Michigan in Color: Yes, suicide

Thursday, April 21, 2016 - 6:34pm

Photo taken by Angelo McClenic

Photo taken by Angelo McClenic Buy this photo
Photography by Angelo

 

A year ago today, I contemplated suicide.

I was sitting against a wall in a building with workshops and meetings still in session and burst out into tears. These tears were not just out of the blue– these tears were coming from emotions and thoughts that I was having days, weeks and months prior to this moment. On April 16, 2015, I was feeling so overwhelmed with various things going on in my life that I tried one of the many techniques that I have learned in therapy (yes, I am a Black woman that goes to therapy): journaling. So I got out my computer and decided to type out how I was feeling. At that point in my life, I really felt like my entire world was shattering and there was nothing that I could do about it. When I got to the end of the list, all of the feelings and thoughts really boiled down to one thing:

Feeling worthless; and like I have no sense of purpose in life. I seriously just feel like I am in limbo and have no way out. I am searching for something, some sign telling me that everything will be okay.

Journaling helped me get through the next couple of days. But by April 22, 2015, I was feeling more compelled to commit suicide. As I think back to that moment in the hallway, I remember not being able to breathe, think straight or see through my tear-filled eyes. The repetitious thought of dying, and not being on Earth anymore was so salient that I almost felt a sense of euphoria because I thought killing myself was the best and only option.

Even with people walking past me in the hallway, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience and I could not control anything. I think the worst part was that I really didn’t know what to do.

Realizing that I could not breathe in what felt like a hallway closing in on me, I transitioned to a set of stairs outside the building. Tears on my face chilled as I entered the crisp spring air. Still thinking about what I wanted to do, and how I was going to go about killing myself, I continued to feel the gazes of bypassers debating whether or not they wanted to say something. In the midst of my thoughts I continued to think about the fact that I really only had that one option: to die.

The plan was that I was going to get in my car and go somewhere, but the thoughts about what I would do as I drove now fade as I reflect on the experience.

After some more tears and racing thoughts, my support system came to mind, and I decided to reach out for help in this time of need. Immediately after a phone call, I had two friends by my side to listen to my cry for help. I really appreciated them because at that point in time I needed people that would really hear what I had to say. I needed people that I could trust.

Since that moment, I sought out professional mental health resources and shared my experience with a few close family members and friends. Looking back, much of the stress I was feeling was a part of the culture of perfectionism, and not feeling like I was adequate enough to be who I am, wholly and confidently. Now, believe that the answer to my cry was right inside of me. I had to take a break and step back from everything and learn to listen to my heart — and that was the hardest part.

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So, I share my experience to say that we all have a right to our pain. I was so lost; I was a fourth-year student at the University of Michigan and I thought that I could not find an answer in what seemed to be a place where everyone was supposed to have it all together.

Yes, I am a Black woman, and I actually considered suicide. What I am finding out as I am reflecting more and more on my experience is that this is not as uncommon as people think. It is often thought of as wrong to ever speak about suicide or to even think that there are other people who may be feeling the same way within the Black community. But the more and more that I go through life, I learn that this is an internal battle for a lot of people. The triggers (depression, bullying, perfectionism, objectification, etc) are infinite,. but the main commonality is the fact that one finds solace in the idea that things would be better off if he or she committed suicide.

I am not sharing this story to say that it is simple to move past thoughts of suicide and everything will be filled with sunshine and happy thoughts in the days after. Shifting through my thoughts of suicide and living with depression is no easy task, because every day, hour and minute can be filled with moments of sadness, along with a host of other emotions. Learning to deal with these emotions, and how to restore yourself, takes patience and time, because introspection ain’t easy, and everyone’s route is different.

But, although I know it may not be easy please speak out.

If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, please talk to someone you know, or someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24 hours, seven days a week. Languages: English, Spanish) at 1 (800) 273-8255. There are several University resources available such as the Counseling and Psychological Services Office  or the Dean of Students Office and locally there is Washtenaw Alive, which is the suicide prevention planning collaborative of Washtenaw County.