Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's Worth the Risk to Share Your Story

I have spent the past few days sorting though many emails and private messages on Facebook.  I had no idea my last blog post would get the response it got.  I expected judgment.  I expected people's view of me to change.  I prepared myself for that.  Or rather I should say, God prepared my heart for that. But what I wasn't prepared for was just how many people have shown me so much love and support.

Thank you.  From the depths of my heart, thank you.  You truly have no idea how much your words of love, support and encouragement have meant to me.  Your Facebook comments, texts messages and emails are tangiable words I can read over and over when satan tries to convince me I made a mistake.  And he will.  He's already tried and failed, but he will try again, I'm sure.

For years I have been encouraged by those who are the closest to me to share my story, but I've been too fearful.  Fear of being judged.  Fear of people thinking I was "crazy".  I have had so many people thank me for being "brave".  But I am not brave.  I was so full of fear when I hit publish.  I stayed away from email and Facebook for hours because I was so fearful of what people might say.  All I did was obey the Lord.  It was Him who laid it heavy on my heart to write that post.  It was Him who gave me the courage to hit publish.  I knew I had to trust the Lord, and He would somehow work it to my good and His glory.

I had no idea this is what He had in mind.

As of this morning I have received over 200 emails from people who have shared their story with me.  I have heard from people I haven't spoken to in years, and I've heard from people I have never met.  I've heard from people I see on a regular basis, and I had no idea the pain they are suffering.

As I have read through emails, I have cried.  There are so many people in this world who are suffering.  People who see no way out of their pain other than to take their own life.  In so many of those emails people have thanked me for making them feel not so alone.  I've often thought, if my story made this much of a difference, how much greater it would be if all of them could read each other stories.

You are not alone.  Pain can certainly make you feel isolated, but I promise, you are not alone.  Every story is somewhat different, yet every story is somewhat the same.  You are NOT alone.

I am overwhelmed by the number of people who have trusted me with their pain.  I get how hard it had to be for you to sit down and write me those emails.  Thank you for trusting me.  I know it wasn't easy.  Please know that I am praying for each of you.  Although I have not shared names or details of your stories, I also have friends praying for you.

When I shared my own struggle with suicidal thoughts, I had no idea God would use it to help so many others.  It's ironic.  Since April I've seriously thought I am useless to God.  I've been proven wrong.  So you see, you sharing your story with me has helped me.

Out of all the emails I have received, and I continue to get them every day, only one ... ONE ... has been negative.  It threw me for a loop when I first read it.  I think mainly because of who wrote it, but after spending a few hours in prayer I no longer allow it to carry in weight in my heart.  Mainly because I realize this person truly doesn't understand what the bible says, but also because 237 other people have been helped in some way by me sharing my heart.

I was at the Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic banquet last night, and someone whispered into my ear as she hugged me, "Your blog post has given me new hope.  I was so close to hurting myself, but now I realize there is hope."  I have to admit, I was taken back.  I've known this person for a long time, and I had no idea how much pain she was carrying around with her.

What she doesn't realize is she, and all of you who have taken a risk in sharing your story with me, have given me new hope.  For the past four months I've been struggling with wondering if God will ever use me, and if He's not using me then am I really His child.  I know that may sound crazy to some of you, but let me explain.

I don't ever remember a time in my life I didn't want Jesus to love me, but I was well into my thirties before I truly believed He did.  I've been in church my entire life, but there has always been a part of me that felt like I wasn't "good enough" for God.  I realize He didn't save me because of anything I have or haven't done.  It was His grace and mercy that saved me.  Not my performance.

I am His and He is mine.  Satan has lost the war, but he still tries to win battles.  So, he plants seeds of doubt in my mind, and sometimes those seeds grow.  I start hearing him in my ear causing me to doubt.  "Jesus doesn't really love you.  You've just convinced yourself He does because you want it so badly."

This is a lie from the pit of hell.  But it's a lie that sometimes I start to believe.

That's why I surround myself with people who will remind me of TRUTH.  It's vital we all do this.  We need to be reminded constantly what the truth of God's word says.  It's the only way we can battle those lies.

Satan has lost the war.  There is nothing he can do to snatch me out of God's hands.  He wants to keep me doubting so that I use that time and energy fretting over a lie instead of using it to show others the truth about God.

Someone asked me last night, "Was it worth the risk?"

Yes, it was so worth the risk.

I've had one negative email, and 237 emails from people who have been helped (plus Facebook comments, text messages and phone calls).  Even if it had been 237 negative emails, and one person had been helped, it would have been worth it.  I admit, it would have been harder, but it still would have been worth it.

I'm not exactly sure what God has planned next, but He's already opened a door I am about to walk through.  He has been trying for a long time to show me this opportunity, and honestly, I have been running from it.  I don't know what will happen as I walk through that door, but I am certain God will use it for my good and His glory.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Own Struggle with Suicidal Ideations

What I am about to share with you is risky.  I will be judged.  For two days the Lord has laid it heavily upon my heart I need to share my story, and for two days I have given Him all the reasons why I don't think it's a good idea.  I have written this post no less than ten times trying to be careful with my words.  I admit, I am fearful of the backlash this will cause, but I have to trust the Lord.

As I read through all the comments on social media and watch news reports concerning the suicide of Robin Williams, my heart hurts.  My heart hurts, and I'm finding myself becoming angry.  People who have never dealt with major depression or suicidal ideations can't possibly understand what it is like.  I am going to be very transparent, and this is not easy for me.  But I think it's important to hear the perspective of someone who's been there.

So here is my story.

For most of my life I have struggled with suicidal ideations.  The first time I thought about suicide I was in the 7th grade, and the last time I had thoughts of suicide was in April 2014.  I was 12 years old the first time I thought about taking my own life, and I was 41 the last time the thought crossed my mind.  For 29 years, off and on, I have struggled with wanting to end my own life.

It is only by the grace of God I am alive today.

I'm not going to go into all the details of what caused me to have those thoughts at 12.  Maybe some day, but not today.  There were things happening in my life that were incredibly painful, and I saw no end in sight.  As years passed I became more and more depressed.  I didn't know how to deal with my pain, and I made a lot of choices I deeply regret.  Choices that I'm still judged for today, even though I have been forgiven by those I hurt and by Jesus Christ, who died for those sins.

The second time I had thoughts of suicide I was 15.  My Nannie had just died.  She was the closest person in the world to me.  I loved her deeply, and I remember thinking I would never survive without her.  Pain on top of pain caused me to have even more serious thoughts of suicide.

I remember sitting across the kitchen table from my mom as she was sobbing asking me why I wanted to kill myself.  It broke my heart seeing her hurting and scared, but in my mind I believed she and my brothers would be better off without me.  Believing those who love you would be better off without you is one of the biggest lies satan will have someone who is suicidal believe.

I had years of therapy.  I saw Christian therapist, and secular therapist.  I'd get past wanting to die, only to find myself making a new plan weeks later.  It was the ace in my back pocket.  If life became too hard, I'd just kill myself.

Someone once said to my mom, "Your crazy daughter ...".  Those words were said over 25 years ago, and to this day they sting.  I wasn't crazy, even though there were times I felt crazy.

It was also said I was craving attention.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  If anything, I didn't want the world to know my plan.  Who wants people calling them crazy or dismissing their pain by saying they only want attention?  Those fears have caused me to be very careful with whom I share my story.

There have been half a dozen times I have had a concrete plan.  I've had a date, time and place.  I have gathered all the supplies I needed to carry out my plan.  I have written "good-bye" letters to those I love.  Because of years of therapy, I know the warning signs.  I would be intentionally careful not to show any of those signs.

But by the grace of God, someone would catch on or I'd slip up and give my plan away.

I have been on hundreds of different medication combinations.  I have spent hundreds of hours in therapy.  I was labeled medication resistant because nothing helped my depression.  I was misdiagnosed more than once, and have had doctors give up on me.  I felt helpless and hopeless.  My pain was never going to end.

People who contemplate suicide don't really want to die.  What they want is for the pain to end, and they don't see any other way of making that happen.

I can only speak from my own experience, so here is what it is like for me.

The world can seem so dark.  There have been times I've had my closest friends ask me how I am and all I can say is, "Life is dark".  The darkness completely engulfs me, and if I see a glimpse of a light at the end of the dark tunnel I'm in, it looks like a train coming right at me getting ready to destroy me further.

About a year after I was diagnosed with CIDP I had come up with a plan to end my life.  I saw myself as a burden to everyone around me.  I was in a cycle of treatments where I would get chemical meningitis after every IVIG treatment, and for two weeks I'd be incredibly sick.  I would come through the chemical meningitis, and for a week would feel somewhat normal.  I had IVIG treatments ever four weeks, so I only had one good week a month.  However, even during that good week I still had to depend on others for a lot my care.  My body was in so much pain from the disease.  I was weak, and I would fall often.

There is no cure for CIDP.  For the rest of my life I will live with physical pain that on the best of days is a 6 on the pain scale.  My pain is best described as being shocked with electrical currents, burning, shooting sharp pains of fire.  Some days getting out of bed seems impossible.  My body constantly feels weak and tired, and sometimes just balancing my head takes every ounce of energy I have.  Treatments, medications and doctor visits are expensive.  My husband is a school teacher, and I now am on disability.  Being on disability is embarrassing because of the stigma society has attached to it.  I am able to work a few hours a week from home for a friend who is a doctor ... who happens to be my doctor.  But even that is hard most days.  I deal with muscle spasms and cramps that are extremely painful.

I hurt.  I am weak.  I am a burden to my husband, daughters, family and friends.  And there is no cure for CIDP.  I have exhausted all the treatments, and I've been told my current condition is as good as it will get for me.

I also am still dealing with a lot of emotional pain from past hurts.  Emotional pain is worse than the physical pain my body feels constantly.

And I miss my mama terribly.  It's been 2 1/2 years since her death, and I still cry every day.  Of all the things I have experienced in my life, loosing my mama is the hardest.

I long for Heaven.  I pray every single day for Jesus to return.  I don't really want death.  I want to be pain-free.  I want to be able to be independent and not be a burden to those around me.  I want healing from my emotional pain.

I don't tell you all that for sympathy.  Only to give you a glimpse of what daily life is like for me, and when something else big happens satan already has a foundation to start working on tearing me down.

When life is dark, it's so easy to believe the lies of satan.  "No one really loves you."  "You are too much of a burden to those around you."  "The only way out of this pain is to kill yourself."  "No one will miss you."  "Everyone will be better off without you."  "Death will be your only relief."  "No one can be trusted." "You never going to amount to anything." "You are a disappointment to everyone." "You are nothing but a failure."

The list of lies is unending.  The darker life seems, the more believable the lies become.  I've heard so many talk about what a selfish choice suicide is, but what they don't understand is to those who are thinking of ending their life they truly believe those around them would be better off without them.  So often I have believed I would be doing others a huge favor.  That is why it is so important for us to remind those around us how much we love them.

I am blessed to have a core group of people surrounding me with who I can be completely honest.  People who will confront me with the truth of God's word, and who are intentional about reminding me of who I am in Christ.  They show me daily I am loved, and when I need to be confronted about the lies I'm believing they do it.  Even if it makes me angry.  They would rather have me angry than dead.

Not everyone has been blessed with a husband who loves them the way my husband loves me, and have a core group of friends who loves them unconditionally.  Friends that literally will walk through fire with you.  I am blessed.

But satan is so great at keeping me from seeing those blessings.

In April I went through one of the top three most hurtful experiences in my life.  Truthfully, I'm still going through it.  The pain is incredible, and the damage to my heart is deep.  Life will never look the same to me, and it has caused me to questioned everything.  Satan took that experience and tried to convince me Jesus doesn't really love me.  I am a horrible person.  Everyone hates me, and no one can be trusted.  I mess everything up I touch, and I am useless to God.  Everyone wants me dead.

And I began to believe him.  I ran to my idol of suicide and started believing satan when he told me everyone in my life wants me dead.

When my mom died 2 1/2 years ago, I realized then how much it would hurt my daughters if I were to take my own life.  My mom died unexpectedly of a heart attack, and I blame myself for her death at times.  I should have made her go to the doctor.  I should have been with her.  A hundred, "I should haves" have gone through my mind.  If I take my life, my daughters will experience their own "I should haves", but it will be much worse.  I don't want them to go through that pain.

So, I know that as soon as those thoughts enter my mind I have to tell someone.  Giving those thoughts a voice takes away their power, and irrational thoughts can be sorted through.  Darryl is usually the one I tell.  Partly because he's my medical doctor and my therapist.  Darryl plays many roles in my life.  He started out simply as my medical doctor, but now he's my brother in Christ.  He's my overprotective, bossy, big brother who never judges me.  He's just always there loving me and my family through mess after mess, and praying for us and with us.  Darryl and I have spent hours upon hours talking through those feelings.  He's tough on me .... because he has to be and because he loves me.  He confronts me with the Truth of God's word, reminds me my worth is found in Jesus and what He did for me on the cross, and reminds me I do have people who love me and can be trusted.  He reminds me of what I believe in my heart to be TRUTH ... God is sovereign even over the darkness. 

And my husband simply loves me through those times.  Nathan will say the same things to me Darryl does.  Nathan loves me.  He has proven his love to me every day for 21 years.  He is just always there.  Loving me, protecting me, supporting me, caring for me.  Even when I try to push him away, he never waivers.  He is such a picture of the love of Christ to me.

Not everyone has someone like that in their life, and if they do they can't see it in the darkness.  It is so important for us to pay attention to those around us.  Hurting people don't know how to ask for help.  It may seem like they don't want it, but at their core they really do.  Sometimes we push people away as a test.  We think, "I'll push you away, and if you leave that proves you didn't really love me."  Satan skews our thinking.  He is a master deceiver.

When we are hurting we have to find someone to risk trusting and open up to.  We need community.  We need each other.  Are you someone who can be trusted to be careful with the hurts of someone else?

And sometimes we do need the help of medicine.  Medication is not a cure, but I do believe for some people it can be an aide.  It can help get someone to a place where they can begin to work on the underlying issues causing their depression.  I also believe there are those who truly have clinical depression and need medication simply for their chemical imbalance.

Medication is not a crutch.  Please don't believe that lie.  It can be an aide to help get you healthy.  There is nothing wrong with taking medication if you truly need it.

And there is nothing wrong with admitting life is hard.  We all have hurts.  Life can be overwhelming.  I have seen these words on social media the past few days over and over, "God won't give you more than you can handle."

Here's the thing.  That's a lie.  If we can handle it all, why do we need God?

The truth is God won't allow more than He will give you the grace to endure.  Grace for the moment, and not a moment before you need it.  This truth is hard to remember in darkness, so we must daily remind each other of God's grace, love and mercy.

I don't know the spiritual state of Robin Williams, but it makes me more aware of my responsibility to share Jesus with people.  It makes me sit up an pay attention to people who need me, and sometimes that includes taking a huge risk in sharing my story.