When I was depressed and suicidal, I couldn’t read. I couldn’t look at websites. No facebook newsfeeds. And sometimes I even told my husband he needed to screen my emails before I could read them. Pretty much all books were out of the question (with the exception of Truman Madsen’s words). I couldn’t even read my scriptures (with the exception of Psalms and Proverbs) because, believe it or not, they actually made my anxiety worse.
One of the things God told me about His vision for my new book was that it couldn’t be an ordinary book. God showed me what the book needed to look like. Depression has sucked all the color out of the lives of these readers, so black and white just won’t do. Color. Lots of color. It needs short sections of unimposing text that could be scanned in just a few minutes. Lots of short, encouraging phrases, big and bold. If all I can get that reader to do is flip through the pages for a moment, I need to break through to them instantly. Endless paragraphs of tiny black print won’t break through. I’ll lose them if that’s all I give them to hold in their hands.
Something to hold on to. That is this book in a nutshell.
When I contemplated just putting the book’s contents online for free, that’s what God told me. They need something they can touch and hold in their hands. I’m not interested in making money from book sales (really who makes money from book sales except J.K. Rowling), but I am interested in saving lives, and God told me I will save more lives and reach more people if I give them something they can hold in their hands.
Here’s a sneak peek at the work-in-progress manuscript…
I have received several new stories since posting about Choosing to Stay. Please keep sending more. What I’m looking for is brief stories sharing defining moments when you chose to keep living. Words that would bring hope to those who may be contemplating suicide. I am especially hoping for more stories from men. I will definitely support you in whatever level of privacy you prefer… anonymous, pseudonym, first name only, initials, or full name. Whatever you are comfortable with.
I’m still trying to decide whether I want to send the book to a publisher or just publish it myself. Doing it myself would be more work for me but still probably a lot faster. I don’t want to mess around jumping through publishers’ hoops when every day that this book isn’t available is a day that too many people are committing suicide.
In conjunction with this project, I’ve been reading Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness. Though I already knew that Lincoln had spent a large portion of his life suffering from depression, it has been good to dive deeper into his journey. These words, written by Lincoln in 1841 (nearly twenty years before he was elected President of the United States) felt so raw and real and relatable:
I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me (p. 62).
That is how it feels. To remain as I am is impossible. That is how it feels. And the lie that makes us contemplate death as an option is that things will never change. But we know the name of Abraham Lincoln because he didn’t remain as he was. He chose to live. Despite the darkness that weighed so chronically upon him, rather than ending his life, Lincoln chose to take his life… to embrace it even when it gave him no pleasure to do so… and “do something meaningful for which he would be remembered” (p. 125). It makes me smile that my baby Hope makes a bee-line for this book whenever she sees it. Maybe she and Abe were buds before her debut in mortality?
I keep seeing an image in my mind. I wish I could draw it in a way that would do it justice. It’s a woman crawling through a narrow tunnel, clawing her way forward through the rocks and dirt, not knowing that she only has a few more feet before she will emerge into a breathtaking valley full of light and color. That’s why we can’t give up. Imagine the United States without Abraham Lincoln’s radiant influence. Imagine if he had given up when he thought he could no longer endure. Sometimes I weep when I imagine if I had given up before emerging into my breathtaking valley full of light and color. A valley more full of light and color than any emotional landscape I had known before. Dear Lord, I’m so glad to be alive.