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She tells me to picture a screen door that leads out to a garden where two children and a dog are playing. A young boy, is squirting his dog and his little sister with a water gun.  The summer sun is hot and the little girl is more interested in picking cherry tomatoes to fill her tummy, leaving her brother to tease the dog.

She tells me to picture a garden where veggies and flowers grow intermingled, and a sandbox where the kids digs for buried treasure that their mom has hidden the night before. These are timeless days. These are the days we cherish, the days we know will be gone in a flash.

She tells me to picture school days and packed lunches, birthday parties and family events. She tells me I can’t even begin to imagine all the things we will learn from these children when they come into our lives. She tells me to hold on to hope.

Hope is a scarce commodity here in the hospital. The nurses would like to dish it out like candy, but real hope doesn’t come cheap. I’ve lost my way during this hospitalization, lost my ability to hope. And the only thing that keeps me holding on is knowing I could never hurt Kathryn by leaving her.

When suicide dances and sings its Siren call, I am mezmerized – taken in like a lost child and given something to hold on to. But suicide is only false hope, is only defeat. My life is meant for more, the life Kathryn and I share is meant for more. There’s still love in this heart and peace in this soul.

So I must continue my treatments, follow my doctor’s advice, take the medication as it’s prescribed. And hold on to hope. Hope that it won’t be long before Kathryn and I are looking out the backdoor and watching our kids play, teaching them gratitude and what it means to live with hope deep within them.

“So you’re the Spiritual Care Guy, right? The one with the answers?” “Yeah…” he says with a grin. He knows by now that conversations with me aren’t often easy. “So where is God in all of this?” I ask. His grin disappears, and as tears fill my eyes, he responds, “My honest answer? I don’t know.”

We meet about once per week to talk about life here in the hospital. This is our hardest conversation yet. I have to fight to keep from ugly crying. “I overdosed a few days ago,” I tell him, though he probably already knows. I had a chance to spend a few days relaxing at a cottage – swimming, playing games, enjoying good food – and I threw it away. One minute the pills were in the bottle, the next minute they were in my stomach. It only took about twenty minutes for the sedating effects to kick in. The next thirty-six hours are a blurry haze.

“Do you remember our conversation from last week?” the Spiritual Care Guy asks. I draw a blank. He reminds me how we talked about self-sabotage and the impulse to self-destruct. I laugh at this twisted predictor of the events that occurred mere days ago. But the laughter doesn’t last. With tears running down my cheeks, I beg him for an answer to my need. I need to understand why I am so hell-bent on self-destruction, why 99% of the time I can be focused on healing and growth, fostering peace and resiliency; and the other 1% of the time, I throw it all aside.

His tactic tends to be asking questions rather than answering them and he asks me, “what gives you hope?” I stay quiet, waiting for an answer to surface. The only one that comes is love. Wild love. Untamed, organic, unabashed, illogical love. Love for my niece (and the one on the way!), my parents, my brothers and their wives, my dear friends and of course, Kathryn. Love for her, above all else.

And yet she is the one most hurt when I am emotionally dysregulated. “I WISH I HAD NEVER MET YOU!” I screamed this at her, turning my anger outward. I was angry that she wasn’t with me, that she wasn’t meeting my current need. Mostly, I was angry that she was at the cottage and I was stuck at the hospital. How is this love? How is this the way I choose to treat the woman I say I’d give my life for? In what reality do I think these words are okay?

The answer is that they are not ever okay. She deserves the best of what I have to offer. And now my instinct is to turn this anger inward, berate myself for the way I behave. “She deserves better,” I say. “She’d be better off without me.” I try to assess what I bring to the relationship and all I come up with is pain. But this too is an unhealthy road and does not lead to me loving her well.

I tell Spiritual Care Guy all of this, and he tells me about addiction and how those who are addicts must admit they have lost control in order to begin regaining it. It’s this way with mental illness too, really any type of illness. I must admit the areas of my life that I have lost to mental illness in order to begin rebuilding them. And I must acknowledge my strengths, the places in my life where my illness has not beaten me.

It’s a great mystery – love. The love Kathryn has for me. My parents’ unending support. The love of Immanuel. Love is where God is in all of this. I will never understand these gifts, but I can choose to cherish them and in each new moment, offer love in return.

Oh God, where are you when we need you most?

In our most vulnerable moments?

Without you, death seems inviting – a chance for rest and peace when none can be found in life.

The physical components of our brains fire and misfire and create chains we cannot break.

Habits and addictions weaken our resolve to choose life.

We are lulled into believing that death will bring freedom, that in death there can be peace.

Are you with us when we are broken?

Have you heard crying in the night?

Some say suicide rips a person from God, that there is no hope in that type of death.

But how can you turn your back on someone who is sick and suffering?

If depression is an illness, than surely you are the cure.

You draw all life to yourself.

You breathe and life lifts and fills and heals.

We are drawn to you in our brokenness.

We crave your healing touch.

How can suicide seem like sweet sleep, like the necessary release from this world into yours?

Why do I torment my loved ones and myself with repeated attempts at ending my own life?

What will it take for my brain to be whole?

What will it take for my spirit to be still?

What will it take for my life to be full?

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