Trigger Warning: Suicide
At least since high school, I have battled with suicidal thoughts. At first, I thought it was just the angst of youth. Later in life, I made an actual suicide attempt. I spent several days in the hospital and it was the first time I ever had my mental health evaluated. In my younger days, suicide was only thought of by ‘crazy people’. I knew as a young Black woman that the subject was taboo. When I felt down, I was told to pray. When I felt confident enough to tell someone my thoughts, I was told I was selfish and it would be a cowardly act. For a long time I agreed with those statements. But much like gay, you can not always pray suicidal thoughts away.
Most recently, I suffered an intense bout of depression when I relocated to Atlanta. I was lonely, it was cold and life felt very dark. Prior to moving, I had reconnected with some of the most truly amazing women I have ever met. We had a group chat that we formed based off a shared response to a misogynistic, anti gay post we had seen by a person who was familiar to all of us from Durham. We wrote together to respond to the post, but found that we enjoyed one another’s exchanges and continued communicating. When I relocated it was these women who kept me anchored and grounded. They had comforted and consoled me throughout my break up and were still anchors for me. This is one of the reasons that I love Black Women and I love being a Black Woman. We give from the heart so often and so selflessly. Anyway, I’d had several bad days. I was withdrawn and feeling my life had become pointless.
It felt I was bouncing from one bad situation to the other and the common denominator was me. I sat in my dark and empty living room staring at nothing. Thoughts of the peace I hoped death would bring became a tantalizing seduction.
I thought of my children and prayed they would be okay. I prayed they would forgive me. I convinced myself they would have better lives without me. I wondered how long it would take for someone, anyone to notice I wasn’t there. I wondered how long it would take for someone to find me. The unsatisfactory answers to these questions solidified my decision. There would be only the briefest of notes left. The last piece of self preservation squeaked out in my head and said quietly “reach out”. I called my daughter but when she picked up she was laughing and in such a cheerful mood, I did not want to bring her down with my sadness. I hung up the phone and stared at it. I decided to send a message to the group. I can’t remember what I said, but something made my sisters of the heart go in to high alert.
They counseled me, checked in on me and checked me. They gave me tangible things to do and actions to help myself. The stopped in whatever space they were in and sent me so much love and positive affirmation I could feel the waves of love and care through the phone. I told them I would begin to work on their suggestions but still, my mind wasn’t right. I told them I was going to get up and go do something to get out of the house, but I really was only trying to disengage.
Suddenly, my phone rang. I looked at Shelley’s call coming in and I answered. All I could manage was a soft, broken hello. She talked to me and told me it was okay if I didn’t say a word. I didn’t. I couldn’t. The tears fell and she caught every single one. She talked to me and encouraged me and loved me all the way back into wanting to hang on a little longer. She told me she was coming to see me soon and of course she did. It was a pivotal moment for me. Shelley, Afiya, JJ and Crystal saved my life.
After my visit with Shelley, everything changed. I felt restored and renewed. I knew I was going to make it. These women never let me go. They made me feel valued and useful and strong. They reminded me that pain is something we all experience, especially as Black women and that we live and survive through the love we have for one another. I have never considered myself as one who is good at making friends and I feel incredibly blessed that as isolated and flaky as I can be, they still love me. They made me feel that I was okay just as I am. They made me feel normal. There was never any judgement or shade. Almost a month after this happened, my childhood sweetheart who was currently my ex husband and children’s father succumbed to cancer. What would have happened to my children if these women had not intervened?
Through that experience, I learned the power of friendship and why it is important. I learned that friendship doesn’t mean you talk every day or shop together all the time. It is a connection of the heart that supersedes time or space. Friends are the people who listen to what you say but understand what you mean. I likely would not be here today if it were not for Black Women loving like they do. I am grateful for them because the last time I almost died has passed and I haven’t felt that way since.
Please love on your sisters today. You never know what she is going through. No matter how many filtered pictures she posts of herself smiling, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to check in on her. You aren’t ‘in her business’…you might be saving her life. And if you are feeling low, Sis, reach out. Let someone know you are drowning. We need you here and you have a purpose and you matter outside of the valley you may currently be traveling. As they say, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and this too shall pass.
Shelley, Afiya, JJ and Crystal…I love you!
Thank you for loving me enough to want to keep me around.