soul tattoos & spider webs

by aboynamedsuicide

if rolling thunder and soothing rainfall could be transformed into words, it could only be done by Ryan Stollar. he writes with a compelling and moving authenticity, piercing both the mind and the soul. his words provoke true thought – the kind that leads to meaningful action. Ryan blogs at overturning tables, addressing critical ideas that affect politics, culture, religion, and mental health. his thoughts flow from a soul that has been deeply broken but beautifully recreated. i am truly blessed to know Ryan and to share his words here. ~lydia


Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will.

There are words written on my heart, like a tattoo burned into my soul. I have read these words, recited and repeated and memorized them. I have clung to them like a child clings to a teddy bear.

I have prayed these words publicly, pleaded with them silently. When I had no words, I imagined the Holy Spirit intervening before me in the presence of God.

But I still had nightmares as a kid. Nightmares of demons and long dark roads and whispers so cold they pierced my heart. I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. I would fear falling back asleep, because I knew as soon as I did I would descend once again into darkness. So I would keep myself awake, repeating the lines I learned in AWANA. I would repeat them over and over, like they were mandala beads running through the fingers of my mind to keep me centered.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” I would say. I am thankful for the nightmares, Jesus. I am thankful for the demons. This is your will. Your will be done.

But it never worked. I would always fall back asleep and I would find myself alone in my terror.


Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.

The commandment to rejoice is like a noose around my neck. The more I struggle, the tighter it gets.

Joy is that one thing I always wanted but never had.

I remember never feeling quite right growing up. Like something was off. Like everything around me was happening through a window pane. I could see and hear everything, but everything was a world away.

My head felt filled spider webs. I would imagine the spider webs were bubble gum-flavored cotton candy so I would feel more brave.

As I grew older, I came to realize that I had a major depressive disorder. That it’s not normal to feel so disconnected from the world, to experience every single day as a struggle to stay alive. I came to realize that I wasn’t some strangely broken toy God created as a cruel jest. That I had real reasons for not considering life “all joy.”

I didn’t consider it all joy, my brethren. I considered it all split pea soup.

That’s what my mental illness feels like: split pea soup. Thick, discolored, and tasteless.


God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.

I don’t feel like God is faithful. I feel alone and abandoned. Every day I feel like the little kid I once was, huddled in my bed in the middle of the night, surrounded by my stuffed animals and rocking back and forth and incessantly repeating Bible verses in my head so I wouldn’t fall asleep again and have nightmares.

I feel like pain is faithful.

Suffering is faithful.

Wanting to die is the most faithful of all.

And my heart breaks when these platitudes are held over my head, like weights I wish I could push but my arms are broken. Sometimes platitudes just aren’t true.

Sometimes I am tempted beyond what I can handle.

Sometimes I break into pieces.

Sometimes I drink a bottle of 151 and wade into an ocean to drown. And there are friends who love me to pull me back to shore. To care for me and tell me it will be ok, that I will make it, that I will live to see another day and there is so much beauty in the world and so much beauty inside of me.

I can be tempted beyond what I am able. But there are people out there to help me back up when I fall.


Life doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker. And the gospel and the mystery and the complexity of life isn’t reducible to a billboard. They are encountered everyday in the blood and sweat and tears of people like you and me — people who bear scars, who have taken one too many pills, who have bashed their head against the wall to drive out the voices, who know that this, too, shall pass but while it’s still here it hurts So. Fucking. Much.

And when I want to scream and pull my hair out, when I want my scars to multiply and my head to crack, when I pray to God to please let suicide victims into heaven, please — please do not tell me to be thankful in all circumstances. Do not tell me to consider it all joy and that God is faithful. I don’t need to know that. I already know that. I have heard it a million times and I have read the Bible backwards and forwards and I have tasted the wafer and the wine and I still want to kill myself, goddamnit. Because I am sick. I am broken. It’s not my fault and it’s not for a lack of memorizing verses or going to church or singing praise songs. It’s because my brain has problems and I need you to just be here. To be present. To let me know it’s going to be ok.

It’s going to be ok.

And sometimes — sometimes it won’t be ok. It will be anything but ok. But be here for me, for people like me. Be there for those who hurt. Don’t speak of grace. Show us grace. Show us unconditional love.

Let us not be alone in our terror.