Silence

Suicide: It’s a dirty word… People are afraid of it. They don’t want to hear it. Or talk about it. We judge it – we judge ourselves for contemplating it, we judge others for talking about it. And those that go through with it? They receive the most judgement of all. Those most in need of our love and compassion, kindness and understanding – are the ones most likely to be criticised, judged and condemned.

Suicide: Seven little letters… the action of killing oneself intentionally.

Statistically, suicide is a big deal… But statistics mean nothing to a lot of us… Really, they say nothing to most. We read a number and think, oh how sad. But to really CARE, we need a much stronger emotional connection. For some of us, that might happen when we lose a loved one to suicide. Or experience the trauma of caring for someone after an attempt. Some of us care because we experience that overwhelming desire to commit suicide. And occasionally there are those who have the love, compassion, kindness and understanding to empathise with people experiencing such overwhelming emotional pain that death seems a welcome – and reasonable – option.

I was always expected to be strong. To be physically strong. To be emotionally strong. To love and care for others and be emotionally independent and not “needy”. I managed those things most of my life. I have an excellent constitution and rarely get sick. When I do – I soldier on and shut up about it. I manage emotions by burying my feelings and needs and focussing on others – by finding joy in giving and nurturing. It feels fantastic to be immersed in doing things for others. It’s not an entirely selfless act – I receive a lot in return. But nobody can be strong for all the people all the time. One day – things change.

My younger sister was allowed to be frail. She was delicate and beautiful. She had mental health issues from age 13, and her first suicide attempt at age 21 – with many attempts over the years, some more serious than others. Compassion and kindness were hard to find – even in myself in those early years. It is not easy to have compassion for something you don’t understand – but while age may bring unwelcome wrinkles and grey hairs, it does have a habit of bringing perspective and experience. My sister did not die quickly from suicide. In the end, she drank herself to death over 14 years, dying at age 40 from alcohol related liver failure. She refused all medical treatment, with which she would be alive today – and died a miserable, painful, slow, undignified death. Surely just a slow form of suicide. She lived 27 years of abject misery – with severe depression, crippling anxiety, chronic eating disorder and self-harm issues, along with many other symptoms of borderline personality disorder, for which she refused to be treated.

“She refused to be treated.” I can hear the chorus of voices already, singing out, “But she had a choice!” No she didn’t – she was sick. She had major mental health issues. In all the years I watched her bizarre and inexplicable behaviours, causing untold grief and misery to those that loved her, the most miserable person in the entire scenario was always my sister. Nobody – absolutely nobody – chooses to be that miserable. Nobody wants to die clinging to an empty wine bottle and a bag full of cigarette butts. But sometimes illness defies logic and resists treatment. And that may be incredibly frustrating to onlookers… Just as there are physical ailments that refuse to respond to antibiotics or chemotherapy or painkillers, sometimes there are psychological afflictions that are too much for treatment. My sister was one such person. She is finally at peace – peace she never found in all her previous years.

And me? Well the first time I remember wishing I was dead, I was nine years old. I wasn’t suicidal. I was just pissed at my mother and thought the best way to punish her for her “misdeeds” (I have absolutely no idea what…) would be for me to be dead. She had lost one child – I knew how much that had hurt her. I tried running away a few times from age six onwards – mostly I would pack all my favourite socks into a little red lunchbox and walk up the road until someone brought me home. But I distinctly remember wishing to punish her with my death when I was nine. I had that thought on and off over the next decade.

At 19, I was more serious. I was no longer living at home – my parents were struggling, my brother estranged from the family, and my sister causing much distress and mayhem with her own mental health issues. I was making a small living doing a bit of teaching – had very few friends or meaningful connections, felt miserable and purposeless, and had no sense of hope for the future. I went through my housemate’s comprehensive stash of medications and took quite a few boxes. I don’t remember much else… I vaguely recall phoning Lifeline and then waking up a day or so later at home feeling like an abject failure for not even killing myself successfully. (The internet has come along in the meantime, and that overdose should have killed me… I guess I really do have an excellent constitution!)

The following year I went to university, found some wonderful (lifelong) friends, and serious thoughts of suicide mostly diminished for two decades. I got married, had awesome kids, worked and travelled. Then middle age hit and my life took a turn for the worse.

The stresses that led me to chronic suicidal ideation are not relevant. What difference does it make? It should be enough for me to state I can’t cope – I can’t picture a future with any sense of hope or light or optimism. The set of circumstances that led me here are irrelevant – I don’t need to be judged. I don’t need you to read this and think, “I’m stronger than that.” We all have a breaking point. You do too…

brokenWe all have a breaking point.

Remember that. We… All… Have… A… Breaking… Point… I found mine.

Earlier this year I acknowledged I was beyond sad – that my coping mechanisms had crumbled. I sought help – from my general practitioner and my psychologist, and after admission to the mental health unit for a three week stay, from my psychiatrist. They are saintly people who continue to support me, even when I can’t support myself.

I am doing much better. Much, much better. But, for now, suicidal ideation remains (and it must be stressed here, that thoughts are not actions…) There are days and moments where I forget why I’m supposed to be here – why I must stay and keep doing all the things for all the people all the time. Some days it feels like everything I do is for everyone else. I have had days and weeks where, “One day at a time”, was too much, I just had to get through hour by hour. And I did. I kept putting little milestones in front of me – hang on until this happens or for this reason. Just keep hanging on. Tomorrow is a new day – make a new choice then.

You know what stops me the most? In those really, really dark moments – when temptation is utterly overwhelming and every ounce of my being is focussed on (the perception of) eternal bliss and endless restful oblivion – it is those same people that I care for that make me want to stay.

Humans need connections. We are social creatures. This has been well documented and researched for decades. Have a look here, or here, or here… It is those social connections that keep me here. It’s hearing, “Are you okay?” or “Are you safe?” It’s a friend, seeing your pain and fearing your actions, that says, “I’ll be really upset if you die.” Or a friend turning up to sit with you – just to be sure. It is looking at my children and my husband, my dad and my grandmother, and knowing they have experienced enough pain and loss, and don’t need any more. And it is those same connections that offer a glimpse of hope and light into the future. People will give me purpose.

A friend convinced me I should start journaling and I was very resistant to the idea. But you know what? It helped. It actually did help. And from those journals, I expanded onto this page. And it all helps. For anyone that doesn’t understand suicidal ideation, here is a window into some of my darkest thoughts… Perhaps it doesn’t resonate with you – but this has been my reality. I will be okay. I promise. But there are days when the dark calls – this is the war I fight.

6 August
Still very dark thoughts running through my head… I decided to commit suicide before my birthday. When I first decided this, I started feeling overwhelmed with emotions and had a shocking day. However, the more I plan and organise the more real this fantasy seems and the more control I feel I have. My biggest regret will be Dad. The thought of knowing he will lose another child absolutely breaks my heart. 

9 August
I don’t know what I want. I think that’s why I want nothing – just end now. Or asap. That sense of happiness and contentment and peace and serenity that people talk about, is such a distant obscure impossible concept that I don’t imagine I would ever have it. I’m tired of feeling ashamed. Actually, I am just tired! I am always so tired and I don’t even do anything! I secretly hope I’ll be diagnosed with a terminal illness so that will explain all my niggles and exhaustion and then I can die without causing the additional stress and grief that comes from having a loved one commit suicide… So. Freaking. Tired…

18 August
Future… Still struggling with that concept. Not sure if I want to start future plans – I’m incredibly fearful they’ll all fall flat. Or everyone will die and leave me. Should I accept the end is nigh and start planning for that instead? Everyone would be horrified I even have that thought… I don’t know if it’s normal? Do other people want to opt out all the time?! I am so tired… I keep saying that. But it’s true! When I picture my future at the moment it’s just an interminable journey of same same same… Running around looking after everyone until they die. 

24 August
I was thinking about connections this morning – or lack thereof… I have lots of connections with lots of beautiful people, but I feel myself keeping a big distance. I’m socially disconnecting and socially very careful – very reticent – to divulge too much of me to any one person. And I feel alone and disconnected even though I have beautiful people I know love and respect me! But I don’t have the courage or the strength or the energy to really connect any more.  I feel like I’m still in the place where I’m trying to decide whether to pull my socks up and move onwards and upwards, or accept what has been my normal comfortable, familiar place for so very, very long. Which hasn’t really been very healthy in hindsight. But it’s comfortable and familiar. And I’m very tired…

8 September
Okay – so if someone breaks into my journal, you’ll be pleased to know I’m feeling a tad better than yesterday… I still don’t have a lot of hope for the future. And I’m definitely still mind numbingly tired! But today, just for today, I can picture myself staying alive a little while longer. I’m just playing day by day, but I think I can manage a few more at the moment.

4 October
I feel like I’m functioning fairly well in the “real” world at the moment. It isn’t a monumental effort to chat with people or to do what needs to be done. I am enjoying gym and even (gasp!) have ventured into the arena of housework. It has been six months since I last touched a vacuum cleaner… I am determined to make it through a little longer. But in the meantime, all I want to do is walk out my front door and keep walking forever and ever and never come back. Just walk until I drop. Somehow that feels more acceptable than anything else…

16 October
I am struggling. I don’t know what’s going on – could be a myriad of things or just absolutely nothing, or absolutely anything really… But I know I feel sad, and despondent, and lethargic, and listless, and irrational, and moody, and sensitive and tetchy. And there’s no real reason. And there’s lots of reasons. I don’t want to do anything. I feel as though my “right” to suicide is being taken away – too much guilt and pressure and “this too shall pass” and “it will all get better – just wait” – and now I have to just be here and do… What? I don’t know… I dream each night of walking out the door and walking and walking and walking until I don’t know what… Probably the police find a strange middle aged woman freezing cold wandering along the highway and cart her off to the emergency department for “evaluation”. Where I would be mortified at having caused such a fuss. 

21 October
I have had another good day. I feel a sense of being lighter. Not physically lighter… Because actually I’m heavier. Which I’m not happy about… But spiritually lighter. More positive. No idea what is causing this turn around but I am definitely feeling more positive regardless. I am very uncomfortable with this positive outlook… But I guess that is something to work on. Really fearful it will be transitory and I’ll be telling everyone, I told you so! before I know it… 

12 November
Today I feel so much better. Soooo much better. More like me. Sometimes that’s sad and irrational and overly stressed and not coping, but sometimes it’s feeling energetic and engaged and having the oomph to participate in facebook political discussions – when previously I just could be bothered. I still worry that a bit of stress will tip me over the edge very quickly – in fact that’s very feasible… So either this is what real life is like for other people (really??!!!!) or I’m in a bubble of okay-ness that will burst at some time. But I have decided I don’t want to live my life in fear of the burst bubble – because that fear takes away my happiness in the moment. And while I confess I haven’t really felt much genuine happiness for a long time, I am definitely feeling much more able to focus on positives and to see a future – which I didn’t see before.

19 November
I am not doing great today. I know I should be doing as my psychologist suggested, and encouraged, and practice my willingness. My willingness to just sit with emotions. To sit with frustration and fear and anger and sadness and guilt and all the other nameless things floating through me right now. I will try that as an exercise when I finish typing here…

And before I finish, it is really important I leave you with some links. If – like me – you are sometimes overwhelmingly tempted, check these out. Then wait another hour or two. I did. We can do it together.

Australian Helplines:
If you need help urgently, please contact:

  • 000 police, ambulance or fire, or go to Emergency Department of your local hospital

OR for 24 hour helpline support, call:

  • 131 114                  Lifeline
  • 1300 789 978      Mensline
  • 1300 651 251       Lifeline Suicide Helpline
  • 1300 224 636      beyondblue

International Helplines:
United States: Need Help Now?

  • Call 911
  • 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
  • 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
  • Text Telephone: 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889)

United Kingdom: If you’re in danger, call 999 for an ambulance or the police.

  • NHS 111 Service: Call if you need non-emergency medical help
  • Call 111 if you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency.
  • Samaritans 116 123 . The Samaritans are a 24 hour confidential, listening service providing emotional support to anyone in crisis.

Country Listings: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

Support:

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