My Sister's Suicide Attempt Saved My Life

10478024_10100702704451823_9039693889588353966_n Growing up my sister Randee and I were not close. We had explosive fights all the time. We fought about everything and anything. No matter how hard our parents tried, we didn’t get along. I, being the oldest, always tried to win and get my way.

I grew up and moved away to college. I came back after graduation and found my first real grownup job. I moved out. I was making it seem like I had everything together. In reality, I’d been keeping secrets from my family. I’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in college. I coped with my illness with self mutilation and alcohol and drug abuse. In November 2007, I attempted to take my own life.

That first attempt at suicide was just the beginning of a four-year cycle. I attempted suicide several more times. I ended up in the local inpatient psychiatric wards more than 20 times. Throughout it all, I was so busy focusing on me that I never realized my sister had a growing addiction to drugs and undiagnosed mental health issues.

In May 2011, I was sent to a long-term psychiatric residential facility. I lived there for a year. I’d just about given up on everything. I didn’t care about anyone or anything. I didn’t see a future for myself; I felt like I didn’t have anyone on my side. I was not living any type of productive life. In January 2012 I found myself in an inpatient psychiatric facility after attempting suicide again. While there, my therapist Sheryl came to visit me. She basically told me, “This is your last chance. If you keep hurting yourself you will be sent to the state psychiatric hospital.” I honestly didn’t really care. “Whatever,” I said.

During this stay, I got a phone call from my mom. She told me Randee had attempted suicide. Her attempt was serious, and she would be left with permanent brain damage. I felt an overwhelming anguish. I finally experienced what my loved ones had felt every time I tried to hurt myself. I finally got it. I’d spent all those years focused on myself and my issues; I never saw my sister’s pain.

From that moment on, I decided I was going to live. I was no longer going to hurt myself or my family. I was going to take part in my life again. I was going to get better.  In June 2012, I was released from that facility.

Three years later, Randee and I are doing well in both of our respective recoveries. It hasn’t been an easy road for either of us. However, for the first time in our lives, we’re working together in positive ways. And I honestly believe if my sister hadn’t attempted suicide I would not be here right now with her.


If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Want to end the stigma around mental illness? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Suicide

A Facebook message that says, "Hi Gerald, a friend thinks you might be going through something difficult and asked us to look at your recent post."

Facebook's New Feature Furthers Suicide Prevention Effort

Facebook is using its internet dominance to help the suicide prevention effort. The social media network announced Wednesday that it has partnered with Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention to develop a feature that allows users to easily report Facebook posts that “suggest its author might be considering suicide.” The person reporting [...]

Why We Need to Learn the Right Way to Talk About Suicide

Writing about suicide isn’t easy. I’ve been trying for a while to write this post, but I never know where to start. Do I start with my own story? How I’ve lived in that pit of despair that causes someone to actually think that taking their life is a solution? Or do I open with the staggering suicide statistics? [...]

The Moment I Realized I Needed to Write About Mental Illness

I remember the first bad mark I ever received on a math test in my life.  I was in fifth grade, the freshest meat in middle school. My teacher was definitely top five I’ve ever had. Her name was Mrs. Held and boy, she was great. She was kind, caring and her passion for teaching was extremely [...]

When My Mother Found Out About My Suicide Attempt

When I disappeared after my suicide attempt in a foreign country, my parents tracked me down through Interpol, an international, non-governmental police cooperation. As soon as her visa was approved, my mother flew across the world from her home in Cape Town, South Africa, to my hospital bedside in London, England. My mum sat with [...]