April Warrior – Kaci

April Warrior – Kaci

Hello again! After a small hiatus, Warrior of the Month is back! And this time we have an interesting point of view. After reaching out on social media to anyone who would listen looking for future Warriors, I received a message from Kaci Madison. Her sister has depression and anxiety and she was only just now beginning to understand the magnitude of what that meant for her every day life. Kaci is the first to admit she was naive to mental illness issues, but now she wants to share her story as a loved one of someone who suffers firsthand.
Growing up my sister was always my greatest protector. I never realized that until our adulthood. She is 2 years older than me, and it was just the two of us. We were always really close until she got into high school. That’s when she stopped wanting to hang out with her baby sister as much and she would hide in her room a lot. I remember hearing a lot of “emo” music through the walls, always so loud. I remember fighting a lot with her too, over the stupidest things. There is one day in particular that I remember. I just got home from school, I think I was around 13 or 14 at the time, and I noticed she was home already. We went to different high schools, but she never usually came home right after school. Our mum was also home which was weird because she was usually at work. Well, we got into an argument almost the moment we saw each other. I don’t know what it was over, probably her eating the last apple or breathing the wrong way, something silly. She ran upstairs bawling her eyes out “you don’t even know what I’ve been through” SLAM! She’s in her room again, I’m not surprised. She always overreacts to everything!
She moved far away the moment she turned 18. She went to go live with a boy she barely knew, I didn’t understand why. The first time she came home to visit, I was so excited, I cried, a lot. We spent a lot of time together that time, but we still fought, so much. Every time she came home after that, I was not too excited. I always ended up in tears, and she never wanted to hang out with me. She actually didn’t even go out that much, it was just like it was when we were teenagers. In her room with her music so loud you could hear it outside. People used to ask if I was excited that my sister is home, and I would scrunch up my face and say “I guess so..?”. We just never saw eye to eye, and we lived in two completely different worlds. 
She just recently became very open about her struggles with generalized depression and anxiety.. I never realize how ignorant I was to it all. I keep asking her questions, “why aren’t your medications working?”, “how can you have suicidal thoughts but not be suicidal?” “can’t you just think your way out of it?”. It’s not something that I can easily wrap my head around. Our mother has this mind set, “fake it until you make it”, and it has always worked for me, so why doesn’t it work for her? I still have so much to learn. 
Yesterday, I finally realized that she isn’t just overreacting, she genuinely cannot help it. Yesterday was different than most days. We went to the fair with our kids, her son is 4, mine are 2 and 2 months. We had an amazing time together. We left, went our separate ways and I thought that was it for the day. I was wrong. She called me, not totally unusual, I figured she wanted to talk to me about the day or something funny my nephew did, the usual stuff. She was having a panic attack. I kind of brushed it off at first. Her son had locked himself in his room while she was changing door knobs so she couldn’t figure out how to get him out and it just sent her in a downward spiral. She has never called me while she was having a panic attack before, I didn’t know what to do. I could hear her hyperventilating, so I told her to breath, it didn’t help. I started to panic a bit. I decided all I could do was get in my car and go to her. So I talked to her the whole time I was driving. I felt so bad, I didn’t know what to do. I kept making jokes, or laughing. She told me she didn’t take her medication because she just ran out. All she had was instant relief medication that makes her sleepy so she can’t take it when it’s just her and her son home. I told her to take it as I was almost there. Now, my sister has never been one to hug or cuddle or be close anyone, so when I saw her, I asked if I could hug her, and I just held her, squeezed her hard, I couldn’t help it. I saw real fear and real sadness, I had to hug her. Her son was still locked in his room, but my main focus was letting her know it was going to be okay. 
So here we are.. 2 women who are not very handy and know nothing about door knobs, trying to figure out how to get him out of his room. Finally, after a phone call to my husband, we figured it out! I stupidly thought that would resolve her anxiety, but I was very wrong. Her medication started to kick in and I could tell. So I grabbed her son, put him in the car and we went shopping. I knew my sister needed some time to relax or have time on her own. Her son is very loving and she just did not want to be touched. I took him for a couple hours, then she called and told me she was okay now. I called her husband at work just to double check that it would be okay for me to bring my nephew home. 
I honestly never realized how real it was until then. I learned a lot yesterday. As much as I can say that I’m there for my sister whenever she needs me, the truth is, I have no idea what I’m doing, and I have no idea what she is going through. I have no idea what it feels like to be in a place where it feels like the sadness will never go away. I’ve never obsessed about death. Yesterday really opened my eyes though. I’m sorry that I never realized that this is a real illness. People die from depression everyday, and I still never realized it. My sister is truly brave. I am so proud of her for everything that she has over come, I don’t know that I’d be able to do it.
I’m not going to lie, when I first read this, I almost cried. It’s such a refreshing view that I think everyone should read. Thank you for being honest Kaci, and admitting you don’t fully understand. Just being aware of that and being there for your sister is more than enough! I hope you and your sister are well.
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