Talking to the mongoose

My youngest sister is significantly younger than me.

I am the oldest, she is the youngest, there are two between us (including the aforementioned Florence).  I was just shy of fourteen when she was born, and I’ve lived ever since with being mistaken for her mother everywhere we go.  Although, she’s thirteen herself, now, and that seems to be stopping.

She is one of the most vibrantly, vivaciously alive people I have ever known, enthusiastic about everything, genuinely empathetic, creative and intelligent and full of energy, a born performer who loves to be the centre of attention.  For this, and for a similarity between a real nickname of hers and a certain character from Kipling, I append to her the pseudonym of the Mongoose.

The Mongoose has forever been very mature for her age, in ways, partly due to the fact that she’s grown up surrounded by so many adults.  She walked early and talked early and she is a born mimic.  People outside the family used to be very struck with how grown-up she sounded when she talked, and really, this came down to the way she copied the way everyone else around her spoke.  I love her to death, and in defiance to what people tend to expect, I’m probably closer to her than I am to my other sisters.

She is rapidly becoming a young woman.  Of course, we still think of her as the baby of the family.

I let myself into my father’s house last night, and crept downstairs to find Mongoose on the computer, killing time before Mom picked her up.  I scared the crap out of her, because I have never, ever let myself over in that way, and she wasn’t expecting anyone else to be home.  She was thrilled to see me.  I was feeling amazing, this being the first full day on the clonazepam, and despite the side-effects I was giddy with the relief of not being twisted in knots of anxiety for the first time in years.

Because we think of Mongoose as being the baby, no one tells her when these things go on, but she was there when I broke down in tears at Florence’s birthday, she was there the next morning when, in my dad’s kitchen, I cried my eyes out, out of terror and frustration.  She could not fail to have noticed.  She is a very smart person, but at the same time… I suspected no one had thought to say anything to her, and knew her well enough to suspect she hadn’t asked.

I asked her if anyone had said anything about what was going on.  She told me no.  She said, “No one tells me anything about these things until after I’ve already figured it out and then Mom goes, ‘I don’t know if you’re aware of what’s happening,'” her imitation of the tone mom uses for patient explaining was perfect, “but I already know by then.”

So I told her.

I told her that I had been on various antidepressants, on and off, to little effect since I was seventeen.  She was very surprised by this.  I told her that, very obviously, I hadn’t been doing well for a while, but that I was going to go to a psychiatrist (which she found hilarious — “You get to have a shrink!” — she shares the typical family sense of humour), and that the doctor thought I was actually dealing with an anxiety disorder which was making me depressed, and that I was feeling better that day for the first time in years.

The Mongoose was thrilled I was feeling better, and, I think, relieved to finally know what was going on.  She added to me, I think in an attempt to let her big sister know that this is okay, you’re okay, and I get what this is about, that she has a friend that she just found out has obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“Just diagnosed?” I asked.

“No, new friend,” she said.

I am glad I told her.

It’s possible that I may get some criticism for discussing this so frankly with a thirteen-year-old, but I doubt it.  She’s very smart, and she’s very mature for her age in some respects.