05 November 2015

thoughts on suicide

I'd like to take a moment to talk about suicide.  I know, this is a loaded topic!  The word alone induces pain, anger, grief, and confusion; it's a difficult subject.  Carefully, I want to address suicide from the "healthy" perspective and the "suicidal" perspective, because I've lived on both sides.

Looking back, I realize that I battled anxiety and depression throughout my whole life, but it took different forms than your typical "panic attacks" when I was a child.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized many of my childhood migraines, "flu bugs", and belly aches were actually anxiety and depression.  By the time I was a teenager, my bouts with depression looked more typical, but I was a Christian, and as many people believe, Christians simply don't get depressed if they have enough faith!  Let me just say right now that I believe this is a bunch of malarkey!  Christians don't have a corner on the mental health market.  We are just as broken as every other human on the planet, just as affected by the broken world we all live in.

Anyway, I was probably around 17 when I first "seriously" contemplated suicide.  I carried deep, unexplained sadness, terrible self-esteem, and even back then, I felt like I failed all the time.  I went as far as to dump a large bottle of Tylenol in my robe pocket, so that if I decided I couldn't live anymore, I would have something at the ready, in my room.  What stopped me then was worry about whomever would find me, how hard and painful it would be for them.

For a long time, I felt pretty virtuous about myself for caring so much about my loved ones.  When I would hear about successful suicides, I confess: I judged, even as I tried to be compassionate.  I thought I understood pain, and I thought suicide was a selfish way out, a coward's way.  Like many people, I felt angry that people could hurt their families and loved ones that way.

And then.

Let me tell you, all those years, I did not understand.  I was speaking out of my vast ignorance.  And during my nine year valley, I was educated in an up-close and personal way.

I reached a terrible point in my life when I absolutely COULD NOT care about how I affected my family, or what my death would do to them.  I could not care about being a coward, or about being selfish.  I was so wracked with deep emotional pain. It was overwhelming, consuming, debilitating, crushing, even physical.  Suicide was, for the first time in my life, a truly viable option in my mind.  I wish I could explain this place to people who haven't been there...and I know there are readers who have a deep knowing in this area.

I am so sorry, dear one, if you are one of those people who know exactly what I'm talking about here.  Please, hold on.  Hope reigns, friend, even when you can't see it.

There was no thinking about who would find me during that time.  Daily, hourly, I would think of ways to kill myself.  I collected and saved extra prescription drugs.  I went online to see which drugs were most effective and how they interacted.  I sat with my car running in the garage and wondered how long it would take for it to fill with poisonous gas.  I toyed with the idea of driving my car into cliffs.  I wanted to die.

I would be dead, if not for the abiding love of my Jesus, who carried me in the palm of his hand even when I couldn't feel him, couldn't see him, couldn't hear him.  I would be dead, if not for prescription medication that brought me enough relief that I could at least stay alive.  I would be dead, if not for several people who would make me promise not to hurt myself, to contact them if I got to the point where I was ready to do something permanent to myself.  I would scoff and say, "ok, fine," while thinking to myself, who cares what I say to them?  they are so stupid!  if I'm dead, what does it matter what I told them? - but apparently, many of us want to keep our word, even in such a dark place, and extracting promises like that is actually an effective means of preventing suicide.  

It was a slow journey up out of that pit.  I finally reached a point of decision where I made a commitment within myself, not to make myself die.  This did not mean life was wonderful.  I prayed every day for so long, after that decision, that God would let me die.  God had other plans, however, and I'm still here.

Honestly, heaven still looks better to me than this life.  But since I'm here, I share this hard journey with as many people as I can, because in the end, there's the matchless grace of Jesus that somehow makes this life bearable.  Ah, friends, he longs to share this grace with you!  As long as I'm alive, I have to speak it.

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