I don't talk much about my teenage suicide attempt. My 16 year old self almost feels like a completely different person; someone who obviously couldn't imagine my now 48 year old self. But I do remember her, and the horrible lies she struggled with.
Maybe "lies" is not the right word. They were accusations, condemnations, criticisms...and the reason they hurt me so much was because there was always some truth to them. "You claim to love God and others, but all you ever think about is yourself"..."it's because you're so vain that you care so much about what others think of you", and so on and so forth. It was that critical voice I'm sure anyone reading this is familiar with, even if they did not grow up religious. But along with these observations about my shortcomings came downright lies; "You will never change"..."You are such a disappointment"..."You would be better off if you weren't even here". It only takes one night of drinking and listening to that voice and a split second decision to take a bunch of pills to end a life. I'm thankful beyond words that it didn't end mine.
When I say I feel so much different than that 16 year old who criticized herself too much, I don't mean to imply that voice is not still a part of my daily existence. I am all about analyzing my actions and the motivations behind them. But this is what my 16 year old self did not understand: that being kind to myself did not mean I was ignoring the things I wanted to change. I can observe my not so great behavior with compassion now. It's okay to mess up: it's how I learn. The voice is mostly gentle now--encouraging and accepting. I could not believe back then that I should love my dark side; but now I see that opening myself up to the foundational truth that love cannot be earned is the only thing that actually changed me. To me, it is the very meaning of grace, and what it means to be saved (transformed) by it.
So to any young soul reading this, or old soul still learning to quiet their condemning voice, I want to end with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr: "In the Economy of Grace, nothing is wasted." When I can apply this belief to myself and others, then I can keep hoping that no mistake, hurt or mess is beyond having the ability to be used to transform us. And none of it, ever, can take away our value. You are loved. You are precious.You are a part of all of us. We are children of God. Please stay and keep trying to see it. Life is worth it. You are worth it.