A Life Day Celebration
September, as much as it means to so many in bringing awareness and advocacy, is not so much my month. October is.
October 12, 2012. That is the date etched for me.
It would be very easy for me to wash over and type a bunch of “I made an attempt”, “things got rough”, “I had a rough patch”, or all those other things I have spent half my life taking the “sting” away saying. And maybe I am still not getting it “right” in someone’s eyes. However, I strongly believe that my inability to use the actual word suicide from age 14 until now has made getting help much harder than it should have been at times. It is a clear word, with a clear meaning and I eliminated it from my vocabulary because of fears that came from many places. Its elimination has made speaking to folks at intakes and on crisis lines very difficult and frustrating because I spend the interactions begging folks to please read between the lines I’m painting. Desperate for them to see the thoughts I am not allowed to say.
October 12, 2012, I attempted suicide. The aftermath for years would be fuzzy, confusing, upsetting. I would feel anger, rage even, sadness, also thankfulness and joy and then cycle right through those same emotions.
Several years on the anniversary I would end up back in hospitals or other programs voluntarily or involuntarily seeking/getting help.
I have had many inpatient stints, in many states, with and without private insurance. An observation I have made and that in conversation I have confirmed I am not alone in noticing as what seems to be a common truth, is the disparities in the treatment for people of color and the availability of what I am just going to call “legit, sensible care and help”.
Now in my 30s I am finally realizing the extent of it all. I was first hospitalized at age 13. I was taken an hour away from my community because the only hospital near me was in an “urban environment” where it was not believed I would thrive. However, doing this meant that I was the only person of color on my unit and that my parents on visiting day had a 2-hour round trip drive. I just now realized that while preparing to write this.
Back to the word “suicide”. There are many reasons using that word has always been hard for me. Some of them are steeped in faulty beliefs I pieced together due to religious teachings I made confetti of in my head and allowed to swirl around for far to long. The reaction to telling someone the extent of how I am really doing has always felt punitive. Instantly sent somewhere or having something taken away all because my mental health is not up to par. Thanks to certain experiences that replay in my head, I would often rather suffer in silence than ride in the back of a cop car, be placed in environments that increase anxiety and reignite feelings of trauma.
My first experience as an adult being hospitalized in my current state, upon being honest with a therapist and using the word “suicidal”, I found my sullen, sad self in the back of a cop car. A cop car, a place I had never been. I have never been arrested, and never had any reason to have been transported anywhere in the back of a cop car. Mind you, this wasn’t my first “mental health run in” with the police. They showed up at my door when I was a teenager because they were faster than the EMS we called for in a medical emergency. I was upset at the time for good reason and to “calm” me down they threatened to cuff me.
So when I see the stories, the unfortunate, the disgusting, the devastating, sad stories of destroyed human life of my brothers and sisters on the news living with mental health conditions where help was called for but went awry. It hits for me. It hits for me, but I can no longer let that fear drive me into the same ground these ignorant folk want to drive me into. So I will learn to be strategic, to advocate for myself, and to surround myself with people who will help do the same for me. Most importantly, I will not be silent anymore. I will say the words I need to say when I need to say them for all who will and need to listen.
***Please take a few minutes to listen to the track "Free/Crazy" if you have not already for a different look at my experiences navigating the mental health system.***