Hiding behind a smile


Brandon Bounds headshot

Brandon Bounds

*Editor’s note: This story was previously told on Brandon’s personal Medium page in May 2018. He describes his scenario as accurately as possible. Therefore, graphic language is used in the story.

This isn’t easy to write, but it needs to be done. I want to beat around the bush and prolong what I need to say, but I need to be straight-forward.

I tried taking my own life in March.

For those who don’t know, I have clinical depression and anxiety. I was prescribed antidepressants, but I refused to take them because I didn’t want them to alter my personality. I went and saw someone weekly to talk about what was on my mind.

I coped with it for so long by trying to smile and make the people smile and laugh as well. It brought me joy seeing others happy. However, as months went by, I was hiding something very serious behind that smile.

There’s been a voice in my head for as long as I can remember. A voice almost identical to mine, only more taunting and deeper.

I’ve been good on trying to suppress it and live my life the best way I can. I would have nights where the voice would try to overpower me, but it failed.

However, since January, I felt the voice kept getting stronger and louder as time went on. March rolled around, and I heard the voice loud and clear.

The voice would say a lot of things to bring me down. I couldn’t ignore it this time. When I was around people, I just braved a smile in hopes it would just go away. It didn’t; it got worse.

It was the week before spring break. I came home after a day of work, classes and production night for the university newspaper. I layed on my bed typing a paper and my roommate was playing Fortnite on his computer. There, I heard that damn voice in my head again.

“What’s the point in doing that assignment? You’re going to do shitty on it anyway.”

I tried to ignore and suppress it. However, it was loud. Louder and stronger than it ever was.

“I know you hear me, you piece of shit. Why are you still here? You’ll end up disappointing yourself in the end.”

I stopped typing.

“I don’t know why you’ve been ignoring me all this time. You know I’m right. You need to know the truth. Everything that you’re doing is a waste of your fucking time. You can try to help people all you want and do you best, but ponder this. Will they help you the way you do for them? Better yet, will they even help you at all? They won’t. There’s always going to be someone better than you. You should just give up.”

I got up to use the bathroom. The voice kept rambling for the duration I was in there. Nonstop, constant beat-downs on my self-esteem and my worth as a human being. It never stopped, not even for a second.

I was washing my hands and noticed something on the counter. It was a full bottle of my roommate’s Tylenol. I stared at it.

“I know what you’re thinking, Brandon, and you should do it,” the voice said. “No one would care. You’ll just be another soul gone from this God-forsaken world. People would just move on with their lives. You’ll actually have bliss versus living among people who don’t even care for you and want to be your friend out of pity. Is that what you want? Do you want to continue to be lied to? To live somewhere where you truly aren’t good enough to do shit in this world and everyone else is ahead of you and you’ll never catch up to them? Your so-called friends treat you like shit and never ask you to join in on their fun and joy and unless you do something about it, they’re going to continue to do so and you’ll continue to feel worthless and forgotten. I think you know what you need to do.”

I grabbed the Tylenol and poured about eight to 10 capsules into my right hand. I pulled my hand closer to my mouth. I was five centimeters from putting the pills in my mouth and ending it forever. Four centimeters. Three. Two. One.

And I suddenly stopped.

I don’t know why I stopped. The world around me was silent at that point. Everything in my mind just completely vanished in that moment. It almost seemed like everything was frozen. I poured the pills back into the bottle and left the bathroom.

“You bastard! What are you doing?” the voice yelled.

I didn’t know what I was doing. I just climbed on my bed and immediately went to sleep.

I spoke nothing of it for the next couple weeks and went about my daily routine, once again braving a smile for the world to see. It wasn’t a good decision. Despite the forced emotions I had on the outside, the thought of what I almost did ate me up inside.

I knew I needed to tell someone, but I just didn’t know who. I didn’t want to get judged, shamed or yelled at for doing what I almost did. However, I knew if I kept it inside any longer, the situation would’ve happened again. Only this time, there would be no going back.

I caved and told a couple of friends via text. I was scared of how they would respond. I was afraid of being judged for what I did or being told they didn’t want to be friends because of it. I also didn’t want them to worry. They had enough on their plate; they didn’t need my bullshit added to it as well.

I anticipated receiving negative messages in response. But instead, I received concern and support.

A friend came up to visit me from Youngstown to make sure I was all right. We got food and a couple of beers and sat on a ledge somewhere on campus. I told him what I went through and how I was feeling at the time.

In response, he did nothing but talk to me for 30 minutes straight, telling me stories of his friends committing suicide, how he dealt with his doubts and how he perceived life.

He asked me to list some things I accomplished since I’ve been in college. And I did.

I got involved with Kent State’s Student Media since day one and had the opportunity to produce a couple shows and report. I wrote for the campus radio station. I was accepted into the Honors College. I made Dean’s List multiple times. I got the chance to break some major news. I secured four internships and was selected for a prestigious fellowship program. I was given the chance to lead a group of investigative reporters and to become president of a black journalist organization. I made some great friends and mentors—people that I would never, ever forget.

After listing everything, I teared up because it really hit me that all of what I’ve accomplished would’ve been gone, and all for nothing.

My friend then said, “You know, you would’ve left all that behind and the potential to do even more things if you had followed through offing yourself. Would it had been worth it?”

No. It wouldn’t have been, I said. I’m such an idiot. I would’ve left all that behind. Not only that, but my family and friends. All of that would’ve been gone in an instant. And I would’ve regretted it for the rest of my life.

My stepdad already went through a tough loss after his son was shot and killed. I’m sure he or my mother wouldn’t be able to bare the thought of me leaving this world.

I considered myself a hypocrite, telling others when they were down to always cheer up and look at the bright side of things when I couldn’t have even done the same for myself.

“Don’t beat yourself. That’s what got you here in the first place,” my friend said. “Everyone goes through stuff. That’s just life. I’m just glad you told me about it and that you’re still here.”

I’m glad as well. I got amazing support from my friends. I’m still seeing weekly help and my mental health has improved since then. The voice in my head is still there, but quieter this time.

I’m telling this story not to bring attention to me, but to mental health in general. If you see me at some point in person, I’m usually smiling. I rarely ever get mad. But as you can see, I have my moments when I go through stuff like this, even if I’m hiding it behind a smile. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Don’t be afraid to talk to someone and ask how they’re doing or even send them a quick text. Please engage with your peers and make sure they’re OK. They may talk for a little bit or may not speak much at all, but doing something like that can go a long way. Trust me.

Lastly, to everyone, I’m sorry. I know you’re going to say: “You shouldn’t be sorry,” but I am for making you worry about me. But also thank you for worrying and caring about me.

Let this be a lesson that you’re never alone. Don’t fall for the stigma around mental health and illness. It’s OK to not be OK. You have support; you have love; you have everything you need to get you through the rough patches. Just remember it gets a lot better as long as you keep pushing and trying your best.

Please, for my sake, don’t ever forget that.

Brandon is the TV2 enterprise producer. Contact him at [email protected].