I didn’t think that writing about this chapter of my life would be this difficult. Looking back, it is extremely heartbreaking to know that I was once in such a dark place that I contemplated suicide multiple times a day, or even that I kept a bottle of painkillers under my bed for easy access in the event that I made the final decision to end it all. No one ever talks about the emotional and mental strains that brain injuries bring, so now, it is time to speak up. I hope by sharing my story, I can help others understand that they are not alone.
Before my brain injury, I would at times contemplate suicide in the events that I was really stressed with school or overwhelmed by circumstances in my life, but these were only occasional instances. I had never experienced these thoughts at the intensity and frequency with which I experienced with the brain injury. The depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts all seemed to come all at once. Like everything else, the suicidal thoughts would intrude as I became more stagnant in my recovery and especially when I made major strides in my recovery only to encounter a major setback. This cycle was deceiving and unbelievably debilitating. I questioned God, I questioned myself, I questioned my purpose. My life seemed like a joke now, I prayed to God for healing, but he didn’t seem to be listening at all. I cried to God to stop the head pain only for him to laugh at my tears. I felt like I had been forgotten and nobody understood what I was going through. My family, my friends, my teachers. Nobody understood the turmoil that my life was in.
When you feel worthless and purposeless, that is when you really wonder if it’d be best to just end it all. I often thought, “What’s the point”. I was doing everything right but was making no progress or what it seemed to be no progress in my recovery. I knew that I would much rather kill myself than live the way that I was living for the rest of my life. The thought of my dreams and hopes also going to die hurt me as well. I have always been a person who knew I would change the world in some big way, but my life was stuck for what had been six months with a brain injury. It was incredulous. But something inside whispered inside me that it was not over. That this was not the end for me.
I can remember the night that I almost gave up all too vividly. It was the night before my Poetry Out Loud competition (I know what you’re thinking, a Poetry Out Loud competition with a brain injury?!, yes I know. I shouldn’t have been doing it but it was my passion and nothing could stop me from competing, not even a brain injury). I had gone shopping with my mother to get an appropriate outfit, we had only been out for an hour or so and I began to feel a headache coming along. I knew that this wasn’t good, so I told my mother we needed to go home as soon as possible. As we got closer and closer to home, the headache only continued to grow. I remember getting home and going straight to my bed, to my darkroom. But, it was too late, it only continued and didn’t stop. I couldn’t sleep, I was awake and in an immense amount of pain. I cried and I cried, but the intensity only grew as I cried harder and harder. How cruel isn’t it? A headache that intensifies as you cry. This is the reality of brain injury headaches, they’re unforgiving and ruthless. I wanted out right then and there, I was angry that THIS could happen the night before my big day, I had practiced, I had rested and layed low for so long so that I could do well at this competition. It didn’t make any sense. I’m ashamed of it, but I cursed God for allowing it to happen. I remember taking pain killers… one, two, and three. I remember looking at the rest within the bottle and really considering taking more. I don’t know what stopped me. Some inner voice, God, I’m not sure, but something told me that my story was not over yet.
The reason as to why things like brain injuries happen to people, good or bad, is a mystery. Maybe that’s not the question that we should ask. Maybe the question that we should be asking is what are the situations that we go through teaching and showing us? Before my brain injury, my mental and emotional health were always an afterthought. I stressed myself out, taking on tasks that I couldn’t handle, saying yes to everything, doing everything and going above and beyond on it all. I would often have anxiety attacks that led me to hyperventilate and cry uncontrollably. I wasn’t taking care of myself, and I didn’t take care of myself until I was forced to. My injury forced me to take care of my body, my mind, and my spirit–all of which were vital for me to take care of in order to recover.
Today, I am so thankful that I didn’t give up. My only regret is that I doubted God and his plans for my life, but I’m just glad my story didn’t end there. I am thankful that I have this platform. I am thankful for all of you and my only hope is that you all understand that your life is not over. Reinvent yourself, find new purpose, never stop growing, never stop fighting. My life didn’t end with a brain injury and yours will not either.
Do not give up on yourself. You are worth fighting for.
Happy healing everyone,
*The suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255, they are available 24/7*