Apparently today is the last week of National Suicide Prevention Week. I had noticed an uptick of suicide related articles in my newsfeed, but I didn’t realize it was for a reason. I did read this article from Relevant Magazine about it and that prompted this post, which I’m finally getting to today because it’s been a busy week, ya’ll.
So, I have dysthymia, which as far as we can tell, has been a near life-long issue. Many, many times during my adolescent years I contemplated killing myself, but more as an abstract mental exercise: “how would I do it?” Going over the pros and cons of each method, reasoning it out with myself. I never really felt the urge to do it until the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. As I’ve written about before, I was sexually abused as a child, which I believe led to a pornography addiction and a great wrestling match between my desire to live as a Christian and keep feeding my addiction.
The morning I came the closest to killing myself the first time, I had decided to reject God. To push Him away once and for all, no longer be called by His name, have nothing to do with Him anymore. I was going to stop fighting the spiritual battle I felt was raging over me by simply dropping out of it. To do that I had to harden my heart. The people around me noticed it, commented about it. I was just so tired of feeling guilty, of the pain and shame, of praying to a God who didn’t seem to answer or care. So, why didn’t I throw myself off that cliff in the Black Hills? God.
Even though I had rejected Him, said “God, I don’t want you in my life anymore, leave me alone.” He loved me too much to let me go. He whispered to me in the middle of my grief and pain that He loved me. Did He fix all my problems right away? Nope. I had to work through my issues during two years of counseling and it was not easy at all. But it was good.
Also, after I had calmed myself down and really realized what I had almost done, I was horrified. I imagined the look on my mother’s face when they gave her the news as she crumpled to the ground. I imagined my dad, trying to be strong for everyone, while dying on the inside. I imagined my siblings, scarred forever by my loss, their world shaken and having to struggle through grief, pain, and anger themselves. I’ve seen pins on Pinterest saying stuff like “you have to live for yourself. No one else is worth it.” but that’s a lie. Live for whoever will help you to stay alive. If it’s yourself, great. If it’s your family, wonderful. If it’s the lady at the coffee shop who smiles at you when she gives you your coffee, fantastic. Live for your dreams, live for your family, live for that smile.
The second time I really wanted to kill myself was this last summer, after my fiancé broke up with me. For the past 10 years – my decade of singleness – I had been content with my family. I looked to them for companionship, support, joy. I had always longed for something more, but not so much I would go out and do anything to find it. I was content to wait. But then he came along and showed me how much my family couldn’t satisfy my longings. I still love my family immensely, but they can’t provide me with the level of companionship I really need. When that fulfilling relationship was stripped away, my family wasn’t enough either and I felt that void keenly. My family wasn’t enough of a reason to go on living anymore. Although I had decided 12 years prior that suicide wasn’t an option for me, I was fighting the urge to swerve in front of semi every time I drove anywhere (and I live in farm country, so there are A LOT of semis) and I really didn’t want to keep existing. I wanted the pain to end. To stop grieving. To go to heaven and be with God, where everything is perfect.
But once again, God. And the national suicide prevention hotline (1-800-273-8255). I felt dumb calling them; I mean, it was just a break-up. Who hasn’t had one of those and still didn’t want to kill themselves? But they were kind, supportive, encouraging. They cared, even though they didn’t know me, reassured me that I wasn’t dumb, that I mattered, that I was loved. They asked if they could call back that afternoon, and again the next day, to get me through the weekend, because they wanted to make sure I survived long enough to start meeting with a counselor, which did happen the next Tuesday.
Again, after the crisis had mostly passed I was horrified with myself. I again imagined my mother’s face, my father’s silent pain. But this time I imagined my sister, herself broken to her core, have to explain to her children that their beloved Aunt Nessa wasn’t ever coming home. How their little faces would screw up in confusion, how my nephew would sob inconsolably, my little niece would still look for me in the mornings and my sister and mom would have to tell her over and over again that I was in heaven with Jesus, probably crying every time, maybe angry sometimes, although my niece wouldn’t understand her anger.
Suicide doesn’t end the pain. It just passes it on to somebody else. In those moments when I felt my lowest, I could not imagine things ever getting better.
But they have.
Oh, they have.
Now, for the first time in… ever, probably, I don’t feel depressed. At all. I still feel – I have emotions, I’m not a zombie lurching through life – like right now there are tears streaming down my face from just imagining what my family would feel if I killed myself. I’m thankful, so thankful for all the good things in my life: my relationship with God, my family, my friends, my job, my possibilities and opportunities, the things I am able to do.
Sometimes I feel like I’m a clinician standing off to the side with a clipboard and pen, observing my own behavior and thoughts and making notes. I notice that things that would have depressed me before, I feel completely different about now. Like in the past week four of my friends on Facebook have announced the births of their babies. Before, that would have plunged me into a sea of “why is God blessing them but He won’t bless me like that? What are they doing right and I’m doing wrong? Ugh, my life is so awful. I’m never going to find a man who loves me enough to want to have children with me.” (honestly, I just had a lot of trouble coming up with things I used to think about stuff like that. Hmm, another note on the clipboard). Now, I’m like “9 pounds! Wow, that’s a big baby.” “Emergency c-section (not the same baby), I hope everyone is doing alright!” And my best friend from college posted that her baby’s birth was a ‘very surprising and unexpected adventure’ (yes, they knew they were pregnant) and I said in a comment that I couldn’t wait to hear all about it, and I meant it, because I love birth stories. She messaged back saying that this weekend was going to be busy for them, but she’ll try to call Sunday or Monday and I am sincerely looking forward to her phone call – I’m excited to rejoice with her in God’s goodness.
It’s not just being able to be happy for other’s blessings instead of comparing what I don’t have to what they do have, it’s even part of my relationship healing process, I feel. The morning I broke off the friendship with my ex-fiance, I was walking through the pasture where I go to yell at God and scrolling Facebook (I was on my way home, all the yelling and discussion was done, so I felt like a distraction was in order). I had seen that he had posted a song before I broke it off with him, but I hadn’t listened to it, because I was focused on the unpleasant task at hand. I came across it again, out in the pasture, and I tapped play on it. As I was listening to it the thought popped into my head “This would be the perfect song to walk back up the aisle to at your wedding.” The recessional was the only song we hadn’t picked yet for our wedding ceremony. Immediately I said “No God. You have to stop doing this. Whatever happens is up to You now, but I don’t trust my brain to give me hope that this is still what You want. Any hope from here on out has to be from external sources, not from inside my brain. I’m not trusting myself when it comes to him anymore.”
External hopeful events in the past week? Maybe. In addition to some unusual things happening, I have dreamed about him every morning for the past five mornings, which is odd, but I’m not reading anything into the dreams, not like “oh, I’m dreaming about him, it must be a sign that we’re supposed to get back together!” More like, “hmm, my subconscious must still be working him out of it’s system.” I still pray for him occasionally, am grieved that his view of marriage is so twisted and skewed by what his ex-wife did to their marriage and to him. I pray that God would redeem marriage in his eyes, because I am more convinced now than ever that marriage is holy and one of the most powerful witnesses you can give to the world of God’s grace and goodness.
God is still working in my life, although right now I feel a little “drier” spiritually than I have recently. I see glimmers of what He’s doing every once in a while, and that’s good. Last night I was so exhausted by the day’s events when I crawled into my bed that I sank onto the pillow and said “God, thank you that I’m single, that I don’t have to share my bed with anyone tonight and that I’m going to get a good night’s sleep.” This morning, the first morning I’ve been able to sleep in in quite a few weeks, it would have been nice to have someone to cuddle with, but God and I were talking, so it was alright.
Life is good. If it doesn’t feel like it is right now, hang on, get help, it will get better, I promise. And even if it doesn’t, you’ve survived everything it’s thrown at you so far – you’re stronger than you think and you’re incredibly brave. Keep fighting.