Suicide has visited our family several times. Specifically, I’ve known four people who have decided in their depression to murder themselves. Three of these were family members; one was my father. All were men.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder 16 years ago, I can’t say that the thought never crossed my mind during times when I suffered from near insufferable depression. (If that adjective seems hyperbolic, then you haven’t been there or don’t know someone who has.) In fact, the last time I experienced any real depression—and it was the worst one I’d experienced—it was September 2008. Watch this:
I had completed a work project and, frankly, did a poor job. Well, a superior called me out on it (he was right, of course), and I slumped into a two-week-long depression. Instead of explain here, Dear Reader, why this depression was so inextricably linked to my need to please people and win their approval, suffice it to say that I slumped quickly into a self-doubting and self-hating morass.
I had rarely taken sick days due to my bipolar since 1995, but during that time, I did take a few days. My bed was my refuge. Yet, it was no relief. The down comforter was no comfort at all; I drew it around my shoulders like a life preserver, and yet it served more as an anvil. In my erratic dreams and half-sleep, my sense of inadequacy hounded me like a yellow-jacket would a sugary soft drink. In the worst moments, which I no longer emotionally feel but rather whose content I recall, I even doubted I was loved by the God who sacrificed his very self for me. If you think that’s not painful, try thinking about someone you implicitly trust, someone you’d die for, someone who you want to be with if stranded on a desert island with one other person…and then imagine that in an instant, that person wants to annihilate you. You mean nothing to them.
What’s the point? you ask yourself.
Well, there is none. So you start to toy with the idea… and then the plan.
I never planned, but I did entertain that guest who doesn’t wipe his feet on the doormat nor say thank-you after being served.
To explain the outcome of that two weeks and the tool I’ve used ever since, I won’t preach but, rather, will testify—you know, like in those small, hot, Baptist churches where the fat lady with big breasts gets up in front of the congregation (whom she calls, ‘Church,’ like when someone during announcements says, ‘Good morning, Church. I want to tell you about dinner following the service today…’). She might be wearing a white hat. She fans herself with a service bulletin, which uselessly pushes stultifying air toward her shiny, sweaty cleavage. She looks past her children and the spot where her husband used to sit, her sisters and nephews and nieces, her neighbors (even the ones she got into an argument with yesterday), and she looks past even the town prostitute and town drunk, who sit one row apart toward the back left. She looks past them all and then up, toward a slat vent in the a-frame building, as if her eyes could carry her to Him. As if that 180-pound body would float up through the belfry were it not tied down by her orthopedic shoes and gravity. She speaks.
At the end, she says, ‘I am sinner. That I know. And yet I know my precious Jesus died for me. I know that my Lord is not angry with me. He has always been saying, “Come home, my daughter. Come home.” And he says that to you.’ Her eyes get wide, and her gaze drops to Church.
She looks at the prostitute. And then the drunk. And then she looks at her sisters, and her children, and aunts and uncles and neighbors. Because, while they all know that what she says is true, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. And then she closes her eyes, lifts her head again and considers her own words. Because it doesn’t hurt her, either.
‘Daddy’s not angry. You can come home.’
video/poetry: Scroobius Pip