September 4th through 10th is National Suicide Prevention week. It’s an important topic to discuss, especially as we are seeing a dramatic rise in violence against LGBTQ people. Join me as I share my personal story around suicide and some facts and figures to draw light on a much needed topic of conversation.
- suicide is the second largest leading cause of death among young people between 10 and 24 years of age – LGBTQ youth are at a significantly increased risk.
- LGBTQ youth are more than 4x likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts
- Facts from the Trevor Project state that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth (13-24) will seriously consider suicide each year. That is one person every 45 seconds and only in the US
Deal with the darkness
I do not share a lot about the darker parts of my life. For most, I project an aura of strength and control, airing on arrogance. For many, it would come as a shock to find out that I, too, contemplated suicide a few times in my life. What would come as a bigger shock was my first time contemplating it.
As a kid, I knew I was different than most people I was around. By the time I started kindergarten Ihad already spent a great many hours at doctors offices being poked and examined for things I was going through. I had several visits to an allergy doctor where I spent hours laying on my back or chest with multiple needles being stuck into my body.
Each needle carried a different vector of allergens to be tested against me. I would be poked, injected, and then watched to see the kind of reaction I would have. No one kid I knew went through this kind of torture. At a very young age I became frustrated with the constant doctor visits and hearing about how I was allergic to many things in nature and what ones would kill me. I started to feel like a burden, how does a child that hasn’t even started school start to have ideas that they are a burden to their parents???
This escalated in kindergarten when I started having a ringing in my ears. I didn’t tell anyone about it for awhile but it became distracting at school and combined with having issues seeing the board in classrooms made it very difficult for me to focus on what was needed. I was made an example of and moved to the front of the class because my teacher thought I was a slacker and simply not wanting to pay attention. My issues seemed to worsen daily.
I felt isolated, ashamed, and like I did not belong. I would hear things that no one else did and it started bothering me due to being picked on about it. I finally had reached my limit. I sat down with the paper we learned how to write on and a pencil and wrote a letter to my mother.
I told my mother that I felt like a freak. I head things that no one else did, I couldn’t see what was being written on the board in class, and that I felt like I wasnt supposed to have been born. I went further to tell my mother that I felt she and the family would be better off if I did not exist. The high pitched sounds I was hearing had to be saying that something was wrong with me and since she had spent so much time with me at doctors already, my not being alive would be easier on her. I ended the letter with telling her I wanted to go away. At that age, I didnt truly understand the concept of suicide but knew that if i didnt exist, my mother wouldnt have to deal with my problems. I put the letter in her purse and cried myself to sleep that night.
The next day my mother, upset, decided to take me to the doctor. Once in the examination room, she handed him my letter and I knew I was in trouble. The doctor focused on the problems I had listed, starting with eyesight. He suggested that I go have my eyes checked by an ophthalmologist and possibly get glasses. Next was the ringing in my ears. He did everything he could to find some physical reason for what I was hearing but could not find an answer, everything was normal. He stated to my mother that man kids have this issue as they are starting to grow and it’s natural. He did mention there are conditions in the ear that can cause it but I was too young to follow what was being said. I was scared about this conversation.
The visit changed to the doctor talking to me, directly, about the nature of my letter. This part becomes harder to remember as emotions like fear and sadness overtook me. I knew I was in trouble for what I wrote, mainly because I was familiar with the tones being used as my teacher had similar tones when she talked to me about a picture I painted in class. At that point, the doctor started talking to me and asking questions. I quickly realized I needed to tell him what he wanted to hear or I would be in more trouble. He became satisfied with my answers and told my mother that he felt I may not have fully understood what I wrote. Then I was asked to go to the lobby while he talked to her. The next week after that my mother treated me somewhat differently. She seemed to tiptoe around things and make sure I was happy. I was left still feeling like an outcast that didnt belong in her life. I never left her that kind of letter again.
It wouldn’t be until sixth grade that I would have another time of contemplating taking my life.
The other side of the mirror
I am not sure how, at that age, I understood to any degree what it meant to say the things I did in that letter. I do remember how I felt before, during, and after I wrote it. I still have many of those same feelings to this day. Some I have learned to embrace and others I have learned to cope with. But no child should have to entertain thoughts of how better someone’s life would be if they did not exist in it. Thankfully, I had a mother who had the emotional capacity to seek help with what I was going through and tried her best to understand it.
In 2020, nearly 46,000 people died by suicide, that translates to 1 death every 11 minutes. In the time it has taken you to read this article, at least two people have taken their lives. No child should ever have to feel like they are better off if they did not exist. No one would have to mourn the loss of a child or close friend to suicide. We must do everything we can to raise awareness of the issues that lead so many to contemplating suicide.
If you are experiencing feelings of suicide and need help, Ohio Suicide Hotline is there to assist. You can call in anonymously to talk with someone at (216) 251-7722. If you are a teen who needs assistance, please be sure to check out Suicide Prevetion for Teens website. You can also find more resources for help on my Links Page.