July 2007 there was a young woman, 20 years old, sitting at a desk in her studio apartment, writing a goodbye letter in an attempt to explain to the world what she was going to do next, though she knew no one could understand. No one ever understood. She knew what people say about suicide, that it’s “selfish.” The problem was, in her situation, staying was selfish. She was a waste of time, space, energy, a waste of her parents’ money… their life savings wasted on eating disorder treatment that wasn’t working. Nothing was working. She was a burden on everyone she ever came into contact with. Even if they wouldn’t admit it, this would improve life for everyone. And as for this girl, life was so unbearable, the pain was unbearable. It consumed her and wouldn’t stop, she had to make the pain go away.
She wasn’t thinking about the future because she couldn’t see one. Couldn’t see anything past the pain. She didn’t feel loved, because she had this understanding deep down that she was unloveable. Somewhere along the line, those lies had taken root inside and consumed her, and her self-worth was stolen.
76 pills of Xanax later, as she began to reach for more pills, one thought prevailed, pushing through the pain. Her horse. Chance, the love of her life. What would happen to Chance when she was gone? She quickly grabbed the pen to add to her letter, fighting the brick wall of unconsciousness closing in, but she didn’t know what to add, how to possibly ensure Chance is taken care of. Not even a full minute later, she was asleep.
That girl was me. I am incredibly blessed to have woken up from that experience a couple days later with nothing wrong with me, at least not physically. It wasn’t my first overdose, and it wouldn’t be the last. But I think it was the only one where I really wanted to die, as opposed to wanting a “break” with a blanket of indifference toward life, not that that’s much better.
There is a huge stigma in our world surrounding mental illness, depression, suicide. It’s uncomfortable. We don’t really understand it and we don’t want to. To healthy people, these things are so foreign, and we have no desire to bridge the chasm between “healthy” and “sick.” Unless we know someone personally struggling, or we are struggling ourselves, this issue is out of sight and out of mind. Well today I’m calling out the elephant in the room, and suggesting that if we stop looking away, and instead turn to look at each other, that maybe less people will feel alone, feel like they don’t belong.
Unfortunately even with community, even with relationships, a lot of times those in pain can’t see the love they are offered, as if it’s on the other side of an impermeable glass wall, out of reach. There is sickness there, for someone to be in so dark a place they are ready to take their own life. But being sick, doesn’t make them weak, or crazy, it’s just part of the human condition, part of a fallen world.
In this fallen world, like Donald MIller acknowledges in Blue Like Jazz, we are called to hold our palms against the cracks of this broken world to stop the bleeding.
Instead of avoiding pain, we need to face it. Instead of writing off the “crazy,” we must empathize with their humanity. Instead of indulging the tunnel vision of our own lives, we must take our blinders off and follow the footsteps we were created to walk out: to love and be loved, to live in community and relationships, and to offer hope and healing to the broken.
Jesus came for the brokenhearted, for the sick, for the hurting.
Approx. 38,000 people die each year from suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death.
Someone dies from suicide approx. every 13 minutes.
It is believed that there are 25 attempts for every successful suicide.
Every day there are over 5,400 attempts by teenagers.
I found my way out of the darkness, to the light. I found healing and redemption through developing a personal relationship with God and fought by speaking truth and His promises over my life. Even when I felt the weight of the cloud around me, and I didn’t believe a word I was saying, I spoke outloud:
I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14
He who is in me, is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
No weapon formed against me shall prosper. Isaiah 54:17
She is more precious than rubies and pearls. Proverbs 3:15
I declared the armor of God over me; Ephesians 6:10-18:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
I felt that Satan’s hold on me and his demons whispering lies in my ear, were weakened by speaking God’s word out loud and by demanding them to leave in Jesus’ name.
Some tools for fighting the dark:
Well, for one, a lot of therapy, over a handful of hospitalizations, anti-depressants and other psychotropic medications….. but those things wouldn’t sustain me forever. Eventually I’d need to learn how to find the light on my own.
Opposite to Emotion is a DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) tool that suggests you do the exact opposite of what you are feeling. If I wanted to lay in bed and wallow in my misery all day, I had to force myself to get up and get dressed and find something to do. In order for this to work I had to find hobbies and things I enjoyed. For years I had no idea what I enjoyed, so this took some investigating, but I found I enjoyed doing art and crafts, and creating things. I enjoyed writing and reading. I enjoyed being with animals, my dogs and my horses, and riding. Even filling in the pages of a coloring book was a way to do something, anything other than sleep all day.
I found when I forced myself to go outside, let the sun and vitamin D soak in my skin, and get some fresh air, I would feel better. It may just be taking a walk by myself, walking my dogs, riding one of my horses, or just driving somewhere to get myself out of the house. I even moved halfway across the country to get away from the cold winters of the Midwest that triggered depression and wanting to stay inside curled under blankets all day.
A CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) idea is challenging your thoughts. Thoughts lead to feelings lead to actions, all are connected. If you can change one, you change them all. Changing my thoughts was hard, and didn’t come easy. But I learned to identify negative thoughts, and false lies about myself and my life, and stop them in their tracks, challenge them, change them. Changing a negative thought to a positive thought led to positive feelings which led to positive behaviors.
I learned that the act of smiling reduces stress and releases endorphins. So I started forcing myself to smile, even when I felt like hell on the inside. And guess what? Eventually I wasn’t just faking it, it became real.
I learned to make peace with my past and forgive. Forgive others, but mostly myself. I learned to let go and stop worrying so much and surrender to God and let him take the wheel in my life. I learned to accept that I’m human and make mistakes but it’s all part of life and can learn from them and move on rather than beating myself up and berating myself for them. I learned that if I would just get out of my own way, nothing could stop me. And most of all, I learned that I was a child of God. I was precious. I was worthy. I was not alone. I was loved.
Today, 6 years later, I am happy. I am free. And I look forward to my future with a joy that cannot be contained. I’m genuinely excited to find out what comes next. I am still human, and that means I still have moments, or days, where I feel down or sad, where I have doubts. But now, that’s just normal, and I am very aware of the enemy’s attacks and when Satan is trying to drag me down. I can feel that weight sort of cloud around me. But the difference is, it doesn’t latch on. It has no claim over me anymore. And I have people in my life who love me and anchor me if I feel overwhelmed. I still get overwhelmed, I don’t handle stress or confrontation well. But this is all part of learning, part of living, part of my journey.
You are not alone. You are loved. You are irreplaceable. You are worthy. You are enough. There is hope. There is always hope. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.