There Is A Way Out
I remember the first time I ever wanted to end my life.
I was fifteen years old; a freshman in high school on the bus ride home from school one day. I had found out that the people I considered to be friends were not friends of mine at all, my fifteen year old heart had been broken for the first time by a boy, and I was on my way to a house that I desperately tried to spend more time outside of it than inside.
It seemed that everything had finally collapsed. I was overwhelmed. I felt scared. I felt hopeless. I felt helpless. I felt completely alone. Above all else, I felt trapped.
I sat in silence on this bus ride trying with everything I was not to fall apart when the thought came to me as clear as day: “There is a way out.” It left my head as soon as it had come into it. In the single moment of that thought, I felt a mix of relief, fear, anxiety, and confusion. I shook it off, because surely, that was not what I wanted. I was not desperate enough to want to die.
For almost a year, I ignored this recurring thought. It would come to be at the times that seemed to be convenient for it to do so, resting quietly at the back of my mind, looking for some sort of acknowledgment. I kept telling myself it wasn’t what I wanted, and I found ways to occupy my mind with other things. But it seemed no matter how much I tried to drown the thought out, it would only come back stronger the next time it entered my mind. I finally reached a point where I was too afraid to be left completely alone because I did not know what kind of urge was going to come over me. I did not know whether or not death was what I really wanted, and I was too afraid to find out.
When drowning the thought out was no longer strong enough, I began to seek anything and everything that could tell me there had to be another way out. When I was with my friends, I would drop subtle hints about the desire to end my life. I would stage questions and comments as if I were talking about somebody else. I did not dare admit to what I was really thinking, because I didn’t want my friends to think I had lost my mind. I didn’t want to end up locked up somewhere. So I would displace myself from the subject matter and wait to hear what people had to say about it. I was met with pretty typical responses such as, “Suicide is so selfish of people”, “Don’t people realize how much their friends/family would miss them?”, and even, “Some people just commit suicide to shut the many voices in their heads up.” The most common responses told me why I should stay alive for others (which is not a bad thing); however, none of the responses gave me reason to want to stay alive for me. I felt more trapped than ever. I felt like I was running out of time. I was afraid to admit it, but I was starting to think that this really was my only way out.
I was nearing the end of my sophomore year when I made one last, desperate attempt to find another way out. I had a friend in my English class who actually did care about me when she said she did. Every time I saw her, she offered me some sort of encouragement. I knew she went to church, but she wasn’t the typical “Christian” I saw in everyone else with a church membership. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew she had something that I didn’t have, and I knew that I needed it in order to have any hope. So, I wrote her a note and explained that I was in a dark place (without telling her what it was), and I didn’t know how but I knew she was the only person who could help me. The short version of my testimony says that she ended up inviting me to church with her, and two months later, I asked Jesus into my life.
I say that is the short version because my thoughts and feelings did not go away overnight. I still had thoughts of being worthless, and I still felt alone. I still felt everything I had felt before this encounter, but I had something now that I didn’t have before. Instead of having just my voice telling me to end it all, I had something in me telling me that all of those things I believed about myself were lies. I had something telling me I was loved, cherished, and worthy of being so. I had something in me that kept saying I had a purpose. I still faced the same struggles I had faced before; but I knew that I was not in it alone.
The decision to share my battle with suicide has not been an easy one to make. I have wrestled with the idea of sharing this part of my story for a long time, and for many reasons. In fact, even as I am writing this, I am sitting here trembling. I have often feared that if this part of my story became known, people would label me as lacking in faith, as mentally unstable, or as being unfit to serve in ministry.
But no matter how ugly it is, this is a part of my story. It is a battle that I have won. It has shaped me into who I am, and it has made me stronger.
More than anything, however, suicide is a subject that ought to be discussed. There are several things that people don’t understand about suicide, and I would like to take some time to address them:
When someone has reached the point of wanting to take their own life, they are not thinking selfishly. At least, that’s not how they see it. A common response to suicide that I have seen is the question, “Didn’t they think about how this would affect the people they were leaving behind?” The answer to this question is yes. Absolutely, they were thinking of the people that would be left behind. But not in the “everyone is going to miss me so much” way. When I considered suicide, I usually thought more along the lines of, “Everyone is going to be so much better off without me”, and I absolutely believed that.
When someone is talking about wanting to take their own life, it is great to offer them reasons to stay alive for others, but they also need to hear reasons to stay alive for themselves. Everyone needs to believe that their life has purpose and meaning, but it can’t just be for the sake of someone else. People are so much more valuable to others when they see the value in themselves. They need to feel as if they are not just a pawn placed conveniently for someone else to be happy. They need to find value, purpose, love, and meaning. They need to know that they are not alone.
When someone has reached the point of wanting to take their own life, the last thing they need to hear is some sort of joke about those with suicidal thoughts belonging in some sort of asylum. I hear these kinds of jokes a lot. I understand that suicide is a deep, dark subject, and jokes like this are intended to offer some lightheartedness; but when someone is already afraid to ask for help, this is the last thing they need to hear. Depression and suicide are not always clothed in dark colors and a sad, irritable mood; they are often covered up in laughter and smiles. When you have reached the point of wanting to end your own life, you are in a dark, lonely, terrifying place. You are already consumed by the thought that there is something wrong with you, and jokes like this only reinforce that thought.
If someone is in any way showing you signs that they may be contemplating suicide, address it with them. When I was considering suicide, I would make very general, indirect statements along the lines of what I was thinking. I would make subtle jokes or comments in favor of suicide. Sometimes, people are too afraid to admit to having these thoughts, so they look for indirect ways to voice it. If you have any suspicions that someone you know is considering this, don’t be afraid to be blunt. It does not hurt to say, “When you said this, it worried me. Are you okay?” You can be even more direct than that and ask if they have had any thoughts about suicide. Direct questions open up conversations that could save a life.
Lastly, tell the people who matter to you why they matter to you as often as you can. Some people really do not hear this enough. Help the ones you love to find value in themselves. A simple, kind statement may not seem like much to you; but it could be exactly what that person needed to keep on going.
I realize that the things I have listed above may not be true for everyone. They are just things that have been on my heart and mind, and they are things that I hope can be beneficial to someone out there. If you have lost someone you know to suicide, please know that this post is not to condemn you for not stopping them. More often than not, you don’t know that you can stop them. I hope you find healing and peace.
I was fortunate enough to have a friend who cared about me, even though she did not know the demons I faced in my head. She helped me to find the value and purpose in my life that I needed to go on.
Unfortunately, there are others who did not have what I had. I actually lost a friend pretty recently to suicide. He was a few years older than me. He was the kind of person who never met an enemy. He was kind, funny, and always smiling. He had a baby girl who had just turned a year old when he died. I have no idea what put him in such a dark place that he believed suicide to be his only way out. I have no idea why he lost the fight; I only with that I had done something to help him win.
If you are considering suicide in any way, I would encourage you to reach out to someone. You need to know that you are not in this alone. If you reach out, other hearts will break with yours. You may think that the lives of others would be better off without you, but you are wrong. The people in your life are glad that you are still here, and so am I. I hope you find your peace.