It Happened To Me: I Called The Suicide Hotline And Was Placed On Hold

My race of women are supposed to be strong. But the truth of the matter is that black folks battle with suicide just as much as the next person. We just don’t talk about it much.
Publish date:
December 12, 2012
mental illness, therapy, suicide, black women

I have had an on-again-off-again love affair with depression for some time. A few months ago, I found myself fighting with thoughts of suicide.

Everywhere I looked, I felt as if the grim reaper was calling out to me. When I focused my attention on the loft on the second floor, I saw myself hanging from the banister with a necklace of bed sheets around my neck. When I looked out of the kitchen window, I thought about throwing myself down the steep hill in hopes of breaking my neck.

This wasn’t the first time that I had struggled with suicidal thoughts. I have come to believe that this type of behavior, along with anxiety and depression, is a prerequisite to being a part of my family. My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother have all been institutionalized at some point for these very reasons.

I don’t believe in taking pills to be happy. And from watching others in my family, I feel that we have addictive personalities. Everyone is taking a drug for some ailment at any given time, so our family reunions have become more of a pharmaceutical swap meet. The times that I have been made to take pills, I will do so for a week and then hide them.

I had tried seeing a shrink on several different occasions before that morning, but it was expensive. On the rare occasions that I did have insurance, the co-pays were sickening. I figured for that much I could just buy a purse or something to feel better.

Driving on the highway for long periods of time soothed me, but only for a while. I began to envision myself driving through a red light or on the wrong side of the road. And although I cared little for my own well being, I thought it would be selfish to hurt others. (Even in sickness I had manners.)

Sex kept the thoughts away for a while, but my lovers started becoming put off when I cried as we screwed. And they were too chicken-shit to inflict the pain on me that I craved so I couldn’t find sustenance there either. However, a close second to grudge fucking and domination was tattooing. After 16 tattoos, like everything else, the needle lost its strength in the battle with the voices in my head telling me jump off a cliff.

While standing barefoot and practically naked in the kitchen, I tried thinking of a reason, any reason not to open the kitchen drawer. I heard my mom whispering in my ear to slice upward –- the right way. For once I would make her proud.

I opened the drawer and found the knives my ex-girlfriend's dad had given her. They looked old as shit but her father was a hunter who loved knives, so every time he visited, he would sharpen hers. The knife felt like salvation in my hands.

My race of women are supposed to be strong. We don’t get depressed and we damn sure don’t go off and kill ourselves. At least this is what we say in public. But the truth of the matter is that black folks battle with suicide just as much as the next person. We just don’t talk about it much.

I wanted to be strong. I begged for strength. I prayed for strength. I was screaming from within for someone to save me but no one came. So I pressed it against my wrist and was starting to cut flesh when the thought of my teenage daughter sleeping upstairs stopped me.

My daughter had borne witness to my bouts of uncontrollable crying and subsequent rage. But I had done my best to keep my attempts on my life secret. So that morning a voice told me that she didn’t deserve to have the nightmare of seeing her mother dead haunt her for the rest of her life. I didn’t want her to find me in a puddle of blood on the floor.

So I decided to call the suicide hotline. My hands were shaking violently but I was able to hold tight to the phone in one hand. I kept the knife in the other. After a few rings, I was greeted by a recording, and then a separate computerized voice came on to tell me to please hold and my call would be answered by the next available operator. Someone was coming to save me, as long as I was willing to wait 5 to 10 minutes.

I resorted to texting my ex-girlfriend:

I’m standing here holding this knife and I called the suicide line but they placed me on hold. I can’t have Malani find me dead on the kitchen floor. I know you hate me right now but please help! Please!

She called back and was able to keep me on the phone long enough to calm me down and talk the knife out of my hand.

I tried to hurt myself one other time after that. This time I chose pills. Again I tried to call someone, but no one answered and so I just kept counting and started taking. Fortunately for me, the pills knocked me out before I could continue. It was then that I decided to get help.

I’ve been seeing a counselor every week now for about five months and as a result, my attempts have subsided. I look forward to our talks and figure that I can’t off myself until I tell him the gossip from around my office that I heard the week before. I don’t think I ever truly wanted to die. I wanted peace from the torment that raged inside of me. I wanted to forget the pain I have carried inside of my heart for so long.

But I have a choice. I can choose not to let my demons carry me away just as simply as I choose to wear 5-inch heels in the office. I take it day by day now. I work a full time job, go to school full-time, and write my ass off along with a bunch of other activities.

Every once in a while the temptress will call out to me. However, now I choose to live.

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