A Note For Anyone Who Has Thought About Suicide (Like Me)
I talk to my cat a lot.
If you spent five minutes with him, you would too. Seriously.
He acts like an affectionate Golden Retriever. He’s big and fat and cuddly and constantly wants to jump on your lap and snuggle. Anytime Lisa and I hug he’s like, “Hey, let me in on some of that!”
If you’re not a cat person, I will pray for your dark, miserable soul.
Recently my daughter texted this picture to our family group chat and said, “Dad! This shirt is PERFECT for you!”
I busted out laughing because it IS the perfect shirt for me. I do talk sh** about people to my cat. Like the guy who cut me off in traffic this past weekend. I went on for 20 minutes about that guy.
The scary thing is the person my cat hears me talk sh** about – more than anyone else – is me.
Earlier this year I laid down after a particularly terrible day – the culmination of what had been a particularly terrible season – and I told him, “I hate my life. I wish I were dead.”
He’s the only one who’s ever heard me say that. And he’s heard it a few times over the years.
This concerns me. Not because I’m planning to kill myself. But because you might be.
Things That Take Me To A Bad Place
Here are the three most common times I’ll say something like this.
Tell me if any of these sound familiar:
I’ll say this when I’m self-loathing.
Yesterday was not a good eating day, and I felt disgusting. Two years ago, I hired a trainer, went to a dietician, and got into the best shape of my life. Then on Palm Sunday of 2017, I reinjured my back (the same L5S1 location where I had surgery and countless injections) and have been in excruciating pain ever since.
This has kept me from lifting. And has affected my sleep. And my workout regime. And my energy. So, I’ve gained much of the weight back. And I detest myself for it.
There’s nothing worse than feeling disgusted with yourself.
I’ll say this when I’m exhausted.
Over the last year and a half, we sold our house, moved into an apartment, and made plans to build a smaller house with no wasted space. Long story short, our contractor did something illegal. We could have sued and received a huge settlement. Like a lot. But because we’re Christians, we chose not to do this (see 1 Corinthians 6:7).
During this time, I also launched a new website, and we’ve started some new things at the church I serve. We ended up moving and things turned out just fine.
But man I’m exhausted and just fried.
I’ll say this when I’m depressed.
Psychologist William James says there are two groups of people in the world. There are those who are “organically weighted on the side of cheer.” And then there are people like you and me.
Now surprisingly, I don’t get depressed. That’s never been a problem for me. But I do take myself too seriously. And I do brood over things.
There’s this great song called Lost In My Mind by a group called “The Head and the Heart.” Here are the first few lines:
Put your dreams away for now
I won’t see you for some time
I am lost in my mind
I get lost in my mind
Does that describe how you’re feeling?
It sure does to me.
Getting lost in our minds can be dangerous, especially for those of you who do get depressed easily.
And hey – just because I don’t get depressed easily – that doesn’t mean I haven’t been depressed. I have, and it’s terrible. There’s a reason one author calls depression, “the mutilator of the soul.”
Here Are A Few Things I’ve Learned
Can I share a few encouraging things I’ve learned? Maybe they’ll encourage you…
1. Your pain is legit.
You need to hear me say that I am taking you seriously.
I’ve never met a person who wanted to commit suicide, but I have met a bunch of people who wanted their pain to stop.
In her poem Having It Out With Melancholy, Jane Kenyon writes,
A piece of burned meat
wears my clothes, speaks
in my voice, dispatches obligations
haltingly, or not at all.
It is tired of trying
to be stouthearted, tired
There are lots of reasons people wonder if it’s too hard to go on…
…Mistakes. Sexual abuse. Loss of a child. Depression. Stress. Loneliness. Terrible parents. Addiction. Illness. People bullying you. Feeling ugly. A miscarriage. A secret getting out. Failing a test. Breaking up. The death of a loved one.
This is really heavy crap to deal with. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
2. You can feel really good again.
Pain is never permanent.
In the blink of an eye, Job lost everything he cared about in life – his children were killed, his business was destroyed, and he contracted painful boils all over his body. He was in so much pain his wife said, “Curse God and die!”
Maybe you have a friend telling you the same thing right now.
Thank God Job didn’t listen to her short-sighted advice, because in Job 42:12 it says,
“The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”
Listen, there are millions of people just like Job who will tell you that no matter how bad you feel right, you will feel great again. You will be happy again.
You know that, right?
3. Your brain is tricking you right now.
If you feel like you want to end your life, you are being emotionally held hostage by your brain.
One of the hardest things to remember when you’re struggling is that your brain is just another part of your body. It can face its own unique biochemical challenges, just like any other body part. The problem is unlike our kidneys, the brain controls our thoughts. And when it’s unhealthy and in pain, negative thoughts can take over.
I’m a Pastor of a large church and I’ve been to too many funerals now of people – especially students – who couldn’t see that it was their brain that was tricking them into thinking they were stuck.
You may not think there’s a way out, but there is. Trust me. There ALWAYS is.
4. There are great people who can really help you.
I believe everyone can benefit from counseling, regardless of their struggles.
That’s why I require everyone on our church staff to go to counseling at certain points in their tenure with us (and that includes me).
The last time I went, the counselor asked, “So what do you need help with?” I said, “I feel like I’m lost. Like those first few lines from Dante’s Inferno,
In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself astray in a dark wood
where the straight road had been lost sight of.
She said, “Oh I’ve been there.” And walked back into the woods to find me, grabbed my hand, and initiated some really insightful conversations as we walked out. Four sessions later I saw light peering through the treetops. It felt like a HUGE weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
I can tell you first-hand that there are amazing people like my psychologist who love helping people like you and me work through stuff and feel good again.
5. You’re not alone.
The last thing I want you to know is that you are not alone.
Isaiah 43:2 says,
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
God promises that no matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’re going through, he’ll never leave your side.
A Few More Things…
When I said I wish I was dead, I really felt that. But I knew I wasn’t actually going to act on it.
But if you are at the point where you’re seriously thinking about it and making plans, here’s what I want you to do:
- Call 1-800-273-8255 right now. This is a free and confidential lifeline where people are standing by 24/7 to talk. Do it now. Right now.
- Text someone you trust and tell them you need their prayers and encouragement.
- Find a good counselor. Our church offers licensed Christian counseling that’s open to anyone. I know them all and they’re amazing. Go HERE to find out more.
- Find an encouraging place to be inspired. At the church I serve, we encourage. We don’t judge. We loved to have you. To find out more go HERE.
- A ton of people have told me my book Second Guessing God really helped them. Please check it out HERE.
Please understand that I don’t judge you for what you’re feeling.
But if you refuse to get help, that’s a different story.
You do that and I’ll talk sh** about you to my cat.
And you don’t want that to happen.