If you haven’t read the inspirational guest post by my sister, Genevieve Davey, I would encourage you to read it first.
You were supposed to be Alexandra. Mum always wanted to name a boy child Alexander and when we found out you were a girl (and likely to be the last child), we assumed you would be Alexandra. When you were born, she named you Genevieve instead.
Even though we are sisters, we have never lived together. I was seventeen when I moved to Melbourne to go to university. I was eighteen when I found out Mum was pregnant again. I was nineteen when you were born.
I don’t remember much about when you were a baby or even a toddler because I was so rarely around. My first significant memories of you were as a child when Mum moved the family to Melbourne. I was living with Nan and Pa and every afternoon after school, they would babysit you until Mum finished work. They didn’t understand you. Nan and Pa were two of my most favourite people in the world. You acted like they were two of your least favourite people in the world. Shy doesn’t even begin to cover it.
“She’ll grow out of it.” Everybody said it. Probably even me. You never did. Only now do we understand that the things affecting you weren’t, aren’t and never will be things that can be grown out of.
We are complete opposites in so many ways. I complain about having to pay for health insurance because I am the healthiest person I know. The last time I had anything other than a minor health concern was when I was recovering from a car accident at the age of eleven. I’ve had three operations in my life. One was a necessity – adenoids removed when I was so young I can’t even remember it happening – and the other two were elective – my ears were pinned back (yes, cosmetic surgery) when I was fourteen and my eyes were lasered when I was thirty-three (yes, pretty much just more cosmetic surgery). I’ve been told I have the markers for rheumatoid arthritis but as far as I can tell, at this stage, it’s a long way off. You’ve already been diagnosed with more conditions and had more doctors’ visits and more surgeries than anyone should have to experience in an entire lifetime and yet your lifetime is only 20% complete.
You assume people in the street look at you and make snap judgements about what they see on the surface. They do. They assume you must have it easy – or easier than them, anyway – because beautiful women always seem to have it easy. They look at you and see someone who might be a model. (I told you so many times you had a model’s face and body. I’m almost glad you don’t have a model’s height. I’d hate to think what that industry would have done to exacerbate your body dysmorphia issues if you’d pursued modelling as a career.) They don’t see the scabs or the scars or the lack of style. I don’t see them either. I see the most beautiful and stylish woman I know in real life. You make those tracky pants look good.
The hardest thing for me about your invisible illnesses is how helpless I feel. I want to fix you. I want to relieve your pain. I want you to look forward to the future and know that you’ll have one worth having. I want you to understand that being eighteen is hard enough without having health issues. I want you to know that your twenties will be eye-opening and better. And your thirties will be when you finally feel comfortable in your own skin metaphorically even though you will likely never feel comfortable in your own skin physically. I want you to know that you will grow into who you are meant to be and whoever she is, she will be wonderful. She will be supported. She will be loved. You will be loved. No matter what.
I will be here with hugs, an ear to listen with, a shoulder to cry on. I will be here to be beaten at Scrabble, to be taught Rummikub, to request the next artwork or guest post for my blog. I will be here, a little less blind because of you.