Depression/Suicidal Ideation

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Chad Wagner, West Chester, PA

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What is life without faith? Without encouragement? Without hope for a better future?

This site being my father’s, you would expect my story to be a headliner, special. Yet it is hidden amongst the rest. It fails to best even the silent, unwritten words of men and women who have concluded their lives unworthy being of shared. For no story, spoken first or last, or unspoken, outweighs another. Doesn’t every heartbeat have a pulse?

It surprises me the position that I am in. Once a teenager too choked up inside to speak anything more than a few mumbles, I am now fearless to speak my heart.

My story begins as a child.

Early on in elementary school, I was one of the more outspoken kids around. Always playing roller hockey and soccer, running in circles, and riding my bike throughout my neighborhood, I was never short on energy. Likewise, I was confident and constantly eager to grab the attention of my peers. I loved adventure. I remember cutting the back of my parents’ pine tree in our backyard in order to build a “fort” within it. I didn’t think they’d mind, as it faced the opposite direction of the house. I envisioned this massive Peter Pan kind of hideout for me and my friends to hang out in. But all that I did with it was use it as a place to pee, so I wouldn’t have to go back inside and use the toilet. I was a rebel, but in a good way. My goal in life was to see others smile at all the silly things I did. And through that, I found joy. Nothing made me happier.

But in 2000, my grandfather died. And, for the first time, I knew grief. This was the man who laughed with me for tapping him on the head while he read his newspaper. I’d sneak up behind the couch he was sitting on, tap him on the head, and duck underneath so he couldn’t see me. It was mere child’s play, but he gave importance to it, simply so that I may feel loved. He died on his bed but his lost still hurt. I remember refusing to cry at his funeral, because I was a tough kid. But as soon as they lowered his casket into his grave, I bawled.

Soon afterwards, my beloved parents, who shared similar moments with me, as the one I shared with you about my grandfather, began heading down the road of divorce. Our family vacations dwindled and the fun life I had became a distant memory. Bored, and disinterested in reality, it was then that I entered the world of fantasy; all I knew were video games and TV shows, and everything in between. I gained weight, got fat, ugly. But I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. To me, life had paused, and joy would eventually knock at our door and re-enter our household.

It never did. My parents separated when I was in 8th grade. In 9th grade, I moved out of my childhood home, and I lived with my dad, thirty minutes from my high school, before finding a townhouse to live in, in 10th grade.

As the years passed, there were days when I realized, I had forgotten to hang out with any friends. A couple of times, I recall being stumped over the last time I had a friend over my house. And I’m not talking about days or months, I’m talking about years. Slowly, I became fearful to speak in even the smallest of social settings.

Remember the kid I described to you? You know, the one who’s goal in life was to see others smile at him for doing the stupidest things he could think up? He was gone. I was lifeless. The feeling has left my memory, but I remember an ache in my heart that was so incredibly painful. Unending, this ache sang to me, chillingly, “Death…death…death.” Death was all I thought about it. I was never technically suicidal, as I never intended to literally kill myself. But oh, I thought about dying. Whether choking myself, running myself over with a car, or shooting myself with a gun, I felt I needed death. Interestingly, during each of these imaginations, I imagined myself, as another person, as another Chad, killing the Chad I previously loved. I was practically being overtaken.

However, I managed to lie, again and again and again. “Are you okay Chad?” my dad asked me, “Yeah, I’m fine.” Sure, throughout high school, there were periods of time in which I smiled, laughed even. But any sign of happiness I had was a distraction to avoiding what was going on inside of me. I called it a physical problem. I was overweight. I had no girlfriend. Well then, won’t all my problems surely be fixed if I work out?

So, for an entire summer, I ran, tirelessly. For an entire summer, I ran up and down basketball courts, missing lay-ups, tirelessly. For an entire summer, I did sit-ups, three hundred per sitting, tirelessly. Forty pounds lost. Okay, I might have lied, thirty. It was the end of my misery! I was ready for a girlfriend, friends again. I was ready to smile, authentically. In the fall, my classmates congratulated me “You look great Chad!…Nice job, bud… How many pounds did you lose again? 40?! Wow, that’s crazy man.” But nothing, still nothing. Still empty, still confused. “Why God? Why?” I thought.

Up until my senior year, I believed I knew God. I was a ‘Christian.’ Before my parents’ divorce, I went to Church regularly. I didn’t read the Bible, but I didn’t doubt his existence. Now, I did.

A high school graduate, I headed to college with no intentions. I arrived hopeful, “I might find new friends. Or better, a girlfriend!” But quickly, my expectations disappeared during orientation. I was the same outcast I was in high school. The same weirdo, the same loser… if only I had realized I was my own exile.

Since being dropped off by my parents on Tuesday, every day of the week, from Wednesday to Saturday, became progressively worse. Every day, further concluding I won’t have friends in college either. My last hope was a Church service on Sunday morning. Funny.

To sum up the past three years, let’s just say that Church service that Sunday afternoon was the beginning of the end. The end of me. The end of whatever ‘Chad’ could offer the world. I found God, the spirit of God, and He transformed my life.

My eyes were opened to a relationship with my Creator that I never believed possible. Before, I thought I was the victim. But I was the criminal. Created for relationship, for love, I foolishly rejected others because they rejected me. You see, we are not made to love conditionally, and the moment we do, we strip our right to be affiliated with God. Every choice, to be alone, to not love, is a rejection of self, and therefore, a rejection of Him. For this is not the way God loves. People say God also loves conditionally. This is false. Every anger, every rage, found within the Bible, is of a just God, an unconditional lover, discarding conditional lovers, for the sake of pure, unconditional love. When evil remains, He destroys it. We are evil. But God is merciful to even the most wicked of creatures.

I saw my heart. Selfish, prideful, envious, it was not pure, or good. Arriving at college as a conditional lover, I found friends because God had already transformed their hearts. He showed them how to love relentlessly, to a boy who refused to speak, and when he did, complained about his life. Their unconditional love is what made me explore God again. Now I have the ability to love unconditionally, to love my enemies. To reject myself. That does not mean I am perfect or close to. But God has taken my struggles, and my sufferings, and allowed me to look at them as blessings. For this life isn’t as important as the next.

The child that was Chad is alive once more. A little bit more awkward than before, because of my past, but, once again, my favorite thing to do is watch people laugh and smile, as a result of the stupid and strange things I do.

But I won’t go on about everything I’ve experienced since God has come into my life. I am sharing my testimony, my inspirational story, not for the sake of myself, but for you. I wish that, if you are going through the same things I have gone through, you consider seeking Him. As He was what won my battle, not I.

Truly, you cannot reach God without faith. You must give into the unthinkable, the illogical, in order to know the heart of God.


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Charles Wagner, West Chester, PA

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I stepped out of the building that dark night with a mysterious peace I had never experienced before. It was the sort of peace a soldier might feel after an exhausting fight for survival on the battlefield, with his friends killed or injured lying on the ground near him. It was not the kind of peace of “all things are well” but the peace of “at least I don’t have to fight anymore.”

When you are suicidal, there is a battle for your very mind and soul. It is a struggle for making the right choice. The enemy keeps telling you that your life isn’t worth living anymore, that there is “peace” on the other side of the grave. The enemy tells you there is no hope for healing, that the adversity you are experiencing cannot and will not end the remainder of your life. The enemy tells you that you are weak, incapable of survival and recovery. The enemy’s voice is present in every subsequent disappointment in life, whispering “see, I told your life is not worth living”.

You fight these voices because you know deep down in your heart that suicide is wrong. Suicide may be the ultimate expression of rebellion from God, snatching from Him permanently whatever good He had planned for you to do for others after your season of adversity had done its transforming work. He will not be pleased when you face Him “in the next world”. That does not mean He will not welcome into heaven those who take their life, but suicide is a powerful way to communicate to God you don’t trust Him and trust is what faith in God is all about.  Suicide is arguably the most selfish act that anyone can do, a statement that your need to escape pain is more important than the grief and dysfunction you will give to loved ones for the remainder of their lives, ignoring the trauma to the children from the scout troop who stumble upon your corpse.

This is the battle between right and wrong, between hope and hopelessness, and between love for others and hate for yourself. It is exhausting. The bullets never stop firing nor do the grenades stop exploding in your mind. “I want to die, I want to live, I want to die, I want to live.”

That night, I gave in to my desire to die. I would silence the voices of good. I wouldn’t concern myself anymore about how God will react to my suicide. I wouldn’t concern myself anymore with what meaning my life might yet have in the future that will be empowered by this hour’s pain. I wouldn’t concern myself about the heartache of my friends and family.

The dark voices had won and the battle ceased. Peace…so to speak. I understand how death devours people who reach that decision point. When the battle has ceased, the decision to end your life seems right. In a macabre theater, the actors and actresses for good and light seem like the enemy of peace and rest while the figures in the dark shadows seem to be your friend.

However……a sovereign God intervened as I drove into the dark that night, looking for the location of my final breath. He had His plan for my life and He wasn’t going to let me derail it. His compassion burst into my mind, a compassion intended not just for me but for anyone else who I can minister to or touch in the future because of what He did in my life to save me.

Before long, I was sobbing on the phone with two people who talked me back into the battle. The “I want to live” words were strengthened and resumed their war for my very life and ministry. I got up from the fox hole, loaded my rifle, and joined the war again against the enemy that was seeking the end of my life.

This was in April 2004, nine years ago, only two days after I had convinced the staff at the hospital into releasing me because I was “fine”. I had been voluntarily committed by compassionate professionals who feared I would end my life. When I wasn’t drawing pictures with crayons with other “inmates” in forced group activities, I lay in bed plotting the ultimate revenge once I was released – the very thing they had put me in the hospital for.

I am so thankful that God intervened and I am still here. Oh, this is no “happily ever after” since I made the decision to live. In fact, life only got more miserable for me in the last 9 years. The breakdown of my marriage that had left me suicidal did lead to divorce. After the divorce, a female close friend of mine who I cared dearly for died of an accidental drug overdose. I grieved for months and months, often thinking life would be better being where she now is. I have experienced unemployment and financial chaos, often not knowing how I would pay my bills. Trust me – financial stress is a leading cause for suicidal ideation. I have experienced disappointment in relationships that dashed my hopes for a future with love and affection.

However, a loving God has also been at work in my life. I have watched Him deliver me day after day from the things I feared the most. The certain storm that would follow the dark clouds on the horizon always seemed to blow over without inflicting the damage their rumbling in the heavens had threatened. I can thank the adversity for showing me how God does deliver, protect, and preserve. How would I know that if I didn’t have a time of chaos in my life?

My adversity has taught me that I really don’t deserve “happiness” in this life. I have rebelled from God, proudly thinking I can manage my life on my own without Him. I am often faithless, doubting His goodness and power. I have valued other things more than Him. I have made myself an enemy of God and justice for Him requires that I be punished for what I have done to Him. Imagine – He created me and I decided He wasn’t necessary in my life. I am the poster child for foolishness!

God rescued me from my rebellion 2,000 years ago. You see, I do believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and He was sent by the God who invented compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and love to receive the punishment for my rebellion that I rightly deserve. God stepped in front of His own wrath that I deserved and let it inflict Him instead. That is love!

I understand what it is like to be loved by God!

And that has transformed me. Oh, don’t misunderstand. I’m still messed up. I’m still broken. I’m still a screw up. I still have moments when this life just seems too hard to put up with. However, I now understand that my purpose in life is to love others. Period. If you understand God’s love for you and if you understand how God loves others, there is only one purpose in your life – to love others.

I have focused that understanding on the creation of Gramazin. I simply want Gramazin to be a tool by which I can love others and give credit for that love to the God who rescued me and who commands me to love the people He loves. There are no people who God loves more than those who have totally messed up their lives. If your life is in shambles, I am convinced God has His war chest of love ready to flow into your life – if you will call out to Him. It is my prayer that Gramazin encourages at least one person out there to call out to God for help and enjoy the bounty of His gramazin love!

I do have a new peace in my life. It is not the peace of “happily ever after”. I still struggle in many areas of my life. My life does not match the script I would write for the movie of my life. However, I have come more to understand that the kind of adversities that led me to suicidal ideation are really blessings from a loving God. Adversity has helped me grow, helped me better understand God’s love for me, and made me a more loving and compassionate man than I used to be. I certainly have “peace” about that! I consider the joy of knowing that better than the happiness of life going the way I want it to.


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