The Truth About Suicide that No One is Telling You

A tale of two covers at Condé Nast – Columbia Journalism Review
Unspoken Truths abt the Epidemic of Missing Black Women & Girls
It’s Anti-Black to Side Up with People Raping Community Members
On suicide awareness days it isn’t always the person suffering that we need to address.

Not everyone is compassionate.  

Not everyone is compassionate every day.

I tell this story because not everyone survives to tell their story. 

They are gone now and you don’t know that they reached out for help. 

Only, “help” failed them that day.

I’ll never forget the day that I asked someone to drop me off at a hospital in Virginia (Virginia Commonwealth University/Medical College of Virginia). 

Saving Tonya

It was where I was seeing a psychologist for a long history of child sexual abuse. 

For those who don’t know, when you get treatment for trauma of this type you can feel worse long before you ever feel better.

I had made a contract with my psychologist, I’ll call Dr. Brown.   I agreed that anytime that I felt like hurting myself, I would reach out for help. 

This is a good thing. 

It keeps people who are in a temporary state of pain from reacting in the moment.  You just want this collection of dull, stabbing, throbbing, pinching, itching, and slicing pain to stop. 

When it gets to that point, it feels like all of the evils of life are beating up on you at once. 

I am now very slow to say the words “Go to hell”.  I know what that pain feels like.  I wish that pain on a very select few people. 

And, just think, in hell, they can’t end it. 

You know that suicide will end it once and for all.  But the agreement reminds you to check in with your rational mind for a just a little while

Hang on until help arrives. 

The Contract

I kept my end of the bargain. 

I called the hospital.  I talked to a pleasant voice there.  Dr. Brown was well known.  She was a professor and well respected among her peers.

The pleasant voice told me to come in right away and bring a bag with me. I might be staying.

I had been in counseling since my teens.  But Dr Brown was locating pain I didn‘t even know I was carrying. 

Through tears I just grabbed some clothes and threw them in a trash bag.

Why would I need luggage?  Luggage is for travelers who plan to return.  I didn’t want to live another day with this intense degree pain. I was going one way. 

I wasn’t playing.

Fast forward

In a room.  A psychiatrist on duty comes in.  One of their best. They say.

He is no short of horrible.

Because I have my clothes in a trash bag, he is certain that I am a homeless young person attempting to stay and gain entry in their hospital. 

He is so cruel. 
He is so demeaning. 
He is so angry. 

Wait. Wait. Wait?
He is a psychiatrist?
I kept checking his badge to make sure.

I tearfully explain that Dr. Brown is my psychologist that I see weekly for issues with child sexual abuse.  
I’m in college.  
I’m an A student. Really.  
I’m a single mother. (Save that for last. Stereotypes, you know.)

He knows Dr. Brown. 
They are colleagues. 
He says, “Yes, she is very good. 
You’re not feeling better?” 

 (He is accusing ME now. What is MY problem?)

“Not yet”  I try to explain.  

“It takes time.”

But then I stop. 

He is a psychiatrist. 

He knows this. 

Healing takes time. 

That is what….. he should be telling me.
He was toying with me. 
We both knew it. 

But I’ve seen that look on his face.  
No matter what I say.  
I am young.  
I am black. 
I am not yet wise. 
I don’t have access to financial resources that he may have. 
I am black.

Between one moment and the next something changes, inside of me. 
At first it scares me.
But I embrace it before the next second hits. 

 See, now I don’t want to kill myself.  
I am angry.  
I am in a storm cloud of rage. 

This emotion I know. 
 It doesn’t frighten me.
I’ve been here before. 
A lot. 

I yelled. 
I screamed.  
I made threats.   
That I intended to keep.  
The female nurse that was in the room with us moved closer to the door. 

Oh, I knew not to make threats to hurt myself or anyone else.  
Those threats could get me tackled and shackled.  
One doesn’t do that in a hospital setting.

Oh but there are so many other words that one can use when someone f%(* with you at just the right time you know.

I ordered him to get away from me. He was making me uncomfortable. This couldn’t be good for me. 

Dr. “Tacky” claimed that he wasn’t leaving the room.
 Of course he did.  
I was damn near hysterical.

They both walked out of the room. Backwards. 
I never saw him again. 
Later he sent the nurse in with discharge instructions.

That could have ended horribly for me for ALL of the reasons that I stated and then some. 

All I can say is, BUT GOD.

Self Advocacy
Before leaving the hospital, I contacted a patient advocate to report him.  
She wrote nothing down.  
She just looked at me with a blank look.

Days later I processed it with Dr. Brown and decided to focus on my own healing.  
But I hate that people who are in a temporary state of brokenness still encounter Dr. Tacky during their time of need. 

God help them.

We will never know how many people we have lost who found themselves in a state of pain and lost that battle when they encountered folks like these. Suicide isn’t one day.  
Suicide can be a season. 

Many people who die of suicide talk of it often.  Many people who die of suicide previously attempted it often.  Thank God in Heaven my season is over.

But during my season, I encountered quite a few people who were not kind, compassionate, consistently patient, or skilled across the various populations.  


What are we going to do about that? 

Readers have you had bad experiences when you reached out for help?  

How can we make certain that all people who need help get the quality of care that they need?



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