The last time I was suicidal was in 2006. I was 24 at the time.
I had been severely depressed for a few months, and had decided to take a personal retreat by myself for the weekend in a nearby motel to sort through the haze of my confusing thoughts. Here’s a pro tip: it’s a really stupid idea to run off to a motel by yourself when you’re severely depressed. Don’t do it.
As I sat in the motel by myself, my thoughts became darker. Oppressive.
“No one cares about you.”
“The world would be a better place without you.”
“You are unlovable and your heart is ugly and you are ugly.”
“God is angry with you. He’s punishing you. You don’t deserve His love.”
“Your family doesn’t even love you.”
“You are worthless to your friends. You are worthless to your family. You are worthless to God. Just do everyone a favor and kill yourself.”
And, oh, did I contemplate it that evening. All the different ways I could end my life. Alone. In a cheap, dirty, run-down motel room in Santa Ana.
I thought about overdosing. I thought about cutting and bleeding out, not in the wussy, superficial, “I-want-attention” kind of way, but deep along the vein down my arm. I thought about hanging myself. I thought about running into a busy street and letting myself get hit by a car. Anything to be able to finally experience a reprieve from the deep and oppressive and endless pain in my soul. Anything to be free.
This wasn’t the first time I had experienced thoughts like these.
I struggle with cyclical depression. Ever since I was in middle school, about once every four years, I get depressed. Some bouts of depression are mild. Some are moderate. And then there are the severe episodes of depression, where my thoughts get dark and I start contemplating suicide.
When I first heard the news that Robin Williams had taken his life, I cried.
I have no emotional attachment to him. I mean, I like his movies, but he’s not one of my favorite actors or anything. However, my heart grieved that the only option left for a man who could bring such joy and laughter to so many, who seemed to have it all on the outside, was death.
Death was the best option.
Death was better than life in his secret prison of darkness, pain, and hurt.
I cried because my soul resonated with the oppressive weight of the pain he must have endured to make the choice to take his own life.
Depression is no joke. And no one is exempt from it’s reach. Not a famous actor who brought laughter into the lives of many. Not a wealthy and successful businessman who has every material thing he could want in the world. Not a mother who cradles the newborn she’s been eagerly waiting for for years. Not a mousey little Asian Christian missionary in a cheap motel room. No one.
People say that suicide is selfish. It is. But when you’re depressed and have been in insufferable pain for months, you don’t care if it’s selfish or not. The only thing you can think about is how to make the pain to go away.
People say, “It’s easy. Just think happy thoughts.” But what happens when your thoughts are so muddled, it’s hard to think straight, truths become lies and lies become truths, and it’s impossible to see any glimmer of hope through the dark and oppressive haze, let alone imagine it into being?
People say, “It’s not that big a deal, why are you so upset anyways?” And then you feel even more like a loser, and start keeping your thoughts and feelings to yourself because it’s not safe to admit them. You don’t have the right to feel as depressed as you do.
People say, “Medication is a crutch and only crazy people take it and you’re taking the easy way out and choosing not to trust God, and is it really that bad?” And then you start feeling guilty and ashamed, decide not to take meds, and keep limping along in life, spiraling down into darkness, when there’s something out there that can provide at least some relief from your emotional pain.
People say, “You must have done something to make God angry. Have you searched your heart for any hidden sin?” Oh great, and now God’s mad at me and punishing me for something I did that I don’t know about, like some distant puppet master in the sky, and now I’m alienated from Him.
People say, “It’s nothing, they’ll get over it.”
But what if they don’t?
I’ve lost two friends to suicide. Both were Christians. And in the past year and a half alone, I’ve done more suicide assessments than I would ever like to do, not only at work, but in ministry as well.
Depression is no joke. You don’t EFF around with life.
Perhaps one of the most dangerous aspects of depression is isolation. To remove oneself from community. To sit and fester in the lies that are as truths in one’s mind. To let one’s thoughts spiral them down, deep down into darkness, until they have not the strength to pull themselves back up. And there, we’re inclined to leave them be, because “they’ll get over it,” “it’s not that big of a deal,” and frankly, because we’re annoyed that they’re still upset over something we think they should have gotten over ages ago.
But…what if we climbed down into the pit with them, and sat in the darkness and the muck beside them?
What if we laid a silent and steady hand on their shoulder when they can’t see the light, just a physical reminder that they are not alone, a silent assurance that their pain is seen, felt, acknowledged, and even okay?
What if, against their pleas to just leave them be and forget about them and move on with your life, you fought to remain by their side because they are worth it?
What if, when lies overcome them, you fought for truth for them, when they are too weak to do so themselves, even if it’s over and over and over (and over) again?
What if you sat and sat and sat beside them in darkness, in silence, for as long as they needed, until they say, “Okay, I’m ready to move just a little bit,” and you moved just a little bit with them, without forcing them to move more than they are ready to in the moment?
What if you walked beside them through it all, letting them know that their pain is seen, their pain is known, that they are loved where they are at, and that they are accepted without condition?
It may not make the depression go away. But it sure makes it less lonely along the way.
I’ve struggled with severe depression in the past. I will most likely struggle with severe depression in the future. And I’m always a little wary, a little nervous around knives and ledges. A little nervous when I start to feel pangs of sadness. A little nervous that the sadness will linger and that some unseen darkness within me will rear it’s ugly head and choose death over life in a moment of desperation. Yes, even someone as typically happy-go-lucky as me, who might seem to have a good head on her shoulders, who knows the unwavering truth from Scripture. Yes, especially me.
Depression in any form is no joke. Take any plea or cry for help seriously. Because the last thing you would want is to wish that you had before it was too late.
If you are struggling with depression, reach out and ask for help. Stay connected with others. Take off your mask and let your true self be known in a safe place, for all the pain and darkness that’s hiding underneath. Your life is worth it. You are worth it. And if you need additional help, seek professional counseling.