How can I help my suicidal sister?

S

Signatelli

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#1
So, I’m not used to making these kinds of long posts, but I’ve got nowhere else to turn to and I’m extremely desperate for help.

I am a freshman in college. I have a younger sister who is a sophomore in high school, but based on how things have been going recently, I’d wager there’s about a 50% chance she won’t make it to graduation.

She is currently in the hospital after a suicide attempt. This is the second time in four months this has happened. I’ve tried to help her before in every way I know how, but as you can see, nothing’s really worked.

Her therapist believes that she has suffered from depression since birth, since she says she’s always had feelings of self-loathing for as long as she can remember. During middle school, it took a turn for the worse. I don’t know all the details, but I do know that she was betrayed by her former best friend and was turned on by everyone she knew, and ended up becoming so unpopular that even our own cousin was telling people at school that they weren’t related. One time in particular, she took a Spring Break trip with a group of girls, only one of whom she was friends with (and the only friend who kinda-almost stuck around with her after she was betrayed by everyone else). After the trip, she was cropped out of everyone’s Instagram pictures. She later found out they were all telling people she didn’t go on the trip with them, and they ordered her “friend” not to invite her next year because she ruined all their photos by being in them.

It was around this time that my sister began self harming. I was the only one who knew the extent of it for a while; during this time she and I were beginning to end our childhood sibling rivalry and become friends. I could have philosophical or humorous conversations with her whenever I wanted, and she would always have something witty or insightful reply. She eventually trusted me enough to let me know that she was crying herself to sleep every night and self harming (My parents had already found out about this before this conversation happened, but I don’t think she told them what she told me). She said it was because she wanted pain she could control. Being a naive high school sophomore who had never been in that situation before, I had no idea what to do with that information. I just sat back and let her vent about her problems, then I would occasionally chime in with some personal problems of my own, and we would both talk about how much we hated humanity (I was in a full-on edgelord phase at this point in my life; I’m beyond that now).

I knew at the time that I should have told an adult about what she was telling me, but she told me to keep it under wraps, so I did. I now believe this was a bad decision on my part, but she always insisted to me that she appreciated this decision because she wasn’t ready to seek help yet. She didn’t end up getting help until around a year ago, since my Mom believed she was just being dramatic and her depression wasn’t real. She eventually just approached Mom out of the blue one day, and told her that she needed to get a therapist and not to ask why.

She spoke with the therapist for a few months, and one of the first things my therapist did was make her tell Mom all the feelings she had been hiding from the world. She is actually extremely good at hiding her depression; even the nurses at the hospital were impressed at how well she is able to mask her emotions and pretend everything is fine. Even now, when she experiences no joy in her life whatsoever, she still just smiles and shares memes on Instagram and cracks an occasional joke. If you didn’t know her, you would assume she was just making the typical Gen-X “I-kinda-want-to-die-but-not-really” jokes that we’re so famous for, but I’m one of the few people who knows that her happiness is a complete facade.

The end of last year was pretty eventful for both of us. I started college, and as such I wasn’t home nearly as often. It was around this time my sister and I started to drift apart. On a rare occasion she would send me a meme on Instagram, but that’s as far as it went. I was afraid that she no longer had anyone to emotionally support her, but then she got a boyfriend.

I had never seen her happier than when she was around her boyfriend. He makes her smile and feel like she means something, and I’m pretty sure she’s become fairly dependent on her. Part of me wonders if she’ll end up killing herself if he ever breaks up with her, or if he’s too scared to break up with her for that reason, but as of now they’re still together. What matters is that, during those first few months, I noticed a dramatic change in her. For the first time ever, she was upbeat and happy, and she was even writing happy songs for her ukulele SoundCloud instead of the usual depressing ones she wrote. She’s a really good singer when she’s not “emo-fying” her voice, but unfortunately that’s what she prefers to do.

Just like every other time, I thought everything was fine. I thought her tough times were behind her, and now she had a good life to look forward to. Then January rolled around. She went back to school, and her grades continued to drop. She came into high school as an honors student, but as she lost motivation to do work, her grades started to drop. This semester in particular, things were getting bad enough that my Mom started stepping in. She started criticizing my sister for spending every part of her day laying in bed or on the couch, always using her phone and ignoring schoolwork. My sister went back to her depressed self, and continued to write depressing songs. I tried not to worry, but everything changed one day when my Mom walked into my room and told me that we weren’t allowed to leave my sister by herself anymore. I knew immediately what had happened.

My sister had confided in me some time ago (I can’t remember when) that she had sort-of attempted suicide in the past. On two separate occasions, she swallowed numerous pills at night in an attempt to end her life. She told me that what scared her the most is that neither of those events took place on particularly bad days; they were both perfectly average days right up until her brain just decided it had had enough. She said that both times she “blacked out”, and couldn’t actually remember taking the pills, only “waking up” from the blackout with the bottle in her hand.

This time in January was different. She actually went to the hospital. It turns out that her pill-swallowing had gotten worse, and when she confided in her boyfriend about it, he initially attempted to stay silent until his parents asked him what was wrong. He spilled the beans, and his parents called my parents, who called the hospital. She was in the hospital for a day, I think, and when we went to visit her, it was as if nothing had changed. She and the rest of the family, including me, just joked around and pretended like nothing was different. I almost forgot where we were a couple times. I just kept reassuring myself that things were fine, and now that she was going to get specialized help, things will only get better for her.

She eventually transferred to a mental institution where her phone was taken away. I didn’t have any contact with her except when she was allowed her daily call home. Eventually she improved enough to where she would only have to go there in the mornings to be part of some youth counseling while she could sleep at home.

My last day of Spring Break was my sister’s birthday, and coincidentally, it was also the day she would be discharged from the mental hospital completely. She came home that day with a big poster full of signatures of all the other people in her youth group, telling her how they were happy she was so friendly to them and that seeing her mental health improve was a major inspiration to them. I felt unimaginable relief when I read that. This time, for certain, she was all better.

This is the same mistake I’ve been making for the past five or six years. No matter what she said, no matter how much her mental health continued to deteriorate, I always reassured myself that even though she had just gone through a rough patch in her life, she was beyond that now and things were looking up. I believed that every suicide attempt was her last, and that from that point onwards she’d be totally, 100% okay.

Yesterday, she sent me a selfie in the hospital. I asked her why she was there. In her typical memetic manner of speaking, she replied “I wanted the big death” She somehow always manages to sneak humor and memes into her speech no matter the context. It’s comforting for both of us, but this time I was shocked enough that I wasn’t going to have it. I knew it was just her trying to downplay her serious issues.

So, for the first time in years, I asked her why she wanted to die. There was a flurry of reasons, but she mentioned that she can’t bear to be in school or do any schoolwork, and she has no future because of it, and how she’s going to have to go to summer school or repeat sophomore year because she’s flunking everything because she can’t find the motivation to do anything besides lay in bed all day, and that she has daily mental breakdowns at school but she doesn’t want to be a financial burden on my parents by going to a therapeutic school, and even then mom told her she didn’t think it would help, and because of this she has no chance of going to college or getting a good career.

I tried my hardest to help her find joy in her life. I asked her about her boyfriend and friends, but she says she can’t be around them all the time. I asked her about music, but she said that she doesn’t actually enjoy making music and that she only enjoys the praise she gets from it. I really tried my hardest with every text to let her know how much I loved her and why she was making the wrong decision, but she always just replied with more of the same stuff, or telling me that I “don’t get it”.

The thing that’s keeping my up is that she’s right. I truly don’t get it. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to go through life completely incapable of feeling happiness in any capacity. I don’t think she’s been genuinely happy for over 3 years by this point. I can’t tell her anything without it coming off as cheesy or forced, and I eventually had to give up doing that yesterday when she told me that “the more people justify life, the more I justify death in my head”.

She’s now gone back to sending me memes. I’m going to lose contact with her pretty soon when her phone gets taken away again. I was looking forward to being able to see her when I come home for Easter this weekend, but that’s all out the window now.

I really want to help her out in some way, but I feel like I’ve run out of options for how to do that. Does anybody have any suggestions at all that might help? I would appreciate anything at all by this point.
 
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calypso

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#2
WOW that sounds So worrying for you. I don't believe that children are depressed just because they are born that way. Something has happened to make her like this, even if its something small to us.

How to help her though....that is a good question. Has she ever been offered any therapy? It could be the making of her if she was to have some, to learn techniques for living more successfully. She probably can't see it as depression makes us have tunnel vision and we think we have always been like this. Its not necessarily true though.

Be there for her, listen to her, make her feel heard and loved. Encourage her to express her feelings and to share them. You could get her to come on here and see if we can reach out to her. Its an idea.
 
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Signatelli

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#3
@calypso I'll try to talk to her about that, but it's hard when she keeps shooting down all of my ideas. I could potentially ask her when she thought her depression really started getting worse. Once again, I'm going to lose contact with her for a few days, but when she gets her phone back I'll try to reach out to her. Even if it'll be something generic that she can see through, I still want to try.
 
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Signatelli

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#4
@calypso And she's been gotten therapy in the past, though I'm not sure if she's still getting it now. I think she stopped seeing her therapist back in December.
 
calypso

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#5
Could she have something called Unipolar depression? Its like bipolar without the mania. If so then a mood stabiliser could work wonders. Just an idea to kick around.
 
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Signatelli

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#6
I think she's the only one to truly be able to know whether that's true, although I'm pretty sure she's diagnosed with some form of "regular" depression. This does sound more accurate though. She is on an antidepressant... are those the same as mood stabilizers?
 
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#7
I have to sign off now for a few hours, but I really appreciate your help and I hope we can continue this conversation later!
 
calypso

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Mood stabilisers are totally different from anti depressants. They literally regulate moods. I am diagnosed with bipolar and on a mood stabiliser and an antiD. They keep me from swinging up and down. I don't believe pills are the answer for everything, but in your sister's case I think they might be important. I wish I could say something more constructive.

You are looking after yourself too I hope. All this worry about her must take its toll on you.
 
midnightphoenix

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#9
I second the advice that calypso has given you :hug:

You need to look after yourself as well though, don't put your own life completely on hold to physically be there 24/7, although please continue to support her the way you are :hug:
 
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Signatelli

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#10
I'm trying my best to keep my own life in tact as well. Thank you for all the advice, though!
 

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