The Thinnest Thread Across a Chasm: I Survived.

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I did this photo shoot a few years ago with a ton of smiles and silly faces—but this picture was a bit closer to how I was really feeling. It was during one of the most miserable seasons of life, when depression had hit full force and I was contemplating The End every waking moment. I had gained over twenty lbs from binging and I randomly fell asleep in my office and I kept letting go of the steering wheel, daring myself to crash. No one knew what was happening; I tried to tell someone but he laughed it off: “Look at you, how could you be so stressed when you’re so blessed?” So I kept up the smiles and silliness, all while my insides were wax dipped in acid, melted to the thinnest thread, stretched between bones across a chasm. I was Zeno’s paradox, motionless in motion. I was begging God to kill me.

I wanted to give up: but no. God said no. He was stubborn, and so I was, too. I hustled. I fought the dark with everything, both fists swinging, screaming and laughing at the same time, crawling by my bare fingernails to the lip of the well I had been cast down. Slowly, painfully, somehow, I made it through, mostly because I kept waking up and I was astounded to find myself still breathing, and because I gained ground by inches. Colors returned; the fog lifted over time; I found people I could tell; I got a dog and I lost the weight and I survived. It’s not as romantic as it sounds, and I don’t know if the next one will win. But that time, at least, I did. He did. God didn’t answer my prayer then, and it was the best “no” that I’ve ever gotten. I’m here, just barely. So is He, completely.
J.S. Park

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I Hate My Life and Myself and I Want to Die: What Do I Do?

Anonymous asked a question:

I find myself begging God for death almost every day. On the days I don’t, I’m numb & I’m just going through the day hating my life. It’s hard not to compare myself to the rest of my peers who are doing great things & I’m just here painfully existing. My 1st degree didn’t get me any jobs in my state, so I’m stuck working a job that doesn’t pay much to help me afford a secondary degree. I know I’m not the only person suffering from the effects of a rigged economy, but how am I to remain positive?

Hey dear friend, I’m very sorry for all that’s happening. I want to tell you that you’re not alone, and that I got a ton of love for you, and I’m certain that everyone here does, too. I’m praying for you right now, even as I write this.

I have to say this too: If you feel like you’re in danger of hurting yourself at all, please go talk with a trusted friend and talk these things out. Please consider getting with a qualified, certified person who can help. I hope and pray that you won’t make any big rash decisions during a downward spiral, and that you’d first talk it over with someone, face-to-face, even if that means forcing yourself to get there and giving your decision-making power to someone else, however long it takes. Just talking about it can be enough sometimes to take another step.

I want to share that I’ve wrestled with depression for as long as I can remember, and I did attempt suicide over ten years ago (half a bottle of pills, I lost 13 lbs. in three days, and was Baker Act’ed into an institution). I get into self-loathing loops of hopelessness all the time, like someone has just yanked my guts through my chest in one fell swoop and I’m crumpled over with completely cold apathy, not caring about a thing. Several years ago, I had a complete breakdown at my workplace from the work environment (in which the boss laughed it off), and a year later, I was fired from that very same job. Co-workers got way ahead of me, which was absolutely fine, but many of the people that I called “friends” deserted me. Life is unfair. It can be cruel. Things don’t always work out.

The reality is, our dreams get crushed, and people will leave or cheat or abuse us, and our perseverance doesn’t always pay off. Prayers can go unanswered for a lifetime. I sit with some hospital patients who don’t want to leave because their life outside is so desperately miserable. Even a perfectly crafted life can come crashing down in a second, when external forces suddenly strip us of all we have built. Most of us are not prepared for how harsh and brutal that life can be, because no one gives the hard talk about what it’s really like.

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Does Social Media Really Help a Cry-for-Help?

shatterrealm asked a question:

When Internet strangers rally together to assure a suicidal person that they are loved and precious, are we really helping? Or are we making things worse by arguing with their depression? Should we simply be referring them to professionals?

Hey dear friend, this is an excellent question that I can’t possibly hope to adequately cover, but I’ll offer a few thoughts on this to consider.

– On one hand, if you can save a life with words, do it. I think it’s absolutely a good idea to press in when someone expresses depression, anywhere, every time, all the time. It might really pull back someone from the edge, even for one more day.

I can’t really stop to evaluate the whole thing on whether it’s real or not, or if it’s really helping. That’s not for me to decide right then. If someone is drowning in a river headed towards a waterfall, I don’t ever want to think, “Am I enabling this person to not learn to swim?” I can think about that later. At this very second, I have to throw a lifeline, or I’ll jump in there myself.

– On the other hand, I’m less sure about how this will work for the long-term. It’s the old dilemma: “Give a person a fish for a day or teach them how to fish for life.”

In the short-term, rallying together online can certainly be helpful for a person who cries-for-help. I’ll be the first one there. But at some point, the online world becomes very limited in truly helping a depressed person. It doesn’t go deep enough, and in some cases, can actually be more harmful.


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A Letter to Social Media and Google Search Experts: You Don’t Understand Mental Illness (and I Wish You’d Try)

If there’s one thing I learned after a celebrity takes his or her own life, it’s going to social media and seeing that no one understands mental illness.

I’ve been a lifelong sufferer of depression, and not even I myself completely understand what’s going on inside.  Most of us assume it’s more of a choice instead of a disease, but it’s difficult to explain how even our choices under depression feel hopeless and powerless, like walking through a fog that has drained the colors out of everything.  There’s no particular reason it happens.  Mental illness doesn’t primarily come from external causes, but we blame ourselves, and so does most of our world.

My guess is that depression and anxiety and other such illnesses are not sexy enough.  Cancer portrayed by Hollywood has the inverse effect of making you skinny and attractive, and movie-autism gives you special math skills like Rain Man or perfect innocence like Forrest Gump.  It’s not fun watching a grown man just weep for two hours.

There will be no movie for my uncle, who has schizophrenia and paranoid delusions, and will often randomly get on his bike to ride from Florida to Ohio, with beans in his ears to block out the “demonic voices.”  It’s not tailor-made for a fundraiser.

That’s not to take away from any of these illnesses: but it points to our obsession with polishing our pain into a marketable story.

An illness like depression often leads to the inevitable symptom of death by suicide, and because of this, many will mock and sneer.  “They chose to do it, it was selfish.”  But unless you’ve actually been at the verge of this inescapable inner prison, then it will naturally seem over-dramatic and hysterical. No one understands unless it’s them, at the absolute edge of their darkness feeling like there are zero options left.

I understand this urge to criticize the mentally ill.  It’s not visible; it’s not physically tangible.  We inherently grade people based on their accomplishments, but even more, the “beauty” of their brokenness.  It’s an ugly thing.  We accept some diseases and not others.  We celebrate victory over cancer and Ebola and from organ transplants, but not depression, even though they all potentially lead to terminal conditions.

We only take mental illness seriously when it leads to death — but even then, we find such diseases beneath our charity, because we perceive it to be within the victim’s control.

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The Warfare of Discouragement

One day you’re smooth-cruising through the halls, high-fiving random strangers and yourself and soaking in the standing ovation, and the next minute you’re in the valley of a fresh oozing wound inflicted by the ugly, brutal weapon of words. You’re playing the endless loop of that three-second sentence, a fishing knife scooping out your guts, forcing your chin down like it weighs the size of the world. At any moment, in any place, discouragement can uppercut your soul and keep you down way past ten.

The occupational hazard of ministry, a wise pastor once said, is discouragement. That’s true for all of us. It’s unavoidable. It’s a fog that seeps into all our work, our words, our interaction, even the taste of food and the vibrancy of colors. There’s really no dancing around it, so we must deal with it.

At the center of this fog are truths and lies that fight for our sanity, and that war will be brought to the battleground of our emotions. We must, kicking and screaming, bring that fight up to the doorstep of our mind and in light of God’s Word. Regardless of how we feel, there’s a truth that exists. We press into it, or don’t. Press in.

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Thanks For Goodbye

Some of you know that in 2004 I attempted suicide. It was over a girl.
Here’s the story. I wrote it two months after I was released from the hospital. It’s slightly graphic.
Remember: in the darkness there is always, always, always hope.

After I get out of the hospital in three days from swallowing forty pills of Excedrin, I lose thirteen pounds. I’m one of those before and after pictures, you know, the ones where they use two different people to convey a new diet pill. Before: a wad of dough. After, he’s a smiling skeleton.

My shirts hangs on me like baggage-burned eyes. I still want to be with her. When you try to kill yourself over someone, that’s the only thing you really think about.

Outside in the rain under the blue sign that says “Sears,” she tells me she wants to spend the rest of her life with me. I smile against my teeth and my face turns green. My liver makes me want to puke and so does her face. It’s supposed to be one of those great moments that I should tell my grandkids. The memory we gather is composed of those emotional peaks that make up the blueprint journey of our life; at times we soar, at times we drown.

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