It wasn’t easy for Kyleigh Leddy, who now lives in New York City, to live with an older sister who was diagnosed with schizophrenia while she was in college – a sister who was dearly loved by everyone she knew, especially hers Family.
It wasn’t easy either to write about living with an older sister who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia – a sister who has been gone for a while.
But Kyleigh Leddy has poignantly done so in her new book, The Perfect Other. The book sheds considerable light on mental illness and how it piecemeal separated a beloved sister from her family emotionally, psychologically and ultimately physically.
“She’s nowhere to be found,” Leddy writes in her personal account, “which means she’s everywhere.”
The author neither asks for sympathy, nor does Leddy gloss over the difficulties.
She describes the life of a close sibling in an understandable and insightful way, explaining that her sister, who is six years older, eventually “that Person. The one you hide from on the subway. Look away, avoid eye contact,” she writes.
“My sister, my hilarious, charming, perfect sister: different now. The angry madman on the train,” says Leddy.
Leddy dedicates the book to “the estimated 970 million people worldwide who suffer from a mental disorder. This book is for her suffering and for those who love her.”
Here are highlights from Fox News Digital’s interview with Kyleigh Leddy on her account of her sister’s life – plus an excerpt from the book that follows below.
Fox News Digital: What was and is most important to you in sharing your sister’s story with the world?
Kyleigh Leddy: My hope is to spread more awareness [about mental illness] and start a conversation about it. And while that might sound cliché, I think it’s really important – when it comes to an issue like this, which involves so much shame and stigma, so much misunderstanding – to shed some light on it. And to give it a name and a face and try to translate this very confusing, scary disease into something that’s more accessible.
Fox News Digital: What would you like other people to know about your sister Kaitlyn?
Leddy: I hope that people will understand them beyond the disease. My sister had beautiful qualities. She was funny, charismatic and smart. She was my idol. You know, we were only six years apart. She was my big sister. The disease just took so much from her.
Other people say to me, “What should I tell my daughter who has this disease?” or “What should I tell my cousin who has this?” I don’t have those answers. But the insight I try to convey to others, as best I can, is to distinguish between the person you love and the disease itself – and how it has changed the person you know.
I think that’s what makes mental illness so scary. It’s part of the stigma about it. It’s a condition that feels like it threatens someone’s soul, personality, and takes away so much of who that person is. The idea of ”losing” someone in this way is terrifying.
Fox News Digital: Do you want that mantle of spokesperson for the disease schizophrenia—or do you feel pushed into the role by the circumstances?
leddy: I would say both. For me, it’s part calling and part passion. I’ve always wanted to be a writer my whole life, so I think given my family’s experiences – my sister has this mental health issue – and now my interest in psychology to pursue, this is the natural next path for me. Trying to combine both feels right. It feels like the combination of what I love to do and what I’m passionate about.
Also, I think about how much my sister went for her. We had resources, but it still wasn’t enough. So I also think of my family. You can have so much for yourself, things that many people in our society don’t have, but it wasn’t enough. I hope to put this aspect in the spotlight as well.
Fox News Digital: What advice would you give to others who may have a close family member or friend who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia? Is general advice even possible?
Leddy: It [the illness] is so difficult. It’s so hard to understand The advice I would try to give to another family — and it’s easier said than done — is to take care of yourself first if you can.
If you’re constantly struggling with the next crisis, don’t take time to stay sane. You have to put on your life jacket first, so to speak.
This can be difficult to implement at the moment, especially for the person’s parents or primary caregivers. I was the younger sibling – but I see my mother and the toll my sister’s illness took on her. I think it’s just so important to get into therapy, into family therapy, when you can afford it. It’s so important to have extra support.
Fox News Digital: They make it very clear that one person’s mental illness has an impact on the rest of the family. Have you noticed that other people you speak to tend to deny or dismiss this aspect of the disease?
Leddy: I think educating about psychology is so important. I studied it in college, and now I’m studying it in graduate school at Columbia University [she is pursuing a master’s degree in advanced clinical practice and public policy]. And I had some time and the ability to process things, to understand what’s going on neurologically and socially. This education is very grounding and helps people understand them better.
Fox News Digital: Do you ever think about what you would have done differently in the past in relation to your sister – or do you try not to?
Leddy: Certainly. Of course, it’s hard not to regret it. I think one thing I would have done differently looking back would have been to enjoy the moments with her – trust the moments with her – that were good. I think of the times when my sister was “herself” again.
I try to remember that person and stay with them as long as possible.
Also the sadness [of losing her] never really goes away So I think the best way to deal with this is to try to channel it into something good – and I hope that by telling their story I can help other people.
Fox News Digital: What other lasting messages about your sister and her story would you like to share?
Leddy: Those would be the very strong connections I’ve retrospectively looked at between head trauma, autoimmune issues, and PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome, which her sister was also diagnosed with] – and how closely connected the mind and body are. Mental illness is real. It’s a neurological condition.
Something like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder – they’re not that different from Alzheimer’s. These are brain-based disorders that people go through.
And I hope that when someone walks down the street and maybe sees a homeless man ranting about something — I hope that they don’t just judge the person or blame that person in some way. I hope they take into account that the person may have a serious mental illness that so many homeless people have.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/28/kyleigh-leddy-writes-memoir-on-sisters-life-with-schizophrenia/ Kyleigh Leddy writes memoir about sister’s life with schizophrenia