Today I introduce you to a good friend. We were in small group together years ago and have stayed friends since. I think it is in part due to both of us being aware of our brokenness.
If you know of someone who struggles with suicide, please share with them these tools Dave has found to help him navigate the struggle with suicidal thoughts.
HOPE FOR SUICIDE.
Hello my name is Dave Saunders. I have lived with suicidal ideation for 25 years. I had my first suicidal thought in 1995 when I was a senior in college. It was only a few months into my senior year and my three best friends, who were a year older than I, had graduated and moved on. I felt so alone. I felt like I had no one to talk to and no one with whom to hang out. Since that time, depression and suicidal ideation has still been something I’ve struggled with. However, I have steadily improved and am still here! Though I have been hospitalized many times for suicidal thoughts, I have never made an attempt.
I wanted to write this account because I wanted to offer people hope. I must admit, I have not found the “answer” for living with suicidal ideation from a clinician. I have had to come up with the “solutions” to suicidal thoughts largely on my own. I am not suggesting that a person boycott the mental health system. However, I am relaying that it took a lot of perseverance, persistence, and effort to navigate my way through this SERIOUS medical condition. I want to share some of what has worked for me in hopes that it will help you. I must share a caveat: if you live with suicidal ideation, I believe that you also must come up with your own reasons to live. No one can “save” you – you must find the reasons that work for you. But I do believe that what I’m sharing below may provide you with some things to consider.
1. I believe that every person was placed on this planet for a REASON. You-yes YOU- can do something better than anyone else who has ever lived and who will ever live. God has given you gifts and a personality that he has never given to anyone else. He wants to use you to bless other people – your friends, your family, your community. Don’t give up or feel that your life is hopeless or POINTLESS. You may hear a “voice” in your head that says, “You’re no good at anything. Your life is pointless.” Don’t believe that voice-it is a lie! You have a purpose in life, a REASON for being here.
Viktor Frankl wrote, “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.” Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 109. Discovering your purpose and doing it is what life is all about. Living for your purpose brings joy and satisfaction. Never give up because God will NOT give up on you.
2. You are LOVED. Even if you don’t love yourself, God loves you. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us…We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:10,19. You may FEEL like no one loves you or no one cares. Again, you may FEEL like no one loves you. You may have just had a fight with a friend or a family member or just gotten a divorce. You may feel that you don’t have any friends or haven’t found a significant other. But God loves you more than anyone could ever love you. God ALWAYS loves you. “Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 20:21. This may sound obvious, but God does NOT want you to end your life! He will NEVER STOP LOVING YOU no matter what you’ve said, felt, thought, or done. No matter what your situation is, God is there. He will “never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5. You may feel that you’ve made a horrible mistake and that no one will forgive you or that you cannot forgive yourself. But God will ALWAYS forgive you (1 John 1:9). Don’t give up on yourself because God will NEVER give up on you. You are loved.
3. PAIN hurts. Again, PAIN hurts. I do NOT want to minimize what you are going through or what you HAVE gone through. Sometimes it feels like this problem that you are experiencing will NEVER end. And you want so desperately to get out of the pain – to END your pain. It may seem that suicide is the only answer. God HEARS us when we are in pain. “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” Psalm 55:17. God IS listening. I don’t know why, but God does not promise that we won’t experience pain. Even Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33. But God DOES promise to be with us and carry us THROUGH our pain. Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Robert Frost wrote, “The best way out is always through.” Sometimes we have to go THROUGH pain before it will subside. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Unearned suffering is redemptive.” We may not realize it, but we learn from pain. The pain of touching a hot stove teaches you not to touch it again. Sometimes pain brings things out of us that would never come out otherwise. Enduring THROUGH the pain builds our character. Dealing with pain teaches us perseverance, creates courage in us, enables us to learn coping skills we never would have otherwise, and teaches us to NEVER GIVE UP.
When we are in pain, all we want is for it to END. We think ending our life will end the pain. But ending your life will only create more pain – those who love you will be in pain and the world will lose you- the world will miss out on the beauty you bring by existing. In addition, PAIN ENDS. It WILL subside. Job, a character in the Bible, experienced such suffering that he wished he’d never been born. But Job learned something about himself and about God through his experience, and God richly blessed him. You also will receive an incredible blessing if you don’t give up. “BLESSED is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12. God wants to reward you and build your character through your experience. Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Hang in there. Stay positive. One day at a time. God is teaching you something and he’s building your character.
4. Connection. We were made for connection, for relationships. You may not have those relationships right now. You may feel that NO ONE ELSE ON EARTH has ever or will ever be in as much pain as I’m in right now. But pain is a universal human experience – everyone feels it in different ways and at different times. Don’t allow the pain to ISOLATE you – seek connection with someone – anyone! Call a crisis line or a “warm line.” Talk to someone; try to connect. People may not understand what you are going through, but they can relate. Don’t believe the lie that, “Nobody cares.” Again, don’t isolate. The band 311 wrote a song called, “Beyond the Grey Sky.” It says, “Don’t give up the fight to stay alive and even if you have to, find the reason of another’s pain if they lose you. If not for your self than those around who care like I do. One day you’ll see the clear blue beyond the grey sky.” Don’t let anything bring you down or make you feel worthless because you mean the world to someone. We all need help from others from time to time; we need each other and we were created to exist in community. The apostle Paul writes, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be NO DIVISION in the body, but that all its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:12, 24-26. Our community functions better with you as a part of it! We would all suffer if you were gone!
5. Suicidal thinking is often a manifestation of depression, anxiety, and even anger. Don’t make decisions when you are in a depressed state of mind. We may feel ANGRY about our situation or even angry at God. “Why would he EVER allow me to feel this way? He doesn’t care about me- he is a cruel God. I want NO PART of this any longer. This is NO WAY to live. It must end NOW – it has to end NOW. This is TOO MUCH. I can’t handle it any longer. There is NO WAY out of this. My only option is to end my life.” When I am thinking this way, I am not in the right state of mind. I’m using words like NEVER, ALWAYS, FOREVER. This is All or Nothing thinking, which is something I do when I’m not thinking clearly. DO NOT make decisions when you are in a depressed state of mind. Trust others’ judgment and even your own judgment when you are feeling well. As the saying goes, “This, too, shall pass.”
I hope this has helped you. Remember, sometimes it takes hard work dealing with suicidal thoughts and fighting just to stay alive. I will leave you with one last quote: “Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.”
Thank you, Dave for redeeming your struggle in ways that can help others! I value your friendship. And your struggle has in fact helped me with my struggles. I haven't struggled with suicidal ideation, but your journey has born fruit that has helped me with mine.
If you'd like to get in touch with Dave, I believe that can be arranged. And this would bring me value by being able to make that connection.
Also, as I read Dave's words about everybody having a purpose to live for, it reminded me of a book I wrote/illustrated a few years back. It is about a man who does not know what talent or skill he can use to give to the world. But, he realizes he can always bring value to the world by bringing joy to others. The book is called "Pick-me-up Lines for Nice People" and can be found here!
Raw Spoon (reposting Dave Saunders' essay on dealing with suicide)