Identity Crisis.

Certain subjects in the following may be triggering to some people. If you're having suicidal, depressed, or at a complete loss please talk to someone you trust or call 1-800-273-8255; you can also text “CONNECT” TO 741741. 

The thing about me is on the surface, I am lucky. I have a good relationship with my parents and came out relatively well adjusted. 

So what is it that haunts me? Well, to be perfectly frank, several things, but those are many stories told in many other ways. The thing about me is all through childhood, I was told I was just like my Aunt Cindy. The thing about my Aunt Cindy is she was a paranoid schizophrenic with manic depression... but she was also an artist. 

By the time I came along, she was already living in Buffalo, NY (80 miles north), making art in their community, and chronically in and out of the psychiatric hospital. She attempted suicide several times, though I was never told how.

When her paranoia would flare up, she wouldn't eat for fear someone was poisoning her. She always looked unhealthily thin and seemed a bit off when I would see her on holidays. She didn't talk to me much, I'm not sure she knew how to talk to kids, which I can't blame her for since I was the same way; then, when I was twelve, she had a bad episode and was committed again. This time she was gone for years. 

While in the hospital, she would call my Nana and Papa's house and Nana would race to answer it since Papa would just say "take your meds." and hang up. 

I saw my Aunt Cindy one more time before I left New York. Mentally, she seemed clearer minded, but she had a large bulge protruding from her stomach. A few months later we found out it was a tumor. 

My Aunt Cindy was in Buffalo for treatment when she passed away in 2011. I was sent the newspaper with her obituary as consolation. She was young in the photo they used; laughing, looking away from the camera. I was used to seeing photos of my mother that resembled me, but here was an obituary for the woman I'd been told my whole life I was just like with a photo that eerily looked like my twin.

This was a woman I was never able to talk to or get to know. I knew she was an artist, but to this day I don't know what she did; I've never seen her work. I don't know what medium she worked in or what haunted her. I don't know what age she noticed the schizophrenia, mania, or depression. I don't know what drove her to the suicide attempts or if there were other times she didn't talk about. I don't know how she handled her mental illness and cancer without cracking entirely.

I'm an aunt to a beautiful artist now. She reminds everyone of me. She is told "you're just like your Aunt Meghan."

She's too young to have any sort of depression talk, but I keep an eye out for her and for me. I talk to her a lot, I want her to know the person she's told she's just like. I want her to be comfortable coming to me if she starts to feel my old friend, depression, coming on and I hope I can be honest with her, should that day ever come.

When the depressive waves hit me and I just want to not exist anymore, I think of her and know I have an upper hand that my Aunt Cindy didn't. I can survive the suicidal thoughts, I can mark down signs or symptoms in case my niece calls me up one day.