I’ve been sitting on this topic for awhile. To be honest, I am reluctant to share. But perhaps there is someone out there who can use this. I sure hope that’s the case because I’m about to divulge some hidden part of me. The darkness that has surfaced occasionally. That forbidden thought of what if. What if I did the unthinkable? What if I purposefully traded in the great gift of life and gave it all up? I’m going to share a few thoughts about that taboo topic of suicide.
Let me make it perfectly clear before we get started, I am not a therapist. I have no training and I don’t claim to have specific answers for anyone. My depression is conditional and not clinical so I can’t relate to those who are chronically depressed. If anyone has had any kind of rumination on this subject my advice is to see a trained professional. The intent of this article is solely to offer suggestions and to point someone to help.
In order to understand my advice I feel I need to explain a little bit about my experience with this subject. In my opinion, depression is like entering a cave. When we enter the cave we can still see the light from the opening but the more we walk the more light disappears. We are left to wander down trails and paths in utter darkness and will inevitably end up hopelessly lost with no hope of ever getting out if we don’t find help. I have only dabbled in the entrance way of the cave. I’ve never lost the light completely and I have always made my way back out to safety.
It started when I was in high school and a fellow classmate and ward member took his life in his backyard. He was a handsome boy and seemed to have a lot going on for him. It just took one moment and he was gone. Dead at 15 when so much of life should have been in front of him.
His suicide brought the subject to the surface. The word was whispered (because it’s forbidden and should not be mentioned) in circles and discussed in hushed conversation. “How could he do this?” “How could he do this to his family?” It devastated his family and took some time for our community to heal. I believe there are still some poor souls out there that never quite recovered.
The next time the dark thought entered my mind was when I served a mission. It seems strange to me even now that the thought crossed my mind at this time of my life. I had a fight with my companion and went into the bathroom. After I closed the door I looked in the mirror and could almost hear a voice tell me, “What are you living for?” The moment scared me and I shook my head to get rid of the thought. I still recall the moment and the sheer darkness and hopelessness I felt. This is ridiculous, I thought, there is a better solution.
Fast forward a few years. It became evident that my life was not going to go according to plan. Nothing was working out. I moved from Denver to Salt Lake to be with family and to heal a lonely, broken heart. But those dark thoughts started occurring on a more frequent basis. I began seeing a therapist and I saw her for a year doing group therapy on a monthly basis and a few of individual sessions.
Here are some things I have learned on my journey because I don’t take happiness or contentment for granted. It can all come crashing down in a moment of unguarded attention. That cave is ever lurking.
Perfection is an illusion in this life. No one is perfect despite what image is put forth. I accept the fact that I’m far from perfect and I recognize that I will always be awkward. I’m okay with that. In fact, I give myself permission to not be perfect and to be awkward to my heart’s content.
I need to be careful with my testimony. The Light of the Spirit is the only thing that can combat darkness so I need to make sure I get my daily dose. It’s not enough to simply read and go through the motions, I need to make sure I’m nurturing my testimony with spiritual food. I need to remember the why’s of my actions.
Prayer is a communication tool. Heartfelt prayers and expecting a two-way conversation in some form is important daily. It’s also extremely helpful when I’m in the middle of a trial to say a gratitude only prayer in which I don’t ask for anything I only express thanks for everything that comes to mind.
Service. Helping others and taking the focus off me and my problems brings tremendous relief.
Exercising is such an effective way of fighting stress. Unfortunately, this is one I struggle with. But when I do make time for even a simple walk around the block it clears my mind and helps me focus.
Realistically analyzing myself and the day is helpful. When I can look back on something and say, “That wasn’t my finest moment. How can I do better in the future?” Or even “She sounded quite cranky when she spoke to me, but maybe it is not a reflection on how she feels about me. Maybe she was having a bad day.” I have to realize that it’s not always about me and that my perception is colored by my own thoughts and feelings – not actual fact.
Accepting plan B. I think I’m actually on plan M. Things are not always going to turn out the way we planned and that’s okay. This is life. There is beauty in plan B’s as any Hallmark movie will tell you.
Studying the Atonement. The Savior gave His life so that I can have immortality and eternal life. I don’t think He’d be too pleased if I return the gift unopened so to speak. This life is but a moment. These trials are fleeting and the refiner’s fire. Just hold on.
For what it’s worth, here are my final thoughts on the subject.
The spirit never dies. Those poor souls who feel that death will bring a respite I often wonder if they found peace or just more agonizing grief when they realize they still have the same problems. The same problems intensified because this is one mistake they can’t undo. They have to suffer with the regret of a bad, bad decision until the resurrection. Their progression halted; they are the quintessential dammed still looking for rest.
The body wants to live. Our bodies are designed to survive. Even if our minds choose otherwise our bodies are going to fight to breathe and beat and grow. Ending a healthy body will produce a nasty, ugly struggle.
Suicide is the supreme act of selfishness. Those dark thoughts often me focused. “I’m not this,” or “I’m not that,” or “oh, woest me.” Not to mention the deep devastation it causes on those left behind. And it leaves a mark on those left behind. Make out a list of everyone in your circle. If you have children, hold on for your children. If you have parents, hold on for your parents’ sake. No parent should have to bury a child especially if it can be helped. If you have friends, hold on for your friends. I don’t care what it is you love – if you love your pet hold on for Fido. Whatever it takes to get you out of that cave, you hold onto someone or something and let them get you out.
So there’s my story and those are my thoughts on that forbidden and hushed topic. Again, it is my only hope that by sharing this I can help someone find the needed help before it’s too late. You hold on. You got this. You were not born by accident but for a reason. Please don’t cut that reason short.