One Sunday morning my family and I were getting ready to leave for church. After we finally got everyone in the car and began pulling out of the driveway, one of my brothers became angry when his Pokemon card got stepped on. Immediately, a fight broke out, and trust me, my brother can go from zero to one hundred in only seconds. Because my mom was busy trying to back the car out of the driveway, break up the combat in the back seat, and silence the ear-piercing screams, she didn’t notice a parked car and backed into it. We told the owner, took care of the problem, and then proceeded to drive to church. Miraculously, we got to church on time, and while we were walking in, a well-meaning man said to my mom as my brothers went running through the front doors, “Wow, what kind of sons don’t hold the door open for their mother?” Here we were, feeling accomplished for even MAKING it to church, but were shot down by this man’s comment.
My name is Elizabeth and I have seven siblings, two of whom have mental health disabilities. You can’t say it enough: a special needs household is stressful for everyone living there. A lot of times a typical sibling will not be thought of as one in a household that is deeply affected by stress, but typical siblings are extremely affected by what happens in their household. A lot of the stress I feel not only comes from my siblings’ behavior, but also from worrying about my siblings. I often worry about what future my brothers will have. I worry about how my siblings are affected when they get weird looks or when people comment on their differences. I used to be angry at people who mistreated or didn’t understand my siblings. When I was younger and mental health disabilities didn’t make sense to me, I used to think that perhaps my brothers would get better. They saw so many doctors and therapists, I was certain someone would find something to help them, or that my siblings would one day ‘grow out of it’. As I got older, I realized that my siblings would never be cured. I started to understand that this would be a lifelong struggle.
Having siblings with special needs also affects your social life. It’s very easy to feel like an outcast because it’s really hard to relate to other people. It often feels like everyone else’s life is so easy, and I’m the only one struggling. I remember being at a friend’s home and was shocked at how calm it was. No aggressive outbursts, dinner was scheduled at a regular hour, and nobody was on edge. Trying to maintain relationships with friends can sometimes be really challenging. Some relationships I’ve had have dwindled or become nonexistent because my friends didn’t like my siblings with special needs, or they felt uncomfortable around them. I’ve had people remark to me, “Wow, I could never have sibling like that!” or “How do you handle him?” or even “I’m so glad my siblings aren’t like that!” When things like this are said it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me and my family. I also know it hurts my brothers. My special needs siblings are very perceptive, and they seem to have a greater sensitivity to how they are viewed. Once my little brother told me, “I’m sorry I make some people not like us.” That just breaks my heart…
Elizabeth Moore is a homeschool sophomore, born and raised in southern Oregon. She is the fifth of eight children and loves being with her family. She enjoys playing the violin, reading, being out in nature, and volunteering at Joni and Friends Family Retreats.