DEPRESSED AND SUICIDAL
During the second semester of my freshman year of college, I was depressed and suicidal; in fact, I almost died from depression. I had a single dorm room (because I was an “older” 23-year-old freshman), and I filled my walls, ceiling, and windows with rainbow-colored post-it notes that said things like:
“I want to go home to be with Jesus,”
“If Jesus loves me, he’ll let me come home,”
“All I want is to GO HOME and stop hurting so much here, Jesus! LET ME COME HOME!”
I posted the notes over and over and over all around my dorm room — and then I took every pill I had in my possession:
• a bottle of Extra-Strength Tylenol,
• a bottle of prescribed anti-depressants,
• a bottle of prescribed high blood-pressure meds,
• a bottle of diabetes pills,
• about 15 antihistamines for allergies,
• and a bottle of cough syrup for good measure.
Then I laid down to sleep, hoping I’d wake up in Heaven — but no: I woke up to my RA shaking me, saying I needed to call my parents. They’d been trying to reach me and couldn’t.
I WAS NOT OKAY
Was I okay? No.
“What’s wrong?” my mom asked.
I started crying. “I wanna go to Heaven, so I took all my medicine. ALL of it.”
My parents wanted to call 911. I panicked. I didn’t want kids at the college to see me get carried off in an ambulance! “If you call an ambulance, I’ll make sure I’m dead before it gets here.”
Mom asked me to stay in my room and wait for her and Dad to show up. They would drive the hour from home and take me to the hospital themselves. “Okay,” I agreed — and then I went back to sleep.
I don’t remember much else: a hospital in town, then a hospital in Minneapolis where they took the buckles out of my shoes and wouldn’t even let me have my Carmex, because the container was glass, and I might cut myself with it. I was on lockdown for 24 hours. After that, I could make phone calls.
I called my friend K first because she’d called me and left a message. She’d seen all the post-its in my room and heard from my RA that I’d gone to the hospital. She asked if I could have visitors; I could, so she got some of my things together and asked our friend TK to drive them both to the hospital to see me. M, another friend came, too.
K packed clothes, my CD Walkman, a few favorite CDs, my journal, and my Bible. I hadn’t asked her to pack the Bible, but she did anyway. After my friends left, I sat on my hospital bed and opened the Bible. It fell open to Mark 5. I read it as if for the first time, even though I knew it wasn’t.
(Don’t skip this part! Mark 5:1-20)
THE HEALING OF A DEMON-POSSESSED MAN
“They came to the other side of the sea, into the region of the Gerasenes. When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him. He lived among the tombs; and no one was able to bind him anymore, not even with a chain, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces; and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains and cutting himself with stones.
Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do You have with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” For He had already been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he said to Him, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged Him earnestly not to send them out of the region.
Now there was a large herd of pigs feeding nearby on the mountain. And the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us into the pigs so that we may enter them.” Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the pigs; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.
Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the countryside. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. And then they came to Jesus and saw the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had previously had the “legion”; and they became frightened. Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the pigs. And they began to beg Him [Jesus] to leave their region.
And as He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was begging Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.”
I read that last part a few times. The guy Jesus healed was found to be in his right mind. He asked Jesus to take him along, but Jesus said, “No, stay here and tell others what I’ve done for you!”
MY PROMISE TO GOD
Okay, God, I get the message loud and clear. Thinking about all those psycho post-it notes back in my dorm room begging Jesus to let me go home to be with him…?
Nope, not yet, Girl! *whew*
I cried and I cried. Then I made a promise to God right there in the psych ward, promising I would NEVER try to kill myself again. I may think about it, I may want to, but I won’t do it. I never have. Not once since February 26, 1996, have I tried to end my life. I’ve been in some pretty deep, dark depressions since then, for sure, but suicide is not an option. I do not make promises lightly, especially not to the Lord of the Universe.
DEPRESSION IS A LIAR
I understand why it happens, and I pass no judgment on those who do die from depression. There’s so much pain inside. There’s so much sadness, despair, and darkness — not even a little bit of hope can be seen. You forget all the good bits. You forget that there ARE people who care. Depression is a selfish thing; it turns us completely inward, and we don’t think about anything other than escaping. We also believe the world will be better off without us, but depression is a LIAR. As author Jenny Lawson says, “Our brains are trying to kill us.”
I know it’s hard to talk about it, but if you are ever depressed and suicidal — sad, lonely, scared, or feeling hopeless, PLEASE try to remember that you are NOT alone. Reach out to someone, even if you must reach out to a 911 operator.
I am so sorry to all the people in my life who put up with me through my suicidal years, bearing the sheer terror of wondering if the next phone call was going to be from a coroner’s office or a doctor. I’m SO sorry. Please forgive me and know — know like I KNOW — it will NEVER happen again.
Know, too, that I’m here for you if you need to vent/cry/share your story. I’m here. If you are depressed and suicidal, know that you are not alone. I love you.
Dana Beth Stenholtz
Writer & #PenToPaper Ambassador
Dana is a freelance writer and poet. She lives with bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia, and believes firmly in the promise of Jeremiah 29:11: “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.’” Dana's mission, whether through writing a blog or sending a letter, is to remind people we are not alone. She knows first-hand that this knowledge can make all the difference.
Hold On to Possibility Everyday
Are you thinking about ending your life? Reach out for support. Are you concerned about a friend or loved one ending his or her life? Ask. Listen. Love.