At age 21, Jay Williams had a life that most people only dream of: He was a rookie player in the NBA with a lucrative contract with the Chicago Bulls and a promising future. Then, in 2003, it all came to an abrupt halt when Williams got into a near-fatal motorcycle accident that ended his career and threatened his ability to walk again.
Suddenly, Williams found himself lost in more ways than one. Physically, his recovery was a struggle, and emotionally, the wounds ran deep. Basketball had been everything to Williams, but now he felt he had nothing. There were dark moments in the time after his accident -- including one in which Williams envisioned ending it all.
It was less than three months after Williams had been released from the hospital, and he had a rare moment alone in his apartment, as he tells Oprah in the above video from "Super Soul Sunday."
"I was praying a lot at that time. I bounced back from prayer to anger so quickly," he says. "I had no idea who I was, who I wanted to be, if I was going to be able to walk again or run again."
Williams' parents knew of their son's fragile mental state and always tried to be with him to offer their comfort and support. This particular time was different. "My parents did a really good job of not letting me be alone," he says. "I actually thought it was a sign..."
At the time, Williams says he was "very high" on morphine, which he believes impacted his judgment. "This is how delusional you can become when you're on a morphine tap," he says. "I saw a pair of scissors there, by the bed. I just remember thinking to myself, 'If I could reach those scissors, then I deserve not to be here.' Because they were put there for a reason."
So, Williams reached for the scissors.
"I grabbed the edge of the scissors with my pinky and I pulled it in," he says. "I remember sitting there just trying to take those blades and just pull them over my wrist -- over the tattoo that says 'believe' on my wrist, looking at it, saying, 'I don't believe in anything anymore.'"
In that moment, Williams had lost his faith. "I was angry. I always try to do things right, I'd be on time, I'd gone to charities. Just kind of thought, 'I can't believe you would do this to me," he says.
That's when Williams' mother came in and saw his with the scissors.
"[She] started screaming at me," Williams says. "Takes the scissors out of my hands and just grabs my hand, and starts to pray. And said, 'Promise me you're never going to hurt yourself again. You've been left here for a reason."
That last sentence jumped out at Williams, who couldn't understand why his life would have been spared. "What reason do I have to be here? To be made fun of? To be told by everybody that I'm a failure?" he wondered.
Still, his mother prayed. This is the type of unconditional love and support that Williams credits with helping him turn things around.
"It was the constant support of the people who loved me that really pulled me through those dark times," he says. "I don't think it was until later, a couple of years later, until I started going to counseling, started to try to go to church. I put my faith into something bigger -- and it was through my mother and my father helping me believe that [I was] left here for a purpose."
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
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