op-ed: my sister’s mental illness showed me how important it is to get help

November 28, 2016

This year I have written and shared a lot of things about me than I believe I ever have. That could be for multiple of reasons but it doesn’t really matter, I think the most important thing is the type of freedom I feel when I do it, and how unapologetic I am. There are some particular stories about my life I want to share with you, this is for people who may have or is currently going through anything similar. I’m hoping that by sharing this you feel somewhat liberated. This is the first time I’m doing this so openly unless you are close family or friend you won’t really know the full. Some people reading this will probably be upset that I’ve shared it with the world but they’ll forgive me, just for those reasons I won’t mention names or certain specifics.

I have a phobia of A class drugs, I mean phobia as in I cannot be around any type of A class drug. I can’t watch films where it has people sniffing or injecting and if any of my senses are exposed to any of those type of things I will have a panic attack, I start shaking and have really bad nightmares. Some might say it’s a pretty good phobia to have, others laugh at me, and some think I’m weird. Oh well your opinion is yours. I don’t remember when this phobia started but for as long as I can remember that has just been me. Now that’s my story but you will understand why I’ve told you this as you read on.

By Shannie Mears, AFROPUNK Contributor*

Photo by Studio B Photography

When I was 10 years old my older sister was diagnosed with severe psychosis, for anyone that doesn’t know what that is, it is the stage before schizophrenia, and if you don’t know what that is- it is a very severe form of a dangerous mental illness. At the time I didn’t know what was happening but I did know my mum was beyond stressed, my brother was scared and my friends were confused. My sister herself was going through a really bad stage in her life pushing away anyone who loved her further into the background. She lost over 4 stone, repeated her clothes for days and continuously got into trouble with the police.

I was 10 so of course, I had no real understanding of what was going on, but I’ve been quite mature from a young age and I knew this wasn’t the sister I had looked up to for the past 10 years of my life. I see a lot of who I am today in the person she use to be: Outspoken, quirky, feisty, loving and not to toot our own horns but stylish.

It was about 10’o clock at night when there was a knock on door from a tall white policeman informing us that my sister had just been arrested for shoplifting. It was bizarre. I didn’t even know what that meant! He continued to tell us the story of what had happened and my mum just burst into tears, I ran upstairs to my brother and said the exact words…

‘ D** we can’t give mom anymore trouble ok, we just can’t because S**** just got arrested and now mom is crying’.

Fast forward to 6 months from then that felt like 6 years, my sister began to get help. My mum- the superwoman that she is went far and wide to find out exactly what was happening to her princess she had raised.

DRUGS! My sister had gone too far and who knows what else she was doing. She was wild. But that was it, from substance abuse she had slowly got psychosis and it had become enough.

Parts of me are still broken, and yes things have never been the same since but we were stronger than ever- and my mum being again, the superwoman that she is whilst all of that was happening. I never once missed a school trip, I was on time to school every morning, had dinner every night and still smiled when we prayed at night.

There could be someone out there on the brink of breaking and this is just a reminder that it’s okay and don’t be embarrassed to share your troubles or problems. Yes! My family felt somewhat humiliated but I love my sister and she’s a good person and that’s all that matters.

I hope no matter what you go through you remember that -there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.