The Lost Years
21 October 2016
Emmy, want to go outside and jump on the trampoline?
Em, want to go for a bike ride?
Please leave me alone.
Want to come with mom to watch my basketball game?
No. And please shut my door on your way out.
I’m learning how to drive with dad today. Want to sit in the backseat and go with us?
No I don’t.
Emmy, can you help me with my math homework?
I’m busy. Can’t mom or dad help you?
It’s usually easy for me to write about my life, my emotions, my feelings, my problems. But, whenever I sit down to write about this, which let me tell you- I have tried to do countless times, I end up backspacing the entire thing and shutting my laptop…so here’s another try at it.
When I was little, I absolutely loved being the youngest in my family. It was the best having an older sister and brother who I could look up to and parents that gave me all the attention I wanted.
But, that all changed the day I was sat down with my two siblings and told that we were going to have a little brother join our family. I’m not gonna lie, I was a livid 4 year old when my mom and dad told me the news that I was going to be a big sister. And they had even better news for me- this baby’s due date was on my birthday.
In my 4 year old brain, I felt like this new baby was already ruining my life and he wasn’t even born yet. I felt like he was already taking all the attention away from me, especially by being born the one day of the year that was supposed to be about me.
However, when that baby came into my life on September 29th 1998, it was forever changed for the better. The day Matthew was born was the day I met my absolute best friend.
For the next 12 years, I had someone who would always play any game or sport with me. I had someone to walk with me into school, so I wouldn’t have to go in alone. I had someone I could force to be my background singer or minor character role in the talent shows and plays I put on for my family. I had someone to dress up and go trick-or-treating with for Halloween. I had someone to try and stay up all night with, waiting to hear Santa land on our roof with our Christmas presents. I had a side-kick. I had a little brother. I had a best friend.
That all changed when I got to high school, specifically when the cyber bullying began, and it is something I never like to talk about with anyone…until now.
A few weeks ago, I received a text from Matthew about an essay he wanted to send to the colleges he is currently applying to. He told me he wrote an essay about my mental illnesses and wanted to email it to me so I could read it.
At first, I was taken aback by this. Even though he sees my posts on my social media accounts, we have never talked about anything related to my mental illnesses with each other because I started opening up about it when I got to college.
Also, my parents and I always wanted to protect Matthew from the harsh reality- that his older sister was miserable with her life and didn’t want to be here anymore and nothing he could say or do would make her change the way she felt.
My parents still feel responsibility and blame for what happened in high school, (even though none of it was not their fault) so they never wanted Matthew to have the same guilt that weighs on their minds. That meant I have always hid and lied about my mental illnesses to him.
When I would listen to an awful voicemail that someone anonymously sent me, I told Matthew to leave me alone. When I felt depressed and so alone, I told Matthew I didn’t want to hang out with him. When I left the psychiatric hospital the summer going into my freshman year of college, I told Matthew I had been staying at a friend’s beach house. When I entered the intensive outpatient program following my hospitalization, I told Matthew I was going to a summer camp from 8am-4pm each day. When I came home last fall on a leave of absence due to struggling again, I told Matthew I had a longer Thanksgiving break than most schools…
He has never heard the real truth about everything from me directly, so I was honored and interested to read what he wrote about in his essay. I began scrolling through the attachment on my phone that he sent me. I threw my phone across the room without reading it halfway through, slammed my door shut, and began sobbing into my pillow.
His essay was not about the “strong girl” that people talk about when they come up to me after a speech. His essay was not about the “inspiring individual” that people comment about on my pictures. His essay was not about the “brave sister” that people tell my siblings about. No.
His essay was about the sister he used to go to for advice and guidance that turned her back on him. His essay was about the girl that slowly began to distance herself from him until she became a complete stranger. His essay was about the loss of his best friend.
“I remember coming home from school in 8th grade, hoping that it wasn’t another bad day for Emily. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with her because my family didn’t know about the cyber bullying. But I knew if she had a bad day, I wasn’t going to be treated well by her. It never made sense and shocked me because we used to play together every day after school. I thought it was because she was in high school and I was still in grade school that she didn’t want to be my best friend anymore. Our relationship grew farther and farther apart.”
I can’t begin to tell you the amount of guilt and pain I felt reading those heart-breaking words from my little brother. Throughout high school, I had tunnel vision goggles on. I never thought about who I was affecting because I was so focused on the emptiness I felt. Whenever I thought about how I was treating my little brother during that time of my life, I forced the thoughts out of my mind, because deep down I knew I had let him down.
Instead of focusing on the people that loved me the most, I turned my back on them. My behaviors and actions throughout high school were driven by the hateful words from people who didn’t know me at all. I didn’t spend my time with the ones that truly cared about me- no. I shut them out completely. I spent my life in front of a computer and cell phone screen. Anything my family said to me went in one ear and out the other. I became someone that I didn’t recognize when I looked into the mirror…
In retrospect, I realize now how much damage I caused our relationship, Matthew. I can’t tell you how badly I wish I could take everything back that I ever said or did to you.
I finally forced myself to sit down last night and finish reading the essay that Matthew wrote:
“My sister finally found a way to cope with the bullying to the point where my relationship grew stronger than ever with her. She still has some bad days, but she can now see the good in them as well. It’s because of my sister that I know how to survive and handle some of my own bad days. When I am having a bad day, I just think to myself what she would do to handle it, so that I can do the same. This horrible experience my sister had, and the impact it had on me, has actually turned out to be positive in the end. People are being saved by Emily’s strength and message. For these reasons, I can strongly relate to this song. There is no such thing as a bad day that can’t get better. And when I listen to this song, it reminds me of Emily and my experience with her. It may sound weird, but I’m actually glad this has happened to me because I can now deal with any problems I have with patience and calmness. It is because of my amazing sister and best friend that I am able to do the things I do. She makes me want to live my life to the fullest.”
To those currently struggling with mental illnesses, please tell your family you love them. Please realize they want the best for you and want you to get healthy. It may feel like everyone is against you when you are going through this, but it is not true. My family had no idea what was I going through because I never reached out. To them I just seemed like a moody, angry teenage girl. People will come and go throughout your life, but your loved ones will always be there for you. It took me awhile to learn this, and I learned this the hard way, but I am so relieved that my family never had to read the suicide letters I wrote to them back in high school and instead can read these blog posts.
Do not let your mental illnesses lie to you and make you believe you are unloved, unworthy, unimportant. Stop shutting people out; let them into your life. Be open with them and share your struggles with them. It can and will help, I promise.
And Matthew, I am so lucky to have you as a little brother and I look up to you in so many ways. I am so sorry for letting you down as an older sister and best friend. I’m going to start making up for the lost years. Love you buddy.