Dear Sarah

Dear Sarah,

I laughed nervously while talking to the neighbour today, it sounded like your laugh. I said something and I can’t even remember what it was, because I was too busy thinking how much I sounded just like you. As I gave a half of a grin I could feel that my face was doing exactly what yours used to do. Upper lip raised on the right side, eyebrows doing that thing. Remember when people used to guess we were twins? I never got that. You were two inches shorter than me, two sizes smaller than me, two shades darker than me, twenty-two months older than me, twenty-two pounds lighter than me. I used to agree more with the people who said we couldn’t possibly be sisters. Yet, here I am thinking I’ve heard your voice coming out of my own mouth.

Remember when we used to draw pictures of floor plans and say that we were going to live in a duplex with a door that connected the two places? Yet there was that year when we didn’t speak to each other even once. You told me I was going to go to Yale someday, you thought I was really smart. But one whole year out of the only twenty I was going to get with you, wasted in silence, seems pretty dumb to me.

Remember how we used to sing together? We would pretend to be stars on a stage, singing Little Richard’s version of Itsy Bitsy Spider and the whole of Tracy Chapman’s self-titled album. We were always singing. Why didn’t we sing more when we grew up?

Remember how you taught me to ride a bicycle? You took my training wheels off my Strawberry Shortcake bike and said you wouldn’t let go. I turned around to see if you were still holding on and you weren’t. I got mad, but then you told me how I didn’t need you holding on anyway, I’d done it all by myself. I never forgot that. Your confidence in me always outweighed my own.

Remember all the trouble we used to get into? That night we were in Adam’s car racing Mom back to the house on the back roads, only Mom didn’t know it was a race. That was so funny at the time, but so reckless.

I remember going to homecoming with you and your friends. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have gone. Even though you said at the time I was only tagging along, and it hurt my feelings, I know now that you wouldn’t have taken me if you didn’t want me there.

There were times I hated you. And because I feel everything with such passion I remember once when I was fifteen swearing I wouldn’t care if you died. I’m so, so, so sorry I said that. I thought for sure you’d be there to welcome me into my twenties and thirties just like my teens, with your footprints always being two steps ahead of mine, but I didn’t know your timer didn’t have as much sand as mine. Yet that time I was sixteen and said I was going to kill myself (and thought I meant it) you stopped everything and called Dad in to yell at me until I got out of bed and kept going.

I let you down, Sarah. I was not as good as you. You might have been way more of a trouble maker than I was when we were kids, but when it really mattered, look who was the angel then. But me… I think I took you for granted.

I wish I had called more often. I wish I had spent more time with you. I look back now and I don’t know what I was doing wasting what time we had with so many people I don’t even speak to anymore.

I wish when I called home, your number could be one of the ones on the list. I wish you and I could get lost in daydreaming once more about how our futures would pan out, in juxtaposition because we’re sisters, and because of all the times we were all each other had.

I wish when friends talked about the day they just spent or the conversation they just had with their sister, I didn’t have to feel a blade of jealousy and sorrow piercing my chest.

I wish the new experiences I had with you weren’t confined to what happens when I’m asleep. But I don’t mean to be wishing those dreams away… I love them. I cherish them.

Like that dream where you were piloting a helicopter and you came and picked me up. You showed me the beauty of the city lights and the land and instead of taking it all in and laughing with you and your little half-grin with raised eyebrows, I turned to you and said, “Why did you leave me? Don’t you know I needed you?”

And all you did was look at me with that familiar facial expression that I knew was saying, Well, what do you want me to do about it? It’s happened now.

It’s happened now.

It’s…

happened. Past tense?

But don’t you know you’re not just something that happened?

You are part of me, Sarah. When my lip raises and my eyebrows do that thing, I can feel my face becomes yours. When I do that nervous laugh, that’s your laugh.

For all the times we played together, made trouble together, daydreamed together, laughed, fought, stood together… those were the things that made me.

I want you to come and hold this bicycle again. But even though I’ve been riding for the past six-and-a-half years on my own, and I know you think I can do it, I’m still mad. There’s no more of your footprints in front of mine.

But there are supposed to be two.

If you were here I’d sing with you. I’d do all the reckless tagging along you wanted. I’d do whatever it took to build that home we drew.

I’d appreciate you.

I’m smarter now. I don’t hate you, I just hate that you’re not here. Except for where you are. And I love that.

I love you. I miss you. You’ll forever be my star.

-Baby Sister

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A Letter of Regret From Your Anxious and Depressed Friend

Dear Friend,

I was not always this way.

I did not always hide away from the general public for months or weeks at a time. Once I was quite confident. I occasionally felt happy. I had a full time job and I could face customers with no concern. I would chat to people over the phone, make an effort to see friends, be interested in daily life. I could cope with negativity. Overcome it, even. I wouldn’t let anything bring me down because I had something inside me that made me keep going out there, into the world, facing it all.

But sometimes, Friend, things happen. Sometimes just one thing. Sometimes many things. The courage to face these things is strong at first, at least stronger than now. But depending on luck, or coincidence, or fate, or opportunity, eventually the voice of that courage for some people is quieter. Weaker. And sometimes, silenced completely.

It is not your fault these things happened. And if you hear the tales of what they were, you will likely hold an opinion in your head of what could have been done or said as a result to resolve the issue. But your experience in this life is not the same as mine, Friend. No matter what we have in common, we can never share the exact same perception. Please make sure not to confuse your perception with mine. We are different.

Sometimes I need a break from people. Usually the people who I don’t yet know completely, but like, and with whom I want to hold some kind of friendship. I’m already tired of feeling anxious and sad and don’t want you to grow tired of me feeling anxious and sad. I’m sure you care and would be happy for me to confide in you, but I’ve confided in friends before and been burned and heartbroken in return. I can’t bring myself to take that kind of risk again.

I’m afraid I won’t be good company. I’m afraid I’ll burden you with my emotions which I don’t feel would be fair on you. I have heard of your struggles too, Friend, and would like to help you, but I can’t. I take all struggles as if they were my own and my load is already far too heavy. Sometimes my whole world is devoid of any good news, and any conversation we could have would be very quiet on my behalf. All I can really do is listen, because if I speak I might burst into tears. But I don’t feel strong enough to pretend to be holding myself together right now, so I’d just rather not.

I’m sorry you feel I’ve been avoiding you. You see me comment on social media but I ignore your messages. This is because commenting on social media is usually not personal. It’s a distraction. It’s a way to have adult conversation without the spotlight being on me. I can do it in my pyjamas without having done my face to look like I’m prettier than I feel on the inside. I don’t run much risk of having to answer the question “How are you?”

…because I don’t want to lie to you. That would make me feel anxious when I’m already feeling anxious. I don’t believe in lying to people, especially people I care about. I don’t want to fake a smile, tell you I’m fine, and divert your questions while screaming inside how I’m anything but fine.

You may see me posting an update about a group I went to, or am going to go to. Maybe inviting someone along. But I still haven’t answered your messages. This does not mean I’m feeling better and have purposely skipped you. This doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. My doctor told me to do things in the community so I don’t completely shut myself off. This is what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to get myself back into the habit of being seen in public for something other than to run a quick errand. I’m trying to quell the self-talk in my head that tells me everyone hates me and thinks I’m weird. Sometimes when I meet new people and they smile at me, I think that perhaps I’m not all that strange. “I can do this… I can do this…” I say to myself.

You see, Friend, with a head full of thoughts like mine, there is no invisible ticket machine. In a perfect world I would answer all messages and requests in order, and you’d be able to know when I’m going to call your number. But that’s not how this works. There is no ticket, no number, and if I can’t shut off the feelings inside me, I might never get to you. Or I could respond to you tomorrow. I really have no way of knowing.

To expect that I give you attention specifically is just unrealistic, and I’m sorry. I regret that the nature of this beast is not one where I can gain complete control whenever I want to, and give all the people all the attention they want or deserve. You may be lonely too, and I’m sorry. But I’m training myself to take care of myself and my needs, and to give myself all the attention I deserve, because that’s what is supposed to help me recover, or at least cope.

Part of the reason I got into this mess is because I put everyone else’s needs before mine. And they took, and took, and took some more until there was nothing left, because I was so willing to give. I regret being so naïve. I love to see people happy, but I forget that I need to be happy first. You might not be one of those people of whom I speak, but that’s unfortunately irrelevant. I can’t handle any of it yet.

Maybe we struck a friendship during a time when socialising wasn’t so daunting. Maybe you think it’s totally uncharacteristic of me to be silent and surely you must have caused offense. But Friend, understand that this condition is unpredictable and the best thing you can do is just wait.

There is no forcing a friendship with me. I need time. I’m grieving that part of me that no longer exists and that bright future I thought I was going to have.

As part of my anxious predicament I’m regretting so many things. Things that are long since dead and buried, things that happened yesterday… The way I reacted to something, the person I shouldn’t have trusted but did, the thing I said that surely must’ve made me look like an idiot. The fact that I feel this way in the first place. The fact that I can’t make it stop. The fact that I’m hurting my friends by accident by apparently turning my back on them. The fact that I don’t have the strength to be what my loved ones need any more. The fact that I can’t talk to you about this in person because it’s too hard. The fact that I can’t have friends because I can’t talk to my friends and therefore none of them can begin to understand why it’s hard for me to keep friends. The fact that I am so alone I don’t know when I’ll ever be less alone. The fact that there are people depending on me that deserve better than for me to be so afraid of so many things that I can hardly function.

I’m trying, Friend, and I’m so sorry if you’re hurt by me. If you want to walk away I understand, but please do not convey to me the disappointment that I’m not what you want me to be, because I’ve got enough disappointment in myself for the both of us. Just send me positive thoughts as much as you can spare in the hopes that maybe, one day, I’ll be on the other side of this, and I’ll be so grateful that you were so patient and understanding. When that day comes I will be able to call you a ‘Great Friend.’

Sincerely,

A Nervous Wreck


Read Why I Chose to Speak Out.

For more understanding on anxiety attacks from my own personal story, click here.

Read about The “Mental” Stigma here. 

Read Where I’m Going With This here.

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