Have you ever been so clouded in darkness that there seemed to be no way out? Have you ever wondered if others would just be better off without you? Or maybe you just wanted the pain to end. I’ve been there. Even as a Christian board-certified clinical neuropsychologist treating patients with depression, I fell into the pit myself. But there is another way. I want to offer hope when a suicide attempt feels like the only option. National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States is September 8-14, 2019. Read my story below and be encouraged. You are not alone!
When a suicide attempt feels like the only option
I don’t think I will ever forget that day. It was a day when I needed to know that there was still hope even when a suicide attempt felt like the only option.
Everywhere I looked, darkness engulfed me. Boulders took up residence at the pit of my stomach. My shoulders were weighed down by more than the bags I carried through the airport.
Returning home from a professional conference, I dragged my briefcase behind me as I made my way from the gate to baggage claim where my husband greeted me enthusiastically waiting to hear all about my trip. He swooped me up in a big hug, but upon setting me back down on solid ground, I could barely meet his eyes. Tears began to stream down my cheeks, leaving him speechless.
He loaded the trunk with my luggage and held my door while I climbed into the car.
As we drove toward home, I hugged the door and stared out the side window blankly. Not desiring any conversation, my answers to his inquiring questions were concise and pithy. It was warm outside, but my demeanor was as cold as ice, despite the fact that I burned with despair and hatred toward the enemy of my soul who had introduced depression into my family generations before.
As we got closer to home, I knew I couldn’t go there. Not like this. As hard as it was to form the words, I hurried to speak them before it was too late.
“You can’t take me home,” I whispered to my husband.
“What? Do you want to get something to eat?”
“I don’t want the boys to see me like this.”
The next two hours took my husband completely by surprise. We sat in our minivan in the middle of a grocery store parking lot, while I wept and he sat mostly in silence, praying.
His heart sank and he went pale as he heard me share the unthinkable. Something I couldn’t even believe myself.
I couldn’t even recognize my own voice. My voice cracked as I shared in an almost inaudible whisper that sounded nothing like myself, “I understand why people commit suicide.”
I heard him swallow hard before answering with a stammer, “Are you thinking of committing suicide?”
I recognized the war—it was a battle, a spiritual battle. Entrenched in a war that had plagued my mother, and her sister, and their mother, now I wasn’t sure I was winning, but thinking of my young boys at home, I wasn’t going to give in or give up either!
I knew better than to vocalize my thoughts and give the enemy another open door to the playground of my mind, I mustered all the strength I could and pronounced, “I’m not going to put that out there. The enemy would love nothing more.”
I knew that if I give the enemy an inch, his army would take a mile. He had already stolen too much from my family and me, and I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of stealing from my children.
On the one hand, I felt weak and powerless in my despair, and yet at the same time, I felt sorry for my husband. He didn’t deserve this, and he didn’t know what to do with the unthinkable information he’d just been given. After all, I was the doctor, the mental health practitioner, he wasn’t.
He looked terrified as he asked, “Do I need to take you to a hospital?”
I didn’t answer. What could I say? I knew all the “right” answers—taking me to a hospital would be fruitless.
The tension in our minivan was palpable, and my mind flashed to the many patients who had previously sat in my office sharing such despair.
My husband’s question broke my thoughts, “Honey, I don’t know what to do or say right now.”
“I don’t either.” The sad thing was, even as the professional, I really didn’t.
He wanted me to promise that I wouldn’t do anything to harm myself—that I would just “hang on.” I don’t make promises unless I know I can keep them. I wasn’t sure of anything at that moment, least of all that. And that scared me.
I just want the pain to end
Never had I felt so alone. So afraid.
I didn’t really want to die. More than anything I wanted the pain to end.
That’s the case for most who consider suicide: they don’t really want to die, they just want to end the pain.
How had I gotten here? I had never experienced such severe thoughts before. They didn’t even sound like me.
But that’s just it. Those weren’t my thoughts. They were from the enemy of my soul who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). But Jesus came that we might have not just life, but abundant life.
Yet so many suffer. And to compound their pain, they feel shame because of their experience. According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people suffer from depression, and by 2020, depression is predicted to be our greatest epidemic worldwide.
Suicide attempt rate
Each year, almost 800,000 people worldwide die from suicide. More than 2,000 suicides occur daily, with one death approximately every 40 seconds. And for every death by suicide, there are approximately 20 more attempted suicides.
As Ray Comfort discusses in his movie, “The Exit: The Appeal of Suicide,” nearly half a million Americans are taken to the hospital every year because of suicide attempts. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. Twenty veterans commit suicide every day.
As a doctor who treats patients every day with depression, but who has gone through severe depression herself and come out on the other side, I want you to know that if you are in the valley of depression or struggling with suicidal thoughts, this isn’t all there is for you.
Jeremiah 29:11 gives us hope for better days ahead. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
If you are struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, I would encourage you to watch Ray Comfort’s new movie, “The Exit: The Appeal of Suicide” ( www.TheEXITmovie.com). I would also encourage you to read my own account of how I overcame depression in my award-winning book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study“.
You are not alone! There is help, there is hope, and there is healing!
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
In this episode of “Your Hope-Filled Perspective,” Rob Decker shares the hope he found for a better life after a failed suicide attempt. Hope After a Failed Suicide Attempt.
A prayer for those in the valley of depression and despair with suicidal thoughts.
May I pray for you?
I lift up to you all who are in the valley of depression and despair. Father, you know their anguish and despair. You collect all their tears in a bottle. Father, would you please give the oil of gladness for their despair and turn their mourning into dancing. We know that the enemy seeks to steal our joy, kill our peace, and destroy our identity, but you came so that we could have abundant life. Be the lifter of their head right now, Lord. Draw them closer to you. You are their provider, their sustainer, their comforter. Guard their hearts and minds in you.
In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.
If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. ALL calls are confidential.
Recommended Resources for Hope for Suicidal Thoughts
- I Have a Confession: I’m a Christian and I was Suicidal
- The Sadness Behind Suicide
- Yes, Even Christians Get Depressed, but There is Hope!
- This Thing Called Depression: Signs and Symptoms
- 10 Bible Verses When Depressed
- 15 Ways to Help a Depressed Husband or Wife
- Dear Patient, Now I Understand
- 5 Promises From God To The Patient I Didn’t Meet
About My New Book, “Breaking Anxiety’s Grip”
Most of us have struggled with worry, fear, or anxiety at some point in life, or we love someone who has. How do you break free from anxiety and reclaim God’s peace as a way of life? Announcing Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promise. Discover true peace in an age of anxiety.
Sharing her own story of emerging from the battle with anxiety as well as the stories of others, Dr. Michelle Bengtson reminds you of your identity as a follower of Christ and of the peace he promises you in spite of everything.
She provides tools to cope with the crushing emotional burden of anxiety now and, more importantly, shows you how to reclaim God’s peace as a way of life so that you can break anxiety’s grip.
Pre-Orders Are Open
We’re excited to offer a bundle of goods for those who Pre-Order Breaking Anxiety’s Grip which is scheduled for release on September 17, 2019.
When you pre-order Breaking Anxiety’s Grip, I’ll send you digital download information for:
- Recover: Rest, Relax, Revive, and Rejuvenate playlist with 6 originally composed piano tracks by award-winning composer, producer, and pianist Jamar Jones
- Original “The Price of Peace” painting by artist Emily Curiak
- No More Fear Declaration
- 3 Word-Art Prints
- 3 Printable Coloring Sheets
- And, a Spotify link of music referenced at the end of each chapter of the book
To pre-order your copy and receive these amazing pre-order bonuses, visit: Pre-Order Breaking Anxiety’s Grip.