3 Reasons Why: Suicide

“Dear Mom and Dad,

I always feel sad, but I hide it. I’m so tired of going through each day. Is this normal for a 16- year old? Or is there something wrong with me?

Why don’t I ever feel the love you give me?

I’m angry- at you, myself, and the world. Why does life have to be this way? I can’t hope for a better tomorrow or think of the future. I don’t want you to be disappointed by all the secrets I keep from you.

I’m scared I’ll do something I regret. I want to feel better.

~ Your son Luke

I wish I had written that letter, but I wrote a different one instead.

I attempted suicide.

By crashing our van into the first object I saw… a passing car.

Head on. At 60 mph. No seat belt. The van rolled.

I should have died. But I was unharmed. The other driver was injured but survived…

I am healing now. Life can be good again.

Because you are loved and able to love.

Your life is precious. You count.

You can’t be erased.

~ Luke D. Maxwell (www.ucantbeerased.com)

According to https://axis.org/ :  “The number of teens hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and actions has doubled over the last decade. Now, with shows like “13 Reasons Why”, the suicidal teenager has taken center stage in our culture.” [see Conversation Starter Kits on Axis website]

Suicide is a topic that leaves us speechless.

We feel powerless… confused… and perhaps shame in being reminded of our own fear of death or struggles with depression.

In so many ways we spend our lives in numbing activities as a means to escape reality… and especially the reality of death.

Suicide screams in our face, a reality that we can no longer ignore: Pain in this life is REAL and Death is REAL.

I want to suggest 3 topics that may be correlated to suicide and are rarely discussed and perhaps deserve more thought and attention.

(This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but a list of perhaps less-talked about areas.)

  • Suicide and Spiritual Warfare
  • Suicide and Sexual Abuse
  • Suicide and Passive Aggressive Anger.

Spiritual Warfare

Ray Comfort describes an encounter in his autobiographical book, “Out of the Comfort Zone:” .

“I had been preaching in the Square in New Zealand. Two girls approached me and said they wanted to talk about something spiritual. I asked if it was about demons. Surprised, they said that it was. One of the girls was having continual blackouts. For no apparent reason, she would black out at various times of the day. The blackouts became so frequent that the girls suspected something spiritual was involved… Besides the blackouts, she was having suicidal thoughts… [I] found her crawling on her hands and knees, groaning, screaming, and making animal-like noises… I commanded the spirit to manifest and name itself, so that i would know how to pray.

“No, no!” it screamed.

I persisted. It shrieked, “Hate, Hate!”

I named the spirit of hate and commanded it to leave. … Another spirit identified itself as “Suicide.”

I said, “Those are personalities- what is your name?”  “Soal,” it screamed.  “

“How long have you been in this person?” … “Twelve years.” …”How did you gain access?” …”Easily!

[I’d encourage you to read the rest of the account in the book!]

I believe that Evil is involved whenever there are thoughts or actions toward suicide. Scripture names Evil as the Liar and Accuser: “he is a liar and the father of lies” (John8:55). It may not be as dramatic as demon possession, but I believe Evil is always present in influence or suggestion to the person’s mind. The beliefs of shame, hopelessness, and worthlessness that cause a person such deep torment and pain that they desire to cause their own death are lies from Evil and Darkness itself.

He {Satan} was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth” (John 8:44)

“To put it in a word, Satan is blood-thirsty. Christ came into the world that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Satan comes that he might destroy life wherever he can and in the end make it eternally miserable.” ~ John Piper “Satan’s 10 Strategies”

Exit: The Appeal of Suicide

Recently Ray Comfort released a documentary, “Exit: The Appeal of Suicide” : {http://www.theexitmovie.com/}

In the documentary he demonstrates HOW to fight the spiritual battle against suicide: Fight Evil and Lies with Truth and Love.

Ray highlights a scene in the classic film Pilgrim’s Progress, in which “Despair” is a large menacing giant, who locks the main character (Christian) into “Doubting Castle.” As he’s sitting in the dungeon, Christian realizes he has the key in his own pocket! The “key” is the Promise of God: “For the wages of sin is Death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” ~ Romans 6:23

We were created for LIFE; each of us has a God-given will to live. Because of the conflict between our desire for life and the looming reality of death, we are a prisoner to the fear of death our whole lives (Hebrews 2:15). This fear leads to despair, and depression… a sense of futility… and hopelessness.

Therefore the solution is HOPE that is not a mere wish, but a true anchor to our souls. Faith that is founded on the truth of Jesus will result in “joy and peace in believing.” (Romans 15:13)

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” ~ John 11:25

 

Sexual Abuse

The book, “Treating the Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Psychoanalytic Perspective”, contains a table listing the symptoms of sexual abuse. A major category seen in both adolescents and adults is listed as: “Suicidal Ideation and Suicide Attempts.” (pg. 38)

The recent Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, highlights the involvement of sexual harm in leading character Hannah’s suicide.

In the documentary Exit: The Appeal of Suicide, one girl, when asked the reason for her depression and thoughts of suicide, answered, “I was raped…”

While it is difficult to contain in words the damage done to a life through sexual harm, Dr. Dan Allender has summarized it in this way (through his Wounded Heart conference material): there is the ruin of faith through betrayal, there is the stealing of hope through powerlessness, and the ruin of love through darkening the soil of desire. For the victim there is the echo of darkness in all pleasure, a hatred of joy, relief through self-contempt and other-centered contempt.

Clearly this is an area with many compounding factors. I’d encourage *everyone* to read “The Wounded Heart” and “Healing the Wounded Heart” by Dan Allender. (Especially everyone in a ministry leadership role, given the epidemic of sexual harm in our country, I think it’s irresponsible for ministry leaders to be unaware and uneducated in this area)

In “Healing the Wounded Heart”, Dr. Allender discusses “covert sexual abuse”, which broadens our general understanding of abuse to include more subtle, but yet still very damaging, forms: 1) verbal abuse: inappropriate sexual talking, solicitations, coarse jesting, sexual name calling; 2)psychological abuse– triangular relationships, use of a child as a surrogate spouse, over-dependency on a child, and inappropriate role expectations. These can all lead to an underlying sense of anger that a child doesn’t even know where it’s coming from, yet boils over into a desperate despondency and desire for self-harm, which brings us to the idea of “passive aggressive anger.”

Passive Aggressive Anger

Dr. Ross Campbell, M.D discusses passive aggressive anger at length in his book, “How to Really Love Your Angry Child.

Dr. Campbell writes:

“We can define PA behavior, but recognizing it is another matter entirely. Upon learning about this brand of behavior… there’s a tendency to label every act of childish misbehavior as passive-aggression, but that’s a mistake… we can begin for watching out for three distinctives:

1) irrational and illogical… driven by the subconscious mind where logic isn’t the prime mover. The subconscious is driven by feelings, impressions, and powerful emotions;

2) PA’s purpose is primarily to upset the parents or other authority figures;

3) Children ultimately hurt themselves the most by PA behavior… are their own greatest victims… serious kinds of PA behavior through drugs, alcohol… or even suicide, the ultimate passive-aggressive behavior.

In Dr. Campbell’s original book that covers more broad and basic topics, “How to really Love your Child,” he discusses the Scripture verse: “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger…” (Colossians 3:21) I see this as an indication that any time parents have an angry child on their hands, including a child with PA behavior, we need to first evaluate ourselves, and our parenting. Over and over again I come across parents that want to talk about “their child’s behavior issues” and yet it is so clear that often our “child’s issue” has it’s primary root in *our issues*.

We are each so naturally blind to our own issues, tragically unself-aware, predisposed to think of ourselves more highly then we ought (as Scripture points out!). This is why God has given us the “Body” of Christ, and the reason why we “grow together” into Christ= we need others to see in us what we are blind to.

We also need to grow in our understanding of ways that we as parents can unwittingly bring harm into our children’s hearts and lives. A broader definition of harm will include psychological means of harm: triangular relationships, use of a child as a surrogate spouse, over-dependency on a child and inappropriate role expectations. It will also include an understanding of attachment development for infants and the damage that is done through neglect: lack of eye contact, lack of touch, lack of delight toward the child or a parent having a “still face” which results in a lack of mirroring that an infant needs to develop a sense of self.

{Watch “The Still Face Experiment with Dr. Edward Tronick : https://youtu.be/apzXGEbZht0  }

I have several resource suggestions for parents who have a curiosity about themselves and their children, and desiring to learn! While you may not have children who are at risk of suicidal ideation, each our children WILL encounter struggles in life and their own journeys of brokenness, and of course as parents, we want to do all we can to increase their resilience and trajectory of wholeness. Below are some ideas!

1) Don’t try to do life alone! God designed us to *NEED* community. God didn’t design us to do life, marriage or parenting alone. We need the input of wise and responsible people in order to see areas of brokenness that we will never see on our own. We have made it our family culture from the very beginning that we involve Christian professionals in our lives (in terms of individual counseling, marriage counseling, and parenting). Please don’t make the mistake of sending your child off to counseling to deal with “his or her issues.” His/Her issues are FAMILY issues and the whole family needs growth and healing.

2) Two book suggestions: “How to Really Love Your Child” by Ross Campbell; and “How We Love Our Kids: The Five Love Styles of Parenting” by Milan Yerkovich (this one looks at insecure attachment styles of parents (Pleaser, Avoider, Vascillator, Controller and Victim) and how they affect children.

3) Look into a therapist who does “Theraplay.” The therapist will videotape your interactions with your child during a series of activities and then do an assessment in 4 areas: Nurture, Attunement, Challenge, and Structure. However unnerving and humbling this is, I promise, it will be worth reading 20 parenting books with what you will learn about yourself and your child!!

Conclusion

Spiritual, trauma, and anger issues may all weave together in a complex web for a person attempting suicide. We must take the time and effort to look at the whole and ask yourself, “What keeps me from exploring any one of the above areas on behalf of the person I love or on behalf of myself?”

 

 

an enemy within: OCD

I will NEVER stop fighting for you”… these are the words that have started my journey against the enemy: OCD.

First of all, I believe that OCD is a very little understood mental illness. Most people think of someone who can’t stop washing their hands. That may be true in some cases, but for many people with OCD you might never see any symptoms.  Instead, the obsessions and compulsions occur within their minds. This is actually the most severe form of OCD, in my opinion.

The way I experienced my friend’s OCD was as an Enemy that took her completely away. She was present physically, but at the same time completely absent.  When the Monster was at its worst we couldn’t have a normal conversation for weeks.

She saw several professionals over a 3 year span, including a counselor, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist. There seemed to be a general consensus: It’s a genetic condition in which the wiring of the brain has a malfunction and thoughts get stuck in a highly anxious, obsessive pattern. The person has to perform various compulsions in an attempt to escape the unimaginably high levels of anxiety.  The two treatment options were a medication like Zoloft, or CBT therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy).

She tried both… long story short: neither was very helpful for her. At some level she gave up, and tried to find a comfortable way to live with this unwanted companion in her life. However, it made life hard for her and all who loved her. It was excruciating for her loved ones to watch her suffer. My new approach was to research natural supplements that could help her brain function. I read and researched and made endless phone calls. I told her again and again, “I will NEVER stop fighting for you.”

In 2014 I went to a “Trauma Care” Conference. This changed my entire perspective on OCD.

I was sitting at the conference listening to Gina White speak on “Dissociation”… and I felt like I was hit by a ton of bricks… ***OCD is a very sophisticated, rather ingenious way of dissociating*** is what I realized. Everything she was saying clicked. She said that people who are highly dissociative will say things like “I don’t feel human.” My eyes must have just about popped out of my head. My friend had said that countless times!!

Again, this was a conference about *Trauma.* I began to make connections between events in my friend’s childhood, that now with Dr. Dan Allender’s definition of trauma I could name as *Trauma* and see the connection with her OCD.

In all of her experiences seeking professional help, not one of them had suggested childhood trauma as the fertile ground for the seed of OCD to rise.  I don’t fault them because this is not what is taught.

It is a *FACT* that people with childhood trauma below the age of 4 years old have a hippocampus (the calming center that balances or overrides the amygdala- the danger center) that is 17-20% smaller than the general population. This is supporting evidence for my theory.

If infant and childhood trauma can change the brain in one way that researches have detected, and the intricacy of the brain is akin to the cosmos, doesn’t it make sense that other things about the brain’s networking are also affected?

Here is another premise about childhood trauma: Whether it occurs through childhood sexual abuse, parental divorce, addiction or violence in the home (verbal or physical) there is a common denominator of a severe deficit of attachment for the child.

The child, who has no ability to find resources outside of himself, will find internal mechanisms to bring down cortisol and increase dopamine and serotonin.

The book, How We Love our Kids, discusses 5 insecure attachment types in parents (Pleaser, Avoider, Vacillator, Controller and Victim Parents), the effect it has upon the children, and also how these attachment types will develop in growing children.

The chapter entitled, “Controller and Victim Children” opens with an example of a chaotic home in which there is alcohol addiction, verbal violence and fear. In this scenario there are two children, Clare and Caleb. Clare has a more timid disposition and becomes a “victim” in response to the trauma:

She grabbed her bear and wrapped herself in her bedspread, organizing all her other stuffed animals in a protective circle around her. The rest of the evening depended on Dad’s mood. Most likely her parents would fight, and her dad would yell at her mom. Clare’s stomach hurt. She wondered how bad it would be this time. She whispered to her bear, “If Daddy yells, we can put our heads under the pillow and sing. Nobody will find us.” She began to count her animals over and over to distract herself from the ticking time bomb beyond her bedroom door…”

The authors Milan and Kay Yerkovich explain:

This is a chaotic home. {Parents} Leon and Candi attend church, but their difficult upbringings have left scars. Behind their closed door, Mom and Dad switch back and forth between roles of victim and controller…

Since Clare’s personality is more timid, she deals by trying to comply, retreating, numbing her emotions, and creating an imaginary world. She’s learning to surrender, avoid conflict, and dissociate: the traits of a victim. 

Victims deal with high levels of anxiety by freezing and moving into an internal world to escape.

Kids reenact their trauma in play, trying to master and make sense of their experiences. Sometimes they assume the role of powerful perpetrator to feel some sense of relief over their helplessness.

My theory is that for many people, OCD was birthed through childhood trauma. A vast dissociative internal world was created, in which the child could feel safe and in control. Repetitive thoughts or actions became a way of alleviating anxiety. Later in adulthood, there is an aspect of recreating trauma within their mind, so that they can reenact the control and alleviation. OCD becomes an addiction that takes on a life of its own… the drug is the good feeling of mastering the obsession or fear and the alleviation of intense anxiety. It is an addiction to an interplay of control and victimization where roles are played out and conquered all in the individual’s mind.

The “intrusive” thoughts that are talked about in the professional and treatment realms are really not an “Outside Monster” as I once considered OCD to be. Instead, I believe the voice of OCD is an enemy within, akin to DID (dissociative identity disorder). A fragmented “self” that sabotages and becomes the “Controller”, allowing the person to have a target of self-contempt, a source of fear, for reenactment purposes, that can be escaped thus alleviating the fear and giving a sense of power to the previously powerless child within.

How can this addiction of OCD be treated? (Again, it is our theory that OCD is actually an addiction)

I believe that it can be treated through trauma resolution counseling… In which the underlying goal or purpose of the counselor is to create an attachment relationship for the person. In a sense, to re-parent the person through healthy attunement and containment (the two components of attachment).

It has been proven that the hippocampus will actually *grow* in the presence of a long term (3-4 years) relationship of healthy attunement.

I believe that CBT therapy doesn’t actually work. If it gives results for a time, I believe it’s because of the attunement of the therapist… if therapy only lasts a year or so, when it is over, I suspect the OCD will return.

Disclaimer: These are my thoughts that come from my experience with a loved one with OCD… I don’t claim to be a professional expert… These thoughts are my humble perspective, and I wanted to at least offer my ideas that are counter to main-stream approaches to OCD.