the guilt i live with from alyssa’s final days

When I first started writing, I posted every piece I wrote almost immediately upon finishing it. This was for a couple of reasons. The first: the pieces I wrote were mostly written while in a moment of intense productivity or thought, so I wanted to share them and get feedback as soon as possible. The other reason is because, since they were written in those moments, sitting on the pieces felt disingenuous; if I went back and proofread them too much, it would change the tone in which they were written. Lately, I’ve been splitting my writing up more; I write on my column weekly (it gets published a couple of days later), less so on my blog (where I still publish it immediately), and daily in a word processor (where it just sits where only my eyes can see it). I’ve noticed in each of these my voice slightly changes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all very clearly my voice, but I write with a bit of a different tone in each of them.

Something that has become increasingly clear to me lately is how much growing I have to do. Because of the hyper-polarized discourse that is the internet, I’ve (unfortunately) noticed my own self-righteousness and quick judgment, which is something I’m now working on daily. I’ve realized how quick to be outraged the internet makes us; social capital being a product of the hottest take, removing nuance – the very thing I hope to add to conversations through my writing – from the public conversation. I’ve realized my own hypocrisy at times, and how much I’ve started to lose sight of myself and my values, even when I write otherwise when I’m thinking clearly. 

But maybe most importantly, I realize how much my mental health has been affected by sister’s death. Because I feel like it’s important to be honest, the last couple of months of my sister’s life have weighed on my conscience a lot lately. Once it was clear to me that my sister’s life was coming to an end, there was a part of me that just wanted it all to be over, to just return to some routine in my life. No, that’s still me rationalizing it; to put it bluntly, a part of me was literally wishing for my sister’s death to come swiftly, so I didn’t have to watch her suffer. I justified it: I didn’t want her to suffer, she had no chance at a future, watching her just lay there as my parents and I watched was a cruel twist of fate for all of us. I know these thoughts were natural and I should be gentler with myself. It isn’t that simple, though. Anxiety has a way of convincing you your worst impulses are the best judges of your character, no matter how good your good impulses are. Writing about this has pushed me to unpack just how damaged I am. 

I know I’m a human. I don’t necessarily believe that I was wrong to have those thoughts and feelings. I loved my sister dearly and cared for her and fought for her. I would’ve done anything to have given her a fair shot at life. And for the last almost 9 months, I have missed her during every moment. I don’t question my love for her. I just can’t help but feel that there is something wrong with me for how I felt in her last days and how I may have unknowingly added to her suffering. 

Today, a video popped up on Facebook and Snapchat from a year ago. It was her announcing that she was out of rejection. I felt in the bottom of my heart that the doctors were wrong in their assessment; the biopsy just didn’t accurately determine that she was actually in chronic rejection instead of acute rejection. I still feel guilty that I had already lost hope and given up on my sister, even though I ended up being correct. I know I have so much room to grow and this is my vow – to you the reader, to my friends, to my family, to my sister, and to myself – that I’m committed to this.