When people would ask me how I was doing, I'd reply, “I’m okay.” I plastered a phony smile on my face, stuffed my feelings in an emotional pocket, and went about my daily grind. From an external view, my life in 2007 seemed wonderful.
I was in my third year of college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and I shared a nice apartment with my boyfriend of one year. Together, we made enough money to live a comfortable life and our spare time was filled with exciting adventures and romantic getaways. But internally, I was drowning in self-doubt and depression.
Depression had been a close companion since my parent’s divorce when I was 8 years old. My journey with depression has been long and treacherous, filled with fits of rage, days of tears, and led to three suicide attempts. Excuses kept me in a constant state of confusion. I did not know if I was a deeply troubled youth who needed professional help, or if I was simply an angst-ridden teenager.
Late one cold night in October, after a series of unfortunate events, I swallowed 20 prescription pills and laid down in my apartment complex parking lot. I had become unhappy at my job and felt stressed about my intense college courses. I couldn't connect with my college classmates, and many of my old friends had distanced themselves from me. I was also dealing with unresolved self-esteem, body image issues, and anger/guilt about a past abuse.
As I writhed on the ground in physical pain, my phone started ringing. My boyfriend was on his way home and wanted to know if he needed to pick up dinner. I mumbled a few incoherent words as he recapped the events of his day. Suddenly he stopped.
“Tai’sha, are you okay? You sound like you are groaning. Are you in pain?”
“Not okay. I’m in pain. I took a lot of medicine and now I’m outside. I don’t think I’m gonna make it.”
I moaned and vomited on the sidewalk. I could feel my heart slamming into my ribcage. My thoughts were all over the place. I knew I was going to die. Somehow, my telephone disconnected and I closed my eyes. I wondered what he would think when he found me lifeless beside my car in a parking lot. As much as I wanted to care, I couldn’t fully process my emotions. I felt fear, anger, rage, and a deep longing to be a “normal” person.
The next couple of hours still play in my mind like a damaged video reel. Some moments are in high-definition and permanently singed into my memory. I can still feel the crisp autumn air on the back of my neck and the incessant churning in my stomach. I remember the horror in my boyfriend’s eyes and his trembling hands as he gathered me up in his arms. He let me lie down in the back seat of his car as he made his way to a nearby hospital. All I could see was flashes of streetlights mixed with ominous darkness.
During the car ride, I was not relieved about my impending death. Instead, I wanted to live. Other parts of my memory have failed me. I can’t recall some parts of that trip to the hospital and what conversations took place once we arrived.
When I woke up in the hospital, I was bombarded with questions from curious staff members. My boyfriend was also looking for an explanation for my behavior. I admitted my actions to him and he refused to abandon me. We spent the next few hours scrambling for a normal conversation. I wanted to know if we should spend Thanksgiving with his family or mine. He asked if I aced my Business Calculus test earlier that week. After a couple of hours and a few pamphlets full of resources, we went home.
As I surveyed my surroundings, I had an epiphany. I was tired. I didn’t want to walk the thin line between barely existing and desiring death. I wanted to fully experience happiness and joy. And, when sadness and grief came into the picture, I wanted to be able to process those emotions without feeling completely dejected.
A lot has changed in the past 7 years. After my suicide attempt, I decided to take my mental and emotional health into my own hands. With the support of my boyfriend, I began to see a therapist. Her practice was designed for people with low-income/no insurance and she poured her soul into helping others. I learned coping techniques, began journaling, and rediscovered my passion for poetry.
I was diagnosed with depression and seasonal affective disorder. For a while, I was on medication and it helped bring clarity and balance to my thought process. I stopped stuffing my feelings and started having real conversations with my loved ones about my emotions. And, I am now married and have two kids with that special guy -- my boyfriend from college.
Over the years, I have begun to open up about my story. To my surprise, other women around me had been through similar experiences. I found that many of my Black friends were suffering for the sake of being “strong Black women.” Many people avoided therapy and medication because they didn’t want to be labeled as a “crazy” person. Personally, I am tired of the stigmas surrounding mental health and depression.
I am not a therapist or mental health expert. I am a woman who has felt a lot of pain and tried to take my life. I still have my struggles, but I am fully invested in my emotional wellness. I may not be able to save the world, but I can use my platform as a writer to continue conversations about suicide and depression. The more we talk about it and the more information we share, the greater our chances are of saving someone’s life.
Reach out to others and ask them if they are okay. Smile at the sad looking man on the street. And, take care of yourself.