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The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has 24/7 assistance readily available at 1-800-273-8255. Professionals are standing by to provide free and confidential support.

"How I survived suicide"

Four Detroiters share their stories of triumph on World Mental Health Day

October 10 is World Mental Health Day. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing on suicide prevention. According to WHO, globally someone loses their life to suicide every 40 seconds. Suicide can be caused by a number of mental health issues and the impact of s suicide can affect many more lives than the deceased. These courageous Detroiters have decided to share their stories of overcoming suicidal thoughts in hopes of showing others their is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

TRIGGER WARNING: These stories contain discussion of depression, suicidal thoughts and sexual assault. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has 24/7 assistance readily available at 1-800-273-8255. Professionals are standing by to provide free and confidential support. You are not alone!

Kristy S. 

September 24, 2018 around 7:00 a.m., I remember lying in my bed because I had hit an all time low. Feeling like my purpose here was over. It was sunny outside yet my mind was cloudy. I had never been this low in my life and it scared me because how could someone so motivating, so uplifting be ready to end it all just because things were not working for me. I felt like no one was listening; I felt like I wasted too much time. Even though I was in therapy, I forgot to apply what I was learning and actually doing the work on myself.

So I said "You know what...this isn't working for me anymore I'm ready to go." I just remember the weight being so heavy on my chest; I felt like I couldn't breathe. I begin to look around my house for things I could grab and think about how I would do it but there were too many emotions running through me that I just stopped and started writing. I wrote in my notes, "It's been so dark inside of me I don't know how to find the light."

As I continued to cry I heard a voice telling me to BE STILL. That's all I could hear was BE STILL. So I slowed down, got up and got ready for work. Later that day I had dream of me climbing up a hill. Reaching higher heights and I knew that it was a sign that I needed to keep going. To overcome how I felt, I simply kept thinking of all of the great things that would manifest with me overcoming my depression. I begin to instill a new vision for my life and create daily habits and routines that would help me. As a result of that I begin to teach others how to do the same. Our mindsets are our most powerful weapons and if we don't feed it on a daily our minds can become clouded. You literally have to take your power back. Don't worry about the judgements of others. What do you feel is best for you? What makes you feel good? Everyone has purpose and it's a beautiful journey discovering what it is. 

Keith A. 

Back in 2013, I started to realize my life had changed drastically to the point where the decisions I was making were very unfamiliar to me. I felt like the person I had once known was no longer with me. And the worst part about it was that I wasn't a fan of the person I was seeing at that moment. There were thoughts of confusion, anger, sadness, emptiness, and an overall feeling of being alone. I would have thoughts of driving the wrong way onto a freeway, using a gun, or slitting my wrist to make it all end.

The thing that kept me from performing any of those actions was the thoughts about how would my family cope with my absence. I knew that I did not fear death in that moment bu t I knew that my family didn't share those same thoughts. I wouldn't want my sudden death to cause the kind of turmoil for my family that I imagined it would.

Moving forward, I knew I could not end my life but I also knew I couldn't continue living with the same thoughts. I did a ton of research into the causes of depression and suicidal thoughts and that led me to a journey of self-discovery that has helped me to understand the source of my pain and how to deal with it effectively. To this day, life is not easy, but it is a lot easier to deal with having my own mind being on my side.

Elena S. 

On the morning of September 17, 2018, I woke up with the intention to end my life. This was not the first time I had considered completing that act, but it was the first time that I took real action towards completion. Since, suicidal ideation doesn’t often happen in a vacuum, I think that it’s imperative that I share the context that precipitated that moment for me.

Fall 2018 was the culmination of several difficult life events. I was nearing the end of my PhD program, a journey that was fraught with an immense amount of self-doubt and fear. Being one of the only two Black women in the department added additional insurmountable weight to what I was embarking on. Imposter Phenomenon was real, and I battled with it during my entire 4 ½ year journey. In 2016, I ended a three-year relationship with someone I cared about deeply but realized that I had reached a point where I was no longer growing with them as my partner. That breakup was the first time I had to initiate such an action and as someone who spent years running from conflict that was difficult to handle. In the same year, I was diagnosed with mild depression and moderate anxiety. It was relieving to have a diagnosis but that year the depression and anxiety were often debilitating. I felt lonely, sad, and unmotivated. In 2017, I was confronted with the possible ending of a 10-year friendship with a person I considered my best friend (this relationship would inevitably end the following year). It was a relationship I valued immensely and with the space that I was in, this was an additional factor that forced me to feel that I didn’t measure up. Lastly, in August 2018 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. This diagnosis loomed over me as I grappled with my inability to be with her as she went through chemo and radiation over the next year. This is not to say that there were no bright moments over that two-year time span, but the bad moments felt heavier and more enduring than the good ones.

Over those two years, I struggled silently, even though I went to therapy weekly and had a support system. I simply felt alone and like there was no end in sight for my feelings. That day was the culmination of those events coupled with not caring for myself in healthy ways. On the morning of September 17, 2018, I got out of bed after a restless night’s sleep, walked into my kitchen, and grabbed a knife. I stood there with the knife in my hand and visualized the knife slicing my arm open, and in that moment, I imagined the peace I would feel from that first cut. I stood there alone, for what felt like forever, but what was ultimately a few minutes and eventually put the knife down. I left my kitchen and went to the gym and did laundry (coping mechanisms that I was working on with my therapist). I reached out to my therapist, family, and close friends to let them know the space I was in. Since that day I have seen several bright moments (graduating with my PhD, my sister’s wedding, finding out my mom was cancer free, and several others), that had I completed the act of suicide I would not have been here to see. To this day I still struggle with thoughts and feelings of ending my life (or self-harm) but I continue to fight to be here.

Keyerra R. 

My battle with suicide starts like so many others: self-hate as a response to childhood trauma.  I was about 8 years old the first time someone decided that my childhood innocence had run its course. I can still smell the incense burning, feel the suede texture of the green sectional, and hear the cartoons playing on Nickelodeon in the background.  The memory is vivid and so are the disgusting feelings that followed. I won’t go into detail as this is a story I seldom tell or open up about. Unfortunately, this was not my only run in with being violated.  The first time I was silent and afraid. The second, the fear was there but I opened my mouth. The result: nothing. It was this “nothingness” that stuck to me for years to come.

My teen years were filled with an ever-blooming sadness. I realized that I had extreme trust issues and fears with interacting with males of any age. I tried to play it off and occasionally voiced concern over why did I always feel so sad, but never acknowledging the obvious, the trauma.  See, in the lower-socioeconomic black community, therapy and acknowledgment of family wrongdoing is largely absent. I couldn’t fault a mother who had no idea how to handle such things. She’d had her own demons to fight during those years.  My first thoughts of suicide came in high school. I realized my friends were dating and I was just having sex. Nobody wanted or desired “damaged goods” and in my mind I was just that. I didn’t know how to interact or require more respect of the opposite sex, because all I knew was my body was desirable and that’s how “love” is shown. I stared at a bottle of 800mg ibuprofen for hours on end one day.  It was my out and I needed it. Something told me deep down this wasn’t the time. I did this more frequently as the years went on. I tried speaking to my mom about my feelings; even expressing what had happened to me the first time because I never spoke of that summer to anyone. She didn’t know what to do other than take on the feeling of being a failed parent and that did nothing but it layer more guilt on me for making her feel this way.

As my college years came and went, I sank deeper into promiscuity, suicidal thoughts, and the feeling that I had no place in this world. I became a mom and I felt that my son was at a disadvantage having a mother like me. I withdrew from my friends, picked up an anxiety about social interactions and quit my job all because I couldn’t find a reason to go on. I was drained. The high dosage antidepressants and bi-weekly therapy sessions seemed pointless. Check-out time was here and I knew it. Yet, here came another roadblock, another pregnancy. 

My therapist sent me to a Psych OB specialist to help with my suicide prevention plan and care during my pregnancy. As badly as I wanted to end my life, I couldn’t take another life with me. My daughter. I prayed daily. I was ashamed to go to God because of the things I’d done and the thoughts I’d had, but that was the foundation I was raised on and when all else fails I know how to pray. Having a little girl was a hard pill to swallow because how could I keep her safe? Little girls are so beautiful and innocent and people are untrustworthy. I just wanted everything to go away, but I couldn’t take that final step no matter how much I planned it. 

My son was so confused about why I was in the bed crying when he left out each morning to catch the bus and still in bed crying when he came home. Ultimately I made it to my due date and when I stared in my daughter's eyes all I wanted to do was protect her. I couldn’t protect her if I wasn’t here on this Earth. I love my son to death, but my daughter entered this world and something exploded inside of me.  All of the disgusting feelings and the worthlessness was still there, but it became a driver. What did I pray for daily in the midst of my storm? Purpose. And there it was lying on my chest staring at me with those beautiful gray eyes. I named her Caydence because my heart beats on a rhythm that I’d never experienced before…a peaceful beat. 

Suicidal thoughts are not easily defeated and it takes a toll on everyone around you. My mother developed severe anxiety because every time her phone rang she feared it would be someone who found me dead. We moved to Detroit in 2015 to be closer to family and so she didn’t have to deal with me alone. I didn’t want to leave my children behind if I took my own life, but that suicide demon was hard to shake. I’ve had significant ups and downs over the last couple years, but I believe things are finally leveling out. Every time I consider slitting my wrists, my tattoos there remind me of my “Strength” on the one hand and “Faith” on the other. Every time I want to down a bottle of pills my heart beats to Caydence’s cadence. Every time I want to shed a tear, I see my son’s confused face wondering why I’m so sad. My biggest help has been my wonderful therapist. 

I still cry, but not so frequently. I still mourn the person I could’ve become before my childhood was stolen; I mourn that little girl with all my heart. Like with all things that die, we have to learn to let go. So I am slowly letting go of what could’ve been and focusing on what’s still to be. It’s not an easy road and it's like running a marathon every morning trying to focus on the positives and not negatives. It’s frustrating to feel “abnormal” and not just be happy like other people. It’s a challenge trying to develop relationships with the opposite sex and not feel like you’re “damaged goods”. My point is, there are so many reasons to live, but generally only one reason to die and that one reason can be overcome with prayer and therapy.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has 24/7 assistance readily available at 1-800-273-8255. Professionals are standing by to provide free and confidential support. You are not alone!