For Black girls and women who contemplated popping pills or slitting their wrist
I tried to commit suicide two times in my life and contemplated suicidal thoughts on many occasions.
I was 13 when I decided to take a combination of sleeping pills and Advil. I had reached a dark point in my life, my mother decided to involuntarily remove me from my father’s custody, my sister was hospitalized after being raped by her best friend’s father, and I presumed I was nothing. I truly felt absent, had no meaning, and my existence was a burden to everyone. I had failed eighth grade due to repeated absences, was home schooled, and felt powerlessness. I did not have the resources to return to the custody of my father, I could not get justice for my sister, I could not prevent the verbal and physical assaults experienced from my mother, and I was a failure.
I never went to counseling or received therapy. I told myself, “God must want me to be here.” Two evenings after my suicide attempt, my mother walked into the living room and proceeded to hug me and, for the first time in my life, said, “I love you.”
I was 26 when I decided to take a combination of every pill in my medicine cabinet. I was married and a mother of twins. I could never master the balance between mother, work, and wife. Therefore, on numerous occasions, I came home to words that were emotionally abusive. I did not know how to be a mother, a wife, he felt abandoned and alienated. I was sacrificing too much time in school and work and dismissing his needs. I was a failure; I was facing an impending death, and was feeling insignificant.
Throughout my life, I have driven my car to the edge of a cliff, tried suffocating myself with pillows, drowning, and, at one point, held a knife over my wrist ready to slice through the delicate skin. My thoughts were racing; feelings of worthlessness, powerlessness, meaninglessness, and failure consumed my thoughts. I am too ugly, too Black, too poor, and less intelligent, I have no power, I cannot change this world, and I cannot find true love.
How many Black girls and women contemplate suicide because we exist in a society that psychologically and physically abuses and discards us?
I have struggled to understand my worth in the world; partially due to growing up in a racialized context and always feeling I would never be good enough. I understand the physical and emotional abuse I experienced from family, my mother, my ex-husband were symptoms of post-traumatic slavery — over generations, we conditioned ourselves to be extremely tough on our children or to project our oppression on those weaker than us. Black mothers instilling their fears of failure and losing their children to the system — using hurtful and destructive words, fists and belts against their bodies. Black men never feeling like true men, in turn, they lash out in abusive ways towards their wives.
I know what it is like to feel driven by a need to prove to people you are far better, you can be resilient, you can raise yourself out of the darkness, and you are far greater than their perceptions. It is a constant struggle, a constant digging, behind the mask we conceal our feelings of never being truly human.
We have to rely on mattering, we thrive in knowing that we are making a difference in the world and finding ways to replenish our insecurities with achievements and triumphs. We reach out to those friends who tell us how amazing and beautiful we are, forgive and love, and do the social and racial justice work that reorients our meaning in the world. Now, over 40, I am learning to master the art of healing — reprogramming doubt and failure into success. I hold on to the moment my mother wrapped her hands around me and told me I was loved, the encouraging hugs from my children, the friends and Black men along the way who acknowledged my brilliance and were not afraid to tell me “you are awesome.”
I share this post because suicide is real for many Black girls and women; I am a survivor and I believe a divine energy, accompanied with counseling from time-to-time, pulls me out of my depression and worthlessness. For my sisters, when you are feeling alone, remember these sister hands wrapping around you and telling you, “I love you.”