Thoughts Untold

Last week, a student on the campus of North Carolina Central University was found deceased in his dorm room. It is unclear if the student died by suicide, however in the news article his family and friends stated that he would never harm himself. I did not know this young man, but I understand the dynamics of our community and our ability to hide things we are experiencing. I attempted to die by suicide and prior to me openly discussing my experience, I’m sure there were plenty of people in my life that would have said the same thing about me.

“I never knew that something was wrong” “He didn’t seem like the type to harm himself” “He had so much going for himself”

Below is a note that I wrote a couple years ago. I recently found this and felt like I should share:

Defining hurt can sometimes be tricky. Pain is described as an emotion that is gauge by a person’s perception but what exactly am I feeling right now.

Many people are with their families celebrating being together while I make my way down this highway. At times in the last couple of years my family gatherings haven't been that great due to the feelings that I have towards some of them and I just haven't felt a connection for some odd reason. I'm lost out here. It's hard for me to find a comfort zone. Yes many people may never know the struggles that I deal with internally on a daily basis but they are nowhere near easy.

Today is Christmas and this has been the worst day ever.

Do I want to cry? Do I want to reach between my legs and grab this smith and Wesson from under my seat? Do I want to load the chamber? Do I want to hold it to my head and pull the trigger? Do I want to aim at my leg and pull the trigger? Because if I aim at my head for sure I'll be dead but if I aim at my leg I will feel pain. Do I just want to experience pain to make sure that what I'm going thru right now isn't pain? Is what I'm going thru right now just a sense of my f***ed up perception? If I shoot myself and the endorphins send a signal to my brain telling it that I'm injured and that it hurts....will it clear up the confusion that I am carrying around right now? Will a simple response do the same thing?

Am I that f***ed up as a person and my mistakes can't be forgiven? The process of learning about oneself and others around you happens on a continuous basis but I’m not learning fast enough.

The voice in my head says, “Yes, you are f***ed up person”

I'm far from perfect and I don't believe I will ever be close to it?

But is the person that I want to be worth even trying to be? Would what I have done so far be etched in stone forever if I was gone? Could the legacy of my actions of the past be overcome by the words that I develop today?

The major question is, Do I f***ing believe I am worth it? No one else really matters when I attempt to answer that question. Mom. Dad. Nobody.

Shaun do you believe you are worth it? I don’t know

When that guy nearly ran me off the road about an hour ago, why didn't I let him? Why didn't I let him smash my front tire and send me to the concrete barricade? Why did I slam on brakes to avoid the collision if I feel the way that I feel?

As I reach in my backseat and grab the bottle of Hennessey I don't believe this can serve as my vice anymore. I have been in deep dark places before but this is beyond that. Way beyond that.

I'm not happy. Haven't been for a long time. But what will make me happy. I don't know if anything will.

September is Suicide Prevention Month and as I read this note, I can picture myself writing as if I was sitting in the passenger seat that day. Fortunately, I didn’t act on my thoughts of grabbing the gun (at that time) but some people who have thoughts of dying by suicide may not have that moment of clarity.

Sometimes all it takes is a small intervention to save a life but we also must be comfortable with discussing when something is wrong.

Change Is Not Easy

Last weekend, suicide claimed the life of a 25-year-old, former NFL player. I did not know him personally, but it remains a tragedy because a life was lost. Often when this happens, many questions may be asked but are never answered.

What was going on in his head? Was he sick? It couldn’t have been that bad…could it?

I am not sure of all the details of his career and life outside of the game but reading this story made me think of some of my own experiences with sports and my mental health.

Recently, I suffered an injury that required me to have surgery on my right knee and forced me to “sit down”. For people who know me, the hardest thing for me to do is sit still. But with a surgically repaired knee, I didn’t have much of a choice.

I have had plenty of injuries and a number of surgeries. As always, physical pain was not the hardest part to handle, it is the mental struggle that is overwhelming.

When the injury occurred, I knew exactly what happened and how long it would take to recover. As I attempted to wrap my mind around this ill-timed incident, I also had to deal with comments of “you should just leave sports alone”, “you are always getting hurt”, “why do you keep doing this to yourself?”.

It was like I was getting blamed for being active and doing something that I loved to do. I enjoy playing sports. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy the camaraderie of teammates. I genuinely love all aspects of sports. It serves as a stress reliever. It is a way for me to cope with this thing we call life, and now I have an injury that disrupts that. It is constant reminder of failure to remain healthy to do something that I love to do.

I do not want to hear “you need to stop because you keep getting hurt”.

A lifestyle change is not something that is easy to accept and actually do. For me, the injuries that I have suffered were not worth giving up something that I have done all of my life and I’m not even paid to do this. So I can only imagine the mental anguish an athlete experiences when they are told that they can no longer play on a level where they are compensated for their life-long dedication.

How would you feel if you dedicated your life to making good grades in school, earn your degree, and cannot find a job in your desired field? Many adults, young and old, are faced with this issue daily.

As we spend time and energy to things in our life; a career, hobby, or even a relationship…we dedicate a piece of ourselves. And if that thing is gone (whether by choice or not) a part of you leaves with it. This is not always easy to cope with but we must realize that we have the ability to continue on and work towards new goals although it may take some time to figure them out.

So, as I reflect on the story about Adrian Robinson, I think about his resilient efforts to pursue his dream. Again, I saw I did not know him personally but I can relate to mental beating it takes to pursue something that you love doing and you are faced with roadblocks on your journey.

What are some things or people who help you when you do not reach a goal that you have set for yourself?

How do you cope with not being able to do the things that you love to do anymore when it is out of your control?