The Day I Decided to Take My Life
I was just fifteen and had a life with incredible potential ahead of me. Everyone knew me as a phenomenal athlete, straight A-student, well respected leader, and a fun loving people person. I was always smiling, laughing, and talking. I talked a lot (still do), but rarely said what was on my heart. I didn't know how to voice what was inside of me (still don’t).
I wasn't depressed. Life wasn't meaningless. I didn't sleep long hours, isolate myself, or skip meals. I did the opposite. I embraced my full life with both arms and lived in the moment. Perhaps, I believed if I was successful enough, if I won enough awards, received enough applause, if people thought I was somebody, if... then the emptiness in my spirit would dissipate. The emptiness never did, in fact, the emptiness became more pronounced, which then birthed persistent hopelessness.
Hopelessness is precisely where my soul began to die, but it came long before the desperation made me want to physically die.
I wondered if I was crazy when the thoughts came. I wanted to tell someone, but who could I tell? Who would understand? Who could comprehend that someone who “had it all” was prepared to lose it all? I went to church, I tried to pray, I tried to ask God for the courage to believe He had better plans for me. But honestly, Jesus didn't seem to work for me like He did for others. I couldn't see hope. I couldn't see the future. All I could see was pain; pain that I didn't know how to acknowledge, pain that was suffocating all the good in my life. So I told no one. I smiled, lived, and performed trying desperately to outrun the self destructive thoughts.
But then, one day, I just couldn't pretend anymore. It wasn’t depression—it was desperation. It was wanting help, but not having the courage to ask for it. I didn't want to die, but I knew I could no longer tolerate living.
And so, I did the unthinkable. I decided to take my life.
I drugged myself with poison, passed out, and woke up to find out it didn't work. You’d think I’d be thankful for the second chance, you’d think I might have realized that maybe God wanted me to live, but neither of those thoughts occurred. I only knew three things with certainty: I was scared to live, scared to die, and scared to ask for help.
The next day I messaged a friend online and told them I wanted to die, but couldn't even properly kill myself. They heard the sirens. They heard the scream for help, and they did what every source online suggests when dealing with a potential suicide risk; they got me help.
Within 20 minutes, three police cars had arrived at our home with sirens flashing and barricaded our driveway. My unsuspecting parents answered the door, I am sure they nearly passed out when they were told their daughter was trying to kill herself. I was in the shower when they came, the bathroom door was unlocked by an officer and she advised me to rinse off and get out so we could talk. I shook with terror, anger and felt completely betrayed.
I remember the shock when the officer told me I was forced to go with them, and I remember walking out the front door with tears telling my parents I was sorry. I felt like a criminal, having my first (and only) ride in the back of a squad car.
They delivered me to a mental hospital where I was told I was on a mandatory 48-hour hold. They made me change into a hospital gown and hand over my clothes to be put in a cubby until I was released. They even took my shoelaces, I guess so that I couldn't decide to strangle myself while in their custody.
Truthfully, I had spent years wondering if I was a little crazy in my head. After my visit to the Psych-ward I realized there wasn't even a hint of crazy in me.
Over the next two days I spent time in group therapy and had several appointments with two psychotherapists for evaluation to be released. The teens in group therapy were more disturbed then anyone I had ever met. They talked to themselves, some of them screamed profanities at random, and one girl cried with every word she spoke. They weren't simply hurting teens, there was something seriously wrong. I didn't know enough to call it a disease or condition, I didn't even know diagnostic terms or labels; I just knew whatever was going on in their heads was far different then what was going on in mine.
I share this story because after the tragic suicide of Robin Williams, there has been much circulating about suicide, depression, and how to help prevent it. Much of it is good and well written, some of it increasing the stigma on mental illness, and some of what is being published is downright angering and offensive to those who suffer with such thoughts.
Some people attempt suicide because they do have a real, diagnosed mental illness. The thoughts in their head are terrorizing and apart from medicine—assuming it’s effective—they have no way to control those thoughts or tendencies. Other people attempt suicide because of temporary problems, temporary pain, or temporary (but lengthy) moments of hopelessness. They can’t see a way out of the deep, debilitating darkness in their souls, and they don’t know who to ask. That was me.
I didn't want to die; I wanted someone to help me find a reason to live.
It’s been 16 years since I attempted suicide and I can still remember the events that led up to it like they were yesterday. People say suicide is selfish, and it is, but I promise you it doesn't feel selfish to the person who has reached that moment of desperation. It feels necessary. That bears repeating: It never felt selfish, it felt necessary.
So how can we stop this? How exactly do we reduce the number of those who choose suicide? Do we raise awareness? Do we tell them how selfish it is to think that way? How wrong their thoughts are? Do we tell them they simply need Jesus? I don’t honestly know, because I don’t have all the answers. But I can tell you one thing, before we try to confront their pain, before we try to solve their problems, we must learn to love them where they are.
Before we slap them in the face with the reality that life won’t always be this bad, before we proudly slap on bumper stickers that say "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem," we must be willing to enter their pain. We must lend ears to try and understand it. We must ask for God to help us love as He does, without judgement. We must ask for grace to be empathetic. We must learn to speak truth, and to speak it in kindness. We must understand these issues are complicated, and that God is pleased when we live in dependence on Him. And there is validity to the reality that sometimes the most dependent ones are those who are sick, physically or mentally, and God is pleased with those who face that sickness victoriously.
Before we speak, we must seek out our Father—the source of wisdom—and we must guard our tongues from further wounding the already wounded.
“But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is LOVE that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn't really know very much.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-2
A Note From the Author: This was terrifying for me to write, but if it can help just one, it’s worth it. I didn’t edit it, because I was afraid if I did, I would edit it all out. I’m now almost 32 years old. Life wasn’t nearly as hopeless as I thought it was back then. It’s been hard, full of twists and turns, pain and joy, but most importantly, it’s been a beautiful ride. I’ve asked hard questions and found God is big enough to handle them. I’ve learned to lean in and lean on to my Savior whose perfect plans had every moment of my life scripted before one breath began. If I had succeeded at 15 I would have missed so much. College, marriage, and four beautiful kids who call me “the best mommy ever” even when I feel like a failure. I would have missed the joy of being used, mess and all in God's grand story. The fulfillment that comes from serving, giving and going in strength that isn't mine.
If you are feeling at your end, if it’s become too much, if you can’t handle another day—ask for help. Hang on. There is so much more ahead, so many marvelous, wonderful things that you can’t even begin to imagine right now. God is faithful and He will never ever give you more then you can bear, grasp that promise and hang on friend. . .it’s not the end.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, You aren’t alone. No matter who you are or what problems you are struggling with, hurting yourself isn't the answer. We want to help you find hope. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For more information on suicide and suicide prevention visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.