About Mental Health and Suicide: My Journey

I had considered suicide. When you’re born with a neurological disability and placed in a world that pays so much attention to appearances, it’s difficult to get the right feedback about whether your life has value. 

My first thoughts of sucide attempt began when I was 13. I think this may have been when I discovered binge-eating. My grandmother placed much weight on making sure that I got enough to eat. In fact, she even could be accused of giving me an overabundance of food. 

In her defense, she shared later that her generation was different. She was terribly worried about everyone eating well because things were not always this way when she was growing up. 

I always loved my grandmother’s cooking. But I had gone from eating portions of food, to eating huge spreads of food in one or two sittings. This ebbed and flowed for years after she adopted me. 

Food was the way to the heart. One day, I ate one plate of red beans rice and cornbread. Or was it sphagetti and chicken with french bread. It’s hard to remember which dish it was. Grandmother was a champion at food preparation for many people. 

 Anyway. I had what I thought was a reasonable helping of the dish. And I  was done eating.

 My grandmother took this to mean that she was counterfeit because surely I didn’t like her food anymore. I was customary that I ask for more. 

 Surely, she was to blame for why I didn’t want more food. 

When you’re in Louisiana or maybe any Southern state,  it’s an insult to refuse cooked food when it’s offered. Elders believe it to be sacrilegious because it’s a point of connection. The idea is: 

“If you cannot eat with us, you don’t like / love / or accept us.”

 Because there were times when my grandmother used food as a method of control and manipulation, I began either starving myself or waiting until the wee-hours of the night to get food. 

With food and community came chores. If you had the nerve to eat at the table, you cleaned and cleared the kitchen, table, dishes, floors, and whatever else was used in “preparation”. 

I believed that if I ate more, I’d bulk up. When I didn’t bulk up, I believed I was not a worthy enough person. After all, my dad was a corrections officer. My uncle became a firefighter. My step-father painted homes, My grandfather steam-cleaned houses. 

I was disabled, rail thin… and not very physical. I associated my male-ness with the men I saw around me. They all very physical, tough people. And I wasn’t tough enough. 

So I considered ending my life. I didn’t think anyone needed me enough. My grandmother seemed to only appreciate me when I fit her standard of who she wanted me to be. My dad only seemed to care about me when I was perceived as LOUD and SCARY. 

Beyond a song, a great poem, a speech, or a recitation, what could I truly contribute to the sea of people around me who seemed to have it all together. 

When I first heard Avril Lavigne’s Ordinary, I became serious about suicide. I identified with the verse in the song that spoke about “feeling danger just to feel alive.” 

I was going to write a note and take some sleeping pills. I had been left alone so much. That I was sure I could get away from the world without being noticed. 

How did  I save myself? 

The truth is: I didn’t. I did not know that people were praying for me. I didn’t know that my mentoring teacher and English teacher, librarian, and guidance counselor had seen me. I didn’t know that many people saw what I’d gone through without needing to know everything about me.

I didn’t know that in my writing there was a future story I’d tell. 

The journey of faith hasn’t been easy for me. I think my life changed the most when I almost lost my life. 

I was dating someone who was my polar opposite. Blinded by my “love”, I was not aware of how destructive our relationship was.

When a speeding drunk driver knocked me unconscious in the Spring of 2011, I decided to trust God. I only had to get killed once to understand that my life has to matter to ME. 

I WAS UNCONSCIOUS according to the people I had been with … for 7 minutes. 

When I came to… I knew I would CHANGE my heart. I knew I would refocus on God.

There are many people in the world entangled with risky people. These people don’t truly value life. Or they wouldn’t purposely endanger themselves. 

Hunter Hayes writes: “Soul be still. Stay where you are. And take the time to take a breath and count the stars. “ (Wild Blue, Part One ) 

The Los Angeles Times wrote in June 2019 that suicide rates are at their highest since the 1960s. That is almost 15% per every 100,000 people. I’m glad that I beat suicide. But it took a community of people who saw me differently. It took a person willing to look deeper and change himself.  I am learning to take a breath and renew my own strength. But it has taken an exercise in knowing that others are struggling just like me. I have to know that I cannot give up on myself. 

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