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Earthy, Gritty Friendships Kept Me Alive

They just showed up.

Published on:
November 2, 2021
Read time:
6 min.
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This piece discusses suicide and suicidal thoughts. If you or a loved one struggles with thoughts of suicide, please seek help. For US residents, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-8255.

The full article will appear after the break. 

The day I almost ended my life started out just like most other days. I ushered the kids out the door to school and got to work. Nothing out of the ordinary happened and it stayed that way until around eleven that morning. Then, seemingly from nowhere, I was bowled over by a wave of depressive thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t been in a good spot emotionally for months, but this felt different.

My thoughts weren’t my normal depression thoughts. No, these were very specific and pointed. “You’re never going to overcome this sadness, Chris. It’s not going to pass. You are going to be in this pain for the rest of your life, and you can’t bear that. You should take those pills and end it now.” I couldn’t shake that last thought. “Take those pills and end it now.”

I’d been suicidal before, but never with a plan. And here’s the thing: I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted the pain to end and these thoughts were convincing me that the pain wouldn’t end any other way. 

I sat with these thoughts for a while, then I went to get the pills. 

When my wife picked up the phone I told her I was ready to die by suicide using pills. She took a deep breath and asked for a moment to gather her thoughts.

I looked at the pills I wanted to take for a few minutes, weighing the possibilities.

What would my kids think if I died by suicide?
How would this impact my wife?
Would everyone really be better off without me?
Would my family be scared if they were the ones to find me?
Was it still worth it to end the pain?

I determined that I would call my wife at work and decide what to do based on how she responded. I wasn’t sure at that point if she would even put up an argument because I’d been such an emotional mess the last few months. I went back and forth on whether I should even call her for a few minutes. I didn’t want to bother her at work; she had a high-stress job at the time. Then I had to decide how to tell her. Should I act like everything is okay and then drop a bombshell on her, or just cut to the chase? I chose the latter. 

When my wife picked up the phone I told her I was ready to die by suicide using pills. She took a deep breath and asked for a moment to gather her thoughts. “I wasn’t expecting this,” she said. My wife was a nurse at a children’s cancer center, so she didn’t work the type of job where she could just drop everything and come home. Even if she could come home, it would take forty-five minutes to get there, and that could be too long. 

The decisions she made next are the reason I’m still here today.

My wave of depression met the rock of my friendships.

“Chris, I can’t leave work today. I have a couple of high acuity patients and there’s nobody to take care of them if I come home. But I’m going to marshal the troops and get you taken care of. Hang with me on the phone for a few minutes.” I mumbled something and stayed on the phone, then I started getting text messages. A lot of text messages. I asked Barbara if I could let her go so I could answer the texts. “Are you going to stay with us,” she asked. “Yes, I just want to answer these texts.”

I had two texts from my friends Tim and Kevin. Both asked why my day was so rough, and how they could help. I told them both that I was feeling suicidal and wasn’t sure I could make it through the day. As soon as I sent that message to Kevin and he read it, I got a phone call from him.

My wife really had marshaled the troops.

“Hey buddy, don’t you give up on us. We need you here in this life. I don’t know what I’d do without your friendship, Chris.” I heard Kevin’s words and they lifted me up a little bit. I murmured something resembling a thank you. We talked for a few more minutes, as he encouraged me to keep moving forward. 

While we were talking, I was texting Tim. He told me that I was probably his best friend and that he needed me to keep going. Life wouldn’t be the same without me in it, he said. He needed me to stick around because my friendship mattered deeply to him. He wanted me to stick through this difficult time because he and his wife loved me and didn’t want to miss me because I was gone.

“I need you to stay around, Chris.”

I started to move away from the pills, then I got another call from my friend Lindsay. My wife really had marshaled the troops. “How are you hanging in there, Chris?” I confessed, “Pretty badly. I’m suicidal right now.” She gently talked to me for about ten minutes, telling me that the world was better to have me in it. Lindsay spoke of times I had been her best support through her challenges, and how she was convinced those times would come again. “I need you to stay around, Chris.” 

Despite everything my friends were saying, I couldn’t let go of this idea. I needed to get away from the pain. I didn’t want to tell them this because I was ashamed. I’m a Christian; this shouldn’t be happening to me. But it was, and I couldn’t escape it.

A Friend Ready to Calm the Seas

I let Lindsay go because my friend Joel was calling. This conversation was different, more detailed, and direct. Joel asked me if I had a plan. He asked if I was ready to execute the plan, and I admitted I was standing in front of the pills still, deciding what my next step was going to be. Joel told me I was a danger to myself, and that he was going to get me the help I needed. He told me he was on his way to my house, that we would stay on the phone until he got there and then we would discuss the next steps.

Ten minutes of talking later, Joel arrived at my house. He told me that he was going to help me admit myself to a psychiatric hospital. I was furious. But I did as he asked. He had me pack a bag of clothes and books, and the whole time I was arguing with him. It’s almost funny in retrospect—I was both compliant and angry at the same time. I was arguing with him as I packed my bag, telling him I was fine while I still thought about those pills in the other room. A few minutes later we were in his car on the way to the hospital. 

They didn’t hide behind not knowing what to say or being uncomfortable or thinking good Christians don’t struggle with suicide. They just showed up.

I admitted myself to the psych ward and stayed a week. The doctors and staff worked with me to adjust my medications to help me find some emotional and mental steadiness. We had some good conversations about how to find and keep that stability. I learned a lot about myself and my mental health in the mental health hospital. It would be an exaggeration to tell you that this was the end of my suicidal thoughts, but it guided me to a step in the right direction.

We faced the waves together.

As I consider this moment in my life, I am grateful to my wife and all my friends because they were present when I needed them the most. I’m still here, I know I’m loved, I know I’m not too much for my friends. They didn’t hide behind not knowing what to say or being uncomfortable or thinking good Christians don’t struggle with suicide. They just showed up. And now I can show up for them and others today because they were there for me on that day. Nobody had answers for me, but they were present nevertheless, and their presence changed my life for the better.

I literally may not have made it to today if not for my friend’s kindness, their goodness, their defiant care of me when I didn’t care about myself. Their earthy, gritty grinding-it-out-in-the-grime-of-life friendships saved my life that day. I want to be that kind of friend to them too. 

Chris Morris
Chris Morris is a mental health advocate for the church. He's been writing about the intersection of mental health and chronic health for over a decade. You can find more of his writing at chrismorriswrites.com.

Cover image by Zoe.

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