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the suicide letter i never wrote

I've debated for a few days now about whether or not I was going to write this post, even before I wrote my last one. Is this reaching too far? Are people going to think that this is just to get attention? Is this even the right thing to do? After thinking for a long time, I decided that this post was indeed necessary for several reasons. It's not pretty, but it's reality. And people need to hear these kinds of things. But most of all, I think that this post needs to exist, because depression and suicidal thoughts are still so invisible. As I wrote in my last post, most people are pretty good at hiding their emotions if they want to, and in a lot of cases, you would never know that someone is contemplating ending their own life. Most people would never have pegged me as someone to have been suicidal, but I was.

That's why this post needed to be written. It might be uncomfortable for some. In fact, I know that it's going to be uncomfortable for some. So, this is your disclaimer. These are not easy things to read; these are dark things, but they are things that need to be said. 

And finally, this post is necessary, because I want to tell anyone who might be reading that if you are in a place like I'm about to describe or if you ever find yourself in a place like the one I'm about to describe, I'm here for you. I understand. You're not alone. Don't forget that. This world is better with you in it. Don't buy the lie that you're better off gone. You are loved. And remember that if things aren't okay yet, then it's not over, so if you're even thinking about questioning that, please talk to me. Your life is worth living to the very end. It's worth it. I promise you it's worth it.

So, this is the suicide letter I never wrote:

Dear Someone,

It’s been a long time. We haven’t talked in quite a while, and I sincerely hope you’re well. It’s been, what, six years after all, and a lot of things have changed since then. I’m graduating college next semester, I’ve adventured around the world, I’ve learned another language, I’ve had boyfriends break up with me, and I’ve even had friends die, so I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t even know what this is about.

This letter is something that I’ve been meaning to write for a long time, and I think I’ve finally decided exactly how I want to say everything that I’ve been holding in for so long. And as a result of how long it’s been, it doesn’t really matter to me if you respond to this at all, as long as you read the whole thing because this is something I need to do to finally lay this chapter to rest. This is your copy of the suicide letter I never wrote. I’m going to be blunt. You played a large role in that.

Did you know that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US? Did you know someone dies by suicide in the US every 13 minutes? That’s a lot of people. And most of the time, it doesn’t look like it does in the movies.

Sometimes it’s a million little things that build up. It’s the teasing. It’s the joking. It’s when you know they’re laughing about you. And it’s when your friends don’t do anything about it. It’s when they tell you to man up or not to take everything so seriously. It’s when you start to feel like a joke, so then you wonder if anyone would miss you if you just disappeared. And then you start thinking about just how you’d do it.

You think about the knives in the kitchen drawer. You look up with veins you’d have to cut and how long it would take. But that might be too messy. So you wonder, what about pills? But you want it to be fast and you definitely don’t want to get sick in the process and risk it not working. What about car exhaust with the garage door closed? You’ve seen that in crime shows before. What about just a plastic bag? Those are the kinds of things that start running through your mind when it all starts to reach its boiling point.

But obviously I’m still here.

Still, that doesn’t mean that everything just goes away because you couldn’t do it. The depression stays. And then the anxiety attacks start. After all, if he was like that, why not everyone else? You start waiting for people to betray you, to drop you just like he did, to just all of a sudden be done with you. And then there goes your ability to trust people, especially other guys, because you’d never want to relive that all over again. You even start to wonder if your complaints and concerns are “valid enough” to be entertained. That’s how most people who’ve reached that point feel, you know. You feel like you should’ve just toughened up a little more. You wonder why it hurts so much, why it matters so much. And then you start to wonder why it was even such a big deal in the first place.

But those are lies. It was a big deal, because the places you’ve been are darker than any you could have ever imagined, and the demons continue to haunt you even after you’ve stepped into the light. They return to torment you in every moment of darkness, every moment of fear. And every time they come, you fight like bloody hell to cast them out again, because you know that if you beat them once, you can do it again this time and the next time and the time after that.

That’s what it looks like, or rather, what it doesn’t look like. Because all of it is unseen. The battles, the wounds, the scars, they’re all invisible, just like the would-be blood on your hands and the hands of others. That’s what it looks like.

That’s what the last six years have looked like.

Actions have consequences and these are the results of yours. So, I don’t care if you say you didn’t know or you didn’t mean to. You don’t get that privilege. You never get to tell the bruised and battered, the survivors, that you didn’t hurt them. Because it’s not about you or your pride or your feelings. It’s about theirs, their struggles, their tears, their pain, not yours. It’s about their life.

And that’s why letters like these are necessary even if they might seem to be the epitome of selfishness. Because letters like these are the result of lives made into hell. Because the survivors don’t get to just graduate high school and move on with their lives. The survivors don’t get to forget about everything that happened in blissful ignorance. No, it continues to follow them everywhere and some remnant of it may continue to follow them for the rest of their lives.

So, yes, perhaps letters like these are a little selfish, but that’s irrelevant and anyone who’s gone through the same things will without hesitation say that they don’t give a damn. Because sometimes letters like these are what it takes to fully heal, to close a chapter of life so riddled with darkness and pain, to finally be able to tell those responsible what kind of part they had in all of it. So, if letters like these are what’s necessary, if letters like these are what survivors, what I need to purge the rest of the darkness, then so be it. Because all I want to do is get rid of the last of the shards of this that are still lodged deep inside me, so I can finally leave that behind.

So at the end of the day and at the end of this difficult letter, I want you to know that I’ve forgiven you, that I’ve forgiven you for all of it. It was absolute agony what happened. I reached a point of feeling like life was no longer worth living, but I’m better from having been goaded to that place. I’m stronger. I’m kinder. I’m wiser. And I’m a survivor.

So, I’m not thanking you for what happened, because I descended into hell and back, but it didn’t destroy me. It didn’t break me. It made me strong. Because sometimes you need the darkness to be able to see the light.

Regards.

here now (survival + renewal)

Today’s post is coming at ya in honor of both Thanksgiving drawing near (stateside anyway) and the fact that we’ve officially passed the 20 day mark in the countdown to our departure from Spain (cue the ugly tears here). This post will probably also be a bit longer than some of the more recent ones, just as a disclaimer. #themoreyouknow For the books, we’ll be departing from Madrid on Friday, December 11, so we really only have 19 days left in Spain, since that last travel day doesn’t really count. It’s really quite soon, and it’s hard to believe that we’ve already spent close to 3 months living in a completely different country, in a different language, with families that were strangers to us not too long ago. So, everyone back home, prepare yourselves. We’ll be back to terrorize you with endless stories, suitcases full of European clothes, and flubbed uses of English in no time.

But anyway, for the majority of this post, I wanted to write about some of the things that I’ve been reflecting on as Thanksgiving approaches, namely: survival + renewal as the title of this post suggests. And what those things mean may surprise some people, because while I like to think of myself as an open book, these aren’t the things that immediately bubble to the surface.

So let me start here:

When I first left to come to Spain, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had just come off of an incredibly difficult summer of having to face a lot of demons from the past. I was all sorts of bitter, angry, and most of all, exhausted. I was ready for rest, and I kept praying that Spain Term would give me that. After all, I was taking the bare minimum number of classes and was going basically for the heck of it, since my Spanish minor was already done. Little did I know that over the next 90ish days I would not only get the rest that I needed, but also go about tackling each and every skeleton that was left in my closet, some of which were trivial things that just needed to be finished off and some which were a great deal bigger.

The biggest thing I want to focus on and something that a lot of people might not know about me is that I’ve been suicidal twice in my life. The first time was towards the end of middle school and the beginning of high school, largely provoked by one specific person, but also by others, that I won’t name here. And the second time was just earlier this year when I was struggling to reconcile who I was with the various futures before me. That’s vague, but those are long stories for other blog posts. Regardless, I’ve tended to pride myself on the fact that you would never know about this part of my life if I didn’t tell you, but the fact of the matter is that over the course of this semester, I’ve learned that those periods of darkness have weighed more heavily on me than I thought. They’ve caused fights and arguments with people that I love as a result of my inability to fully deal with them, and they’ve affected the way that I see the world and the way that I see other people. I’ve slowly chipped away that the darkness from these events, but I think that being 3,000 miles away from home finally gave me the space that I needed to take a hard look at them and put them to rest for good.

Living in another country, in another language, away from friends and family allowed me to take a step back from things that I had held close for so long. I was in a new place, in a new time, and for the most part, no one knew who I was or the things that I had gone through in the past. And I think that sense of being a blank slate this semester really magnified the extent to which some of these things continued to affect my life. I realized that I was still subconsciously trying to impress someone that had thrown me away a long time ago, and I realized that the defense mechanisms that I created in that space were still active in relationships that no longer called for them. But I think the biggest blatant call out that I received the whole semester was when we had to write our (sort of) final paper for one of our classes. The paper was supposed to consist of a letter written to the one person that, in our opinion, has influenced our life the most. It was then that I realized the magnitude of the impact that some of these things had on me, because as much as I wanted that letter to be written to one of my parents, or one of my siblings, or to my best friend, it couldn’t. And I ended up writing the letter to that guy from high school who pushed me to the brink of suicide the first time, describing everything that happened and the impact that it had. It took me four days to write that letter, a lot of them just staring at my computer screen or my notebook trying to figure out what to write.

And again I realized the kind of mentality that all of those years had left me with. I was constantly questioning what I was going to write, because after so many years of having it diminished or invalidated or not taken seriously, I felt like I had to defend my right to my pain, and if my argument didn’t hold up in that twisted court, my case would be thrown out. I had to force myself out of that mentality and tell myself that at this point, it was okay to say that it was his fault for doing it, my teachers’ fault for implying that I should just toughen up, my friends’ fault for seeing it and not doing anything, that it was anyone’s fault but mine. And something else I learned while writing that letter, something so fundamental, but at the same time something that I had to be told, is that with real pain, no one has the right to tell you that they didn’t hurt you.

After having turned in that paper, I edited the letter a little and actually sent it to the person it was addressed to, for my own healing and my own closure surrounding it. I haven’t gotten any response of substance, but that doesn’t even matter to me at this point. To me at least, I’ve discovered that just putting things out there matters more to me than how people choose to respond a lot of the time. Like, having finally told this guy everything that I wanted to say was more important than how he responded. Or telling this other boy that I liked him was more important than whether or not he felt the same way (he didn’t, in case you were wondering). Or any other example like that.

And, thus, we’ve caught up to the present, where I’m feeling a strange blend of restlessness and peace, peace because after six years, every demon from my past that has haunted me has finally been laid to rest, and restlessness because my mind just doesn’t even know what to do with the blank slate that it’s been given. There aren’t any dark secrets left to hide. There isn’t any more bitterness to swallow. There’s nothing left unsaid. There aren’t any more what ifs. The only thing left is a new chapter of life at a time when the possibilities for what’s ahead are nearly limitless.

And as Thanksgiving rolls around in the US, I’m thankful for this, and continuing to grow more and more thankful for the difficult times that cause us to grow the most. They might not be fun, and they might stretch us to the point of breaking, but those hard times always refine us more than we know at the time.

So, here’s to metaphorical fresh starts, to survival, renewal + being thankful.

for the least of these

I’m not even going to try and say that I don’t normally do this, because everyone who knows me knows that I do. But the whole US Syrian refugee thing is really starting to piss me off. And the reason is that all these “Christian” politicians are talking absolute garbage and straight up fear mongering. I mean, think about this situation realistically for a minute. What if these people weren’t “evil Muslims” seeking shelter in our country? What if it was you? What if a crazy, murderous cult on a bloody rampage operated out of your country? Wouldn’t you want to get your family as far away from that as possible? Of course you would, and that’s why this whole “national security” defense for turning away refugees is honestly the stupidest thing I’ve heard of.

In Matthew 25 Jesus says this:

And the King will answer them,

‘Truly, I say to you, as you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me...

          And Truly, I say to you, as you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

What are we supposed to make of that in this situation? What would Jesus do if He were physically on this earth right now? I think that He would want to welcome these people.

Because here’s the thing: we’re called to love sacrificially. If sacrificing a little of our own security and a little of our own paranoia to love on people who need it most is too much for us, then how can we call ourselves followers of Christ? Besides, you are crazy if you think that every refugee coming into this country is a terrorist in disguise. Yes, there’s a chance that one might slip in, but at least for Christians, what’s more important, our own comfort and our own security, or the testimony that we show the world? Because if support the turning away of people who need our help, we’re basically raising a banner that says we value our own comfort and our own peace of mind more than the literal lives of people who are trying to escape a murderous cult.

I’ll say this again in this post because I feel like it’s worth repeating. I might write angry posts every once in a while, but it’s only because it breaks my heart that people are being turned away when they literally have no one else to go to. And not only is that horrible in and of itself, but it also paints our God and our Jesus in the same colors.

And this is why I feel like Christians should be the biggest group of supporters for helping these refugees, these people that have fled their own countries because they no longer feel safe there. We like to say that we’re the body of Christ and that we’re the hands and feet of Jesus, but how can we continue to declare that if we don’t actually do anything of substance with our lives? Do we think that our God cannot protect us if we open up our borders to welcome in His children at the risk of exposing ourselves to danger?

“For God has given us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.”

  • 2 Timothy 1:7

If our hope and our salvation have been assured because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, why, then, do we continue to fear people that can only destroy bodies and buildings? That fear shouldn't get in the way of doing what we’re supposed to do: loving people the way Jesus would, even if that means risking some of our own safety to do it.

“And do not fear those who kill only the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

  • Matthew 10:28

We need to stop treating ‘what would Jesus do?’ as a hypothetical question, because we have the opportunity to practice that in this day and age.

Anyway, I’ve ranted for long enough already in this post. But I’m being so serious. I feel like so many of us continue to treat the Gospel and Jesus’ words like they’re hypotheticals, like we need a neatly delineated, signed mission statement in order to do anything worthwhile in our lives. There are so many things that we can do right now, right here, without any special training or special equipment. You don’t need to be trained in how to have compassion or how to love people. You just do it.

So think about some of those things in the days that come. What are the real reasons that we oppose things? Because fear is not a legitimate excuse. That says we don’t believe our God is big enough or powerful enough to handle what the world He created might throw at us. And then what would Jesus actually do? That’s not a hypothetical question. That’s how we should be living our lives. Because that’s how people will see Jesus, not by our cheap words or our politics or our theology, but by our actions.

So let’s maybe try and actually be the hands and feet of Jesus as the world continues to give us more opportunities to show off the God that we serve.

it's good to be alive

Hmm. Well, I figured that since I haven’t been around in a good month, now would be as good a time as ever to update the blog a little. (I’m blaming the whole craziness/wonder/excitement/what have you of studying abroad for the lack of consistent blog activity.) Today officially marks day 80 of our #100daysinSpain, meaning that we have so little time remaining in this adventure. It’s been an absolutely wild ride. Since my last post, we’ve traveled to both the north and south of Spain, getting to see the cities of Córdoba, Sevilla, Málaga, Granada, and Barcelona over the course of 9 days, which was incredible and fueled many an Instagram, which I’m sure the world is well aware of at this point in life. We’ve gotten to walk along beaches in November, watch a flamenco tablao, visit one of the most famous (and still currently under construction) basilicas in the world, visit the site of the 1992 Olympics, and visit Hillsong Church Barcelona among a myriad of other exploits. It’s honestly unbelievable to think about, even writing this blog post. So, yeah, studying abroad, I would highly recommend that. You won’t regret it for a second.

But amidst all of our adventures, there’s also been a lot of time for reflection, which is something that continues to surprise me about Spain Term. I never would have thought I’d have so much down time to just think about life and the world and the things that God is doing in our lives on a semester of study abroad. That’s just not really what you picture when you think about it.

Hence, we’ve arrived at the title of this blog post. One overwhelming thought that I’ve had over the past few days is that it’s so good to be alive right now, a thought that while simple, encapsulates so many different things in so many different contexts. It also happens to be the title of a really good (albeit a little older) Jason Gray song that you should probably listen to at some point in the near future.

First of all, it’s good to be alive because we still have a few weeks left before we return stateside, and while I’m definitely excited to go home, I’m just not sure I’m quite ready yet. So I’m thankful that we still have a little time left in this wonderfully little city that we’ve been so fortunate to call home for the last 80 days. Yes, Minneapolis, I miss you, but Segovia still has me for a little longer.

And it’s good to be alive because there’s still this amazing sense of wonder that you feel when you get to walk past a 2000 year old aqueduct every day on your way to and from class, an aqueduct that is still standing and still functioned until the 19th century. If that’s not crazy and if it’s not good to be alive in a city like this, then I think you need to reevaluate your life expectations.

It’s good to be alive when you get the opportunity to worship with a body of believers 3000 miles away from home in a church that shares a familiar name. That might be a little cliché, but I still it speaks to a little piece of what the church is supposed to look like, a body of people united around the world, able to love and welcome people in just because you already share that one common denominator. Yeah, they didn’t really like our selfie taking, but hey, it was freaking Hillsong. Also, the church may or may not have met in a club off hours, so that’s also a thing.

Even more, it's good to be alive in the purest sense after having turned in a paper written about the first time you were suicidal and how you got to that point. It's so good to be alive knowing that at one point you weren't sure if you wanted to be anymore, if it was worth it to keep living or not. It's good to be alive when you reflect on some of the darkest times and places in your life, knowing that you were fighting a war and knowing that you won, that you overcame the things that told you that death was the better option. It's good to be alive.

And you know that it was all worth it and that it truly is  good to be alive when you get to experience love in a variety of its forms, whether that’s getting coffee as a group in a cozy Spanish cafe, getting random texts from your host mom, linking arms with a friend as you walk home through misty cobblestone streets, being able to spend a solid hour and a half in an empty house with worship music, your best friend freaking out when she realizes you can indeed text her from Spain, having the Lord speak to you to reaffirm that you are loved and chosen, and even just being able to actively love others without expecting anything or feeling like you need anything in return. Because sometimes it’s satisfying enough just to put yourself out there, letting someone know that you care about them and love them, and realizing in retrospect that’s just a taste of the kind of reckless love that Jesus has for us, the kind of love that compels someone to willingly give up their life in a brutal death because that’s how much they love. Because love does and as one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes goes, because love is vulnerable.

So, yeah, some people might say, look at the times and what this world is coming to, but I say what a time to be alive. This day and age is full of sights to see, moments to seize, people to meet, and opportunities to love. And maybe that sounds a little naive, but I think that sometimes we need to view all the problems in the world as opportunities for us, as the hands and feet of Jesus, to go out there and do something about it.

Because yes, study abroads will end, final projects will creep up, times and circumstances will change, maybe that person won’t love you back, maybe you’re dying of exhaustion today, whatever. At the end of the day, we have a God who tells us that we are wanted, that we are loved, that we are chosen, that we are purchased by His blood, and that He calls us His own.

So, in light of that, I think that for now, I’ll continue to say that it’s good to be alive.

Oh, look, here's that song. You're welcome.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4omFQJEAAVc