A while back I wrote a post about what it's really like growing up with a disabled sibling (the answer, in short, is lovely by the way) and I wanted to follow this up with a few more posts on the same subject. Disability is something that is talked about a lot more these days, which is good, although I think there is still a lot of room for more awareness regarding disability. One of the things I don't think is spoken about a lot is how disability affects families so I thought I'd write a post about how growing up with a disabled sibling affected me. Obviously each situation is unique so everyone is affected differently, but hopefully some people may be able to relate to this post.
This is by no means a negative post or a plea for pity because I had an amazing childhood with the best sister I could have asked for, but I wanted to write honestly about how it has affected me as a person with the hope that someone else with a disabled sibling might read this and feel reassured. I'll try and not get too heavy on you!
The main thing that affects people who have a sibling with a disability is, I think, that your sibling will get more attention than you. That is inevitable and not something that I resent at all because my sibling needed more attention than me and I in no way felt neglected. It has still affected me though. Because I knew that Bethany needed more attention than me I started to shy away from attention myself. If I felt ill or upset I wouldn't always tell my parents because I felt that they had enough to deal with already. This transferred to other areas of my life as well. Growing up I always played agony aunt to my friends, but I never offloaded anything myself. I found it difficult to open up to people and tended to hide away any feelings rather than tell anyone about them. As an adult I seem to have started to overcome this slightly. I definitely tell my parents a lot more and I don't worry about worrying them because I know they'll always have time for me (and they always would have done if I'd told them things when I was younger too). I still don't open up much to that many people, but I now kind of like that in a way. Only my family and close friends need to know exactly how I feel and usually they can tell without me having to explain it anyway. I think it means that I can sometimes appear a bit closed off, but maybe people just think I'm really mysterious? (I doubt it though!)
The second way growing up with a disabled sibling has affected me is definitely a positive. I genuinely think I would be a worse person in general if it wasn't for Bethany. She's taught me selflessness, empathy and unconditional love. I am a very selfless person (if I do say so myself!) and will always think of others before myself. I really don't think that would be the case if I hadn't grown up putting Bethany first and I've seen this with others who have disabled siblings too. Before I get loads of hate I know obviously people without disabled siblings can be selfless and empathetic too, I'm just saying that if I hadn't had a disabled sibling I probably wouldn't be one of those people!
The final way it will affect me hasn't actually happened yet and that is the future. I don't know what will happen in the future, but I know that Bethany will play a large part in that. When my parents get too old to care for her full time I may give up my job to take over, which would obviously be a massive lifestyle change (but also a delight). In general having a disabled sibling has made me a better person and has made me who I am. I know that there are other siblings out there with much sadder outcomes than mine and for that I am eternally grateful to Bethany and to my parents for being just generally wonderful.
Have you grown up with a disabled sibling or family member?