How should we handle the issue of suicide? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
A lot of people today are talking about the series 13 Reasons Why. If you haven’t heard of it, it involves a girl named Hannah who commits suicide and before she does, she makes thirteen tapes for the thirteen people she holds responsible and sends copies to them. You hear the story of one guy, the guy who loved her and really even she says he didn’t deserve a tape, and how he tries to piece together what happened. I watched it some with Allie and thought it was doing her good to see the impact suicide had, but I did not see the last episode where apparently you actually see Hannah kill herself.
That really had a major negative effect on my wife which made her remember and relive all her past experiences of it since she has tried it at least three times before. I understand a lot of psychiatrists and counselors told the producers not to show something like that, but they didn’t listen. I also understand that this scene is being played by some bullying types to torment those who are wrestling with this.
Thinking about this makes me relive the worst day of my life without a doubt. It was around two years ago and I had just got done doing a show. Allie and my Dad and I were going to go see a movie that evening. I remember talking to Allie who was lying facedown on the bed and telling her that I would go to the CVS and get some stuff we needed then come back and then before too long, I heard her say she overdosed.
Apparently, while I was doing my show, she had got the keys to the safe with her medication and took all of her sleeping medications. Why? She felt like she had lost two really good friends. One of them we made things right with very quickly. The other one had a consistent record of hurting her and I honestly struggled a lot dealing with this one. I tried to make things right before we left for Atlanta, but it wasn’t to be. I had to talk to a lot of wiser people than I to deal with my personal feelings on the matter.
On that day though, I called 911 immediately. The fire department wasn’t too far from where we lived and they came down quickly. My parents next door found out and my mother ran down and jumped on the bed begging Allie to stay awake. Note my mother was 65 at the time so that’s quite a feat. I called Allie’s parents and anyone else I could. When the ambulance was taking Allie away to the hospital, I was with my Dad. My car had recently been hit in an accident and was totaled so I had no vehicle. My Dad drove and when I say we followed the ambulance, I mean it. We ran through intersections and changed lines and everything else. I had never seen my Dad drive like that and Allie tells me the paramedics were just watching in amazement. I was calling everyone I could on the way.
At the hospital, Allie had the largest group of people waiting to see her. Most of them didn’t get to. When we were told we could go see her, I was one of the first ones to go. I never left. I stayed there the whole time. Her mother came down before too long and we were all together.
Allie spent that evening in the hospital. She had a nurse staying with her the whole night. I, too, stayed with her as well. As you can expect, I did not get much if any sleep. A hospital chair is not comfortable and it’s especially hard when another nurse has to come in regularly and turn on the lights to get blood.
The next day at one point, my parents took me home so I could get a little bit of sleep. When I had a few hours, it was right back to the hospital. We knew Allie was going to go to the mental health area and we were expecting it to be that evening. If she came and I had not left, I would be stuck there all night with no place to sleep and since I didn’t have a car, there was nothing I could do.
Allie had begged me to not leave her. I knew it was best to go home, but I didn’t want to and I was worried Allie, who has abandonment issues, would think I had abandoned her again. I did go home and later on that evening, she called. She apologized and said I made the right call. She was going to the mental health ward.
Home alone the next few days, I answered the phone whenever she called. Other than that, I don’t think I wanted to do much. I get so despondent at those times I don’t even want to do apologetics. Doing my blog seems like a necessary evil. You see, the first time even I had to take Allie to a crisis stabilization unit to deal with suicidal thinking, I dropped her off and on the way home I cried my eyes out. After about 13 or 14 miles of crying, I was finally able to pull myself together enough to call a friend for help. Whenever Allie was in that unit, visiting hours were from 6-8 PM and the place was about 25 miles or so away from my house, but I didn’t care. I was down there every day and before 6 and I never left until 8.
Seriously. Unless you understand the devotion I have to my wife, you will not understand the pain that all of this put me through.
To get back to the story, while at home, I honestly was this time feeling angry. I was the one feeling abandoned. How could Allie think about leaving me like this? How could she choose to die because of two other people like that? Was I not good enough? Was I not worth life itself?
There came a time where Allie would get to have some group therapy in the hospital and I could get to see her for a little bit. I remember walking to where I would see her. It was a long hallway that ended in wide double doors and that led to another long hallway. I had been thinking about how I was going to tell her how upset and hurt and angry I was and it was all building up.
And then I saw her in the hallway.
I forgot everything I wanted to say. It didn’t matter then. I saw her and I loved her and I do love her. I walked with her back to the mental health ward and we just sat outside together until it was time. There were plenty of hugs and kisses and such.
Allie was released and for awhile, she did have a zeal for life. I call it the Paradise month. She had a great love for God then and everything was going fine, until this other friend that I wrote about earlier called her an idiot one day on Facebook. It all went downhill then.
Allie has had her ups and downs since then, but watching 13 Reasons Why was another down. One reason I guard my wife so carefully is because I know how sensitive she is to what people say. I know some people can say something and not realize how she will take it, but I will. I strive to be as loving and caring as I can be for her. Yes. This show hits too close to home for me and since it had that effect on her, I cannot support it.
But this isn’t meant to just have me tell you my story. This is meant to open up a serious discussion about a serious matter. Suicide is always a serious matter. It should never be taken lightly. If someone tells you they are suicidal, don’t treat them as if they’re joking or wanting attention or anything. Treat it seriously.
The church is sadly very good at shooting its own wounded. Let’s start with depression. Depression no doubt has a chemical component to it. Even if you don’t have a diagnosis of depression, everyone at some time will struggle with some depression in their lives. When I meet Christians who are always talking about how every day is full of joy and they’re so happy, I don’t believe it. Our Lord was described in Isaiah 53 as a man of sorrows familiar with suffering. There is nothing wrong with admitting life can be awful sometimes. Go read the Psalms and see how much the Psalmist wanted things to change.
My wife has also struggled with self-harm in the form of cutting. When she has told some Christians about this before, they have told her she is a goat. A real Christian would not struggle with depression. A real Christian would not even think about suicide.
My reply is a real Christian would also show love to someone who was suffering and not throw another burden on them.
We always talk about loving the sinner and hating the sin. Let’s be clear as we can about suicide. It is wrong. It is never an option. Still, we all know that we struggle with things that we know are wrong. A man watches that porn video even though he knows it’s wrong. You go and you overeat on those cookies even though you know it’s wrong. You live haphazardly with your money even though you know it’s wrong. Everyone has some sin or sins that they struggle with. The struggle is real.
Can you imagine someone struggling with a sin coming to Jesus and asking for help and Him being hard on them? If you cannot, then remember that you as a Christian are to represent Christ on Earth. If you meet your fellow Christian hurting and in pain with such an issue as this, why would you give them something more to be depressed about?
“Well, if they think they could go to Hell if they commit suicide, why would they do it?” Yeah. You’d be surprised. You see, you’re not exactly thinking rationally then. At that point, your emotions have taken control of the wheel. Some could think even Hell would be better than this. All you can see at that point is the pain itself.
Picture a phobia if you have it. For me, it’s honestly water. It took me a long time to wash my face in the shower and I can easily panic in a swimming pool today. When I am there, all my rationality goes out the window. Get me away from the edge and I start screaming in panic. I’m not exaggerating on this. Is it rational? No. Is it real? Very much so.
None of us follow rationality no matter how much we say we honor it. Blaise Pascal said years ago that you can take the most astute man of reason and put him on a platform of sufficient width and length so that he has enough room to walk without fear and suspend that over a chasm with him on top of it. His emotion will very quickly overcome his reason.
What’s the church to do? How about showing love to the person? One thing Job’s friends did right when they saw him was to do nothing in a sense. They just sat with him and were beside him. It’s when they started giving “advice” that they were screwing it all up. I’m not saying don’t give advice, but make sure any advice is not condemnation.
Despite what you think, many people in the church struggle with depression. Do a web search and you will find many well-known pastors who have struggled with it. One interesting figure who has in the apologetics community is J.P. Moreland. By the way, don’t get on Christians for using medication to help deal with depression issues. I fully support therapy and think it has the best effects when followed, but there is nothing wrong with medication if one needs it.
Whatever the person is depressed about, treat it seriously. You might think it’s nothing, but you know what? Your nothing is something enough to them that it’s ruining their life. To go back to phobias, you might think stepping away from the edge of a pool in three feet of water is nothing. For me, it is terrifying and the stuff of nightmares. This isn’t about what it’s like for you. It’s about what it’s like for them.
I find it incredibly saddening that the church really does so little for mental health issues. In fact, many of us don’t. We can think of many charities that are out there for all number of diseases like cancer and heart disease, and we should have those! There is very little for mental health and it affects so many people. Mental health is an elephant in the room. Could it be we can talk about physical health much easier because many times you can’t help if you get a disease, but with mental health, we’re quick to blame the victim?
My wife also struggles with hallucinations many times. It’s been more than once that I’ve been woken up in the night because Allie is convinced she has seen something there, and there has been nothing there. Keep in mind that even though there was nothing real, the hallucination itself is very real. She really is having it. In those times, I remain calm. I don’t get after her. What good would it do? The last time I remember, it was probably about 2 in the morning. I never yelled or got frustrated. In fact, I held her and comforted her for about an hour or so. I did not consider it a burden. It was an honor. Why would a guy be upset about getting to show love to his wife in her hour of need?
The church can too often make people struggling with these things feel like outsiders. I honestly think it would be good for the church to sometimes have a depressing service. Our songs are always so happy. Our services are all about how to live a good life. We all come to church and put on our “church faces” and we talk in the most spiritual language that we can, all the while many people are masking the pain they feel and putting on a mask only makes them feel that pain all the more along with the pain of loneliness.
Maybe we need a service where we sing songs about crying out in pain wondering if God is really hearing us. Maybe we need a service where we talk about the realities of a painful life and talk about feeling as if God is a thousand miles away. Maybe we need a service where we can just come together and share not just our praises, but share our sorrows and talk about how horrible life seems to us at times.
In all of this, suicide is never the answer. The comic strip Cyanide and Happiness, can sometimes be crude. Sometimes, it hits home. One such time that I do not forget about is when I read this one:
This is indeed accurate. The pain is just brought to other people. It doesn’t go away. People years down the road will still be wondering what they could have done differently. Don’t think it will stop. It won’t.
We also need to remember why we should live. We often look to the exceptional moments. The exceptional moments aren’t what makes life the most worth living. It’s the day to day moments. My wife just came in here and picked up our cat to hold him. Those are the kinds of little blessings. What suicide is in essence saying is that none of those little blessings is worth it. The world is not good enough. Of course, the person in pain will think that they are not worth it and they are making the world a better place by leaving it.
They are not.
There is someone out there who cares about you immensely. My wife has me and her family and several good friends. For each of you, there is someone out there who cares about you. I also say without hesitation that God cares for you as well.
I would also encourage you to get into some good spiritual formation. For me when I struggled with depression, it was apologetics. It showed me how real what I believe is and I started taking it a lot more seriously. I used to say the depression I went through was the best thing that could have happened to me, because it led me to apologetics. I was wrong. It led me to apologetics, and apologetics led me to Allie, and Allie brings me a whole lot more joy than apologetics does.
If you are feeling suicidal, please get help. Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Please find someone you can talk to. Contact your doctor or a mental health professional. Reach out to someone and find the help you need.
If someone reaches out to you, please be Jesus to them. Don’t condemn them or put another burden on them. Perhaps just listen and maybe give a hug at the end or something like that. If you’re a Christian, pray with them. Be willing to be there for anyone in need. Be willing to have your phone by you at all times if they need someone to talk to. You could be the one who saves a life.
And church, please be better. That so many in the church struggle with this, should be a testimony against us. We are not walking like Jesus walked. We do not have a place where Christians feel safe to be in pain. There should be no shame in admitting you’re struggling with something. Everyone should feel welcome and safe. If someone wants to share praises, we let them, but do the same if someone shares pain.
If you see something on Facebook that is a suicidal threat, please report it. Don’t take it lightly. Even on my days of AOL chats, I would report suicidal threats to administrators who I understand could track down the help needed and get the person to a hospital.
I cannot support the show, but I understand the mission. I want you all to understand it as well. Please start taking matters seriously around you for those in need. Let your person always be a safe place for those who are hurting.
And Allie, if you read this I want you to know I love you and I always will. I am so thankful you are in my life. Losing you would be the most devastating thing that I can think of that would happen to me. The worst day of my life was that day when I came the closest to losing you. I have always strived to not treat you like any other man and I intend to keep that pledge. I love you.