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     The first time I heard your body collapse onto the floor. The first time I witnessed you lying there, shaking uncontrollably and foaming at the mouth, as if you were possessed. You hadn’t seemed like yourself in months, but I didn’t know why. The first time I had to hold our six-year-old baby brother in my trembling arms, shielding his eyes away from the terror so it wouldn’t scar him like it did me. The first time Dad forced me to record you so the doctors could get a real look. The first time I had to hold back my tears so I could wipe theirs. The first time I had to dial nine-one-one and tell them “I think my sister is dying.” The first time I saw you in the hospital is a memory that haunts me relentlessly. I can never seem to erase the image of defeat, harm, and misery from my mind on your face that used to be so utterly remarkable and full of life, the face that everyone once wished they had.

     You taught me the Artic Monkeys and Mac Miller were cool but also that addiction consumes you. It gives you sunken eyes, a faded face and bones that poke through your worn-out skin. It is a thief that deprives you of your own being; it steals your elation and turns you into the person you said you'd never be. Life didn’t feel real after walking into the bloodbath you created on the bathroom tile, seeing the razor that cut your beautiful, tan, dainty wrists. At the ripe age of thirteen, I realized firsthand how cruel life is, how mental illness strips you from your ability not only to exist but to live. 

     The last time I saw you hospitalized, in a state of withdrawal, was like none before. It was the last time I saw you deranged and out of your mind and the first time I saw a sparkle of hope in your big brown eyes. I’ll never forget the day you came walking inside after your latest round of treatment. You were wearing a colorful new outfit, from Victoria Secret’s Pink of all places. It was out of character, and when I asked what was up, you told me, “I don’t want to look like a crackhead anymore.” I chuckled but was in shock; did you really just say that? Were you back to being your punny, comical self? 

     You taught me life will never be perfect; in fact, it will be draining most of the time. You taught me it can be dark and lonely, beyond the depth of our minds. You also taught me that life is a choice, you either drown in depression or commit to change. I feel we often forget that every day we wake up, is a new day. We seem to get stuck in a constant cycle of going through the same motions. You remind me that breaking the cycle is possible. I stopped taking life for granted because of you. Because of you, I wake up every morning blessed I get another opportunity. You may have taught me life is draining, but you also taught me it can be beautiful. It can be exactly what you want if you work for it. You taught me struggle is strength and that failure results in resilience. You are living proof that every day we have the power to change, that life isn't easy but it's worth living. 

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