Me and my sister raised each other. When I was 6, Valerie 8, our parents divorced and my dad moved out. When I was 8, and my sister 10, my mom got remarried and we moved away. Our stepfather was an asshole, and I think the trigger of some of my sister's issues. We learned how to be scared, how to be tense, how to be upset but quiet, how to keep secrets. When she was 13, she moved in with my father, and the next year I went too. Our father was nothing to us, and we just lied to him through adolescence and ignored him. We were never influenced enough by either of our parents to have had them 'raise' us.
I didn't say a word until I was almost three, because Valerie always knew what I wanted. My first memory is looking at my sister laying on the couch in our childhood home and my mom telling me to not go near here because she was sick, and I was so upset, and also confused, because Stay away from my sister? How?
When I didn't understand my homework, she helped me. When I had to do a school project, she helped me. When I was bored, she made it fun. When she got overwhelmed, I calmed her down and helped her problem solve. The first time a boy broke my heart, she held my hand and let me cry. When she wanted to write a screenplay and act it out at 2am, I did it with her. When she wanted to write a letter to some politician, I listened to it and agreed with her anger. When I wanted to be an archeologist, she bought me books about egyptians. When I wanted to be a filmmaker, she named our future production company. When I decided I loved a boy I met in a chat room, she shrugged her shoulders and said "Ok. Tell him he can visit if he wants." When she died, I wanted to go with her.
Anyway, the point is that my parents didn't raise us. They weren't there. We raised each other. I have a hard time talking to either of my parents about Val, because I felt like they didn't know her. When my mom talks about her, she calls her an angel, sweet and caring to everyone. When my father talks about her, he references memories from when she was 12 like they were yesterday. He didn't know her as an adult. When she died, and I said something about her taking meds for her problems, he said "What problems? She didn't have any problems."
The point is that I was fine with our parents not raising us. I never cared what they thought. I never felt any pressure or cared about their approval because they didn't raise me. I didn't need anyone else besides my sister. What I'm not ok with is this: our parents were supposed to die first. Not only because they are older, but because I need them less. I needed my sister to be here forever, and she's not. My sister deserved to get better and be happy, but she didn't. My sister was so full of life, but also so full of hurt. I don't know if it's selfish of me to want her to be here, when she struggled so much. I don't know if it's fair to say she deserved to live, when living was so hard for her.
I do know that she raised me, and I feel the emptiness of the absence of a best friend, a parent, a sister, a mentor. My life and my self doesn't hold the same shape without her. She was such a part of me that I still don't believe she's gone.
I spend a lot of time at my job now dealing with people that suffer from major mental illness. I know what my sister was diagnosed with, and I know she struggled. I feel like I never took it seriously, because that was always just her. It was always just her that she was horrible depressed, it was always just her that got wild and took things too far, it was just who she was. It was always just her that went through a time of being suicidal, of a time of drinking too much or being too promiscuous, or being too angry. I never saw it as mental illness. I just saw it as her. In a way, maybe I did her a disservice. Because I always thought she'd be fine, respected that she could take of herself. But I was wrong, and maybe I didn't pay enough attention to how hard it was to be her. Maybe I loved and accepted her to death. I didn't pay enough attention. I wish I could apologize.
I wish my parents would stop trying to talk to me.