I have a chronic illness. It’s not cancer, and it’s not heart disease: I have a chronic mental illness. I frequently deal with suicidal thoughts. I have gone through periods when I’ve had thoughts of killing myself every single day. Once, it lasted for two and a half years. I’m kept alive by my boyfriend, my family, my psychologist, my psychiatrist, and loads of medications. It’s all very precarious. A shift in any of these supports could be fatal.
When my previous therapist, after four years of therapy for extreme depression, asked if I believed in God, I knew that I was in trouble. If my therapist was resorting to God, what hope was there for me? I explained that I had no faith. I have no memory of ever believing in God, but I do remember a period when, being extraordinarily depressed, I tried to believe in something other than what I had in my life in order to try to relieve myself of suicidal thoughts. I wanted to find solace in something that might help me fight the darkness. I was often driven to self-injurious and self-destructive behaviors. If only I could find some comfort outside of myself! I know better now; I no longer think that a belief in a god will be a substitute for my suicidal thoughts.
Ironically, I’m a psychologist, which means that I sometimes work with individuals who have mental illnesses that cause suicidal thoughts. Some may question the wisdom of this. Others think that my condition can result in an enhanced understanding and sensitivity to the feelings of my patients. I’ll leave it to others to decide.
Struggling to help me, a friend once said, “Let go and let God.” I didn’t understand what this meant, and I still don’t. I also don’t understand what it means when people say God only gives you what you can handle. I know I have far more than I can handle.
I don’t think that disbelief in an afterlife affects my suicidal thoughts. Am I more or less likely to act on these thoughts because I have no faith? Who can say? So, I am left with no faith and frequent thoughts of wanting to end my life. A journey toward nothingness. But I still have my boyfriend, my family, my psychologist, my psychiatrist, and my meds. I hope that this will be enough.