“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” – Philippians 4:8
This week there was news of another beautiful, bright, successful young lady who had committed suicide. I’m sure amidst the condolences; tears and sadness there are several WHY’s. All I could think is that I can relate. The thought of suicide is seldom one discussed out in the open, but kept in the dark until someone succeeds in committing the act. Suicidal thoughts should not be hidden in shame, but faced and dealt with out in the open. If you’re having them, find a safe space to work through those feelings.
There are those who live with suicidal thoughts and choose life repeatedly despite difficulty and pain. Just last week I had an inkling of a thought to broach the subject and BE BOLD, but wasn’t sure how. The apparent suicide of Ms. Titi Branch, Co-founder of Miss Jessie’s, gave me the needed push.
I hope that by me coming out of the dark, someone will feel empowered to face their private thoughts and seek help. Let’s do something different. Let’s talk about it. Expose your wounds to the air and light so that they can begin to heal. Help others to be encouraged to know they are not alone; help those who might be hurting others with their expectations and pressure to be more supportive and understanding instead. I’d rather hear stories of living and overcoming depression and suicidal thoughts than about another needless death.
When did you have your first suicidal thought?
I was in elementary school. There’s something very depressing about constantly being told what you cannot do, being forced to be different from everyone else regardless of your will along with the pressure to excel at whatever you’re asked to do. Sometimes in anger I’d fantasize about ways I could end my life. The goal was to hurt my parents. The realization was that whatever I did would only hurt me.
Ultimately at times I didn’t feel loved, heard or that I mattered to anyone. This feeling led to a cycle of wanting to hurt those who were hurting me by ending my life, thinking that only by tragedy would I ever receive love or the attention I wanted from those who mattered to me. I thought that maybe if something bad happened they would SEE me. My childhood was one in which I was rarely celebrated, complimented or championed. At least that was my perspective.
Did you ever act on your suicidal thoughts?
My thoughts usually never got beyond the thinking phase to where I put them into action. I did cut once. My wrist still bears the reminder. That really hurt. I lost my will to die and decided that bearing the burden of living was the better option.
Where does the will to die come from?
I cannot speak for every person who has suicidal thoughts, but as for me it comes when I’m tired. Physical and mental fatigue makes it hard to push aside negative thoughts. Everything that’s going wrong far outweighs what’s going right, most likely in an irrational sense.
How do you cope and overcome suicidal thoughts?
I have to focus on what is true –
I am loved.
This moment may feel really bad, but it will pass.
IT IS OKAY TO GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.
Getting overwhelmed could prove deadly. I know it is going against the grain to slow down and take a break in a world that equates success with constant busyness. Maintaining my mental and physical health is so important. That’s why I have to know when I’m doing too much. I need rest, exercise and to eat healthy food.
Isolation could prove deadly. Being alone with my negative thoughts with no one around to counter them will not help me overcome my funky moods. I need to get out and socialize with positive people. Celebrate even the small stuff. I need to get outside of myself, my head and my troubles by volunteering to help others.
Taking in too much negative media could prove deadly. It helps that I strive to avoid negativity that comes through music, books, movies, TV and other media. Instead find and meditate on scriptures that display how God shows up for those who are depressed. (i.e., 1 Kings 19, Psalm 116, Luke 22:41-44) As you will see, when you’re down you’re in good company. Some of God’s all-stars had rough days of emotional/mental despair and needed ministering to, even Jesus our savior, so don’t get down on yourself for feeling down. Feel what you feel, but don’t wallow in bad feelings. Cry out to God and allow him to minister to your needs too.
How can I help someone who is depressed?
Put away your electronic devices and have meaningful face-to-face interaction. Don’t underestimate the power of a hug. When you ask someone how they’re doing, stop and listen. When asked how you’re doing, don’t lie and say that you’re okay or fine when you’re not. Acknowledge and admit bad days. We need to start being honest about our feelings with those with whom we feel safe, so that it feels normal and not taboo to not be okay at times. Not being okay is allowed.
I often say, ‘if you think something nice, say it.’ You never know the impact of a kind word or a compliment on someone’s spirit. At the same time, a nasty or disparaging word could be the straw that breaks their spirit. Contrary to our popular childhood rhyme “Sticks and Stones,” words do hurt. God says that life and death lie in the power of the tongue. Believe that and act accordingly. Speak life.
I’ve shined this light on a very private pain I carry at times not for your pity, but to give you understanding and new perspective. There is no standard look or life that leads to suicide. It crosses all of the lines of being human. Many among us live with pain. Behind the smiles, successes and good looks are some gaping wounds that need time and attention to heal. I pray that we start taking that time, start talking about it, start loving one another and ourselves better. For some, like me, the first step is learning how.
I’ve been able to learn how to love me, and in some areas I’m still learning. I hope others will put aside negative behavior such as bullying, judgment, gossip, and hurtful criticism and start recognizing when others around them are hurting. People like me can learn to love ourselves, by seeing how others love themselves and others. I’m thankful that God put people in my life who have the confidence and self-love that I’ve needed to mirror to survive.
I’m thankful that God’s love arrives fresh and new each morning and he loves me more than I could ever imagine. Not every day is going to go as planned or desired, but that doesn’t mean the end of it all. I’m learning to give up my all or nothing attitude and accept the bad with the good. Now my outlook is that, if he woke me up, he’s got more for me and for me to do so let me get to it. Whether or not I live is up to God. How I live is up to me.
Still at times I feel down, but I now recognize it as my trigger to take some time to take care of me. I’m not going to promise you that life will get any easier, but it will get easier to dismiss your suicidal thoughts. You can live through your circumstances and find your joy in spite of them. This I know, because I’ve been there. ❤