On July 16th 2013 I tried to end my life.
‘Suicide’ is like Voldermort from the Harry Potter books; a forbidden word that society does not say enough and by doing so gives it more power. And this needs to stop.
Attitude towards mental health within our society is getting better, especially since my first depression diagnosis when I was around seventeen.
Many people begin to experience negative mental health in their teens, and I was no different. My low mood meant that many months of my sixth form years were trapped indoors by my inability to function and my consistent desire to find the off switch to life. Along with the depression came its friend anxiety, and with that came over two years of having to sleep on the floor in my parent’s room because I wasn’t able to lower my panic enough to sleep alone at night.
Support back then was minimal, with my GP often turning me away, not having the patience to understand me between sobs. The internet wasn’t around to google for support or mental health services back then and I didn’t believe that anyone would think I was normal, let alone understand or empathise with me.
I discovered by myself that my periods of depression and suicidal thoughts would run parallel with times in my life that were experiencing huge change or a pace I was unable to cope with. I would use ‘catastrophic’ and ‘black and white’ thoughts to allow me some rest from the adrenaline and despair. These ways of thinking were my brain’s way of putting my life’s worries into perspective. Simply put; ‘why should I worry about all this if I’m just going to die anyway?’ That kind of thing.
It was then that I started to spend a lot more time reflecting both internally with my thoughts and feelings whilst examining externally what was going on in my life at the time. And I wouldn’t have been able to do this without writing it down. ‘Journaling’ is simply that, and its often been the best of tools for me at times when it’s come to my mental health.
I wasn’t able to truly get help until 2012 when I plucked up the courage to mention to a friend that I really still wasn’t ok. I wouldn’t have been able to approach her had I not known that she also suffered with her mental health, specifically with post-natal depression. I essentially said the equivalent of the name Voldermort, only to find my worries dissolving the second I saw her response. Little did she know that her care, in that moment, was the start of making someone’s life better.
I got help, started treatment and was doing ok. I found that my anxiety and dreads at night were diminishing and that I didn’t need to sleep on the sofa at night, waiting for my partner to be ready to go up to bed. I realised that the feelings of despair that came with my night fears weren’t making my stomach physically sink and my bladder weak.
But it was when a major life incident happened that my road to recovery was tested. And my steps of progress began going backwards. A part of my life was now out of my control and my reaction was automatic. There seemed to be no time or energy to write things down or talk things through. I felt alone.
As I was experiencing loneliness and abandonment to a new scale I had never felt before, I tried to ‘soldier on’ as we are often expected to do. My work was still good quality, my smile was still on my face and my garden and home, from the outside, looked tended to. But once inside it would have been clear to anyone that my life was quickly going downhill.
It only took one phone call to make me want to try to end my life. At least that’s what it felt like. But looking back you see a pattern of events, thoughts and feelings, that had led me to that point. The self-isolation, the obsessive thoughts, the lack of care when it comes to eating and the feeling of self-worth fading over time.
But this one phone call made all of those patterns seem easy to live with in comparison, and I knew in those moments of despair that the guilt that was keeping me alive for those I loved, suddenly held no weight whatsoever. It had all gone too far.
Two things I have learnt:
1. You can never put the idea of suicide into the mind of someone else, it is the talking and the words ‘suicide’, ‘self-harm’ and ‘suicidal thoughts’ that actually can decompress and have the opposite effect.
2. Second, dying by suicide is never a selfish act, it has probably taken a long time to get to that point and it is a moment that no one would want them to get to, including themselves. That’s why the words and the conversations matter. As the talking can help to stop it getting to that point.
I got to that point. I had given up. And so I nearly died. But I survived. Others aren’t as lucky.
What kept me going? When learning about suicide prevention, we’re often taught about the ‘magic’. What thing in someone’s life lights them up. For me, it’s my dogs. And they keep me going. Every. Single. Day.
So next time someone talks about not wanting to go on, whether it’s a best friend, a colleague, a family member, or even a stranger on a bridge. Find their magic.
Since that day, I’ve seen others experience the loss of loved ones, knowing that it didn’t have to be that way. I’ve witnessed and felt the painful frustration and the pointless aftermath of ‘why’s’.
Why didn’t they talk sooner?
Why did they do it?
Why didn’t I see the signs?
Why can’t I go back and stop it?
Conversations and putting a middle finger up to the stigma of suicide will stop these needless ‘whys’. Talking about how we feel, what makes us human, what makes us different and yet the same, could stop the regret or blame that we needlessly put on ourselves when we get ‘that’ phone call.
Do I consider myself lucky? Very.
I not only lived through it, I feel no shame in it. I do, however, feel responsibility. Responsibility to spread the word and end the stigma. Having emotions and thoughts has led us to being the evolved creatures we are and to hold these back means we are curbing our potential to truly help, to truly live and to truly love.
I have had depression ever since. And anxiety. Both may never go away. But I manage my mental health with the help and support of those I have around me. Sure, I’ve have had more experiences and incidences that have rocked my mental wellbeing foundations, life will do that after all. I have had mental breakdowns because of toxic work environments, bereavements, heartache and miscarriage. I have suicidal thoughts more regularly than many people around me know. But what makes the difference? Having conversations with my nearest and dearest, helping others and acknowledging that there’s no need to hide.
I now work for Lancashire Mind. I’ve wanted to turn my experiences into something fruitful. I love working for this charity. I have never felt more appreciated, rewarded, celebrated and yes, loved.
That day in July seven years ago means that I can empathise to an extreme and so to not use this to help others would be such a loss.
I believe in the quote by Myles Munroe;
“The graveyard is the richest place on the surface of the earth because there you will see the books that were not published, ideas that were not harnessed, songs that were not sung, and drama pieces that were never acted.”
How can we ever truly live and appreciate what life has to offer, if the potential of many is lost too soon? We all lose.
I celebrate the 16th of July every year, for being around another year longer. I keep this theme alive in my life and it has meant that friends, colleagues and family have been able to approach me when, they too, have not been ok. I also send that same friend a message every year on this day to tell her thank you for being there for me in a moment when I had no choice but to reach out, hoping someone would catch me.
On World Suicide Prevention Day, I ask every person reading this a favour; get used to using the word ‘suicide’. It doesn’t matter if you say it in front of the mirror, talk about it as a subject with someone, just get that word out as often as you can. Because one day, you might need to ask someone if they are thinking of suicide and the easier it is to say, the easier it is for that person, in such insurmountable pain, for them to get the help they need.
Take care of yourself,