In my pastor’s defense, he had no idea what was happening in my heart that day.
I had gone to my church to talk with him about how I was feeling. I figured it was a last ditch effort to cry out for help. But, once I was there, I found myself unable to express the truth. I was afraid to ask him to give me a reason to keep going. I simply could not bring myself to tell him I wanted to die. Looking back, I think the reason I never told anyone was because my own thoughts were so terrifying that I did not want to speak them aloud. I was also afraid of being locked up in a psych ward somewhere and bearing the stigma of mental illness. If I’m honest, in that moment, I was afraid he would stop me from carrying out my plan.
My entire life felt like it had fallen apart around me. After a lifetime of abuse, it had taken every ounce of hope I had left to believe I could ever be loved when I married my husband, but now it was over. Suddenly, eight torturous years of trying to help my husband get sober seemed to have amounted to nothing but destruction and betrayal. My whole self—mind, body, and spirit—was in shambles. I was angry with my husband. I was angry with the church. I was angry with God. I was angry with myself. I was a bitter woman and felt utterly ruined. I had already been engaging in self-harm and self-destructive activities. I had gone through suicidal thoughts, plans, and even an actual attempt before, when I was younger. This time, I had determined that I would not fail.
You see, I had a plan. I had rescheduled all my appointments for that day and come home early from work. My son was at school, and he was supposed to get off the school bus at his grandma’s house. No one expected me home for several hours. I was going to park my car in the back yard where it couldn’t be seen from the road. I had a full prescription there that I knew would put me to sleep, never to wake again. I was driving toward my house, rehearsing in my mind all the things I would write in the letter.
Other than formulating a fool-proof plan, logical thought doesn’t really enter into the equation when you are suicidal. Even though these thoughts don’t come from someone who is completely sane and reasonable, you honestly believe you are being completely rational in your thinking. You feel completely justified in what you are planning, and you feel like you are completely sane. But, you’re not.
What had I been thinking? I was thinking about how miserable I was and that I could not see my way out of the despair. I was thinking about the things the enemy of my soul kept whispering in my ear—how useless and worthless I was, how unloved I was. I was thinking there was something inherently bad in me that made me incapable of being loved, even by God. I was focused on how tired I was and how defeated I felt. I was completely hyper-focused on every single lie I had ever believed about God, others, and myself.
Here’s what I didn’t think about. I didn’t think about what it would do to my son to find me there when his grandma dropped him off that evening. I didn’t have a realistic perspective of what it would do to him to have to live without his mother. I knew there would be sadness, but I thoroughly believed that everyone who mourned would soon move on with their lives without me. As a matter of fact, I had convinced myself that my son (and everyone else) would be better off without me. I really had no idea what devastation I would have caused, had I followed through with that plan.
Thank God, He intervened before I could get home.
God brought me to my senses that day, and I did not enact the plan I had made to end my life. It absolutely terrifies me to think how close I was to making an irreversible decision. I look at all the blessings I have experienced in my life since then, and I can’t thank God enough for pulling me out of that pit of despair. I have come so far in the years since that day. Since then, I have also had several people close to me experience the suicide of a loved one. It frightens me to think that could have been my family, bearing such an unimaginable grief and such searing pain. And the soul-rending questions…
For those who have a loved one who struggles with suicidal thoughts or has taken his or her own life:
Please know it is not your fault. There is nothing anyone could have done to snap me out of the insanity I was going through at that time. God alone has the power to heal in that way. You can offer help and support, but in the end, it is up to the person who is suffering to accept help and cooperate in their healing process. Just be available and safe to talk to. That is the only thing (and the best thing) anyone can do. If they have made their struggles known to you, that is a huge step—one that I never took. It indicates that you are the kind of safe and compassionate person they need, and that they trust you. But, if your loved one never gave an indication of how much distress he or she was in, please understand that does not mean you were somehow not enough. I never told anyone around me how I felt, despite being surrounded by people who really loved me well.
For those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts or self-harm:
You are not alone. There are more of us out there than you probably realize. If you are struggling with these feelings, please find someone safe to talk to. There is hope for a better future, even if you cannot see how it could possibly ever get better. Don’t make an irreversible choice. Give the people at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline a call at 1 (800) 273-8255. Talk to them. They are there to help. If you don’t want to talk on the phone, they have people waiting to chat with you online. Just click this link to go straight there.
Since that day, God has completely turned my life around and given me beauty for those ashes. But, make no mistake; it is a long journey. I spent well over two decades in that pit of despair, struggling with those thoughts and feelings. And, after that day, I had a long road of healing that continues even now. I’ve had to work at it. Sometimes, it has been exhausting emotional work. But, I am a stronger, better person today because of it. I have God to thank for placing so many amazing people in my life to help me walk this path. I am grateful for every one of God’s people-gifts to me. You know who you are. Thank you.
Patricia Taylor is the editor for Soul Care Collective and is a member of the Seedbed Farm Team.
Image attribution: ArishaRay / Thinkstock