This is the first post in a collection entitled: Love From, Rachel. My Sister’s deepest desire was to publish a book of poetry. It would tell the story of her survival, the story that would keep herself—and one day, others—alive. When she died, she left behind 15 journals from her 5-year battle with mental illness. These poetry-, observation-, and insight-filled journals contain a depth of candid creativity that makes you pause. That makes you soak in the world through a lens of unadulterated appreciation. We now pour ourselves over these journals, continuing to learn intricate details about my sister long after her body has been laid to rest.
They include the battle scars. The heartbreaks. The horrors. But most importantly, the abundance. The vibrance. The love. And the hope that she felt more wholeheartedly than the majority of us could even begin to conceptualize. Rachel’s journals now give the impression that there are enough of her words to fill our lifetime. But I understand that this is only blissful, protect-myself-now-deal-with-it-later ignorance.
So I read them. Consume them. Lose myself in them. Soaking in their wisdom. Pretending that each page is a gift she left, to me, to our family, to us all. Imagining that each page is signed, in her cursive: Love From, Rachel
To start, it is only fitting to let my Sister introduce herself in her own words.
So here it is, the biography she wrote.
The one that, when her readers plucked her book off the shelf, would be found on the inside, nestled between the front cover and the words that told her story of how she survived.
Rachel Millsip grew up writing. She hid in bathrooms scrawling musical theatre scripts, sang original songs to herself over long car rides, and wrote poetic inspirational speeches to her friends over Facebook messenger. She had two plays put up at her high school and got an A+ on her very first creative writing portfolio in university.
She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 1 in 2014, her 12th grade year. Rachel had a psychotic episode that was followed by a five month-long depression. She resolved to continue on, completing high school and even starting her university degree, to study English.
But she was brought home by another episode.
In the span of time from 17 to 21 years of age she has had 5 stays in psychiatric hospitals, all due to 3 terrifying psychotic episodes.
She builds a life for herself that gets torched at the arrival of her illness. But each time she falls down, she becomes determined to rebuild again… to have light within the craziness.
This is her story.
I, Rachel Millsip, want to touch peoples’ lives. I am the right person to tell this story because I have a unique, lived experience that through resiliency and perseverance I have fought to tell the story of.
I, Rachel Millsip, am always an open book about my story, despite stigma, because I believe:
That our weaknesses
And our vulnerabilities
Are what can connect us the most.
And in doing so, they become our greatest assets.
The moral of our own personal stories.
If you are experiencing distressing or suicidal thoughts, I urge you please, to close your eyes. To breathe. To just get through this moment, to just get through today. You are loved. You are important. Behind the storm clouds, the sun still shines, and you will too. Please call the BC Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433 or a friend, or a family member, or anyone.