried under mental illness. It’s more like “I’m a person living with depression.” It has taken so much of my personality and soul out of me, but without depression, I am a lively, joyful girl.

I am taking care of myself (or I’m learning to).

I practically begged my parents to see a therapist, nutritionist, and psychiatrist, when I was only 15 years old. It certainly wasn’t easy, especially because we didn’t talk about anything “emotionally charged,” but I knew that it was a step I had to take in order to alleviate my pain.

I reach out to others when I need it most. Even though I isolate, too, I also know that in moments of desperation, I do instinctively ask for help and support from those I trust.

I treat myself to occasional manicures, special purchases (a dress, a pillow, some art supplies), and a lazy Sunday.

As much as my brain tries to trick me into thinking that I am worthless and unlovable, I try to actively do things for myself that remind myself that I deserve care.

I am brave.

I share my story with very few people, but when I do, it is the most rewarding experience. Sharing real experiences and thoughts is how I create deep connections with people.

little ballet dancer

I moved to Denmark for my first job out of college. I don’t speak the language, I’ve never been away from home for more than four months, and I left my entire support network at home.

I am working full-force in therapy at facing the demons and insecurities I have hidden for years. I am taking charge of my life by learning to be vulnerable, accept my flaws, and love myself in spite of them, and find happiness for the first time in my life.

 

How Borderline Personality Disorder Affects My Life

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can be a challenge for those who experience it and their loved ones. 

This is their story.

I can only write this from my perspective, of course. I can’t tell you what my family goes through. I don’t know what my friends experience. I could guess, but that would be it: a guess. But here is what I go through, living with Borderline Personality Disorder.

First is the rage. I can literally see the switch in my head flip from peaceful to ready to explode; I only wish there was a visual clue to those around me. I fill with rage in an instant, and it just explodes out. I’m not violent with it, though that is an impulse I fight every second. My only real hope of it never getting that far is to find the right combination of medications.

borderline personality disorder

From there, impulses. Everyone has basic impulses. Gut reactions. Instincts, even.

The thing about my impulses is that they can be very less than helpful: the impulse to quit a job because of a hard day; the impulse to hurt myself because of a rough week.

I am very lucky that I’m through the job-quitting phase. Every one I’ve left has been for a solid reason. But each time, it was the final straw-impulse that put me there. I’m just lucky my love of current job is stronger than my impulse for self-defense that leads to the “I quit.”

As for the impulse to hurt myself, that started right before I was in the hospital for the first time, and it ended before I got pregnant with my second baby. It lasted less than 6 months, and I don’t plan to do it again. Another impulse that isn’t worth it.

Not all impulses I have with Borderline Personality Disorder are that extreme.

Most of them are standard – not thinking before I speak or act. A lot of it can be brushed away as minor. But words and actions do hurt, and not everyone is so quick to forgive. Worse yet, years of verbal impulses can chip away what patience there is. And I see what I’m doing – I know the pain – but I’m powerless to stop it. I honestly don’t know what I’m saying until it’s out of my mouth.

I know, I know… think before you speak. I’m getting better. I wouldn’t be married otherwise. Here’s the kicker: I can usually convince myself something is harmless or can be explained to be harmless in the two seconds it takes to think before I speak. I’m not usually right, though.

I think splitting is one of the worse parts. Imagine your entire world is black or white, where black is evil and white is godly. Everything is one of the two, no half and half, and NO gray.

That’s splitting. It mostly pertains to people who have Borderline Personality Disorder, but does not have to.

My husband, Pat, has been flip-flopping between the two for years now. He can flip ten times in one day, or he can go days or months before a flip. It has a lot to do with how we are treating each other.

One minute he can be making me dinner and he is white as hell.

The next minute he used instant mac and cheese, not the regular, and he’s suddenly evil. True story. My defense? He knew I wouldn’t eat the instant shit, so why did he bother making it?

Not everyone is one or the other, but this doesn’t mean they are gray. We’ll call them transparent. I don’t think there is a better way to describe it. They are the random people in the world you come upon who leave little impact beyond the few minutes in their presence. A cashier who wasn’t bad or good, just transparent.

And my kids, we’ll call rainbow. It’s like a whole different way of thinking.

As for myself, I’m usually black or transparent.

That’s just how life with Borderline Personality Disorder works.

The Quiet Shame of Self-Injury

Self-Injury is a shameful secret many of us hold and we can often see no real way out. If you self-injure, please know that there is hope for you. Click here for more information about coping with self-harm.

This is her story:

i haven’t engaged in self-injury since april 8, 2004.

six months before my wedding years after i started dating my husband. just over three months after my stepfather died.

my soon-to-be husband and i were about to move in with my mom and younger brother to help fix up the house and pay the bills. it was a good arrangement – i was living with my dad for the first time since my parent’s divorce, and it was not an ideal situation.

he didn’t know how to deal with my craziness. he didn’t know what to do with a grown daughter who had trouble holding a job, was a recovering addict, was clinically depressed.

he didn’t know what to do when i would bang my head into the wall, lock myself into a closet, have to walk out of a room in the middle of a sentence. just because i haven’t cut, i don’t think that means i haven’t been involved in self injury, or si, self-harm, self-injurious behavior, as it is also referred to.

self-injury includes many types of injury or mutilation – cutting, burning, picking, biting. some people consider trichotillomania (self-pulling of hair) in the scope of si, even though it has it’s own diagnosis.

self injury

there is no fancy word for cutters. we cut. we burn. we bite. we scratch. we self injure. that’s it. i first identified myself as a cutter when i was 12.

TRIGGER

i realized that physical pain of the cut almost released the emotional pain i felt. as i got older, i could look back and see even more instances of it. i remembered biting my fingers and hands until they bled when i was only 5. i can’t remember what made me want to do that, but i remember feelings of emptiness, even then. i remember pulling out my hair around the age of 7 or 8. i remember digging my fingernails into my palm hard enough to break skin. at those ages,

i do not consciously remember why i did what i was doing.

i only remember doing it, and that some how it made me feel better.

i don’t know where i got the idea. i hadn’t seen a television special, i didn’t have any friends cutting. many people think it’s a goth or emo thing, that girls do it to seem cool or special or mysterious. that they do it because their friends do, because it makes them hard or whatever the
fuck stupid people think. i didn’t know anyone who cut or self-harmed in any way.

TRIGGER

i do remember taking a pen cap and scraping it back and forth across my arm hard enough and long enough that i drew scraggly lines of blood.

TRIGGER

there was this initial release, like the darkness escaping, and then this delicious numbness spread through my body.

TRIGGER

before the blood had even dried, i methodically started to clean up with tissues. this would become a ritualistic experience for me.

i stole a paring knife from the kitchen, hid it in a drawer, and knew i had an option at all times. i can’t explain why, but the ritual became almost as important as the cutting.

TRIGGER

i would get my secret stash of hydrogen peroxide and gauze. i’d cut, i’d bleed, i’d revel in the numbness. then i’d clean up the blood, clean out the cut, wrap up in bandages. by the time i was around 15, it got worse.

TRIGGER

i would enter almost a trancelike state, methodically cutting and bloodletting for hours at a time. i’d make small cuts, long cuts, perpendicular cuts.

TRIGGER

instead of using the paper towels to clean up, i’d press them to my cuts so the blood would seep into it, then save them in my notebook. i know, it sounds horrifying. then i decided it would make more sense to do that on the actual paper – i would be able to keep them forever.

i still have them. i cannot get rid of them.

i was always afraid of being discovered.

my scars and cuts were not a badge to show my friends, they did not make me cool. i cut almost everywhere, and had ways to hide everything. i did not want to have to explain how it made me feel.

TRIGGER

i cut my forearms rarely, although that is the only place i now have scars. i cut my thighs, my calves, my shoulders, my hips, my stomach, my breasts. i would cut, bleed, mark, clean, wrap. constantly.

i finally got caught out at 16. i had a fight with my boyfriend, went home, got high, and put on hole’s ‘live through this’. i don’t even remember getting my paring knife or other tools.

TRIGGER

i do know that i spent almost five hours smoking pot and carving the lyrics from two songs into my legs. i didn’t do my own laundry at the time, and ended up throwing out the sheet i had on my bed at the time because of the blood. i didn’t want anyone to know. i was ashamed and afraid and addicted.

my boyfriend found out.

we were talking about our fight, sitting on his couch. i pulled my leg up under me, and my jeans leg rode up. he saw my calf and made me take off my pants. he then told me he wouldn’t see me anymore unless i told my mother.

i did.

i told my mother, she got me counseling. he did stay with me for a few more months. he tried. i continued cutting on a near-daily basis for years, until i was 20. i moved in with my dad after his second divorce. i still had my knife; i needed to have it. i went almost four years without cutting. i was helping my soon-to-be husband move into my mother’s house. i don’t know what set me off, but i needed my knife and couldn’t find it. this made it worse.

TRIGGER

i took out my keychain-sized swiss army knife and dug into my upper arm until i bled.

i haven’t cut since then. but i haven’t stopped self injuring.

i cannot.

i have scratched my face until it bled. i have banged my head on a tile floor hard enough to concuss myself. i have pulled hunks of hair out in frustration. i bite my tongue until it is raw and bleeding at times. i pick and pinch at myself more than i care to admit. i have gone to get a tattoo in desperation to feel something (incidentally, not the right reason for ink).

the worst part is, and i think any cutter will agree with this. the worst part is that we do what we do TO FEEL SOMETHING. but the problem is we already feel too much. we have so much (fill in the emotion) inside us, that we need to feel something else.

is it that we need to feel something we can control?

like eating disorders, is it about having control over something in our lives when it feels like everything else is out of control?

do i cut or self harm so that I AM IN CHARGE OF MY PAIN… at least for a few minutes?

A Letter I Can’t Send: Littlest Sister

We all have letters we can’t send for a zillion different reasons. Maybe the person is no longer around, maybe you can’t actually speak your mind to them, maybe you’re just not ready to admit it.

Band Back Together encourages you to share your letters with us. You never do know how soothing someone else’s words can be. Click here to write your own letter.

Dear Littlest Sister,

I wish, for so many reasons, that we were closer. It seems that all your life I’ve watched you hurting, and I’ve never been able to help you. Either it was out of my hands or you wouldn’t let me close enough to be any good.

I know I’m a disappointment to you, and that there are times you wish we didn’t share a name. I’m sorry. As difficult as our relationship has been, I have always been proud to call you my sister.

When you were five and our parents were divorcing, I should have been more sensitive. I should have seen the Little Sister who needed reassurance. Looking back, I don’t know why I minded it when you followed me around – you were so darn cute!

When you were playing softball, I wish I hadn’t been so wrapped up in my teenage-self. I wish I’d praised you for all your hard work, told you how great you were. Had I praised you, would you have felt shadowed by our middle sister’s spotlight? Would you still have given up sports?

Maybe it would have changed your future to hear how proud I was of you.

When you were experiencing your own teen depression, I wish I hadn’t been thousands of miles away. I’d have held you as you cried. Maybe then you wouldn’t have tried to overdose. If I’d been there to listen, would you have started cutting?

When you enlisted in the military, did I tell you how my heart swelled with pride? When you came back from your basic training and tech school, I was, once again, wrapped up in my own stuff. Did I tell you that I loved you? Did I tell you that I missed you each day you were gone?

And now, when you’re hurting – when your life is spinning – the distance between us is more than the five-hour drive. I want to call you and listen to your tears. I want to tell you that broken hearts hurt worse than childbirth, but that you’ll heal and be stronger.

I want to comfort you and give you the compassion and support that I know you won’t get from our mother or our middle sister.

It’s silly, really. We’re so much alike, you’d think we’d be closer. But, as I look back, I can see all the wedges I drove between us.

And so, I’ll write this letter to you, a letter you’ll never see. I’ll keep you in my thoughts as I wait to hear news of you. And I’ll pray that this isn’t the thing that causes you to hurt yourself again.

You are such a beautiful person.

You give so much of yourself to everyone. You, who never wanted children, are my son’s favorite aunt. He glows when he talks of his time with you and he tells anyone who will listen that he wants to join the military, just like his heroes. Do you know you’re one of his heroes?

Do you know you’re one of mine?

I love you to the depths of my soul. And no matter what, you will always be a part of me.

I am so infinitely proud of you.

Love,
Your Big Sister

Confronting The Hate

It’s taken so long to realize some things about myself – things I thought were normal. There are certain emotions, thoughts, and feelings that I am just so used to thinking and feeling that they’ve become part of me.

My self-esteem is being whittled away, piece by piece – the marks invisible to an untrained eye.

“You’re stupid.” Slice.

“Look at everyone else, they’re way ahead of you.” Nick.

“Ugh, why do you even bother looking in the mirror?” Cut.

“Cripes woman, why the hell are you even trying? It’s not like it’s gonna get you anywhere.” Slash.

It’s just a small sample of the things I’ve told myself over the years. In twenty-three years of life, I have never once seriously congratulated myself for anything I’ve done.

Doesn’t matter that I was in the gifted program or was constantly told what big, pretty eyes I had or if someone told me I was cute: I still felt black, inky, sticky, dirty, utterly filthy, and undeserving of anything even remotely complimentary.

I am my own biggest critic.

It’s never been a fair critic; it’s always been like this wave of self-loathing and mental self-injury being thrown at me like arrows to blot out the sun.

So why do I do this? How did I learn it? Did I learn it from someone?

To those questions, I have no answer.

Two days ago, I had a panic attack so severe it left me passed out for several hours. I literally blacked out from my own fears and anxieties.

The next morning (yesterday) when I woke up, I knew something had to change. I started making a list of all the positives and negatives about myself. To my surprise, the positives outweighed the negatives. I was happy about that; it made me cry, but it felt good.

This morning, I was attacked – beaten and bitten. My brother and our parents saved me; they chased away the fucker. If it hadn’t been for them, I probably wouldn’t be here. More than likely, I’d still be baking in an unusually warm winter sun, waiting for a fridge in the morgue.

It makes me think, “If I’m so horrible, why did these wonderful people come riding in like the white knights to slay the dragon”?

The answer: They love me more than I love myself.

And that was a hard pill to swallow. I accept so much, yet give myself so little. When you hate yourself, you starve yourself of love, and a human cannot be without love – not a thing on this Earth can be without love.
So here I sit, beaten, battered, bitten, and bloody, telling each and every one of you who cares to read this, do NOT hate yourself.

Do not wake up and realize that someone loves you more than you love yourself because all you’re doing is killing yourself. It’s not the same as taking a bottle of pills or loading up a gun, but the effect is much slower and so much more painful.

It’s a battle, learning to love anyone. It’s so much harder to love yourself: you know each and every aspect of yourself (God willing), strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices.

Please don’t let a near-death experience be your wake up call. Please don’t let it get so bad that you think it might not be too bad, because it is.

Learn to love yourself, because you are the only person that can’t leave or be taken away. Have the faith in yourself to love and be loved.

Wherever that faith may take you.