Wednesday, November 16

Suicide

It began in passing. I had dropped in to see a friend who was attending a performance, and the musician on stage began to play his guitar and sing. The melody was catchy, but the words cut to the core, speaking of leaving family, friends, life, problems, and pain behind... and encouraging onlookers to not judge for what they couldn't see. The words drew tears for me, thinking about people I knew and memories of my own life... I looked around at the audience members and wondered how many of them really understood what he was singing about - how many really understood how fragile life can be, even in someone who seems to have everything put together? Did they really understand? The performance met with rousing applause, when I would have given silence instead. That was my answer. And that began the first of my recent recollections on life and death.

It happened again in music, again a song I hadn't heard before, sung by an acquaintance onstage. And again the lyrics echoed pain and sorrow, suffering and frustration. She belted it, and inside I realized that, to her, the song was just a song. Music with a catchy beat and rhyming words, not a glimpse into the reality that stalks people who stand by us today and may not tomorrow.

The topic showed up in the news, was mentioned in conversations, and became a sudden centerpiece for discussions as people talked with me. It's not something I almost ever talk about... but it came up, over, and over, and over again. And so it's my topic now... and hopefully it will help someone here.

I used to want to die. For years I wanted to die. I felt alone, outcast, depressed, isolated, different, friendless, worthless, cursed, evil... and I felt like I had nothing good to offer the world. I believed, honestly, that while some people might have cared about me, they would truly be better off without me in their lives. They only cared because they cared about everyone... or because they had to... and if they really knew the true me, complete with sin and addiction and imperfections, even they would turn away.

Taking my own life was never an option, because I knew that it was wrong, it would devastate my family, and it would have eternal consequences (I think that was one of the most vital things I learned in Primary - suicide is a major sin that will keep you from salvation. That knowledge kept me alive. Really.). So I would curl up in a ball and cry and pray that somehow I wouldn't have to wake up in the morning and face the world again. I spent many nights simply crying for that... but it obviously never happened.

No one knew. Not my parents, or the people at school, or the people at Church, or even the people who tried to be closest to me. On the outside, I was perfect. Perfect in everything, happy, a shining example of whatever it was you needed an example for. But inside I was a wreck.

The only solace I ever found was in my personal relationship with God... but even that took time to develop, time to encourage, time to truly understand. Late at night, when the world was falling in on me and nothing could lift my hopes, I learned to turn to God and pour out my tears to Him... and He listened.

The Lord never came to me in person to dry my tears. He didn't send angels from Heaven. But every time I turned to Him and asked to know if He loved me, He found a way to tell me that He did. Sometimes it was in the wind, sometimes in the rain. Sometimes in the sun, or the clouds, or the scriptures, or a talk in Church or a message from someone in my life. No matter what has happened, I have always known that God loves me... and, for me, that makes living my life worthwhile. God loves me. He created me, and gave me everything I can't control to learn to be happy and grow to become the man He sees in me. And with Him at my side, I can do anything.

Today, suicide is still not an option. But it tugs at the back of my mind when days are dark and I wonder if I'm doing anything worthwhile, or if I'm ruining the Plan Father has for me.

To all of you who understand - who have felt pain and sorrow so intense that it seems better to give up - I share my love... and I say that you are important in the eyes of God and the eyes of the people in your life. You're important because once you smiled at the bus driver and it helped him to have a better day. You're important because you live by morals that others watch, silently and in the shadows, and because your example inspires them to change the world. You're important because people care about you, pray for you, think about you, and want you to be a greater part of their lives. And you're important because you have a story and a gift that only you have - a place in God's Plan to save His children and bring them happiness that no one else can ever fill... and that comes from your life, your struggles, your faith, your falterings, and your relationship with God. You are amazing, and you are a literal spirit child of the God of the Universe. He did not send you here to fail... which means that, no matter what has happened, He stands at your side, ready to help you move forward and find the hope and peace and happiness you need.

Hope is shining brightly on a cold November night
The moon is gone, the stars are dark, and yet there still is light
Because beneath the wind and through my pain a whisper sounds...
"My Son, I love you. And it will be alright."



A talk by Elder Ballard: Suicide: Some things we know, and some things we do not know.

19 comments:

  1. God's love is still something I'm trying to internalize. It doesn't make any sense to me. Thank you for the reminder.

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  2. This was so beautifully written and was everything I needed to hear tonight. Thank you for being so in tune with the Spirit and being such an example of faith. You truly touched my heart.

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  3. Love the picture you choose with this. And I just wanted to say, because of your blog I am more compassionate. Even though it is obvious, sometimes I forget there are more to people than we can see. And that everyone is experiencing pain that isn't often shown. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Thank you for touching on this subject. I've been there and have only had the courage to talk about it . . . a little . . . with my husband . . . because he already knew. I would never take my own life for exactly the same reasons you named, but many times I wanted not to wake up. It was worth confiding in my husband and taking steps to overcome it and learning to demand less of myself. My Heavenly Father made all the difference to me because I knew that was not what he wanted for me. He really did form us for joy and he will let each of us know that he loves us. It is hard to see the light, the glorious light, at the end of the tunnel and we have to go on faith that it will be there. Because it really is. Thank you again.

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  5. It's nice to be reminded that I'm not the only one who's suffered deeply, watching everyone else seem to get by just fine, and feeling wrong.
    It's good to hear another witness that God really does keep us here with His love, and sometimes that's the only reason we stay - for Him.

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  6. Interesting, I don't remember the suicide lesson from primary. "Suicide is a major sin that will keep you from salvation"? Could you share your scriptural/prophetic sources for that statement? I've heard contrary views

    Consider, as the most basic place to look that I can think of, the following: http://lds.org/study/topics/suicide?lang=eng

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  7. Thank you for your post. I could not sleep tonight and ended up chatting with a good friend who is in the hospital dealing with a serious health situation. He is a recovering addict, and facing the need for pain medication. I was able to share some parts of your post, and hope it will help strengthen him at this time.

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  8. It's good to see your vulnerable side. So often you portray yourself as something untouchable. I'm sorry you have dark days but perhaps that's what unifies humanity: we all suffer and we all try to find a way to make life better. I'm glad you're sharing an "it gets better" message from a Mormon perspective.

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  9. Beautifully said. A perfect balance of real emotion with the uplift of real hope. Thank you.

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  10. I wish I could explain to you how much your posts have been inspiring me. You are much better with your words than I am, so you'll just have to use your imagination! I am a recent follower, but I've gone through and read just about everything you've had to say. Thank you for being real, genuine and for sparking a light in me that has been slowly going out. Everyday I feel as if I have no one to relate to. I feel alone almost daily. I struggle with personal trials that I feel no one could possibly relate to. However, your posts are helping me realize that this just isn't so. We cannot be alone with the Lord by our side. And what better friend and father than Him? My days can get very dark from time to time and I sometimes ask God why I even exist. What is the point of continuing? Your posts show how much we can gain by putting our trust in Him.
    Thank you for your messages of hope and love. No matter what it is that we struggle with, the Lord is there for us. He loves us and wants us to succeed in this life and return home to Him.

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  11. Having suffered from depression for many years, I know what you mean. There were many days I went to bed hoping for something horrible to happen so I wouldn't wake up. Wishing I'd just stop breathing in the night and such. But, I think because my depression would really truly overtake me at times, I also did want to commit suicide. There were times when no amount of "no, it's sin" would help. I felt that I was such a bad person it didn't matter, I was going to hell anyway. Or at other times, I wouldn't think at all, all I could think was how I could die. And later, I'd think, I'm glad I didn't kill myself, but I hope if I had God would forgive me because I wasn't in control. Lucky for me, my friends always bailed me out. Babysat me, watched me, etc. Or my husband, once I got married. Also lucky for me, I finally got medicine that fixes my problem. I know it's not a chemical problem for everyone, and medicine won't help in those cases. It was just good to read this and remember how grateful I am to be alive.

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  12. A few comments have highlighted the need to explain the intended audience of this post. This post was not written for people who are looking for comfort or meaning in the wake of suicide of a loved one. That message is simple, as it is a question of judging others, and I encourage anyone who is looking for peace on this matter to turn to God and let Him judge. God is the judge of all men, and He takes into account all variables, because He is merciful and just, including hormones, brain imbalances, stresses in life, and everything else. Elder Ballard gave a great talk on that subject in 1987 titled "Suicide: Some things we know, and some things we don't know."

    This post was written for people who are currently or have in the past struggled with suicidal thoughts - and to people who struggle with those thoughts, the question is very different. The question is the current and future acceptability of suicide itself as an option in their own lives, and, as mentioned in Elder Ballard's talk, suicide is never the right option to choose. And while we do not know the final penalty of those who commit "self-murder" "...it is clear that no one can destroy so precious a gift as that of life without incurring a severe penalty."

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  13. Some things cannot truly be understood unless they are experienced firsthand. (Which is why there are so few truly gifted child actors, I suppose.)

    Thank you for your willingness to share your experiences with others.

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  14. Trev:

    I know your comment was definitely sincere, and I'm grateful that you were candid. I'm hoping that the extra comments at the bottom and links to articles within the post were enough to match what you felt needed to be added to the post. Thanks for your feedback.

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  15. Ryan:

    The first time I read your comment, I smiled. The second time, I cried. I appreciate that it was positive, and the rest of this doesn't apply directly - just to the context. Sometimes I set myself up as untouchable. What am I doing or not doing that is alienating people? How much more transparent can I get? I'm sharing, imperfectly and without edit or review, about one of the deepest struggles I've had in my life, and showing a part of me that never sees the light of day. And yet, somehow, it's still not enough. People in real life tell me the same things you said, and here, where I share more, it still happens. Maybe it's my writing style, or something simplistic like that... but I don't know. Christ wasn't untouchable, and He was perfect. I'm nowhere near perfect, and yet I've encased myself from some people. (grits teeth)

    Thanks for the honest feedback.

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  16. I love your blog.

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  17. I have never agreed with the idea that suicide will get you the penalty of loss of salvation. Many people who commit suicide have internal problems, imbalanced chemicals, etc. that they are not in control of. I'm LDS also, but I have a hard time believing that God would judge someone with those problems so severely as to keep them out of salvation. I had never thought of death as an answer, until last year when I became an insomniac for six months because of severe anxiety. The lack of sleep and constant panic attacks made me so sleep deprived that I became depressed from a chemical imbalance. I was also so sleep deprived that I started thinking about death. As a psychology graduate, I knew this was different for me and it freaked me out, so I talked to my therapist. I came out of this quickly after this because of medication, but I often wonder if I hadn't been a psychology kid, would I have realized my out of place thoughts? Or would I have started an obsession and eventually, not due to anything in my control, ended my life? Scary thought. I'm glad it didn't happen, but my own experience has made me a much better understanding. I cannot believe that Heavenly Father would cast us out for something that was due to a neurotransmitter malfunction.

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  18. Anonymous: The gospel is clear in that I will be judged for the sins that I commit, according to my own knowledge and the choices I make. I agree - I will not be judged for things over which I have no control. I won't be judged for my attractions, or the bouts of depression, or other circumstances outside of my choices. But I will be judged based on the choices I make, and ultimately if I make the right choices, however hard, given the circumstances I face.

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