Steve Austin
Jun 14 · 5 min read

I know you.

I guess I should say I knew you.

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it’s really only been seven years.

Poor guy. I’m so sorry. You look so scared and blank. Utterly confused. And you’re freezing. I remember that much. Here — have another blanket. I know, right out of the warmer? The best!

That catheter is going to hurt like hell when he pulls it out. But he’s not going to hurt you. I know you’ve been hurt before, and you’re scared shitless for anyone to see you naked. Just try and be kind. He’s only doing his job.

What? Oh, the necklace. It’s called a “giving key.” Your BFF, Gigi, is going to give it to you about six months after you get out of here. (That’s good news, right? You’re getting out of here.)

The key says “grace”: a word you know nothing about, my friend.

Sure, you’ve preached about it, written about it, and hummed it’s melody all your life. But that isn’t this.

One day, you’ll learn that “grace is the energy Love radiates.” At least, that’s what your friend Suzanne says.

Grace is stronger than any other force in your life. Grace is why you didn’t die — I know it’s hard to believe, but Grace is the very thing that will lead you to the most authentic version of yourself. Grace will empower you to finally start loving yourself. And grace will lead you home.

From Pastor to a Psych Ward, by Steve Austin

Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life.

I know you don’t want to be here. But one day, you’ll thank God you made it. You have a long road ahead of you. Counseling, intense therapy, new meds, and loads of embarrassing honesty.

But you will make it. You’ll find a strength you’ve never known before: the ability to admit you are weak. It will make you a new person.

No, Mom and Dad aren’t going to show up.

Yes, that hurts worse than anything you can imagine in this moment. Nearly seven years later, I still can’t wrap my mind around that one. The best I can tell you is that fear makes people do some really dumb and hurtful things. (Even when they say they love you.)

You should have seen the hotel room.

All of the medication you took turned the vomit blood red. The room looked just like a murder scene. They thought you were dead.

The headache? The throat that feels like razor blades? Now you understand.

The good news? You’ll sing one day again. Trust me. Here’s your water. Don’t try to talk. It just makes it worse. But it will heal. And so will you. You’ll learn what living is all about.

“Peace, Be Still,” a cover by Steve Austin

You won’t be able to feel your legs for another two days. You’re going to spend a lot of time staring blankly out the window. But friend, all of that is grace. It’s a second chance. A slowing down. A fresh start.

In the meantime, I need to tell you a few things:

1. Be patient with your loved ones. They are shocked, heartbroken, humiliated, and confused. Many of them are going to be incredibly patient with you. Remember that you have exposed a wound they never knew existed, both in yourself and in their own lives. Everything they thought was secure is crumpled up on a hospital bed, unsure if he even wants to survive this. They need room to doubt and ask questions and feel hurt and angry. Do your best to speak softly and listen. Know there are going to be times when they can’t hear all that you need to say.

2. You’re incredibly lucky. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, nearly 47,000 people die by suicide in America each year. And for every death, approximately twelve more try to die. Suicide respects no one. It robs families of teenagers and grandparents, steals teachers and pastors from communities, and takes mothers away from their infants. It is a gift to survive it. I know you don’t feel lucky right now, but when you learn just how much God loves you — exactly as you are (not in spite of it) — you’ll begin to understand just how fortunate you really are. This near-death experience is an invitation to a full life.

3. Be kind to yourself. Go back and read that sentence again. Recovery is a long process, so please don’t think you’re going to leave the hospital healed. This isn’t food poisoning; this is a mental illness. You’ll carry it for the rest of your life. But the symptoms are manageable, once you learn how to deal with them. And one of the most significant components of healing is self-compassion. You have to stop hating yourself if you ever want to heal.

4. Ignore the critics. You’re going to hear some pretty ugly things — both directly and through the rumor mill — about your faith, your family, your character, and your future. People are going to tell your wife to leave you. Church folks are going to turn their back on you. And some people are going to be shockingly, painfully silent when you need to hear from them most. But those folks aren’t in this room right now. You don’t need their approval. Learn to ignore the haters, or their voice will choke out your new life before it ever takes root.

5. Grace is here. Right here, in this room. You are not a lost cause, and your story isn’t over. Actually, your life is just about to begin. All of those years you were running and hiding and performing for the approval fix — all of that was death. What happens next is LIFE. You don’t have to do anything to deserve grace. You just need to accept it.

Grace has found you. And it will not leave you in this bed.

I love you,
Steve


This post is a part of Jordin Kelly’s Thriver Challenge: Honor all you’ve survived by writing a letter to your past self during the hardest time of your life. Read the original challenge by clicking here. And share your story today!

I challenge Sarah Simmons, Sara Martin, Sarah Heath, Steve Doran, Teresa Colón, Ed Bacon, Kristen Howerton, The Angry Therapist. I can’t wait to read your stories, friends.

Steve Austin

Written by

I was a pastor when I nearly died by suicide. These days, I live to help others heal. Get your free copy of “From Pastor to a Psych Ward,” at iamsteveaustin.com

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