My Schizophrenic Sister This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     My 13-year-old sister has schizophrenia. This is uncommon for someone so young. Usually the diagnosis is made when the person reaches adulthood, but my sister has always been one to get a jump-start on things. Although I am the older sister, she is often the one to take the first step, try something new, and risk it all. She learned to ride a bike when she was four, while I was too afraid to try until I was eight.

Our family has had to jump over our share of hurdles. My sister and I, as well as our younger brother, are adopted. We share the same mother, who was also diagnosed with schizophrenia (in addition to other mental illnesses), but we have different fathers. I have always considered my adoptive family to be my real family.

Our adoptive mother is no spring chicken and also has multiple sclerosis, which has made it extremely difficult for her to raise kids, never mind one who has a mental illness. Nevertheless, she has done an amazing job. Without her, our family would fall apart. She is the one who remains strong through all the hard times, but of course, she worries about my sister.

Since she was eight, my sister has wanted to be a boy. She likes boys and is not a lesbian. She is simply, literally, boy crazy. This is when there was first talk of her having schizophrenia.

The stereotypes that surround those with schizophrenia are often that the person is extremely violent and “walks around carrying a hatchet.” Schizophrenia is also often confused with multiple personality disorder, but someone with schizophrenia does not have two different people inside the head. A schizophrenic’s perception of reality gets distorted so that sometimes they hear voices or think they are a famous person, like Napoleon.

My sister’s particular distorted version of reality has to do with food. She believes she will become sick if she eats or drinks anything. When she is told that food is beneficial and will not harm her, she replies, “I know, but my mind is telling me that I’ll get sick. You don’t know what it’s like: I want to eat, but I can’t.” So not only is she schizophrenic, but she’s also anorexic. Being thin might have something to do with her obsession, but her psychiatrist explained that her mental illness could have been directed at anything. It just happened to be food ... this time.

I know that I am the one who will look after my sister for the rest of her life. We have eight older siblings, but none can deal with my sister’s craziness. So, I am in for a long and difficult life, but I am not complaining. I love my sister, and along with being the craziest person I know, she is also the sweetest. She is quite intelligent, which people do not always see because they focus on the abnormalities of her personality. When I was in first grade, I would practice addition and subtraction with my mom in the car. Sitting upon her throne of knowledge (a.k.a. her car seat) my sister would answer while I was still counting on my fingers.

I have laughed with my sister and cried for her. I have played dress-up with her and watched as she swore off dresses forever. I have flung food at her during food fights and have tried in vain to get her to drink a measly cup of water. I have hugged her and hurt her. I have told her stories and listened to the stories she mistakes for reality. I love her, and I will always hate hearing people jokingly say they are “schizo” or refer, in jest, to those people who are plagued with this illness. That is what it is - an illness - like cancer or Alzheimer’s. It is an illness that should not be shunned or made fun of but understood and, eventually, cured.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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WishfulDoer said...
Jul. 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm
Both of my aunts on my father's side have Schizophrenia, and both are out of contact due to being in a mental facility. I may not understand the pain you are going through, but I do understand the confusion and unpredictability. In the back of my mind I'll always know that there's a chance I could become Schizophrenic, and it scares me. This article shows me that being strong is the only way to live, because tomorrow I might be sick.
Swag_Child replied...
Jul. 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm
This Article is Helpful in Many Ways I May Not Know Any One WithThis Disorder But It Can Teach People Not To Tease People With It.
AnonymousKLM said...
Jul. 7, 2011 at 1:35 am
This is really good, beyond that is terrific. You must be a very good sister, and she is very lucky to have you.
IamtheshyStargirl said...
Jun. 15, 2011 at 9:11 pm
Thank you for writing this.
Xiaoyuangdancer said...
Jun. 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm
your story is so touching. I am adopted as well. I hope we can find a cure for Schizophrenia. 
tyedye said...
Jun. 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm
I hope your sister gets better, i really like your story :D
K.M.S.Shear said...
Jun. 15, 2011 at 8:55 am

its good that you care so much about your sister


metoo said...
May 7, 2011 at 9:26 pm
i am a mother with a child like your sister. my other 2 children struggle with the stress this illness causes. god bless you and keep loving end the end that is all that matters.  do things just for you because you are a special person too
NobodyYouKnow said...
May 7, 2011 at 10:23 am
You are definately an amazing person- Your sister is lucky to have your support.  Thank you for sharing this with us. 
love,peace,sfc said...
May 2, 2011 at 8:59 pm
You are such a great sister and I know how you feel when people make fun fo people you love and care about for being different.
browneyedcat said...
May 2, 2011 at 2:56 pm
Stories like this always make me feel so lucky and also guilty, since I take my life for granted all the time. Very good job!
KonLovesPB said...
Apr. 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm
Your sister is very lucky to have you as their sibling. And I consider this a strange thing, 'cause I'm researching Schizophrenia for a science project. I have discovered many things from my research, and I'll have my family pray about your sister and your family. God bless you!
ohmakemeover This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 10, 2011 at 11:44 am
Your sister is very lucky to have a sister like you.  Thanks for sharing this sad-yet-hopeful situation, I have learned a lot about schizophrenia. 
RozaB said...
Mar. 19, 2011 at 8:27 pm
You know what, I absolutely agree with what you said at the end there about people joking about serious diseases. For example, people just walk around calling others "retard." I mean seriously? Is that even funny? I hope you get through this with your sister. This was extremely touching, and you must have so much courage. 
shywriter said...
Mar. 19, 2011 at 7:31 am
I knew very little about this disease, but it has opened uo my eyes to it. Thank you for sharing this with us. 
Cerberus said...
Feb. 25, 2011 at 11:21 pm
i know something of what you are going through, as you see my dad is deaf and when i was little and walked around signing to him (signlanguage is their communication method) i woulld see some people like garble their hands together making fun of it...and it hurts on a very personal level cause all some people with disabilities like that, all they want t do is fit in...
Writer4Life_21 said...
Feb. 25, 2011 at 8:39 pm
This is well written and it opened my eyes to the disease and what it does because in all honesty, I had no idea. Thank you for writing this
knitwit96 said...
Feb. 25, 2011 at 8:25 pm
this is so tuching to my heart. i think i am going to cry. 
WrItEr2010 said...
Feb. 25, 2011 at 8:00 pm
This is such a cute article. You are so strong and it's awesome.
outsidethebox said...
Feb. 3, 2011 at 8:09 pm
I shed tears this is simply lovely you are a wonderful person.
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