We all have bad days. We all have those days where it doesn’t seem like anything goes right. However, for most of us we have the healthy mindset of knowing that this bad day is one of many other days; some of them good. The problem when talking about a mindset that sometimes leads to suicide is that it becomes very polarized. Sometimes this is due to living with no margins. We can live so far out on the limb that small moments can have enormous consequences. It’s important for everyone to live within margins. However, even with margins there are lies that take over our mind. These thoughts that we all have now and again can become so intensified and seem so one-sided that it can seem the only logical choice is suicide. It’s important to understand these mindsets and the lies that seem true both to help those who are in this state of mind, but also in case we are faced with them ourselves.
LIE: There is only negative in my life.
TRUTH: There’s good and bad every single day.
There’s positive and negative in every single 24-hour period. Our brain however, in an attempt to protect us, sometimes causes things to seem worse than they really are. It’s much like a bottle of water. If you put ink into that water what would happen? The ink wouldn’t float to the bottom like a penny would if you dropped it into that same water bottle. No, the ink would disburse throughout the water making the whole thing look dark and murky. If we looked at that water under a microscope, we would see that there is much more water than there is ink, but because of the nature of ink it covers everything. The same is true for negativity. Again, our brain’s intense focus on negativity is an attempt to protect us against it. When you have a healthy mindset and in a good mental space, you see this negativity as just a small part of the whole that you need to process and overcome. However, when we are overwhelmed or depressed it can feel like that negativity is all there is. It feels like our feet are stuck and there’s nothing we can do to move forward. Luckily, it’s only perception. It’s not true. If you can identify the positive and negative every single day you could help your brain stabilize. It’s important to be aware of the reality that there’s positive alongside of negative every day. They aren’t always equal, but there are truly ups and downs every day. I’ve struggled with depression for a good 30 years and been a counselor for 20 years. I can say in all my personal experience and seeing other people struggle I’ve never seen a single case where there wasn’t some positive. Unfortunately, we exclude that positive as “not mattering” or being inconsequential.
This process of stabilizing our perception is better utilized when we make it an everyday thing that we do whether we’re feeling low or not. The trick is to identify the high and the low every day. This is your emotional high and your emotional low. There is always one even if that low is not very low or that high is not very high. Your ability to be aware of your emotional levels whether you’re feeling fantastic or feeling overwhelmed and depressed will help you find stability and have less chance of getting lost in the lie.
LIE: Today is forever.
TRUTH: Today is not forever.
This may seem very obvious, but it’s another truth that can get lost when feeling depressed or overwhelmed. It’s not enough that we feel like everything is negative, the straw that breaks the camel’s back is the fact that it will never end. Today is the way it will be forever and ever without any relief. When we are feeling stable and aware, the lie sounds ridiculous. However, when feeling overwhelmed, stressed, sad, and/or depressed our range of emotions and range of awareness is greatly limited. That’s essentially how we got the descriptive term, “depressed.” It means that our emotions are depressed to such a level that all that’s left is a low or negative range of emotions. The truth of, “Today is not forever,” is a mantra that I tell everyone who starts therapy. If we can keep that in mind, anything is possible. Where anything is possible, there is hope. Where there is hope there is light and relief and escape from suicide.
LIE: It all falls on me.
TRUTH: It’s impossible for you to take on “it all.”
I think we could all acknowledge that there are roles where you are “The Guy” or “The Girl.” The buck does stop at your desk. You are the one that people look to for direction and leadership. This can be an overwhelming responsibility and have enormous stress connected to it. I can say I’ve been in this role a few times. I felt this feeling that everything falls on me, and if I mess up everything literally falls. Although this position exists, the thing that feeds the lie is that if it falls it will be the end of the world. It has the added lie that because I’m the leader I’m responsible FOR everyone that is underneath my leadership. The stress and strain of being responsible can get so overwhelming that it seems like the only way to find relief is suicide.
Whereas it’s important to be a responsible leader who cares for the people around you, it’s important to realize that you’re part of a bigger whole. Although I may have the responsibility of leadership, it’s impossible for me to be responsible for anyone other than myself because I just don’t have the capacity. It’s an unsustainable system. Even when I’m the person everyone looks to, I must have wise counsel in place to help me navigate the “narrows” of my job. All too often, especially in church settings, pastors find themselves without those people to lean in to. Everyone’s looking to them and it seems like people’s very souls are on the line. This is a lie. You are not responsible for other’s souls. You are responsible for introducing them to Jesus. Jesus does have the capacity to take on that responsibility. You do not. It is a lie.
An important question to ask when feeling this extreme stress is, “Then what?” A good friend walked me through this when I was speaking at a very high leverage situation. The audio/visual portion of my talk was not working correctly because they didn’t have the right equipment. I was freaking out in the elevator on the way to our room. He asked, “What are you worried about?” When I told him he asked, “If that happens, what then?” He then proceeded to ask me, “what then?” until I got to the obvious conclusion that the world would not end. Sure, there would be consequences, but my life was bigger than this one moment. Because I also tried to live in margin, everything wasn’t hanging on a thread of that one decision.
LIE: I am worthless and/or unlovable.
TRUTH: Your worth and lovability is in no way dependent on things outside of yourself.
This is often tied to an external measurement of worth or lovability. The lie really becomes, “I am only lovable if people show me love.” If you’ve had a bad break-up or long periods without a romantic relationship or you’re having trouble making friends then the faulty assumption is that you’re not lovable. It is not true. This is a lie. Your worth comes from the strengths and gifts God has given you. We all have them. The opinions of others may hurt, but they do not determine our worth. Living in our strengths is the best way to feel the worth that we all have. Take an assessment that points to your gifts whether it’s focused on spiritual gifts or personality or other attributes. You’ll see just how wrong this lie is.
LIE: No one cares.
TRUTH: There are people all around you who care.
This is a tricky one. It sounds very similar to, “I’m worthless or unlovable,” but it has the distinction of feeling like even though I may be in a romantic relationship or have friends or community, deep down those connections are fake or fragile. That, at the end of the day, no one really cares. This is particularly dangerous because when we are depressed or overwhelmed or stressed it can seem that the help and resources that are all around us don’t actually exist. Again, this is perception. It’s not real. There are resources all around you every day to help you through this time you find yourself in. We have to believe in what we see right in front of our faces. People do care. We need to think back to the time before we were depressed. At the very least, there is a suicide hotline with people standing by that care very deeply and want to help.
LIE: I’m all alone.
TRUTH: There are people all around you who care.
This is a variant of, “No one cares.” Sometimes we feel like no one cares because we have no deep connections in our life. It’s very important to have connection and community. Your brain craves connection. They don’t have to be best friends or significant others or even family. This is about our inability to live in isolation. Unfortunately, as adults many of us don’t take the steps to live in community. The lie is that there’s no community and there never will be. We are utterly alone. It’s not true. The truth is, there are people all around you who are also feeling the same way and in search of connection. It takes someone putting themselves out there in order to make these connections. Certainly, the church can be a great place for community. A small group or Bible study is a great way to find connection in the church setting. Serving is another great way to meet people at church. In the everyday setting, there are several groups and programs out there formed around interest and hobbies that can be a great way to meet people. Reaching out on Facebook or other social media for people with like interests can be a great way to find a group or start a group of your own.
Again, it’s very important to live in community no matter if we are stressed, depressed, and/or overwhelmed or if we’re in a healthy mindset. We often rely on things “just happening.” We can rely on connections and friendships that are right in front of us that we didn’t really work for. When these aren’t readily available we assume that no one cares and we are all alone. Remember that this is just not true. There are relationships constantly waiting to be made. People want connection and your brain craves it every day.
There are many reasons people commit suicide. It’s a complex and multi-sided issue. It’s not just about “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps.” These are very unhelpful ways to help people who are depressed and overwhelmed. The lies that we just talked about aren’t the only lies that we can believe or the only reasons people commit suicide, but they’re a start. Being aware of these things can help prevent them from taking over, can help us see the truth, and can be one step in preventing the very needless tragedy of suicide.
For help, reach out to these available resources:
- Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 for free, 24/7 crisis support in the US
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