The first time I tried to kill myself, I was 11. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I just knew that I wanted to die. I found a razor blade in the medicine cabinet and remembered a scene from a movie where a woman slit her wrists and blood poured out of her until she died. I didn’t cut deep enough. It would be two more years before I tried again.
In 7th grade, I used the same method but instead of one cut, I gained enough courage and strength by then to press harder over and over and over again. It still wasn’t deep enough and blood didn’t pour out of me. I was convinced the scene in the movie was fake. The only thing I hadn’t considered was the scars left behind, and how visible they were. I was forced to see the school counselor and talk to her each week about why I did what I did. By that point, I couldn’t even acknowledge that I had in fact harmed myself because part of me believed that if I never said it outloud, it would all go away. The counselor said that I didn’t need to die, that I was seeking validation. For at least a month after this “episode”, I felt the eyes of judgement and pity from the people around me and it was one of the first times I remember feeling shame.
The scars on the outside faded and I filled my life with enough extracurricular activities to drown out the nagging whispers in my soul. Perfect grades, honors classes, and a college acceptance letter were the goals that helped me avoid the depth of my pain because at that time, God was the imaginary parent who held me at night when I was scared and Jesus was only a friend I met on Sundays or during Wednesday night Bible Study and I hadn’t yet figured out a way to incorporate either of them seamlessly into the other areas of my life.
By the end of my freshman year in college, there was nothing pulling me forward and I realized that I was completely alone. I lived alone, I had to leave my church because I was “out”, most of my family at that time was too caught up in their own thing to know how to reach beyond their own fears of embracing the outcast, and going from a school with hundreds of people to one with thousands of people proved to be taxing on my introverted soul. Thoughts of suicide were like locusts eating away my dreams and hopes for anything different. I was tired of just existing and not feeling connected to anything or anyone. The years had taught me more sophisticated ways to die and I decided that overdosing would be my best option. I was convinced that ingesting over 60 pills-a combination of sleeping pills, pain pills, and antidepressants-would do the trick.
I was so sure that I’d die that I divided all of my belongings with notes designating how I wanted things distributed and I wrote individual notes to family members and people who had influenced my life. When I woke up in the hospital with all of those strange faces looking at me, I felt like a kid again with everyone’s judging eyes searing into me but this time the scars were on my soul and everyone could see. I was so sure that there was no purpose for my life that I was certain this time would work…but it didn’t…and I knew I could never attempt suicide again.
It was then that I made up my mind that I was going to do something I had never done before: live.
I plunged into myself and into the deepest things of life and began seeking wisdom. I began reading everything I could find on psychology, sociology, physics, philosophy, religion, meditation, and exercise…and these became the pillars of my life. How did people live. How did life happen. Beforehand, I thought life was something that happened to me. That all of the abuse and trauma I had endured as a child was because of some karmic sentence on my life. I thought that my sexual orientation was always going to be a scarlet sign that set me apart from the world. I thought things would never change for me and that there was no space for me or purpose for me in this world.
It has taken many years, many tears, lots of bended-knee prayers, and pages and pages of notes, charts, and diagrams for me to discover my life. I now know that I am not controlled by the people around me. I am not my circumstances and life doesn’t happen to me; life happens through me. I am separate from the things around me yet I am connected to a force of energy much greater than myself that supplies me with the ability to co-create my very existence. If I had to speak to my younger, lost self, I would say, “There is no plan outside of us that we must follow. Life isn’t happening to us. The only plan is life, and how we live life is determined by our own choices and decisions. Don’t let anyone make you choose death or decide that you aren’t good enough.”
I have been able to release the pain of my past and successfully learn how to not get fooled by the temptation of seeking pleasure because my goals are not temporal, they are eternal. The meaning of life is not attached to the acquisition of things, it’s found in the presence of everything. My companions are peace, joy, and faith. I recall that September morning back in 2001 when I was looking up from that hospital bed, feeling the burn of all those judging eyes, and I am thankful that I was able to finally find my breath.