Steve Austin was in the throes of serving as a pastor when he found himself in the darkest place he’d ever been. Two hours from home, isolated and depressed, traumatized by a past he hadn’t faced, he made the choice to end his life.
Last week, the world suffered yet another tragic loss when Pastor Jarrid Wilson, from Harvest Church and co-founder of Anthem of Hope, “a Christian mental health organization dedicated to amplifying hope for those battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and suicide,” ended his own life by suicide.
The fact is, depression and suicide are not uncommon to man, even if we are followers of Christ.
What is uncommon, is our lack of willingness to talk about this very difficult subject in honest and vulnerable ways. But if we hope to be a beacon of light to a hurt and broken world, then we must acknowledge our own hurt and brokenness.
This week, I had the honor of sitting down with Steve Austin, who fortunately survived his attempt to end his suffering through suicide. Instead, he woke up in the ICU and eventually found restoration and healing that continues to this day. In a raw and honest conversation, Steve shares his journey from “the pulpit to the psych ward.”
Join us as we talk about hard things. Then share the conversation with someone you know who is also struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. Share it with someone who’s not. Just share it. We can only overcome the darkness when we’re willing to shed some light on it. That starts here. That starts with you.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call: National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255
To learn more about Steve or to access any of his free resources,
including his free book, check out his website catchingyourbreath.com
Consider walking in or sponsoring someone walking in the Out of the Darkness walks, raising money and awareness about suicide and the prevention thereof American Foundations for Suicide Awareness (I’m walking in our local walk and have a page HERE if you’d like to contribute!)
Finally, please reach out to us if you are hurting and don’t know where to turn. We will help find you resources as best we can. You can EMAIL US anytime. We’d love to pray for and with you.
It came on suddenly and without any warning, in the middle of the local grocery store with my cart half-loaded.
I looked into the basket and couldn’t recognize any of the items resting at the bottom. My eyes seemed to glaze over as I tried to piece together where I was and what I was doing.
My heart was racing, I was getting hotter and hotter. Looking around, all I could see was a sea of people and it seemed like they were all crowding in. My defenses on high, my first instinct was to lash out at the women passing by with their own carts full of goods. I wanted to crash into them. To knock them over, out of my way.
What was I even doing here?
Coming into some sense of awareness I realized that I had to finish my grocery shopping and get home. But if I’d had a grocery list in my hand at one point, it certainly wasn’t there now. My brain kept shouting, “Just get the groceries and leave!”
With no ability to regulate my thinking, I simply started grabbing items from the shelves. All I knew for sure was that we had no food at home, we needed food, and this was the place to get it. What kind of food didn’t matter.
It took amazing effort, but I was able to convince myself that I had to wait at the check-out line and pay for my groceries. All I wanted to do was running, screaming,”Tawanda!” through the doors, but not in the funny ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ kind of way. More in the panicked, I-may-just-run-someone-over-spree-killer kind of way.
Groceries paid and bagged, now all I had to do was get to the car and navigate my way home. But even getting through the parking lot was an ordeal. Everyone seemed determined to hinder my progress. Meanwhile, my heart was still pounding loudly in my chest, my breathing was shallow, my vision was blurry and death seemed imminent.
I’m not sure the exact order of things after this point. I know I ended up at the University’s theater where Matt was working on the production of an upcoming show. Sitting at the light booth in the middle of the auditorium, he listened as I recalled my flash of crazy while grocery shopping.
I was beyond worried. Dad had died from a sudden heart attack just a couple months before. I didn’t know exactly what the symptoms were, but it seemed entirely possible that’s what I’d just experienced.
Later that week as I sat around the large oval cherry conference table, staring into the faces of others who’d also lost a loved one, I shared my tale with my grief group. Death. Loss. Sorrow. These were the only things we shared in common.
Our counselor listened intently as I recounted my experience then quietly assured me that what I’d had was not a heart attack, but in fact, a panic attack. She then proceeded to share different strategies for coping with the symptoms as they present themselves. She talked of deep breathing, visualization, and the simple mantra, ‘This won’t kill me.’
Years and countless panic attacks later, I think I understand better. They still come on sometimes. But now, rather than managing the symptoms, I am able to recognize their onset and head them off before they become crippling. Deep breathing, visualization, and mantras are still my most-trusted tools.
But why am I sharing this story?
Because on a regular basis I meet people who are dealing with anxiety and panic attacks and they don’t have any idea what’s going on. All they know is they feel like the fight, flight, and freeze responses have all kicked into high gear at once and it is terrifying. I honestly believe it is by God’s grace that I didn’t literally run people over with my car that day, 20-some years ago in the grocery store parking lot. Because everything in me felt like that would be my best course of action.
I’m sharing this because if you deal with these or similar feelings, I want you to know that you are NOT alone. You are NOT crazy. This does NOT have to overtake you. And for sure, this does not have to be something you suffer with alone or forever.
Please, if you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, depression or thoughts of suicide, seek help. We are created to ‘do life’ together. We’re not meant to go it alone.
If you see someone who is hurting, scared, isolated, anxious, depressed or any of the hundred other words we use to convey our burden, please reach out to them. Depression is rooted with fear. Fear keeps us paralyzed and unable to seek help from outside sources. Sometimes we need those outside sources to reach in and gently draw us out.
Friends, be well. You are too wonderful to lose. And you are never – not ever – alone.
It seems like we are hearing about more people dealing with depression and anxiety every day. People are lonelier, more isolated and overall increasingly fearful every time they hear the news. While the stigma is losing traction, depression continues to be something of a taboo.
Listen in as Matt and Brandy share their journeys as they navigate through their own depression. Matt shares the struggles he’s faced as his career path veered far from what he’d planned and Brandy talks about generalized depression and anxiety along with postpartum depression, grief, and adrenal fatigue.
It’s a little heavier of a subject this week, but one that’s important to talk about. If you or someone you know is or has struggled with depression of any kind, you will surely relate to today’s conversation. Read the Full Transcript here
BUT, before we get into all that, let’s talk about road trip music!
We share some of our favorite jams when traveling down the road. Here are some that we talk about: