Thursday, April 02, 2015

Suicide and Survival as a Black Indigenous Person in a Settler Colonialist System

Racism at Core of Teen Suicides in Pine Ridge

The first time I was committed to a "mental hospital" I was fourteen. I'd already tried to commit suicide several times. I felt such despair that while I was in the hospital, I carved the word HATE into my thigh. It wasn't even a really conscious thing. I felt so numb from the horrors in my life that maybe my mind was looking for some way to finally be taken seriously, finally find some way of expressing what I felt about myself.

The second time I was committed, I was twenty-one years old. My white doctor had ignored my medical history and prescribed medication that exacerbated the schizophrenia I've had from childhood. I'd found ways to survive with the schizophrenia. I'd learned to try to keep it from being detectable. I often failed and the world around me never missed an opportunity to remind me that I was "nuts", "insane", "acting out" et cetera. The medication, a steroid known to cause exacerbation of neuroatypical "symptoms", was given to me and then the dose was quadrupled. With no support system and no medical establishment that gave a damn about me, it became unbearable and I attempted suicide again. Having caused an interruption in the daily routine of being sufficiently productive in the eyes of settler colonialists, I was instantly punished by being committed.

After that period of punishment was over, I was released into the world almost no different from when I came. The medicine was out of my system. I made the proper assurances that I would not make another infraction. And I went back to the world that was poisoning my spirit.

To be honest, I don't even know how I survived. I think it was the cancer. The cancer hardened me. It forced me to become a survivor. I had a kid that needed to be protected from the sexual assault and neglect that many/most neuroatypical Indigenous children experience. I don't think I survived for my own sake. It was the determination to try to prevent at least one child like the one that I had been from going through the horrors that I can never forget.

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