I got the phone call. The one I was half-expecting to come at three am from a sobbing girl. Instead it was an afternoon text message: Can you please call me when you have free time? So innocent, so politely distant. This is how my family works. We all do this. We all downplay our feelings and refuse to take up anyone's time or emotions or ask for what we need.
I called my niece right away and she was in tears on the other end of the line. "I told my mom and she just - she thinks that if I go out with my friends for a night it's going to go away and I'm going to get better!" I let her cry while I analyzed, processed, and also because she needed to get it out. She's so worried that by asking for help she's going to break up her family, cause her parents to divorce, be branded as a screw up for the rest of her life. "-and then she said 'What, do I need to worry about you committing suicide, too?' and she just spat it at me!" my niece sobbed.
This is where being an aunt puts me in a difficult position. I am, in age, between my brother and his daughter. I am at a point in my life where I can understand both points of view, and it doesn't seem very long ago that I was dealing with my own high school/college issues. His wife, K, and I are so close, probably the closest of all my siblings, (plus or minus Ladybug) and her relationship with my niece is so reminiscent of my own with my mother.
I know that K feels like a bad parent, that she is trying to help/love/comfort her daughter, but has no idea how to handle this situation. I also know that my niece is trying to protect her mother, trying to lock away all her emotions, because she feels like by being honest she is ripping her foundation apart.
So I'm flying out to see them and I honestly couldn't be happier about it. I want to take my niece in my arms and check that she's okay with my own eyes. I want a late night conversation with my sister so she can talk to me about everything she feels overwhelmed by and can't process.
I want to walk into the doctor's office with them and assure them that it doesn't make us lesser people. I want us to walk out of there as a unit and I want my niece to go to sleep at night knowing that her family is rock solid and 100% behind keeping her well and happy, above and beyond everything else.
This is the definition of being family. I am more than happy to live up to the parameters.