My chest clamped shut. My breath echoed into the dark room. My eyes fired tears like a confiscated AK-47.
No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
I pushed back from the table, running to the other room as if passing through a doorway would send me magically back in time.
Not making it to my bed, I fell to my knees face into the carpet and melted into a deep heartbreak. Not Jarrid God. Not Jarrid. Not another leader lost to suicide.
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A post shared by Sam Eaton (@recklessly_alive) on Oct 19, 2019 at 9:28am PDT
There aren’t a lot of people standing on stages talking about mental health and suicide. When you sort by gender (male) and filter your results again for Christians, you hit single digits.
I’ve been on a sabbatical from suicide prevention work physically since May and mentally for about a year. Initially, I took time off to finish the third version of the book and address my own burnout. However, the space quickly opened up several bigger questions:
Do I even want to do this anymore? What if I don’t believe in this faith stuff anymore? (Which, quite frankly, is very inconvenient when you run a Christian ministry.)
Four weeks after spending 60+ hours in South Carolina editing my six-years-in-the-making manuscript, the loss of Jarrid hit me square between the eyes.
Everything froze in time. Suddenly these big questions I’d been letting hang around the ceilings of my condo were thick like burned popcorn smoke, choking my breath.
His was the path I wanted to be on.
He was a pastor — I was accepted to Dallas Seminary twice and never went.
He was married with beautiful children. I… wish I had that.
He started an amazing non-profit. I dropped out of non-profit coaching because I was drowning.
He lost his battles with suicide. I’ve been on a long road too.
And this isn’t the first prominent leader in the suicide prevention world we’ve lost in the past few years.
Before you freak out. I’m fine. I’m safe. Blah, blah, blah. Thank you for your concern. No need to email me asking if I’m alive.
To say I was naive when I started this whole thing is perhaps my life’s greatest understatement. I’ve always been built to see a need in the world and freaking do something—which is probably why I feel I never fit into the American Church.
But 3.5 years into this ministry thing, I am very aware of the reasons people aren’t open about their mental health. If you choose that path, I can all but promise you:
People will say they want to be there for you and when you decide to actually open up, they’ll stop calling you back.
A family might invite you in and push you out when you need them most.
Your pastor might call you a source of darkness. (Alright, that’s prolly just me).
If you’re too real, too often, you’ll probably be labeled as a complainer or too negative.
“I don’t think people ignore mental health—and still ignore it, let’s be honest—to be malicious. They’re ignoring it because they don’t know what to do about it, so the easy default is to not talk about it or say it’s bad.” -Jarrid Wilson
This world has gotten really good at posting the suicide prevention hotline without ever entering into the gritty work of loving someone with mental illness. #Progress?
To advocate for your mental health while battling your brain is just too much sometimes.
So a person lies. Hides. Numbs. Isolates. Smiles. Sleeps. Then fights a battle behind closed doors no one knows about. Then that cycle goes on year after year. Then one day you wake up unable to remember the last time you told anyone how you actually are.
And quickly you begin to understand why these prominent and influential people were lost much too soon.
Yes, I know Jarrid’s path is not mine. But I would be stupid not to stop and wonder. I would be naive not to look at this ministry God has blessed so greatly, and make sure the systems are in place to finish the race. I would be a hypocrite to hide the struggles of trying to change the world.
I’m not sure what is next for me.
Part of me feels the fire to send this book proposal out because now more than ever, we need stories of survival in the hands of those feeling hopeless. And part of me is thinking strongly about walking away completely.
If you wake up one day and this website doesn’t exist anymore, know that I really gave it my all.
I hope Recklessly Alive has given you one moment of feeling like you’re not alone.
I hope that somehow, my words have been a knowing side hug, a non-creepy handhold, a shoulder to rest your head.
I hope you’ve felt like you understood yourself or someone you love a little bit better.
I hope you’ve felt inspired to ask really hard questions about God and Church and leaders.
Above all else, I hope that you have read any of these words and made one small decision to be a little more alive.
I can never thank you all for the kindness and support you have shown me. I have really tried to help make the world a better place. I tried to be open about this story I still wish no one knew. I tried to find Jesus in a stadium of hurtful and pious people. I tried to step on every stage and be a source of hope in all my imperfections.
I hope you too will find the courage to step out and use your voice for good.
After a while, I grabbed a notebook and began writing a letter to an amazing hero.
Jarrid, my man.
Thank you for everything you gave to the world. Thank you for every demon you fought to talk about your mental health and your faith. Thank you for withstanding the hurricane of horrendous humans who lobbed horrible words in your direction and continue to do so. Thank you for being one of the most courageous pastors on a planet. Your life isn’t a disappointment. You fought long and hard and the world is better because you existed. You were a faithful warrior, stronger than almost anyone understands.
Thank you for everything.
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