Trigger Warning Written by the Author:
[Disclaimer: Possibly a whole lotta triggers. This is my own personal experience with suicide, and I am not, in any way, trying to speak for anyone else. I know dealing with suicide can be a lot, and I don't want to trigger or harm anyone. So, if the topic is too touchy, please don't read this.]
Running through hallways, gliding through doors
Sometimes i don’t even feel my feet touch the ground
Until i reach the stairs.
Blocks of stone, bone-crushing and
suddenly i’m not invincible anymore.
They haunt me, whispering the thing
no one knows about me,
kissing and taunting the balance in my steps
because they know my bones are lucid dreaming—
if they could,
if they had that kinda power,
they’d be enjoying the crash of self
of matter, of body, of soul
again and again against the stone
they believe that there’s a peace there,
a euphoria that i’ve never had.
every day at the stairs
my bones tell me of their theory,
expecting me to wake them up
and make their dream a reality...
and the stairs prepare themselves
for the crash
and i am
so i pause, and i give my silent tear to god
and pray that my balance does
not sway, that i descend in grace,
that my life does not dissipate against
the stone of yale’s construction,
that i do not destruct,
that if i die, i die by the love of mother earth
that me and soil are one some day,
but not today God,
please, not today—
and i move,
investing my all into this
preservation, but the ache
in a dream of my own
i still expect the fall.
My mama burst through the door like always and just stood there. “Whatcha doin’?” she asks, child-like. I shrug, my hand nervously tapping against the mousepad. She stands there, still watching. And then she left.
This was one of very few days where she didn’t loom over my shoulder and ask a thousand questions, and God knows I was thankful for that.
I thought about if my mom were to glance at the tabs I had open. Google Drive, Google docs, and “When you feel suicidal but you don’t want to die.” She’d look at me, tears welling up, confusion and anxiety. Maybe anger too. I could hear her monologue being thrown at me:
“You doing so good for yourself, you coming up, and you haven’t even had a taste of life yet. And you want to take your life? You only 19! Where did I go wrong? What’s-what’s wrong?! How could you do this to your family? We’d all be heartbroken for months—YEARS, wondering whatever happened to you?”
What ever happened to me?
It was the first semester of my first year of college, first year of Yale to be exact. The workload was a little heavy and finding decent people to connect with was a lot. There were all of these moments of trying to stay afloat, trying to appear fine. Yale’s performative culture (another post for another day, maybe) sucked me in like a vacuum; I was a poor black kid from the hood, honey. I had everything to prove. Wealthy or poor, white or POC, we were all trying to be absolutely fucking amazing 100% of the time. And although anyone can agree that college is easily some of the best years of your life, it is definitely far from easy.
You’re free and autonomous, and you get to exercise this idea… with a safety net. And I did just that. I observed myself more than anything around me, immersing myself into constant new ideas, yanking myself out of a toxic relationship, damn near giving myself deadlines to figure out who I was while trying to sound educated enough in my papers, find my voice in my seminars, and look damn happy doing it.
And part of me was happy. I was invigorated and free, and I felt the freedom to explore in every gust of wind, every Saturday night, every curse I gave to my 9 AM. But suddenly things weren’t okay; I felt like I was out of control. Suddenly, I was running on this treadmill that wouldn’t stop, wouldn’t slow down, wouldn’t give me time to think. Suddenly, I felt myself becoming a machine. Suddenly, I felt like I was out of my league. The rough and tumble of trying to reach impossible standards and finding myself in the process led me to a ledge, a ledge that my feet so closely danced with.
A battle between people pleasing and a slow weakening, being suicidal is an ebb and flow of many emotions, many thoughts, many fears merging and separating. Somedays you are in the clear, the next you’re still happy but you still wonder how quick it’d be if you actually fell down the steps and cracked your skull. Somedays depression sits on your chest, its weight crushing you mercilessly and you wonder if you even have the energy to even think about living another day. Somedays its nothing. Somedays its everything packaged together with a black bow, and you stare at the kitchen knives twenty seconds longer than usual.
There’s an interesting intersection between suicide and my black womanhood. Honestly, it’s one helluva mix. Here comes this universally taboo concept creeping into my life and having the nerve to settle in with my southern baptist, low middle-class family. Our sight is supposed to be on God and on the bills, to make sure the kids don’t “get in no mess” and make it out the ghetto so the family can finally see picket fences and manicured lawns. We are raised in homes that build us up to be super heroes, invincible and indestructible extraterrestrials that are meant to save the black family (maybe I’m tripping, maybe I’m not), and in this life there’s no room for fuck ups. There’s no room for second guessing and feeling like anything less than the women we were raised to be.
The very thought of doing something so dangerously selfish often leads me to dwell in conflict within myself. How could I be so selfish? As a young educated black woman slowly climbing to be a pillar and influence in her community, the most clear path to getting her mama and her cousins out the hood-- who am I to do that? No really, who do I think I am?
With that question comes a sad and haunting truth that I’m not sure if anyone, any black girl has ever put into words. My main reason for not ending it all is not even for the preservation and happiness of myself. As unhappiness and fatigue consumes me I’m still holding on to be a savior and sometimes even a mule for others. My life doesn’t even feel like it’s mine enough to end.
To fathom the infiniteness that is death is core chilling, spine shattering. It’s agonizing to wrestle with succumbing to death, but fearing how absolutely unknown, how new it is. The thought of leaving everyone you love and everyone who loves you is agonizing. The only thing that seems to hurt worse than being here is hurting the people who’ve been a part of all the good days, making memories with me that always seem to intervene when those other thoughts start to seep through. And the thought of all my hard work going to waste is a burden, too. Through all the pain, I have made many great strides and I’m proud of the success that I’ve achieved. I worked long hours, I made sacrifices, and I never let setbacks consume me. I always got up time and time again, no matter who or what knocked me down. So why would I give that all away?
Because it ain’t enough.
It’s not always enough to think about my smiling mama, and my crazy little sister, and my ride-or-die cousins and how bad they’d miss me. Sometimes the awards on the wall can’t compensate for the ache that grinds in the pit of my stomach. Even after all those thoughts and the small smiles and pats on the back that they give, the ache still grinds. The depression still sits, and the anxiety is always ready to play.
For so long, I’ve yet to truly show up for myself.
I feel like there should be a proper ending to this, but it just won't come. Just be patient with yourselves, ok? Show up for yourselves, show up for even the strongest of friends.
By Zyria Rodgers.