oftentimes I hurry into bed so I can fall asleep before my thoughts catch up to me, clutching at me with their ugly, heavy claws. before the voice that sounds like me reminds me of certainties that aren’t even true: that my friends tolerate me but do not love me, that my words will fail me when I need them on the page, that the pain of caring deeply is not worth the joy of it, that I will always be better off alone, that I should flee far from love before I spend too much of myself on it.

these have been my nightly thoughts for the last month. considering the moments of joy, the care shown me by those I work with, the sheer number of birthday celebrations I’ve joined in on in the past month, you’d think things would at least even out.

but somehow it’s still there, the depression seeping in about the corners of my thoughts, and somehow I still find myself plastering on brave faces a lot of the time, and somehow when I crawl into bed at night I’m still hit with all of these certainties about myself.

I feel tired.

I’m tired of fighting it, but also tired of being broken and weak and staying that way.

I’m tired from over committing myself socially and from over committing myself to serve others.

I’m tired of giving in to the emotions that lie to me, and tired of crying in bed almost every night as I fall asleep, and tired of that damned voice assuring me that this will always be the case.

there are facts that contribute, certainly, to these feelings – I have a very fast approaching deadline on a draft of my sequel that’s keeping me from sleeping many nights.  I work full time now and have commitments half the nights of the week that sometimes stress me out.  historically I don’t manage my time and energy well, and I haven’t had much introvert-down-time lately.  but I can’t help but feel that none of that should be enough for the suicidal thoughts to come back the way they have been recently.

I know that I will be okay.  but right now I’m not.  and I’m tired of believing the voice that tells me not to say anything.

I ran this by my extraordinary sister before posting, and she challenged me to think about why I’m sharing it- if it doesn’t end with help or hope, is there value to sharing it with a world that might feel the same, but need some light?  and she’s not wrong, that it’s important to share things that bring hope.  so this is why I decided to still share (with amendments):

right now, when I think that I should just kill myself and have done with it, I’m usually only stuck in those thoughts for a few moments before I shake myself free.  but it used to be that I only thought about ending my life when I was – as Anne Shirley would say – in the “depths of despair”, and it was all very dramatic and non-logical.  and before that, I didn’t think these thoughts at all.  so it seems to me that the longer I’ve been fighting this, the harder it’s fighting me back, and the longer the shadow seems to grow.  and that’s not to say I haven’t had victories; honestly, in so many ways I’ve grown a lot, and have shaken off a lot of the darkness.  but it’s not all better.

it’s hard not to feel entirely and fundamentally broken, that despite every victory and every step forward in this struggle with depression, there’s always a step back, because that’s just how things are going to be.  I looked up that word – fundamentally –  because it was stuck in my head.  and it boils down to what something is at its core.  I want to hold onto the words of King David, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  but I struggle with “knowing full well” that God’s works are wonderful; other people, certainly.  but I have not learned to own this for myself.  “fundamentally broken” feels truer.

I have found that the busier I get, the more social I am, and the harder I work, the more difficult it becomes for me to tell people what’s going on inside my head.  I don’t want to look weak, I don’t want to look as if the workload is too much, I don’t want to look as if I’m fundamentally broken when I’ve spent my entire life trying to take care of other people and hold it together for their sakes.

so for me, even though writing about my struggles has always been a deeply helpful thing, it’s actually getting harder to do.  and I know that’s my enemy at work.  sharing my heartache has impacted others than just myself, and I’m sure he’d like to shut me up.

I wrote on the chalkboard by my bedroom door, “this, too, shall pass”, and I believe that.  what’s hard is feeling certain that it will also come back, as it always has.  not always this badly, of course.  but in some form.  sometimes much worse.  thoughts that tell me I am worthless.  thoughts that tell me everyone will see that I’ve failed if I ever break down.  thoughts that warn me not to tell anyone what’s going on if I want them to ever speak to me again.  thoughts that do not reflect what my creator thinks of me, but feel overwhelmingly true all the same.

I was singing the song “I Surrender” this morning and thinking about the line, “Lord, have your way in me”.  I know that he will.  I know his plan is vast and wonderful.  I know he has used my pain and will continue to do so, and I know that he is good and I can trust that.  I don’t resent the heavy feelings the way I used to.  but I’m wearing thin, and I don’t feel strong right now.

most nights it’s all I can do to hurry to sleep, to flee from the voices.

and most mornings I hurry about my day and keep busy enough that I barely hear them, and everything feels fine on the surface.

and by most evenings the voices have started again and I am so, so tired from the hurrying, and from fighting them.

I wasn’t going to share this with anyone.  it was cathartic for me to write it, and I was going to keep it like that.  I don’t want to be dramatic.  I promise, promise, that’s not why I share these things.  I am passionate about hearing and sharing stories, yes, but not about clickbait.  (unless it’s a facebook status.  sometimes I think I’m funny.)  but I don’t share my feelings – which are sometimes very painful to write down, and sometimes very soothing to write down, but always leave me very vulnerable when shared with other people – to get attention.

I share them because I have learned by doing so that I am not alone.

because for some reason, to help me cope, or to help others cope, my creator allows me to word things in a way that have made other hurting people say, “I feel the same, but I didn’t know how to say it.”
I share my feelings because people have said to me, “I didn’t think I could talk about it, but now I will.”
because people have said, “I had no idea you felt those things.  I thought I was the only one.”
because people have said, “I don’t struggle with depression, and I didn’t know how to relate to loved-ones who did. your writing has helped me understand.”
because people have said, “I tried to kill myself, and I don’t know how to tell anyone, and I need to talk.”

and I promise I don’t mean this to puff myself up in any conceivable way.  I am deeply grateful for the chance to open a crack of light into someone’s darkness, someone who maybe doesn’t realize the scores of people who love them and want to be there for them but don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.  I am deeply grateful for the chance to process through words what often feels like unbearable weight; without that outlet, I think I might have broken by now.  I am deeply grateful to the people who surround me and ask me how I’m doing, and remind me that I am loved when they see me, and have never, ever, made me feel disgusting or annoying or too broken when I share what’s crowding my head.  I know there are so many people who don’t have that, or who are so much more severely depressed than I am.  I could have it so much worse.  so I am grateful.  I hope that when I tell you that most people are willing to love, you will be encouraged to talk about the hard things.

so.  suicide.

we can skip the backstory on my decade or so of struggling with depression, and the years where I felt guilty even calling it that because I wasn’t cutting or trying to kill myself.  by God’s grace I’ve never gotten that far, thought I’ve thought about it a lot.  I’ve decided, and then undecided.  I actually just typed out the story of the first time I planned to take my life and then erased it.  I don’t think you need to know that.  I don’t think I need to talk about the details of the moment or the ways I decided to “do the deed” over the course of those hardest years.  what matters, I think, is that I’m still here.  and that you are, and you’re reading this, if suicide as ever appealed to you.

about a month ago was the first time I thought about ending my life in years.  thoughts of, “I don’t want to be alive” and “this is all just too much” have come and gone, sure, but I’ve been in deep enough pits that I can see mere potholes for what they are, at least.

this last time it was a different approach, one that seemed logical and causal.  I think it was the worst, because it was the hardest to talk myself out of, and the hardest to pinpoint where to lay the blame.  I’m not going to tell the story of how my brain reached the conclusion of, “it would probably be best and simplest just to end things.”  instead I’m just going to share what I wrote afterward, angry and exhausted.

 

dear Suicide:

you’re beautiful in theory.  you sound like the clear air after I’ve been under the covers for too long, or the quiet darkness when I close my eyes after a long, weary day.

you sound like the easy way out, and the hardest decision.  a little selfish, because you leave so many in pain in your wake.  but right, because some things feel too heavy to keep on bearing.

you sound like rest.  to be done with the pain and the heaviness.  an end of the weariness and the sharp aches and the tears and fissures in my heart.  what a thought.  full to brimming over with sweet possibilities.  and my savior at the end, of course.  a shortcut to that joy.

these are the sweet things you tell me.  these are your calls, your promises, your guarantees.

but Suicide, I need to stop listening to you, always beckoning me closer.

all the crowding thoughts, that tell me things won’t change, or need to change, I need to shut them out.  they all lead to you.  you don’t tell me how to fix things, only how to escape them.  I don’t think Jesus wants me to escape the hard things.

I think he wants to redeem them.

maybe with my help.

maybe that’s why I can’t quit.

that’s why I have to stay, even though you’re pulling.

I’ve said no once, twice, half a dozen times.  why do you insist?  why do you try to change my mind?

what if this is all so much bigger than I am?  what if I need to stay to do something, to bring God glory, to tell stories, and hear stories, and bless people and be blessed by people?  what if I’m a thread Jesus wants to weave through this city and the lives of the people around me and the literary arts?  what if, what if, what if?  why would you want to take me away from that, pulling at me with your sweet whisperings, or your alternating emotions and logic?

one day it’s, “but it makes sense.  you can’t fix this, you can’t be better; just cut it off now before you waste breath and time and effort.  you know you should quit while you can.  just make the rational decision.”  and another day it’s, “you know this is too heavy to bear up under.  you know you’ll break.  it hurts too much, it always will.  it will only get worse.  end it.  save yourself the heartache.”

but I won’t listen.  I won’t obey.

you’re a pretty door I won’t walk through.

you’re not worth it.

it’s really hard to say what is worth it, on the hard days.  so I’m making a list, of just a few things:

-little faces, splitting with love, and the cries of, “MISS LYDIA!” as they run on pitter-pattering feet toward me across a room.
-heads dropped on shoulders, looking at the stars, losing trails of thought and laughing about feelings.
-dancing in my room when I’m the only one home, pretending I’m Liza Minnelli in a cabaret club.
-knowing I’m the only one in the world who was trusted with someone’s secret.
-curling up in bed with pillows all around and a good book and a sense of total calm and real sabbath.
-crowds of strangers on a city street with stories etched on their brows and unknown eternities riding on their shoulders, full of endless possibility.
-the moment when the airline company sends you a confirmation on tickets you’ve just purchased, and you know you’re going to go somewhere.
-coming into a room and having someone grin and wave when they spot you.
-perfect, smooth pebbles worn down by salt water, and bright green leaves against dark wood after a spring rain.
-finding dried, pressed flowers in a book you forgot about.
-waiting for a polaroid picture to develop.
-the moment when the lights go dim in a theater and the orchestra quiets before the overture starts.

so goodbye, Suicide the Promising.  what you have going for you is an end.

I’m going to choose beginnings.

you lose.  you’ll always lose.

 

it’s World Suicide Prevention Day, the culmination of World Suicide Prevention Week.

two days ago I was at work and I got lost down a trail of ugly thoughts that ended with me saying to myself, “you are just weak and afraid, Lydia.”  I think the worst things I’ve ever been told are the things I say to myself.  I am so unkind.  maybe we need to stop listening to ourselves.

you, reading this: you are beautiful.  and valuable.  and the God of the universe stamped you with his image because he loves you, and he died to save you because he thinks you’re worth it, and he calls you his beloved.  he has made us his sons and daughters by giving up his own life for us.

and maybe you don’t believe that.  or you know it’s true but it doesn’t seem like enough- like living isn’t worth the pain of the day-to-day, when everything is going wrong, or nothing is but you are the world’s biggest mess on the inside.  I know those days.  today I’m writing from a good place; life is crazy and I’m in the middle of my own heartbreaks and frustrations, but I know I’m okay.  maybe you don’t know you’re okay.  but today, I want to stand in the gap for you.  today I know you’re brilliant and you have purpose, and you are a gorgeous, unique, funny, strange, worthwhile human being.  there are people who love you, or who will love you, people who will hurt with you and hold your hand if you let them.  and there is a world around you that is in need of you.  a neighbor who will need help up the stairs, or starving children who need your rescue plan.  there is a place that you are meant to fill on planet earth.  don’t quit on humanity yet.

don’t quit on me.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

 

~Lydia

 

p.s. I wrote something, this summer, when I was in a dark place.  it’s short, some weird fiction that deals with depression.  maybe it’ll speak to you.  maybe not.  you can find it here.

I wrote this the other day and it’s been milling around in my head since.

“how are you doing?” people keep asking me.  the flippant way (“what’s up?” “how’s it going?”) or the sweet way (“how are you?”) or the real-friend way (“how’s your heart lately?” “tell me how you’re doing.”).  it’s normal; people ask these questions, sometimes wanting to sit and hear the answer, sometimes hoping for a “good thanks, you?” in response.  and I just moved, and started a new job, and I have lots of really wonderful friends, so I get to answer this question a lot.

but I’m here on this blank “sheet of paper” because I don’t actually have that answer.  I don’t know what to say.  sometimes the “good thanks, you?” answer is all I’ve got, because people generally don’t have an hour to sit and listen to me try to unravel and understand my own feelings.  or lack of feelings.  my apathy and lukewarm or my kilimanjaros and mariana trenches.

I don’t even understand these places myself.  I wonder if even-keeled means boring, but I also don’t love the drama when I’m in the middle of it.  I’m my most creative when I’m at my darkest: the deepest ruts of despair and depression have historically brought about my most poignant creations.  and when I create – especially out of hardship – I feel like I’m doing what I was made to, down to the core of my being.  it’s like the natural outpouring of my soul.  Eric Liddell, the famous athlete, said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  and that’s how I feel about pouring out creatively.

but I don’t want to be sad, do I?  I just typed out three different versions of a sentence along the lines of “I love being happy but…” and the more I think about it, the less I think I do…?  I don’t know.  I think when I’m happy – placidly so, not because something amazing is happening – I feel shallow.  (I’m well aware how self-centered this may come across as.  I’m trying to figure it out myself, and that usually comes by writing about it.  this is weirdly personal.)

I’ve been in the throws of despair and hated it but still found a way to be deeply grateful for the feelings, thoughts, and experiences I’ve been given.  but maybe when things are good I don’t know how to be satisfied.

maybe this comes back to the thoughts I’ve been having recently about struggle.

I don’t want to live ‘struggle-free’.  what I want a is life that’s pulled along by the right struggle.  when I picture an existence that fuels and fulfills me and glorifies God with my particular gifts, I don’t picture white fences and easy-going conversation with the neighbors.  I just don’t.  something about that actually kind of makes me anxious.  this isn’t to say I want struggle for its own sake.  I certainly don’t want to toil on and on for the wrong thing, something pointless, or outside of God’s will for my life in the grand scheme, just so I don’t get too comfortable.

I’d just rather work hard with push-back for the noble thing God has set out for me than to either have it easy on the wrong path or struggle and tire but toward the wrong goal. I want the dignity and purpose that come from the right struggle.  I can’t imagine I’m meant for a ride without bumps.

and when things are too easy, or just feel like…nothing…I worry that I’m wasting beautiful time with stupid flat-lining.  I don’t know how to be grateful for “down time” when it’s a whole week or a month or six months.

maybe it’s a gift, this quiet in my spirit.  but it doesn’t feel like Holy-Spirit-stillness, it feels like I’m missing something, like I’m not pressing toward God or he’s not pressing toward me.  it feels like I’m doing something wrong because I’m not “sucking the marrow out of life”, as Thoreau would encourage me.  it feels like I’m just dog-paddling around in the kiddie pool.

I don’t want the kiddie pool.

maybe I don’t know what I’m asking for – I dealt with a lot of emotional shit last year (external and internal), and I’m not saying that was fun – but I don’t think I want to stay here.

I don’t want to look for God in the whirlwind and the fire but miss him in the still, small voice.  I want to learn patience, and quiet.  I want to learn to rely on his timing.  I want to learn what this “season” of life can teach me.

but this placidness kind of sucks when I don’t even know if God wants me to sit in faith or move in faith.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

so my update, when people ask:

I don’t know.  where I’m at, what I should be doing, what I shouldn’t be doing.  I don’t know if I should be grateful because I’m okay, or if it’s a warning sign that all I am is “okay”.  I don’t know if the quiet is convenient, aiding and abetting sinful distance from God, or if it’s a gift, after all the craziness.  and if it is a gift, is it supposed to stir up a restlessness in me that will push me toward God’s plan for me, or is it supposed to quiet my spirit and draw my closer to God in a time of rest?  I don’t know if pulling out my own hair because of boredom and confusion and apathy is better than suffocating myself with busyness and too many “yesses”.

what I do know is that right now I can’t create.  I can’t draw or play music.  I sure as hell can’t write.  not a scrap.  my fingers have only cliches and pedantic adjectives to offer.

I don’t want to demonize this period in my life, any more than I tried to demonize the hard times last year, or idolize the times that Jesus redeemed in their aftermath.

but it’s hard.  because it’s not hard.

as stupid as that sounds.

like Diana Goodman, I miss the mountains.