On Saturday, September 29th, the walk to end suicide was held to help prevent suicide. I attended this event to understand the importance of preventing and providing resources to stop suicide.
Doctors would treat a heart attack with immediate care. Most would not let their patient suffer silently and die. However, despite the fact that about half of all Americans will experience mental health issues, many will not get any help until they reach a critical state.
Conditions such as depression and bipolar disorders have early signs of warning but are often overlooked. Many mental health illnesses stem from childhood trauma that is left unchecked. Whether it may be abusive parents or just overloaded school workloads, adolescence is a prime time for mental health illness to take roots. This could lead people to develop serious illnesses that will stop them from being productive citizens of the world. It gets even worse when they see themselves as weak and do not get treatment. Most cases of suicide resulted from people suffering silently with their mental health condition. Fortunately, there is a developing culture that fosters acceptance about mental health illness.
“You have more of a connection to your peers than an adult and sometimes it’s more comfortable to talk to someone around your age.” says Andre Davis, a student from John F. Kennedy High School. Adolescences sometime can only talk to people around their age because they have no connection to an adult. There is a need to raise awareness about the early signs of incoming mental health illness.
May is the month of mental health awareness throughout America. During this time, there are widespread campaigns through social media in an attempt to get attention to the mental health crisis. Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness emphasis on the fact that people do not suffer alone and they do not have to endure mental health conditions by themselves. Outreach programs encourage people to look for early warning signs before it’s too late. In fact, that was the goal for 2016 mental health awareness month, summarized in their slogan B4STAGE4.
Mental Health issues are one of the main contributing factors to suicide, the 10th leading cause of death in America. Heart attacks cannot be ignored, so why should mental health issues?
The teenage years are usually the most difficult. But how difficult can they be? Everyone survives them and moves on into adulthood, right?
I always thought that I’d hate being part of a statistic. I’m constantly hearing about statistics of high school drop outs, pregnant teens, juveniles that enter the system. But I forgot of one of the most important statistics of all, teen suicide.
Had people accomplished killing themselves they may not have imprisoned, may not have ever conceived nor would they have had the choice of dropping out of school. There are far too many situations that would bring us to this thought of living or not.
“To be, or not to be: that is the question” Spoken by Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1
Now that I think of all these different statistics, and how I said I wouldn’t be a part of either one, I recall my past actions and come to the conclusion that I am too late.
School was easy up until middle school. That’s when my problems started. Slacking off and turning in my homework and projects late was unacceptable. My teachers did not accept my excuses and I was not dong as good as I used to in school.
I actually had to read to understand what was going on in the class when I used to only skim the books in 5th and 6th grade. I had more classes and more homework. Procrastinating made my life miserable.
I didn’t know it back then, but I was severely depressed and my weight gain made it clear. Unfortunately, I nor my parents were aware of this depression. I didn’t like going to school because I’d be made fun of. The boys used their calculators using the numbers: 55378008 and then gave me their calculators upside down. It looked like the word “boobless.”
Of course I was booless, I was only 13. But thanks to the few girls in the class that had developed much sooner, the rest of us were considered flat chested.
I had no friends, the only friend I had ditched me to be with the more popular girls. I still talked to her though; she was my neighbor and had been since the 2nd grade. At least when we got home, I had the chance to speak with her.
I was always grounded for my poor grades, but it didn’t really affect me in any way. I never went out anyway, didn’t have any friends to go out with and didn’t feel like going out since I was heavy and I knew it. All my clothes no matter how cute they looked on the mannequin looked horrible on me. I was also very dark at the time and my teeth weren’t straight. What I had was the prefect recipe for a total loser.
I continuously argued with my mom. Every time we had a conversation shed bring up school. “How is school going?” shed ask. I hated that question; it always led up to my grades. “Good” I’d reply. Then she’d come back with some smart remark like “Really? I just received your progress report in the mail today and it doesn’t look as good as you say.” Usually I’d leave the room in which we were in and head to a space where I felt good being alone. My room was my safe place.
There I would cry my eyes out at night from how bad life was. I’d write about it in a notebook. My thoughts and tears are stored in those notebooks. What’s worse is the secret I’ve kept within those four walls.
When things got real bad, I’d think to myself “If I just died she wouldn’t complain so much, she wouldn’t tell me that I’m a horrible daughter” …”maybe the best I can do since I can’t be an exemplary daughter is just to rid her of me and her problems will go away and so will mine”
I had taken a kitchen knife and stored it under my bed in between all the mess I had. Oh, that’s another thing, I was never tidy. My mom also took note of that during dinner or when she saw me watching TV. She always scolded me over school, my messy room and my “bad attitude.”
I’d place the knife in front of my heart. I could feel the sharpness of the tip of the knife against my chest. I would think to myself “Just do it you coward! Just end it all! NOW!”, but I felt like a coward I could not do it. I’d just cry with the knife in hand and hope that I’d fall asleep soon and not feel the pain I did.
Emotional pain is the worst. The only way to avoid it is to not think about it. But how do you not think about what you’re feeling? The only way was to feel physical pain. It would distract from the emotional pain at least momentarily. In that aspect I feel that some alcoholics and I shared a similar pain that we both attempted to get rid of, so I’d cut my hands, not my wrists because remember…I was too much of a coward.
I’d have little scars on my hands that I hid with long sleeve sweaters, those that had a hole for the thumb. Those were my favorite sweaters; they covered my scars and my secret.
One day I felt that I had had enough, I was too tired of being treated like I was the worst person in the world. Here came my mom and dad again with their sermon of “When are you going to change! When are you going to start caring for your future? When are you going to appreciate the efforts we make to put you though a private school?” I hated the sound of their voices. But I hated myself even more, they were right. We weren’t poor, but they did go through a lot to pay for my private school. A school and learning that I never truly valued, just like I didn’t value their sacrifices.
At that moment was when I thought to myself “Wow, Suzy, you really are a horrible person”…”you suck at life and you’re never going to change!” I had realized that it would in fact be best if I just left them, if I disappeared from their lives. There is a saying in Spanish “Mucho ayuda el que no estorba“… “The best way to help is to not get in the way.” I felt that I was in the way. That I was there to deprive them of happiness with all the problems I gave them.
That afternoon I remember it was December because as punishment I had to rake the front and backyard and I had to put out all the Christmas lights on my own. I headed to the restroom where I found aspirins; they were the generic kind, perhaps from Walgreens. I went into the kitchen and came out with a cup full of water.
Sitting in the dark small garage I didn’t want to think about the consequences so I just began popping a pill or to and taking a sip of water. It was taking too long for me to take just one or two pills at a time. I started taking handfuls and much bigger drinks of water. I was half way through the large bottle of aspirins when I started feeling sweaty. I was wearing a jacket because it was cold earlier, I took it off. I felt shaky. My hands were shaking like crazy yet I could not feel them completely. I was dizzy and felt sleepy.
My stomach felt horrible, it all seemed like a dream. “Suzy! Get in the car, I told you we were going to leave soon. Where were you?! Get in the car now!” my mom said. I followed her to the car. She started telling me things that I had not heard from her in a while telling me that she only punished me because it was “for my own good.”
She told me that I had to learn to be responsible and that if I didn’t change the way I was soon, my weak personality might make me a perfect target for others to push me around and persuade me to do things I shouldn’t do. She was right and I knew it.
She apologized for being so strict with me but that she did not want her only daughter to be a nobody when she grew up. I felt so sick, but I couldn’t tell her what I had done. She would hate me for it. Or she would think that I hated her. I did at one point, but she suddenly converted from a monster to the most important being in my life.
A few blocks away I screamed “stop the car!”..she stopped and I opened the door immediately. The stench was horrible, I don’t remember the last time I had thrown up. I could see many white spots in the matter, I suppose it was form all the pills I had taken.
I thank God for the second chance he’s given me. You may not be religious, but I believe it was Him who saved me. It was Him who took off my blindfold and revealed to me that my mother was not my enemy but my friend and my guide.
Every time I think about that day and the times I had the knife to my chest, I can’t believe it. There are always going to be times when we feel that we’ve hit rock bottom. The good thing is that once you find yourself in that situation, the only way you can go is up. I felt weak not being able to take my own life, but the true weakness was not being able to go on with it.
My life would have ended in minute or perhaps hours, but life is a journey of years to either create accomplishments for ourselves or make mistakes. Like any other human, I make mistakes but it my choice to learn from them or blame them on others. If there’s one valuable lesson I’ve learned thus far, it’s that the weak give up and the strong prevail. We’re as strong as we choose to be. Initially, I didn’t choose to be strong. I feel that I was forced into it.
Since then, I’ve been working on being more appreciative of my parents, their care for me, their support for me and the lifelong commitment they have of raising me. I appreciate each day and am grateful for those around me. I now feel strong enough to not let little things put me down, confident enough to trust myself and feel in control to make the right decision. How strong are you?