I can't count how many times I've heard that your relationship with your siblings is one of the most meaningful relationships you'll ever have. I'm the youngest of six children, and I can't say I agree. My relationship with my siblings was a roller-coaster ride, filled with breathtaking highs and debilitating lows. That ride came to a screeching halt when my father died, and I made the difficult decision to get off. And it was one of the best things I've ever done.
Our relationship was toxic for many years, and I came to realize that it kept me from being the version of my self that my husband and son deserved. It was an agonizing decision, but I learned that you don't have to be stuck in a relationship if it's not working for you, no matter what the relationship is. I also learned how important it was to sometimes put my feelings and my mental health first, even if it may have hurt someone else.
Things weren't always bad. In fact, my childhood memories with my siblings were filled with love, laughter, and lots of fun. They were all much older than me, and I idolized them as a kid. Being the baby sister in such a large family seemed great! My siblings and I have different mothers — my father's first wife passed away from cancer, and he remarried my mother; I'm the only child of my parents. And although our dad worked really hard to build a strong, unified family unit, things weren't as solid as they appeared.
I started feeling like my siblings' hidden animosity and resentment surfaced when I was a grade schooler. My sister often teased me about only being their half-sibling. As I grew into my teens, I really struggled to fit in with my family, which was so heartbreaking, especially after I spent years idolizing and loving my older siblings. Had our relationship been poor from the start, I probably wouldn't have been affected much. But it struck deep, and as a result I believe it played a role in my struggle with mental health issues and alcohol use.
The roller-coaster relationship continued into adulthood. I got married, and my husband and I had a son. I fit perfectly in my own family, but I was still trying hard to fit in with my siblings. And I still thought everything was my fault, so I forgave them and continued to work on our relationship. The thing is, when things weren't bad, we were actually pretty close. I enjoyed spending time with them. But when we got into disagreements, it was devastating, and it began to take away from my relationship with my husband and my son.
When our dad died, I realized that part of the reason I allowed our toxic relationship to continue was because he worked so hard to build a strong family unit. I began to think back on some of our fights and recognized that I accepted their poor treatment of me for my dad's sake. At the time, I didn't realize how much not getting along with my siblings was impacting me, but looking back, the pattern is clear. The fact that they didn't seem to like me anymore made me hate myself. I thought I was the source of everything bad in our family and there was something wrong with me that caused them to feel this way — which I believe deeply affected my mental health. I decided it was time to worry about myself, and when I truly understood the impact of our relationship on my life, I knew I had to walk away. Doing so was the hardest and kindest thing I've ever done for myself. And I tried my best to make sure that I didn't purposely hurt them in the process.
Thanks to therapy, personal development, and self-care practices, I've come to accept everything that's happened. When I think about my relationship with my siblings, I'm not bitter. I'm grateful. I'm grateful for the good times we shared, but I'm also grateful for the hard times. It's those difficult times that molded me into the stronger, braver person I am today. Not getting along with my siblings took me from a place of deep, dark, emotional self-destruction to a place of acceptance where I found my true self-worth. I learned that I'm worthy, I'm important, and I'm loved. That realization alone has made all the ups and downs worth it. It has been the greatest gift of my life because it allowed me to be a better wife and mom to the two people who deserve the best of me.