You might say I'm a mama bear when it comes to my younger siblings. My feelings towards my baby sister are no exception. She graduated from high school this June and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. To me, she'll always be the blonde hair, blue eyed baby girl, ten years younger than me. Even as an infant, her eyes told a story. You could tell she was paying attention. She has a soul touched by heaven and she's truly an angel to me.
On a regular weeknight, I was nestled on my huge sofa with my new puppy cradled in my arms. My brother Devin crept down the stairs with his arms around our baby sister. I looked at them wondering why Chandler put her hair in a french braid. As Devin whispered, "Crys, you have to call Dad." I noticed that Chandler's hair wasn't in a braid at all. She had cut all her blonde hair off. She was covered in a white bedsheet. I couldn't understand what was happening. I didn't know what I was looking at, but I knew Chandler was in trouble. I put Gigi down on the couch and leapt up to meet my brother and sister at the bottom of the staircase.
"She took some pills." Devin said.
"Chandler, what happened? We're going to the hospital. Devin, call Dad. Call Julia. Watch Gigi. I'm taking Chandler to the hospital right now." The words spilled out of my mouth before my brain could tell me what to do next.
I called Julia. "You need to come watch Gigi. I'm taking Chandler to the hospital. She took a bunch of pills." Julia was in my driveway in less than three minutes. Racing out of her car, she slowed to a stunned crawl as I wrapped my arms around my sister and led her out of the house.
"We have to go to the hospital. Chandler's sick." I said, settling my baby sister into my silver Cavalier.
Julia jumped into the car with a puzzled and worried expression. Her brown eyes hid worry and panic. "Do you need me to drive?" she asked, knowing my nerves were unravelling.
Before I responded, I had already steered the car out of my driveway and out of our tiny neighbourhood.
I didn't cry. Chandler wasn't crying. Julia was perched nervously in the passenger seat, turned around to keep her eyes on my sister. At the hospital I marched straight to the intake nurse.
"My sister took some pills. She cut all her hair off. She needs help. I don't know what happened."
Springing up to take Chandler's pulse, the nurse peeled the bedsheet away from my sister's fragile body to reveal bloodied arms with fresh razorblade slices.
Oh God. She cut herself. I thought to myself sneaking a look at Julia. Neither of us said anything.
Among other things, Chandler had swallowed enough Gravol to stop her heart. She was admitted instantly. Everyone in the waiting room - likely there for hours - watched our story unfold. I still didn't know what the story was.
Over the next few hours, days, weeks and months we learned that Chandler was bulimic. Had been since the seventh grade. She also cut herself constantly - always hiding the scars. How did I miss this? After hours in the hospital and having to leave my baby sister in the child and adolescent crisis unit, I went home to look through her room. I found razor blades, bloodied rags and things I can't remember. Maybe I don't want to remember.
Settling back in at school only made things harder. As Chandler fought a vicious eating disorder every second of every day, kids at school greeted her return with torment. I don't know why they saw an obviously broken girl as a target for ridicule and humiliation. Chandler's fall from grace came with a deafening thud. Stories of why she cut her hair, why she had been absent and whether or not she was crazy haunted her. They chased her. They broke her. Five years later, they still infuriate me. Details aren't important - bullying of any kind is awful and cruel. The story is Chandler's to tell, not mine.
The inspiring and crushing thing about Chandler is how she puts everyone ahead of herself. For far too long, we had no idea what Chandler was enduring at school each day because she held it all in. How she survived still boggles my mind. The ridicule resulted in more trouble for Chandler. Underneath the anger, I could still find a smile, but my sweet baby sister was gone. For the first time in her life, she was mean. Not all the time, but there were flareups. She wasn't a nasty person, but being crushed every day at school changed Chandler. The bullies changed her.
I'm glad the bullies aren't around anymore, but I'm still angry. None of this should have happened.
Since I started this blog, I've thought about writing this. It never seemed right, and reading it back to myself I still don't know what I'm trying to say. I do know that I wanted to share my sister's bravery with you. Maybe it will make a differnce for somebody.