I want to welcome you…
Into a place locked away, so very private, a dark and scary place…
To invite you in…
Inside the mind of suicide.
Imagine the darkest night if you will. No street lights. Moon barely glowing hidden behind a thick film of clouds. Faint shadows lurking from beneath the dim moonlight. Fear. Anxiety. Regret. Shame. Guilt. Worry. Doubt. Hopelessness. Picture that same scene day in and day out, over and over. Occasionally, there may be a glimmer of light because after all, it’s a fight to get out of the dark so you grasp at any sign of light. There’s panic, seeking something to hold onto, to guide your path through this overwhelming darkness. A handrail? The grip of a friend to pull you along? Clearing your eyes once more, seeking little bits of light, finding them along the way, only to have them fade to dim again.
Imagine tears that pour only on the inside because you can’t allow them to fall freely on the outside. You can’t bear to let anyone see the pain you feel inside…because you feel if you let them see that pain, they will feel it too and you don’t want to put that pain on them, or anyone. You carry it on your own because that’s what you do. You’re strong. So strong. You fight a battle each and every day – a battle to overcome, to survive, to live.
Imagine looking each day at the faces you treasure, your spouse or loved ones, the sparkle in the eyes of the little beauties you call your children. You stop and stare at them, soaking in each precious memory. Your heart aches with each beat as you carry a love that is almost unimaginable. And then you feel it, an ache even stronger. It’s the ache of letting them go. You want nothing more than to hold them, love them, be with them. But somehow, you believe, your love for them is not enough. You think of how things could be for them if you weren’t in the way. These clouded thoughts come and in some small way, you know this is not the answer, but you question, “What if this is the answer?” You consider, many times, the hurt they would feel, the loss, the ache your absence would create in their own hearts. You want to bring them joy, to give them life, to pour love into them. You fear the idea of transferring the pain you’ve carried for so long, onto those you love so dearly. You push through the thoughts and pain. You stay, for one more day.
Imagine feeling so alone that even though you may be surrounded by people, you feel invisible. You can’t let anyone in. Your walls are made of steel. You wear a smile to hide the pain but if they would only look deep enough, they could see it in your eyes. You laugh when you really need to cry. You can’t bear to share the darkness you’re living in, either out of fear of burdening those around you or perhaps out of fear that you will be the one to get hurt, by rejection or even just by the innocence of others not knowing what to do or being able to understand. Others may pull away out of their own fears or their uncertainty of how they could help or even if they could help. Either way, you feel rejected. Alone. Invisible again. So to lessen those painful stabs, you withdraw. You keep the darkness bound tight inside you and all the while, it’s killing you.
I vaguely remember my futile attempt at suicide at the age of thirteen. I didn’t really want to die. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to physically be as invisible as I already felt. I wanted to hide from the world and from my pain. I wanted the constant bombarding of painful memories to stop. I wanted an end. No one understood. I was desperate and alone. It was picture day at school – picture day for the photo that would end up in my freshman yearbook. That morning, I swallowed a bottle of pills. This was after days of ingesting a handful here and a handful there. That morning, I had no restraint. I opened the full bottle and consumed them all just as the darkness had consumed me. I made it to school and managed to get by long enough to have that glamorous picture snapped, forever recording the desperation that was invisible to the world around me. Then came the fear. Something was wrong, bad wrong. Did I really want to die? I remember going to the office and telling them I needed to go home. They called my grandpa and in no time, he was there to pick me up. It wasn’t a comfortable trip home I faced, but a trip to the ER, where I very firmly denied any possibility of being pregnant which was the only pertinent question they really asked. They failed to ask if I had taken anything. Would I have been honest if they had asked? I don’t know. They basically treated me for the flu. I went home and for a week, a bucket became my closest friend. I can only imagine the effect those pills had on my body. What I lived through was nothing less than horrible. But I was alive.
What I carried with me after that day were all the feelings I had been trying so hard to escape from. Fear. Anxiety. Regret. Shame. Guilt. Worry. Doubt. Hopelessness. I even added a few to the already too long list. Despair. Failure. Weakness – because after all, I had failed to give myself the escape I so badly desired. In times, those feelings and my inability to let anyone into my world of darkness led to smoking, drinking, and self-injury. I ended up dropping out of college because alcohol numbed the pain and at that time, numbing the pain was more important. This was not the first time I had tried or considered trying to end my own life, and it wouldn’t be the last.
At the age of twenty-three, I was at what I would consider my lowest point. I had lost all hope. I looked at my husband and begged him to leave me. I cried out to him to take our small son and leave me, insisting they would both be better off without me. I can’t even begin to explain how much it hurt to believe that and to physically say that to him. He looked at me and assured me he loved me, he would stand by me, and I was everything to them. I didn’t want to hear him and I couldn’t believe him. Soon after, I began seeing a therapist. I barely remember my visits with this particular therapist but he insisted at some point that my husband take me to a hospital. I was once again facing those thoughts of disappearing. We checked into the Emergency Room and waited. When someone finally came to talk with me, they asked if I was a danger to myself or anyone else. I told them, “No!” They sent me home. Did I lie to them? In that moment, yes. I was never a danger to others, but I have always been a danger to myself. I continued seeing that therapist and he prescribed a couple medications … one for anxiety and one for depression. I had them filled, several times. The problem was, I never took them. I hoarded them, waiting for the right day to come. Every day I looked into the eyes of a little boy and hated the mother he had. I prayed for him to have a good life, to be happy, joyful, and live abundantly. I didn’t feel like he could do that with me. There are still days I look into the eyes of that little boy who is now a young man, and I wonder, if I messed up his life by being in it. And now, it’s not only him I worry about, but also his two siblings, my three children.
I managed to survive those dark days and nights. When that handsome little boy was in kindergarten, on a cool September morning, I pulled my car over on the side of the road after dropping him off at school. With tears pouring down my face, I cried out to God in anger and desperation. I clearly remember shouting at God, “This is it, I can’t do this anymore! I can’t. You either take over now or I’m dead.” I want to add here, I knew of God well before this particular day. I had cried out to Him many times before. I had prayed for Him to save me, to take me away, to give me an escape from the abuse I had gone through, from the memories, from the pain. I never believed I was worthy of his love. Even as a little girl at the age of eleven, staring out my window into the sky, talking to God, praying for protection, begging for a savior, I did not believe He could possibly care about me, but I believed He was there and I hoped that somehow or someday, He would hear my cries. While change did not come instantly, I know that day back in September, on the side of a little highway in nowhere, North Carolina, changed my life. Somehow, those simple words created what little bit of hope I needed to cling to in that moment. I had survived another day. And I would continue to survive, day by day.
I saw numerous therapists through those years. One finally convinced me it was okay to take medication for my depression. I spent a year on Lexapro and it seemed to help. I managed to get to the point where I came off of it on my own. A month later, we got pregnant with our third child. I thought all my chaos and turmoil was behind me. Life was good and I was living. I was growing into a mother that I could tolerate and be somewhat proud of. I was learning to like myself. I believed my suffering had a purpose and I pursued what I felt I was called to do, reach out to others and remind them they are not alone. I began teaching Bible studies and opening up about my own dark past of sexual abuse, alcohol, self-injury, depression, and suicidal thoughts. What I learned was the more open I became, the more others around me felt comfortable enough to share their own pain. It was working – I was becoming a voice for so many who needed a voice. They needed to see someone else take that first step, to admit how hard life could be.
Last year, the depression that I thought had long ago vanished, reared it’s ugly self once again. Only this time, it was the last thing I expected. After all, I was a full-fledged Jesus girl now. I spent countless hours in God’s Word, studying and teaching. I was praying. I was doing all the right things and I knew exactly what to say to myself and everyone else…except now, it wasn’t working. Did I have too little faith? Was I doing something wrong? Had I not done enough? Deeper and deeper, I felt myself sinking into that black hole, that pit of ultimate despair. Those thoughts of doubt resurfaced. Am I not good enough? Am I too broken for God to love me? Am I so damaged that I can’t be fixed? Am I a hopeless case? While in my head, I knew none of that was true, those are still lies that creeped in and often screamed louder than truth. After six years of living life, free from counseling, managing on my own with little issues from my past, the time came when it was time to seek counseling again. My thought this time was, “I’m in a better place and could just go in, pour out my heart and move on.” It doesn’t work that way, folks. You see, when I walked in that door, I knew this had to be the time. I knew there would be no more therapists. I knew there would be no more chances. I knew it was now or never. I could not start over again. This was it. I had to make the choice to open up to this stranger. I had to let her in and share with her, the most horrifying parts of my life. It was time to free myself from the torment I had carried too long. It took a couple months to warm up to her. We spent those first few months just getting to know each other on a very surface level. I shared about my family and kids, all the things that were important to me, my Bible studies and friends, etc. Then came the time…the point where I could no longer hide behind the mask of perfection I wore so well. I had to face the imperfections, all the broken pieces. And through the frustrations of feeling I wasn’t doing enough, saying enough, or feeling enough, I climbed further into that dark world, yet again.
Today, I am living each day, day by day. I am married to the most loving, caring, supportive, and patient man. He has walked a very long and difficult road with me. He has stood by me in my darkest times. He has held me and wiped away my tears. He has comforted me even when those attempts were pointless because nothing could possibly ease the pain I was feeling. He has shown me nothing less than endless compassion. I am blessed daily by three awesome little people who call me mom, yes, me! I am surrounded by an amazing church family, some of the best friends a gal could ever dream of, beautiful, godly women, friends online – near and far. I have compassion for the hurting. I have this incredible desire to be a voice for others, to remind others that they are not alone, to encourage them to keep up the fight. I am loved and cherished by The One who has never left me, not for a moment. And you know what, sometimes, it’s still not enough. As much faith as I have and as much as I believe there has been purpose in my pain and suffering, that God can take all the broken pieces of my life and do amazing and beautiful things with them, as much as I try to hold on to the love of those that surround me, some days, it’s still not enough. Some days, the darkness is simply paralyzing. Some days, I still want to disappear. Some days, I just beg for God to go ahead and take me home. Some days, I just can’t wait to be free from this place. But for today, I’m alive.
Depression is not simple. In fact, it’s very deep, complex. There is no quick or easy fix. The further one sinks into this darkness, the less clear their thoughts become. All rational thinking seems to fade and irrational thoughts replace what should be good, sound choices and thoughts. A person who is contemplating suicide does not do so lightly. I have heard many times how selfish suicide is. I have to say, and I can say because I have been there, suicide is one of the most selfless acts I can imagine. I am here today because I cannot bear to bring pain to those who have chosen to be in my life, to love me, and to walk this road with me. I am here because I believe God can use me and will use me in order to help others and I can’t bear the thought of not being here to help someone else. Even though each day I carry burdens that have weighed me down for most of my life, even though I am constantly reminded that the memories of my past will never truly go away, even though I carry so much hurt and heartache and would love nothing more than to be sitting at the feet of Jesus today, I am alive because I cannot bear to bring pain to others. There is a desperation inside, that screams to escape, that begs for the mercy of leaving this world. And when a person has gotten to the point where they are able to commit those final acts that take away their last breath, they have not done so without first considering all the people it would affect and all the hurt they will leave behind.
In the mind of suicide, they feel by leaving this world, they are doing the best thing they can for those they love. To those who find this incredibly hard to understand, that’s okay and I would expect nothing less than confusion. But remember, inside the mind of suicide, there is a darkness, one that blinds them from those rational thoughts you walk with, one that creates in them a desire to do no harm or bring no pain to others because they know how heavy that weight is. In the mind of suicide, they have weighed all the options and feel this is the one option they are left with. They want nothing more than to free others from their sufferings. In the mind of suicide, it is the most selfless act they can make.
In the mind of suicide, the pain they carry outweighs the pain that will be left behind. In the mind of suicide, all the broken parts of their life are more damaging to others with them here, than with them gone. For the person who made that choice, the choice to take their own life, do not harbor anger. Do not carry guilt or debate on what could have saved them. Move forward with love for them in your heart and have peace knowing that their pain has finally come to an end, that they are no longer suffering, and know that they did not leave you behind without a greater love for you than you can imagine.
In the mind of suicide, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
Some ask, “How can I help? What can I do?” Others don’t know what to say, so out of fear of saying the wrong thing, they say nothing. I want you to know it’s okay. There are ways you can help. Together, we can give hope to the hopeless. Please read Part Two to find out how you can help those who are suffering from a darkness that has stolen their light. Shine your light!