“Suicide is a selfish act.”
“You can’t be suicidal if you’re a Christian.”
“Suicide is only for people who’ve had it real bad, and you have a good life.”
These are statements that I was told amidst my struggles with active suicidal ideation. While they were spoken with well-meaning intentions, these misconceptions perpetuate the cycle of stigma and shame surrounding the topic, only driving those suffering deeper into feelings of worthlessness.
Personally, my plans to end my life were anything but selfish. Mental illness has a way of distorting the line between truth and lies until you have completely lost your sense of reality. For me, these were lies of shame, worthlessness, and defeat. I sincerely believed that my living, NOT my dying, was the selfish act. I was convinced that I brought nothing but ugliness, pain, and disappointment into this world and that the very best thing I could do for my loved ones was to cease to exist. I believed that dying was the only way to better their lives, the only way to make them happy. Although my thought process was warped, my reasoning was anything but selfish.
I also had moments where my mental illness became so strong that I physically and mentally could not process anything whatsoever—let alone comprehend how my actions might affect those around me. The pain and darkness and tension would become so strong that I could not see straight, trapping me in tunnel vision where the ONLY thing I could see and think and process was the most immediate escape from the pain… death. Whenever I was in this state, it was physically, mentally, and emotionally impossible for me to see or think or process anything else.
Here’s an excerpt from my journal describing this sensation:
I can’t see straight
My brain is exploding
I slowly fade away
All my senses short-circuit
My mind is blank
Tense, but too numb to feel pain
Someone let me out of here
Get me out of my mind
What I would do to escape the torture of being trapped inside.
I have been suicidal, and I have come close—on more than one occasion—to ending my life. But my relationship with God has been, and still is, everything. It is the very thing that helped me to stay alive during some of my darkest moments. I know His voice. I love spending time in His presence. I know of other Christians who have also struggled with suicidal ideation while maintaining a close relationship with God.
Being a Christian does not make one immune to mental illness.
With the third statement, that one cannot be suicidal if they have a seemingly good life, I have two thoughts:
1. I strongly believe that no one could ever fully know and understand what someone has truly been through. This is true even if we have been given the honor of being trusted to hold space for someone who has chosen to share their personal struggles with us. Unless one has walked in someone’s very shoes, with their personality, family structure, upbringing, genetics, hormone levels, brain chemistry, race, gender, economic status, sexual orientation, etc., one could never truly know what someone else has been through.
2. This statement feels misguided because it is rooted in the stereotype that mental illness is tied exclusively to difficult circumstances, with no physiological roots. While trauma, family dysfunction, and such are very real triggers for mental illness, they are not the only prerequisites for developing one. I know several people who have had what some might consider “good lives,” and still developed depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, and so on. Mental illness is often the result of imbalances in the brain, and no one is immune.
I hope that in sharing my experiences, I am able to bring some light to the misconceptions surrounding suicide. It is through awareness, education, and empathy that stigma will be diminished. Without stigma, more people will feel safe to reach out, will feel less alone, and will feel safer opening up about how they feel. Most importantly, more lives will be saved.
Whatever you are facing, there is always hope. And we will hold on to hope until you’re able to grasp it yourself. If you’re thinking about suicide, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor.