the pathway to change begins with forward walking
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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