Dear Michaela, It’s hard to believe the picture I used with this letter was taken 16 years ago. It’s even harder to believe how much my love for you has grown and developed in those years. For most of our younger years, I didn’t like you. I didn’t understand why you needed more attention than me or why you would get angry and scream or throw things. Our mom tried to explain these things to me, and I remember her getting me books about Asperger syndrome. But it wasn’t until I was around 12 that I learned what a gift you were to me. You were 9, and we lived in our great grandmother’s house with Mom. Life was great at home, but both of us hated school. We were both ridiculed and picked on. You were called a “retard” a lot, and I remember when you told me that, I wanted to bash a few people’s faces in. That year, I was hospitalized to get treatment for self-harm. One day, you came to visit me, and you told me you wanted me back home and you missed me. I fought to get better, and left three days later. I haven’t attempted self-harm since. In 2009, when I was 14, and you were 11, we moved to Massachusetts with our mom and our soon-to-be stepdad. You started to blossom. Throughout your elementary school years, you didn’t mention friends, but here, you constantly had friends over and talked about them a lot. In my high school, we had a program to mentor the students in the school. I got in because I wrote my essay about you. You went into high school my senior year, and though I was hoping you would attend the same high school as me (for selfish reasons, I just wanted to protect you), you found an agricultural school in the area. You applied, you interviewed, and you got in. Since you began attending this school, I’ve seen a complete change in you. You’re happier, and you always have something you learned in school to share with me. You joined the Future Farmers of America, and you’re dedicated to it — you were even elected as an officer this year. I look back on the dark time in my life, and I realize you were my beacon of light. I followed you, and I got out. I’m glad I didn’t end my life. You inspire me in so many ways. It’s still strange to remember that you never liked hugs or even to shake hands, but you hug relatives and shake hands with strangers now. You hug me when I’m sad, and that’s the greatest gift of all. You are the greatest gift of all. Thank you, for being my little sister, and for helping me see the light when I couldn’t find it on my own, Your Big Sister If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world. Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook . And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night .