Confessions of a Former Legalist: I was wrong

Originally, I was going to title this post “Thoughts on Suicide” or something obvious like that. And while I do want to talk about that subject, the more I tried to write, the more I realized I needed to change the direction for writing on the subject. You see, I was taught some very wrong ideas about depression and suicide growing up. One time at a Christian camp when I was in high school, one of the speakers said this: “There is one giver and taker of life, and it’s not you.” When I first heard it, it immediately resonated with me. Because as a Christian I had always heard that sentiment repeated to someone struggling with suicide. I was taught that since God gave us life, how is it even possible that we could want to end it? That God has a purpose in this world bigger than yourself, so stop wallowing in self pity and being selfish about ending your own pain.

Once upon a time, I agreed with the people who told me this was how you counsel someone who’s suicidal or struggling with depression. So, God help me, I was the good little legalist and policed people about this. I would throw Bible verses at people and basically ignore the pain behind it. And I was struggling with depression and suicidal ideation myself. How dare I tell someone these things and yet, I knew the pain better than most. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I saw things differently. But I’m afraid the damage has already been done. For those reading this who I did say these things to and did talk to in this manner, I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry that I didn’t just hurt with you and cry with you. That I hid behind a Bible and parroted what I had always been told. I was wrong. Depression has enough stigma without someone making you feel guilty for what you struggle with. I get it. Because I’ve been there. And yet I probably never shared my struggles with you. I was afraid of your judgment just as much as you were afraid of mine. I refuse to ignore your pain or anyone else’s anymore. All the shaming and invalidating of the pain–all it does is make us feel isolated. I felt so isolated, that the first time I struggled with suicidal thoughts at 12 years old, I thought I was a freak. I thought it wouldn’t matter what people thought of the pain I was going through because after all, I was just being selfish, right? So, I should just stop being selfish and hurting, and it’ll all go away.

But, to put it quite bluntly, my soul was hemorrhaging. There was so much pain. All I ever wanted was for someone to stop and listen to an insecure girl who just needed someone to tell her she was loved and accepted for who she was. I wanted to be treated like a human being in need of a Redeemer. So…selfish? Or hurting like hell? Does telling someone they’re selfish really help that person?

The problem is, that mentality helps no one. If we want suicide rates to go down, we need to listen to the pain behind this. Listen. . .and love. Accept that person as a human being struggling to live in a fallen world. Instead of making someone feel the shame of living in it they already feel so acutely. This is what I would have wanted someone to do for me. This is what I wish I had done for people in the past. This is what I WILL do now and in the future. Because we should be lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down.

I’ve struggled so many times with suicidal thoughts since I was 12 that I’ve literally lost count. All I know is, there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel, and a God who does care even if other people don’t. Part of my struggle is because of depression–both chemical and emotional. Another addition to that is dealing with the effects of being sexually abused multiple times in my life. I had days (and sometimes still do) where all I want to do is scream at the heavens to a God that I didn’t think could care about my pain. But now I know He does. Now I know that when I scream in pain and anger or wake up from a nightmare, He’s still right there with me. And He gets it. He gets it, guys. He loves you. You matter. Your pain matters.  Your pain and what you’re feeling is real. It hurts. Living in this life freakin’ hurts. But I promise, you will make it. Don’t give up.

I leave you with words from one of my favorite poems:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

– Do not go gentle into that good night, Dylan Thomas

P.S. If this is your first time reading my blog, and you have any questions or feedback from other posts, please let me know.

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