Suicide & How My Brother Saved Me From Drowning

Suicide & How My Brother Saved Me From Drowning

David, Me, and Sean
David, Me, and Sean

I’m the youngest of six kids. I have two brothers–the oldest is David and the other is Sean.

Sean and I didn’t get along when we were younger.

Don’t get me wrong, it was nothing serious. More of a personality difference. I liked Sci-Fi, he liked sports. I wanted to watch cartoons, he wanted to push me over and watch Rocky. As for sentimentality, Sean’s got a big heart but pretends to be a bit rough around the edges—like a Teddy bear dipped in cement.

One day when I was six, Sean completely reversed his role of a “big bully” brother by doing something that I’ve never forgotten—he saved my life. I was playing with some water toys at a pool, and went too far into the deep end. Not knowing how to swim, I panicked and started to splash around, crying out for help. I went under the water thinking, “This is it. How could I have been so stupid?”

While underwater, I heard someone dive. Opening my eyes, I saw a figure swim towards me, reach out, and pull me up to safety. I gasped for air as my eyes focused on the person who had rescued me.

“Sean?” I said, disbelieving.

“Don’t look so surprised,” chuckled Sean. “You’re annoying, but you’re still my little brother.” He then set me down at the edge of the pool.

My six-year-old brain was reeling: My brother Sean just saved me from drowning.

As unbelievable as it was to me then to be saved by my brother, fourteen years later Sean would save me from drowning a second time—only a different kind of drowning.

I was twenty years old, and I was going through hell. I had made a lot of bad choices, offended a lot of good people, lost a lot of wonderful opportunities, suffered from severe depression, and become addicted to prescription drugs. I was drowning in my life. “This is it,” I thought to myself. “How could I have been so stupid?”

And so, one morning early in September of 2006 I clocked out of work, and drove back to my empty house. I scribbled some notes in my journal while taking a full bottle of sleeping pills and half a bottle of pain killers. I then went into the garage, climbed into the car, and fell asleep.

By all accounts, I should be dead.

But, by some miracle, my Dad found me. He pulled me out of the car and called 911. I faded in and out of consciousness on the way to the hospital. When I got there, I remember seeing Sean’s shirt moving around the hospital. I’m sure that Sean was attached to his shirt, but under the influence of all the drugs I had taken, all I could see was his brightly-colored shirt. At one point, I remember waking up and seeing my Dad and Sean hovering over me. Sean had tears in his eyes.

Within a day I was released from the hospital. With the help of Sean, I hobbled from the car to my bedroom. I laid down on the king-size bed and stared up at the ceiling, contemplating how my life wasn’t any better after my failed attempt at suicide.

I felt Sean sit down on the other side of my bed. We sat in silence for a long time, lost in our own thoughts.

“You don’t have to stay here and watch me, Sean,” I quietly said. “I’ll be fine.”

He then said something which I’ve never forgotten:

“Seth, I almost lost my little brother. I’m not going anywhere.”

And with those words, it was as if Sean had saved me from drowning a second time. I realized how much my brother—this crusty old Teddy bear dipped in cement—cared about me, his little brother. I thought about my family (my parents, my brothers, and my sisters), and realized how much life I had—and how much life I had almost given up.

Sean’s words weren’t lengthy or profound, but they made me realize that my life mattered to other people; his words gave me hope to move forward in my life.

Now, I want to make it very clear that depression and suicide aren’t issues that are easily or instantly solved. While Sean may have rescued me from “the deep end” of the depression pool, the dangers of the water will always be there for those who linger at the pool. Some of us—through our poor choices—get too close to the deep end of depression, while others unwittingly fall into it. Some people flounder and struggle in the water longer than others. My rescue and recovery from depression were more than just a single event. It was a journey—but  that journey started with Sean’s words.

All of us, at some point in our lives, will wade through the waters of depression and doubt. During those difficult times, we simply cannot rescue ourselves from drowning. We all need the love and support of someone who will  reach out to us and lift us to safety.

Reach out to someone in your life today. Your words don’t need to be lengthy or eloquent, and you don’t need to be perfect yourself. Just reach out. For that person who is struggling, it could make all the difference in their world.

I will forever be grateful to my brother Sean for twice saving me from drowning.

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Sean, Me, and David
Sean, Me, and David

153 thoughts on “Suicide & How My Brother Saved Me From Drowning

  1. Reblogged this on Seth Adam Smith and commented:

    I published this blog post on earlier today. I wrote about my suicide attempt seven years ago and how my brother Sean-Paul saved me (and really, all of my family and friends). It was strange writing about it—I kept thinking: “Whoa, did that really happen? Was that really me?” I tremble to think about all the things I almost lost.

    I think about my family, my work at Anasazi, the places I’ve traveled, the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made, the things I’ve written, and the woman I’ve married…so much LIFE! Every second of it has been a century of happiness.

  2. Seth, this was powerful beyond words and something not only I needed to hear but probably many others. Through your strength and ability to overcome you have turned into an incredible inspiration. You may not know how many people you have saved from “drowning” or how many more people you will but I believe that because of our personal struggles we are made stronger. You are a light and I’m so happy to be a part of it. Thank you.

  3. This is incredible. Thank you for sharing. I had no idea that you struggled with depression and I am so glad that you had help when you needed it. Thank you for your courage to share such a personal story.

  4. Seth- Thank you for this. I also have been helped by at least a few words of someone else too. Do you know about They right now are doing a weeks worth of writings about mental illnesses- like depression. I’m sure they would love for you to contribute! I continue to struggle with depression and have not found the joy you have found. But maybe someday.

  5. Thank you for so bravely sharing your story. Depression is an insidious thing not understood by people, but endured by so many. I applaud your willingness to open yourself up to the public.

  6. Thank you for sharing this with the world. I think it’s important to remind ourselves daily that reaching out is what counts the most. When one changes their heart, it changes the world in so many ways.

  7. Nice writing, potent content. I resonate with it in wonderful, longing, horrifying ways. I wish I had a brother. For every reason you listed, I wish I did. I grew up utterly alone in a field of damaged people and I’ve been trying to find the edge of the field ever since. The very idea of an edge is the best reason to stick around that I’ve found.

  8. This is an utterly relatable post, real and heart-rending. “Angels” come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re as annoying as the next guy, but they’re the ones that make you realize you can’t let go. Kudos for posting so eloquently and honestly.

  9. Seth, I’m so happy you’re still here with us to share your story. And that you realize how much would have been lost if you allowed yourself to sink to the bottom of that pool. Sean sounds like big brothers everywhere, they will always lift you up. Keep up the good work and keep at your writing. such a short post, so easy to read, but so well-written, and well-meaning. i hope your story touches not only the “lifeguards” of the world, but the “drowners”, so they too know it gets better with time and treatment.

  10. Thanks for writing this. My husband struggles as well. He returned from Iraq in 2004, after jumping into Iraq in 2003 with his Airborne unit. However he is a changed man and like many others that came home, he struggles everyday with horrific memories that could drive any human mad. Its important to know that people do care and want to help in any way they can. Thanks again for your words.

  11. Thanks for sharing this, and for reminding us to reach out. I often get little nudges to call someone just to say “Hi, I’m thinking of you,” but I often don’t do it. I know that during the five years that my brother has been in his own hell of depression, it is only knowing that he has a kid sister who loves him that has kept him alive. He has been splashing around the deep end more than once. Blessings on you – you make a difference. Congrats on the FP!

  12. This is a beautiful and touching story to stumble upon today. Its been a long time since I have battled my own depression but telling your story, sharing something so personal with the world demonstrates both strength and courage. Thank you for sharing this.

  13. Glad this got FP’d. Reaching out to people is the best (almost only) message that we should be promulgating as a society thing. Tomorrow may not come. Glad it did for you.

    Stephen Fry has a sweet doc called, ‘the secret life of a manic depressive.’ I found it interesting / helpful. Always nice to know you’re in good (in his case, wonderful company) with this mental goo that persists like a pernicious plague. Well done. And kudos.

  14. Your post really moved me. I wasn’t expecting that. This Scripture comes to mind: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10) Thanks for sharing this experience.

  15. your post brought me to tears. im going through a tough time with my sister at the moment, she has lost her way and each time we try to help it gets us and her nowwhere, tonight, your post gave me hope. thank you. x

  16. Wow, thank you for sharing your story. It’s a true testament to the power of someone’s words; without them, you may have never known just how much your brother loves you.

  17. Wow. This is heavy. I was in tears reading towards the end of this post. You are blessed to have a family who will back you up no matter what.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! Well-deserved.

  18. Thank you for telling your story. You are fortunate to have such loving brothers, and they are fortunate to have you. You have an ability to look inward… it’s rare and valuable.

  19. What a BEAUTIFUL story. I attempted suicide when I was just out of High School by taking a bottle of aspirin. My mom told me I should have tried a bigger bottle. I know she didn’t really mean it, she just didn’t want to give me attention for a suicide attempt. But now I’m 63 and still dealing with the depression of not ever having felt truly loved or valued by my parents. I am determined that I won’t EVER let that happen to someone else if I can be there to help.

  20. Great article, I’m glad you could share it with so many. It’s is so vital to have a hope and a future with support in the persuit of a healthy lifestyle.
    I like that you included the part about reaching out to others, as it’s so very important for ourselves too, along with the part about not having to be “perfect” in order to be effective in life’s journey – given the fallable human condition that makes it a rather huge impossibility anyway! Thankfully we can learn to share our adversity that is often our teaching tool for skillful living along the way.
    Wonderful for you to have your family to be close to(“-“)

  21. Heartwarming story. There’s really noone who can turn things around like siblings can. Few people offer the kind of love, support and faith that they do. Thanks for sharing!

  22. I have been The big brother all my life, somehow the responsibility has always rested on me although my “littlest” brother is now 60! I think they always thought of me as a crusty concrete teddybear but I have always loved them dearly. Funny position to be in though. I was the one my parents “practised” on. I had to blaze the trail for them, My first bike didn’t come till i was 14, theirs came when they were seven. I minded at the time, but now i realise it was the way things happen and being the eldest had compensations. Thankyou for the fascinating and powerful description of your life and relationship with your brother. Good stuff! Tony

  23. Your strength and courage are inspiring. Depression is complicated (at least for a layman like me) and you connect the proverbial dots here perfectly. That you tell your story to help guide others, both sufferers of depression and their loved ones, speaks volumes. Well done, and thanks for sharing.

  24. Reblogged this on The Tread Of Life Seeker and commented:
    “All of us, at some point in our lives, will wade through the waters of depression and doubt. During those difficult times, we simply cannot rescue ourselves from drowning. We all need the love and support of someone who will reach out to us and lift us to safety.

    Reach out to someone in your life today. Your words don’t need to be lengthy or eloquent, and you don’t need to be perfect yourself. Just reach out. For that person who is struggling, it could make all the difference in their world.” – The two rightly embeds paragraphs ;’)

  25. I myself struggle from depression, and I love this post. (Wow, cheesy much!) It’s never been severe to the point where I’ve actually done anything drastic, but I’ve thought about. The love of my family, dancing family, and friends have pulled me away more times than I can count. Thanks for inspiring me to pave it forward.

  26. Thanks for sharing mate. It is amazing how such a short piece of prose can bring such a range of strong emotions to the surface. I battle with depression and mania and thankfully have the support of a very caring family and friendship network. Along the way many people have saved me it is empowering to read you have overcome many of your demons and you are learning how to cope with the mood disturbance you live through. I reach out to some of my friends who also struggle with their own issues, life is a long lesson and my friends and I continue to learn together. Keep writing it definitely helps. I raise an imaginary glass to brotherly love and scream a cheers!

  27. Thank you for sharing this. It was moving and shows even at rock bottom, or in at the deep end, that love can be redeeming. Sounds like you’ve got a great brother. 🙂

  28. As an oldest child, your brother is an awesome guy. I know that I would the same thing for my youngest sister, if that should ever happen (and I hope it never will). I have saved her before from drowning, even though I can’t swim myself.

  29. My closest friend ended her life just under 4 months ago. I could not save her, but I am glad you are here and that your brother and your other loved ones have given you so many reasons to go on.

  30. I almost lost my stepdad years ago, like your brother I didn’t have anything fancy to say but my actions did all my talking, I never left his side I reminded him that I needed him and I didn’t beat him up for trying something so very irreversible and horrific I just held on and I still am as he looses his long fought battle to lung cancer!! Your a very strong man to share that and I thank you for doing so!!

  31. Seth, thank you for sharing this part of your life. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to allow others to grow from the vulnerable parts of one’s history. I have so much respect for you in allowing us to learn from you and and your brother.

  32. Be blessed. I lost a sister to suicide just a few yrs. ago. (I am eldest of 6). None of us knew she was suffering for so long. She hid her depression well. She left a hubby & 2 grown kids.

  33. I suffer from really bad depression. it effects me to the point of withdrawing from everyone & its like im frozen in time. its strange how something you cant see, feel or touch can control you. depression…

  34. Your story is so deeply inspiring and reminds me that there are so many people out there going through the same thing. The signs are not easy to recognize and most of the time, depressed people hide their problems rather than talk about it with others. If you notice someone that has suddenly become withdrawn, it could be sign that they are depressed.

  35. Really great that you shared this experience. Perhaps many could relate to this in many ways, given that we all have our own problems.

    We all need support from one another. Sadly, that seems a little scarce at times. Your post is the kind of reminder we need.

  36. You are not alone. I wish there were more awareness for Mental Health, so thank you for speaking out. As someone who has Bipolar I, I understand the deep ends of depression. Thank you for sharing, it takes a lot of courage.

  37. I am struggling to find the right word to use for this, because I want to say ‘sweet’, when obviously it is not. Thank you for sharing this. I am the mom of two young boys and remind them all the time that some day (I hope), they will be thankful for one another. While I fervently hope it doesn’t take a situation as drastic as the one you’ve shared, I do hope they are there for one another as your brother was for you, and as you all are for one another, I’m sure.

  38. Thanks for posting. I know personally that it’s not easy to share parts of our pasts, but sometimes it’s the only thing that helps us move forward again. I’m sure your testimony will continue to inspire many people.

  39. Seth, thank-you for writing this post. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy task. Oftentimes, revisiting our past is one of the best ways to move forward. I’m sure your story will continue to inspire many people to do the same.

  40. We are so interconnected with each other in this universe…. I wish we get better understanding of this.

    “A human being is a part of the whole called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ― Albert Einstein

  41. Thanks a lot for sharing such an inspiring story of your life and inspiring so many lives with it! Left me with a tear in my eyes and my heart swelled up of love for my loved ones! 🙂

  42. Thank you so much for sharing; that is an incredibly touching story. I suffer from depression and have for a long time and you’ve said things that I have only thought about – about depression, about helping others who suffer from depression, about needing others to get out of the deep end…thank you.

  43. I didn’t know, Seth. But knowing, I am so grateful the outcome meant second chances for you and for the many, many others whose lives you’ve touched…like mine!

  44. Thanks for sharing your experience and your wisdom. As the wife of a chronically depressed husband and the mom of three really fantastic kids who love each other like crazy, you really touched my heart. Hoping you’re doing well.

  45. Is there really hope for one that shuts you out and won’t forgive. I pray for the day that he will accept the help that is offered and let by gones be by gones. To forgive and move forward as you have, is a wonderful thing. Congrats. It’s hard but needed to heal and get on with life. You are a lucky boy. Give your brother another hug for all he did and does for you. I wish you well. Keep moving forward with Faith and Love in your heart and head! I pray for that day.

  46. Thank you for writing that wonderful blog post. Someone close to me recently committed suicide and me and my friends are having a hard time coping with it. Also, a week ago when I was in Puerto Rico, I saved my brother from being eaten by the ocean.

  47. I’m so glad to hear that you have found that you matter. Now to all of us, not just your family and friends. Posts like this help us to feel for each other and remind us to be kind. For many years I was drowning as well. I’ve even referred to it as just that, “drowning”. I am so pleased that you are learning to swim strongly through this difficult life. <3

  48. Just cried my eyes out at work. Your story was so inspiring. I have lost many people in my life to suicide, it is so great to hear what an amazing family you have and support they give you. Keep your head up always Seth, you deserve happiness in all forms! God bless you and your family! Continue to spread your words of wisdom, you will help many!

  49. First off I have to say you and your brothers are all really good looking!

    Thank you for sharing your story. I also came home from my mission early because of depression and the society pressure was horrible. Since then I have delt with depression in varying degrees. I have been on and off of medication for the past 10+ years with very little relief. My family knew, but they could not be there for me all the time. Finally 2 years ago I lost it. Many things were piling up, including my Mom’s soon death from cancer. I got home from work and could not stop crying. I felt completely alone and fearful of taking my life. I drove myself to the ER were I cried for 6 hours straight. I am not a crier at all and have never cried that long before. They didn’t think I was a threat to others and said I could go home, but recommended self-admital. I took the brave step and admitted myself to the pysch area of the hospital. It was one of the hardest weekends of my life. I was so ashamed that I didn’t call my parents until the next day and told them not to tell anyone. After being in there 3 days I realized that my life was not as hard as I thought and the other patients in there had it harder. I was worried about missing work and having to explain were I was, so they realeased me on new medications, an appointment with a pyhsciatrist, and meeting again with my therapist who was not helping. It was a huge learning experience that made me more responsible for my health. I worked more dilligently for any relief and used every faucet.

    Finally about 2 months ago I decided to switch from Western to Eastern Medicine and have finally for the first time in my life been depression free. I am not saying everyone should try Eastern Medicine, those struggling have to find what helps them! I also eat very healthy and exercise to help, but I had been doing those things before. I am so gratefful for my current Dr. and my faith that enabled me to live and value my life even if the last 10 years was hell!

    Thank you for sharing your story to let others know there is help!

  50. Thank you for sharing your story. I lost 2 brothers to suicide, an older brother at the age of 17 and my youngest brother at the age of 21. I also have suffered from depression for most of my life. One thing that I have struggled with a lot was that my family did not ever get counseling for these events together as a family. We have all struggled alone, in our own ways, and have tried to get help but never from/through each other. I still don’t feel things are fixed and have been resolved and really don’t believe they will in this life.

    I am grateful to see that your family has stood by you and that your family did not give up on you. In so many ways, I feel that my family gave up on my youngest brother the last year of his life, that they felt there was nothing that could be done to help him; and that has been so much harder for me to deal with because I have dealt with the same feelings he had before he gave up. When I am depressed I often ask myself why I didn’t end my life 23 years ago at the age of 14 when my older brother did. You show others that there is hope and I am so happy for you, that you have changed your life and are helping others now.

  51. I was diagnose with depression when I was 14. I did not want to be here. I thought everything was my fault. I had a hard time dealing with what happened between my mom and dad. I think that was one of the things that triggered it but thanks for writing the blog.

  52. I just had a suicide attempt in February, I am still having a hard time but it is really great to hear of someone who has had a struggle similar to mine. If its ok, could I talk to you Seth?

  53. If we could all just treat each other like brother and sister’s with so much love and caring the world would be a happier place and depression wouldn’t happen.

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