Flashes of light, incoherent chatter. Nothing made sense. I had done everything I could to make sure I never woke up again. So why was I here? Yet, even in such a dark moment, I felt the force of shame in my gut as the cool air hit my bare skin. Why are they touching me?! I wanted to die. I felt ready to die. I was overwhelmed with life and the way things seemed to be crumbling around me.
The strange thing is, I was not ashamed of trying to kill myself. It went much deeper than that. I was ashamed of being seen. The nurse cut off my clothes in the ER, while others transferred my body from the gurney to a bed, and I was flooded with more shame than I can ever remember in a single moment. It’s literally just a flash of memory.
The next second, I was out again. I stayed unconscious for several more hours as my liver decided if it would keep me alive or not. But in that space between semi-consciousness and near-death, knowing that strangers could see my body tapped into the shame of childhood sexual abuse, and caused a great deal of panic. Even though I was barely alive.
I tried to kill myself the day before my little boy turned a year old.
It seems like a lifetime ago. I remember waking up in ICU, dazed and scared to death. I was blank, confused, humiliated, and freezing. The only comfort in those days were the fresh blankets, right out of the warmer.
I was the youth pastor who attempted suicide. Sure, I had heard about grace all my life, but I thought it was just a famous melody we sang on Sunday mornings. I had no idea that in the weeks and months following my suicide attempt, grace would be stronger than any other force in my life. Grace is why I am still here.
My head was pounding. My throat felt like I had swallowed razor blades. My legs were numb for three days. And all I did in ICU was stare out the window, wishing I could run. Longing to escape. But all of that was grace. It’s called a second chance.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, nearly 43,000 people die by suicide in America each year. And for every death, approximately 12 more attempt. Suicide respects no one. It robs families of teenagers and grandparents, steals teachers and pastors from communities, and takes mothers away from their infants. It is a gift to survive it.
But for the person who has just survived a suicide attempt, it feels much more like failure. At the time, I wanted to close my eyes one last time and never wake up. I didn’t want to survive.
Eventually, I learned to thank God I made it. Recovery is a long road. There’s counseling, intense therapy, new meds, and lots and lots of embarrassing honesty. But I made it. Thanks to good doctors, lots of prayer, and a kick-ass support system, I was able to find a strength I didn’t know I had: the strength to admit I was weak. And that made me a brand new man.
I wrote, “From Pastor to a Psych Ward: Recovery from a Suicide Attempt is Possible” for those who believe the lie that mental illness is a death sentence. In the pages of my story, suicide survivors will find hope and practical recovery tools.
This book isn’t just for those who are recovering from a suicide attempt. It’s perfect for the person who suffers with a myriad of mental health issues, including: anxiety, depression, bipolar, PTSD, OCD, and the mom who has lived through the hell of postpartum depression. This book could be a game-changer for anyone who has secretly considered suicide or longed to die.
If you know someone who has been flung into a supporting role during the wake of a suicide attempt, this book could be their lifeline. The collection of essays they will find here, offer great insight into recovery. Spouses, parents, and the pastor of your church need this book.
Photo by James Case