I Was A Suicidal Christian

One woman's story of depression, loss of hope—and other things Christians aren't 'supposed' to deal with.

Most people assume that I started running to lose weight, and I tend to let most people think that. Because the real reason is a lot less glamorous, a lot darker.

I started running to beat depression. Notice I didn’t call myself a runner, because that would imply that I am actually good at it. Me and my 13-minute mile–look out, world! But I didn't start running just to kick the normal depressive episode that many of us experience from time to time. I started because of the more sinister, dark-night-of-the-soul depression—the kind where you don’t remember to eat, you don’t have the strength to get off the bathroom floor (if you make it that far), and you can’t think about anything except how badly you want to die.

Most of us will agree that Christians can get depressed, but can Christians get suicidal? Good Christians?

Suicide is, after all, something that only happens when you lose all hope, and don’t Christians have the best Hope there is?

I suspect that many in the Church unconsciously believe that Christians do not and should not become suicidal, because suicide is, after all, something that only happens when you lose all hope, and don’t Christians have the best Hope there is?

I always believed that God absolutely, 100% had the power to heal me of my depression. But during those darkest nights, I didn’t believe that God would heal me, even though I knew He could. I never lost hope in Jesus, but I did lose hope for recovery. All I wanted more than anything else was to rest in the arms of my Savior. I gave up.

The temptation to kill myself felt like too much to bear. And so I had two options, to give in to that temptation and commit an irreversible (but not unforgivable) sin, or believe God’s promise to me in His Word:

“God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

And so, on December 22, 2011, I was admitted to Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services for five days.

I think Christians often make the mistake of over-spiritualizing depression and neglecting the very real physical needs of a person caught in depression's grip, while non-Christians tend to focus too much on the physical aspects of this condition while neglecting spiritual health. But what if getting to the bottom of depression requires a body, mind and soul approach?

In the hospital, I rested. I began to treat my body, mind and soul.

Without healing in the body, mind and soul, depression will continue to creep back in.

With the support of my healthcare team, I started new medication and added some vitamins and supplements into my diet. I began running as soon as the weather turned warm. I took care of my body. With the help of a licensed therapist, I learned to pay attention to and change my negative self-talk, to heal my mind. But most importantly–once my brain started to recover, I was strong enough to address the cracks in my faith that were revealed by the depth and the pressure of my depression.

No matter what depression may look like, the attributes of God are almost always under attack. Doubt always follows closely on the heels of depression. How can God love me, especially in this place? Even here—in the belly of the whale?

Jonah was suicidal too, you know.

When he asked those sailors to throw him overboard, there was no way to survive. He didn’t want to survive. But God provided a way out—a really awful and dark way out. And in the belly of the whale, God changed Jonah’s heart (if only temporarily), and only then was he vomited out onto to dry land.

Without healing in the body, mind and soul, depression will continue to creep back in.

And even if I accidentally wander into that dark place again, the sign of Jonah reminds me that, out of His unfailing love for me, God uses even depression to teach me more about who He is, to change my heart, and above all else, to demonstrate His power to save.

Even a wretch like me.

And like Jonah, I have been given a second chance. Unlike Jonah, I will not forget. And someday, maybe someday, I’ll be able to run a 10-minute mile. Maybe less.

This article originally appeared on devotionaldiva.com.

19 Comments

Juliet

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Juliet commented…

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Karen. I imagine it wasn't necessarily an easy thing to do.... I'm a Christian who has been "down" and "low", sometimes quite a lot... I think what you say about needing to heal mind, body AND soul is very true. I'm glad that things are going better for you now!

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Rachel Williams

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Rachel Williams commented…

Karen, thank you so much for bravely sharing your story. God encouraged my heart greatly through this. I spent a year battling suicidal depression - a symptom of an abusive relationship. The general response from fellow believers - including my boyfriend at the time - was condemnation. I spent much of that time believing the lie that "real Christians" aren't supposed to experience despair. You're right - God used the anguish of that year to do above and beyond anything I could have asked or imagined. Praising Him for His faithful healing and your faithful testimony.

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Melani Witherspoon

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Melani Witherspoon commented…

I've battled with depression & feeling ashamed because of it. But I realized that most people go through some form of depression & it's ok to seek help. It's an ongoing battle but God is Faithful. Thanks for sharing.

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Steve Cornell

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Steve Cornell commented…

My first funeral to conduct as a young pastor was for the former pastor’s son who had taken his own life. Almost thirty years later, I can say that I’ve lived long enough to know what it’s like to battle feelings of depression. I’ve also walked beside many others who have battled waves of depression and despair far worse than me.

It is good to remember that great servants of God like Job (Job 3:10-13, 16); Moses (Numbers 11:13-15); Elijah (I Kings 19:1-4), and Jonah (Jonah 4:1-10), reached extreme low points where they wanted to die. Although none of them (to our knowledge) attempted suicide and, each one evidently saw it as God’s prerogative to end life, each also felt that life was no longer worth living.

God graciously restored his servants through a variety of methods.

Many are too embarrassed by their discouraged state of mind to ask for help. Some even feel guilty for being depressed when they know they have so much to be thankful for. This is where the Church must be more honest about how common it is to struggle with challenging emotions.

I tell the story about my first funeral here: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/when-a-pastors-son-takes-his-...

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Chanel Caulfield

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Chanel Caulfield commented…

I've always been frustrated by the idea that "good" Christians cannot be depressed. The fact of the matter is, emotions and mental illnesses are part of the human condition. I empathize with the author when she writes how she still had Hope, that is the hope from Jesus, but she still felt suicidal because of her depression. As someone who has suffered from depression and severe anxiety since I was eleven, I can write with certainty: Mental illness is a medical condition. Even "good" Christians suffer from physical ailments and it saddens me that many people do not consider mental illness to be a medical issue; I have heard plenty of times to "read your bible and it will go away," "God is punishing you," or to suck it up. Why would God punish a young girl with depression?

When it comes to bipolar, depression, anxiety, etc, you cannot always pray the pain away. You CAN pray for hope and understanding. You CAN use your mental pain to reach out to others who are suffering and use the "thorn in your side" to become closer to Christ. I believe I have depression from my genetic line but on a faith level, I truly believe God has given me a gift, no matter how much I struggle to see it as such sometimes.

My depression has helped me reach out to others in their times of pain. It has motivated me to do my part in spreading the word about mental illness stereotypes and pursue a career in clinical psychology. In my opinion, a "good" Christian is someone who can use their pain to connect with the pain Christ had to undergo in order to help His people out of pure love. I pray that my efforts will keep me to follow his example.

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