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

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     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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This article has 101 comments. Post your own!

addicted2candy said...
Jun. 11, 2010 at 10:46 pm:
Kudos to you! U are truly ur sister's hero. I know I absolutely don't have to say this, but as a reminder, never leave ur baby sis's side. Thanks so much for sharing her story and I hope and pray she is well.
 
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Anonymous said...
May 27, 2010 at 2:06 pm:
is was so good! it made me cry
 
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magic-esi This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 23, 2010 at 2:51 pm:
It's strange how the best writing inspires the worst feelings in us. I felt ashamed after reading this for having laughed at schizophrenics and having a distorted perception of them. The article was written very well, to the point where I had to employ a technique I usually use for reading really good books, covering up the next line or next paragraph so I would not read it too quickly. I savored each of the words in this article- it was really amazing. I know it sounds like I'm exaggerating but... (more »)
 
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BasketballChick5 said...
Mar. 10, 2010 at 8:47 pm:
I love this artical best on eyet in my opiniion its very touching adn i agree your sister is lucky to have you and help adn care for her....You awesome lol and good job:):):):):):):) I was crying when i found out what schizophrenia was its very sad for someone so young to have its not very common for some one young have this..............Sorry!!!
Sara5
 
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Ashly said...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 4:12 pm:
Your article is very touching, as well as informing. Your sister is very lucky to have someone like you to take care of her.
 
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notebookgirl said...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 7:54 am:
Wow, great article. I read a fictional book about someone with schizophrenia but I never really understood what it was. It was interesting to see the disease from your point of view
 
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shakespeare418 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 3, 2010 at 5:39 pm:
What do you mean? Like, the doctors should pay more attention so that they can get it right? I agree. But I guess sometimes, they can only work with what they have.
 
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scaniok said...
Oct. 29, 2009 at 3:33 pm:
To me, this piece is uplifting! I think it's great that you are expressing yourself and sharing your problems with others. This cannot be easy for you and so far it sounds like you are doing an awesome job at handling this tough situation! I just cannot believe all that you and your family have been threw! “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 ... (more »)
 
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mirra302 said...
Sept. 7, 2009 at 9:44 am:
Schizophrenia ia a very lonely illness
 
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jessicaishere7 said...
Jul. 30, 2009 at 7:00 pm:
I have Scizophrenia. I am so ashamed. I am only fifteen years old. And every day my life gets harded. My family doesn't believe I have the illness, but I know I do. Honestly, it's hard for me to deal with myself. Anyways, we need somebody to lean on. So if you come across somebody with the illness, don't be scared to lend a hand.
 
rawr5 replied...
Nov. 16, 2009 at 5:33 pm :
hun don't be ashamed if your family doesn't listen then keep talking until someone hears you!tell a teacher or counselor beacause if you do have it you should be able to take care of it.
be safe and don't give up
 
shakespeare418 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 12, 2009 at 9:09 am :
Hey! I just wrote an article about my struggle with Bipolar I (which is so similar to shizophrenia, they are often misdiagnosed for each other) in the memoir section. I wrote it for other people to see that mental illnesses are not impossible or something to be ashamed of. It's caled Conquering Crazy. I pray that God will use it to help you think more about your illness if you read it.
 
Wonderbox11 replied...
Jan. 3, 2010 at 5:32 pm :
I think that they are very poorly diagnosed
 
Ashly replied...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 4:17 pm :
I agree if they won't listen to you keep talking until they do. Talk to a trusted adult such as a teacher or councelor or just a family that will listen. you cant take care of yourself unless you know what is wrong. Don't give up and keep working for them to believe you.
 
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M.T.Gibs said...
Feb. 13, 2009 at 1:36 am:
My friend is Scizophrenic. It is really hard to be around her sometimes. Her mom didn't tell me that she had it and was constantly in and out of the mental hospital. I went back into her life blind of her problems, but I always knew she was different. She claimed to hear voices often, but I had always thought that she was just making it up. It is hard being around her, but I try because she doesn't have many friends...
 
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zfcastle said...
Nov. 8, 2008 at 9:41 pm:
I think it's great that you are expressing yourself. This can't be easy for you. But you've really stepped up and done the right things.
 
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kk21794 said...
Nov. 7, 2008 at 2:12 am:
That is wonderful! Some parents can't handle their children on a regular basis. She's your sister and you choose to be her "parent". I think that's amazing and there should be more people like that in the world today.
 
Shipwreck replied...
Dec. 12, 2009 at 1:40 pm :
I agree. These days everyone is so judgemental of others. We shouldn't leave people behidn because they are different or struggling. Instead we should help them and support them. Everybody struggles with something and if there is no one to support them adn stand by their side they fall apart.
 
montana replied...
Dec. 12, 2009 at 9:24 pm :
I know how you feel. Your piece made me cry. I wish you and your family a happy holiday of a very Merry Christmas!
 
Starrlyt replied...
Apr. 1, 2010 at 12:03 pm :
I agree with everyone. It is sad, and amazing that you are helping your sister.  Many people wouldn't do that unless a reward was involved.  I hate to say it but many humans are selfish.  Keep up the good work and may good luck be with you...
 
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