I Criticize You Because I Criticize Myself: Some Thoughts On My Suicidal Sister


I have always been a no-nonsense kind of person. I tell it like it is. Sometimes I can come off harsh because of it. If people are being out of line or acting foolish, I call them out on it.

My eldest sister can be extremely selfish, entitled, immature, and high-maintenance. I am aware a lot of people out there do not get along with their siblings, and I am one of them. Born seven years apart, the gap is just big enough between us that we never shared the same interests at the same time. She always told me whatever television show I sat in front of was stupid, even though at my age she would have been watching the same thing.

I can see the day where she cuts me out of her life completely, and our middle sister is left to relay information between the two of us. I can also see the day where I’m standing at her funeral, much too young, wondering what I could have done differently – if I should not have said the things I said.

There seem to be two options to her fate: either she will get married and finally be “happy,” or she will end her life. Extreme, I know. But, she struggles with loneliness, and relies on others for happiness. She fails to acknowledge how privileged her life is, to be happy for the things she has instead of dwelling on the things she does not. All she sees is the negative.

My biggest fear is that I will be the one to set her off to the point of no return.

She plays the victim card too often, and I seem to be the only one able to call her out on her bullshit because I do not care if she gets angry with me. She expects others to do whatever she wants or needs, without taking into consideration anyone else’s life but her own. It is all about her. There is never any getting through to her.

Too many times she has stormed out of the house and gotten into her car, upset. That is when I fear the most.  It is usually because she practically demands something of our parents, my dad does not stand up for himself, I put in my two-cents to prevent him from being taken advantage of, and all hell breaks loose.I know it should not be my problem, but she makes it my problem when she abuses my parents’ good nature.

In artist Jim Campbell’s documentary about his brother, Letters To A Suicide, he says something along the lines of: “I criticize you because I criticize myself. We share the same blood.”

When I heard Jim say that, it was like everything finally made sense. I criticize my sister’s behavior more so than others when I know she can do better, as I would myself.

I am my own worst critic. I am a person who is aware of all of my mistakes without anyone having to point them out to me, and these mistakes are like a constant guilt-train that follows me.  One Spring I convinced myself that I got everything I deserved. If someone talked to me in a demeaning tone of voice, it was because I did something stupid. Everything became my fault.

Since that Spring, I have stopped placing all the blame on myself, but I will still worry a B+ is not good enough, that one hair is out of place, that I should have gone to church instead of choosing to sleep, or that I should have put more time, more effort, into following my dreams. I tell myself I have a lot to work on, in an attempt to become a better sister, friend, daughter, person. That type-A personality in me just will not quit. There is continually something to criticize, like this piece I am writing right now.

 I expect more from my sister than others because she is my sister. I want the best for her. I don’t want her to feel like she needs someone to be complete, or that she cannot ever be happy. I want her to see the beauty of life before it is too late. I want her to take responsibility for her life, and treat others with more respect.  

She is someone I am connected to whether I like it or not. We may be polar opposites, but we still come from the same family, and that is what makes me call her out when she is being unreasonable, butt my nose into problems that are not mine, but most importantly, want to help her. After all, she is my sister, and I will stand by her side no matter what.