Killing Ourselves

“Except for rare, cult-related occasions, suicide is something done in private, outside of community, outside of immediate counsel… aside from rare situations, suicide is something that causes the actor to feel shame, regret, and sometimes anger, and to express hopelessness or helplessness.”

About a week ago, a pastor known for speaking about mental health issues committed suicide the very day he led a funeral for another suicide victim.

Of course my Facebook lit up with all sorts of polls and opinions about this topic. The quote above struck me pretty hard.

He went on to say:

“The body of Christ has to redefine what it means to live in community. My personal opinion is that community needs to be invasive. We don’t meet in homes anymore. Most protestant denominations don’t follow the example of post-reformation parish priests who spent all their daylight hours visiting everyone. The task could take weeks, and when everyone had been visited, he started over. Instead, we have church life and home life playing “hide and go seek” until someone gets volunteered for home group host…. we now face mental illnesses that could not have thrived 100 years ago, perhaps even 50 years ago. That calls for a newer, more intense level of care from the entire church community, and it calls for more genuine and invasive fellowship that cuts shame, regret, and anger off at the ankles.”

This comment got me thinking about the time I admitted having suicidal thoughts to my pastor. There wasn’t a lot of investigation into why I had these thoughts. It was just “you know you shouldn’t.” While it felt good to have someone to tell, and it slightly lessened the feelings, the thoughts never fully went away. The underlying problems were not taken care of.

There was no invasive fellowship. There were no investigations into underlying sin issues or other triggers in my life. Just an attitude of “let’s pray about it. Keep in touch.”

Community is something that I strongly long for. I believe part of the reason it is so hard to consider my home of twelve years to be “home” is that it has been difficult to find real community. Sure, it’s fairly easy to find acquaintances in such a large city. But real friends? People who will be that invasive into your life?

Pastors don’t make circuits anymore. Neither do elders or deacons for that matter. How many lay people do you have in your home any given week or month? Who do you know well enough to share your deepest darkest fears and shames?

That is the troubling thing. Suicide occurs alone, in the dark. It is an act of shame. And rightfully so, it is a tremendous act of selfishness. The times when I felt most alone in this world (and when I was behaving the most selfishly otherwise) were the times the temptation was strongest.

But reaching out is hard. Largely because it seems that no one wants to hear about your struggles. But also because it is shameful to be attacked by such temptations. Many Christians who have never experienced mental illness will just chalk it up to “not enough faith”. Or they will be like Job’s friend and assume your struggles are because of some unrepented sin in your life.

That is why we need people who know us. Really know us. People who aren’t afraid to point out sin but are also slow to blame every trouble of life on it. We need friends who will hear the good and the bad and offer love and care in both.

We are supposed to bear one another’s burdens. We are supposed to confess our sins to one another. How can we accomplish that without community? How can we accomplish that without seeing each other more than once a week, and in a more intimate environment than a large gathering?

I have yet to figure out this community thing, but at least I know what’s lacking now.

Diversions

Ooo, shiny!

We live in an insatiablely intolerable world at times. Life is a messy, dirty, steaming pile of excrement some days. There is no escaping the to-do lists and the schedules and the ever growing piles of bills. It almost makes me jealous of the people of old who lived short miserable lives. At least they were short…

I’ve never been able to drown out my worries with diversions. I hear of people escaping their troubles and woes with movies, music, video games, or even alcohol. Perhaps I’m just not a focused enough person to forget my cares and immerse myself in numbness or fantasy? I can only be so distracted before my mind wanders back to the struggle of the day.

Painting, writing, playing Pokémon GO with my kids and wife. I enjoy these. But none provide any forgetfulness. Stress is always right there making it hard to find forgiveness for not accomplishing everything on that to-do list. “Why are you taking a break when you should be doing this?!”

Will it ever change? Maybe. Maybe one day my cares will be few enough to drown out with frivolity, at least for fleeting moments. Until then I’ll just continue distracting myself half-heartedly.

This Is The End

This is the end.

The end of what?

Not the end of me, nor of this blog. You can’t get rid of me that easily.

No, this is the end of the summer. And the end of a long, hot, dark season of my life.

I had high hopes for this summer. But they were dashed by some not-so-fortunate circumstances. I had plans. But none of them happened.

I learned a lot though: Regret is a terrible response to disappointment. God always provides, though not always how we want or with what we want. Anxiety is physically draining, but you don’t have to let your mind get caught up in what your body’s doing.

We’ve had a rocky couple of months, almost a year’s worth. We almost lost our house. We thought we would. We had our water cut off once (though that was just missing the payment because we were distracted by other bills, we actually had the money) and almost lost it one more time. We spent a week internet-less, much to the kid’s chagrin. We had to reinstate our car insurance twice because it was canceled. We got phone calls threatening to re-possess our trailer (good luck with that). Food got short once or twice. Cars broke down. Jobs were had, jobs were postponed. Church got over-crowded and we had to find a new one (still figuring that one out). The house is in disarray. Projects have been put on hold.

I spent my summer mowing lawns, weeding gardens, and moving boxes and furniture. And a load of driving here there and everywhere.

But now we have two stable jobs. The bills are getting caught up. Routine has come back.

And looking at that list I can’t help but feel it’s all first world problems.

But problems nonetheless. Especially for an anxious brain like mine.

It’s the end, and I couldn’t be more glad.

I Don’t Care

Every time it seems to get better, it just gets worse again. Every time I think I am going to have a break from all the awful, something else comes along. And I’m broken. Broke and broken. And alone. So utterly alone.

I am human and flawed. I’m negative. I see nothing good. While I believe there is good, it is apparent to me that it is not for me. Good things aren’t for me to enjoy. I haven’t failed. I haven’t lost my privilege to good. It’s not like that. It’s just that good things seem to stay away more than the bad.

Maybe there is good. Maybe. I have blessings, sure. But every blessing seems to come with a drawback. Every choice good, bad, and neutral has negative consequences to some extent. There are no purely “good” things in my life.

Is that normal?

I know I have friends. I know intellectually that there are people out there who do have some care about me. Maybe even some concern about my soul. But where are they?

“You gotta be a friend to have a friend.” OK. But when I’m drowning in shame and anxiety and self-loathing who really wants me to be their friend? No one wants an anchor. No one wants someone who takes more than they could ever give in return.

Because I don’t have anything to give in return right now. I’m burned out. I lost my ability to empathize. You might talk but I might not listen. When I do I’ll turn every statement negative. Even the positive statements I will twist. I suck the life out of joy. I can’t give you anything. Not that you would ever ask.

I do care. I care a lot. There wouldn’t be a boiling rage or a twisting knot in my gut if I didn’t care. I wouldn’t want everything to be fixed to desperately if I didn’t care.

As I said the other day, to all six of you who read it, I don’t really want to die. Despite what the voice whispering in my darkest thoughts keeps telling me. There are too many good things to enjoy in this life.

I just want to be able to enjoy them for a change. Is that too much to ask?

I have to write. I have to get this out. If nothing more than to untangle the web of lies that seems to have ensnared me of late. I have never been so overwhelmed and lost in my life.

But that is hyperbole. It can’t be that bad, can it? Other people have it worse. Other people are dying. Other people are enslaved and abused. Other people have way bigger problems than I ever have. I’m just a whiny loser who can’t keep his head on straight. Everything bad in my life either isn’t truly bad or if it is bad it’s deserved.

It is totally hyperbole. Right?

Why do I crumble so quickly? Or have I crumbled that quickly? When did all of this begin? Has it been a year? More? A week? A month? How much time elapsed vs how much time did my brain tell me had passed? Truly life isn’t that bad. And if it is, it can’t have been for that long. Right?

I honestly don’t know. Maybe I have been strong but I just didn’t see it. Maybe I have been good. Maybe I’m better than my lying mind will let me believe. Or maybe I am much much worse

I care. I do.

Dailyish Thoughts #103

Not by me…

It’s been a month. It’s been a couple of months. So much for sticking to the plan. Life is one smack down after another. Every tunnel has a light at the end, only to find yourself back in the tunnel, not sure if you left it to begin with. Then you realize the light has never been at the end, the whole of life is a tunnel, with flashes of light coming from time to time, a blur in an otherwise dark landscape. We don’t see the light at the end. We have faith that it is there, but we don’t see it. If it comes, it comes quick, before we know it. For most though, it will be be the sudden end of any light that will catch their attention. Darkness will be forever.

Yeah, it is cryptic. I’m tired. I’m beat up. I’m anxious. I’m lost. I’m still headed into the future. I am wandering, but with a vector more or less tuned toward Heaven. I fall. I get up. I fall. I get up.

I drag along a family. I don’t have time for friends. Or they don’t have time for me. I’ll never know which, honestly. I drag a family. I steer the ship. Or so I imagine. The till isn’t broken, but it is frequently ineffective. The oars have been burned. Or stowed. I know not which.

God always provides. Maybe not what we think we need, or in the way we think we need it. But He always does. For some of us, it’s in a way that forces us to recognize “He IS God, we are NOT.” We never steer the ship. We never had oars. We just ride, watching for the little flashes of light in an otherwise dark and ugly cavern.

Protected the whole time by His goodness.

Trust. Humility. Noise. Tired. Work. Labor. Money. Faith. Friends. Why. How. Confess. Rinse. Repeat. My body is sore and my heart is tired. My mind is a web and my thoughts are impasto. But I do plan on getting through this. I don’t give up.

There is far too much of this tunnel yet to be explored. Too many flashes to bask in. Too many good things to taste, see, and feel in the midst of the darkness. Too much joie de vivre to be had.

Why give up now?

Writer’s Block

I say I have writer’s block, but really I just have too many ideas. Too many thoughts floating around, bouncing off the walls of my skull. Too many short thoughts without context or the rest of the thoughts to turn them into something good.

The sexual habits of married Christians. Christians and mental illness. Working for Task Rabbit. Being poor. Depression and anxiety and all the troubled thoughts. Several bands local and not. How I want to make art but my life is too messy to do much of anything right now. My back pain. Aging. My many desires that will never come true. My messy house. My tendency to be an escapist. The idiocy of raising the minimum wage.

Pinballs in my head. Any number of topics to be explored. But I am overwhelmed. I am too busy with trying to stay afloat in so many ways to begin digging too deep into anything.

My life revolves around trying to make money to pay the bills. Free time is unfortunately limited but all too abundant. I need more work, even if more work means less time for life. Life is work and work is life at this point.

Praying that it all settles. But who really knows? This could be my life for awhile. I hope not, but at least it’s interesting, right? Maybe when it settles I’ll have some tales to tell.

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Cautious Optimist

Fortunes change for better or worse, sometimes changing as frequently as the wind. One never knows what tomorrow will bring. Recently we have been under a bit of a shake-up, a stressful change in fortune which leaves the stomach in knots and the eyelids droopy from lost sleep.

But it’s turning out. Slowly….

All the anxiety is turning into fruitful action. We are doing, instead of just talking. We are stepping up instead of just teetering on worried legs.

We are moving ahead.

Even though the thought of change is a terrifying thing to a comfort lover like me, I’m excited to see what this next chapter brings. I’m cautiously optimistic that our decisions, as unconventional as they may be, will turn out for our benefit.

Keep reading, I’m hoping these next few months will be an explosion of new growth and material.

Where Have I Been?

Maybe you follow me. Maybe you don’t. If you do, you might have noticed my recent absence. What is the reason for this absence, you may or may not ask?

Long story short: life is nuts. I was going to “stick to the plan” this year. It would seem that plans are obviously for the weak. God laughs at our plans. He has better ideas for us.

We haven’t stuck to the plan. We have made a decision to stay in Florida and pursue whatever we can. This has led to mounting debt and some very tight weeks, since the “whatever we can” has been slow to materialize. Sure, I’m driving a bus full time and doing delivery on top of that, but the money sucks.

I know that this is intended to make us more trusting and reliant on the Lord. But pain and struggle is never fun to go through. Getting used to a routine of 4:30 AM wake ups and virtually no time to myself has been a big adjustment from last summer’s mountain top freedom. So has getting used to the lack of funds.

And seeing others in more difficult situations makes me feel ashamed for feeling overwhelmed. I feel like I should be able to suck it up. I guess different people handle different levels of stress. I thought my tolerance level was higher, but it seems I am wrong. However, stuff that was huge to me before is practically nothing now. It amazes me to think I got so worked up over so little not that long ago.

I can only hope that means that what I am anxious about today is going to feel very small to me in the near future. I do realize that that could be the case in two ways: either my future problems will be that much bigger (like now versus three years ago) or the problems will be resolved and I will realize how trifling they were in the scheme of things. Let’s pray it’s the latter.

One reason I have been away from here is that I started journaling. Something about handwriting out all of your feelings, fears, and doubts is cathartic. It may not be as quick as typing but you can’t beat the tactile feel of a pencil scraping across paper. I love to make marks with my hands, no matter the medium. And I love to make words. What better way to combine those loves than with a journal?

You should be glad I am writing in that book. Along with the busyness increase there has been a flare up of the old anxiety. Not the particular anxieties of money and weariness, no, the general anxiety that speaks some pretty awful things into my brain. I get those out on that paper. There was a time when I thought “hey, I’ll be real on my blog”, but those days are gone, or at least put away for a bit until I can get a lid on this nonsense.

There is a plan now, and contingencies. It’s not all bad. There is dim light at the end of the tunnel.

I just don’t know how long that tunnel will be….

Dailyish Thoughts #92

I have missed art. Running myself ragged everyday has left little time to sit still and focus on capturing an image with paint or pencil. Writing posts is nothing like sitting still for awhile and just focusing on an object and studying it’s lines and shapes and trying to interpret them onto paper.

We learned about driver fatigue today in bus training. I have spent so much of my recent life fatigued and I didn’t even realize it. Every symptom of fatigue they described was something I have felt on a daily basis for years. Long term fatigue is dangerous to physical and mental health. Sometimes you just have to shut down your life and take a nap. Don’t be afraid that life is going to pass you by while you sleep, it will be much easier to keep up with if you are rested.

So this weekend is a break for me, at least from the stress of trying to make money. I need to catch up on the house and yard work I have been avoiding.

Eek, there is so much!

Oh, and while I have your attention, please check out this GoFundMe from a Facebook acquaintance and consider giving:

https://www.gofundme.com/u7wjs-adoption-of-run-lin

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Dailyish Thoughts #88

They say when it rains it pours. For once I would like both of my cars to be operating correctly at the same time. They have gotten to the point where maintenance is more than just changing the oil. Now it’s brake pads and rotors and calipers and sensors and filters and pumps and belts and radiators and alternators… All while the rest of the bills are still begging to be paid.

Life hasn’t gone as smoothly as I hoped it would. As a natural pessimist who has been working on his positivity recent predicaments haven’t exactly helped boost confidence. It’s practically impossible to be an optimist when nothing you work on seems to turn out right.

I know this isn’t a happy post. Blog posts are supposed to be uplifting and make the reader feel better about life. Well. I’m a realist. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes I have horrible days. I don’t want my site to be nothing but sunshine and roses because that’s fake. I don’t like lying to people, when things are good they are good, when they are bad they are bad.

Today wasn’t all bad. The kids had a ton of fun harvesting candy from the local neighborhood. For the first in a long time I was able to smile genuinely at their happiness. Seeing them happy and excited makes me genuinely happy.

Hansel (he’s so hot right now), the youngest Gryffindor student, and a punk faerie.

Perhaps tomorrow will go better, Lord willing.

If you like my blogs/paintings/photography, please like and follow me!

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Many of my images are available as prints on my Artpal page