Mental health: an insanely broad term that means so many different things, but for most, it is a word to categorize those who do not act “normal,” or the ones who stand out in a crowd. An individual with a mental illness can be someone who needs constant assistance within their everyday life, but it can also be the person who sits next to you in class, and you would never know. Contrary to popular belief, mental illnesses are not always spotted by just glancing at someone.
As someone who has an older sister with mild autism, I have witnessed how a person with a mental illness can act inside a home with their family, which can differ from how they may act outside in everyday situations. Like most people, when you are at your own house, you are more comfortable and act less “polite”. Growing up, I was accustomed to the day-to-day tantrums and mood swings. So, when I would go to a friends house and see their older sister not doing the same, I would think that their family is abnormally perfect.
Even though growing up with an autistic sister has thrown a lot of curveballs throughout my life, it has made me grow up in ways I would not have if she was not in my life. It has taught me better ways to handle real world situations and I have learned lots of valuable lessons, one of them being grateful for the life I was given. Most of the time, I felt like I was the older sibling. This caused me to mature faster at a younger age and understand certain concepts that a lot of people would not understand if they did not spend their household time around someone with a mental illness.
If there is one thing I learned from living with my sister, it is to be aware of others. I have learned the importance of understanding that just because someone does not act the way most do, it does not mean that they are crazy. Even though it is cliche to say “do not judge a book by its cover”, it is very true when it comes to mental illness. Until you have been around the person on a daily basis, you are not able to understand the emotional or physical struggles these people may go through. My relationship with my older sister definitely is not what most families have, but she has taught me so many things that most people won’t ever have the chance of learning, and I would not trade it for anything.