Editor’s note: This column contain mentions of suicide and self-harm.
I sat on my bed, legs crossed, tears streaming down my face as I sent my parents a text that read “I’m sorry.” Thoughts, and vivid images, raged in my head. A knife slicing through the center of my chest. A noose hanging from my ceiling fan.
I decided that I no longer wanted to live, and I called my closest friends searching for affirmation that option was the only way to feel happy again.
I had my death planned out. The week leading up to Sept. 17, 2021, was too much. I convinced myself nobody would miss me, other than my parents. I had thoughts of ending my life before, but thoughts never turned into action — this time felt different. I yearned for the intense feeling of pain, that last gasp of air, that I believed I deserved for being myself.
I was Sports editor at The Daily Orange. I was also the only woman in the section and the first woman to lead the section — a section made up of 40, primarily white, males — in 30 years.
I’m a Hispanic woman, one of seven non-white writers on the staff and the one of two Latinx editors on the masthead. When I walked into the office, I felt different. My pink jeans and Nikes were different from the khaki shorts and Sperrys that fill the room. Old copies of newspaper pages, filled with male bylines, decorated the wall behind my desk. In the hours it takes to produce tomorrow’s sports page, I’m reminded that I’m different — the sexist remarks harked, the boundaries of respect shattered, the toxic masculinity that reigned supreme. I walked home in the early morning hours feeling degraded as tears steadily streamed down my cheeks.
Then it became too much. I decided that my life didn’t matter. Nobody would miss Skyler Rivera — the editor, the friend, the daughter. I needed to flee from the toxic environment. Twenty-four outgoing calls were left on my phone before I left New York, one of them, a female sports editor in Boston, Massachusetts. We spoke about the “boy’s club” culture in sports newsrooms on collegiate and professional levels. Leaving the section — or this life — wouldn’t invoke change. It would further the suffocating newsroom culture. She told me I needed to stay, so I did.
I returned with a focus on improving newsroom culture, but the section couldn’t continue unless the staff changed its behavior. I was honest with them. I shared the thoughts that swirled in my mind and how I felt. Some changed their behavior, some didn’t. Everyday is still an uphill climb, and I’m just trying to move the rock forward.
Months later, I found out that I struggle with borderline personality disorder — a personality disorder that affects approximately 1% of Americans. I still struggle with thoughts of self-harm and suicidal ideation, but I’m receiving help. I have a support system stacked with a therapist, psychiatrist and countless family and friends.
I moved the rock forward in the newsroom by making it a more inclusive space. Now, I want to move the rock in ending the stigma surrounding mental illness.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
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Skyler Rivera was a senior staff writer for The Daily Orange, where her column will no longer appear. She can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @skylerrivera.
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