Friday, September 14, 2007

Rest in the Arms of Jesus, Lovie.

Tonight I went to a funeral of one of the brightest, kindest, most extraordinary young men I've ever known. He came from a family who loved and doted on him, had a lovely, intelligent, fiercely gifted girlfriend and at the age of twenty-one, a bright future ahead of him. I spent the day with him at his family's place a few months ago, just after his birthday. Usually, I can spot the broken ones. I missed it this time.

The news of his death came in bursts. We found out he was gone, and Ken and I cried together, devastated, and broken hearted for what his family had to endure. We puzzled over why they said they had no details, and we waited--not particularly patiently--for news. You want to blame someone, something when a young person dies. You want a place to place your bewilderment and rage. We speculated about hidden heart disease, foul play, and for just a moment, the thought that maybe he took his own life.

Nah. Not him. He was full of life! Overflowing with it. This young man said everyday, "This is the best day EVER! And he made you believe it. His smile made it all so real.

But to our horror, we learned he did take his life, and the news magnified our grief. We asked ourselves the questions one asks in this situation. Why didn't I see how much he hurt? Why didn't I tell him my story? Maybe I could have help him. Turns out he was bipolar, and on a medication that apparently made him worse. My near fatal run with Cymbalta had me bottomed out in a matter of weeks and reduced to a crying, suicidal mess, but I'd been in the dark before. Spent a long time there. I'd trained myself over the years not to do myself any harm. I can remember nights when I'd hold my arms and rock in bed, knowing if I let my hands free I'd hurt myself. And I stayed that way until it passed and blessed sleep or a new morning came and I could face the day again. But I remember that the night seemed endless, and death a welcome friend.

I guess he welcomed death. He chose to end his suffering, and for the first time in my life, I have mixed feelings about his final act. I feel compassion for him. Maybe he thinks what he did was the bravest thing. I don't think he knew how deeply it would cut into the souls of those he left behind. I know when I was there, in that thick, weighty darkness, I couldn't see past the pain RIGHT NOW. I learned to get past that in time, with grace, work, and a lot of people who loved me rooting for me and telling me they'd kill me if I killed myself. Who am I to judge him because he simply couldn't go on anymore? Oh, but I wish he had gone on, because whatever he felt would have passed. I'm certain of it.

Lord, have mercy.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not about to join the assisted suicide bandwagon. I'm simply saying I feel compassion for him. But having survived three suicide attempts myself, I wish at least I could have had a conversation with him about these matters. My last attempt was in 1996. It was me who became my hero, and I called an ambulance after I took an overdose of pills, maybe in the nick of time. What I didn't know on that terribly sad day when I turned my bipolar rage on myself was that if I only held on, I'd get past that day. Sure, I'd have more bad days, but I'd also have good days. Sometimes I'd have great days, and a few would be so filled with grace and utter fabulousness that I'll bet the angels got a little jealous. I realized how fortunate I was for hanging on until my change came one day when I was holding Nia Grace when she was a baby. I would have never had the joy of being with her had I taken my life. And I just cried, right then and there at the thought of such astounding mercy, so grateful to God who was more persistent in saving me, than I was in trying to off myself.

And there were other joys. I lived in relative isolation in those days. Now I have friends--true friends, all over the world. My dream of being a writer has come true in a big way, even though at times it was a rough road, and I was bitterly, painfully disappointed. I don't think I'll ever forget holding that book in my hands. I cried and prayed and cried. I made it to that day of triumph because I lived.

If I had killed myself, I would not have met so many men and women who mean the world to me. Their friendships alone make me a wealthy woman. And that's just the few I'm thinking of at the moment, but there are so many of you that I have to say, surely I am blessed among women. Surely. Truly. Magnificently deeply.

Everyday I have to give over some suffering to Jesus. There isn't a pain medicine I've found that has really given more than it's taken from me. I know what it is to live with crippling emotional pain, and devastating physical pain, and both of these I give as an offering. It ain't easy, but I'm learning that you can live through suffering. I've spent the last three days in bed, sleeping, waiting, hurting, but I got up again. Gave the suffering to God, took a little rest. Got up again.

And that is just plain grace. Amazing grace.

Not much more to say tonight. We've cried till we were spent. I just want to end with saying I truly believe he found his rest. I believe in the mercy of God. I believe God knows bipolar people are literally out of their minds sometimes, and bad decisions get made. I believe he is with God and now knows there would have been wondrous days ahead had he held on. And finally, I believe that despite the pain of this past week's events, He is in Jesus' embrace, and that this is truly his best day EVER. And that is a mercy.

I believe it. I believe God's love is greater than our pain. His mercy endures forever.

Rest well, sweet prince.



laundrygirl said...

I don't know what to say other than thank you for sharing this. I am sitting here wiping away tears as old memories flash in my mind of calling the ambulance on my sister one a day when she did not think she could take being here another day. I understand more about bipolar than I would have ever wanted to know. And even as you speak, I realize that this is a dark time of year for you so knowing that you have the awareness that tomorrow is a new day makes me relieved and swells me up with a gratefulness for God being so very present in your life. ( I don't know if any of this makes sense...)

Peace be with you my sweet friend.

ragamuffin diva said...

It totally makes sense, K. I feel the same jumble of emotions. It was so sobering, seeing that beautiful young man in a casket, watching his best friends grieve this shocking loss. It certainly made me want to work harder to keep my head above water this winter, but mostly, it made me grateful for all the graces I've already received. It scared me, too. I can't lie and say it didn't. I'd like to think that if it gets rough I'll remember God's light is greater than the darkness, but in the darkness it's hard to see ANYTHING.

Let's all of us try to remember our friends who suffer from depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder. All of these maladies can have deadly consequences. I know it's only by God's grace I'm here. I have finally beat the statistic that said having had three suicide attempts I would most likely die by my own hand within ten years. And man, some of those years--those winters! I didn't think I'd beat it at all. It's the eleventh year. Adn I ain't turning back now.

But one important thing is I know I'm not alone. I'm grateful tht people like you are here, keeping the night vigil with me. Praying. Loving. Letting me know you won't readily let me go.

I'm so very grateful.

Thank you, friends. Truly.

peace, and all good, good people of God!

Wobbly Librarian said...

I pray for a time that talking about mental illness is not taboo. Bringing things out into the open so that family members can share would be so helpful. There are so many of us who struggle with depression, and who have siblings and children who share the struggles. Others are horrified and do not know how to respond.

Elysa said...

Oh, Mair. I am so very, very sorry. My heart breaks for those who loved him.

I'm also grateful right now...grateful for you and that you held on. God has used you already in so many ways in my life. Nearly every day I tell someone about something you said/wrote or as I'm reading or praying something you've helped me see will come to mind.

Keep holding on to Jesus during those dark times. We need you.

With much love,

Heather said...

thank you for sharing this. it must have been hard to write this (to live it), but i'm thankful for God's strength and grace that testifies through you.

spwriter said...

I have nothing to add except...I'm right here with you on this, C-Mair. A jumble of emotions indeed.

There still are many days when I enter that darkness. I'm praying for better night vision...for both of us.

Nedra said...

Hi, Mair, thank you for this post. Bipolar disorder and suicide attempts have touched my family, too. We have mental health issues on both sides of my family. Writing has helped me to deal with some of the issues, especially the ones with my mother, who was diagnosed as bipolar back in 1998. Mair, I am so glad you ARE here. I doubt I would have started blogging again if I hadn't connected with you. Hold on to the people you love, and let them love you. Peace and God's blessings to you, too.

wilsonian said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Mair. A little less beauty in the world today...

Lisa said...

God's plan is for abundant life and you-know-who's plan is for self-destruction in whatever form it takes. I get mad thinking about the deception that leads to the depression that leads to suicide. You're so right about waiting another day for that hope. Sometimes, even waiting another hour can save a life. Your blog is a reminder to love the teenagers in my life 'cause you don't always know who's on the brink. So sorry for this loss, and my prayers go out to you and friends and family who are grieving.

And may all of us be lovers and facilitators of the message of life!

ragamuffin diva said...

Thanks for your kind words, everyone. Once again, I'm reminded of how we need each other so very much.

We all have something of God that He reveals uniquely to us. If we are in community/communion with one another, we'll get that bit of God we wouldn't have otherwise.

Thanks for the reminder Lisa, of how the enemy is about death and the deception that leads to sucide. May we pray as Jesus instructed us to always, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Hattigrace said...

This touches me so deeply. My sister is bi-polar. She has written a book about her journey, as yet is unpublished. She, too, has tried to take her life and God's grace spared her.

I am going to share your blog with her. She will be strengthened by your story.

I am so sorry for the loss of your dear young friend. May God comfort you and his family.

You write beautifully, compelling, honest, refreshing. What a gift.

Elizabeth said...

I work at a progressive Christian radio station--and we address some tough issues with youth and young adults. I read little bit of your post on air with a song that deals with the aftermath of suicide. I hope the knowledge that your story is reaching youth who are dealing with the same issues as your friend was helps bring comfort.

God's blessings.

ragamuffin diva said...

Thanks so much, Elizabeth for sharing some of these musings with kids. Our poor lovie would have actually wanted it that way. At his school he was looking to create a non-profit organization for at-risk youth. I'm just sorry he was more at-risk himself than any of us could have imagined. His family is establishing a foundation in his name, but apparently already God is finding a way to bless others despite this terrible tragedy.

Again, thank you for sharing. I hope it helps.

ragamuffin diva said...

Sometimes, Hattiegrace, I want to write a book about my struggles with depression and bipolar disorder. There are some wonderful memoirs, one in particular by Kay Jamison. There's also an incredibly beautiful memoir of depression written by an African American woman called Willow Weep for Me. I was so inspired by her journey. I don't know why but I'm terrified of writing a book length memoir. Still trying to get the ragamuffin diva book born, though sometimes it looks like it will never happen.

I'm proud of your sister. Writing a book is a hard task and it takes dedication. I pray that she can get her story out. There are a lot of self-publishing options available now, such as print on demand. Hopes she finds a way to get her audience. I think her story is needed.

peace and grace to both of you.

Alison Strobel Morrow said...

Oh sister, I've been wondering what had happened to him...I'm so very sorry to hear it was by his own hand. Someone else I know did the same, and while the family has never come out and said that she may have been bi-polar, her sister is and it's the only thing I can think of that would have caused such a loving, loved, straight-A, successful, in-love and engaged woman to suddenly disappear one day and throw herself drunk into Lake Michigan. Tragic doesn't begin to explain it, does it? My best friend in college was bi-polar, too; I've wanted for a while to write a book about it, and eventually I'm sure I will. It's just not talked enough about--mental illness in general isn't--in Christian circles. "Pray harder" and all that *@&#.

Praying for you and the family. Love you much.

nathan Hov said...

I have experience depression to this point as well - the struggles are all to easy to hide sometimes we are told to carry on and people get wrapped up in life, I've held a knife to my wrist too many times to count and a gun to my head granted a long time ago but no one knows how others suffer. I was saved by a kind word in the right moments when I was at this point a phone call from a friend. How can you blame those who are suffering... it is sad though I understand how he has found rest - it is something you have to train your self in isn't it? The enemy wants to destroy us but grace covers. yell, scream, cry, get angry but hold on.

wilsford said...

i am sorry that your friend couldn't see far enough ahead to believe that there is life after despair.

i understand how it is that he couldn't, this time.

i am glad that i no longer struggle with bi-polar disorder (no etc, no hospital time, mo meds, no dr. visits for several years now)

i am glad that this is a place where it can be talked about.

sometimes i want to scream at people, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHO I AM but i keep quiet because i want to be allowed to laugh loudly, cry easily, tell an off-color joke, and be empathic without anyone wondering if my medication needs to be adjusted.

so, my secret is that most everyone who knows me thinks i am terrific and i don't want them to second-guess that.

survivor's guilt? sometimes.

which goes back, in a long, roundabout way, to, gosh, i am sorry. my condolences to all concerned.

healing thoughts, bright blessings to you.

ragamuffin diva said...

I'm so glad to all of you who were willing to be both vulnerable and brave enough to share your story here. Most of the bipolar people are know are bright, creative, and gregarious. Very likeable. And not run away from them crazy. I remember when I said something to someone about a reaction I had to lithium and she backed up and said, "I'm not gonna mess with anybody on lithium". Like I was an ax murderer or something. I also think there are "shadow syndromes" people who are not full blown bipolar or schizophrenic, but have just a shadow of those disorders that makes life challenging sometimes.

Most of the time I live in that shadow. Oddly, the worst "episode" I had recently was right after my car accident. My godmother swears it was post-traumatic stress syndrome, but it felt for all the world like a hypomanic episode. I couldn't tell the difference, which just goes to show you, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. A head injury shook up my brain a bit, and the consequences were pretty outrageous.

Again. We need to pray for each other. You never know what a person's story is, past, present, or future.

dany said...

Your words resinate so deep in my soul.
I'm sorry for your loss.

So happy you are here to share yourself with me (all of us).
Sending hugs and peace to you.

Joni said...

May God cradle his troubled soul...what a incredible tragedy.

Candy said...

I just checked in. I am so sorry. This is devastating. I just recently had a friend tell me he is bi-polar. He's brilliant. He's creative. He writes amazing words. I thought I knew from his own words who he is - but now I have new insight. Thank you for opening up this world a little more. I needed to hear it. And for the record, I also feel great compassion for your friend, and I agree - this is his best day ever.

Amy C. Moreno said...

I am so sorry about your friend and about what you've suffered as well. God bless you in special ways..that only HE can do. I am praying for your friend's family in their heartbreak.