This week marks five years since I nearly died by suicide.
The truth is, I’m not alone. This year, approximately 44,000 Americans will believe they have reached the end of their rope, and die by suicide. And for each person who dies, another twenty-five will attempt.
You might think my story is a bit rare because I had a family. I had been married five years when I tried to die. But there are lots of married people who die by suicide. Maybe it’s the fact that my little boy would turn a year old the very next day. And yet, there are plenty of parents who end their lives.
The thing most people find rare about my story is that I was a pastor on September 21, 2012. I had lost all hope and tried to hang myself in a hotel bathroom that night. When that failed, I crushed the contents of bottle after bottle of medication and drank to my death.
When Your Brain Breaks
I was raised in the church. I served on youth leadership. I traveled with the Gospel choir in college. My feet had touched the soil of three foreign countries, preaching and spreading the hope of Jesus. I had two years of ministry school under my belt. I was passionate about the unconditional love of God, but I was just as determined to end my secret suffering.
I was a pastor and a lifelong Christian. I loved Jesus with all my heart. And I adored my family. I just despised myself. I was desperate to find peace, no matter the cost.
I didn’t know about counseling or therapy. I didn’t know I had permission to tell my truth. I lacked the confidence that God would meet me in the darkness. I was exhausted from a life filled with shame, and a fear-based religion that left me shakily scared of appearing less-than-perfect.
My desperation was partly rooted in the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. I was also horrified at the thought of anyone discovering my twenty-year pornography addiction. And then I lost my job. That was the straw that nearly crushed me. Shame told me I was nothing more than the sum of all my unfortunate mistakes.
I knew people who had worked through unthinkable trauma. I had seen how Jesus could heal addiction. Those stories made the most inspiring testimonies during a Sunday morning service. But I had never heard a Christian (must less a pastor) stand up and tell the truth about their broken brain.