Moving to college is a daunting experience for almost every first-year student. It can be lonely, awkward, and you might miss your family... a lot. It makes you realize that after living with your parents and siblings for eighteen years, the act of uprooting what you have always known and leaving it all behind, is a really strange thing to do. You are no longer surrounded by the core people that have made you who you are today. And while I was dealing with these circumstances, I failed to notice how it takes effect on my sibling's emotions.
While it was obvious that my parents were dealing with the great heartache of their first child leaving the nest, I never considered the distress that it would cause in the lives of my siblings. A whole person is taken out of the original family dynamic, changing the ambiance of their household life entirely. I feel that this is often disregarded, as every event from graduation, to move in day, is about the child who is leaving. But it wasn't until my family began to relay the distressing tendencies of my eleven-year-old sister, did I recognize that she was showing signs of depression. And the guilt hit me instantly.
My mom and dad would each call me on multiple occasions to tell me how often she seemed to not be present or was not eating enough. Whether at the dinner table, in the car, or out shopping on the weekends, they could not seem to lift her spirits. They would also complain that from the time she arrived home from school until bedtime, she remained in her room, on her phone or computer. Although for a preteen this is not unusual, it was shocking to us as she used to spend the majority of after-school time with friends, and later hanging out with the family until it was time for bed.
Finally, I came to the conclusion that her self isolation must stem from the fact that my parents went through a divorce a few years ago, leading to me becoming a motherly figure to her during the nights spent at my dad's house. And she was probably just starting to adjust to that agenda until I left for school in August. But she was not the only one left feeling like she was missing something.
Although my brother doesn't outright show that he was as affected by my departure, he has mentioned to me many times how neither house feels as home-like with me gone. Because of this, he disregards any attempt to better his home relationships and often uses his newly acquired car to drive to his friend's houses where he spends most nights. Although this is his coping mechanism, it leaves my sister home with only one parent or the other, feeling like a newly appointed only child.
The issue with this is that my parents don't know how to give proper attention to a metaphorical only child, nor do they have the time. My siblings and I always had each other to keep company so it was never an issue. Therefore, my sister is left lonely, and slowing receding into mildly depressive tendencies. And no matter how often I encourage her to call me and discuss her feelings, I get the idea that she doesn't believe that anyone will understand, or that she feels as though discussing her feelings becomes a burden to others.
Luckily my family recognized what she was going through after a while, and has begun to take action to help her out of this funk. However, the possible mental illness that I saw her beginning to develop at such an early age is extremely worrisome to me. Not only do we live in a world where mental illnesses are more prominent than ever due to social media, but sometimes the families of those affected are the ones blindly causing it. We need to encourage our parents and siblings to bring about their compassion for each other more often. Because in a fast-paced world like the one we live in, where everything is constantly going, we often forget to look at those around us and make sure that they are feeling valued and heard.