For the Little Black Boys who Dream of Suicide
Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, mental trauma or a crisis, please reach out immediately to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800–273.8255. This blog post is not intended to be a replacement for professional help. Everyone deals with stress, anxiety, depression and mental duress in their own way. Not everyone has all the tools and It’s not an easy task to seek help. However, you are definitely worth it. Talk to someone.
Additionally, people wanted to know more about The Neighborhood Finance Guy. So instead of money, I wanted to cap up the 3rd QTR of 2021 with a personal story. I never want to mislead people to think that my life was filtered perfection. I went through my share of trials and tribulations.
Dealing with Childhood Abandonment
Growing up, I often found myself in a corner. At first, I didn’t have a name for it. One day, I came to know it as the Abyss.
One of the most troubling realities about being a Black boy or girl is the insane Adultification that you go through when you are still just a kid.
Jocelyn Smith Lee, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, said it best “What does it mean for a group of young men to figure out who they are when their peers are being killed?”
How can you process the pain without the necessary tools. Unfortunately when parents are unable to deal with their trauma, they often revisit that trauma on their kids.
Then came the community labels, i.e. trouble makers, violent, gang members and drug dealers.
“ You will never amount to anything” and “ You wont live passed 21.”
I was 9 years old when I was stopped by the cops under suspicion for theft and drugs. I was 9. Beyond police harassment, many deal with separations, divorce, violent neighborhood, verbal, physical and mental abuse; others like myself deal with abandonment.
What’s Abandonment and why do you still have issues?
Abandonment issues take root when a parent or caregiver does not provide their child with consistent warm or attentions. This often leave the kid feeling chronic stress and fear. These experiences germinated in childhood and continue well into adulthood.
Good Therapy state that abandonment fears can impair a person’s ability to trust others. They may make it harder for a person to feel worthy or be intimate. These fears could make a person prone to anxiety, depression, co-dependence, or other issues.
Starting a New School Year with Trauma
Every time that I started a new school year, the teacher would ask me my name. As with any kid, I proudly said my name is “.”
It’s sad, I don’t recall even one teacher moving down the roll call without interrogating me about my name. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. Throwing me in a line up would be more humane in retrospect. At least I would have been alone, instead of standing out.
Their tone was always accusatory, as if I made it up. As if I gave myself, my first and last name as a gag. Some would go the extra mile and ask me about my parents. I was 3.
I didn’t have any. Nor did I understand why. Unlike other kids, I didn’t meet my parents until 6 or 7.
They split before I was born. My father left my mom several months pregnant and traumatized.
He left her alone, in the middle of nowhere. She walked for miles seeking help.
Since my mom couldn’t work and pay daycare, she sent me to live in Haiti instead. I watched other kids with their parents and couldn’t understand why I didn’t have my own. By the time, I was sent back to live with her; it was too late.
Nothing can grow on barren soil. Too much time lapsed. And, too many issues had festered.
She would eventually leave again.
My mom cited that I reminded her of him (my father), a person that I spent a total of 8 hours with, in my entire life. I was back to square one, the Abyss. By that time, I was living with my aunt. In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy, at least this arrangement provided shelter. The Free or Reduced school meal in high school provided passable sustenance and motivation to get to school on time.
What used to be a literal corner, I learned to carry the pain. I was angry. It was as if, I had a shadow. I blamed people that I barely knew and hated them profoundly. Because they weren’t around, I blamed the closest person to them, myself. I turned most of that anger into fuel.
I’ll give you a hint, this type of trauma eats you up alive. It gives you destructive strength that attracts violence and malice towards you. It compounds your trauma with interest.
How a Piggy Bank taught me a $30 Budgeting Lesson
I owned a metal Piggy Bank with what I now assumed to be $30 worth of silver $1 coins. I was determined to make that work for maybe three months. It was my reserves if I were to starve. It eventually ran out. I still own that Piggy Bank today: I’m somehow indebted to its contents.
Luckily, I became old enough to work at McDonald’s. Getting paid $5.15 per hour was rough but I eventually earned $5.45. It’s insane that people still think they can support a family while working for minimum wage. This couldn’t even cover the burger, fries and drink combo.
I remember walking home and thinking this was a miserable experience. Stuck taking Honors classes with privileged people who didn’t share my struggle nor my values. Their grievances felt juvenile by comparison. They shared intricate stories about their weekends hanging out, attending birthday parties and going to the movies. Often, they complained about their parents who’s only flaw was caring too much.
They were so childish. I hated them for it.
Payback, Anger and Revenge
In my anger, I wished that I could merely exists. To mimic their lives, to blend into their side of the story. The part of the roller-coaster that never went too far down. Inversely, I wish I could die with the goal of not trying to out think my way out of my own reality.
“I wanted to make anyone that discounted me, paid for it.”
To leave them with endless torment, wishing that they could have done it all differently. Only to realize that my death was preventable. By proxy, I wanted them to wonder if my life was also preventable.
I wrestled with the how. The details and the quickest way, or even a way that it could be accidental so that God wouldn’t punish me directly. In retrospect, I wasn’t thinking straight at all.
Didn’t go through with it
I thought of suicide but instead I kept going. The same Abyss that I stared at for so long, eventually stared back at me. It eventually engulfed me on a Sasuke level.
I’d be lying to you if I said I found some divine purpose. That in some way, I chose to prove them wrong. Nor did the cycle of trauma dissipate. I had a few more chapters to go and a few more nerve to severe. Powering through the pain was my only solace.
I met a Girl…
She was walking through the hallway of my new high school. I was ditching class at the time. She was putting up flyers and I asked why.
Her response was so authentically blissful that in some ways pulled me back from the dark. I don’t remember what she said, but I remembered how she made me feel.
I learned to spot other people’s pain. Here’s a hint. You find it between the pause of the words, when eye contact breaks, and a bit of the mask cracks. She had her trauma but she chose to be happy anyways. She ended up being a doctor. It wasn’t clear then but I eventually told her thank you.
From that moment, I started helping others. No explicit benefit to me. No money exchanged. I even gave blood religiously. It was a simple concept.
Show up for others, like you would have wanted someone to show up for you.
To close the cycle of trauma, I had to do something externally selfless.
I found myself on the journey
Over twenty years later, I can say that I still have my childhood trauma. I can’t get rid of it. All of it made me who I am today. I became resourceful because of it. Traveling the world and adapting to language and cultures. Connecting with people like me and attracting those who need me.
We aren’t what they made us out to be.
We can choose to stay in the corner or turn and walk away from it. To the little black boy that dreams of suicide, know that you mean more to the world and you owe it to yourself to move FWD.
You didn’t ask for the pain. Ultimately, no one deserves it. So my task for you, become the hero so that we can help others find their light and so that the world doesn’t create monsters out of us.
They don’t get to decide.
“These might be the dark corners that others avoid… but we turned them into our homes.”
Resources and Additional Articles
- The Burden of Being ‘On Point’, Adam Harris (April 26, 2021) — Too often, traumatized Black boys’ behavior is pathologized. It’s actually rational.
- Toxic stress and children’s outcomes, Leila Morsy and Richard Rothstein (May 1, 2019) — African American children growing up poor are at greater risk of disrupted physiological functioning and depressed academic achievement
- Helping young black men move past histories of trauma and violence, John Rich, MPH (April 30, 2019) — In a video, a young African American man named David narrates the story of his life over a series of portraits and images of his Philadelphia neighborhood. He describes the trauma of watching loved ones die from gun violence, and the fear that he would be next. In photos, he adopts a protective posture, hunched over to save his brain and heart.