How did I get here? Heading to the highest place I can find, in contemplation of jumping and falling to my death. I had always feared death before this point, but now it seemed the only logical solution. I seemed to have it all going my way. So why would a medical resident in a coveted training program in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, with a loving family and a beautiful, supportive wife, want to end his life? The answer is not as simple as some would lead you to believe. “Oh, he’s a coward, lazy, doesn’t want to work, selfish.” While all these things I may be, just as any other human being, it won’t explain why, especially now? Why after graduation from medical school? Why after finding your dream job?
From my perspective, there were many reasons, and I share these now in hopes that it may save someone else’s life.
Lack of perspective. I thought I never considered myself as Black in this society, but I am Black. Which means I know and knew I had to be the best and work the hardest for any opportunity, let alone an opportunity such as being a doctor in a beautiful locale. The pressure to be the best among the best, who I felt didn’t carry this burden, got to me. Also, I thought naively that everyone was my friend, that everyone around me wanted me to succeed. Whereas in hindsight, I can see that people strategically belittled me, diminished my accomplishments, and added self-doubt all along the way. I sought to prove them wrong, but at the same time, these slights added to my stress.
Depression. I never considered myself depressed before. I use this word freely now to characterize a feeling that my bare, naked soul was not enough. I needed to be more than a “Black African American man.” It had weighed on my psyche at this point, though I was beautiful, handsome, strong, smart, compassionate, caring, and altruistic. Somehow, I believed I was being considered the ugly duckling. This made me feel hopeless, even though I tried to suppress the idea. And now I see it had weighed on many of my brothers, sisters, and family members. We thought we had to prove our worth to someone instead of seeing ourselves as priceless.
Loss of hope. I lost my faith in God when His agents, other professed Christians and Muslims, acted in a way that lacked high moral standards, as though they knew no God but money and self-interest. My view was skewed towards those adding oppression on me, but it didn’t help me feel the communal presence of God when people who claimed to be saved, delivered, fasted, and prayed demonstrated they didn’t give a damn about other humans. I can see now the actions of others should not separate me from the Most High; it should push me closer to the power greater than myself. But in this moment of weakness, I wanted to escape and could not gather strength. My relationship with the Most High has to be my own and not predicated on the people around me to rise above my circumstances; my God must not be made secondary to others’ human activities.
Lack of my own family. I was married, but we didn’t have our son with us. As hard as my life is even today, his face, his light, has a profound, nearly indescribable effect on me. The little things, like watching him sleep, are better than any movies, play, or symphony I’ve seen. And when he cries, I nearly have to join him because it breaks my heart so much. I was chasing the wrong things when I put the ideas of earning money, power, influence, prestige over seeing the face of my son. And those pursuits nearly made his life impossible. And so, I’m back to believing in the Most High because it’s only by grace I live. To me, living is loving well your loved ones.
Not considering my loved ones. I was so depressed at the time I didn’t think about what my funeral would be like or the effects I might have on my wife, mother, father, and siblings. Tupac, one of my favorite artists, said, “In quiet times, I once contemplated suicide, but when I held that nine, all I could see was my mother’s eyes.” Now, with the insight of having my own child, the thought of him being hurt is sometimes too much to bear, let alone passing before me. It’s not something one parent should ever have to endure. But it makes me consider all the parents who do, those whose sons and daughters have been deployed around the world, having to fight wars. And I wonder if the young Black man is at such risk of suicide even at a place of high accomplishment/achievements. What does it say about the spiritual war that must be ongoing?
I won’t get into the specifics, but my life was spared. I’ve been more conscious about the fact that just by being in the situation I find myself in, I am at a higher risk. Most professionals are at increased stress. And in my job, I take on the responsibility of others’ lives. Though daunting at times, it’s also incredibly rewarding, but not in the way most believe. It’s rewarding in the human connection we can form with people of all walks of life going through all sorts of disparaging and painful experiences. It’s rewarding in that I feel like a serviceman in the spiritual war being waged on humanity and the lies that have been told regarding the human race. As the late great Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi once put it, “No treasure or possession compares to service to humanity rendered in pure joy.”
P.S.: Don’t let the past become your imprisonment; don’t let your faults be your shackles. Break those chains, be free, regardless of what it appears to cost. For what is the price for your soul?
The author is an anonymous physician.