I WAS A SUICIDAL CHRISTIAN
Author Nita Tarr, who has lived through kidnap, abuse, rape, murder, depression and chronic illness, tells her story in her new book “Suicidal Christians” with profound depth and insight. Her multiple suicide attempts and what triggered them, are laid bare. This is an excerpt from that book:
'Over the years, I have attempted suicide many times for many different reasons – most were after I became a Christian. Unfortunately, I cannot remember all of them, but I remember some: When I was in my early teens I took an overdose of tablets because I felt rejected, alone, misunderstood and scared. In my late teens, I was trying to get someone’s attention. While I was being abused I did it because I wanted the fear and torture to stop. When I got married, crushing disappointment combined with feelings of being trapped led to another attempt. In my thirties medication for depression, combined with booze, caused me to want to die. Then, after childbirth and having just moved to a new country, the most insidious of all the reasons: depression set in. Its grip was gradual and I did not at first recognise it for what it was, but it led me to the brink.
When I was a child, I loved comic books. I had a mountain of them - Little Dot, Archie, Dennis the Menace, to name a few. One day I overheard my mother, a teacher, explaining to someone that she was concerned that I still wasn’t reading ‘real’ books at the age of eight but that she thought comics might help. She was wise. But I thought she was crazy and that I would love them forever. But, quite gradually, something started to change. They began to lose their appeal. The pictures looked dull and the stories boring. I no longer cared about what happened to Betty or Little Dot.
This is how it felt when I got depressed: suddenly, everything changed. The things that had given me excitement and happiness before looked dull and boring now - the heaviness inside me stifled and paralysed. Whereas before, I had been able to change gear from first to second to third, now I was in neutral. It became difficult to motivate myself to get up in the morning and I slept at every opportunity.
At first I asked: “Why do I feel like this?” But gradually I began to feel nothing at all. I tried to make sense of it all by ascribing feelings to my lack of feeling, for example, if someone asked, I would say I was lonely or sad or unfulfilled. But I wasn’t. I was just feeling nothing.
Whatever happened I remained in neutral gear: If something good happened…nothing; something bad…nothing. Everything meant nothing. Nothing on the outside changed anything on my inside. I had nothing to give and nothing to live for.
Not being able to feel anything led to mind-numbing boredom. I would see people laugh at jokes and wonder what was so funny. I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. I would listen to others sing songs to God and wonder why. I heard sermons that left others challenged, but I couldn’t get any meaning out of them. There was no meaning in anything.
Colours were duller. Music was sadder. Everyone looked desperate and unhappy. I found no purpose in work. I even began to avoid those I loved because they were too much effort.
I didn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable around me and I was scared of being judged, so I pretended. Having been trained as an actress helped. I would smile but it hurt. I would laugh and it would sound false to me. I couldn’t cry. Well, not at first…
Some of those closest to me knew though, and they tried to fix me. I tried to fix me too: thinking happy thoughts, not thinking too much; eating better, not eating too much; getting exercise, not being obsessed with exercise; being good to me, not focusing on me; trying to be happy, not trying so much. I was left feeling like I had been put in a washing machine without any water – tossed and dry.
I started to feel like I was a shell with something dead inside. Thoughts of how to kill myself would lurk in my mind – drive into the wall, jump, if I took all these tablets would they do the job? I would catch myself thinking these things and try to reason: “It’s not like I actually want to die. I just didn’t want to exist any more.” What I really wanted to do was sleep – preferably forever.
I didn’t tell others when I felt this way. There is no way to tell someone you want to kill yourself. There is no way to get the response you want from people. They either: make a hasty exit, begin to cry, tell you how selfish you are or get completely freaked-out and hover over the phone ready to dial emergency services. In all fairness, I don’t know what the right response would have been.
“Suicidal Christians! How can this be?” you might ask. Perhaps you think this is an oxymoron – Christians are called to have the ‘life abundant’ and failing that they should at least be ‘happy.’ They are certainly not meant to be in a place where they feel they cannot continue to live anymore!
Perhaps you feel guilty about having had these thoughts. Maybe you doubt your salvation. Maybe you have, like me, reached a point where you see no way out. This book is written for you.
A modicum of relief may be gained by realising that we are not alone in having suicidal thoughts. We can read about many people in the Bible who were used and loved by God, but who were also deeply depressed to the point of wanting to die: David speaks about his ‘downcast soul’ many times in Psalms. Elijah wails “I have had enough, Lord…take my life.” (1 Kings 19:4) Jonah was so distraught he said: “Take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3) We hear the anguish filled words that Jesus spoke before his death: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Psalm 72:12)
According to the World Health Organisation, more people are killing themselves today than in any previous time in our history. More people die from their own hand than from war, natural disaster and murder combined. About a million people across the globe die by suicide each year - that is an average of one every 40 seconds. Some statistics report that half of all those who kill themselves are Christians.
Since writing this book, I have been amazed at the number of Christians, some of whom I have known for a long time, who are opening up with their deepest problems. We all need to be more ‘real’ with each other and stop perpetuating the lie that Christians are meant to be perfect…we are not…we are saved, but not perfect. As long as desperate people think they need to wear a mask, they will be too afraid to ask for help. If we step out bravely and share our messes with each other, then those who need to talk the most (like those who are suicidal), will come forward with their problems. We need to shatter the taboo that Christians cannot be suicidal – they are…it is a sad, simple fact. Let’s turn our mess into our message in the hopes that others will too.'
“Suicidal Christians” by Nita Tarr is available to purchase online at www.suicidalchristians.com or on major online bookstores. The reviewer says: 'Each chapter contains Holy Spirit inspired advice with discerning, practical application for problems facing anyone who is struggling. Her battle with addiction, crushing low self-esteem, demonic oppression, and overwhelming fear are intimately and candidly probed. As well as being a valuable resource for councillors and pastors, it is an exhilarating, exciting read for all.'