Why I Am Not Suicidal Now (I’m Not Saying I Won’t Ever Be Again)

Right now I am not having suicidal ideation. Well hardly any. It is a great gift from God and I believe it is a result of some changes that he led me to make in my life. I know that many people who are dealing with suicidal ideation feel as I did that nothing less than a miracle would help. When my PTSD and the accompanying thoughts of suicide started to ramp up at the beginning of this year I couldn’t understand why since it was over a year since the precipitating cause of the PTSD, my husband’s suicide, had occurred.

Earlier this year while praying it occurred to me that I hated to go to my church. I felt that I had worn out my welcome, that people couldn’t understand why I didn’t just get over my husband’s suicide. Richard and I had originally started going to the Baptist Church several years earlier because a neighbor recommended the woman who was teaching the Sunday school class. Having stopped attending an Orthodox Church several years earlier and having become functional agnostics I knew we needed to return to our faith. I also knew that I needed to immerse myself in the Bible. This seemed more important than liturgy or the sacraments so we began to attend.

When Rich took his life the Baptist Church really helped me through the ordeal of the first few weeks. They helped me with the funeral and the practical issues following Rich’s death. God bless them, they were there for me. But my not getting over Rich’s death just became too much for them and as I prayed I felt that God was prompting me to leave so I am attending an Othodox Church. I am still going to a Bible study taught by Pat the Sunday school teacher from the Baptist church but it is being given at a retirement home and because they know nothing of my situation it is non-threatening.

Another change I made was to begin to seriously study the Bible on my own. I am spending at least an hour and often two studying and praying over the Bible with good commentaries. I returned to prayer with more discipline and while I can’t say that I always see great benefit I know that it does help over the long-term.

Finally, after no longer being able to work as a hospice caregiver because I injured my back I felt I was able to volunteer again. I had several unpleasant volunteer experiences early on after Richard’s death and was afraid that I wasn’t capable of doing it. But after I had a very positive experience as a hospice caregiver I decided to begin volunteering at a Christian homeless shelter and I feel God’s presence there. The clients are people who are at the bottom and every little thing we can do for them helps. None of the workers or volunteers is interested in me, we are simply focused on the people who so desperately need the basics of life. Food, a shower, clean clothes and a place to get mail. Some of them are able to get counseling and are transitioning out of homelessness but most are either too mentally ill or are too dependent on drugs and alcohol to find those services of benefit. But we treat each of them with kindness and respect. Volunteering there has helped me feel that my life makes a difference in other people’s lives and that is something that I badly needed.

God has blessed me. I think that the prayers of many good people have made me able to move on and make changes that have improved my life. Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner but I think that it is all in God’s time. The PTSD remains. I expect to have relapses but I hope that I will remember how kindly God has dealt with me and know that he will do so again.

The subject of suicide and Christianity is very close to my heart so I will probably continue blogging about these issues. So many people visit the site seeking help with their own suicidal impulses or the loss to suicide of a loved one. If they can get any comfort from this site that would be a great blessing to me. Thank you all who follow this blog and write to encourage me. Please continue your prayers for me as I so desperately need them.

Coping with Suicidal Thoughts

Most people have had thoughts of ending their life.  When you are grieving the loss of someone you love, or when you are lonely or afraid, it is common to think of it.  But it is one thing to think about suicide and quite another to feel a compulsion to kill yourself.

Since my husband killed himself nearly two years ago, thoughts of suicide have been my frequent companion.  Several times these thoughts have resulted in my going to the hospital for evaluation.  Sometimes, but not always, I am also depressed when I feel this terrible compulsion to kill myself.  I call these compulsive thoughts of suicide the Whisperer because it feels like someone is urging me to kill myself.

I have worked out a strategy to handle suicidal impulses.   It isn’t a sure-fire solution but it does help.

First, I pray.  I can find comfort and assurance in prayer.  Reading the Bible and reading authors whose work I can trust also fall under this dictum of prayer.  I  find especially helpful a couple of books by Patrick Reardon, The Trial of Job and The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ.  Understanding that Jesus  was really human, that when he underwent temptation he felt tempted.  When Satan took Jesus into the desert at the beginning of his ministry and told him to throw himself off the mountain because God would save him, we know that Jesus was genuinely tested.  He wasn’t walking through it like playing a part in a film.  He felt the temptation.   This makes him a savior I can relate to.  If you search back through my other posts you will find that Job’s trials helped me to understand the impulse to kill myself as a trial by God.  God isn’t standing aside being repulsed by my urge to kill myself, he is loving me and giving me the spiritual strength to endure.

What if I can’t pray?  Then I ask the Holy Spirit to pray for me as described in Romans 8:26.  I also ask friends and fellow Christians to pray for me that God will comfort me and strengthen me.  Send me a comment asking for prayer and I and others who read this site will pray or you.  Not just once but every day.

Second, I do the things I love even though I don’t want to do them.  This takes tremendous will.  I love to hike and since I  live in New Mexico near the Sandia Mountains I am able to hike when I want.  It always helps.  I come back restored to who I really am.  Sometimes I go every day.  Just knowing that I can go hiking the next morning gets me through those terrible nights with the Whisperer.   I also take photographs when I hike and sometimes I  go out in the city to take photographs in the evenings when the Whisperer afflicts me.   Seeing through a camera lens changes my perspective and cleanses me of my own preoccupations with age, loneliness and fear.  In the evening  I go to places where people are shopping or eating in restaurants and take photos of faces and grouping that catch my eye.  Amazing how purifying that is.

Third,  I seek out people.  Since I don’t have many friends, I usually go to a restaurant where I know the servers and talk with them.  We just talk stuff.  None of them know my problem.  They tell me about their kids and problems with jobs and sick parents.  Somehow caring about another person helps me to forget myself.   It always takes an effort to get beyond myself but when I do I find it liberating.

Fourth,  Send me an email at msscholz@aol.com and I will respond as soon as I get it.  Let me know your telephone number if you want me to call you.  Maybe we can pray and talk and that will help.  If you don’t want to email me then call the national suicide hotline and they will connect you with local help.  The number is 1-800-273-8255.

Just remember, Friend, that if you can make it until the morning or for a couple of hours you will see things differently.   Whether you are lonely or afraid, abused or old.  Whatever the problem, it won’t go away but it can get better.  There are people who care.

I care and want  to help you.  I will pray with you, listen to you and give you a shoulder to cry on.  Just don’t take that final step.  You will be glad you didn’t and so will I and a lot of other people who read this blog.

Waiting at the Closed Door

Finally the door is opening. The Whisperer hasn’t been heard from in four days. Maybe because I’ve faced the closed-door in my life and made some difficult decisions.

On Friday I decided to move from Albuquerque to Santa Fé. This was unthinkable before because by moving I am leaving my husband behind, or at least our last years together before his suicide.

It’s strange but this town has never felt right. It isn’t a fit for me and I don’t know why. I suspect it has to do with all I suffered here.

I feel friendless although I do have what I would call practical friends. Those who share a meal with me at a restaurant, those I see at church or even those I exchange birthday cards with. But I haven’t met anyone in Albuquerque who shares their life with me. Perhaps the best way to characterize Albuquerque is that it is an antiseptic that may have been good for my wounds.

This morning, Sunday, I went to Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Santa Fé. I used to tell my therapist when I lost my faith that I missed God and I missed liturgy. When I received my faith back, I got God back. Today I got liturgy back. With it, I prayed with all my senses as well as with my mind and my soul. It was glorious and exhausting. I guess it was a return to the very thing that brought me to Christ.

The Orthodox church this Sunday commemorates the women who came to the tomb carrying myrrh to anoint Jesus’ body. The priest said the women were the first apostles. I like that. He pointed out that timing was everything. Had they come to the tomb sooner the stone would have still been in place. Instead they waited and when they came the stone was rolled back and they were the first to know that Christ was no longer in the tomb. The priest said that to wait for a closed-door to open or in the women’s case, a huge rock to be rolled back is not a vacant activity devoid of meaning. It is a time of active waiting and often yes, a time of suffering. But if we don’t wait for God’s time then we may miss the resurrection.

All of this makes me think of the trial of Job. Fr. Pat Reardon says that Job didn’t know that God was trying him. His friends said that because God was just then Job’s punishment was for sin he wouldn’t admit. Job knew he had not sinned. However, God knew, Satan knew and the Bible reader knows that Job’s suffering was a trial that gave God glory in light of Satan’s taunts. That Job suffered because God allowed it. The odd thing is that God never told Job why he suffered. But it was enough for Job to understand how great God is. He understood that his questions needed no answer in light of who God is.

Now that is an example I would like to follow.

Why Would Jesus Need to Die for Me?

This post is a bit off topic but not really.

Yesterday evening, Ryan, a young man I met about a year ago stopped by my place to help me with a computer problem. Both of us being tired just sat there after he fixed the problem and talked. We talked about my belief in Christ. Ryan told me that he had heard a young man on the radio say just what he was thinking. “Why would Jesus need to die for me. Why isn’t my saying I’m sorry enough?” As I groped for an answer. I thought of Ryan’s two-year old son whom we had just been discussing.

I then hypothesized, “Suppose your son was grown and he looked you in the eye and told you he was going to betray his country and nothing you could say would stop him. Then suppose the result of the betrayal was that a million people including everyone you love died an agonizing death.

How could your son ever get right with you again? The size of what he had done would be insurmountable. You would want to forgive him but could you when things weren’t set right. Yet how could your son ever set it right? No matter how repentant he was. No matter how much you loved him. The enormity of the betrayal would still be there. All those people would still be dead.”

We then talked about the meaning of going against the infinite God and how we choose to do it every day. I explained that even a small offence against God is infinite not because of our nature but because of the nature of the one we are offending. While in my example the son’s offence was not infinite the consequences of the sin were so large that no human could deal with it. I then said that because God is infinitely good the smallest offence against his will is infinite. We simply are not able on our own to cross the breach between us and God.

That is why our gracious God gave us his Son to breach that gap. The whole Old Testament is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of the One who finally made mankind right with his creator. Only the death of God himself could pay the price of our sin.

Ryan said that for the first time he understood why Jesus was crucified. He said he wanted to talk about the resurrection next. God help me! After he left I sat there and wondered about the inadequacy of my explanation.

I would love your comments and suggestions. I would like to do better next time.

The Whisperer is Back

Today I was going to talk about aging and suicide but the Whisperer is back and I need to talk about that. He’s got my number. He’s telling me that because no one has the answer of how to help me they don’t care.

While I have a couple of Job’s friend types in my life, most of the people I talk to don’t even know what I am going through. The ones who do, they care. I could call a couple of people now and they would try to help. But they just can’t. Frankly I don’t want to ruin their day by saying what I have already said repeatedly. They pray for me and that is really the only thing that can help.

The gut churning confusion prevents me from praying eloquently. Mostly my prayer is to ask the Holy Spirit to pray for me. God reads my blog long before I write it so he knows what’s going on. I guess today my blog is my prayer. Dear God, I am not asking you why, I know this is a trial. I know that you intend to carry out something with me, though I don’t know what that is. I know that if you made it easier for me, you wouldn’t achieve your goal. It just has to feel this way because that is what changes me.

You who follow my blog strengthen me with your words and with your prayers and I know you will do that when you read this. Many of you have a Whisperer as well and you are fighting the same fight. I pray that my trial will strengthen you and make yours easier. God bless you my friends.

Give me strength Lord to bear it.

Self-Absorption and Suicide

Yesterday suicide whispered in my ear until I fell into an exhausted sleep. Today the thoughts are an indistinct murmuring in the back of my mind waiting for an unguarded moment when they can rise up and seize my being. You see, the very fact that I must be constantly mindful makes me self-absorbed. If I could simply drift from activity to activity without being watchful perhaps I could forget myself for a few moments.

The best advice I have gotten is to pray. Not to ask God to remove the thoughts that he has chosen to give me but to thank him for the thoughts. Really? So I’ve been told by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon. I’m doing it, when I remember to and it does have the advantage of surprising the thoughts. They simply don’t know what to make of this. In a way it reminds me of Paul in Romans 12:20 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” The suicidal thoughts seem confused by my thanking God for them which heaps these particular coals on their heads.

The wish to commit suicide is in part a response to the self-absorption. I am just tired of myself. God please give me some rest. Professionals and others have given me advice on how to handle these thoughts. The things that have worked for me are prayer as described above and keeping myself occupied especially physically. I love to hike and do so often. I do some volunteering, go at art shows and an occasional concert.

The one piece of advice that hasn’t worked out so well is being connected to people. Go to activities with other people etc. I kept feeling like no one liked me then I realized that the problem was me. I didn’t like them. Not so much that I didn’t like them as we just had nothing in common. I find most social activities boring. Especially parties. Times of getting together for its own sake. So I have decided to just do the things I like alone. This is an admirable solution in that I don’t bore others and I am not bored. Perhaps I will meet people who genuinely like the same things I do and that would truly be a blessing.

Thank you again for your many comments and helpful suggestions. Please if you have time look at the comments I got on my last two blogs. These people are hurting and took the time to care about another person. It let’s me know that God is truly active in this world.

The Suffering of Job

I gained more insight into my own struggle with suicide from “The Trial of Job,” by Patrick Reardon than from any therapy or any pill I have been given.  In this meditation I will use his insights without further attribution.

The Book of Job had always been difficult for me because I could not relate to Job, a righteous man.  I know that I am a sinner.  Not a day passes that I don’t need God’s forgiveness.

Patrick Reardon’s commentary reveals Job as having no idea why he is suffering.  God had allowed Satan to try Job’s faith by bringing tragedy on Job’s entire life.  God insisted that Satan protect only Job’s person.  God, Satan and the reader of Job know that God has allowed this trial but Job does not.  How could he?   As a Gentile, not a Jew, he had never heard of God’s trial of Abraham and Isaac and so he didn’t have an inkling that his suffering had this terrible meaning.  Job’s faithfulness in trial pleased God. That is, the faithfulness of Job gave God glory.

Throughout the gospel of John, Jesus speaks of his upcoming death as giving glory to the Father.  So the trial of Job is a precursor of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

I realize that God allowing  man to suffer would be no comfort to an atheist or agnostic or a modern Christian who does not believe that sin offends God.  i believe that man can need a savior only if he has personally sinned.  Jesus’ death on a cross has redeemed me from being an outcast to God and given me eternal life with Him.  I am grateful and love God because he first loved me.  Therefore if it pleases God to try my faith through loss of a loved one or the temptation to suicide, so be it!  So easily said  yet so hard to bear.

God must have had a lot of confidence in Job’s love for him to allow Satan to tempt him to despair.  God also knew that if Job stayed true, his faith would grow.  In contrast Satan was sure that Job when he lost all his good things would curse God.  In other words, Satan is sure that man is inherently selfish.  That he loves God only for the benefits that come to him.

After Job loses every earthly blessing, his children, his flocks and his homes, he does not curse God.  So  Satan must once again go to God and propose that since Job only endured the loss of his wealth and children that if God allows him to lose his health then he will curse God.  God continues in his belief in Job’s love for him and lets Satan have his way with him.  God afflicts Job with all kinds of sickness Perhaps even leprosy.  Job is left sitting on an ash heap scraping his itching, rotting flesh with a pottery shard.  While Job is in terrible pain, I believe that his greatest pain  must have been his mental confusion.  I wonder if he considered suicide.  He cursed the day he was born and his wife encouraged him to curse God which he would not do.  While he no longer praised God, he did endure silently and would not curse God

Having lost, Satan permanently exits from the story of Job.

However to make matters worse for poor Job, his friends arrive to comfort him.