I, at one point in my life, was suicidal. I’m not anymore.
All my life, I have struggled with depression and anxiety. I can remember as early as elementary school seeing a therapist as a way to find some answers. I always felt alone in it. I felt so incredibly misunderstood by my friends, and it drove me to isolation.
By the time I was a junior in high school, I was in a pretty bad spot. I had let mental health struggles begin to overwhelm me. I pretended to be alright and figured if I could make people around me happy, I could sneak past any suspicions that I was not OK.
But it was getting harder to maintain.
I was prescribed a high dosage of ADHD medication, which created further isolation and distance. On top of that, it was winter. I hate winter, and for some reason, that one was brutal. Bitterly cold, dark by 4pm, and everything seemed dead.
And on this particular day, I had had enough. I had gotten to what I believed was the “point of no return.” I came home after school and went up to my room. No questions asked by my parents; this was a normal routine for me. I laid in bed, in my cold and dark room, feeling angry and wanting peace. It wasn’t that I wanted to die; I just wanted to be free of the pain. In a plea to find that peace, I attempted to hang myself with the window blind cords of my room. Scary enough, it was working. I began to find myself struggling to breathe, getting lightheaded, and everything was going black. This was it.
“Not now,” I thought. I panicked and loosened my grip from the cords and began to relieve the tension. I collapsed back on my bed and wept into my palms, trying to stay quiet as not to alarm anyone else in my house.
All I could do was pray to God. I had almost forgotten He was still there for me. I prayed intensely that I would never get to that point again, where attempting to take my own life was the only answer. I felt calmer, and in my praying, I fell into a deep sleep.
Today, I am not “cured” of my depression or anxiety. Yet, I have new ways I fight those daily battles.
I have met God in a way that brings me a life that’s very much worth living.
I will not lie to you and tell you everything in my life is perfect. Things have recently changed (new job, new town, and everything that comes with a relocation) and I have had to redo a lot of the ways I fight these battles.
Soon after the moment I chose to keep on living, I found myself sitting in the loss of several friends and acquaintances to suicide. The funeral for someone who has taken their own life is absolutely heartbreaking. These losses have only given me more reason to fight and bring hope to those who feel hopeless in this battle.
In a recent counseling session, my counselor gave me a piece of advice from author Richard Rohr. Talking about God’s love in the midst of our battles, Rohr says this:
God’s love protects us from nothing, even as it unexplainably sustains us in all things.
For me, this rings so true. I used to sit in my bedroom and wonder if God had forgotten me, but now I know He never did. He was there, stopping me from going through with it. He was there, fighting for me to get free. God has greater purposes for me (and for you). Because of my struggles, I can help others. Through that pain, I’ve found the true value of living. I don’t believe we are made for mediocre lives. The God I follow sent Jesus so we could live life to the full. I believe he will fight for and with us to experience that—whatever our current circumstances.
I value my life on a much greater scale now because of those dark nights. God wants us to become better versions of ourselves, and he absolutely wants us to take care of our mental health. God has freedom for us, and he’s inviting us to step into it. I believe no one is too far gone. No one is forgotten or not worth saving.
Sometimes He’s just waiting for us to move. To say, “yes” to the ways God wants to change us.
So, how do we move?
I had to actively remove destructive things from my life. What’s a good baseline for determining what is destructive? Ask yourself: Does this promote numbness in my life?
Anything (relationships, addictions, habits, vices) that is allowing you to avoid or suppress emotion is not helping you.
For me, for a while, it was pornography. For another chunk of time, it became drinking. Even if I wasn’t getting blackout drunk every night, choosing to have just one more eventually posed the question, “What am I hiding from?” Neither pornography or drinking were allowing me to make headway in my battle. They were making it worse—subtly deceiving me, wasting my time, distorting my perspectives, and moving me further and further from the life I was made to live.
I fight isolation and find solitude. Again, in the idea of rooting out things that promote numbness, I find that isolation begins when I start subtracting myself from my circle of friends. I soon find myself believing that I am of no value to those who love me. I feel as though I am an inconvenience.
Even to this day, in the dreary, lingering days of winter, I’ll find myself again in my cold, dark room, much like that fateful night in high school, believing those lies.
Good solitude, on the other hand, begins with remembering God’s blueprint for our lives: We were created for a unique purpose that cannot be replaced. I repeat: You cannot be replaced. There are opportunities you were made to seize, people you are positioned to help, that can only happen when you give in to God and let go of the lies that ring loudly when you’re low.
Finding frequent solitude with God allows us to remember the truth. It allows us to find good head space and peace with ourselves. In solitude, I remember that my body is decaying and that someday I will die, but I also remember how valuable and fragile life is, and how sticking around to find its daily and imperfect beauty is worth it.
When I pursue solitude instead of isolation, I want to run back into the embrace of my loved ones. You know you have good community around you when they allow you to shed your shame and guilt, and remind you that you aren’t alone. Is it easy to be vulnerable with people like this? No. If you don’t have people like this, find them.
Sometimes laying in bed all night is an easier choice. I can recall many times where I have just sat in my bed as my phone rang, my friends looking for me. Although it may just be a small request to go bowling, it sure as hell beats the self-loathing my bed offers.
I have an amazing group of friends who make it easier to bring these dark things into the light. They aren’t perfect, and some of them may even struggle to fully empathize with these struggles around depression and suicidality. However, we all hold a mutual pursuit of living like Jesus, which connects us to a power we could never muster on our own—one that can conquer even the darkest experiences. The way I know I have been sustained through all of this is because I live my life in daily pursuit of Jesus.
How do I start? If you feel something, please speak up.
One of the greatest gifts God has given us is our voice. Do whatever it takes to find someone who will listen. If they aren’t listening, they aren’t the right one to hear you. Keep fighting.
After my attempt, I was just happy I survived. Yet, I was terrified to talk about it. I was horrified that it might ruin all my relationships.
First, I told my mentors and friends. Through them, I received love and care.
Later, it was my parents. While at first disheartened and a little guilt-stricken themselves, they, too, were able to forgive me—and my relationship with my family has only grown tighter.
You are not alone, and I pray as you read this that God will remove any shame you are experiencing. Your story is not finished. Stick around to keep writing it.