Gina became a caregiver at a young age. By age 6, she was emotionally responsible for her mother, her brothers and herself, and she learned to mute her own needs for the sake of others. As an adult, she’s still shaking off the long-term effects of being parentified and learning to attend to her own human needs.
Gina: I was aware from a very, very young age that I could do things that Alan couldn’t. I was three years younger than him. He and I kind of learned how to walk around the same time. He could talk, but his speech was really slurred. And so I knew from a very young age that, like, a lot of people didn’t understand what he was saying. But I did. Like I kind of interpreted for him a lot, especially in public. So I think there was an awareness on that level. Like, he’s older than me, but I think I always felt older than him. Like I knew that he had a lot of medical stuff that was very mysterious, like he had some seizures and would have to be rushed to the hospital. So I was very aware that he needed a lot. And there was something wrong. I would say that I probably could say from a very young age that there’s something wrong with Alan. But in terms of like knowing what that was or… you know, having any sort of context for it, it wasn’t until much later.
It’s not just Gina who is missing context. It’s her parents, too. It’s Alan’s doctors. Because it was the 1980s, and nobody really knew what made Alan different.
I was so worried: How would Marsha be without my daily visits? What if she became depressed and agitated during my absence? Would she somehow think...