Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.


While I was in the hospital, I continued to read my devotional and answer some of the questions for each day, and one particular entry stuck out.  Based on Romans 6:20-12, with the question:

When you do you easily give into temptation?  Why? Are there times when you don’t feel the pull so strongly?  Why?  What comfort, relief, or pleasure does the sin give you? What pain or discomfort does it bring?  What do you fear you would lose if you gave up that sin?

Sin and mental health.  Two very tricky phrases to put together.  I know there are groups who do believe that mental illnesses are sin, that they result from an imbalance in a person’s life.  I don’t particularly agree with that idea or see how it could be beneficial to those struggling with depression, eating disorders, addictions, etc.  To me, sin involves a conscious choice and results in a distancing between sinner and the sinner’s concept of a higher power.  I believe in biological causes for mental illnesses, just as I believe there are biological causes to physical illnesses.

That being said, I know that one thing I struggle with is my intermittent desire to return to my old body.  I know an eating disorder is  not a sin and that you do not develop an eating disorder as some form of divine punishment.  But recovery, at some point, becomes a choice, a conscious effort~one that, especially in the early stages, needs to be remade every hour.  “Sin” here, for me, means “to let ourselves down in a most grievous way, when we have the choice and opportunity to do otherwise.”

I’ll expand on this in a further entry, but here I want to discuss depression and suicide.  Many faiths call suicide a sin and bar suicides from proper burials or the right to go to heaven (as if humans ever make that call).  I don’t think feeling suicidal is a sin.  It’s a symptom of a very serious illness, including Bipolar I, which I have.

I swore several years ago that I would never attempt suicide again, that I would never consider it as an option for my life.  So this time around, when I noticed my thoughts turning from “I wish I just wouldn’t wake up in the morning” to “I could do X and make sure I don’t wake up in the morning,” I knew I crossed a line.  That was not a sin.  Cutting myself was not a sin; it was a desperate attempt to make the pain go away.  What prevented me from following through on the suicidal thoughts and what pushed me back toward the hospital doors two and a half weeks ago is this small little boy 1,000 miles away.

Alex, my nephew, was born on June 1, 1004.  I got to hold all 4.5 pounds of him on June 2.  I’d never been one of those, “babies are so freaking awesome!!” kinds, although I don’t begrudge them their cuteness.  I tend to prefer older kids, ones who will talk back to you if you ask them a question.  But when I held Alex, his tiny fingers clamped themselves around my heart in a way I hadn’t expected.  I knew-knew-I would do anything for this vulnerable little boy in my arms.  That included staying alive.

One of my turning points in recovering from my eating disorder came on Christmas Day, 2005.  My brother brought Alex to see me at Sheppard Pratt Center for Eating Disorders.  L. and I taught him how to say “Peace Out!”, which he will still do if you give him the peace sign.  It was cute, anachronistic, and funny.  But I realized that day that I hoped he would never remember where he learned to do that.  I didn’t want him growing up watching me struggle to get to some degree of health only to lose it and end up back in another eating disorder hospital.  I wanted to be an active, thriving part of his life.

Three weeks ago, when the suicidal thoughts became more than just thoughts and morphed into a plan, I realized I could never follow through with them.  How do you tell a six-year-old that his ‘ame Lexie suddenly won’t ever be around again?  My grandmother committed suicide while my dad was still in college; it’s a wound that never has healed all the way.  Because it can’t.  And I refuse to be that person in my nephew’s-and the rest of my family’s-life.

If that meant going to a psych unit to get help, so be it.  My nephew’s life is worth it. My life is worth it.

Self-harm, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts can all be stumbling stones in our faith, but they can also be building blocks, depending on how we treat them, depending on how much power we allow them to have.  Sometimes I almost find my faith growing stronger during times of depression, because I find myself pulled to spiritual study–searching for answers, for comfort, for peace.  While I was in the hospital, I spent a lot of time in voiceless prayer with my fair share of pleas for mercy.  But there was also time spent examining my current life, looking for ways that I still have room to grow, both in my earthly struggles and spiritual relationships.


May 1, 2010 - Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, faith, health | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Alexis!

    Welcome home, it is great to have you and your writing back in my day to day life.

    I don’t think there’s a blog entry of yours that I’ve ever loved as much as this one. I don’t have anything to add because I think it’s perfect and you said it beautifully. Thanks for this tonight, I really needed it. 🙂

    Comment by Amanda G-M | May 1, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thanks for sharing… 😉

    Comment by lindsey | May 2, 2010 | Reply

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