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The Time I Attempted Suicide

Pills and broken glass, tears and blood, fear and despair. It was one of the darkest nights of my life. I didn’t want to do it yet I couldn’t see how to face the next day. The pain of ending everything there and then seemed lesser compared to the pain of going on. I lay down in bed, waiting to bleed out and knock out, to sleep the last sleep. I was 19.

Two years before that night, shortly after I entered junior college, I lost interest in my studies. It was a very stressful time for me. My grades took a nosedive, which made me even more unmotivated. I slept a lot and my mood was low most of the time. There were times when I’d cut myself. I thought that experiencing physical pain was the only way to express and cope with my inner pain. I didn’t know why I was feeling that way.

A few months after my A-Level examinations, I received a letter from the Ministry of Defence informing me of the date of my enlistment into National Service (NS)*. That’s when my world came crashing down.

You see, I wasn’t an athletic or sporty kid growing up. So my parents often told me that if I didn’t build myself up physically, I wouldn’t be able to make it through the rigors of NS. I understand now that that was their well-intentioned way of motivating me to be more prepared, but all through my teenage years, I took their comments to mean that I was inadequate for, and so would not survive, military life.

Since secondary school, I also struggled intensely with not being able to fit in with the other boys in class and I realized I was attracted to guys. So the idea of being stuck in a hyper-masculine military environment with other guys terrified me and I was worried of what might happen if they knew I was gay. All of my worries added up into a deep fear of enlistment.

I began to desperately plead with God to engineer a miracle to get me out of this situation. I made bargains with Him. If only He’d take this away, I promised to do certain things in return. I spent nights lying in bed with fearful thoughts and frantic prayers, crying myself to sleep, and getting up again in the middle of the night to beg Him to make this go away.

But the days went by, and nothing happened. I met up with my closest junior college friends for the last time, I researched quick and painless ways to die, and I wrote my final letters to my family members. All through that time, fear was building up in my heart and intrusive dark thoughts kept running through my mind. On the one hand, I didn’t want to end my life, but on the other hand, I believed this was the only exit from the situation I dreaded so much. I struggled with troubling questions of whether God would forgive me if I committed suicide. Was it a pardonable sin or an act so heinous that I’d be condemned to hell?

Then came the day before my enlistment. There was still no miracle. I waited at night until all my family members were asleep, and carried out my plan. As I laid down in bed, I was banking all my hopes on the pills or the bleeding to get the job done. I wondered what I’d see on the other side of life. Would I see God?

When I opened my eyes, the first person I saw was my mum crying hard at the foot of the bed. I gradually realized that I was in the hospital. My first thought was, “Oh, shit.”

I didn’t succeed. I was still here. What was going to happen now?

The love of the Father

Well, what happened as I recovered was that I found out how much I was loved. Sure, I was aware before this that my parents loved me, but that was not something that I knew in any deep, experiential way. When I saw my mum crying her eyes out, I realized she cared for me much more than I’d believed. And I’d never seen my dad and grandma that anxious and heartbroken before.

A close secondary school friend came to visit. She told me that the medical team had to pump the pills out of my body. My tuition teacher visited, and I was surprised to see her burst into tears. She read Psalm 121 to me to assure me that God would always watch over me and help me. After I was discharged, all my relatives came over, showing their concern and sharing their counsel in their own ways. I never knew the people in my life cared this much about me.

I remember the day my family took me home from the hospital. We didn’t talk much on the way back. I went to my room and sat down on my bed. A moment later, my dad came in with a paper bag. It contained my journals, in which I’d written what I’d meant to be my last words to my family members. He handed me the bag and said, “Let’s take it that this never happened.”

I understood it as an act of grace, of mercy. Perhaps it was the tender and quiet way he said it. Or perhaps, it might be how he offered that statement to me as a gesture of kindness. He laid there before me the gift of a clean slate. That, perhaps, was the miracle.

What my dad did was a small yet significant reflection of what my heavenly Father did for me: God offered to forget my sins and give me a clean slate, if I would accept and believe in the gift of His Son, Jesus. The particulars of my story may or may not be similar to yours, but the love and grace of the Father for you and me is the same, regardless of our present struggles or past mistakes. God is eager to heal and restore; He’s in the business of resurrecting lives.

I saw a psychiatrist for two years after that. He helped me to recognize that I had been clinically depressed since my junior college days, and my depression had worsened as my enlistment date—what I’d deeply feared—drew near. Over time, with medication, counselling and a supportive Christian community, I got better.

My enlistment date was deferred until several months later. During my time in NS, I experienced how God was faithful in bringing me through those years. I learned to know Him more truly as the God from whom my help comes (Psalm 121:1–2), the One who constantly watches over me and carefully keeps me from harm (Psalm 121:3–8).

Today, you can still see scars, but much faded now, etched on my left forearm from that dark night. But because of the lavish love and merciful forgiveness of God, shown to me by the wounds of Jesus at the Cross, I can look at the scars of shame and see instead the marks of His grace (Isaiah 53:5).

 

* National Service (NS) is compulsory duty in the uniformed services for all Singaporean males upon finishing their tertiary education (but before any higher education). This usually includes two years of full-time service.

Please don’t jump, there’s hope

Written By Leslie Koh, Singapore

I was just about to leave for work when a policeman knocked on my door. “Sir, do you know of any elderly woman living along this floor?”

Behind him, a single stool stood next to the railing separating the flats on my floor from the ground, 10 floors below. It didn’t belong to my neighbor. Several policemen were stretching a white tape across the narrow common corridor in front of me. It didn’t take much to guess what had happened. In the old days, my housing estate was a popular spot for suicides; in those days, few buildings were this “tall”.

“Actually . . . most of the people here are elderly,” I told the cop. Then my thoughts went to my immediate neighbor. I glanced at her windows, just two feet from me. But to my relief, the policeman peeked through, turned to me, and nodded. “No, she’s in there.”

Then, another thought. A neighbor a few doors down had been rather depressed after suffering a disability. But I spotted his door opening in the distance, as policemen went down the row, knocking on door after door. His thin hands emerged. Another wave of relief.

The policeman then asked me if I minded looking at a picture of her face, to see if I recognized her. I didn’t.

The woman had probably come from another block in the estate, and likely planned this in advance. She had brought her own stool, and had chosen to jump from the quietest stretch of corridor; the other part faced another block, and she would have been spotted. My block was also one of the quietest ones in the neighborhood.

There was little else I could do. I walked out of my home, glancing over the railing along the way to take in the sight of a pitiful covered bundle lying on a concrete parapet, 10 floors below.

I nodded to the policeman, ducked under the crime-scene tape, and took a lift to the ground. As I walked out of the estate, I was engulfed by a wave of sadness. I didn’t know the woman, but my heart went out to her. In an ageing estate populated mostly by elderly folk, it wasn’t difficult to guess why she had dragged a stool to my block of flats, taken the lift to the highest floor, climbed onto it, and hurled herself over the railing.

Perhaps she didn’t have a family. Perhaps she wasn’t close to them or felt abandoned. Perhaps she was told about an incurable disease. Perhaps she felt that she had nothing left to live for. No love, no purpose . . . only loneliness and the certain prospect of years of emptiness stretching ahead. Nothing but hopelessness.

Nothing left to live for. No hope.

Death would have seemed to be the only escape, the only relief.

If only my wife or I had happened to come out the door when she was there. We could have stopped her. If only we—or someone—had a chance to tell her: Please, don’t jump. There’s hope.

Hope. Sometimes, it’s the only reason to go on living. When you’ve lost everything, and there’s nothing left to look forward to. When nothing is going right, and things don’t look as if they’re ever going to get any better.

What stops us from taking the only way out? What stops us from going to the highest building, from taking a handful of sleeping pills?

Hope. Hope that somehow, somewhere, things may eventually get better. Hope that amid the loneliness, there’s someone out there who still cares for us and who will tell us, “Hey, you mean a lot to me. Don’t go, I need you.” Hope that in the desperation of our current situation, someone will come along to stretch out a helping hand, give us a comforting hug, and say, “Don’t worry, I’m here with you. I’ll walk with you.”

Only one person can give us this hope. Only one person can promise us that he’ll be there with us, every step of the way. Only one person can keep up that promise, because he will never be too busy to listen to us. Only one person will never fail us. Only one person could say to us with utmost confidence, “Don’t worry, I’m in control. I know your situation, and I know what to do. I know what you need.”

That person is Jesus. Having once lived as a man, He knows exactly how we feel. Our depression. Our loneliness. Our hopelessness. As the Son of God, He has the ultimate power to handle our situation. He knows what comfort and encouragement we need, and He will be able to give it to us. Some of us will still have to live through our challenging circumstances, but we’ll have the complete assurance that He’s walking alongside us—every day, every hour, every minute. And, the most important of all, we’ll be able to go on in life with this knowledge: Jesus loves me. I matter to him. I mean the world to him—so much so that He died to save my soul. He has a purpose for me. He placed me here for a reason. He wants me to live for him.

When there’s absolutely nothing left to live for, when we’ve lost everything, we still have one thing. Jesus gives us hope. Hope to live. Hope to believe.

If you’re feeling hopeless, if you’ve given up on life, if you’ve taken a stool and are heading for the top floor of a block near you, stop. Please stop. There’s someone out there who loves you. Jesus loves you.

Behind my Happy Mask, I was Suicidal

Written By Janene Kd, Singapore

Suicide. We cringe at the very sight of the word. It’s scary, it’s confronting, and it’s all too real. We read about it in the newspapers and watch it on the news, but most times, it doesn’t hit us personally. From a distance, we comment, “If only someone had done something. How could his or her family not have known?” 

But sometimes, there are no warning signs, no alarm bells signalling impending disaster.

Sometimes, the signs are there, but they’re subtle. We may attribute mood swings in others to pre-menstrual syndrome in the case of girls, or think that it’s just another phase that they’d eventually “get over”. We tend to think about how we got through our own pain and hurt, and expect others to soldier through it like we did.

But what if the sadness they feel isn’t what we’re familiar with? What if it’s consuming them bit by bit? What if the pain they feel inside has totally overtaken any form of rationality? What if the thoughts in their heads make them believe that physical pain could remove the numbness of emotional wounds?

Suicide is a topic dear to my heart because I’ve seen it happen to people around me and people close to me. And, because I’ve been there myself.

 

The Beginning

My brush with suicide isn’t one that involved someone talking me off a ledge, which many tend to think that suicide is all about. It was a quiet, personal—and largely internal—struggle. Often, these are the most scary, because there are no physical signs. No one knew the thoughts that were forming in my head but me.

I’m pretty sure no one expected me to fall into depression or even harbor suicidal thoughts. People usually see my laughter and assume that I am a cheerful and jovial person. It’s not that I wasn’t happy; I liked it when people thought that way—and that was the problem. I felt like happiness was my responsibility, an obligation. And so, I hid every ounce of sadness I felt.

But truthfully, I wasn’t doing well. I desperately craved love. Although it confused me, and I couldn’t comprehend it in all of its complexities, I wanted it. I wanted to feel loved, but more than that, I wanted to be in love. Maybe I was deluded by movies and television shows that had me believing that I needed human love to be complete. So that was my pursuit for most of my teenage years.

I remember trying to get help from a school counsellor at the age of 15. Although counselling was something people avoided for fear of being judged as problematic or abnormal, I was curious. I remember bumping into my school counsellor at the stairwell while on my way to choir practice. By the end of the conversation, I felt misunderstood. “You don’t need counselling,” he had said. “You’re just like every other kid, craving attention. You come from such a perfect family, what problems could you possibly have?”

Those statements stayed with me. “You don’t need—“, “You’re just like every other kid—“. “You come from such a perfect family—“. And I don’t blame him. He probably had many other students to deal with, and I seemed like the last kid in need of help. But I knew. I knew the loneliness that would barge into my bedroom, uninvited, as soon as I was alone. I knew the sadness I was capable of sinking into.

That experience affirmed what I’d always believed: I couldn’t let people in. I couldn’t cry; I couldn’t let go. Eventually, the very feelings I tried to get away from engulfed me. Feelings of melancholy, anxiety, and helplessness would creep in when I least expected it, especially in the moments just before I drifted into sleep. And I’d feel like I was being suffocated—like I couldn’t breathe. I’d feel a combination of unworthiness, bitterness, and anger, all at the same time. I didn’t know how to make sense of what I was feeling. More than anything, I was confused.

 

The Breaking Point

My breaking point came some years later. I was 19, and had just gotten out of a horrific relationship. The break-up wasn’t the main cause of my sadness, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and it made things worse. I lost everything I loved—no, actually, I lost the one person I loved. I had invested so much into this one person; without me even realizing it, he’d become a part of me. I had allowed him to define me and my identity. When he was happy, so was I. When we fought, I blamed myself. When he was away, I felt like a part of me was missing. And so, when we broke up, I felt as though a part of me had been ruthlessly ripped from my very being.

So I picked up Thai boxing. The training was intense enough to make me feel something, but not enough. I picked up longboarding, and skated recklessly in order to feel the adrenaline surging through my veins. Going downhill at incredulous speeds was exhilarating—but it wasn’t enough. Then I got a tattoo. It hurt when the needle pierced my skin, imprinting the word strength on my lower back. Maybe I wanted the pain, and maybe I wanted to be strong. But still, it wasn’t enough

Sadness doesn’t go away just because you want it to. It lingers. And just when you start to feel okay again, it creeps in to remind you of how unworthy and small you’ve always felt. And so I fell back into the consuming sadness again. A couple of months after that painful break-up, I found myself in another relationship. It didn’t take my sadness away. In fact, I would still feel incredibly sad from time to time. When that relationship ended about a year and a half later, I crumbled.

I was in my second year of university, away from home. When you’re in an unfamiliar environment, when your comfort is taken away from you, you have no reason to keep it together anymore. So I let go. Those seven days following the break-up were some of the worst in my life. I contemplated suicide, and I stopped eating, barely drinking any water; my mind was so preoccupied with hurt, guilt, and doubt, that I was incapable of any rational thought. I hid from people. I just wanted to have my own pity party away from everyone. The only time I ever left the house was to go for tutorials, which I reluctantly sat through. It came to a point where I was numb to everything. I was just going through the motions, not thinking, not feeling, not being Janene.

 

The Intervention

But God was the one person, the one friend I couldn’t hide from. I tried, but He didn’t make it easy for me to hide. At that point, I didn’t know God—I knew about Him. I had grown up reading the Bible, listening to stories about a great God who watched over His people for 40 years in the desert, who protected Daniel from lions, who was with David as he defeated Goliath, who was with Job even when he had everything taken away from him, and who was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, protecting them from the flames, allowing them to walk out without being burnt.

But I didn’t know God personally

The same week of my break-up, I went for a Christian retreat where I was surrounded by some of my closest friends. That’s when I broke down and allowed God to work in my heart. I can’t begin to describe how it felt when the burden was lifted. It was just so . . . unreal. I’d never felt joy of this intensity before, because I had kept God out of the equation and had chosen to look for love in all the wrong places. On hindsight, I realize that I had a God-shaped void within me that I tried to fill with everything else but Him. Nothing was big enough, and everything fell short.

But as I lay on the ground wailing and crying out to God, He took me out of the sea of self-doubt, depression, anger, and hatred that I had drowned myself in, and immersed me in His grace. He reminded me of my worth in Him, and how nothing could ever separate me from His perfect, unfailing, and unwavering love. Knowing that the God who created the mountains, filled the seas and fed the birds of the air also knew me by name and loved me all the same, I was overwhelmed. At that point, I stopped running, and allowed myself to be embraced by God. I began to understand love, and how real, pure, and furious love could only be found by seeking the father’s heart. That’s when I made a conscious decision to pursue the God who never stopped pursuing me.

Things did not become a bed of roses after that. I fell back into sadness so many times after; I still do now. But the difference now is that the sadness doesn’t consume me. I can talk to God about my feelings, no matter how difficult it is to verbalize the demons in my head. Of course, it’s still hard for me to be vulnerable and not lie about being okay. Sometimes, it takes me hours to open up to people about my hurt, for the fear that once I expose these wounds, they’d get infected and not heal. But they always do. Perfect love casts out all fear. And His love heals all wounds.

I know that not everyone believes in the existence of a God, and mine is just one story. But I hope my sharing can help you see that you’re not alone. We’re all human, and sometimes, we allow inadequacy, self-hate, anger, and unworthiness to consume us, to rid us of our self-worth and importance.

Know that you can always talk to someone about your sadness. Express your thoughts in words, verbal or written. Physical pain will only make you feel for so long before you drift back into the state you were in. It doesn’t heal you, it numbs you. Slowly letting go of your baggage, however, heals.

It’s going to be painful and difficult to endure your situation at times. Memories have a way of seeping into and infiltrating our moments of happiness, and bringing us back to painful times in our lives. But if you summon every ounce of strength you have to reach out to God, this sadness you feel won’t have to win. God will give you the strength to fight it. And better than that, He will fight on your behalf. You need only to be still (Exodus 14:14).

Suicide & The Demon Called Depression

Written By Mark Stromenberg, Canada

A few months ago, I did something I had never done before: I cried over an actor.

I’m not one to follow celebrity gossip or obsess over the lives of Hollywood stars. I’m not even overly excited to get autographs from the stars who’ve played my favorite television and movie characters. And unlike a friend of mine, I don’t have a list of the young and famous celebrities that I pray regularly for (though perhaps more of us should). But that morning, while eating breakfast, I found myself crying and I didn’t know why. I prayed about it, and realized it was grief.

The news of Robin William’s death by suicide swept through the internet like a storm. Though most of us have never met or spoken to him, he held a special place in our hearts. In his roles as John Keating (Dead Poets Society), Mrs. Doubtfire, the Genie (Aladdin), Hunter Patch Adams (Patch Adams) and many more, Williams didn’t just steal the show; he stole our hearts. He gravitated towards roles that stirred our hearts’ desire for love and beauty, passion and joy, and acceptance.

As the news frenzy dissected this tragedy, one fact quickly emerged: Robin Williams had struggled with depression. As one who has also been afflicted with depression for most of my life, and as one who has lost friends to depression and suicide, I was deeply affected by William’s death. Though I did not know him personally, his death cut me to the heart.

And I suspect I’m not the only one who has felt this way.

Those who have struggled with depression know all too well a certain demon that runs through the mind. He’s a crafty and slippery spirit, sapping joy, stealing dignity, and eating happiness. He whispers in a crowd and shouts when we’re alone. He accuses, he taunts, and he laughs. And some nights, he overshadows all, drawing the very soul from the body out through the stomach, whispering, “You’re alone; you’re broken; you’re unlovable; you’re a failure; it’s hopeless; it’ll never get better. You should just kill yourself.”

This is the demon called depression.

For some, he comes for a season. For others, he’s a constant companion. Some of us have learned to block him out by staying busy. Some of us have weakened his power through exercise, healthy eating, and medication. Some of us have fought his lies with recordings of good memories and encouraging words, while some of us have appeased him with compulsive destructive behaviors, even self-mutilation. And still others have made him a friend, becoming bitter, cynical, and hateful.

Depression is a serious thing; an illness that affects billions. There are so many books and blogs written on this subject with so many cures and coping mechanisms offered. Everybody has a different piece of advice, a special technique, and a unique insight for dealing with this demon that they readily push onto us. Sorting through all this (sometimes unhelpful) information, how do we know what to believe? If only there were a simple way to defeat depression once and for all.

A friend of mine, Brett Ullman, once told me that out of the thousands of emails he has received about suicide and depression, the common two elements for those of us who have survived are these: We talked to someone, and we found the help we needed.

And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve talked to people, and I’ve found the help I’ve needed. A large part of that was my faith in Jesus Christ and my Christian family. I’ve found peace in prayer and meditation, and I’ve found another Spirit that lives in me. This Spirit speaks life and love and hope. I’ve found a community of people who, in spite of their imperfections, encourage me, help me, and love me. And though the demon hasn’t left, I know now that whenever he whispers or he shouts, “You’re alone,” he’s lying.

You may be skeptical about the power of Jesus, but if nothing else, He was this: proof that one person can bring light and life and hope to millions in a dark and difficult world.

For Jesus is the light of the world. He said, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Have you accepted His invitation to follow Him?

Photo credit: Boudewijn Berends / Foter / CC BY