Jeanine Tillman, An Overcomer, Advocate, and Suicide Survivor

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By: Patrice Rivers

Patrice: What does being a parent means to you?

Jeanine: Parenting is a mirror. As a parent we often see ourselves in our children. We have two choices to make. We can attempt to parent the child in us through parenting our children or allow God to show us how we are intended to parent the child/children he blessed us with. Parenting means being wise enough to give children freedom to grow and strategic enough to keep them safe from the things that take their innocence. Parenting is a calling. It is not a mistake for anyone, but an assignment to help “little people” become the adults they are assigned to be. Some of us are called to parent and cultivate pastors, prophets, kings, presidents, janitors, executives, fast food workers, entrepreneurs, wives and husbands. It is the hand of the parent that plays the major role in the development and growth of tomorrows future, the children. 

Patrice: I love your answer and I do indeed agree! So, tell us more about your business and how it helps inspire people in your community?

Jeanine: Red Sea Project (RSP) is a 501(c)3 Nonprofit with the mission to mentor youth, empower youth, and unify families through education and training. We serve in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex and some parts of Houston.  RSP empowers, educates, and trains in the areas of suicide and domestic violence education, awareness and prevention, entrepreneurship, effective partnership, and healthy relationships. Our target populations are children, women, and families. We believe healthy families build healthy communities. We currently have ongoing projects such as: iLiVe suicide education awareness and prevention, TELL the Secret domestic violence education, awareness, and prevention, SisterhoodROCKS women’s empowerment annual conference and workshop, Chop It Up Youth EXPO mentoring workshops for youth and Bonding of the Sexes where men and women are encouraged to bond rather than battle. Every fourth Thursday RSP broadcasts live on our social media platforms highlighting African American small business female entrepreneurs. Each segment gives them the opportunity to share their business and life lessons with our virtual audience. Our goal is to promote 100 women this year on all social media platforms. Our social media platforms consist of Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and our website www.redseaproj.org.

Patrice: A thriving business owner, entrepreneur while being a parent a parent at the same time! Mother superheroes! How has your story helped others?

Jeanine: At the age of sixteen, I attempted suicide for the first time. I took a cocktail of pills from my parent’s medicine cabinet. My mother unknowingly forced me to eat, and I believe that is what saved my life. In my mid-twenties I attempted suicide again. This time I knew the “right way” to do it. I graduated with a BA in Psychology, was an excellent helper with people who had mental illness, and knew how to cut my wrist to align the knife with the flow of my veins. No one would have ever guessed I was depressed; I was. I gained over fifty pounds in less than a year. I fed myself all the foods I desired in hopes of filling the hole in my heart. My parents were on the verge of divorce and I was going through a romantic breakup after five years. I was sick and tired.

One night I received a call from a close family member. As I picked up the phone to say hello, all I heard was, “I’m gone tell you like I told her, I don’t have no family!” Little did they know, I was on the edge of giving up and those words were just what I needed to send me over the edge.  I grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen and thought, “I’m tired of this”. I placed the knife to my wrist while sobbing and recited every complaint. I imaged every source of pain and every slight. Every attempt to use the knife to cut my wrist was a struggle. I felt my arm being tossed to and fro. The more I tried to cut my wrist, the more I struggled to get the knife to connect with my skin. It was like I was fighting an unknown force.

All the sudden, I heard a knock at the door. For some odd reason, I looked at the time. It was 11:59. I opened the door, knife in hand, mascara smears, tears and basically mass hysteria. As they say, “if crazy was a person” I was surely it.  It was my ex-boyfriend unannounced (I wasn’t taking his calls) and he said these words, “Jeanine, what are you doing? God sent me here!”

I am a survivor of attempted rape, domestic violence, suicide, self-hate and so much more! I had low self-esteem, no self-worth and thought money, status, men and sex and ultimately suicide attempts could resolve my problems. I later learned through prayer and asking God what he wanted from me. He took me to that moment, 11:59. Eleven fifty-nine was the introduction to my new life. Just as midnight turns into a new day, God gave me a new life after that moment. God and I had a serious conversation the day after my suicide attempt. He opened my eyes to purpose and told me He wanted me to help people to live again. Since that time, I have ministered, encouraged, and empowered women, men and children who have lost hope and are or were suicidal. 

I want you to know, that ex-boyfriend is my husband. He is a cancer survivor who survived stage four cancer and was given six months to a year to live. The dosage of chemo was so strong doctors said he might not have children. After experiencing so much trauma, I was terrified to become a mother, but my husband was beyond ready. Reluctantly, I agreed to pray with my husband to have children after he expressed a strong desire to be a father after yet another fatherless father’s Day. I gave my husband one stipulation…I wanted to graduate with my Master’s Degree before becoming pregnant. My husband agreed and asked me to stand in agreement with him in prayer. 

He prayed such a powerful prayer in Jesus’ name that I could not take my eyes off him while he did so. On my graduation day I was one month pregnant. The ceremony was held much later after I officially finished my course work. Five months into our pregnancy, we found out we were giving birth to twins. Prior to, the babies were situated behind one another and their hearts were beating in sync. Hence, why the doctor could not detect two babies until five months later. They had become too large I suppose to sit behind the other. My husband’s grandmother told me years prior that I or her other granddaughter were going to have twins. She didn’t live long enough to see their birth let alone come to know I ever became pregnant. She already saw it in the spirit years prior. This is a snippet of my story. Amazing it is and it is still going strong!

As a child and a young adult, I despised my struggles. I despised feeling ugly and awkward, experienced the vivid flash backs of domestic violence and the self-hate and depression that led me to suicide, self- hate and sabotage.  I found myself hiding because of my story, now I live free because of the overcoming of the struggles. The way God connects me to those who are on their way to where I have come from is confirmation of my purpose in this world. I live to teach others they deserve to live. They are worthy to live and they are purposed to live!

Ive been blessed to provide suicide awareness, prevention, and education to over 500 youth, women and families combined. As a three-time author of children’s books “Just Like Me”, “Words” and “Morning Mantra”, my story is interwoven in each book empowering others to live life on purpose and in purpose. As a mother, I teach my daughters how to love themselves while they are young. I encourage them to live vibrantly without the limitations of false insecurities and the opinions of others. I continue to be a working progress openly, no longer in shame and in secret. My life story renews my faith in God and gives me a second wind when I am tired or struggles with feelings of effectiveness. It is my hope and prayer, my story continues to change people for the better and open their eyes to their God given purpose. 

Patrice: Wow! This is an awesome story! Congrats on all your accomplishments! What advice do you have for new parents?

Jeanine: Children are not made of glass. They are resilient. You don’t have to be perfect. God created you for to be one of the most important influencers in your child/children’s lives. Never parent out of fear and regret. You’ll end up doing the very thing you are trying to avoid or worse. Never be too ashamed to apologize to your child. Allow them to see you cry. You can still be their superhero and have flaws. Have the scary conversations, it builds rapport and increases the love you have for one another. Children love the simple things. Sometimes its just a movie and popcorn in the bed or coloring on ripped pieces of paper or making funny faces. Enjoy the simple things in life with them, when you grow old, they will enjoy the simple things with you. It is perfectly okay to say, “I don’t know”. Teaching your children to be vulnerable decreases their desire to be perfect adults. Don’t worry about giving your children what you didn’t have. Give them what they are mature enough to handle, what they need and some perks every now and again. You are a good parent. Celebrate the small wins as a mom and forgive yourself when you make a mistake; all parents make them. Remember, you were born for such a time as this, the influencer of the future. 

Connect with Jeanine:

Website: www.redseaproj.org

IG: @redseaproj73


Patrice is a freelance writer, journalist, storyteller, owner of That Riverz Gurl Brand LLC and a blogger. Writing has always been a part of Patrice’s life since the age of nine. She is even a published author of nine books. Follow her writing and journalism journey on IG @thatriverzgurlbrandllc and read more of her articles and interviews at www.theriverzreport.com 

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