The first was at prom night. My date had ditched me for his crush, so I was the only one who noticed my classmate drinking too much of the complimentary champagne. When he left, I followed, and pulled him back before he stepped into the street.
The second was remote. A guy from my university game club posted on Facebook that he was gonna end it all. I contacted authorities and gave them his address, and they stopped him from swallowing the pills. He’s the only one who ever thanked me after.
The third was during work. I was a resident assistant on college campus and a resident contacted the emergency line, crying that her roommate had locked herself in the bathroom. I sat and talked at the foot of that bathroom door for 2 hours before it opened. I don’t even remember her name.
The fourth one was my baby sister. She was crying and breathing heavily, and initially she just asked me to talk to her. So I did. After 30 minutes, she confessed that she was trying to end her life. I could barely understand what she was mumbling, but the few words I could make out were tearing away at my heart.
She was asking me for help, asking me to convince her not to end her life, to tell her what she should do instead. After 3 hours of talking to her, trying to calm her and to offer both comfort and solutions, I managed to convince her to go to a hospital. As I was playing games for my best friend’s birthday the day after, I was wiping away tears and writing to her professors explaining the situation.
We live in different cities, but I immediately made plans to leave. And the thing that’s really made this whole situation even more difficult is our parents. They have a history of not taking mental health seriously, I’ve seen it myself firsthand. My parents are a cyst pool of negativity and berating if we don’t play our part in the perfect family performance. The moment we are less than ‘happy’, it’s because we aren’t doing enough.
It’s sickening, and I know that at least 70% of the reason why my beloved sister was in the hospital was because of them. I love my parents, but I’d be lying if I said part of me doesn’t resent them for the way they’ve treated me and my sister during our depressive episodes.
My sister has had it worse, mostly due to the fact that my dad and her always argue, because my sister isn’t as good at faking the ‘perfect daughter’ role, and because she had no support in our house once I left for college. I wish I could say things got better when she left for college too, but she has attracted toxic friendships and generally feels alone; but I do know that going back to my parents makes whatever bad things she feels 50 times worse. I wish I could take her in, let her feel like she can breathe without being judge, but I’m not that capable yet, and I hate that.
It was the second time in a month that I had a loved one reach out to me in need of help. A week before his birthday, my darling boyfriend broke down in panic and cried. He tried locking himself in our bathroom, and he confessed that he wanted to end it all.
He was struggling with school, had been lying to his parents for years now about his major, and was afraid that they’d pull him back to Mexico and that we’d be separated, since international tuition is so expensive without the need to add catch-up years on top of everything. He felt intense guilt and panic when it came to school, and I think the realization that I’d be graduating this summer while he still needed another 2 years to catch up was the final straw that sent him tumbling.
After 2 hours of sitting on our bathroom floor, his eyes panicked and with an unhinged quality I’ve never seen in my life, he calmed down enough that we talked through solutions. We’re going into common law so he can afford domestic tuition. He dropped his computer science minor and is focusing on the things he enjoys studying, and we signed a lease for another year at our apartment. He feels better now that things are in motion, but I’m not.
I was mad, tired, defeated.
I had very little sleep the night before my ride to see my sister. I could tell that she was more emotionally stable than me by the time I picked her up from the hospital. My sister is a fragile being; closed off but full of emotions, unwilling to accept help and easy to overwhelm (all things I blame my parents for). I wanted to be all over her, bring her back with me.
Thankfully, 18 years of living together means we understand each other despite our faults and easy misconceptions. I understood that three days of hospital caretakers having her talk about her emotions meant she wasn’t enthusiastic to talk about them yet again to her crybaby older sister.
That half life, well, it’s mine.
When you make a habit out of helping others, it’s hard to feel like your life is your own. That year felt like a constant uphill battle, and my heart couldn’t take it anymore. My boyfriend who I adore and my little sister who I want to protect were both desperately holding on to me for strength that I didn’t think I had. I needed a break, I needed things to work out without having to claw my way through thorns while carrying someone on my back.
I needed a reason to be excited again, something to make me smile when I wake up. I wanted to wake up looking forward to the day ahead, not to wake up worrying about my responsibilities and the things I need to do for my loved ones to survive another day. Nothing felt good anymore.
It’s ironic how I spent so much effort saving others that it brought me to a point of thinking like them. It was that exact thought that pulled everything into sharp focus for me. I saw the errors in what they had done, so I pushed myself to do the opposite. I sought out my own independent support system, and let myself feel things and express them. I’m not recovered, and neither are my sister and boyfriend, but we are better than we were. And right now, that’s all I need to build my strength back up for if they need me again.