***Trigger warnings: mentions of suicide, depression, self-harm
If you are experiencing these thoughts, please speak to someone about them or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
I would also like to preface this by stating I cannot and will not be able to speak for everyone, just about my own experience. But I hope that someone in a similar state of hopelessness can know they are not alone and that there is a life above these suffocating thoughts.
It was seventh or eighth grade when I first saw people putting semicolons on their wrists. I had no idea what it meant. So, of course, I asked. People said it was for suicide prevention. My initial reaction was quiet on the outside but quite confused on the inside. Were all of my friends dealing with this? Did they know others who had tried to end their lives? These questions swarmed through my head, but I never thought about it too much again.
I don't think I ever took the issue of suicide seriously. I just knew that there would be an annual semicolon mark on everyone's wrists during that week. I would see for maybe that day or the week. My stomach would clench up, and my eyes would widen a bit from shock. The thought of suicide frightened me. Even moreso as a Christian. Why would anyone want to do that to themselves? But I would find out that in-person and online bullying (which now we justify as "cancel culture"), home circumstances, and simply the overwhelming pressures of life are just some of the many reasons why.
Eventually, the sharpie semi-colons would fade, and the topic would be forgotten once again.
It wouldn't be until now, at the age of 22, that I would actually experience these feelings myself. When one begins to stigmatize suicidal people, we wonder, "life can't really be that bad" or even "how could someone even think of something like that?" You wouldn't see my life and think, "oh, this girl would want to end her life." But that's the problem. We are looking at these artificial, constructed outward appearances and not looking deeper. But to struggle with this like me, you have to. You have to chisel away at the stone surfaces we plaster on to convince you and ourselves that we are okay. That we have everything under control. In reality, you have no idea that I sped up in my car one night contemplating running my car into a tree at 70 mph. Or that I walked up to the top floor of a car garage and contemplating jumping off, visualizing my bloody body on the unstained, white concrete on the street below. Then and maybe then, I thought, would someone actually care about me and how I was feeling.
The word suicide just has a certain ring to it. You stiffen up. You might clench your jaw from discomfort. You're quick to divert to a different topic. While we like to casually toss the term from our lips in conversations about "dying" to see our favorite musicians in a concert, there are some people who have clouds so dark over them that they don't have a desire to live at all.
Being a Christian, I was even more ashamed to tell anyone how I was feeling. I would yell at myself, "snap out of it, Faith. You're just exaggerating." I would push away my pain, only for it to return even more powerful than before. But suffering in silence only made things worse.
I can tell you now that I have not completely conquered these thoughts. There are moments when I mess up in life, live below my calling, and I tell myself, "if you can't do this, you might as well go ahead and end your life. There's no point in living if you can't do ________." But what I have learned now is that I do not have to be silent about it. I have a community that has seen me in my lowest moments and still loves me for who I am.
I remember the day I finally decided to tell someone about my suicidal thoughts. It was a Saturday night, and I was sitting journaling and just worshipping. As I was journaling, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me, "tell them what's going on." I won't disclose who those "them" are, but they know. I was extremely hesitant to send that text. Why should I tell them? I just need to rely on you. I can do this. But, before I had any more time to contemplate, I sent the message. In moments I was sitting in their house, and I confessed. They both looked at me and said, "this doesn't make us love you any less."
I realized that these thoughts were not something that I could tackle on my own. At the peak of my depression, there was no way that I could have told myself the encouraging things that my community told me. My community poured into me in ways that I would have never imagined. I know that if it weren't for them, I might not be here today.
I have also learned that my life is valuable regardless of how I might feel in moments of hopelessness. For a while, I told myself that I was not valuable because of these thoughts. I told myself that I was less of a Christian because I had these desires to harm myself and end my life. I was even scared to talk about it with my therapists, my parents, other friends. I had done such a good job at constructing my life in such a way that was "perfect" on the outside that I didn't want people to think I was anything less than perfect. I wanted them to see me as the same Faith who always had a smile on her face and never complained about life.
It's time for us not to shame these thoughts, especially in the Christian community. Christ died for my guilt and my shame. Paul tells us that we can come boldly before the throne of grace, not with our heads bowed down and feet dragging against the floor, reluctant and afraid that we might not be welcomed. Christ died for the entire world. He didn't die for the perfect me; he died for the me that he knew would be suicidal at one point in her life. And he didn't run away from me. I'm so thankful for that.
Through this struggle with confessing this issue, my idea of perfection was literally killing me. I convinced myself that I needed to be perfect for everyone, including God. I couldn't be used in any capacity because why would anyone want to use a person trying to manage self-harm and suicidal thoughts?
The beautiful thing, though, was that despite my thoughts and my depression, my failed attempts at self-harm, God still desired to use me. I hated that. I truly did. I wanted to be left alone. I wanted to just live in my sorrow, eat my feelings away. But God being God, always has more in store for us than we could imagine or ask for. He saw me going through this before I did.
Life isn't perfect, and neither am I. I will make mistakes; I will be awkward; I won't follow beauty's societal constructions. I won't be happy all the time. I won't always feel like praying or reading my Bible. I won't always have an optimistic outlook on life. But, as long as I am living and breathing, God is showing his love for me. I won't lie and say it's always easy to believe that. It's not, especially for someone like me who fights to live.
While the semicolon is a mark of survival, I don't believe that one week that slips into September is enough. The topic of suicide cannot be silenced with a dot and a comma on our wrists one month out of the year. Those reminders are great, but they are not enough. This requires conversation and vulnerability. It requires courage from people such as myself to put an end to hiding behind a symbol of our survival. Our bodies, our stories, that is the symbol of our survival. What good is it if we aren't telling people that survival is possible??
I pray that over these next few blog posts, I can be as honest and open as possible. I pray that we can shed light on what so many people (even me) try to hide in the dark. I write these things not for empathy, not for people to tell me that I'm doing a good job, not even for likes or reshares. I write these things for my own healing. I write these things to remind myself that my suicidal thoughts are not all that I am. I write these things to remind you of the same things. To know that you have someone fighting for you too. To know that talking about it will not make you any less of the amazing person you are. It's a fight to be vulnerable, but we are doing it together. We are fighting together. God is fighting with and for us as well. But it all begins when the love of Christ overflows into our lives and changes us for the better.