For the past several weeks, I’ve been detailing the account of my deconversion here on www.formerfaith.com. I appreciate those of you who have taken the time to read it. This week, however, I want to take a detour and discuss another subject: my battle with suicidal thoughts. Now, I have no idea who reads this blog. Really. I don’t think anyone I know “in the real world” reads it. I don’t think my wife even looks at it. I believe a couple of my Twitter friends visit the page, and I suspect (and hope) that a few of my Facebook friends do, too.
I don’t blame any of my real world and most of my Facebook friends for not reading it. I keep my atheistic, deconverted thoughts to one closed Facebook group and my Twitter account @formerfaith. I think that’s good in this case, because what I’m going to share is very personal, and I’m not sure I could do it if I knew my coworkers or my parents would read it. Even with that virtual detachment, however, it is still difficult. People in general and men in particular are supposed to be tough. Adults are supposed to be independent. Admitting a problem or asking for help is often seen as a sign of weakness. I have been to enough meetings and counseling sessions to know.
I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety my entire life. I’ve battled with feelings of worthlessness and the need to prove my value by the work I do. Occasionally, I’ve even battled with suicidal thoughts. I imagine most people get depressed from time to time and think something along the lines of, “this world would be a better place without me.” What makes my experience this past week different from those fleeting thoughts is the severity of the depression and the strength of the desire to end my life. I had never been convinced that taking my own life was the best option until this week. Luckily, I have had a bit of a reprieve, and so in a moment of strength (or perhaps stupidity) I want to jot down what’s in my head in hope that it helps someone, especially me.
Although I’m not certain as to why the depression hit so hard, I have a few ideas. Things have been a little tense at home due to my having left the Christian faith. Additionally, I have become increasingly unsatisfied with my work life. Then, of course, there are the regular thoughts that haunt me – thoughts of what I put my wife through in years past. Thoughts of my ongoing battle with impulsive spending. Thoughts of failure concerning my kids’ upbringing and education. (Don’t get me wrong, my kids are great. I just wish I would have done a better job preparing them for their adult life).
This week I began planning. I checked my life insurance policies. I journaled about my funeral. I decided on how to carry out the deed. While I’m not finished, the ground work has been laid. I still have a few farewell letters to write, and I still need to finalize the funeral details. The idea of suicide is more real to me now than it’s ever been. It’s more appealing than it’s ever been. And that’s what scares me. This week I thought long and hard about a fact I’ve mentioned to very few people: the only reason I’m still here is my kids. I love them so much that I don’t want to hurt them or leave them without a father. What about my wife? I love her very much, too, but I’ve caused her so much pain that I can’t help but think she’d be happier without me (plus she would get over half a million in insurance payouts). I know those aren’t rational thoughts, but they are mine nonetheless.
Below are some screen shots of a conversation my wife and I had Thursday. This was followed up by a much more intense and upsetting conversation we had in person later that day. I’m posting it so that I can refer to it in a few points I’m going to make afterwards. I hesitate to call these points “advice” because, honestly, I’m in no position to offer advice.
- Just because somebody seems OK doesn’t mean they are. Since admission of the need of help is seen as weakness, a person may do all he or she can to hide it. In my case, other than being a little quiet, there were no signs of the inner struggle I was experiencing. Folks will smile, laugh, and joke with others, all the while pondering their own sense of worthlessness.
- It takes courage to reach out, but it is worth it. No, I’m not bragging. I still feel like an idiot for having said anything. But, at the same time, I am a bit more hopeful that I can get help. I’ve received several very caring tweets and messages from people. One person spent two hours going back and forth with me via DM. That was a big encouragement to me.
- People may misunderstand suicidal thoughts and even take them personally. I may think I’m doing my family a favor. They may – indeed, will – wonder why I would want to hurt them so badly. My wife doesn’t want insurance money. She wants me. Far from being a relief to her, the thought of my death scares her.
- A moment of strength doesn’t negate the need for professional help. After discussing the matter Thursday, I felt better. Friday was a good day…until the thoughts hit again. I realized then that I can’t put off seeking help because the thoughts pass and I have a good day. Next time they may not pass. I should take action in my moments of clarity.
- Some people are idiots and ultimately unhelpful. My Twitter page makes it clear I’m an atheist. When I tweeted about this subject, some dumbass commented I should look to the Bible for guidance. “After all, Paul battled with depression, too.” So let me get this straight: as a Christian, I prayed for decades for god to deliver me from this burden. He never did. So that now it’s escalated, I’m supposed to go back to the same source and beg once again for help? No. Fuck that shit. One of the things that convinced me of the non-existence of god was his complete and utter disregard for my mental well-being. I digress, but it’s my blog, so let me further say that if you want to help someone, talk to them. Don’t pray. It’s a worthless gesture.
- It is a serious matter. If you read the text messages, you’ll see I vacillated between crying out and shrugging it off. In fact, the juxtaposition of me trying to schedule a lunch date with the family amid discussing suicide is quite odd. Some people – like me – will be hesitant to unconditionally admit the gravity of the situation.
- Despite my shortcomings, for some reason, people care about me. No one is so vile that someone doesn’t love him or her.
I hope something I said has resonated with you. If not, then at least I will benefit. I love my family. I don’t want to hurt them. I’m just tired of life and its difficulties. A part of me wants to not have to deal with all of it. But another part also wants to see my kids grow up and have kids of their own. I’m going to the doctor on Monday and I’m going to swallow my pride and ask for help.
Thank you for walking with me on this journey.