My baby cousin recently committed suicide a few days ago. A good friend of mine suggested that I speak on the period of my life when I was dealing with suicidal ideation, in order to start a much-needed convo and to bring awareness to this epidemic in honor of her. Below, I talk about what caused my suicidal ideation, and how I overcame it:
When I first contemplated suicide, I was 13 years old. I was living in a hotel on Route 1 (the third and final one we stayed in, I believe) and I shared a room with Darren. At the time, we were both recovering from surgeries. Darren had just broken his ankle and ruptured all of the ligaments in it, and he had broken his leg in two places. As a result, he lost all of his football scholarships, including the one he had verbally accepted: Michigan State’s.
I just had a massive tumor removed from my right breast, as well as a biopsy of a large sore that had developed on my left shoulder. The procedures were done one day apart. Thankfully, my tumor was benign, but my body was presenting other problems. I had the flu, I was losing weight, and I was missing half of my white blood cells. Doctors couldn’t figure out the cause of my sore or why my blood cells were dying off. I then went on to get tested for staff infection, lymes disease and lupus. I had none of them, but my questions went unanswered.
Darren and I had our surgeries about a week apart. Around this time, my family matters made headlines. My father was on the cover of the Star Ledger. The same story was printed in smaller, local papers: The NJ Times, The Princeton Packet and The Trentonian. Paparazzi came to my church. Arnold Diaz’s “Shame on You” to be exact. I had no idea about the segment initially, until my boyfriend stopped me in the hallway at school and broke the news to me. I broke down in his arms and Darren reassured me that everything would be okay as I wheeled him to class.
But I wasn’t okay. I remember removing the bandages from my breast and looking at my naked self in the mirror. The tumor had been the size of a baseball, and when it was removed, the area where my breast tissue would have been was completely flattened. The area was black and blue and green and purple, and my sutures were caked with blood. My eyes were red and swollen from crying. I hated myself. I hated my circumstances. I wanted to die. Sleeping was difficult between my breast and my shoulder pain. The discomfort was unbearable and the Percocet gave me migraines, nightmares and made me hallucinate. My mother said I would have episodes where I would say things that didn’t make sense, and that I would have tantrums; two things I could never recall.
I tried to replace my suicidal thoughts with ones of soccer. After pleading with my high school coach, I returned to the field earlier than I was allowed to. Shortly after, I was red-carded in a game for “fighting” and vulgarity. I was suspended for three matches. I couldn’t practice or be on school property during home games. When I returned, I was in a drought. I couldn’t buy a goal if I wanted to. Everything was hitting the crossbar or the post, or going wide. I couldn’t finish, no matter how close I came, no matter how hard I tried. I mentally began to give up on soccer. I was the most talked about incoming freshman on varsity, so I felt like a failure. I felt like my life was a joke that was on public display.
Looking back, I know that it was God’s grace that kept me from taking my life. Maybe it was the prayers of Grandmere and my mom too, I don’t know. What I do know, is that I ultimately wanted to live more than I wanted to die. There was something faint inside of me that refused to surrender. I wanted to get that D1 scholarship I deserved, especially since Darren had lost all of his. I didn’t want my parents to plan my funeral; they had already planned enough. I didn’t want the Devil to win. I didn’t want my (undiagnosed) mental illnesses to win. I wanted to win. Being at rock bottom taught me that merely surviving IS winning. Deciding to face another day when you have slim to nothing is more than enough. When I got stronger I realized that rock bottom wasn’t just about me. My life just wasn’t about me. Because if it were, you wouldn’t be reading this.