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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Suicide, Mercy, and Redemption

Tonight I read a post over at Abbey Roads and in reflection, have decided maybe it's time to tell a particular story. I have told few people about this because what happened to me may seem a bit unbelievable...yet I am here today to give witness to the Glory of God. That must be worth something to someone, else I would not still be alive.

When I was a teenager, life was rough. Not the typical teenage angst all the rags try to capitalize upon, but something deeper and more sinister. My father was an alcoholic and as such, my parents divorced when I was 8. Around that same time, my Mom was diagnosed as a "Manic-Depressive", in currant parlance: Bipolar. As the years went on, her disease grew worse.

And as the years went on, I became a teenager, which is difficult in and of itself. Life was made more difficult by the fact that my father, whenever I went to visit him spent the time drinking in the bathroom, and my mother was becoming more unpredicable and irrational by the day. I realized the only control I had in my life was through school, so I focused on what I had to do, got involved in after-school activities not so much for the activity itself, but as an escape. Any reason not to have to go home.

Then things took a turn for the worse. A girl in my 8th grade class, a girl I had known a little and considered to be at least an acquaintance had a twin brother. He was killed in a tragic accident (in which he was not entirely innocent), and in her grief, the mean streak she had always had took over her entirely. I must have just passed by here at the wrong time because I became the focus of her anger. I hadn't known her well before this, but afterwards I wished I'd never met her. She became the ringleader of a clique of girls, and apparently I was their pet project.

I couldn't go anywhere without some sort of derision directed at me. They accused myself and my best friend of "lesing" together. (reference to lesbianism). This rumor spread like wildfire, as so as far as the student body had decided at the time, my friend and I were formally "lesbians". It wasn't true, but there was no escape.

I wasn't without friends, however, until one day in 8th grade. I was 14. My friends and I had a disagreement, really a minor one, and they ostracized me, too. I remember a loud verbal argument in front of the entire cafeteria during which I defended my position. Their argument was equally as loud, and we had the attention of the entire school. Great. I was actually beyond caring. I'd felt like the doormat for the entire school at the time, anyway, so this was no surprise.

I remember the "conversation" degenerating into some weird "my life is worse than your life" routine, in which I revealed that my mother was in a mental ward, and maybe I should just kill myself. My "friends" agreed.

They likely didn't realize it...but I was serious and it wasn't the first time the thought had crossed my mind. I really wanted to die, and in that moment, I realized that it was true...I really would prefer to cease to exist.

I remember, in those years, due to my mother's deep devotion to the faith, and my upbringing, and my involvement in the parish, that killing myself shouldn't be an option. I remember having learned that suicide was a mortal sin, and this is the type of sin that damns people to Hell. So I prayed through the psalms, I begged God to make my life better, to change things...yet nothing changed. It continued to go downhill. I couldn't stand being at school; I couldn't stand being at home. I had nowhere to go. I certainly wasn't going to tell the people at my church how I was feeling; not our parish priest, not any of the members of the choir, not even my best friend. No one knew my thoughts for I wrapped them deeply within a fragile outer covering. I pretended everything was peachy, but inside, I was really screaming.

Yet God seemed silent. He never answered my prayers, no matter how much I cried, no matter how many psalms I prayed. I began to question whether God was really there. How could he let me suffer like this? Why did I deserve this?

I kept hearing about "Friends of Jesus", but I didn't see anywhere in my life where Jesus was a "friend" of any sort. He was ignoring me, too. So I thought.

In school, in health class, in an effort to combat teenage suicides, all the health classes included an entire chapter to the subject. I studied hard, got wonderful grades...and realized that this was a a blueprint. I knew that I had to avoid all of those signs. It was imperative that no one know what I was thinking. I also knew that I had to avoid the "call for help" behavior of an almost-suicide.

Slowly I formulated my plan. I didn't like pain, and I didn't want to leave a mess. So my best option was drugs. That way, I could just go to sleep and die, and by the time I was found, it would be too late. No such thing as a way out.

Remember that my mother was bipolar. She had lots of drugs around, and through her constantly talking about them and their side effects, I learned a great deal. I also knew when she took them, how many, and when they were replaced. So I waited for her to get her refills, take her meds, and go into the kitchen.

This was the night. I had pretended to go to bed early, but had only been waiting for Mom to take her meds and get involved in her evening reading.

I'd been praying all along, so even though, at that point, I really didn't believe in God anymore, I decided to give Him one more chance before I put my plan into action. I'd give him a few minutes, and if no response, I was going to pad into the bathroom, open the cabinet, take the necessary drugs, and proceed to polish them off with the large bottle of water near my bed.

I rememeber sitting up in bed, leaning on my right elbow. In a whisper, I addressed God; I gave him an ultimatum: either save me or I will be damned by His choice, not my own. I remember looking at the clock, and I remember crying. I remember saying to God, audibly in my angry whisper that I was already in Hell; why worry about an eternity of it. Clearly He didn't care about me as I had continued to descend, thus maybe Hell didn't really exist. It had failed to continue as a deterrant of any sort, thus God must also not exist. I stated very clearly that I no longer believed in Him, so if I was wrong, and He did exist, now was the time to show himself.

I was actually shaking my left fist in the air, pointing up towards the general direction of the ceiling in my tirade, ready to throw back the covers and get the life-ending drugs.

That's when God really intervened.

Suddenly there was a very bright, intense, blue-white light appearing where the ceiling had been. A huge hand and arm reached down out of the light towards my upraised hand. I was transfixed by the vision as the hand touched mine...and it all disappeared.

I lowered my hand, shaken. I was in the same position I had been lying in, propped on my right elbow. I wondered if maybe I had fallen asleep and dreamed, but when I looked at the digital clock, I saw that only one minute had transpired since I had last glanced at the time.

A sense of peace enveloped me, and I no longer had even a shred of anger within me. It was gone. I no longer wanted to die, and somehow, my belief in God had been restored. I realized it was God's very hand that had touched me and all the pain had been removed. My heart was no longer broken; my soul no longer cried out for mercy. Death was no longer an answer to anything.

And I knew that I'd had a glimpse of Heaven. I knew that God was there, he'd heard every single prayer, and he'd been with me every step of the way.

I will never be able to answer as to why God didn't respond when I prayed, or why He answered so directly in my last moments, when I challenged Him. It went against everything I'd ever believed about the nature of God...one does not tempt God, one does not give God ultimatums.

I've learned throughout life, however, that God often answers in what we think are the last moments, when we have all but given up. I HAD given up...and that's when God chose to reach out in His glory.

I'll never know why He saved me, and not others I've known. It certainly had nothing to do with faith...I expressed the last shred in my final tirade...which turned out not to be final.

You may read this with disbelief. A vision? Riiight. I understand your feelings. You can try to explain it as a dream, but what of the time? The clock had only registered 1 minute...not 20, or 30, or an hour. I've never hit REM sleep so quickly...have you? I don't now, nor have I ever had sleep apnea.

And the proof is in the pudding. I have worked with suicidal teenagers since that time, and a few years later, my Mom attempted suicide, via a similar method. Never have I seen anyone go from a true desire to end their life to...the erasure of that desire. Never have I seen anyone healed so quickly, although I have seen evidence of answered prayers. But the issue of suicide has never been resolved without lengthy treatment, counseling, etc., along with God's grace.

God's grace was enough for me...He responded to my desperation so that I can be here today to testify to His Glory. The Lord healed me with a touch.

I do not deserve such a grace, but every day I get up, I thank God for another chance to see the sunrise. Another chance to praise Him.

I have never since considered taking my own life. There have been great difficulties in my life, yet death was never the answer. I've heard the evil one whisper such nothings in my ears...yet that moment of salvation is forever etched into my mind. It doesn't take long to banish the demon suicide from my presence.

Suicide is a tough issue, and from what I have seen through others, and experienced in my own life, those who contemplate it are not in their right minds.

Curt Jester has a great post on mortal sin today, and I think that it's a great way of clarify what the Church teaches on this subject.

Most suicidal people are not seeing the world from the right perspective; something is off in their lives, or in the chemicals in their brains. In any case, without a sound mind, they cannot make sound choices. They may think (as I did) that their choices are willful, however, they are not. I remember knowing and understanding that suicide is a mortal sin, results in damnation to Hell as, if one does not repent of the sin they are condemned. Self-murder leaves no opportunity for Reconciliation or repentance.

Yet keep in mind, always, with regard to someone who takes their own life; they are NOT in their right minds, no matter what they tell you. People hide their diseases, they hide their thought processes, and while they may seem "normal", often there are things going on that are impossible for the average person to discern.

The Church does not automatically assume those who committed suicide are in Hell, and in fact, we are encouraged to pray for them. Do not lose hope; God does not let His little ones go so easily.

I will never be able to explain what happened to me, why God chose to reach out to me in a physical manifestation, while others seem to be "lost"; this is a great mystery. But I have learned that life is a gift, it MUST be respected at all costs...and God hears ALL of our prayers, even when He seems to be silent.

Tonight, please say a Divine Mercy chaplet for those who think suicide is their own option, that the Lord may heal their pain and know that His hand is always there.

15 comments:

Ray from MN said...

I believe you, Adoro.

Slowly over the years, I have come to realize that God does communicate with me. I have not had dramatic communications such as you described, but now that I am listening and watching for them, I do hear and see God's communications.

I just need to obey more often.

"Be Still and Know that I am God"
Psalm 46:10

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: I'm beginning to believe that you are a Mystic.

Adoro Te Devote said...

Ray, God does indeed communicate with us...all the time. He's just not usually so obvious. I've often had prayers answered by people I've run into shortly after speaking with the Lord about a certain concern.

Cathy- Huh!?

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: I'm certainly not qualified to give you the official title of mystic (St. Teresa of Avila was one) but I meant that you certainly have a lot of "mystical" experiences.

Jennifer F. said...

WOW, just...wow. You are such an inspiration.

Adoro Te Devote said...

Cathy...I wouldn't say it makes me a mystic, really. I'd even say that this incident when I was 14 was the only really over the top thing that has ever happened to me, and I doubt I'll ever have another experience like that ever again. Overall, I think that God has just been so good to me, and he really does this stuff for everyone...we just don't always recognize His hand in things. I have a theory now...maybe when I recognize that God has done something, it's only because my Guardian Angel hit me with a 2x4 and says, "Dummy! That's God! Pay attention!" :-)

Jennifer F- no, no...God is the inspiration. I'm just His daughter, as are you. And for yourself...you're a greater inspiration than most people I know!

SteveG said...

Adore:
You are so brave to share this. Thank You so much!

I will pray as you have requested for those who think suicide is the only way.

God Bless you.

RobK said...

Thank you, Adoro. You have experiences that are very much worth sharing. They can inspire others.

As to what happens to someone who committs suicide - I beleive it is best to trust in God's mercy. We humans cannot read the hearts of our brothers and sisters, and are not in a place to judge.

Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

Thank you for sharing your very moving account. I cried reading it and am still crying as I write this comment.
My life as a teenager was rough too, though for different reasons. My father had died when I was 8 and my mother died when I was 15. Fortunately I never had bullying at school added to the mix. And I can identify entirely with what you are saying about screaming out to God for help and finding him silent. I have trouble believing. I still have trouble believing 35 years on. It is hard to get past what seemed like silence in a desperate time.
I was never suicidal - but I certainly hid a lot of thoughts behind a wall. On the surface I appeared to be happy. When I finished at Teacher's College we had a magazine and the song assigned to me was "sunshine on my Shoulder". I certainly wasn't sunny on the inside: I was feeling very lost.
I had counselling when I was 30. Finally it became apparent to me that I had a pattern of becoming depressed at having to say "Goodbye" to someone who was moving. I finally had grief counselling to say Goodbye to my father.

Anonymous said...

So much of your story could be my own...

My father was an alcoholic, my mother bipolar. The difference was that they never divorced ("because we are Catholic") and used each other as an excuse. It was horrible, and I OFTEN considered suicide.

While I didn't have the same mystical experience as you, I would say that it was the hand of God that finally stopped me.

I went to confession one afternoon at school and was fully planning on going home and commiting suicide.

I have no idea why I thought I should go to confession first... I NEVER went to confession but something made me take that step.

I went to a priest at my Catholic school who I had never really dealt with, but he was wonderful in confession. As I left the priest asked me to come by his office the next morning because he needed me to help him with something. I tried to refuse, and I tried to say I was busy and couldn't do it.

For some reason the priest stopped me and looked me in the eyes and said "I need YOU to help us with this, I can count on you to be here tomorrow right?"

For whatever reason that priest telling me that I was needed in some way was a major turning point.

While I am sure the priest didn't know what I planned that afternoon, but he did save my life. So while I had no major mystic moment... a priest was there for me and I would say that he was acting for God.

melanie b said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful experience of God's wonderful mercy.

As soon as I read your plea, I was moved to say the Divine Mercy chaplet.

I pray that God will use your story to help many people who are suffering as you were.

Adoro Te Devote said...

Kiwi Nomad ~ Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your story. I know how hard it is to sometimes believe that God is there, but believe me...He is, He knows you, and He loves you very much. I don't always feel God's presence, he doesn't just drop an anvil on me every time I need something, and curiously, whenver I try to meditate on the Trinity I come very close to not believing at all! You are not alone. Understand that God asks us to trust Him...even when He is silent. Sometimes when He is silent it is because He is so close to us that we can't hear him in the cacaphony of our lives. God bless you, and take courage!

Adoro Te Devote said...

anonymous ~ You are so blessed, and God did indeed intervene in your life! You say that you don't think that the priest knew what you were planning, yet it's all over your description...he DID know! I have met priests with the ability to read hearts in confession, and based upon what you have said, this was one of those very priests! You are so incredibly blessed! And I thank God that you are still here today to share that story. Thank you!

Terry Nelson said...

Adoro - Thanks so much for posting this! Your vision was indeed a special grace - your living to tell about it even more so.

Your posts are very valuable for people.

Ephrem said...

Thank you, that was so beautiful. I'm glad that the Lord helped you.