Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Dear God: On Becoming an Ex-Suicide

Dear God, You gave us the perfect prescription for recovery from depression in today’s reading, from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (5:8-14):

Brothers and Sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.


In other words, God, to laugh and smile like the average American, we must become ex-suicides.
I don’t mean persons who have attempted suicide, but what novelist Walker Percy called “ex-suicides,” writers overcoming despair by emptying themselves onto paper (and into the Internet) and forming a bond of communion with the reader.
“For author and reader, literature that honestly names the truth of being can reverse—albeit temporarily—the death-in-life alienation and despair,” writes John F. Desmond in his fascinating article “Walker Percy and Suicide” published in the journal “Modern Age.” “Writer and reader become ‘ex-suicides’ in humility before the truth.”
Percy drew many of his philosophies and themes from the Christian existential thinker Soren Kierkegaard, who described despair as not being conscious of having a self, and not willing to be oneself. And the way we overcome that, according to Kierkegaard, is by finding our true identity and becoming “transparent under God.”


There’s nothing short of strip teasing that could get me more transparent under God than writing Beyond Blue. Every day I write—full Monty style—about my very imperfect recovery (from everything), I expose all sorts of moles and cellulite patches to the public.
And you better bet there are ample freak-outs behind the scene every time I make myself vulnerable to readers, some of whom can be pretty mean (take the lady who called me a “bitter, complaining, self-serving, whiny white woman,” not that I memorized her words). I obsess in the shower about what I should have left out. And I can’t press “send” in my e-mail box without at least one good round of second-guessing about the Beyond Blue post in which I disclosed an ugly memory or an unbecoming quality of mine (jealousy, hypocrisy, and rage come to mind).
But then I’ll get a note on the comment board of Beyond Blue or an old-fashioned letter in the mail that says something like this: “Wow. I feel that way too! I am so happy you articulated it. Now I don’t feel so alone.” And I know it was the right thing to do, even if I’m walking with my tail (or computer) between my legs.
Abraham Lincoln, one of my mental health heroes, was an ex-suicide. Two years before he became our country’s 16th president, Mr. Emancipation wrote:


The inclination to exchange thoughts with one another is probably an original impulse of our nature. If I be in pain I wish to let you know it, and to ask your sympathy and assistance; and my pleasurable emotions also, I wish to communicate to, and share with you.

In the early 90’s, another ex-suicide, humorist Art Buchwald, candidly discussed his suicidal days and vacations at the psych ward on “Larry King Live” for this reason: “Celebrities (and insignificant people like me, he would add) can play a role in helping depressed people: When Bill Styron or Mike Wallace admit they struggled with depression, suffers say, ‘If they can have one, then I guess so can I.’ Styron, for one, is a role model for me.”
For an article in “Psychology Today” about celebrity meltdowns and famous people who have suffered from depression, Buchwald wrote this in his introduction: “Talking about depression seems to help me as much as the people I am talking to. I wouldn’t want another depression in a million years but I have made peace with the two I have had.”
I think, Creator of me and all whackjobs, that’s what Paul was instructing the Ephesians to do when he said to “take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them,” even if doing so is embarrassing and makes us vulnerable to a cruel world.
The longer that I write Beyond Blue the more convinced I am that the only way out of despair (along with taking meds, of course) is by sharing our pain with others, to become transparent in order to give our tears some meaning, and, as my mental health hero Kay Redfield Jamison says, to “share our joy with those less joyful and encourage passion when it seems likely to promote the common good.”
Because if we do that, we’ll find ourselves in the light much more often than in darkness.

  • hello

    I love you and KJ-unquiet mind-that is just a good book. I hope you have a fabulous week. Ps when you actually tell what is going on you can get help and that is a very good thing.

  • Ness

    Loved this post. Spoke to my depressed heart. Smiled at the reference(paraphrased) to writing in the full Monty. That’s what I do..keep it real. Thanks for having this blog. I read every day but seldom comment beyond nodding my head in agreement at your posts. Have a day and make it through it and then it will be a great day.

  • cathy

    Very empowering. I find this to be so true in my life… it’s why I share my own life online. The other spirits I’ve “met” help me on my journey, inspiring me when my well runs dry.
    It takes a lot of courage to write in a way that includes the reader, though. Not all writers are able to do that. You’re great at it, Therese, and that’s why this vibrant community of brave souls has developed here. I think we all feel as though we’re sharing in some good medicine and human-ness.

  • marilyn

    yes we have to expose the darkness before we can see the light and that takes real courage and stength.i thank you and everyone here for all of you i see light where there was darkness. marilyn

  • jean

    have been reading your blog for sometime but have never posted a comment–now i must! dear therese, vulnerability is a gift, so is your talent for expressing yourself so that others recognize themselves. GOD bless you – may GOD give to you what GOD knows in HIS or HER infinite wisdom and neverfailing love knows that you need. I love you.

  • Larry Parker

    I live out Walker Percy’s philosophy on a daily basis.
    Writing is as elemental as breathing for me.

  • Barbara formerly Babs

    “Kierkegaard, who described despair as not being conscious of having a self, and not willing to be oneself. And the way we overcome that, according to Kierkegaard, is by finding our true identity and becoming “transparent under God.”
    There is a good deal of truth in that statement. Not being conscious of having a self and not willing to be oneself. It is when we become stuck in a rut of self-recrimination and see the “pimple” in our lives as a “boil” taking over our face that we despair, because we have lost ourselves. Our world becomes more and more constricted until the very breath is sucked out of us. We think that we, alone, know ourselves, but it isn’t true, because we have magnified only a small part of ourselves until we’ve lost consciousness that we have a self. And the second part, to be unwilling to be oneself, is closely allied to the first. To view yourself as damaged, unsuitable for life, unworthy of relationships, is unreality birthed in an isolation booth. The self we are unwilling to be isn’t even true; it is an illusion.
    To become “transparent under God,” is to see yourself as you truly are, a beloved “whackjob,” or talented writer, or compassionate friend, but always, in relation to God. A wise person said to me that humility is knowing who you are in relation to your God. Humility says that if someone can learn to love from my baring my less-than-attractive traits, then I have to say, “Yes, I will do it, because I know I am loved with a Love that never changes.” The pain of unkind remarks, valid and real, becomes less so when you are just saying “yes” to the mission you have been given.
    Being transparent *under* God implies an availability for God’s love and mercy to flow right through to its intended recipient. He *knows* us, and trusts that to us. That, is pretty awesome.

  • Lisa K

    I’ve just started writing and you are one of my mental health heros, encouraging me to put myself out there on my Beyond Blue profile. It is very cathartic to somehow express to those who know and even those who don’t, what it means to have a mental illness; everything from my “plastic hair days” and “doing the verbs” to more serious faire of fights with my parents. I pray that one day I might express myself as eloquently and as colorfully as you do that I might share fully my experience with those around me.Thank you Therese, for hitting the “send” button every time.

  • CLeo

    15 years ago my best friend tried to end her life. Someone saved her life at the last half minute and she survived. She lived with serious depression from then on. She was on meds, psychotherapy, light therapy etc. Actually her suicide attempt wasn’t due to depression but to a broken heart and to the pain inflicted in her by several knives in her back and heart.
    She died at 44 in a car crash. The same man at the root of her psychological pain managed to kill her in a car crash.
    She often would remember her suicide attempt and, eerie enough, the peace and love she’d felt while she was going under. Curiously, she wasn’t religious and not a Christian, but she said that she saw Jesus sitting next to her in the car (she tried to kill herself by monoxide poisoning)

  • CLeo

    Therese Borchard wrote:
    “The longer that I write Beyond Blue the more convinced I am that the only way out of despair (along with taking meds, of course) is by sharing our pain with others, to become transparent in order to give our tears some meaning…”
    Therese, you’re so right! But I can’t stress caution enough! Before sharing our pain, let’s make sure we do so with humans, not with those who appear to be but who are motivated by hate. I know, I’ve been there and I’ve shared, this has brought a lot of pain to me and even ruined my reputation with some people. I made a grievous mistake sharing my pain in an misguided effort to comfort someone, to let her know she wasn’t alone. I felt she was in a lot of pain because in order to save her life she’d to have her stomach stapled. This person loves to eat and is always talking about food, now she can’t eat not even half of what a picky 6 year old consumes. In fact this development has hardened her even more toward the entire world and she’s found comfort going around talking about me and my “mental Illness”, I’m unipolar, but I’m slim, this is a sin in this noxious person’s book.

  • Pamie

    I not only tried to commit suicide,but several times and was never sucessful! I have bipolar disorder and I know what to do when I feel that way I pick up the phone and call my doctor and admits me to the hospital! It feels soooo good to LIVE!

  • phyllis dearmond

    I personally am under a Dr.’s and therapyst care. I do not mind telling anyone that I go to a Mental Health (Centerstone), to recieve all the help I can get. Not to say that the person who wrote the letter above said anything about it. I just want everyone to know, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. You do know that God had to give Dr’s the wisdom to treat us with Depression, Bi polar, Unipolar, whatever kind of mental health problem we may have. I enjoy the Beyond Blue witings, posting the comments. I think this site helps everyone who stps at it and reads it! I know it helps me, and for that, I deeply Appreciate it. It helps me make through the day! Thank you Therese. I APPRECIATE YOU!

  • Margaret Balyeat

    Yes, you share your”moles’ and cellulite” patches, but you also share your heroes andtheir oh-so-wise-words with us, thus revealing the more “comely” aspects of the “real” you. I think that balance is importanr and that you need to remind yourself of all the good you do whenever you hesitate to hit the send button. Equally important,IMHO, you give all of US a place (and your gracious permission to expose our OWN less-than-attractive features without fear of being gasped at be people pulling back in horror!) I clearly remember your “whining is welcome” post which articulated your desire for each of us to feel free to pour out our fears and rough edges on your compassionate ears. I think even yet you don’t realize what a matvelous gift that is to us! Whenever I sit down to post, I know that I can, if I so choose, be brutally honest about exactly where I am in my journey towards mental health without fear ofthe reprisals which might come from a family member or close friend (Checking my apartment for signs of an impemding suicide attempt, for example, which in reality does nothing except make me feel like my personal space has been violated and my right to privacy stripped away or removing things THEY think I shouldn’t have in my possession (my pain meds come to mind. Those responses, though steeped in love they mat be only serve to make me feel more depressed than I already was to say nothing of the fact that if I WAS determined to take my own life, I’d find a way regardlless of their efforts. The relative annonyoty (sp?) of Beyond Blue frees me in a way no other of my outlets do for exactly that reason. Fortunately, my own suicidal thoughts haven’t surfaced for a long, long time; I credit this blog–and YOU (and my fellow BBers for that to a large degree. When I’m in danger of sliding back into the abyss, some one from our little family here alwats reaches out to help me pull myself out in the non-judgmental way that only the common experience can provide. I am ever so grateful to have found you and this wonderful site. While my personal experiences in helping my son get through the suicides of two people importanr in his life are also a deterrantm even THEY don’t give me the strength to go on that I ALWAYS find here ever renewed! PLEASE keep hitting that send button. I’m willing to bet that if good old Abe were alive in this high-tech world, he, too would have joined our company! (along withm perhaps Winston Churchill, Sylvia Plath and many other notables who lived our experience before us,) the good you do here is beyond measure! So, keep whining my friend(If that’s what you must call it); it allows us to join the chorus! And fie on your critics; they know not what they do!

  • Mozena Greezin

    The trouble is that for some of us, your beloved meds make us suicidal, when before taking them we were just moody.
    I’m glad they help you. Please remember that they do not help everyone. Meds are not for everyone any more than your beloved Jesus is for everyone.

  • Joni

    I believe in duality and that to know the light is to have known the dark. One cannot exist without the other. This is why in times of darkness I can still manage to be grateful. This has taken some time and some experience with both light and dark. I, too, am in recovery from alcohol and drugs hence the darkness. But I know now “the truth shall set you free” and to find the truth one must turn the light on. God is the way the truth and the life that makes that light continue to burn brightly in me. I thank you for all that you share with us and know that you are making a difference!! Namaste

  • Hondo

    I have only been a beyound blue reader for a couple of months since my major depression hit me back in the middle of January. It has become my favorite place to be since becoming ill again after being in remission for 9 years and suffering with this major depression illness for over 33 years. I to for what reason other than the great pain depression causes have thought about ending it all but than I think about one of my favorite Christmas movies Its a Wonderful Life when Jimmie Stewart is on the bridge thinking about jumping when Clarence the Angel jumps in to the water than Jimmie Stewart jumps into saves him which in returns saves jimmie so when those kind of thoughts enter my head I cry out to Clarence to help me out right now a relay a message to God that I need some help down here and Clarence and God seem to keep coming through. It’s not always easy but nothing in life worth fighting for never is. My therapy and new meds. are finally I think starting to kick in for that I am very greatful. But I would like to thank Therese for all her great information on her website and having the courage to share her battles whith us that I know has benefitted me personaly and all the great feedback from my freinds on this website. God bless each and every one of you and hopefully each day we get a little stronger.
    P.S. I am going to try to go back to work on Thursday so could you please keep me in your prayers thank-you Hondo

  • Larry Parker

    That seemed an awfully cruel comment, IMHO. (And I say that as someone who doesn’t fully share Therese’s faith.)
    It’s fairly well-known now that SSRI’s have a rather dangerous period (particularly for teens) where they inspire action but have yet to improve mood. That restless transition time, when there is a risk of self-injury, is why the FDA belatedly put the “black box” warning on them (rightly) when they are prescribed to teens.
    And overdoses of pretty much any psychiatric medication (just like, for that matter, overdoses of pretty much any non-psychiatric medication) can lead to … well, you know :-(
    Doesn’t mean meds don’t have value overall. I just know they save my life every day.

  • CLeo

    Mozena, then you were prescribed the wrong medications! If you were just moody, why did you accept drugs? Why didn’t you explored the reasons for you moodiness? They could very well have been caused by your diet or other health problems.
    I don’t think her comment was ‘cruel’ just totally misinformed and gratuitious.

  • Tessie

    After experiencing depression, anxiety, and OCD since childhood, I had an incredible experience when the antidepressant Zoloft finally started to work, namely I was happy. The meds did not make me happy but brought perspective, hope, and the light into my life. I remember staring at rocks in a small puddle and thinking they had the most amazing colors; the black cloud had lifted..What I didn’t know is that ten years later I would experience night sweats, muscle spasms, and crying jags–the medication was just not as effective even at higher levels. So now I’m on Paxil but even on Paxil there were mornings this winter when I did not want to get out of bed. My son keeps me going though; he is my source of hope and light, and my motivation for choosing each day to be optimistic and grateful. For him, an anxious 12 year-old who inherited some of my problems, my life is his inspiration. I know a progressive nun who once described our lives as daily dying and being resurrected. For the chronically depressed, this cycle is more tactile like swimming up through the weeded water of a murky pond–the light is there but the daily journey can be a struggle even with the exercise, therapy, fish oil, paxil, prayers, and yes, medication.

  • Margaret Balyeat

    I somehow missed your comments when I first read this post. Upon reading them, I feel a (nearly physical) need to respond.
    Fiest of all, our beloved Jesus IS for everyoddy! Some of us just aren’t ready to accept Him when we first hear about His Grest Saxrifice. He knew from his days on earth when he first began His spiritual journey that this would be so,yet he accepted His mission with Love for ALL mankind anyway.
    This is not meant to discount other beliefs or figures of worship. IMHO nearly all of the world’s religions can (and maybe should) coexist with a mutual understanding and acceptance if we all operate from a base of love and acceptance. The philosophies and teachings of all the great prophets (Muhammad, Bhudda, etc.) have more similarities than differences.
    Secondly, the reason that our beloved Therese believes that we should all use an holistic approach to fighting our mutual diseases is that she understands that what helps one will not necessarily be the same thing that saves another. If you’ll take the time to explore these archives, you’ll find that Therese herself uses other tools besides her meds in her daily struggle to find some equilibrium in her life. You will also discover that she has a respect for faiths which are not her own and makes a point of sharing relevant texts and teachings of nearly every faith which is practiced bt the many souls who inhabit this world.
    I am very sorry that you had a negative experience with medications. Many of us have had to undergo a period of constant adjustment and changes before we found the combination that worked for us. Therese herself went through (if I remember correctly) TWENTY-THREE “cocktails” to arrive at the blessed space where she finds some relief from her suicidal thoughts and can function in a world where our illness is still too frequently considered to be a weakness rather than an illness. You’re correct in stating that one particular drug doesn’t (sadly) help everyone, but that is also true of cancer medications and the drugs aimed at managng most other major illnesses. I know it took some trial and error for my docs to figure out exactly which meds would control my diabetes and cholesterol problems Maybe someday medical science will evolve to the point when there IS one drug which works for each of the diseases we battle in our individual quests for BOTH physical and mental health, but we’re not there yet for ANY disease of which I am aware. And in order to get there,if we ever can, we must go through trial and error. I think perhaps you misunderstand There’ses mission here on Beyond blue. It is NOT to push drugs! She attempts to inform and share ALL treatment oprions which currently exist to help us as we struggle dailyand battle the common miscomception that there is something inherently WEAK or WRONG with those of us who suffer a mental illness so as to break down the stigmas and prejudices which exist in our society even in the twenty-first century,
    Blessings on you as you make your own journey. I pray that WHATEVER helps you need to heal your spirit are found and that you get through your battles as soon as possinle. Maybe meds WON’T be a part of your protocol, but the possibility exists that you haven’t found the right one yet and that when you do it will present you with an “AHA!” moment. I also hope that your spiritual quest, whatever it may be will one day allow you to have the kind of personal walk with G-d that enables us mere humans to comprehend the magnitude of His love for each of us. Walk in peace and love, dear.

  • Jerry Tyner

    Every time I read one of your posts I have to smile. You have no idea how grateful my wife and I are for your bravery. Our daughter is diagnosed bi-polar and all that goes along with it and our son and I have severed anxiety disorder. We don’t get to read your posts every day but when one of us do it helps to validate all we have experienced as a family especially the interminable search for the right medication and the ugly looks and whispers of others. Know that our prayers are with you and everyone who suffers from this and so many other mental illnesses. Never worry about what others say, even if it is cruel and unjustified. No one except the person who has gone to the depths of despare can ever understand what someone else is feeling or has felt. You are a hero to us and you are a blessing in our lives. God bless you!!

  • charlotte a sproles

    I really found this article interesting,cause,where theres good, theres gonna be bad,always lurching about for the most vulnerable! TO STEAL, KILL, @ destroy! I was raised with a good christian background,although somethings still happened to me, that at the tender age I was,I did not understand, & still can not fathom in my mind,even at the age of 43 yrs. old. I am a young,&PROUD grandmother of 2 very loving,beautiful children.we are expecting our 3rd in 01-08! WITH a ton of MERCY,ALOT OF GOOD&BAD CHANGES IN MY LIFE,ALOT OF PRAYER&PRAYERPARTNERS,& MEDS.Yes everyone should not live in glass houses,afterall,I personally think that made my struggles worse on self!After trying multiple attempts of suicide,I finally had enough,earlier yrs.of acting out,self destuctive I was diagnosed with delayed traumatic trauma& depression,this also led to anxiousness,anxiety attacks,without being treated with the right meds.& a very good support system,I personally felt a little better,

  • Garnet

    Therese, please continue to share your thoughts and feelings. You are a touchstone and anchor for so many of us. Thank you!

  • Menopause Education

    I agree sharing the pain with others is a great way toward recovery.

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