Sunday, August 22, 2010
Safe. Sunday, August 22, 2010.
“It was then that I carried you.” – Footprints in the Sand
“I'm not trying to be cynical, I would just advise against using religion to help other people,” a member of the Suicide Attempt Survivors group recently wrote on the wall. “As far as myself, and I’m sure many others are concerned, talk about “God” and “Blessings” and “Jesus” only anger me and make me more hurt and confused. If I didn’t have spiritual issues I probably would not be dealing with suicide.”
I was so glad that she wrote. And I hope she doesn’t mind me using her words today, because I think what she had to say has great merit.
Last week I removed myself from a suicide-related FB group because the administrator had put up a YouTube video about hell. A couple of people had clicked “like,” but if we had ever gotten that coveted “unlike” button, I would have clicked that.
Before I left the group I wrote a message pointing out that hell is often used to scare people into not committing suicide, but that it is triggering and can have the opposite effect. For me, personally, thinking that God would throw me into hell for killing myself simply reinforced my belief that God hated me, and made me feel even more hopeless. Besides, I reasoned, I was already in hell. And in many ways, I was.
My parents weren’t very religious, but I grew up believing in a God that loved me. I joined a church as a teenager, and derived a great deal of comfort from my faith. But I joined a particular religious group in college that believed the vast majority of people on earth would go to hell, and it was up to us to save them. “God” and “Jesus” and “religion” became triggers for me, and I became deeply depressed, anxious, and suicidal.
When I left the group, I had nowhere to go, because I no longer trusted God. I believed he hated me and everyone I loved. For more than 15 years, I held everyone in my life at arm’s length. I was afraid to feel too close to anyone, lest they die and go to hell, leaving me devastated.
My mother developed cancer, and I was barely there for her. When I spent time with her, I was only reminded of the fact that she wasn’t the “right” religion, and that I had failed in converting her. Friends and family had weddings and funerals, and I could not go to any of these events because I had panic attacks inside a church. Even seeing a Bible was enough to make me break out into a cold sweat.
I met my husband because I had seen a newspaper article about a book he had written about religion. The topic of the book led me to believe there might be a different way to understand God. I attended his book-signing, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’m now married to a pastor, and our lives revolve around our small church.
But the dark night of my soul visits me again and again. And no one understands better than me that religion can be a source of pain instead of comfort. That’s why I don’t use my page or my blog as a bully pulpit for my particular faith. That’s why I see where people are at before I tell them I’m praying for them, or ask others to pray for them. That’s why I refuse to use hell as a warning for people who are already depressed and hopeless.
Are you a Christian? Are you Jewish? Are you Muslim? Are you Buddhist? Hindu? Baha’i? Pagan? Atheist? Agnostic? Not sure? Don’t care?
I want the Suicide Attempt Survivors group to be a safe place for you.