My brother Peter was diagnosed with kidney disease some 15 years ago. Since then, he's had an organ transplant, lived through a thyroid cancer scare, survived the failure of the borrowed kidney (after 10 years), reinitiated dialysis, and taken more medication than most people have seen in a lifetime.
Not surprisingly, my brother's illness created an imbalance in our house. Not an imbalance of love - my parents love me almost too much, trust me - but an imbalance of attention. I have always understood that this is the way it has to be, because my brother does require more attention that I do.
I get it. I really do.
I cannot imagine what it's like to have a child who is sick or has special needs.
And I certainly cannot understand what it's like to accept the fact that your body is comprised by forces outside your control. That your life span has been shortened. That you may never see your kids grow up.
But this understanding doesn’t mitigate the mixed bag of emotions that comes with being the healthy kid in the family.
What I do want to point out is that most healthy kids have been told the following (or similar):
- "We don't worry about you, you're fine!"
- "Why are you so glum? You're healthy - you should be happy!"
- "You can't blame your brother for that - he's not well."
- "We can't that day, sweetheart, we have to take care of something for your brother."
- "Try to be more understanding, please."
Then of course you feel guilty for thinking your sib has an advantage, but the guilt is a whole story in itself.
I am very familiar with the sick feeling that rises in the pit of your stomach when you see the situation from afar... You, healthy, rosy-faced and your sibling standing next to you, sallow, tired, round-shouldered. That you should be in health when you have no children to take care of, no responsibilities.
Above all, please know that this was not written as a pity plea. It is neither a reprimand to my parents, nor a warning to other parents who may have a sick or special needs child in their family.
It was written mostly as a reminder to other healthy kids that yes, your feelings still count. You get so accustomed to stuffing your feelings in your pocket that you forget to take them out every once in a while for some fresh air.
So don't be afraid to ask for a little attention and compassion when you need it. You're allowed. Really.