MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- “This is it. I’m tired. There’s no point anymore. Life just sucks.”
These were the exact words I said at 11:56 p.m., June 27, 2009, four minutes before my 30th birthday. Four minutes before I attempted suicide for the fourth time. Four minutes before I ended a life that was just wasting away.
And why not? I had no job, no money, and was homeless. There was no support from the Air Force — the organization I had dedicated eight years, one month, and twenty-days of service too, only to be tossed out when injuries I’d suffered in the service of my country became too much of a burden for my leadership.
I’d applied for more than 80 jobs since separating from the Air Force in January 2009, and I received only five job interviews — two of which were “thank you for your service” interviews, where the interviewer actually said they had hired someone, they just brought me in so they could thank a veteran. I was told I was “overqualified” during the other three interviews, and I wasn’t hired because the interviewers were “scared I’d take their job.”
Didn’t matter anymore though. In just four minutes, it would all be over. No more pain; no more rejections; no more being just another faceless person you pass on the street. I swallowed the pills, laid down, and closed my eyes. Life was over.
Imagine my surprise when my eyes fluttered opened on June 28, 2009. My first words at that very moment?
“I’m Still Here.”
My name is Candy Knight. I am the Public Affairs Specialist for Headquarters Fourth Air Force. I am a published author, award-winning screenwriter, Air Force veteran, and an all-around nice person.
I am also one of the many individuals who suffers from clinical depression, social anxiety, and anhedonia. Every day, I fight a never-ending battle not to give up; to find the strength to keep going and to keep living.
Many people who know me would never guess I suffer from mental illness. Heck, even I didn’t know something was wrong. I thought I just had more bad days than the rest of the world. It took me a long time, and four suicide attempts to learn I was not just having “bad” days.
Why did it take me so long to seek help when I knew there were resources available?
I was scared, and not just because of the regular mental health stigmas, but because I am a black woman.
I’d been told since childhood that black people don’t go to psychiatrists.
I’d been told that the only black people who go to psychiatrists are on television, and they’re just pretending to be sick.
I’d been told that black people who go to psychiatrists were “Oreos,” who just needed to get their butts back to church, pray to Jesus and ask for forgiveness for being a mental case.
I didn’t want to be an “Oreo,” yet going to church hadn’t help.
One day, I walked into a Veterans Outreach Center for assistance with a job application. I don’t know what it was about my demeanor, but the representative looked right at me and asked:
“Are you okay?”
When I answered no, he walked me directly to the in-house medical team. I was given an assessment and an appointment with the mental health doctor, where I was officially diagnosed with clinical depression, social anxiety and anhedonia.
And boy was I angry. I was officially a mental case. There was no way I was ever getting hired for a job now. Employers don’t hire mentally ill people.
And once again, I felt I was better off dead.
My thoughts must have shown on my face because the doctor immediately, and very bluntly, said “Stop thinking you’re better off dead. There are counseling services available to you, and the first one begins in 30 minutes. I’ll see you there.”
I attended the counseling session and a few more afterward. Then I began one-on-one sessions.
It was during my one-on-one sessions that I began journaling. My first journal entry was about my fourth suicide attempt. Writing about this life event helped me better understand my emotions, and that I’m not better off dead.
Writing has been the best medicine in my fight against this illness. It gives me the resilience to get back up when life does its best to keep me down. It reminds me that I am a strong, intelligent person, capable of achieving my goals.
And writing helped me discover another passion — traveling.
As of January 2020, I have set foot on six of the seven continents on this Earth.
I have viewed the world from the top of the Eiffel Tower, have walked on the Great Wall of China, celebrated New Year’s in Times Square, kissed the Blarney Stone; swam with the dolphins,(despite a fear of the ocean); spent the night in a German castle; and even had afternoon tea with the Queen of England … the Madame Tussauds version of course.
And I have gladly shared my adventures stories and experiences with the world.
It is true -- traveling and writing have made me a better storyteller.
I wonder? Could my talent for storytelling be the reason I’m still here?
Maybe. I don’t know.
But I’m still here to find out.