I am Not Weak...A Black Man with a Mental Illness
No Longer Wear that Stigma
I admired the bridge as I drove across it and thought to myself, this would be a great place to jump and die. It has been nearly a decade since I thought about killing myself. Back then, I thought about suicide more than I thought about my children.
I was sucker-punched in the head when that thought manifested in my brain. "Is life really that bad that I would be so enamored with a bridge?"
It was a chilly day in Washington, D.C. The water below the bridge was aggressive, and I imagined it being frigid. If I decided to jump in, my body would immediately be swept away to eternity. I did not care if I ended up in heaven or hell. All of my problems and struggles would be gone forever. I convinced myself that I failed my loved ones and me.
Nearly a decade ago, I stuck a shotgun in my mouth and swore I was going to pull the trigger. My goal was to give my bedroom a new fresh coat of brain matter on the wall.
My ex-wife talked me out that unstable mindset. That would be the first of many attempts. I have to give my ex-wife a lot of credit for being calm in such an intense pressure situation. It was life or death for me, and each time, she talked me out of death. Thank you for your kind and calm words.
Presently, I am sitting in my car pulled over on the bridge. Rush hour traffic is quickly whizzing by my vehicle. My car shakes as each eager commuter flies by, not knowing that there is a person in that luxury car pulled over, plotting to kill himself.
I often ask myself, am I a weak man for contemplating ways to kill me? I resisted that death wish urge for nearly 10 years, so why would it resurface? I just lost my job, wrongly terminated, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
Or was it?
I had come to realize and accept that I am not a weak man because I got help when I needed help the most. 10 years ago, I checked myself into a mental institution because there was something wrong with my brain. The daily thoughts that I had were not rational. My mind was defective, and it needed to be fixed.
I believe that there is a stigma with mental health illnesses and being black. The myth and misconceptions surrounding African Americans and mental health promote stigma and block recovery efforts. Crying out for help gives the appearance of being weak. Instead of seeking out help, we deal with it ourselves. We keep the pain, the stress, and the anxiety bottled in. Deep inside of our heart and soul, those three things run rampant and slowly destroys us.
I decided that I no longer wanted to wear that stigma like a North Face jacket. I decided to get help. I wanted to live. Instead of thinking about ways of killing myself, I thought about ways of killing time and doing something positive with my life.
Accepting the fact that I did need help made me strong and brave. I was not worried about how my circle of friends and family would view me. I chose to be open about my mental illness to those close to me as a testament to being brave and not quitting on life.
10 years later, as I am pulled over on the bridge, the four years of therapy training quickly launched into action. Unlike 10 years ago, where I needed my ex-wife to convince me that life was worth living. I was able to talk myself off that bridge and recognize that my life isn’t over because of a minor setback.
When I reflect on that chilly day on the bridge, those thoughts scare me. Never would I thought that I would have a moment of weakness again and think about killing myself. However, I am thankful for being able to overcome and eradicate those thoughts from my head.
I drove away from that bridge with a smile on my face. I proved that I was not weak, and I conquered death, giving it the middle finger.