A few weeks ago in response to a poetics prompt to write about a first time for something, I thought of something that I have only done once, and am thankful I’ve never had happen again. But there are people who have had this happen so many times they maybe can’t even remember the first time.
My prayers are with them, my hope that they recognize the lie that suicide is the answer to pain and suffering and that our loved ones would be better off if we were dead.
Not Better Off Dead
Clearly I recall the first time the thought entered my mind They’d be better off if I was dead
I immediately knew it was wrong but still a method to my madness began to form in the recesses of my deeply troubled mind
I could picture the bottle of pills designed to make me better but could just as easily be my demise
Then they’d be free, I’d be free
The Psalmist wrote The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them That first time His angel was encamped around me
He delivered me from that first thought made me know it was wrong ensured it was the last time that thought ever entered my mind
Now we are free and together because the Lord let me know I was not better off dead
Do you know someone who seems like he or she has “lost touch” with reality? Does this person talk about “hearing voices” no one else can? Does he or she see or feel things that others can’t? Does this person believe things that aren’t true?
Sometimes people with these symptoms have schizophrenia, a serious illness.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a serious brain illness. Many people with schizophrenia are disabled by their symptoms.
People with schizophrenia may hear voices other people don’t hear. They may think other people are trying to hurt them–we call this paranoia. Sometimes they don’t make any sense when they talk. The disorder makes it hard for them to keep a job or take care of themselves.
Who gets schizophrenia?
Anyone can develop schizophrenia. It affects men and women equally in all ethnic groups. Teens can also develop schizophrenia. In rare cases, children have the illness too.
When does it start?
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. Men often develop symptoms at a younger age than women. People usually do not get schizophrenia after age 45.
What causes schizophrenia?
Several factors may contribute to schizophrenia, including:
Genes, because the illness runs in families
The environment, such as viruses and nutrition problems before birth
Different brain structure and brain chemistry.
Scientists have learned a lot about schizophrenia. They are identifying genes and parts of the brain that may play a role in the illness. Some experts think the illness begins before birth but doesn’t show up until years later. With more study, researchers may be able to predict who will develop schizophrenia.
What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia symptoms range from mild to severe. There are three main types of symptoms.
Positive symptoms refer to a distortion of a person’s normal thinking and functioning.
They are “psychotic” behaviors. People with these symptoms are sometimes unable to tell what’s real from what is imagined. Positive symptoms include:
Hallucinations: when a person sees, hears, smells, or feels things that no one else can. “Hearing voices” is common for people with schizophrenia. People who hear voices may hear them for a long time before family or friends notice a problem.
Delusions: when a person believes things that are not true. For example, a person may believe that people on the radio and television are talking directly to him or her. Sometimes people believe that they are in danger-that other people are trying to hurt them.
Thought disorders: ways of thinking that are not usual or helpful. People with thought disorders may have trouble organizing their thoughts. Sometimes a person will stop talking in the middle of a thought. And some people make up words that have no meaning.
Movement disorders: may appear as agitated body movements. A person with a movement disorder may repeat certain motions over and over. In the other extreme, a person may stop moving or talking for a while, a rare condition called “catatonia.”
Negative symptoms refer to difficulty showing emotions or functioning normally.
When a person with schizophrenia has negative symptoms, it may look like depression. People with negative symptoms may:
Talk in a dull voice
Show no facial expression, like a smile or frown
Have trouble having fun
Have trouble planning and sticking with an activity, like grocery shopping
Talk very little to other people, even when they need to.
Cognitive symptoms are not easy to see, but they can make it hard for people to have a job or take care of themselves.
Cognitive symptoms include:
Trouble using information to make decisions
Problems using information immediately after learning it
It’s very real and it’s very possible. Often we see suicide as the only way out. It becomes an option for us. We can plot it, and entertain it. I have personally seen it first hand, and I understand its seductive pull. It seems logical. Suicide has become a real possibility.
We feel like a magnet; bad stuff gets pulled into our thinking, and we plunge into dark thoughts and a deep pain. I know, I’ve been down this road. I’ve had to walk through this stuff myself. It scares me. Once (or twice) when we make our way down this trek, it becomes easier and quicker to make the slide into what ending it all.
It happens to Christian believers. I was a pastor of a church and a teacher in a Bible college. I acquired a degree of having a competent religion but without real knowledge. I professed but never attained. There were moments though, when I got quiet enough to listen, that I knew it really wasn’t working.
Will we go to hell if we commit suicide? The answer evades me, and I can find no definite direction in scripture. King Saul in the Old Testament, and Judas in the New, are those who come to mind. Both men found themselves in a very ugly situation. There isn’t any positives for them both.
Somehow, deeply ingrained in our hearts, we know it’s wrong. Maybe it’s genetic or a societal convention. Deep down we know it can never, ever be an option. It’s completely beyond the pale. And yet, we arrive at a terrible point when it does seem it’s the only thing left open to us. We’ve become our own worst enemy.
“Suicide doesn’t take away the pain, it gives it to someone else.”
Suicide devastates those who are left behind. Our terrible pain gets passed to those who knew us; the closer they are to us, the more it will damage them. Husbands, wives, children and friends will know trauma first-hand. Our decision to die will scar their hearts forever.
We are all connected. We are each tied to each other. Family and friends, churches and communities. We all have relationships that, like it or not, bind us to each other. We’re not solitary entities existing on our own. Consciously or not, we effect others. We will never know the scope of our influence.
There are stages an afflicted person will go through. These are just generalities, but having been down this path I do see them as steps to self-destruction. They blend with each other and sometimes they can be slower or faster, depending on the individual.
Step One: Ideation.
Thinking about it, is it even possible?
Step Two: Fascination.
When the idea begins to become more real, more seductive. We see a burnished glory in it. Suicide seems like logical to us. It seems the only way out. (Besides, isn’t there a certain ‘hubris’ to killing yourself?)
Step Three: Planning
How am I going to do this? What method makes the most sense to me?
Step Four: Committing.
This is the final, ultimate step. Everything up to now is just setting me up for this.
One of the 10 Commandments expressly tells us that “You shall not murder.” Suicide is essentially “self-murder.” This I suppose, is the ultimate
Suicide is never logical. It’s a slide into that which is irrational. It isn’t normal to want to kill yourself. And it does seem that mental illness (schizophrenia, depression, anxiety etc.) can be an incredible factor. Physical illnesses or diseases also can make suicide logical. Or honestly, it can be a ‘blend’ of all that is listed here.
If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
• Call 911 or your local emergency number. Get help as quick as you can.
• Stay with the person until help arrives. Don’t let them alone with their ‘demons,” real or imaginary.
• Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
• Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell. All of these only increase the possibilities.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Most of all, PRAY! Get help from a pastor or elder of your local church. (That’s what they’re there for.)
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Sept. 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. Why there is but a single day of the year devoted to preventing suicide, I do not know. We should endeavor every day to provide the hope the hopeless need to get them through the pain that leads to suicide.
Often we hear it said that those who kill themselves are selfish because they hurt the people they leave behind. But if you’ve ever had suicidal thoughts or tried to die by suicide, you know that is not the case.
If you never have, it is difficult to understand.
I’ve only been truly suicidal once, but my thoughts were far from selfish. At the time, my actual thought was that my husband and son would be better off without me because I was so depressed and broken that I was no good to them. I truly believed this terrible lie.
Thoughts of suicide often follow a long pattern of trying to get well with little or no success. It stems from hopelessness and a sense of feeling like you are a burden to those around you. To consider suicide is to desire to unburden others and put an end to endless pain.
Unfortunately, the thought processes of a person who is suicidal are just simply wrong. I know mine were. I can’t imagine where my husband and son (who was 1 ½ then and is 26 now) would be if I had gone through with it. They certainly would not be better off. That thought was a lie.
There is always hope, even when things seem the most hopeless. What a person struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts needs is love and hope. They need understanding and reassurance that the rest of us would not be better off if they were gone. They need to know we are there for them and that they matter to someone.
They need to know that God loves them and wants what is best for them, and that “This too shall pass.” But in the meantime, we are there to be a shoulder to cry on and a heart to confide in.