Wednesday, 16 June 2010

On The Other Side.

"...But there's another kind of hole, and that is the wound that divides family.
Sometimes the wound occurs at the moment of birth, sometimes it happens
later. We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime. We'll leave much unfinished for the next generation...
...I have infinite faith in the craft of surgery, but no surgeon can heal the kind of wound that divides two brothers (siblings)"

Abraham Verghese
Cutting For Stone

As I am having huge problems finding words at the moment I have resorted to using those of others.

This resonated as I read it the other day.

There's not a lot out there which acknowledges the impact of damage between siblings.

I remember in the early days of my sister's anorexia, when the wound of her violent and total rejection was still so, so raw and my flesh unaccustomed to the pain, searching high and low for books about anorexic siblings.

All I found was a reasonable amount of literature on 'Helping Your Child Eat' or 'Coping With An Anorexic Child'. That kind of thing.

A good few years ago, I figured that one day I might have found the healing and the balance I needed to help me write a book about anorexia with siblings in mind. I thought that somehow, I would be able to look on the years of loss with the glow of gentle understanding borne of the twisting grief of watching the slow suicide of a sister I loved with everything I had.

It would be called, "On the Other Side" in reference to a range of recurring nightmares I had for the first ten of the seventeen years of her illness. The dreams were all variations on the same theme... I was always stuck on the other side of the shatterproof, soundproofed window as she was mugged, the other side of the pond as she was buried in the mudslide, the other side of the turquoise lagoon as she drowned.

And the feelings are indescribable and yet, so many of us are familiar with the extraordinary pain of watching those who we love the most, kill themselves slowly and painfully, whether that be through eating disorders, drug addiction, alcohol dependency or just very, very poor life choices.

Not to minimise the angst of those who are compelled towards death by the strength of their addictions, but I honestly believe, and I'll speak only for myself in an attempt to avoid sweeping generalisations... I honestly believe that it is more painful to watch someone you love in agony than it is to be in agony yourself.

The Other Side exists for all of us at some point in our lives, but rarely to the degree that it does when it is the absurd chaos and torment of severe mental health problems and addiction that tear a family apart.

No surgeon can heal the wound that divides two sisters. If I could find one who did, I'd sell everything I ever had.


  1. "I honestly believe that it is more painful to watch someone you love in agony than it is to be in agony yourself."

    I honestly believe that too.

  2. My story is not quite the same but I honestly believe that too, having been on both sides of the experience. Being sucked into the vortex of their world...

    I think that would be a great book.

    Thinking of you.

  3. HI-
    you write so well. such raw honesty. I so understand the agony claimed through someone I love's destructive and desperate choices. You spoke my heart.

    I love you
    peace and hope for us all

  4. I am so sorry for your pain. It is hard to see someone you love suffer.

  5. "it is more painful to watch someone you love in agony than it is to be in agony yourself"

    That's true. That's completely true. But (and I know this may not go down that well) this can be used - of course with the best will in the world - to control. And what if it's true that EDs have to do with being controlled? Then you have a perfect double bind. The expression of care about being thin becom3s a pressure, whatever was meant by it. And the reaction to that pressure is the need to be thin.

    And I don't know your sister, or what was going on for her.

    But reading the wonderful and sad entries on your blog I do rather wonder of this might be happening for you....

  6. I have more compassion on others than myself. Even my animals and animals I see I feel so much more for them. Thank you for sharing dear.

  7. this post is so powerful. It really hits me that your pain...the sister watching got so many ways. I find your voice strong and powerful and sooo soo important. You are amazing...and you really inspire me. Stay strong ok.

  8. Always listening, though not finding many words these days. Your words are filled with such painful truth, and as always, I understand more than you may believe. The powerlessness in witnessing such agony, most especially with a sibling, causes incredibly deep wounds that never truly get tended too. And then of course, the scars left behind all too often remain hidden. Not sure I'm making much sense, so will stop here . . . but . . . having already lost one sister, and witnessing another seemingly heading down the same path, well . . . the horror of it is exactly as you describe . . . indescribeble . . . . . . and I just want you to know that I get some of the agony in what you have witnessed, and continue to witness . . . . . .

    love to you,

  9. abroadermark - Thank you for believing me. x

    Lost - I don't think I'd ever have the energy to write it, but thanks. x

    Gail - Funny, as I was writing I thought that you would understand. I thought about your agony watching and being so far away from her.

    Wanda - Thank you. Yes it is. x

    S - I didn't totally understand and have had o read your comment a few times... I guess that perhaps that IS what might be happening... It feel like a vicious circle.. It's self perpetuating... Pressure and cntrol makes me want to claw back control so I get thinner, and the thinner I get, the more pressure is applied...
    I'm not even sure that what I've jut typed is correct.
    Thank you for your thoughts. x

    JBR - Yes. It's easier to feel compassion for almost aything other than ourselves isn't it?

    Sarah - I inspire YOU? Er... wrong way round I'd say!
    Thank you for listening and for hearing the story.
    Thank you

    Lis - God. Of all the people who read this blog you undertand, perhaps more than anyone, what it is to have to stand and watch. And in all the helplessness and all the unheard warning screams, a part goes missing in us, perhaps dies.
    I know that you get some of it. I know that you are all too familiar with the horrors.
    I didn't know you were still with me and I don't think that I deserve you to be.
    I often think of you and hope for you.

    You made perfect sense and you're right... the scars never truely get tended to.
    I think they might be too deep for anything to reach them.

    So much love to you Lis.


  10. Dearest friend . . . . you are never out of my heart and thoughts . . . . .

    " I didn't know you were still with me and I don't think I deserve you to be . . . . "

    Well . . . . no doubt you know that I feel quite the same, but rather than us get sucked into how we do not deserve to have each other listen, let's just try to keep breathing with the thought that at some level, there is "understanding" . . . . . that being said, I understand the despair in believing that the scars are just too deep now . . . . . and the thick toughness of the scar tissue left behind does indeed suffocate "something" . . . . probably not a very positive thing for me to say that, but somewhere inside, there is a part of me that carries hope that we are both wrong . . . .

    love and respect always,
    Lis ( and do not feel you must respond)

  11. Okay, here's what I don't get. (And I'm not being mean, or insensitive when I ask this. I truly want to understand.) If the scars are too deep to heal, if the pain is so horrible that it has suffocated and killed certain parts of you, then what is the point of going over it again, and again? How can dwelling on things that can't be changed be helpful? I mean, I'm all about self awareness, and the part it plays in making positive changes in our lives. But it seems that at some point we've got to just suck it up, accept that certain things are just they way they are, and move on. Is it not possible to use the shit as fertilizer for growth? What am I not getting here?

    P.S. Just so you know, I've had my share of shit too - some of it was given to me by others, and some of it I made for myself. So this isn't coming from some goody-goody who's never had a trouble in her life (as if such a person even exists). I've known pain. I've known depression. Perhaps I haven't known these things to the extent that you and others have, but, then again, maybe I have. It's hard to compare such things, you know.

    Oh, and in case you haven't seen it, there's a new comment for you at my place.

  12. Lissa,
    I don't know what to say. Just... I'm so sorry you identify so much and I think about you lots and hope that your own 'hope' pays off.

    Move on. It's not something thattherapy seems to be helping me to do.
    Why go over it again and again? Well. It has destroyed me. Maybe one day I'll accept whatever it is I need to accept in order to move on... (Does 'move on' mean 'be happy?)
    At the moment, I'm not sure what it is that I need to suck in... I know what is past is past.. I know I can't change anything. I know life is often pretty shit. I accept those things. What else I need to do is a mystery.
    And... there's nothing REALLY wrong... cos I function very well. Nobody in 3D is aware of my shit, people don'tknow about the panic attacks or phobias, I hold a responsible teaching job, I'm well respected, loved and cared for.
    I help kids who are very hurt and damaged. I survive very well.
    in one sense, (the sense that matters)nothing is very wrong... and so long as I don't allow myself to 1.stop work, 2.sleep, 3.try to go and stay anywhere overnight,, 5.miss a gym session... then I'm ok.
    The only problem is that I can't bear the thought of this existence if it is going to be forever.

    I'm quite sure you have known shit.
    It is indeed probable that you have known pain and depression to a greater extent than I have. I guess one of the most puzzling things for me is that apart from a couple of odd things, I don't really have any reason to be so crap apart from the dreaded possibility that I am just quite a lot weaker than most people. (Shameful to consider).

    So. I've rambled.
    I don't feel as though I've answered much of your question, or made a lot of sense in my attempts.

    As for the whole God thing,I know I haven't lost him abroadermark, I'm sure he is still in the same place as before... You say that all I have lost is my feelings... and that's true... but, losing your feelings for 3 years can make it a little hard to maintain the same level of faith and devotion and holiness.

    If I died now, I'd go to hell, which petrifies me. But, I can't be any better than I am right now so... it feels like a no win situation.

    I don't think you are a 'goody-goody'. I can spot one a mile off and you ain't one of them. Nor do I think that you are being mean.

  13. You completely have my thoughts, and are IN my thoughts.

    And the God thing. I guess your feelings are making reality a bit - sort of - misty. And if there is a God, then, if (s)he's worth anything, then (s)he'll know what's happening for you, and still be there after you're over this.

    OK. This is big, very big stuff, but, stuff is... Isn't it?

  14. Assuming there is indeed a hell, there's no way you can KNOW you'll go there when you die. I think what S. said is right on the money - only I'd add a thing or two to it. Not only will God be there for you when you're "over this," He's with you now. AND, if He truly exists (and I think He does), He knows your struggles, He knows your weaknesses, and He knows your difficulty in feeling His presence. He knows it all. Do you seriously think the Pure Love who created you would punish you for not doing something you're simply unable to do? I don't. I don't think that at all. Even (most) human parents don't expect more from than their children than their children are able to give. And we're talking GOD here. Surely He's better at this stuff than we are. :D

    Are you a special education teacher? My degree is in special ed., and at one point (many years ago) I was certified to teach both mentally retarded children and emotionally disturbed ones. I never actually did much teaching - I chose to be home with my kids instead. Anyway, I just thought it was kind of interesting that we both work/worked in the same field.

    I have something else to say, but it's time to put the kids to bed. Be back later.

  15. Dearest, being on this pilgrimage, I do not often have access to internet. I do think of you though. I agree; seing someone in pain is pure agony. It is nearly unbearable to not know what to do. I am keeping on in my thoughts. Love from France on the way to Santago in Spain.