An amazing thing just happened.
My sister just told me to get off out of her life.
She point blank stated we have nothing in common except blood and told me I am not even on her radar. In no uncertain terms, she asked me would I please just “leave her alone?”
I’m still digesting this, and being as she has asked me not to contact her, I’m respecting her wishes. But I also feel the need to express myself.
So, here’s how it went. I sent my sister an email asking how she was. I mentioned how the last few times we’ve communicated she hasn’t seemed to want to engage. To be fair, we are hardly close: she’s my sister but we are about as similar as an iPad and a shoe.
She’s been unwell for some time and my intuition was nudging me to ask if she was okay. Her answer? She’s fine. Great! But I have to say, the remainder of the email made me question if that was really the truth, because she followed up by saying how she can’t stand my self-help speak and if I’m going to talk about wanting to engage with her, then she’s not interested.
Call me psychic but I’m guessing fine might not be the whole story.
I’m not going to write about a lifetime’s communication (or lack of) with my sister, but I am amazed that someone would react to a caring email from a sibling by saying, “Please leave me alone.”
Actually, I’m not amazed at all. I’m not even surprised.
I could write a million blogs about my family and how screwed up I think we all are, but what would that achieve? It would serve as a way for me to get a bunch of sh*t off my chest but why would I bother?
There’s always three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth.
So what else can I do?
Well, I could shift my perspective.
Previously, I would have responded to my sister’s behavior with anger, venom and a super-sized “f*ck you” right back.
I would have released my inner dragon from its cave and sent it charging at her with forked tongue and claws outstretched. I actually used to be proud of the fact that I was the queen of f*ck you. I had the ability to take a man down with one look, and would practically behead people if they were foolish enough to cross me. But that’s not the case anymore. And in fact, I’m not even having to curb those feelings right now, because they’re just not there.
Now that’s amazing.
But this isn’t about me sitting on a sanctimonious ivory tower, this is about recognizing that someone is struggling to feel good and being compassionate. Even if they wished I didn’t exist.
We all have our demons and some people’s are bigger than others.
I’m lucky in the sense that I don’t have a predominance for depression. Sure, I feel sad and blue, and struggle at times, but even when life sucks I usually manage to see flickers of light. It’s a gift that I am very grateful to have. The only down side to this is when I’m in communication with someone who is feeling depressed or glum, because they tend to see me as the most irritating human being on Planet Earth.
It’s not great seeing someone smiling when you feel like throwing yourself off the Golden Gate Bridge. And there is nothing worse than someone shining a light of happiness in your eyes when you’re in a funk and believe that the world is sh*t and you just want to be left alone.
Depression is a very real thing that affects a lot of people. And when you’re depressed, you’re depressed. Nothing’s gonna fix it, and that’s a fact, right?
But what if that’s not the whole truth?
What if hiding our sadness is part of the problem? If being depressed wasn’t seen as being imperfect, then would it be as debilitating?
I don’t know the answer to that.
But what I do know is that last year when I went into therapy for the first time in my life (not a moment too soon), I experienced a black, sludgy cloak that soaked through to my bones and practically prevented me from getting out of bed for almost four months. My usual squeaky clean optimism was muddy and heavy. I struggled to work. In fact, I made so many mistakes at work during that time that I was left almost jobless and I’m still recovering from that a year later.
When I was in the thick of it I could feel my optimistic self wanting to clamp down over the problem and take me off to the beach for a walk. “It’ll make you happy,” it said.
But I didn’t go for a walk.
I sat in my bed and wore my crappy feelings. I allowed myself to feel things I’d shut down.
I felt the lack of support from my parents, feelings of pain from sexual abuse as a child, feelings of rage from a horrific car crash that left my friend dead, my boyfriend in a coma and me as the miracle survivor. I got in touch with the feelings of f*cking up my last relationship, of hating myself for always running away, of feeling the guilt of leaving my beautiful dog behind for a life of freedom.
I felt them all.
I sat in their gloom, their self-pity and their filth and I ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I had no idea how long they would last, but I knew I had never allowed them to be really felt before. So I gave them a chance to be expressed, to come out of their dark corners and into the light. I was terrified that I would feel like this for the rest of my life.
As it happens, for me, the blackness only lasted 24 hours before the fog started to lift. I wouldn’t say I sprang out of bed the next day (in fact, it has taken around 12 months for the healing to come full circle), but that sick and disgusting feeling dissolved after a full day of allowing it to be.
If I hadn’t allowed myself to experience their grit and grime, those feelings would still be lingering in my body.
It’s the things we don’t say or feel that creep up on us when we’re having a tiff with our lover, or trying to get a point across to a family member.
Just like everything in nature, what goes up must come down and what goes in must come out.
Whether it comes out as words or manifests as disease is partly down to what we choose.
I’m not saying that letting off steam is a path to well-being, but if we can come to express ourselves in healthy and reasonable ways—by learning appropriate language that can be understood globally—then it makes sense that we will feel better about ourselves.
Sure, you might still get sad, but isn’t it at least worth a shot to be open to loving yourself and others? Don’t we all just want to get along and live a peaceful life?
I guess on the inside, yes, we do. But until we learn that it’s safe to feel all of our feelings—and that includes the dirty, ugly ones—then all we can hope to achieve is more of the same. It’s not an easy road and it takes courage and tenacity, especially if your journey so far has involved more sh*t than a septic tank. But if your current path involves bitching at your siblings because they seem to be having a nice life and you don’t, then maybe, just maybe, it’s worth taking a new approach.
I don’t know if all my angry birds have gone just because I wallowed in my own crap for a year, but I do know that loving other people when they cannot love themselves is a gift.
And so I shall send loving thoughts to my sister and maybe one day we’ll both be free to tell each other “I love you” and really mean it.
And if not, then at least I have enough understanding of my own pain to know that when my sister tells me to “get lost,” what she’s really saying is “I’m lost.”
And I can’t really blame her for that.
Hannah Hempenstall is a writer, editor, and meditation facilitator. Her career journey began in 1993 as a magazine journalist in London where she interviewed every pop star from Justin Timberlake to Victoria Beckham. She now lives in Bondi, Australia and runs a fortnightly meditation group called The Love Circle. She also provides reflexology and healing in between writing for a variety of Australian magazines as well as her blog. She provides freelance book editing and is co-authoring her first book, Creating A Business: The Emotional Journey No-One Talks About which is due out later this year. Hannah is an open book with an open mind. She loves sharing thoughts on life and the Universe and is sure that by following your dreams and listening to your heart that the world is more than our oyster. She believes that’s when we really start to find pearls. Visit her website Hannah Hempenstall.
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- Assist Ed: Olivia Gray
- Ed: Brianna Bemel