My family is the factor and challenge that has most shaped my life and aspirations and
caused me to grow as an individual. My family consists of four people: me, my father, mother,
and my brother. My mother is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and my
brother also suffers from bipolar disorder in addition to ADD, autism, Tourette’s syndrome,
ADHD, and mental retardation.
Living with two handicapped family members proved to be somewhat of a challenge. All
my life I had never known exactly why my mother did certain things that seemed to make no
sense to me, yet I never questioned her behavior. I always simply dismissed it as her personality.
It wasn’t until I was in ninth grade that life with her became utterly unbearable. It was right after
my parents had gotten divorced and my brother and I were living with my mom, who was also
enrolled in school at the time. The divorce took a heavy toll on my mother, and she began to sink
into a melancholic depression isolating herself from her two kids. Initially, I was blinded by hurt,
loneliness, and anger. All I could see my mom doing was worrying about herself, her school, and
her needs leaving me to raise a special needs child and run a household. Nevertheless, I knew
that things had to be done, and even if my mom was choosing to be “selfish,” I rose to the
occasion cooking for the family, cleaning the house, getting my brother dressed, fed, and bathed,
helping him with his homework, doing my own homework, finding rides to and from school, and
managing my extracurricular activities. When my father learned what was taking place, he
immediately filed for full custody. I knew that things could only get worse for my mom if her
two most important possessions were taken away from her. I was consumed with guilt as we
were forced to leave my mother behind.
Living with my father turned out to be much the same however, except now I shouldered
the guilt of leaving my mom, who was now in and out of hospitalization for her cyclic depression
and mania. My father was constantly working to make ends meet, so my brother and I were
home alone majority of the time, leaving me once again the sole caretaker of my brother, as well
the house, and academics to maintain. My father also relied on me quite heavily, and turned to
me for guidance and support, so I always had to put on a smile or a brave face. It became
impossible for me to “lean” on anyone else, since so many depended on me for strength and
support. I became a mother, daughter, wife, sister, and caretaker.
After spending two years with my father, who eventually remarried, I was able to return
to my mother’s house. It was then that I was able to fully become cognizant of the illness that my
mother suffered from. A combination of not seeing her for so long, as well as being older and
more knowledgeable about mental illnesses, allowed me to notice these changes for the first
time. I was able to differentiate what was really her, and what was her illness taking over.
All these factors have shaped who I have grown to be as a person, and I would not take
back any of them. Oftentimes people see challenges as hardships or unfortunate events. I
however, view everything that has happened to me as blessings, even if it did mean that I had to
grow up faster than most kids. Being able to take care of my brother, who requires more care
than the average child, taught me firsthand responsibility and conscientiousness. There was no
room for error when it came to taking care of my brother; one slip-up such as giving him the
wrong dosage of medications, could end his life. Emotionally supporting both my mother and my
father taught me strength, perseverance, and optimism. I refused to let the pressures of life upset
me, and whenever I was tempted to give in I found refuge in God. It was necessary for me to be
strong and know that things would turn out for the better when everyone else in my family
appeared to have given up, because there is always darkness before there is light.
It is because of my family, that I aspire to become either a social worker or a psychiatrist.
I want to provide aide to those who are economically, physically, socially or mentally
disadvantaged, including helping their families learn how to deal with them and their specific
needs. I also know that I want to spend my life’s entirety helping out other kids, whose
circumstances prevent them from being able to help themselves.