Once upon a time I would have been too afraid to share this; too afraid to even write the following words- “Once upon a time I had a sister.”
It’s hard to know where to start this, if I start with the perceived loss or the mental illness, at the beginning or the end, past or present. General consensus is that the ideal place to start a story is at the beginning but I don’t know where the beginning truly begins. So I’ll start with what I see.
When I close my eyes and think of Jaeson I see a heap of lines–disjointed, at angles, some broken, some unending, so many, many lines. Jaeson is complex, the lines can never really truly be sorted but can anyone’s lines be made sense of?
One would think that Jaeson would have started off as a single line but in truth my sibling started off as a small mangled ball of lines. That’s what I see when I close my eyes and think of the past, when my sibling was my sister, when Jaeson was Jessica.
Thinking back I sometimes feel guilty for the mangled heap of lines, the ball of anger and frustration. Jessica came into the world angry and the more we tried to understand the further and deeper she retreated. I feel guilty because I prayed and asked for a sister. She was outwardly hard whereas I was soft, this was our dichotomy and the way we existed. The older she became the more the anger grew. I couldn’t figure out if she was mad because she was alive or because she was struggling to find where she belonged. Every day grew worse. We were already walking on eggshells around one parent and we were forced to walk on them around Jessica, the triggers were never known.
Between the parental tension and Jessica’s sudden outbursts my life felt as though a constant pillow were being placed over it, air became scarce. There was no place or person for me to turn to, no refuge on earth or heaven. So I counted the days, the days when I could escape the house where surely there would be a constant supply of air.
When I left I greedily gulped down the air, allowing my chest to finally move when I breathed. “I’m going to be okay”, I told myself. And as I’m sitting there breathing, taking notes in class, I’m missing calls from home. “Can you talk to your sister?”, they ask, “she won’t listen to us.”
“She pulled a knife on your brother’s friend.”
“She says she’s going to become emancipated.”
Every phone call there’s a new piece of information and if Jessica calls I hold my breath and hope for the best, praying that there won’t be a sudden outburst.
The funny thing about leaving hell is that you can never truly escape it, hell is a part of me.
I share DNA with hell.
And I’m carrying the entirety of hell on my shoulders. I can’t tell anyone, that’s against the rules so I shut up and I carry it with me everywhere I go. And hell starts to kill me.
First with anger, then with sadness so deep that the thought of carrying it anywhere hurts and then a cut here or a cut there. While it’s killing me I’m still trying to throw life preservers to the people still in it. I save one and then “come on Jessica–grab on!-grab it!”
I can’t save Jessica. Jessica is trapped between two hells; one from which she can escape and one that they’ll have to carry for the rest of their life.
I see the link on their Facebook page and I’m wondering if I should look. This is my sibling, I’m going to look. The first paragraph of the photos explains that there is a person, a human who breathes air, bleeds, and feels just like the rest of us, who was publicly set on fire for wearing a skirt. . . . . with a man’s shirt.
This person is non-binary, existing somewhere between male and female. Transgender.
Set on fire. A person, a human being.
My eyes are filling with tears because this could be Jaeson. And all I can think is what that phone call would have been like, what it could be like-
Jaeson’s voice emotionally telling me-“someone set my skirt on fire for being transgender.”
Jessica is not Jessica.
Jessica is not my sister.
Jessica is Jaeson.
Jaeson is genderqueer.
Jaeson has a mental illness.
Jaeson is my sibling.
A heap of disjointed lines. Is a heap better than a mangled ball?
There are moments when I long for Jessica, though it’s not Jessica I long for but for having a sister. Mental illness robbed me of a relationship with my sister and started off my relationship with Jaeson on rocky footing. Jaeson seems calmer but my mind-my mind frequently brings up images of Jessica-the mangled ball of lines.
I don’t want that heap of disjointed lines to be anything other than what they are, I don’t want Jaeson to be someone they are not. I want Jaeson to be Jaeson.
Once upon a time I had a time I had a sister.
Here and now I have a sibling-that heap of disjointed lines belongs to me.
*Shared with the permission of my sibling and dedicated to them. I love you Jaeson.
I’m Stroked to Life aka Kendra. After suffering a cerebral venous thrombosis at 25 I have found myself trying to drink in life, knowing that life is a gift and truly but a moment. (For my entire stroke story you can click here and here)
I’m a mother, a writer, an art lover, a design appreciator, and in my spare time I love to curl up with a book.
I want people to know that even after the worst of experiences there is life after the ickiness and it can filled with as much beauty as you choose.
If you can’t find me here you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.