The month of September is National “Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.” I am currently editing a book (which may or may not ever see publication) that includes this topic of suicide. I think it is important. It is common, whether or not we acknowledge it. A lack of acknowledgement doesn’t make things like mental illness or suicide disappear.
In fact, ignorance often makes these types of problems worse and more difficult to talk about. When we don’t talk about them, people who struggle might also feel as if they can’t talk about it or seek the help they need.
The feeling of not wanting to exist
Speaking from my own experience, I have had some limited brushes with depression and the feeling that I simply could not carry on with life as it was. I think a lot of people who aren’t familiar with depression or suicide simply can’t fathom that sort of feeling. They cannot conceive of being able to feel so awful that life doesn’t seem like a viable option anymore.
But I have felt as if it would be easier to stop existing than keep living the life I was currently in. I have not wanted to kill myself, but I have wanted to not be alive anymore. I have wanted to stop feeling the things I was experiencing, yet simultaneously I believed that I was unable to change or alter my situation fast enough to feel relief.
Because of these experiences, I can understand a little portion of what those who are suicidal feel. It is terrifying, frightening, and exhausting to feel trapped in your own mind, to feel as if there is no way out. It almost feels as if you have no choice, no agency, and no escape route open to you. If you combine those feelings with silence or a belief that seeking and getting help is not an option, you can begin to understand why, for some, suicide looks like an attractive option.
“Does the Journey Seem Long?”
Earlier this year I felt that hopelessness. I wrote in an Instagram post that “I silently prayed in church that God would take me.” It may have been that Sunday (or another one during this time) that I sat in Sacrament Meeting and read the words to hymn #127, “Does the Journey Seem Long?” by Joseph Fielding Smith.
“Does the journey seem long, The path rugged and steep? Are there briars and thorns on the way? Do sharp stones cut your feet As you struggle to rise To the heights thru the heat of the day? Is your heart faint and sad, Your soul weary within, As you toil ‘neath your burden of care? Does the load heavy seem You are forced now to lift? Is there no one your burden to share? Let your heart not be faint Now the journey’s begun; There is One who still beckons to you. So look upward in joy And take hold of his hand; He will lead you to heights that are new—A land holy and pure, Where all trouble doth end, And your life shall be free from all sin, Where no tears shall be shed, For no sorrows remain. Take his hand and with him enter in.”
At the time, I wanted to go there, to that place where I wouldn’t have to deal with mental illness anymore. I absolutely cannot judge those who commit suicide in order to escape. I have wanted relief from my suffering and mental exhaustion too. But I do want anyone who struggles and feels that pull to not exist anymore to know that Christ’s love is not just reserved for those who are perfect and happy. It is not just for us when we die and are resurrected. It is for all of us, especially those who feel that life is too difficult or who cannot be happy and joyful, right now. Help is there. There are those who understand or who want to support you even if they can never understand.
There is always someone with whom you can share your burden. You are not alone.