Trigger Warning: This story deals with suicide and self-harm.
ONE Championship atomweight champion Angela Lee who reportedly got into a car accident last 2017 revealed that it was a suicide attempt.
In a self-written article published in The Players Tribune, the 27-year-old mixed martial artist said that six years ago she tried to end her life because of pressure and stress, adding that she "didn't want to be a disappointment to anyone."
"My car crash in November 2017 was not an accident. It was a suicide attempt," she revealed.
"It’s taken me a long time to get to this place, but I’ve now reached a point where I am comfortable and confident enough to speak the full truth," she added.
During that time, Lee told the South China Morning Post that she fell asleep at the wheel and was not seriously injured in the accident, but left the scene suffering from concussion and minor burns. As a result, she has been forced on doctors' orders to withdraw from her rematch with Japanese fighter Me Yamaguchi, which was set to headline One’s massive Singapore card last November 24, 2017.
Lee had become the first female world champion in the history of ONE Championship the previous year and the youngest at the age of 20. In 2017, she earned a back-to-back successful title defense, bought her brand-new car, met her husband, and got engaged.
"It was the happiest I’d ever been. Life was good," she said.
However, she unveiled that "pressure, stress, and expectations all began to build up" as her match for Yamaguchi's fight was getting nearer. She also had issues with her weight cut. As she didn't want to let her family down, she said that she was "to do everything" in her power to win that match.
That fateful night
It was on November 6, when the Canadian-American champion suffered and called it "the longest night of her life"
"That evening, I was trying to drop a few more pounds. I took a hot bath. I was wrapping myself up in towels. That whole thing. I was having a really hard time. I was trying to stay in the fight, mentally. Trying to stay strong, but I felt myself slipping. I was terrified and exhausted and at my limit, and all of these negative, dark thoughts started flooding in," she wrote.
Lee went to her room to weigh and found out that she still had 12 pounds to lose. "I broke. I didn’t care anymore. I kept going back and forth with thoughts in my head. Talking myself in and out of possibilities. I wanted to escape. I told myself: I have to take myself out of this fight," she said.
"At one point, when everyone else in my house was asleep, I went to the bathroom and literally tried to break my own arm. Then I tried to give myself a concussion," she continued as Lee "trying anything she could think of to escape from the situation she was in and get out of the fight."
She then decided to get to her car to "end whatever it was that I was feeling. Because I felt like that was my only option."
Lee said she “put the pedal down as fast as it would go” at a spot near her house when a gulch “drops off” the highway.
“I just remember turning the steering wheel and swerving and then hitting something, and then it was just … rolling. Rolling and rolling and rolling.”
Lee said that after her car came to a stop, she waited around in it “for a good bit of time hanging upside down, just basically trying to process everything.”
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t care if I lived or died at that moment. So surviving, trying to live, after all that had happened was extremely difficult. What made it even harder was … no one knew what had really happened,” she said, noting that she ended up telling her husband about what happened.
Lee said that it took her a long time to heal from the pain and tried to hide her true emotions from her family and the world. But eventually, she started to get back on her feet.
"But eventually, slowly but surely, I started putting myself back together piece by piece. I started with the smallest things, like focusing on my breathing when I felt a panic attack creep up," she said.
The mother of one said that she has learned to journal and "do things that [she] could control."
"Some days are good, some are tough, but each day I choose to keep fighting," Lee added.
A tribute to her sister
In the essay, Lee also opened up about her sister Victoria Lee (who was also an MMA fighter), and confirmed for the first time that she took her own life. At that time, the family did not make public the cause of death. Victoria was 18 then.
"On December 26, 2022, my younger sister, Victoria, took her own life," she said, adding that it prompted her to create the non-profit mental health charity called Fightstory.
"Fightstory was inspired by Victoria and the remarkable life that she lived at just 18 years old," she added.
She continued, "Fightstory is just as much hers as it is mine. It’s something we created together, to save lives and make the world a better place. We want people to know that although you may feel lonely in your fight with mental health, you are not alone."
She ended her revelation with pieces of advice to those suffering from mental health and who are in the same situation she was in, "You are not alone. Hope is real, and you can get through this. Stay. Fight. Be resilient."
If you or anyone you know is considering self-harm or suicide, you may call the National Mental Health Crisis hotline at 1553 (Luzon-wide, landline toll-free), 0966-351-4518 or 0917-899-USAP (8727) for Globe/TM users, or 0908-639-2672 for Smart users.