“I’ve realized that I deserve to be here. I deserve to live. I am loved.”

Content Warning: this peer story shares the experiences of self-harm, suicidal ideation, and suicidal action.


By Sierra P.,
DBSA Young Adult Council Member

Episode 1

“Would you be willing to let me go?” I texted my mother through watery eyes while sitting on concrete steps on the side of my community college. The year is 2015 and my mother, Patricia, panicky, rang my phone, then again and again. She left a frantic voicemail begging me to pick up, so she could hear my voice.

I refused to answer. My mother contacted my father, Dale, in fear of the worst. He called me. I still didn’t answer. My makeup was smeared due to all the crying. My crisp white shirt looked a mess since I was using it as a tissue.

When my mother called again, I finally picked up after sobbing uncontrollably. She too was bawling, terrified that I had taken my own life. Even though the community college campus was right up the street from my house, my mother picked me up and drove home in silence. She and I were all too familiar with this horrific situation.

At the time, my problems were chalked up to borderline personality disorder.


Episode 2

I was a junior in high school back in 2012. While at school, I had a breakdown that included me crying uncontrollably, and I quickly excused myself from class. A series of built-up emotions from the childhood trauma of bullying and family issues finally boiled over.

After seeing me wander in the hallway in tears, one of my teachers walked me to the counseling center. A counselor called my mother, and she came to the school to pick me up. She and my father finally decided to get me help. They checked me out of school early two days later and took me to a mental health clinic.

We waited in the lobby and then a nurse appeared and called us into a back room. It looked like a small interrogation room, but with a couch.

A woman with burgundy hair came in with a laptop, sat down at a desk, and asked me a series of questions regarding my mental health.

“Have you contemplated suicide recently?” she asked.

“Yes,” I responded.

The woman walked out of the room for a few minutes and then returned. She proceeded to tell us that I couldn’t leave for safety reasons, doctor’s orders. My mother and father hugged and kissed me and told me they would visit me the following day.


When I had my session with a psychiatrist the following day, I was led to a small office. We discussed my diagnosed depression, and then he prescribed me medication. He handed me over the prescription information on a small white piece of paper. I left the room and handed it over to a pharmacist at a window office in the common area.

Before lunch, my parents came to visit me, and they brought along my twin brother, Dale, and my sister, Jasmine. We hugged, kissed, and talked lightly about their day at a small round table in the common area across from a receptionist’s table.

Then, my day slowly went on. Lights were out by 10 p.m.

My parents continued to visit me throughout the week before my final day at the hospital came on a Friday. I was free to return to society.

* * *

Life went on, and I eventually stopped going to therapy because I felt that I could fight my inner demons on my own. I graduated high school in 2013 and enrolled in a local community college, where I found myself on those concrete steps two years later, wanting to commit suicide. It was clear that I needed treatment again.

Episode 3

I began to self-harm. One day, I had run out of medication before class, but I went to school anyway without taking my medication, against my better judgment. I was going to refill my prescription at a pharmacy after school.

My uncle on my mother’s side agreed to take me because, at the time, I refused to drive due to ongoing anxiety that I was going to crash and die in a car accident. This fear stemmed from a peer who had died in a car crash, several years prior after being hit by a truck.

My uncle and I arrived at the pharmacy following my classes so that I could refill my medication. While waiting in the lobby area, I got a thought in my head to kill myself. I felt empty and numb and decided it was time to finish it all. I told my uncle that I would step outside for some fresh air, but I lied. We were in a plaza where the pharmacy was located, and I decided to walk down the vast parking lot, just to put some distance between us.

I told myself, “Just do it.”

I ran into the middle of the street, hoping to get run over by a car or two. Yet every time I ran to the road, people would slam on their brakes and stop. Finally, I gave up on getting run over. No one got out of their car to say a thing to me. Defeated, I walked over to the Kroger store in the plaza. People gave me strange looks because my eyes were red due to crying.

I located the kitchen appliances area. I saw a large cutting knife and took it out of the packet without paying. Two women employees saw me shred the package apart to get to the blade. I then proceeded to roll up my long gray sleeve and cut myself.

The employees screamed. One woman grabbed her son and hurriedly walked past me. A man named Prize, a stranger who remains my friend to this day, ran up to me and grabbed the knife from my hand.

The police and an ambulance were called. My uncle walked over to the Kroger and saw that a five-foot-tall woman, his niece, had caused all the commotion. He called my mother, who then contacted my father. A police officer walked me through the sliding doors that led outside to the ambulance. As I was walking out, a woman with her two children said to me: “I’m going to pray for you.”

Now, at age twenty, I was back at the mental health clinic. A different psychiatrist upped my medication dosage.

When we had a meeting with a doctor, my mother was brought into the room and told the doctor: “I think my daughter has bipolar disorder,” she said with watery eyes. My mother correctly diagnosed me when I was admitted to the mental health hospital the second time around. The doctor thought I was just suffering from severe depression, but my mother knew it was something more. The doctor didn’t listen to my mother, and again, after one week, I was released from the hospital. I vowed to myself that I would never return, and I haven’t.

* * *

Episode 4

I graduated with an associate degree in journalism from my community college in 2016. I transferred to Georgia State University and continued to attend counseling but stopped taking medication. After freelancing for a year, I landed my first job at The Des Moines Register in Iowa. I moved there and wondered whether my mental health difficulties were finally behind me.

They were not. I learned this when the pandemic struck in March 2020, and I was at home by myself 24/7, with no close friends and family nearby. When I first moved to Iowa, I found a therapist through Catholic Charities, a social services facility. I stopped going to therapy in person, though, and thought I could do without it. Instead, I ended up turning to drinking to cope with my depression and anxiety.

I could fight it, I thought—until one night when I couldn’t. My disorder sent me down a hell hole. I called my parents, and they panicked. My father and mother calmed me down, but I still wanted to take my own life. The next day, I finally hatched a plan to kill myself. I cleaned up the apartment beforehand so when my parents discovered my body, my place wouldn’t be a wreck. As I’m cleaning, I get a phone call from my father.

He’s one of the reasons I decided to seek help when I moved to New York City to attend New York University. My dad told me something I couldn’t forget: “You mean a lot to me, and if something happened to you, I would just be devastated.”

I found out that I had bipolar disorder, an incurable mental illness, at 26 years old in December 2021 after being diagnosed at New York University’s Student Health Center. My father is one of the main reasons why I’m still alive today. I’ve been receiving help with consistent medication.
I’ve realized that I deserve to be here. I deserve to live. I am loved.