This is my narrative and the truth the way I see it at this point in time. What I say is not fact nor fiction, it is simply a retelling of how I perceive the world around me. I encourage my readers who are struggling with mental health to approach with caution. It is not my intention to trigger anyone into unhealthy behaviors. I hope this starts a dialogue for people to come together; unafraid to discuss difficult topics.
the thirst was unquenchable…
Growing up I learned to control how people viewed me. I taught myself to be selective about the reality I allowed others to see. Choosing only to be vulnerable when it served a purpose or it felt safe but rarely disclosing everything. It may be shocking to loved ones and friends to know that I am a private person. From the outside looking in, I am perceived as an open person. People have often characterized me as the “relatable one” or “real.” However, it feels like I am only seen for the fragments of who I am and not the full being.
As a young boy I recall watching my parents and listening to their conversations. I noticed how my parents navigated between language, switching from Ebonics to “white people talk.” This process is known as code switching. African Americans often use this in order to be understood in predominately white settings. As one of the few black students in my schools growing up, this skill came in handy as I navigated between worlds. I learned to express myself in different environments and translate my life to different people.
I learned later that not everything is able to be translated. I learned this when the struggle of my black experience was not understood by my white peers. I learned this when members of my own race told me I was not black enough. I lived my life in the middle of two cultures without a place to call home. I was different and it was not only my background that made me odd. My oddities stretched through lines of socioeconomic status, gender, and religion. I separated my humanity into parts and divided them around. I was one person, stripped into pieces.
Early on I realized how differences created divisions and history supported me in that. Nations have fought against nations in order to separate who belonged and who did not. I lived in constant fear that I would never belong… So I suppressed all of my strange habits and obsessions deep within me. Although I believed it was right to find common ground, by embracing commonalities, I failed to live authentically.
Initially I only wanted to be accepted; the thirst was unquenchable. I longed for something deeper. Even more than I wanted to be accepted, I wanted to be known. I desired to be seen for the fullness of who I was. Wanting to be vulnerable and willing but unable to convince myself to allow it. My heart was in deep pain and I wanted someone to know. I wanted someone to know without telling them.
Frequently I would lose myself in daydreams. When I closed my eyes I could see my funeral and everyone I knew crying for me. All the pieces of me would be in one room. There my pain could finally be understood. I did not want to die, but my soul longed to be free. I thought about my death on regular basis. I pondered who would find me and how they would react. Looking back, it is clear to me I was going through some difficult times, however, I dismissed the signs that things were headed to a dark place. I called myself dramatic and crazy. I did not want to take pity on myself so I ignored it.
There was a moment in which I could not deny the seriousness of what was happening inside of me. I remember lying in bed unable to sleep, wrestling with the same thoughts of death. I had not reached a breaking point and I did not feel anymore empty than I had before. I can not recall the exact thoughts that went through my head following that moment – none of it felt real – but I remember standing on a chair with one end of my belt tied above me and the other to my neck. “Remove the chair,” the inward voice told me but I could not. I removed the belt and stepped down from the chair. I sobbed the rest of the night. “That was real,” I thought, “that actually happened.”
Not long after that I began reaching out. I spoke to a counselor and shared with my peers. I learned what it meant to be vulnerable and those who were close to me learned how to listen. I felt loved and seen for the first time in a long while. I did not feel I had to hide myself any longer.
I could never have imagined being pushed back into hiding. What I did not know then and what I know now, is that there were worse feelings to come… (Part III coming soon).
I think it is important that I speak directly to you. I am not a licensed counselor and this is not an advice column. If any of this hits home to you then it should tell you that you are not alone in your struggle. We are together in this. If you feel that you desire to harm yourself or that you do not want to be here please contact the the suicide hotline listed below. There is absolutely no shame in reaching out. I love you so much! You are seen here!
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255