Posted in Poetry & Mere Musings, Stuff No One Talks About

2 Reasons Why Writing Under a Pen Name is a Good Thing

First things first: Dylan Whittler isn’t my real name.

For those who have been following this blog for longer than a year, this revelation probably does not shock you. What you do not know, however, is why I chose to write under a pseudonym (translation: pen name).

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It’s not as if I hadn’t considered writing under a pen name before I made the inevitable decision to do so, of course I had. Ever since I learned of Mark Twain’s true identity, somewhere in 7th grade, I had been fascinated with the idea of bleeding words on a page under a name that wasn’t tied to my birth certificate. I was intrigued by the mystery of it all. Nonetheless, I still sometimes dream of seeing my words on a bookshelf with my name—my real one—displayed proudly at the bottom, but I digress.

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Before I get into the reason why I decided to use a pseudonym, I’ll give you two reasons why you might consider using one yourself.

To be a Mysterious Wordsmith

There’s a certain mystery element that comes from using a pseudonym, I think, especially if you are fortunate enough to be well-known. You can, for the most part, say whatever you want with no worry of your readers doing crazy things in response, like stalking you in real life (though that does happen).

More than that, I think writing under a pseudonym gives you the freedom to be yourself. You might have the courage, now, to write what you felt you couldn’t if you were writing under your real name. Plus, unlike your birth name, you get to pick your pseudonym and, worse case scenario, if you don’t like it or if it’s taken, you can always change it. (I did; my first alias was Lydia Harris. I felt that was too common a name, thus the current pseudonym).

To Separate Work from Home

If you have a profession in which writing is your bread and butter, a pseudonym could be a good thing for you to consider. For example, if you write hard-hitting news every day or are a blog writer for a company, learning that your boss found your ranting blog post about how horrible your job is would not be a good ending.

A pseudonym would be useful in that your real and professional identity would be hidden from those who know you outside of your small corner of cyberspace (unless you told them your secret identity).

Why I Write Under a Pseudonym

The whole story of how my pseudonym came to be is an interesting one.

In early October 2018, when I was still writing under my birth name, an unknown individual impersonated me on a social medium that I don’t use saying that I was going to kill myself at the local community college that I had graduated from five years prior. The police were notified and met me, along with my mother, at my job right after I had clocked out.

They asked the typical questions about my well fare, (i.e. had I been having any suuicidal thoughts lately?) to which I answered “No”, even if that wasn’t totally accurate. The day before I had just posted this article about an honest conversation I had with my pastor-friend about suicide. The policeman asked for my phone, for the purpose of checking my social media, and found me squeaky clean (my posts were automatically sent to my Facebook author page which doesn’t exist anymore, and which they did not check). They mainly checked to see if I was suicidal and if I had, indeed, downloaded Snapchat and, seeing that I had never downloaded or used it, they made me sign a written statement saying so, and then bid me goodnight.

After that incident, I seriously considered getting rid of all of my social media accounts and just using the blog, but I need certain ones for work and to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. So, I decided a better compromise would be to use a pseudonym. That way, I could write whatever I wanted and simultaneously keep my real identity, my identity. I kind of like it better this way. It feels almost like a secret. I will say, it was weird at first hearing people online address me as “Dylan” but I’ve gotten used to it. The weirdness is a small price to pay for my privacy and protection.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

An Honest Conversation about Suicide

I did not want to write this, but it needed to be said. This is hard for me. Please give me grace.

An Honest and Vulnerable Prayer

God, please, if You are, at all, merciful like they say You are, like I know You to be, please kill me. Please. I will never ask for anything ever again. Just…please? I can not do this anymore. I just wanna be with You. Is suicide so bad if it means I get to be with You?

This I prayed in hushed whispers between crying and screaming sessions with my tear-stained pillow, off and on for two and a half hours, early Monday morning before the sun made its debut. God did not respond, at least, not like I thought He should, so I sat in silence for a few minutes before continuing.

They say You have a plan, a purpose for every creation You breathe life into. What about me? I can’t find any direction. I’m not needed. I’m just a burden to my family and friends, just a parasite taking up space and resources. Are the PTSD and depression enjoyable to You? Why won’t You just be kind and kill me?

Like Job’s friends should have done for the duration of his suffering, God sat with me in utter silence as I wept and wiped tears on my pillow. Under normal circumstances, having someone sit beside me in silence and understanding, if not empathy, would be comforting, even welcoming. But for God to do it? Somehow, it seemed wrong and cruel, especially since I was, in an albeit roundabout, twisted, and wrong way, searching for peace and an end to my pain.

A Conversation Starter

Despite fleeting moments of happiness and distractions, I’ve been dealing with heavy bouts of suicidal thoughts all week. Don’t worry, I’m not actively suicidal. I’m not gonna kill myself at the end of this. Having an honest conversation about suicide is not easy. It is scary and uncomfortable for both parties, but oftentimes, it is necessary for lives to be changed and saved. More than once, my pastor-friend Michael Patton had to talk me down off the ledge. I truly believe that was God-ordained. He’s got his own family history with suicide, so he’s one of the few people I could trust with this.

The first time Michael had to talk me down, I told him, in no uncertain terms and after reading his post, “Suicidal Thoughts on Suicide,” exactly what I was thinking. I considered the outcome of such a drastic move.

Having an honest conversation about suicide is not easy. It is scary and uncomfortable for both parties, but oftentimes, it is necessary for lives to be changed and saved.

Being Honest about Suicidal Ideation

I told Michael that I didn’t want him or my family and friends to feel pain from my decision. He replied, in his typical fashion, “Well, of course, we would. Sheesh.” I continued to ruminate over possibilities. I gave him examples of what I thought people would say in regards to my death: “Trauma got her.”  “She was such a talented writer…so much potential. It’s a shame she wasted it.” Or my biggest fear: “Maybe she wasn’t a Christian after all.” He disagreed with me about the last one, as I knew he would. What he said next, left me silenced for several minutes.

He said to me, “I don’t know how most of us don’t do it. There are just five things holding us back:

  1. We know it is wrong and we don’t want to go against Him.
  2. Fear of death. No matter how strong we are in the faith, God has built in a healthy fear of death. It will always be there when we think about killing ourselves.
  3. Not wanting to let others down or hurt them.
  4. The slight hope that our sadness will end and we will still find purpose and relevance down the road.
  5. The love of life [love of writing he added later for me]. We are built to love life. It is ingrained in us. And when we think straight, we remember our basis of human instincts and experience (breathing, eating, sex, aesthetics, social interaction, laughter, etc.), no matter how short-lived, bring us pleasure.”

I smirked and told him that 4 and 5 didn’t apply to me because “hope is hard”. He responded in the typical-Michael Patton way: “Well, that’s three of five. It’s settled. You’re not doing it… Man, I should train people for the suicide prevention hotline!”

I could do nothing but laugh and shake my head at him. He had me.

During another conversation that same week, Michael said: “I am so sorry… God will give you the ticket when the time comes [that was a C.S. Lewis reference].” After telling him that I was, essentially, a basket case of stress and anxiety, he went on to say, “I’m sorry. I really don’t know what God’s plans are for you, so I don’t know if it will get better even though I think it will.”

I wholeheartedly appreciated the fact that Michael admitted he did not know if it was going to get better. Many Christians do not do that. Maybe because they are afraid to be weak or wrong in front of other people, I don’t know, but I appreciate Michael not holding his hair back when he threw up” by showing me that he does not know everything, nor does he have all the answers to every question I throw at him.

It is refreshing, but even more so, it gave me a better understanding of the nature of God. Specifically, that He is infinite, while I can, unfortunately, control nothing, not even my own death.

An Interesting Realization

So, by the end of these conversations, I realized one important thing: God did actually respond to my suffering, just not in the way I thought He would. I was expecting an overwhelming sense of peace or an audible voice booming down to me from above, but none of that happened. Instead, God chose to respond to my death wish by using an existing friendship to open my eyes a little wider to get me to see that maybe I’m not alone. Maybe I’m not a failure, maybe I have something to offer to somebody, and maybe, just maybe, He does love me.

Sometimes, or most often than not I think, God heals and speaks to us not by grand gestures in the sky, or with a loud voice, but in the quiet moments, and by the people we already know, love, and trust. He places His wisdom and care in the hearts of men who share His love to those who need it most.

It has been a hard week, and the prayer at the beginning of this post still crossed my mind and made its way past my lips at random intervals, but not as fervent as before. I’m starting to find hope

By God grace, it should be easier to handle as I continue to be have open, honest conversations with the godly people around me who love me and are praying for me.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Don’t Drink the Fabuloso: For Suicidal Christians Too Afraid (or Too Condemned) to Ask for Help

Yes, you read the title right. Do not freak out. For my charismatic believers, do not get the holy oil and start speaking in tongues and/or casting out demons that may not actually be there. Just let me explain.

A Brief Synopsis of My Mental State

I am not okay. (Again, do not freak out.) I will be okay, but right now, I’m not. I’m struggling. Between job rejections, lack of sleep, and life, plus the 3-year trauma anniversary of my suicide attempt and subsequent Baker Act that lasts all week starting on Sunday, I am a mess. (For those of you who don’t live in Florida, the Baker Act is what happens when someone, be it a counselor, doctor, or friend, has reason to believe you are a danger to yourself and/or another; and, as a result, you are locked up in a psych ward or mental health care facility for a mandatory 72 hours, or longer depending on arbitrary tests from a psychiatrist on staff. You tend to lose your humanity in there). I was cleaning the kitchen earlier tonight, and as I was hanging the drying towel on a nearby cabinet door, it opened, and my eyes locked with the purple cleaning solution sitting inside. The next words out of my mouth will probably surprise you, they did me after I uttered them: “Don’t drink the Fabuloso.” I sighed a sigh of exasperation and I swear I think Holy Spirit groaned with me, too. The last thing I want is to make the holy Trinity feel my pain.

Trying to Protect the Almighty

That’s an odd thing isn’t it? To think that I could attempt—and succeed—at protecting God from my emotions and suicidal thoughts? I think the reason why many of us do that, or at least I do, and I could be wrong, is because we’ve gotten so used to putting on a mask and pretending that we don’t think about drinking Fabuloso or gulping down sleeping pills with alcohol, or driving our car into the nearest tree to escape the unbearable pain, but that we’ve got all our ducks in a row instead. That’s not how a relationship works. Transparency and vulnerability, especially with God, are necessary for trust and growth.  A Christian apologist and friend of mine, Michael Patton, writes extensively about the value of transparency in his blog. I tend to refer to it often when I need a reminder or encouragement.

The writer of Hebrews says that we always have help in the form of Christ. He writes, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). We should not feel embarrassed or guilty of our suicidal thoughts when our reality becomes too much for us to handle. This is why the safety net of communication with the Triune God is there (and other resources if need be). Even if no one around us understands our struggle, He does.

The Shame of Silence

I think one of the main reasons we try to put on a brave face is because suicide is such a taboo subject in evangelical Christian circles. The only time it’s mentioned is when a Christian, especially a prominent, popular one, chooses to die by suicide; and even then, the topic is not really discussed, but is rather used as a source of gossip and as a tool for condemnation. It is my personal belief that God wants us to be honest about where we are, even if others don’t get it. If Elijah, who was running for his life from Queen Jezebel (aka the Prophet Killer), could be passively suicidal (that is, longing for death but not actually intending to take one’s own life) and admit that to God, who later sent an angel to strengthen him, surely we who are loved fiercely by the same God can follow his footsteps and be real about our situations and thought processes; that’s the only way to recover and heal. The shame of suicidal ideation only controls us if we don’t speak on it. If we sit in silence, out of fear or anything else, then the suicidal ideation festers within us until we see no other way out and by then, it may be too late.

A Final Step: Have Courage

This is supposed to be the part where I tell you that the next immediate step you need to take is to pray for
God to take away your suicidal thoughts, but I’m not going to do that. (I can hear some of you scream “Heresy!” with heavy stones in hand aiming at me; calm down. Don’t stone me yet.)  If you’re like me, prayer don’t always work. At least, not right away. Sometimes, you need a little more than words to reassure you that your life is actually worth something and that’s okay. That doesn’t make you a bad Christian with poor faith, it makes you human. A beloved Christian apologist and father figure once told me, “It takes courage to move from brokenness to greater wholeness,” and I have found his words ring true even now, years later.

So, if you need something more than the quiet presence of God, go find a trusted person in your life, be it a friend, pastor, or (gasp!) a therapist. Put down the alcohol, or pills, or food, or Fabuloso, or whatever you’re using to numb yourself with and start being honest with someone who will understand and help walk you through this difficult season. If you feel you can’t keep yourself safe, maybe consider in-patient hospitalization. Whatever you do, be honest, take your journey one hour at a time if need be, and stay safe.

I love you.