For the Woman Who Struggles with Suicidal Thoughts
**Trigger Warning: This article includes honest conversation pertaining to mental illness, thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Please take care of your heart and monitor your thoughts while reading.**
I’ve tried to write this article many times over the last few weeks. I’ve written and deleted the words at least five times. No words I write seem to do justice to the lives lost and the hearts affected by suicide. We don’t like to talk about it. It feels awkward and shameful to admit the dark thoughts and intense emotions that can plague a mind. So before you hear my story, let me say this: You are not shameful and you are not weak. You are a daughter of God and that makes you courageous, passionate, and strong. You are welcome, and you are wanted. I offer you my story and a safe place within my heart to come to cry, to scream, to laugh, and to talk. Like all good stories, mine is not complete.
I had struggled with anxiety since I was probably ten years old (though I’m not sure I had the vocabulary for it at that age) and depression became my state of being when I was 19 and attending university in Riverside, Ca. I talked to virtually no one about it and instead started to secretly venture into the world of self-harm. I was ashamed of everything I was and every choice I had made. Somewhere along the line, I subconsciously made the decision to destroy anything “good” in my life. I think Itruly believed that I was not worthy of anything good and so I ran; ran from the unconditional love of Abba and from the safety of those who loved me. My self-harm started with me cheating on the man I was in love with and sabotaging our relationship with lies and anger. To his credit, he stayed. Or at least he tried to. But, I was suffocating underneath lies of unworthiness and self-hate and whenever he tried to dig me out, I covered myself right back up. More lies entered our relationship and eventually we came to an end. It was the ending of this relationship that became the catalyst for a long period of pain, but also healing and growth.
By the time I stopped going to school and moved to live with my sister in Northern California later that year, I was far from God, but trying to live a double life. There was the Katey who worked part time at a church, loved Jesus, enjoyed playing with her niece, and always laughed easily. Then there was the Katey who lived part time at her new boyfriend’s house, wandered around in a cloud of drugs and alcohol, and took scissors and razors to her skin to alleviate the guilt she felt for not actually being the Katey from above. Within six months of being in Northern California I had slid so deeply into alcoholic binges and self-harm that the physical abuse and psychological torture I put up with from my boyfriend seemed like nothing more than what I deserved. I remember when I was at one of my lowest points, I would cut in order to try and gain even the smallest amount of love and sympathy from him. I had put myself in this reoccurring cycle of pushing everyone away. When that left me starved for love and desperate for acceptance, I began to try to manipulate these things from my relationship, only to be met with disdain and disgust. Somewhere in all this, I started to believe Satan’s quietest, yet most powerful lie, “You are not worthy of life.” He had whispered it to me from a young age and without realizing it, I had not only accepted it, but embraced it. Each day his voice got a little louder until his voice sounded a lot like mine and my voice was screaming and pleading for death.
In February of 2013, around 7 months after moving to Northern California to “start over” and to “find myself”, I was profoundly depressed and had emotionally isolated myself from everyone besides my boyfriend. I had lost myself completely and to this day, I don’t recognize the girl I had become. It was at this time that I discovered my boyfriend had been cheating on me. I remember feeling all the normal emotions of betrayal and anger and hurt but the number one prevailing emotion I felt was relief. As sad as it is, I had never entertained the idea of breaking up with this man before because I was so deeply rooted in the idea that I deserved his treatment. In my troubled mind, I deserved all the abuse I had suffered at his hands, but did not deserve him cheating on me. My most vivid memory of this day is the feeling of hope that spread within my body at the idea that I could be free of this man. But he wasn’t ready to let go and when I confronted him of his betrayal and told him I was done, he began to cry, throw things and told me he would kill himself if I left.
I had hit a point in my life where I believed all manner of lies about myself but the most powerful lie, the lie that had me changing my behavior and had molded me into someone other than myself, was the lie of unworthiness. Life didn’t just seem like too much for me, I believed I didn’t deserve it. So it doesn’t surprise me anymore when I look back on that moment with my boyfriend, when my hand was on the doorknob and I was ready to open the door to freedom, and see instead thatI locked the door. He said he would kill himself if I left and the most hurt and empty part of me believed he deserved life more than me. I locked the door, convincing myself it was to “save” him. In reality, it was to let myself “die”.
Later that day, after my boyfriend had been taken to a mental hospital to receive a psychiatric evaluation, my sister picked me up and took me home. On the way home, I remember the familiar thoughts of death creeping into my head. Except this time, I didn’t try to mute them or push them away. I let them fall over my mind and convince me it was what needed to happen. Less than an hour later, my sister was rushing me to the hospital with towels on my wrists. When I was released from my 72 hour mandatory watch period, I moved home to live with my parents.
It is now five and a half years later and I have walked through counseling programs, being diagnosed with Bipolar II, medication regimens, mood swings, countless other health complications and a lot of tear-fests in my bedroom. But I have also walked through restored relationships with my family members, reconciliation with my best friends, and new lifelong friendships with women I met while working at a camp for a couple summers. I walked through the streets of Lebanon sharing the love of God and the dirt streets of Syrian refugee camps, trying my best to change their lives when in reality, their lives changed mine. I’ve lived in Simi Valley, Big Bear, Redding and Humboldt County. I’ve dated and been heartbroken, drank countless iced coffees, ran all around Disneyland, had wine nights with my roommates, and spent hours dreaming over what I want to do with my life. And I’ve cried many, and I do mean many, tears along the way.
In the midst of every single moment from above, I asked God to be there with me. Here’s a little secret about me: my biggest fear in life is being alone. I’m not sure if it stems from a specific event or maybe just that anxiety isolates you and makes you feel alone. When I was packing to leave for Lebanon, I was petrified. I had just made some stupid decisions and had isolated myself from the rest of the girls on my team; I was feeling lonely and scared. I called my mom and I remember her telling me that she would be reading Psalm 91 every morning while I was gone; praying it over me and my team. I did the same. Every morning while in Lebanon, I started my day praying Psalm 91 over myself and my team as we got ready to do ministry in places that we could see and feel the spiritual warfare in a tangible way. “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2) And it was in Lebanon that I learned that having God as my refuge and my safe place didn’t just mean coming to Him in tears and sharing my fears with Him but sharing my joy and my excitement too. I started to feel God everywhere. When I got dressed in the morning, I asked Him what he thought I should wear. I would drink tea and feel Him there, as if He was drinking tea with me. From the little everyday things to the huge, once in a lifetime moments, He was there and I was overwhelmed and falling in love with His presence. I know that I still struggled with anxiety while in Lebanon, but it’s the one period of time in my life that I can look back and that isn’t my first memory. That experience changed my life and made me realize that if I know God is literally right by my side, I can do anything!
I’m not sure if my anxiety will ever disappear completely or if I’ll ever go a month without struggling with depression, but it does not rule my mind and my heart anymore. I always felt so alone in my thoughts and emotions-especially when I tried to end my life, I thought I was completely alone. That made the thought of living unbearable. Maybe it sounds silly or maybe it sounds like a cheap trick, but the day I opened myself up to the possibility that I never have to stop being in the presence of God, I suddenly became capable of living a full life even with mental illness. Now, when the thoughts come for me, I grab God’s hand and he reminds me why I’m alive and why I keep choosing to live. In His presence, I dream big things; I cry as much as I need to, I laugh uncontrollably. In His presence, I look suicide in the face and see that it thrives on deception and a society refusing to call it out for what it is, a pile of lies.
It can be easy, in our culture, to make a list of “to do’s” in an attempt to get rid of suicidal thoughts or anxiety or whatever. We hear things like “it gets better” and try to figure out exactly how we can make that happen. I don’t think it necessarily does get better nor do I think there is a 4-step guide to dealing with this struggle. However, I do believe we can get better. I think we can learn to walk in the authority of God, realizing our own power as daughters of God and identifying the triggers that might make us feel less than that. When we dwell in the shelter of God and death comes knocking, we can sit down, grab God’s hand and watch as death is slowly burned away by the light all around it. And no matter how often he comes knocking; as long as I’m sitting next to God, I have the ability to tell suicide to go back to hell.
“You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.” Psalm 91:5-8
Katey is a dog mama from Southern California. She loves to write to inspire and read until her eyes stop working. She is passionate about self-love, mental health awareness, and iced coffee. She also hopes to somehow make those three passions into a career one day. She loves to make new friends!
Connect with her here: Find her on Instagram @katey_rey or follow her at bebravehabibti.wordpress.com (where she really needs to update her blog)