My life was turned upside down when I was twelve years old.
My older sister was gone. Overnight, I transformed from annoying younger sibling to only child. No one told me what to do (other than my parents and teachers). I no longer had to hide in my room because I was scared of the shouting. I finally didn’t live in fear in my own house.
Life wasn’t always like this.
When we were children you would never have met such lovely girls. When my sister and I were really young, around 3 and 5, we would play a silly game. One of us would wrap a blanket around the other and fill it with stuffed animals and dolls. We would then push the package down the stairs to see how fast it would go. One time my sister pushed me before I was ready and I went tumbling down the stairs head first into a door. It probably wasn’t the safest game looking back, but it was really fun.
I honestly don’t believe that there was one moment where everything went downhill.
It was more of a gradual descent and we just didn’t have the skills or resources to know what to do. My guess would be that it started when we moved country for my Dad’s job. He didn’t really discuss the move with any of us, we just packed up and left.
When my sister started her freshman year at high school she began to change.
I don’t blame the high school that she went to, though some of the people that she met there were sketchy.
One day I came home from school and no one was home. Hours later, Mum called to say she wasn’t going to be home for a while and I should microwave the leftover pasta for dinner. I forgot to take the pasta out the metal pan, so nearly set my house on fire. There’s still a black scorch mark on the back of the microwave.
I went back to my computer and continued talking to my friends, figuring I’d do my homework when Mum got home and yelled at me to do it. But she didn’t come home ’til ten. She had my sister with her, who stormed upstairs. Mum told me that she had written a suicide note and was being sent to a mental health clinic. I remember thinking, “Wow that’s pretty bad. Crap! I’ve done no homework.”
It definitely wasn’t my best life moment. My sister went away for a week to work on her depression and even thought she made out like it had helped a lot (she was really good at manipulation), nothing changed. A few months went by with her screaming and shouting every day about some trivial thing, and I would just run upstairs to hide from the mood swings.
Around this time she started pushing some pretty serious boundaries.
One time she showed me a pack of cigarettes, next she told me she’d bought some weed. Both times she told me not to tell my parents but I was a 12 year old kid! Of course I’m telling them.
The last straw was when we took a family holiday to West Virginia. I don’t know how it escalated but there was this massive screaming fight, the first my Dad ever saw her intense anger. My sister grabbed his phone and was holding it hostage. She eventually threw it across the room, shattering the screen. At this point, my mum took me out of the room and we walked around the parking lot.
Soon after my sister was sent packing to a wilderness behavior therapy program. The only time we were in contact was via a weekly letter that we’d send each other. A few months later, she ‘graduated’ and showed us all of the camping techniques that she had learned. It was actually pretty impressive.
Next thing I know my sister is being sent to a boarding school in Arizona to help with her depression and mood swings. Again, my only contact with her was during a weekly phone call with the whole family. Sometimes these were fun and kind of normal – other times it was like a therapy session. I felt like I had very little time to talk to her because she was always talking to mum and dad instead of me.
Her time at the school did a lot more for my sister, my mum, and my dad than it did for me. I’m not saying I got nothing out of it, but siblings tended to be excluded from a lot of the therapy that went on. That school definitely did a lot to help our family to get back on a better path though.
All of us are in a better place – we’re a pretty snazzy family now!
We’re not perfect, but we’re family so it doesn’t matter. My sister and I are supposed to bicker about small things like what to watch on TV. We’re supposed to be mildly rebellious against our parents because, obviously, nothing they do will ever be cool to us.
Even though they all have flaws, all my family has supported me through hard times, literally and figuratively. They are the most important thing to me. Even when my dad is trying to make me watch Bridge on the River Kwai or my sister’s trying to convince me my spandex shorts are hers or when my mum turns into the Grinch at Halloween.
All these little quirks are what makes our family so great, and I love them to the moon and back.