May 13, 2014 marks the two year anniversary of the accident. This day will always be recognized as a tragedy for me and will be marked as the day that changed my entire life. Through these two years, I’ve learned more about myself than I ever have during my 22 years of life. Upon this acknowledgement, I’ve learned the dynamics of what it is like to have a handicapped sibling and all of the pain and suffering that comes with it.
In the era in which BuzzFeed and numbered lists being a hot commodity on social media, I’ve decided to compile the 11 most important things I’ve learned since I have had a handicapped sibling. I’ve met hundreds of people over the past two years that have gone through similar experiences with a family member and can relate to me unlike anyone else. This is for them. Enjoy!
11 Things You Learn From Having a Handicapped Sibling
1. You have the hardest working parents out there.
Being a parent is hard for anyone, but having a handicapped child in the mix makes things even more stressful. My dad works a 50 hour/week job and goes without very little sleep to take care of Sherrin, My mom is constantly working on her therapy and is too exhausted to do anything else. The obstacles they have to overcome everyday can be unbearable, but miraculously, they’re able to get through it. Thank them for that.
2. You’re going to feel sorry for yourself a lot… and that’s okay.
Just don’t let it last forever. Throwing yourself a pity party everyday is exhausting and will draw people away from you when you need them the most.
3. There’s added pressure on you.
Since your sibling may not be able to attend school or get a job, there’s more pressure on you to succeed. For me, I’m pressured to do even better in school and have an exuberant amount of job opportunities since my sibling can’t do those things. Don’t take this as an anchor; take it as inspiration. I do what I do for her. Sherrin is my motivation.
4. Strangers are going to stare.
Walking with your handicapped sibling down the street or in a parking lot since they are wheelchair/crutches/cane bound causes people to stare longer than they realize. They’re going to think, “Oh, what a shame for that family.” You can’t stop what people think but you can do is hold your head high and show strength.
5. You realize how important your sibling is to you.
Whether your sibling was born with their disability or it came later in life, you understand how important this person is to you very early on in the course of the disability. I’ve become the most territorial person to Sherrin through her injury. A loser talks smack about her? I rip them to shreds.
6. You have never realized how important you are to them.
Knowing that you are critical to someone else’s life is an odd feeling. I was only 20 years old when Sherrin’s brain injury occurred. I had to grow up really fast and make my family the number one priority, something that not all 20 year olds have to do. My presence is crucial to her progress and a huge help to my parents’ sanity.
7. Your parents are stressed a lot.
Can you blame them? Look at what they have to deal with everyday versus parents that don’t have a handicapped child. Look at the stress you feel from your family’s situation and multiply that by a thousand.
8. There are those people that will never understand no matter how hard you try to make them.
I’ve had some people that I consider close friends ask some of the most ignorant questions. I’ve had people ask me if Sherrin would get back together with her ex boyfriend or why we don’t put make up on her. Those are the types of people that are so distant from the reality of tragedy that they see a distorted vision of what is really happening. You have to ignore them.
9. Don’t be afraid to go to therapy.
It saved me.
10. The world is cruel and bad things happen to good people.
This isn’t yours or your sibling’s fault. There is no rhyme or reason on why tragedy happens or why some people are dealt a crap hand of cards. You have no choice on fate; you just have to accept it and move forward.