Tag Archives: suicide

Fighting Demons

Pittsburgh Steelers v. New England Patriots (2005) (CC BY-SA 3.0 Gen)

Pittsburgh Steelers v. New England Patriots at Heinz Field (2005), Author Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Fighting the demons of anxiety, depression, and PTSD is a little like playing football [1][2].  We make headway then lose ground.  But the fight never really ends, not the way a game of football does.  There is no score.

We win by surviving another day.

Across Decades

It can be enormously discouraging to wrestle with the scars of abuse, decade in and decade out.  Surely, we must after all this time have made progress.

But progress is not linear.  Despite the passage of time, and an extensive list of medications – not to mention therapy – familiar demons can resurface.

Factors Impacting Our Success

So, are anxiety, depression, and PTSD ever really “conquered”?  Can they, at least, be fought to a standstill?  The answer depends.

The factors include the length and severity of the trauma we sustained; our particular genetics; the quality and extent of our medical treatment; our psychological and spiritual resources; the emotional support we have available; and the other stressors to which we are subjected.

None of these can be quantified.  Most can and do vary over the course of a lifetime.

The Struggle

Why not just throw in the towel (to mix sports metaphors)?  After all, the struggle is exhausting.  The struggle, however, is life. Continue reading

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Blue on Blue, Part 2 – Despair

This is a highly personal post.  Like most abuse victims and many depression sufferers, I am well familiar with despair.  Having been grievously wounded, we cannot help but wonder whether God has turned His back on us, whether He exists at all.

There are Christian denominations which view despair as sinful.  Not all Church Fathers (influential early theologians) would, however, agree [1].  Neither do I, for that matter.  This post was written to demonstrate that the despair abuse victims experience is NOT sinful, even from that strict perspective.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Ps. 130: 1-2).

Depression sufferers often face condemnation from their well-meaning Christian friends.  Such condemnation is misplaced.  Depression should not be confused with despair.   And for despair to be considered “sinful”, certain conditions must be met.

Depression v. Despair

Depression can arise despite our circumstances.  Despair stems from our circumstances.  Depression is the manifestation of a medical condition.  Despair is the spiritual conclusion we draw about an eternal reality.

Both will make us unhappy.  Only despair, however, can be seen as “sin” [2].

Despair as “Sin”

When we despair – as most of us use the term today – we view our suffering as pointless, and God as powerless (or uninterested) to intervene.  This is situational despair.

For our hopelessness to qualify as “sinful”, we must have a genuine understanding of God; must be above the age of reason; must be in sound mind; and — in the strictest sense — must despair not about our circumstances, but about our Salvation.

Abuse victims (and depression sufferers) simply do not satisfy these conditions.

Judas and Suicide

Judas Iscariot’s suicide is often put forward as the classic act of despair.  The apostles had daily close contact with Christ.  Judas had experienced firsthand Christ’s infinite holiness, infinite power, and infinite love.

All these Judas is said to have rejected by his self-destructive act [3][4].  Judas viewed his betrayal of Christ as so heinous it was beyond God’s capacity to forgive.  He despaired, in other words, of his Salvation.

Abuse Contrasted

By contrast, the child who is daily abused and gives up hope is not guilty of the sin of despair.  For one thing, the child may not yet have reached the age of reason.  S/he may not, therefore, be capable of forming the necessary intent.

For another thing, a child who is abused is likely to have little or no understanding of God’s true nature.   S/he has no reason to believe in a just and loving God, so cannot be penalized for the failure to trust Him.  At worst, the child rejects a flawed image of God based on tragic experience with a hostile and painful world.

As important, the abused child despairs of his/her situation (not his/her eternal Salvation).  Hell is here and now.  If anything, unfounded accusations – in reality, out and out lies – about the child’s responsibility for the abuse and overall lack of worth may make death appear inviting.

Depression and the Will

Finally, adult or child, our capacity to sin is reduced when our will is compromised as, for instance, by the brain chemistry associated with depression.

God is hardly likely to condemn us for the sins committed against us, or the scars stemming from them.  That, at least, is the opinion of this lawyer.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15: 13).

[1]  Augustine believed that despair was not a sin.  Thomas Aquinas argued the point, seeing despair as a variant of pride.  Aquinas, however, distinguished hopelessness about our Salvation from hopelessness about our situation.  He explained that a physician might despair of curing a patient without committing sin.  Aquinas conceded that God could forgive despair, by way of a miracle.

[2]  It should be emphasized that not all Christian denominations view despair as equally sinful.  Unlike Catholics, Presbyterians and Baptists reject outright the concept of “mortal” sin, i.e. sin so serious it has the potential to cost us our Salvation.

[3]  Suicide has frequently been described as the “unpardonable” sin (Matt. 12: 31-32).  This though is an error.  According to Scripture, it is speaking against the Holy Spirit which will not be forgiven.  Since the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove when Christ’s divinity was revealed (Matt. 3: 16-17), the consensus now seems to be that the unpardonable sin actually signifies rejection of Christ’s offer of Salvation.

[4]  Even those who never publicly acknowledge Christ as their Savior may accept Him in their hearts, during their final moments.  “But do not forget this one thing dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3: 8).

ANYONE WITH THOUGHTS OF VIOLENCE OR SELF-HARM SHOULD SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Falling Knives, Part 2

“Self-Injury Awareness Day – Open Your Eyes. Open Your Heart.” Photo by AndyCandy94 (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication).

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5: 5) [1].

For many abuse victims, assaults on ourselves are more than an emotional echo of earlier trauma, more than metaphorical.

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI)

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury or NSSI (commonly known as “cutting”) is generally viewed as an attempt to deal with emotional pain [2]. Estimates suggest that as many as 14% of teens engage in cutting, at one time or another [3].  But adults are not immune.

In sexual molestation and rape, the violation involves the body. Therefore, the body becomes the “enemy”. Self-inflicted injury is one way this can manifest. But negative feelings ranging from loneliness, worthlessness, and shame to stress, rage, and racing thoughts may prompt the same behavior [4]. Continue reading

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“Letter to My 14 Year Old Self” by Marie Williams

This is a letter by Marie Williams, a gifted writer and abuse survivor. Be aware that there is difficult subject matter addressed. Despite that, Marie retains little or no rancor.  We should all extend such kindness to the child within.

You can find more of Marie’s work at Come Fly with Me – Dispensing Compassion Through Poetry http://www.mariewilliams53.wordpress.com and Blow Me Out of the Water http://www.riceandpease.wordpress.com .  

Dear Marie

Yes, you, come on now, try not to let things get you down too much. I promise life will get better. I know that you’ve had it really rough and I know that you wish your first suicide attempt at age 11 had worked, but it didn’t and that’s because you are here for a reason. I know that you can’t see that now, because all around you is chaos, but you are a divine spirit and you need to know that.

Try not to internalize the pain. I know that you feel that you have no-one to confide in, but you do. Speak to your grandfather. I know he is no longer here. I know he died in 1959, but his spirit is with you. Speak your pain and he will hear and he will try to smooth the path for you and make life a little easier. I know you’re thinking, “rubbish!” But seriously, he came to help you that painful night when you were 11. It was him you saw, when he hovered over you. It was not a figment of your imagination. He came to make sure those pills did not work.

You’re destined for great things Marie. Look at Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou – they suffered too but look how they have turned their lives around. They have have used their abusive pasts to build a solid framework in which to change their lives for the better. OK, so you’re never going to be Oprah or Maya with their very public profile, but you will be Marie blogging on WordPress, “sharing, hoping to inspire and motivate” others.

I know you think I’m crazy, and that this will never happen. Yes at 14, with a mother who clearly finds you an irritation and a father who gets a kick out of battering you, sending you to school with bruises on your face and body, with the explanation “If they ask you what has happened to you, tell them that you fell over some wire in the backyard”, makes the above paragraph seem like the ramblings of a mad woman, but honestly, you will survive.

People that you don’t know now, will be reading your poetry and will write to you telling you how much they love what you have written. People all over the world in France, Austria, USA, Australia will be commenting on your poetry.

There will be something called the Internet which will allow you to connect with others in a way that you can’t now. The world will be a smaller place in terms of contact and there will be vast opportunities for you to grasp and take advantage of.

I love you Marie and I want to take care of you in the only way I can. This is why I am writing to you, aged 14. I want to give you hope. I want to let you know that I am there for you.

Yours sincerely

(A much older) Marie xx

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FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Human Contact

Ours is now a culture in which social media play an important role. The internet has made it possible to reach out to like-minded persons around the globe, on any subject, at any hour of the day or night.

We share jokes and outrage, embarrassing and touching moments. We mourn together over public and private tragedies. We exchange recipes and voice political opinions. Sometimes wearing a disguise or the mask of anonymity, we disclose long held secrets or live out fantasies. We unburden ourselves to strangers.

Why are we drawn to do this? Why do we find this electronic avenue of communication so compelling?

It is in the nature of men and women to tell their stories. Being human, we crave human contact. We reach out in an effort both to distinguish ourselves as individuals, and find acceptance by the group. Social media have enlarged our potential audience exponentially, greatly increasing the chances we will find acceptance…by some group, at least.

To that extent, social media have facilitated connection. They have, also, however, increased risk. There are predators of all types trawling for victims. We warn our children against these, and rightly so.

The more subtle danger derives from loneliness. Young people and the victims of abuse are especially vulnerable to feelings of isolation. Nothing illustrates this better than the recent suicide by transgender teen, Joshua (“Leelah”) Alcorn [1].

With the technology available to overcome isolation, there appears little reason not to make use of it.

But there is a distinction between virtual friends and those we can actually see and touch. We have much less information about virtual friends, on which to base our judgment of them. We fill in the blanks based on hope, not data.

Similarly, virtual friends (even if well-intentioned) have much less information about us, on which to base their comments and advice, than flesh and blood friends…and are much less likely to help us move a couch.

We need human contact. Social media alone cannot fill that need.

[1] NBC News, US News, “ ‘Fix Society’: Transgender Teen Leelah Alcorn Posted Plea Before Suicide” by Tracy Connor, 12/31/14, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/fix-society-transgender-teen-leelah-alcorn-posted-plea-suicide-n277666.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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