At the end of 4th grade, my parents divorced. My dad moved into his mother’s house temporarily. My mom, my older sister, and I moved in with her boyfriend and his family, which included his 8- and 6-year-old sons, his mother, his two male cousins, and his 22-year-old brother.
At first it was nice to be around kids my own age. I was happy they had a hoop in their backyard, and two parks within walking distance. I played basketball whenever I wanted.
But soon after, the hitting began.
It was random and never provoked. I would be doing homework, taking out the trash, washing the dishes, playing video games or basketball, or even sleeping—and my mom’s boyfriend would punch me. He often left bruises.
When I got angry, this was funny to him. He would say things like, “Do we have a problem?” and “What? Do you want to fight?” The feeling of being weak and powerless made me feel as though I was nothing, and that I deserved this.
My Mom Ignores the Beatings
You may be wondering, “What was your mom doing during these beatings?” There were several times when she walked past and ignored me while I was getting hit. Once she stepped over me on the floor while I was lying there in pain.
Everyone in our home except my older sister seemed to think the hitting was perfectly normal. I was the only one my mom’s boyfriend hit. My sister tried to talk to our mother about it. This led to my mother and sister arguing constantly and sometimes even turning physical themselves, and eventually to my sister being kicked out.
My mother didn’t just act as if the abuse wasn’t going on. At times it felt like she forgot that I existed.
This was a huge change; before the divorce, my mother was involved in my life. When I was younger, I studied karate and played drums. My mom came to my performances whenever she could. I felt cared about.
My dad has always been there for me. I see him almost every day. We work out, play sports, listen to music, or just go get something to eat. Back then I was playing football, and he came to almost every game. Whenever we are together it is just an enjoyable time, even if we are just in the car listening to music.
But I didn’t talk about my life at my mother’s house and he rarely asked. I chose not to tell him about the abuse. I never asked to live with him.
Still, my mom’s neglect hurt me a lot. When I had football games, I’d ask her to come, but she didn’t. I think these feelings of abandonment by my mother and powerlessness from the beatings were the catalysts for my depression.
Starting to Feel Less Emotion
By 7th grade, I wasn’t talking that much, and I wore a fake smile. After two years of beatings and my mom’s neglect, I began to feel less emotion. Numb. Over time, I bottled up every emotion I normally expressed. Soon my numbness enveloped me and turned into depression.
In March of that year, I had my first suicidal thought: that the world would go on if I died, and that everyone would be happier. I came home from school and sat in the living room with the lights off. I grabbed the biggest kitchen knife and held it against the middle of my chest. Then I dropped it while tears ran down my face. I couldn’t do it. I was scared to die.
I had similar thoughts throughout middle school. I was still mostly bottling up my emotions and showing a fake smile. But at random times and places, like when I was working out in the school weight room, I’d cry for up to an hour.
When I started high school, my mom and her boyfriend split up. My mom, my sister, and I moved into her parents’ home in Flatbush.
By then, I was too numb to even be relieved that I was away from the abuse. I could feel no joy, no sadness, nothing. Our living conditions worsened; we had to stay in the basement and my mother and sister had to share a bed, while I slept in the living room. Plus, my grandmother tends to say negative and degrading things about people, which reinforced that I was worthless and didn’t deserve to live.
My Depression Peaks
A lot of heavy vape users and smokers went to my new high school. I developed bronchitis, and the doctor prescribed medication for it along with a bottle of around 50 ibuprofen. After a few days, my depression peaked.
I wondered for so long, why couldn’t I die? One day after school when nobody was home, I sat down at the kitchen table and swallowed the rest of the pills in the bottle. I rested my head on the table and fell asleep. No one ever found out.
I suddenly awakened to my body throwing up every single pill. For a few weeks after this my depression subsided.
But gradually over the next few months, my depression returned stronger than ever before.
One day I skipped football practice and came straight home. I sat with the lights off in my sister’s room (where I knew I wouldn’t be bothered) and started to quietly cry.
Then I started thinking about more ways I could end my life. One December night, I took a subway to the Brooklyn Bridge, and planned to jump off. That night was very cold, but I didn’t feel it. The lights surrounded me as I stumbled along the bridge until I was roughly halfway across. I looked over into the water and saw an endless void of darkness. I believed it was a fitting place for a piece of trash like me to die.
A Chance to Get Better
But I was unable to jump. When I looked down at the water, I wondered what would happen when I died. I knew it would cause my dad and sister pain, and that is the last thing I wanted. I didn’t want to leave my sister alone.
I sat thinking about how little I mattered and started to laugh until tears started to run down my face. Then I thought, Why should I become another face on a shirt or a warning about the effects of mental health? If I am going to die, I might as well experience everything the world has to offer first.
Then I got off the ledge and walked back across the bridge. I got on the train and arrived home around 3 a.m. I sat on the stairs in front of my house just listening to the wind blowing against the leaves and the sounds of cars driving by. After about an hour I went inside and took a shower and went to bed.
Caught on Tape
My grandfather checks the security cameras outside the house every Saturday. He told my mother I’d left in the middle of the night.
My mom travels a lot for work, so it took about a month for her to approach me to talk. We sat down at the kitchen table. It was dark outside with a low-hanging mist, so the mood was already gloomy.
“What were you doing out there? Is this something you’ve done before? Left the house for hours during the night?” she asked.
I told her about the bridge, my thoughts of suicide, and that I was planning to kill myself that night. I told her about how for months I had just gone through the motions and wanted the pain that came with life to be over. About how I had finally straightened my resolve after years of being scared. Yet I didn’t say her neglect and the abuse were big reasons why, and she never asked. She didn’t say a word the entire time.
Then she asked, “Would you like me to get you a therapist?”
I responded with, “Sure. I have no problem with that.”
Then we both got up from the table and went into our rooms.
She didn’t even try to console me, but I had grown to expect her emotionless responses.
Finally Opening Up
I liked the therapist from the start. He’s Black, looks to be in his late 30s, and has a kind face. I immediately felt like I could trust him, and even though I was just 14, he treated me with respect.
After a few minutes, he realized I wasn’t comfortable talking around my mother, and he asked her to leave. We talked about the bridge and my suicidal thoughts and decided that we would meet every week. Also he invited me to join his boys group once a week where they talk about issues that we face as teenage guys.
I enjoyed the boys meetings and made some friends who had experienced some of the same things I had. They knew what it was like to feel worthless, be neglected, and feel no love from those who should show you the most love.
It felt great to talk out everything. It felt even better to get rid of some of the pain and animosity that I had built up over the years. Over time, in our one-on-one sessions, my therapist helped me realize that the abuse was not my fault, that I was just a kid forced to live in a toxic environment. That I shouldn’t blame myself and that I am not a worthless piece of trash.
He also helped me see that love is something that everyone needs. I have always been close to my sister and he helped me finally share my feelings about the abuse with her.
For the past two years, I’ve attended the boys group and talked to my therapist on a weekly basis. All this has taught me to talk through my experiences. Suppressing your emotions will only make your depression worse.
I’m not happy yet, but my depression is the lowest it has ever been. I want readers to understand that suicide isn’t a cure to your depression, it merely transfers your pain to those who love you. Getting through depression isn’t a one-day thing, you won’t just wake up one day and feel perfect again. You have to take it day by day.
I try to focus on what makes me happy, such as playing guitar, writing songs, playing video games, playing football, and just hanging out with my friends. If you try to see more of the good in life, it will get better over time.
By trying to focus less on the negative, I am starting to feel less depressed. I have my own room now that we’ve moved into a bigger house. I am more interested in my classes, football, and getting better grades. My relationship with my mom is still distant but I focus more on my relationships with my dad, my sister, my friends and my therapy group.
If you ever feel depressed or just need someone to talk to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.
- What contributes to the writer feeling worthless? How and why does his depression snowball out of control?
- The writer says that “if you try to see more of the good in life, it will get better over time.” Why can this be hard though for someone with depression?
- What ultimately helps the writer? Why is having people who understand what you’ve been through important?