My Journey Through Darkness

image via Google Images (health.howstuffworks.com)

After I was baptized at age nine, my life didn’t magically get better.  In fact, it didn’t change much at all from the outside.  I withdrew further into myself, and into dream worlds that were much kinder than reality.  In the early eighties, the small town we lived in had some hard times and my dad lost his job.  Luckily, he was handy, so he found work – even if it wasn’t work he enjoyed.

Months later, he found a job that required us to move to a town that was two-and-a-half hours away.  I cried because my grandparents wouldn’t live down the street from me anymore, but I wanted to go.

In December, I started school in the new town and was crushed to discover that those kids were just as mean.  I accepted that it was my fault because I couldn’t convince myself that everyone else had a problem.  I did make one friend – Anne.  She moved out-of-state less than a month later, and I was alone again.

My parents found a church, but like the last one, they weren’t regular attenders.  I didn’t like the new church; it just wasn’t the same without my grandparents.  I missed waiting in the car with my grandpa while my grandma chatted with other church ladies for what seemed like an hour.  It helped that we made regular visits to see my grandparents, but it didn’t match eating snacks at their house every day after school.  Though I always looked forward to visits, the miles between us did put some distance in the relationship.

The next year, I started sixth grade in another school across town.  I was still awkward and shy, but the kids were nicer.  Then, during my three years in junior high, I made a few more friends.  I wasn’t popular by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn’t care because the popular people weren’t on a mission to make my life miserable.  Sure, some still called me “nerd” and “geek” but that was nothing compared to what people said to me in the last town.  In fact, a few popular kids would even talk to me as long as their friends weren’t around.  I was too grateful to realize that I should’ve been insulted 🙂

The town only had one high school, so I carried a sense of dread my entire last year of junior high.  I worried that the mean kids from fifth grade would turn my friends against me.  I was scared, desperate, and didn’t want to be lonely again.  No, I resolved to not let that happen.  My teenage mind could think of only one way out.

I had a plan.  That is, until a strange conversation with my grandma during one of our weekend visits.  While working on posters for her Sunday School class, just like we had done when I was younger, she started talking about God’s view of suicide.  I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I do recall that I was freaked out because it seemed like she knew what I’d been planning. 

I remember asking her one question:  “If you commit suicide, do you go to heaven?”  I also recall her answer:  “No.”  During this conversation, we continued working on the lesson without making eye contact.  She only talked in general terms and never made me the subject.  She must have known it would’ve put me on the defensive; after all, fifteen-year-old girls aren’t the most stable creatures under the best of circumstances.

Growing up in a Baptist church, I heard plenty about the other place and “eternal damnation”- and I knew I didn’t want to go there.  I doubted the plan that I had been so sure about, so I did nothing.  God came through with more blessings:  my dad lost his job in the small town, but they lined up a transfer to Arizona.  My dad still had a job with the company and I got a shot at a new beginning.

So far, this has been the lowest point of my life.  I am ashamed that I would have considered taking my own life.  My grandma made it clear that she viewed it as a cowardly, selfish act.  By virtue of my willingness to succumb to it, I became those things. 

Although I detest this weakness, I remember it often – not to torture myself, but to make me stronger.  I do have days where I’m not happy, but I make an effort to look up to the light instead of focusing on the depths of darkness because I know what it feels like to be pinned down and smothered by hopelessness.  I will not go back.  I have faith that God won’t let me go back.

I’ll never know for sure what prompted my grandma to start that conversation – but I know in my heart that it was God.

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28 thoughts on “My Journey Through Darkness

  1. Carol Ann Hoel January 30, 2011 / 4:42 AM

    What a sweet post. I believe that forever is forever, that Jesus cleanses us and seals us forever when we believe in him. I don’t think he would send his child to an eternal damnation for any sin, because He already paid the price. Someone that feels hopeless and commits that sin loses much of the beautiful plan God has in store. We need to pull up close to Jesus, and He will pull us closer to Him. This is what you did, and you survived, and here you are, blessing others with your words. I, too, think your grandmother had some insight into your mindset back then. She wanted to discourage you from such thoughts and she did. Blessings to you, Janna…

    • jannatwrites January 30, 2011 / 11:12 AM

      Thanks, Carol. I’d like to think we wouldn’t be sentenced to eternal damnation, either. I’m not sure what plan God has in store, but I’m working to keep my senses open so I can feel whatever path I’m supposed to take.

  2. 2blu2btru January 30, 2011 / 7:13 AM

    I’ve head plenty of conversations, and sat through many sermons, where I’ve felt the message was directed at me personally. I know it is because it’s what I’ve been praying about or what I’ve been struggling with. When I’m struggling with something and ask God for help, I often get calls from church people or relatives who were “just thinking of me” or “had [me] on their hearts.” It’s amazing how God uses people in our lives to exhort and strengthen us.

    Great post, Janna!

    • jannatwrites January 30, 2011 / 11:14 AM

      I’ve had many such conversations, 2blu2btru. It is really amazing when you think about it. I’m glad you liked the post and I’m glad He makes us strong 🙂

  3. Aligaeta January 30, 2011 / 7:18 AM

    Excellent title; I am so glad you made it through and into the light and that I have found you for this length of our journey. I identify with your sense of misery and hopelessness, the bond with your grandmother, and the gift to hear His message.

    • jannatwrites January 30, 2011 / 11:16 AM

      I’m glad the title fit. I changed it several times before posting. (Right along with the several times I considered not posting it at all.) I’ve read several of your posts where I can feel your sadness, so I have no doubt you can relate 🙂 It’s a good thing those periods don’t last forever.

  4. nrhatch January 30, 2011 / 8:16 AM

    Janna ~

    Suicides are tragic, but they are also to be expected in a society that virtually mandates that we look to others to determine our self worth. We are trained to measure our value as human beings by (1) what we have; (2) what we do; and (3) what others think of us.

    When we accept ourselves “as is,” we are more able to shrug off the irrelevant opinions of others.

    If you’re interested:
    https://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/suicide-for-all-the-wrong-reasons/

    Peace.

    • jannatwrites January 30, 2011 / 11:22 AM

      Nancy, I remember reading that post several months ago. The main problem with me in that time was that I didn’t like myself at all. I’m not sure if different external factors would have impacted that or not. At any rate, this was a huge learning period for me and allowed me to begin a new life of sorts – one where I firmly believe I won’t visit that darkness again.

      Peace. Yes, I like that 🙂

  5. Jguno January 30, 2011 / 9:08 AM

    I’ve never considered suicide in my life, but I have a dark age when I was young (but only about 4 years ago), while I was having a millitary service…… Anyway, getting through that tough experience make people more stronger and I think it’s the mission all the people should take at least once in their own life. How you getting through those, decides what you are. Fortunately, God let us get something from them, mostly.

    • jannatwrites January 30, 2011 / 11:25 AM

      I’m glad you haven’t considered that because it really is a weak way out. I think everyone has some sort of tumoil in their teens/early twenties. The strong and the faithful just navigate through it better. I can understand how military service would make the time even darker – especially if that sort of occupation isn’t suited to your personality.

      It’s good that you’re through it and can now share your posts about life in South Korea. I am enjoying the reading 🙂

  6. duke1959 January 30, 2011 / 1:34 PM

    The issue of suicide is a complicated one in regards to what the Bible says. Its not as clear cut as many believe. As someone who has fought depression for years I have wrote about it some. http://duke1959.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/fallsunshine-and-suicide/
    http://duke1959.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/is-suicide-a-sin/

    This stuff about its the cowards way out is nonsense. Its also nonsense when people tell others they are going to kill themselves. Not there not. Its not about wanting to dye its about wanting the pain to stop. Its a pain that unless you have truly been there you will never understand.

    • jannatwrites January 30, 2011 / 2:26 PM

      I read the posts you linked to, Duke. The pain of your struggle comes out clearly in your words. You revealed that you are somone who “has fought depression for years”. So, you are fighting it. If you commit suicide, you aren’t fighting anymore – you give up the fight. In my opinion, it would’ve been easier to give up and end the pain than to keep fighting – that’s why I called my thoughts a weakness. Of course, I can’t say the same about yours or anyone else’s struggles.

      Chronic physical pain (like your shoulder pain) adds a whole other layer to the psychological aspect that I cannot relate too, and I think it makes your journey more difficult. I had it easy in that my pain was only emotional.

      I do agree that when someone talks to others about doing it, it’s often a cry for help. It doesn’t mean they won’t do it, but it’s like giving the world one more chance to care – or not.

      Keep fighting.

      • duke1959 January 30, 2011 / 7:52 PM

        I’ve been fighting it at least 30 years . I also hurt my back in 1993. This goes back long before that. I am blessed that 15 years ago God brought someone into my life that is a saint. ( we need to keep that between us. her ego is big enough!). I will tell her when things are getting scary. I never thought I would live to be 51. I’ve been thinking of a major writing project to do. It very well may be this topic. Does it get emotionally tiring to fight it. Sure. There are very few in my life who know what a struggle it is each day. It is also important to make the difference clear. We all do dumb things and think to ourselves ‘I wish I was dead”. That is different from fighting suicidal thoughts.

        • jannatwrites January 30, 2011 / 8:35 PM

          That’s a long fight, Duke. I’m glad you have your wife to lean on – she sounds like a wonderful lady! You are doing your part by letting her know your thoughts so she can support you.

          I completely agree with your distinction; suicidal thoughts are much more serious than the passing idea.

          I think this topic would be a great writing project for you to do. I imagine you could write a compelling piece that would open some eyes to the subject. Are you thinking of non-fiction or fiction? Would you write a book or something shorter?

  7. clarbojahn January 30, 2011 / 2:33 PM

    You don’t get to be my age without going through the dark night of the soul once or several times. I have several times. I like your title. I also don’t think suicide is a sin. However I do think our life is God’s gift to us. I don’t believe in sin only mistakes. I am glad for your journey for it is one way to bring us closer to God.

    • jannatwrites January 30, 2011 / 6:45 PM

      Thanks for the reminder, Clar – I’m sure there will be more dark hours in my life, but I do hope that age and maturity will help me cope 🙂

  8. widdershins January 30, 2011 / 2:45 PM

    The solution to contemplating suicide isn’t as simple as ‘don’t do it or you’ll go to hell’. There are far too many variables in the human experience for such a proscriptive and ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer.
    One option is the ‘it gets better’ option that so many wonderful people have contributed to as a response to the wave of gay teenage suicides recently. The message of not just for young gays, but for anyone contemplating ending their life. Here’s a link. Check it out, watch the videos and see what you think.

    Imagine if that fifteen year old had access to something like this…

    http://www.itgetsbetter.org

    P.S. I’m glad your grandma was a smart old cookie!

    • jannatwrites January 30, 2011 / 6:53 PM

      I agree that the issue is complex and there isn’t a ‘right’ answer. The ‘it gets better’ website is an interesting idea, and I hope the videos posted do provide support to anyone who may be contemplating. I’ve heard stories on the news about how people have used the internet to ruin someone else’s life – I do like the idea of it being used for the positive.

      Thanks for your comment and sharing the link.

  9. pattyabr January 30, 2011 / 3:22 PM

    I contemplated suicide as an adolescent. I threw away all the journaling I did at that time. I needed help and my parents didn’t know how to get me help. My son attempted suicide and we got him help. He still struggles with depression but is not suicidal, he is just angry. His depression brought back my despair again. I am grieving the dreams I had for my son. I am grieving the dreams my son had for himself. But he is about to graduate from college and has so much to look forward to. I think the thing that help me was I kept looking forward knowing that something better was out there.

    • jannatwrites January 30, 2011 / 7:18 PM

      You have certainly been through a lot. I admire your strength in being able to handle so much sadness. I am glad your son survived and I do hope he is able to calm the anger and realize the dreams he had. He is still young and has so much opportunity ahead of him.

      I hope you are able to continue looking forward to better times and that your grieving process will leave you with some peace and acceptance of his changed life. Thank you for sharing your painful experiences. I wish you much (well-deserved) happiness in the future.

  10. Hilary Clark January 31, 2011 / 8:56 AM

    I too contemplated suicide as a teenager. I’d spent my grammar school years ostracized and isolated, through, I believe, no fault of my own. I was a painfully shy, short, glasses wearing brainiac. Not a good combination when children are inclined to be cruel.

    I went into high school determined to change things and make real friends. I got rid of the glasses and somehow broke through some of the shyness. Not much I could do about “short” and “brainiac”, though.

    It worked…for a while. And then it didn’t. So I thought about suicide because I just didn’t see how I could cope in isolation again. I eventually talked myself out of it because I was too chicken to try any of the various methods.

    I look back at that time to remind myself that God will not give me more than I can handle.

    I’m glad you chose to live. And I’m glad I did too.

    • jannatwrites January 31, 2011 / 4:21 PM

      Your physical description of yourself sounds a lot like me, only I was taller and scrawny with freakishly long arms. Too bad we didn’t go to school together – we could’ve been friends!

      I agree with your sentiment that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. I am also glad that we both chose to live. There are bad times, but it’s not all that bad 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your story, Hilary. I’m surprised at how many similarities there are between our childhoods.

  11. SAS Fiction Girl January 31, 2011 / 5:40 PM

    Janna, I think if we’d gone to school together, we would have been kindred spirits. School was a misery for me from kindergarten through graduation. I never did have any breakthroughs. And, actually, I was so into myself and trying to figure out why everyone hated me and what I could do about it, that I couldn’t be bothered to befriend other people who were similarly trod upon. I was afraid their “uncoolness” would drag me down. I still have guilt over that.
    I am a believer in homeschooling for the socially ungifted, rather than forcing those kids (like me) to grow up hating themselves based on other people’s assessment of them. There’s a reason those are called the formative years – we are forming lasting impressions of who we are and – like it or not – a lot of that opinion comes from the treatment we receive from our peers.
    I could write a book about school and the thoughts that ran through my mind at that time, as well as certain revelations I’ve had since then. It’s just really hard to admit to having had serious thoughts of violence, which is why I’m guessing it was huge for you to write this particular post.
    Even though I don’t “know you” know you, I’m pretty sure the world is better off with you than without you, so I’m glad Divine Providence intervened in your plans, in the form of your grandma. – Jen

    • jannatwrites January 31, 2011 / 8:17 PM

      I’m sorry your childhood was miserable. I have to admit that there was a time when I tried to fit in and joined in making fun of someone else. The thing is, it made me feel worse. (And, of course it backfired on me because I didn’t fit in and I hurt someone else’s feelings – which didn’t do much for my opinion of myself.) I never understood why I did that when I knew what it felt like.

      You are right about this post – I was scared to put it out there. I didn’t know if people would think I was a freak. I imagined people never coming back to my blog after reading it (I know, ultra-dramatic.) I decided I had to post it because it impacted me and if others didn’t want to come back because of it, then that’s how it would have to be. So far, I don’t think I’ve scared too many people away.

      Your words are so kind, Jen. Thank you 🙂 I’m glad you found your way in the world. I wonder if writing that book could be a healing process?

  12. Tim Weaver January 31, 2011 / 10:47 PM

    It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that nearly every teen has considered suicide to some degree or another…just that nobody talks about it since, for most, it’s as likely a fleeting thought as anything.

    I have pretty harsh views of suicide…both pro and con. Let’s just say that I don’t think it’s the solution that those who do it believe it is, esp for those left behind and those who find them.

    Since this is a family blog, I’ll end my comments there…Janna knows how impolitic I can be. 🙂

    • jannatwrites January 31, 2011 / 11:00 PM

      Thanks for keeping it family-friendly, Tim. I’m sure you could’ve added more 🙂

      My thoughts were certainly more than fleeting. It was pretty much all I thought about. Research was harder in those days, though (without the internet)…

      • Tim Weaver February 1, 2011 / 10:17 AM

        My point wasn’t that you weren’t serious, but that people seem to think that a teen’s thoughts on suicide are unusual. I suspect most of them consider it…some more seriously than others. Some who act, some who succeed.

        • jannatwrites February 1, 2011 / 3:40 PM

          I don’t know how common the thoughts are, to be honest. I don’t think it’s pervasive enough to be called usual, though…

          I do agree that the thoughts do vary in severity.

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