I used to be incredibly self-obsessed. I only saw the world as revolving around me. I tried to be nice and all. I only saw my own story. Or, I saw other people’s stories, but mine was the only one that truly mattered. I was the lead in the play of life. I thought the universe cared about my opinions. But I was rudely awoken one day. This one conversation shoved the clouds out from in front of my eyes.
“Please take me seriously. I need to tell someone about this. I need to tell the truth.”
Tears glittered in my sister’s green eyes. I saw truth behind those eyes. I wasn’t going to doubt her.
“Tell me, Ella. We’re sisters. You can trust me.” I could hear the innocent curiosity in my voice. I was concerned, but not that much. It makes me sick now.
“I’m depressed. I think about killing myself every day.”
I gasped silently. Goosebumps crept up my arm like spiders. The tiny hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.
I could feel tears welling up in my own eyes now.
“I’ve been depressed for three years. I didn’t tell you because I wanted to protect you.”
She kept talking. She just needed someone to listen to her. So, I did. She showed me a place on her wrist where she’d cut herself. She told me about separate occasions where she had almost killed herself.
Tears ran down my cheeks. My hands were clammy. My stomach was tied up in knots. I had a lump of iron in my throat. My tongue was coated in the sour taste of bile.
I was upset. But I listened. She told me about times she was suicidal. She talked about a lot of things.
After, I led her to the school counselor. I thought she would be able to help my sister. After all, how could a twelve-year-old girl help a person struggling with depression?
That was the first time I truly wondered, what if I’m not meant to play the leading role in my own story? Maybe I’m just a supporting role in someone else’s?
Over the next couple of months, I felt this way a lot. My sister had to go the emergency room one night. The next day she was taken to a suicide hospital and stayed there for a week. Then, when she came back to school, she tried to harm herself with pencils and scissors. I had to take the school supplies from her trembling palm myself.
Her boyfriend broke up with her. She started struggling with an eating disorder as well. She was a wreck. I felt like I always had to protect her from herself. Our parents gave me almost no attention. Everything was about Ella. Ella, Ella, Ella.
Then she got kicked out of school for six weeks. She finally got better. I felt better.
But I kept thinking. I was never the lead in my own story. I was always meant to be the supporting role in hers.
I cursed myself for being so self-obsessed. I punished myself constantly.
Then, one night as I lay awake, I realized something.
I am a supporting role in Ella’s story. But why does that mean I can’t be a lead in my own?
So, that’s what I decided to think.
I am a role in the story of everyone I meet. My own, my sister’s, my best friend’s, my mom’s, even the random person's who I met on the street.
So, I try to act that way.
It might have taken me a long time to figure it out, but it’s never too late.
By writing this, I have just played a role in your life. By reading this, you have just played a role in mine.