Yes, you read the title right. Do not freak out. For my charismatic believers, do not get the holy oil and start speaking in tongues and/or casting out demons that may not actually be there. Just let me explain.
A Brief Synopsis of My Mental State
I am not okay. (Again, do not freak out.) I will be okay, but right now, I’m not. I’m struggling. Between job rejections, lack of sleep, and life, plus the 3-year trauma anniversary of my suicide attempt and subsequent Baker Act that lasts all week starting on Sunday, I am a mess. (For those of you who don’t live in Florida, the Baker Act is what happens when someone, be it a counselor, doctor, or friend, has reason to believe you are a danger to yourself and/or another; and, as a result, you are locked up in a psych ward or mental health care facility for a mandatory 72 hours, or longer depending on arbitrary tests from a psychiatrist on staff. You tend to lose your humanity in there). I was cleaning the kitchen earlier tonight, and as I was hanging the drying towel on a nearby cabinet door, it opened, and my eyes locked with the purple cleaning solution sitting inside. The next words out of my mouth will probably surprise you, they did me after I uttered them: “Don’t drink the Fabuloso.” I sighed a sigh of exasperation and I swear I think Holy Spirit groaned with me, too. The last thing I want is to make the holy Trinity feel my pain.
Trying to Protect the Almighty
That’s an odd thing isn’t it? To think that I could attempt—and succeed—at protecting God from my emotions and suicidal thoughts? I think the reason why many of us do that, or at least I do, and I could be wrong, is because we’ve gotten so used to putting on a mask and pretending that we don’t think about drinking Fabuloso or gulping down sleeping pills with alcohol, or driving our car into the nearest tree to escape the unbearable pain, but that we’ve got all our ducks in a row instead. That’s not how a relationship works. Transparency and vulnerability, especially with God, are necessary for trust and growth. A Christian apologist and friend of mine, Michael Patton, writes extensively about the value of transparency in his blog. I tend to refer to it often when I need a reminder or encouragement.
The writer of Hebrews says that we always have help in the form of Christ. He writes, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). We should not feel embarrassed or guilty of our suicidal thoughts when our reality becomes too much for us to handle. This is why the safety net of communication with the Triune God is there (and other resources if need be). Even if no one around us understands our struggle, He does.
The Shame of Silence
I think one of the main reasons we try to put on a brave face is because suicide is such a taboo subject in evangelical Christian circles. The only time it’s mentioned is when a Christian, especially a prominent, popular one, chooses to die by suicide; and even then, the topic is not really discussed, but is rather used as a source of gossip and as a tool for condemnation. It is my personal belief that God wants us to be honest about where we are, even if others don’t get it. If Elijah, who was running for his life from Queen Jezebel (aka the Prophet Killer), could be passively suicidal (that is, longing for death but not actually intending to take one’s own life) and admit that to God, who later sent an angel to strengthen him, surely we who are loved fiercely by the same God can follow his footsteps and be real about our situations and thought processes; that’s the only way to recover and heal. The shame of suicidal ideation only controls us if we don’t speak on it. If we sit in silence, out of fear or anything else, then the suicidal ideation festers within us until we see no other way out and by then, it may be too late.
A Final Step: Have Courage
This is supposed to be the part where I tell you that the next immediate step you need to take is to pray for God to take away your suicidal thoughts, but I’m not going to do that. (I can hear some of you scream “Heresy!” with heavy stones in hand aiming at me; calm down. Don’t stone me yet.) If you’re like me, prayer don’t always work. At least, not right away. Sometimes, you need a little more than words to reassure you that your life is actually worth something and that’s okay. That doesn’t make you a bad Christian with poor faith, it makes you human. A beloved Christian apologist and father figure once told me, “It takes courage to move from brokenness to greater wholeness,” and I have found his words ring true even now, years later.
So, if you need something more than the quiet presence of God, go find a trusted person in your life, be it a friend, pastor, or (gasp!) a therapist. Put down the alcohol, or pills, or food, or Fabuloso, or whatever you’re using to numb yourself with and start being honest with someone who will understand and help walk you through this difficult season. If you feel you can’t keep yourself safe, maybe consider in-patient hospitalization. Whatever you do, be honest, take your journey one hour at a time if need be, and stay safe.
I love you.