Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday morning coming down

Our pastor returned to the pulpit Sunday after a multi-week trip to the Holy Land -- Israel, Egypt and the like. It influenced his sermon, from the story in Exodus 1 about the Israelites' oppression at the hands of the Egyptians. He spoke passionately about how we would rather live in what's comfortable than what's Christian, and about how at our lowest point, we are closer to God than ever -- if we will only cry out and reach out to Him.

Then came the moment of invitation. And while the band played, the pastor received news from a congregation member that would give his sermon that much more weight, and make this a moment of invitation like no other.

The pastor informed us that a nearby colleague -- the Rev. Dr. David Treadway, pastor of Sandy Ridge Baptist Church in Hickory, N.C. -- had committed suicide. There were audible gasps, tears and prayers. The majority filed out in stunned silence, as a few remained to talk and pray.

I've been deeply moved by this tragedy. Not only because I knew Dr. Treadway in passing, but because of selfish, negative, anti-Christian feelings I had about him even recently that are now replaced by guilt. And because I wrestle not only with what I'm supposed to take from this tragedy as a Christian, but with my own issues of depression and suicide -- particularly in the last two to three years, as my life has turned for the worse.

I barely slept. As soon as I awoke, I knew I had to write about this in the hope that it ministers to someone. Bear with me. This is going to be a long one.

As our marriage struggled, my wife stopped attending our church. Personal reasons involving a conflict between a church leader and a member of her family. We visited different churches, including Sandy Ridge. She and her parents had attended there previously when she was younger. She enjoyed it again, but ... I don't know, it just wasn't for me. I found their service too brief (1 hour), and I was still drawn to what had been our church.

After she left me in June 2008, she and our son returned to Sandy Ridge and I returned to "our church." I contacted Dr. Treadway by e-mail to let him know about our separation, that my wife and son were attending there, and to see if there was anything he could do for them.

Ultimately, I had an ulterior motive. I wanted Dr. Treadway to counsel my wife against getting a divorce. At the time, I thought I was doing what God had called me to do. That my marriage was a covenant of God which no one -- including me or my wife -- should put asunder.

Dr. Treadway said my wife and son would have to reach out to him, rather than the other way around. And I've since come to realize that it wasn't God's will, but my will that I wanted done. Because I harbored ill will toward Dr. Treadway and his church for not fighting for our marriage.

Even recently, driving home from a visit with my son, I passed the church and spoke disparagingly of it. I think I even held up the Bible in my passenger seat. I'm surprised now that God didn't go Old Testament on me, and set fire to the Bible to burn me in conviction.

For all the selfish, negative, anti-Christian ill will I held toward Dr. Treadway and his church, I never would have wished this on him, his family and his congregation. I will not be able to attend the memorial service, scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the church, but I'm planning to pay my respects at the funeral, scheduled for Wednesday at 2 p.m., also at the church. And if mourners are offered the chance to speak, I will confess my sin to his family and his congregation, and ask for their forgiveness.

But more importantly, this needs to be about what can be done to help his family and his congregation. As well as others ravaged by depression to the point of suicide. Everything happens for a reason under God. He wants us to turn this tragedy into a teaching moment.

There is still a stigma about depression and suicide in the South and in the Christian community. Most people do not understand depression, so they think it's something you can just "snap out of." And suicide remains the "dirty little secret" that people like to sweep under the rug, not talk about and consider a sin.

I've had depression probably my entire life, but have only come to acknowledge and treat it in the past five years with my former wife's help. As for suicide, family members have attempted it (including my mother), and I've sunk to the brink of it more than once. The last two to three years have proved particularly challenging, as my 20-year newspaper career and 10-year marriage simultaneously ended, as I became only a part-time dad to my son and as I continue to struggle not only with that, but with unemployment, financial ruin, foreclosure and the divorce I never wanted.

I also have a friend who has attempted suicide twice and stands on the brink of it still, ravaged by mental and physical health issues (bipolar disorder, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia). And all I can do is watch from afar and pray that she'll get the help she needs that is beyond what I, her friends and her family can offer; and that she'll turn back to the God she has renounced.

Our local newspapers, law enforcement and funeral homes contribute to the aforementioned stigma by not reporting suicides. I guarantee when Dr. Treadway's obituary is published, neither the newspapers nor the funeral home will report HOW he died.

If we're not talking about suicide, then we're also not talking about what can LEAD to suicide. And we need to, desperately.

A newspaper column by another area pastor, reflecting on the suicide of his brother, was a step in the right direction. Our area pastors, regardless of denomination, can take another step by making Dr. Treadway's death a teaching moment. Show up en masse at his memorial service and funeral. Offer to help his church move forward from this tragedy. Talk about Dr. Treadway to your own congregations, sharing what God's trying to teach us from this.

I wish Dr. Treadway had reached out to this pastor touched by suicide. I wish he had reached out to my pastor. I wished he had reached out to me. It's too late to save him now. But maybe someone else's potential tragedy can be turned into triumph through his story.

I know how alone and desperate you can feel when you are overwhelmed by depression. If depression comes into your life, please do not keep it to yourself.

If you're on the brink of suicide, you can:
  • Call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • If you're in Catawba County like me, call the mobile crisis unit at (828) 695-5900.
  • Or, call 911 and let the dispatcher know you're having a mental health crisis. You will be connected to those who can help you.
You also always have a connection with Jesus Christ. Turn to Him, not from Him. He has not, nor will He ever, forsake you.

Some verses to carry you this include Hebrews 3:13-14, James 1:2-5, James 1:12, Matthew 28:20, and Psalms 91:14-16. You can find the version that suits you at

We discussed these verses Sunday night at a prayer service, then several of us drove to Dr. Treadway's church, laid hands on it and prayed for his family and congregation while repeating these verses. But it still doesn't feel like nearly enough.

Whatever you're going through, please know that you can talk to me about it. My contact information is on this blog. Get in touch any time. We'll get through it together.

If you can save yourself, or someone else, from the loneliness and desperation that overwhelmed Dr. Treadway, then his death was not in vain. That, I think, is the teaching moment.


  1. Thanks for this article Patrick. Makes me stop and pause and consider. I remember what it was like getting to the edge, ready to jump, hoping something would pull me back. My heart goes out to anyone afflicted with depression. Will pray for you and also Pastor Treadway's family.
    ~ G.M.

  2. Thank you Patrick. I have been a member of Sandy Ridge Baptist Church since I was a young child when I began going to church with my neighbor. Five years ago I was living in SC and in an abusive relationship, and as time went out, I began to get more and more depressed. I began to pray for god to help me, to get me out of this situation I found myself in, to help me make the right decisions and as my depression got worse to help me save myself. I began trying to seek the help of a doctor, but because of the type of insurance I had, I could not find a doctor in my network who was taking new patients. I wanted help yes, but I was not emotionally healthy enough to walk into a hospital ER and tell them that I had been planning to hurt myself. I kept praying and thinking about how I would kill myself and everyday I would find reasons not to do it. Finally one day as things at home escalated to the point of no return, and my day was at its darkest I finally went out on a limb and asked my then boyfriend "Satan" to help me save myself, and told him I was in crisis and had been planning to hurt myself. He then told me it sounded like a good idea and that I should do it. So I stopped at a drug store bought a bunch of Tylenol PM and checked into a hotel room. Wrote a not stating: I love my family, I love Frank and I want to be cremated. Then I took three hundred and fifty pills and waited to die. Twenty three hours later a maid found me and called 911. I was blue and gasping for breath, but was still able to tell them what I took and why I took it upon their arrival. I spent a month fighting for my life with Phenumonia from aspiration, kindey and liver failure and was airlifted to UNC chapel hill for a liver transplant and immediately put on dialysis. The doctors told my family that if I did not receive a liver in 24 hours I would die, but to prepare that no one received a transplant in that short of time. But God had plans for me. God held me in his arms in that hotel room and refused to let me die. I know this because no one survives a drug overdose of this magnitude with pills in their system for twenty three hours. cont"

  3. Also while at UNC my family and friends who rushed to my bedside began to pray for me, they prayed and prayed and in twenty four hours God cured my Liver, it totally regenerated. I woke up from my coma after a week and a half where I had been on life support to be told that I would need a Kidney transplant or be on dialysis for the rest of my life. My depression was gone, because I knew that I was one of God's mirancles and he loved me. I began dialysis while I continued to pray for god's mercy and love. I was then transported back to Hickory North Carolina where I admitted to Frye Regional Medical Center to continue my dialysis and my Psych evaluation. My doctor in Hickory told me that I would continue my dialysis for the rest of my life or need a kidney transplant as well. I smiled and looked him in the eye and said: No I won't, the god I know and love will not let me die this way. Dr. P just looked at me and said I appreciate your faith but I know kidneys and you will not recover. I said that is why your name is Dr.P and not God. Seven weeks later, my Kidneys began to work and shortly after fully recovered and I was taken off dialysis. Today, yes I have sad days, Yes I let life kick me in the gut but am I suicidal, NO! I know God loves me. No I don't go to church, but that doesn't mean I don't love God.
    While I was in the hospital David Treadway came to see me and he counseled me and talked with me about depression. Five years ago he shared his struggle with me. I know that we are all different and expereince emotional pain in different ways, and depression is powerful. He understood my pain, but he and I did not agree with certain aspects of the situation. I know that many think he lost his way, and I don't believe that, but sometimes the pain is so overwhelming that eventually you just can't breathe. I know that God did not farsake me and I know that God never left his side. We all have free will and we continue to make the wrong choices in life, but God loves us no matter what we do.

    I will continue to pray for this family that they can move on and continue to know gods grace.

    A.W Taylorsville, North Carolina

  4. Oh Patrick. Thank you for your honesty. I know its hard to talk about how we feel, so publicly.

    I, decided, in May, after we buried my dad, that I'd try anti-depressant's again. I've gained 18 pounds. I just found out.

    I, also, have witnessed many attempted suicides.. even my mother.. many times.. before I was 10 years old. I'm thankful for those experiences because it allowed God to show me that its more miserable that way. I know its sad to say that I wouldn't do it, ever, because I don't feel lucky enough to succeed.. but it keeps me going.. so I'm sticking to that..

    Thank you, so much, for your friendship. I'm sorry that you must face this.. but I'm so pleased with your walks with God.. and how they teach me so much.

    Bless you, my friend. ~Heidi

  5. Never stop fighting to be healthy! If you try one treatment or one medication that doesn't work, try another and another till you find the right one. Seek counseling, you can't do this alone, its important, do everything you can to get better. God loves you and no matter what we do, he will never stop. You have to learn to think about yourself and about life's challenges in a new light. You have to learn to stop sweating the small stuff, and deal with one thing at a time so its not so hard to take. But never give up.

    AW Taylorsville NC