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A Woman I Admire Writing Competition Spring 2018

Hannah Evans
Highly Commended

Some days, darkness descends, and they don't feel like days at all. They feel like gravity has targeted you, personally, to take the weight of history upon your back and your neck and your eyes. Your eyes don't feel like eyes anymore; they lose their colour somehow, and everything turns dull and uninteresting. Your feet get stuck to the floor; walking is not an option. Bleak nothingness fills your pores and soaks through your whole body, until you're drowning in the darkness that you never asked for, and never deserved.

This is what she went through, day in, day out. Her days became nightmares, as she lumbered through each one with a smile that didn't quite match the rest of her face. I never saw her cry, and I never heard her put into words the way she felt. A fog surrounded her, enveloping her and suffocating her, slowly but surely. She is older than me, two years and three months to be exact, and so she felt an unfair responsibility to be strong for me, to show me that nothing was out of my reach. In doing so, it seemed that she almost stopped reaching herself.

If this were a Hollywood blockbuster, or a shiny new musical straight from the West End, there would have been a dramatic, monumental moment, an overwhelming act of love or sacrifice which would allow her to break through the barriers of depression. But she didn't need some sort of contrived crescendo to bring her back to life. She picked herself up, dusted herself down. She did reach out, she asked for help, and she forced herself to remember that she was stronger than the illness that had kept her in shadow for so long. Not only that, she pushed back against the overwhelming weight, and willed her eyes to see again. It was then that she told me, revealed all that she had been feeling, and simultaneously broke my heart.

I just couldn't cope with the idea that my sister had been struggling and hadn't let me share the burden. She hadn't let me hold her hand throughout, reminding her every single day that she was an inspiration, my partner in crime, so full of talent it seemed unfair to allow that much creativity to flow from one person. My sister had always been in my corner, and I promised from that morning, when she explained everything to me over a lukewarm cup of tea, that I would never leave hers.

Not only did she get better, but she continues to thrive every day. Her life exudes joy, and she welcomes children from all backgrounds into her classroom filled with love, patience, and multiplication tables. She has become not only the woman I admire, but the woman inspiring the next generation of girls and boys to keep pushing, fighting for what they want and what they can achieve. She is my sister, and now she is unstoppable.

(I have chosen to write about my older sister, who is an inner-city primary school teacher. She has battled with depression since her teenage years, and she is now a pioneering teacher who trained with TeachFirst in order to fight educational inequality. She has been commended for her teaching abilities, but she has never received recognition for battling mental illness with such strength and fortitude. With this story, I hope to encourage others to reach out, get help, and talk about mental health.)

Hannah Evans © 2018