Name and location: LaChelle, Minneapolis, MN
How old were you when you thought about committing suicide?
I was about 15 years old when the thoughts started. I went through a long sporadic period of severe depression in my teens.
Did you go through with your thinking?
No. I never actually attempted suicide.
Did you have a suicide plan? If yes, what was it?
Not necessarily. There would be times I would think to myself that I should just do it. Most times I would think of just slitting my wrists and sitting in a bathtub. I never thought about writing a note or anything like that.
What was the reason you wanted to commit suicide?
I believe that once you enter adolescence you fully gain consciousness of yourself and you become aware of who you are. You may not fully know yourself but emotionally you begin to be very aware of your feelings and your surroundings. At the time my mother was on drugs and my father was absent like he had always been. Now, I could say those factors at that time were the sole reasons I had begun to think of suicide but I believe the issue was far more deep rooted and as mentioned before I only became conscious of my emotional issues when I entered adolescence. My mother being on drugs was not a new development; I just finally became fully aware that she was. She had been in and out of rehab from 1989 (the year after I was born) up until a few years ago and she has been sober ever since (which I am so grateful for). I never saw my mom do the drugs, she made it a point to keep that image of her away from me. The problem was that when a person is on drugs, the relationship they have with that drug is more important than any other relationship. Simply put, physically and monetarily my mother was always there for me but emotionally she was not, she just did not have the strength. I was not your stereotypical child of a drug addict. I never was in foster care or in the care of random people & relatives, I never went without food or clothing, I never had to deal with the embarrassment of everyone knowing my mother was a drug addict; it was pretty much hidden from the outside world. I can say now that I am so grateful for that and even impressed that my mother manage to take such good care of me while succumbing to her illness. What tainted me and caused me emotional pain for so many years was the lack of nurturing. I did not have story time with my mom, she didn’t come to my conferences, and I didn’t get in trouble if I had a bad grade. She missed out on soccer games, choir concerts and that type of thing. Sometimes she did make an effort but they always tended to be passive. It was hard seeing kids with moms that were so enthusiastic about what they had going on and my mom just seemed like she could care less. It was like no one took an interest to me. My mom would go to work, come home, cook me dinner and go into her room or watch TV for the remainder of the night. There was no togetherness in the household. On top of that, my sister was 11 years older than me and living outside of the home raising her own child at a young age, so growing up for me was very lonely. I did not feel important or that I was special. I was spoiled and showered with toys and nice clothes to compensate for the lack of emotional care. Another factor had to be the absence of my father and the amount of damage he did when he was there. He was always in and out of my life; it all depended on my mom’s willingness to be with him. He was abusive, he abused my mother for several years and he did not care who saw him do it. I have very vivid and frightening memories of him beating her. In a sense, those early childhood memories made me who I am because I was not fully able to develop into a person before I was exposed to those kinds of things. Getting back to the point, in my teenage years I went through a huge insecure “why doesn’t anybody love me?” phase. That lack of nurturing and hostile environment had me seeking love in others rather than looking for love in myself first; I didn’t know any better. Negative emotions really fueled me at the time. I hated my mom, my dad, myself, my life. I thought that everything that happened was my fault. I was always in trouble at school for fighting because I knew there would be no consequences at home; my mother did not care. My mom had to go back to rehab while I was in high school and I basically lived alone while she was away. We ended up losing our house and having to move into an apartment; I had to live with my older sister and at my aunt’s house a few times. I was unstable in pretty much any way you could think of. I felt like I was a burden, like everyone’s life would be so much better if I was not there. It was a very dark time for me. I hated the way I looked. I thought that I was ugly and stupid. I mutilated myself by cutting which was partly a release and partly a punishment for being who I was. I remember being frustrated with myself for not having the courage to just do it. All the while no one had the slightest idea what was going on in my head and that I woke up wanting to die every day. There was a huge amount of shame living inside of me. I was ashamed of my mother, my father, my depression and myself for even being born. I was the only child of the 3 my parents conceived that survived child birth; I used to think “why didn’t I die like the rest of them?”
Are you thankful that you did not succeed?
Yes. 100% thankful. I wouldn’t be able to share my story with others. Moreover, I would have died not even realizing how great of a person I am. I’ve been blessed with so many gifts and so many wonderful people that I thank God for everyday. It’s truly amazing to me.
Have you gotten therapy to help you with your past suicidal thoughts?
I never went to therapy. The thoughts were all very internal. I would share thoughts with a boyfriend (who had severe emotional issues as well) but never family or close friends, I didn’t want them to judge me and label me as crazy. I think being a Black woman in general it’s hard to be able to discuss your emotions and feelings without being branded as an “Angry Black Woman”. I’ve been vulnerable with people in the past who just used it against me later as a way to judge me and that hurts a lot. If you cannot be vulnerable with people who claim to love you then who can you be vulnerable with?
If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be?
It gets better. The things you are going through do not make you any less worthy or special than the next person. Your struggles will make you stronger and eventually you will grow from them, learn and maybe even inspire someone else who is going through the same thing that you are now. You are smart you are beautiful you have so much to give. You don’t need the validation of anyone to know this, not your parents, your friends, a guy or anyone else. Hold your head high.
Have you talked to your family and friends about your past suicide thoughts and/or attempts?
I have not. In my family, it is really hard to speak on all of our pain because there are still some unresolved issues as far as people being able to get over things that happened. Things have definitely gotten better. My mom and I are closer now which is a huge accomplishment but I know there are still some scars left that each and every one of us is battling with each day. I just focus on finding peace individually. The past is the past. I would not change it for anything because it made me who I am now.
How can you help youth who are feeling suicidal, have tried to commit suicide, and did not succeed?
Let them know that they are not alone. Even if there is no one in their life to show them love or help them feel special there is someone who loves them unconditionally and that is God. If you’re feeling weak, pray. That is truly what got me through everything. Sure, I could have called a suicide intervention line and gotten some help but what people can’t do that God can is give you peace of mind. ALWAYS have faith in God, no matter how low you are feeling. If you have faith that things will get better then they WILL get better.
What is your mind frame now?
Right now I am happy with my life. It’s not perfect by any means. I get lonely, I get stressed and overwhelmed. I’m working on goals to better myself, emotionally, financially, etc. but I’m still content and at peace with my life. There’s nothing more that I want or need to make me feel happy or at peace, anything extra is just a bonus. There are still some emotional struggles I find myself battling every now and again but as of now I’m just focusing on nurturing this newfound peace of mind so I can live my life as positively and happily as possible.
How is your self-worth and self-esteem?
They are great. Overcoming those obstacles and seeing my mom go through some of the things she did really helped shape them. In addition to that I have been hurt by plenty of people and that also showed me what I do and do not want and how I would like to be treated. There are things I know I will never stand for because of what I went through in the past.
Anything else you want to tell us?
If you’re going through something and you feel alone, know that you are not. Someone has seen your struggle and that someone overcame it, you can too. Don’t compare your life to others; you’ll never be happy. If you have an idea of what you think life should be like, dead it; there is no way to determine how life is really supposed to be. Once you realize that life is not perfect, it will start feeling like it is. Accept and embrace your struggles, if you don’t they will become who you are. Learn as you go, learn as your grow.
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