I am 29 and I survived Suicide
On January 8th, 2015, I was out on a run when I was hit by a car going 50 mph. I broke my pelvis, shoulder, hand, tore my ACL and had internal bleeding. I was in the hospital for one month and bedridden at home for another 4 months. I was depressed and asking God why he saved me. I was so close to dying. I almost had an out! Get well cards and flowers came pouring in from all over the world after my accident. I received in total over 800 comments, messages, likes on social media posts about my accident, etc. Police officers, firefighters, doctors, surgeons, nurses, friends, family, everyone would tell me how lucky I am to be alive. I felt so unlucky! I felt ashamed, I felt ungrateful to God, and that I were a bad person and Muslim. But I survived.
I am a first-generation Egyptian-American Muslim. I grew up in an abusive household living with my father. I was abandoned by mentally ill mother who was in and out of mental hospitals. Even though my mother has a mental illness, my dad and my older sister do not believe in mental illness. They think getting a job, hanging out with friends and dating, will heal me. I wish it were that easy. My stepmom thought that my suicidal ideations was the devil inside of me that needed to be prayed out of me. The greatest sin in Islam is to kill oneself. To my family, being depressed and having suicidal ideations means I am ungrateful to God and that I am selfish. So, it’s no surprise I wasn’t able to ask my family for help. This began my suffering in silence.
I started cutting myself when I was 18 years old. I didn’t know why I was cutting myself. All I knew is that I was so depressed and wanted to hurt myself. It was my only outlet. I wanted to scream for help, but didn’t know who could help me. I was ashamed and felt like a bad Muslim who God should punish. When my dad saw my scars for the first time, he said I was acting out. On February 14th, 2008, I was hospitalized after overdosing on Xanax. After doctors were able to save me, I was waking up from a daze and heard my dad telling the doctors, “if she dies, throw her body in the trash.” I remember hearing the doctor say to my dad, “your daughter is lucky to be alive. This wasn’t a call for help. This was a suicide attempt. If her friend did not bring her to the hospital any sooner, she would have died.” So, I survived.
I went to the psych ward after that suicide attempt on a 51/50. I was so angry at myself that I wasn’t successful at taking my life. I was still very depressed and anorexic. Doctors told me I had situational depression and I would start eating once the depression subsided. I left the hospital and that was that. Or so I thought.
I commenced at UC Davis a few months after my first suicide attempt. My suicidal ideations, depression, and anxiety never went away. I simply quieted them down with an excessive amount of partying, alcohol, weed, and Adderall. Looking back at it now, I see that my eating disorder was out of control, working out twice a day and living off of energy drinks and protein bars. I ignored that as well. I was living the fast life. I wore a picture-perfect mask, never letting anyone see the real me. Never allowing myself to crack in front of anyone. My mask became my shield, my defensive mechanism against any judgment I would face if I spoke up about my suicide attempt or my depression. I thought people wouldn’t believe me and they would think I was seeking attention.
A few years after graduating college, in 2013, I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, the day before Thanksgiving. I told my family on Thanksgiving and a few members said, “I don’t think you are Bipolar. Those people (psychiatrists and psychologists) just want your money.” I continued to live a lifeless life. The medication was keeping me stable. I was surviving, but I wasn’t living.
I couldn’t tell people I was depressed because again I didn’t think people would believe me. I had it all to the outside world. Beauty, brains, I traveled the world, I was working in the fashion industry, I was funny, I was outgoing, etc. I was always the most outgoing person growing up. I was director of spirit and pep rallies in high school. I was director of activities in my sorority in college. I was always the one dancing on the tables and always the loudest in the room. But like many of us have heard, the loudest person in the room is always the most insecure. And oh, was I insecure! It got so bad that I couldn’t be around guys or in social settings without being intoxicated.
Why did I feel so ashamed reaching out to friends or posting my mental illness and eating disorder struggles on social media; the same as I did when I was in the hospital after my accident? How come I felt more comfortable having people all around me when my body was broken after my accident, but not when I was slowly killing myself, when I was a living corpse. Just because you can’t see pain, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I needed those uplifting comments, and text messages. I needed phone calls asking how I was doing. But all I heard were the voices in my head, telling me to kill myself every day.
I wore my mask. I was Dunia Hamza, the fun, funny, light in the room, who always smiled for other people except myself. All my life I was told that I light up every room I walk into. When I was behind closed doors, alone, that light would darken. I lived a double life until I couldn’t hide it anymore. I didn’t have any light, positive energy, hope, happiness, love, compassion etc. for myself. I could give it to the world, but not myself. I later learned, the problem is, if you don’t have those things for yourself, you aren’t being genuine to others. Love has to come from within you, for yourself, before giving it to anyone else.
In 2017, the darkness consumed me and I had no more light to shine for others. I isolated. I retreated from life itself. I would sit in my closet so no one would hear me crying for hours, day after day. I was withering away. I was hoping that my anorexia would help me disappear. I was hoping I would just disappear and not survive.
I suffered in silence for far too long;10 years to be exact. On June 9thst, 2017, I admitted myself into the UCLA Psych Ward. I have always been a determined person, but a self-sabotaging one. I scared myself because of what I knew I was capable of doing. I have heard this from many therapists and psychiatrists before as well. I had a plan of action to take my life and I knew if I followed through with my plan, I wouldn’t make the same mistake as I did in 2008. I would succeed.
I stood at the front door outside of my dad’s house. I was sobbing, I was shaking, I was scared. Something was holding me back from walking into my room, where I knew my fate was waiting for me. My dad came to the front door and I just lost it. I don’t think my dad has ever seen me cry that much. I kept on repeating to my dad, “I can’t go in there, I can’t go in there, I’m scared! I will do it.” My dad started telling me that I was saved by the grace of God on January 8th,2015. He said I was a miracle and that I was selfish and ungrateful to feel this way after what God has done for me. He said that the suicidal ideations were all in my head and that I can be stronger than them. He said, “just put on your running shoes and go for a run. You will feel better after.”
My therapist at the time just so happened to call at that very moment. She never called me, but by the grace of God, she was calling. She heard me crying, I was trying to tell her what was going on. She asked to speak to my father. Less than 5 minutes later, I was in the car on the way to UCLA Psychiatric Hospital. I walked into the hospital, perfectly put together, wearing overalls, vans, and a leather jacket. I looked at the nurse who welcomed me in and I said, “umm I want to kill myself. Can you help me?” She looked at me as if I were joking. I stood there not blinking an eye. She took me in.
There began my year of hell. While I was in the hospital, every time there was a nurse shift rotation, the new nurse that hadn’t seen me before asked if I were visiting a patient. Why you ask? Because even in the psych ward, I kept my mask on. I didn’t know how to take it off. I stayed at the UCLA psych ward for 3 days. They weren’t helping me so I checked myself out.
I was still feeling horrible, and even more horrible because I knew I was about to receive a $10,000 bill from UCLA hospital for doing nothing! A week after I left UCLA, I called Awakenings treatment center in Agoura Hills, CA. I went in to see the director. I remember I was wearing these really cute fringed jeans, clog heels, and an off the shoulder top. I sat in her office smiling for about 3 minutes, then breaking down asking her to help me. I started the PHP at Awakenings the next day.
Not a day went by were I didn’t have suicidal ideations. My suicidal ideations had become my best friend, my only friend. My best friend protected me, comforted me, and let me know that it was always there to “save me”. I began cutting myself more than ever. My eating disorder came in at full force as well. From June to October, I lost 30 pounds. I was getting sicker by the day. If it wasn’t going to be death by suicide, it would be death by my eating disorder. My whole life stopped. I lost my job. I lost my friends. I lost myself and the willingness to live.
Guess what I didn’t lose; my mask. I wore it every day at Awakenings. I would get dressed for PHP as if I were getting dressed to hang out with friends around LA. Always on point! One time, a client at Awakenings asked me in a very aggressive tone, “why are you here? You’re too pretty, too smart, you look like you have it all. You are too put together to be in rehab. Why are you here?” My therapist told my dad that I was the scariest client they have ever had because of how well I kept it together. My perfect mask, my eating disorder, my bipolar disorder, and suicidal ideations were parasites, and I was their host. I was being eaten alive. After four months of being at Awakenings and not getting any better, I was sent to a higher level of care in Nashville, TN.
It wasn’t until I went to The Ranch in Tennessee, where I was forced to take my mask off. It was either I play dress up my whole life, or I die. That simple. Before going to The Ranch, my therapist at Awakenings told me to leave all my shoes and nice clothes behind, to strip down and be the rawest I have ever been. She told me to only bring sweatpants and no more than 2 pairs of shoes.
When I got to the ranch, I was finally able to scream at the top of my lungs, “I hate myself, I’m a bad person, I’m disgusting, I’m worthless, I’m so ugly, I don’t deserve to eat and if I eat I will gain weight and no one will love me, I’m a loser, etc. etc. etc., I WANT TO DIE.” Sitting here writing this today, January 24th, 2018, I have tears in my eyes. I remember that day perfectly in primary group. I cried and I cried, I was eating my snot, not able to breath. I felt horrible sharing how insecure I was because of how many people have told me I am beautiful, every day of my life. I felt ugly and nobody or no compliment could make me think otherwise. I thought the girls at The Ranch would think I was selfish and ungrateful, like I had felt my entire life, which kept me from asking for help. Not only was I saying I am ugly, I also had a huge fear of gaining weight, and I thought I was fat…sitting there at 110, my lowest weight ever.
I was overwhelmed by the support I received after finally putting down my mask, being raw and vulnerable like I have never been before. It was the greatest feeling and one of the best days in my recovery. After that I used my voice, more and more. Not overthinking every little thing, I would say. Just being open and honest. Things were very hard at The Ranch. I had to come face to face with my greatest demons, from my past and present. While at The Ranch, I had to go back to the hospital and was put on suicide watch. After that day in the hospital, something came over me once again and I finally decided to fight. To really fight. To kick this asshole that called itself my best friend (suicidal ideations) and to kick the bitch of an eating disorder. Enough was finally enough.
When I was getting ready to discharge from The Ranch, my treatment team told me that what happened to me at The Ranch was a miracle. They told me that when I first came into The Ranch, they thought they would have to send me to a higher level of care to have a feeding tube put inside of me. Then they thought that I wouldn’t come back after being sent to the hospital to be put on suicide watch. My therapist told me that she had never seen someone come back so strong, with a vengeance and the willingness to fight.
I came back to California from Tennessee and went to a IOP in Newport Beach. When I was leaving my last treatment in Newport beach, in December 2017, we were doing my coin out where we go around the room and people give you well wishes. Same as my entire life, my first treatment, my second treatment, and this last treatment, everyone said the same thing, “when you walk into a room, you bring in a light, a positive energy, a warmth.” I finally saw that light within me.
At 29 years old, I saw the light and I plan on shining it brighter than the sun. I want every ray of light to touch someone suffering, to give them hope. To stop sitting in the darkness, to walk towards the light at the end of the tunnel, and stop suffering in silence. I crawled out of the valley of the shadow of death. It wasn’t easy, none of this is easy, but there is hope. All this time I was surviving and God was saving me. I now know, I wasn’t being saved to survive; I was being saved to LIVE. I stand here today on my two feet, wanting to let people know there is hope and there is more to life. Suicide is a permanent fix, to a temporary problem. Let’s fix the temporary problem together. Thou we fall, we shall rise, together.
If you enjoyed Dunia Hamza’s story, send a bit of encouragement in the comments section below or share this story with others.