Nate would wake up each morning and think: “I wish I hadn’t woken up” His life felt empty and hopeless. It was void of anything and he certainly had no hope. He couldn’t imagine anything that could make him happy, not even remotely. The only thing he looked forward to each day was when the day ended and he could escape his life for another eight hours or so in sleep. It was a short distance from feeling that way every day to finally coming to believe his ultimate escape was death.
That’s when he tried to kill himself.
Nate was not an unusual child. He was strong willed and independent, but while growing up, he didn’t create problems for his parents. He excelled in school and was an enthusiastic participant in the youth group at his local church.
It is hard to pinpoint just when Nate lost hope. Somehow his life degraded into something he himself found hideous yet did not have the power to change. He became obsessed with porn and would spend up to sixteen hours per day playing video games. Then, while in tenth grade, he began to experiment with drugs. From there, he sank into despair and emptiness.
By the time his parents realized something was wrong, he had become a threat both to them and himself. He was heavily into drugs and had managed to nearly destroy every good relationship in his life. At one point, he physically assaulted his father. At another, he forced his way into his parents’ home. To protect themselves and his brother and sister, his parents pushed him away. They had to ensure the safety of the rest of the family. This was no longer the young man they knew. It was someone different. Nate had changed that much and become that destructive.
With none of his familiar connections and comfort of his own family, Nate was surrounded by people just like him, peers who were also on the same path; self-annihilation.
How could Nate reach the point of no other options?
As is often the case when young people spiral out of control, by the time they understand there really is a problem; the opportunity to stop the destruction is nearly past.
Nate was empty of hope, surrounded by people who were just as empty, and he literally could not imagine any way to climb out of the pit he had created for himself. For so long he used drugs to make his life better, a temporary fix to make him feel happy, but the feeling was an illusion. He consumed video games and pornography in the same way as drugs. They were fixes, a way to take his mind off reality. He was self-medicating.
Yet, what he was using to solve the problem merely deepened the depths of his despair. That is the vicious nature of a negative cycle. It only spirals in one direction, downward. Nate’s fixes were becoming addictions and major forces contributing to his depression.
Medicating his sickness with something that was making him worse, led him to believe that the only thing that could improve the quality of his life was for him to die. In an attempt to save himself by killing himself, Nate swallowed a bottle of Tylenol. He believed death would be a better alternative than life.
When Nate was in the hospital, recovering from his attempted suicide, he had an encounter with Jesus. For the first time, as far back as he could remember, Nate began to experience hope!
Following his attempted suicide, Nate’s uncle began the search for a long-term residential therapeutic boarding schools or similar residential programs that could help Nate. Through connections with Chick-fil-A, Nate’s uncle heard about the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH). He began the inquiry process and Nate was accepted into the home and became a member of the PAYH family.
Life is the birthplace of hope
When he arrived at the PAYH, Nate was unsure of what to expect, but he felt a peace that this was where he was supposed to be. And so he took a step of faith in a new direction, determined that if he worked hard and stayed on course, things could be better and that life could be worth living. Nate even described himself as being frail and devoid of good character and lacking true strength of any kind. Yet what he did have was a seed of hope, and that seed was enough to lead him to believe that he could change.
Believing that change was possible became the strength he lacked. Throughout his time at the PAYH, Nate grew into a man with the personal fortitude to confront his issues in a healthy way, take ownership of his mistakes while not fixating on what couldn’t be undone. Instead, he worked to rebuild the relationships he had destroyed. Out of his pit of despair, he began to take steps in a different direction. He committed himself to finding the reality of Jesus made evident in the way he lived his life, moment by moment. He strove to maintain the kind of discipline that would lead to good character. Possibly most astounding, Nate began to live a life of service to others.
After graduating the PAYH, Nate attended Columbia International where he studied Intercultural Studies as well as earning a degree to teach English as a foreign language. His goal has been to become a missionary and so he worked with international workers for two summers in Yosemite National Park and another summer in Moscow, sharing the Gospel. This past summer, he married his beautiful bride Emily, who shares his passion to be a missionary.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people.
By 2020, it is estimated that someone will succeed in taking their life every 20 seconds.
Nate no longer thinks dying is better than LIFE!
Nate’s story is one that shows the breadth of the human condition. The confident, hard-working young man who sees everyday life as an opportunity for personal growth as well as a chance to invest in others is a very different person from the boy who tried to end his own life, wasting away day after day in the darkness of his own hopelessness. His story is the kind of story that proves change is possible, that hope is alive and it is powerful enough to transform us. His story is nothing short of a miracle. His story is a story of hope.
Together, we can create more days for young men like Nate.
Make a contribution today that will provide another young man with the opportunity to write his own story of hope.