During my senior year of high school, I tried to commit suicide. I took a handful of a concoction of my mother’s prescribed medicine and went to sleep. The next morning, I woke up and realized that I was still alive. My suicide attempt had failed and I was terrified. My heart was beating extremely fast, my wrists were swollen and I was in shock. As I laid in bed the night before crying my eyes out, I was sure that it was over. I had made a drastic decision to end everything.
At the time, my mother and I were going through a very rough patch. I thought that she didn’t love me and if my mother didn’t love me, no one else would. Trembling and afraid with eyes wide as saucers, I informed my mother of what I had done. Her response was not one I had expected, validating the reason why I had attempted suicide in the first place. “You better hope that they don’t take my baby away from me because of you,” she said, referring to my younger sister.
My mother took me to a local Detroit hospital, where nurses tied my arms and legs to the bed. I was spared a trip to a mental institution because my mother assured doctors that I would seek counseling with the pastors of my church, who both rushed to the hospital when they heard the news. I don’t recall contemplating suicide prior to that traumatic night, but I’m definitely sure that I suffered from depression throughout high school. As a teenager, I’m not sure that I knew how to identify depression, let alone feel comfortable enough to express to others how I was feeling. And as a young Black girl growing up in one of the nation’s toughest cities, I was taught to always remain “strong.”
My pastors had kept their word in regards to counseling me and I began to share my angst with fellow teenagers and friends during our weekly youth group at church. Some of the young adults in my place of worship had also made it a point to spend time with me.
My suicide attempt almost seems like something that never happened. Partly because the embarrassment of it all caused me suppress it and never speak a word about it until now.
This April, the Black online community learned about the death of “For Brown Girls” founder Karyn Washington. In September, there was actress and singer Simone Battle. Just this month, beautiful and successful Miss Jessie’s co-founder Titi Branch took her own life. At the ages of 22, 25 and 45, respectively, they chose to die. It was reading about these women that caused me to speak out about my own experience. Looking at their photos, I saw myself. A girl, who once suffered in silence. Often seen with a huge smile on my face and eager to talk about the latest mixtape, headline or a new recipe, my family and friends would probably never know if I was feeling down. I’d be lying if I said that I don’t ever get depressed, feel worried or anxious, but I’m happy to know that I have a few close friends that I have no qualms about confiding in them when the world has taken a toll on me. I also know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking counsel or professional help when it all becomes too much.
As Black women, we tend to carry the burdens of the world on our shoulders and often feel that we have to live up to this problematic “strong Black woman” notion. We are human and just like everybody else sometimes the load becomes entirely too heavy, breaking us down into little pieces, reflecting back at us waiting to be mended together. We must know that self care is important and okay. And no matter who we think doesn’t love us and regardless of the fact that main stream media and the world tells us that we’re incapable of being loved, we must know that the greatest love of all is the love of self. Let’s love ourselves enough to know when we need to shut it down and take a break. Let’s love ourselves enough to know when we need to put ourselves before others. Let’s love ourselves enough to know that when we’re no good to ourselves, we’re no good to anyone else. And let’s love ourselves enough to know that if we need to seek help, that it’s an act of self preservation.
In the words of Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Glennisha Morgan is a multimedia journalist, writer, photographer and filmmaker. Follow her on Twitter @GlennishaMorgan or at www.GlennishaMorgan.com.