This post can be extremely triggering to anyone going through a period of recovery from either suicidal thoughts or depression. If any thoughts or feelings arise while reading this post, please refer to http://prevent-suicide.org.uk/ , download the Stay Alive app, or for immediate help, call the Hotline Numbers: 116 123 (Samaritan) or 0800 068 41 41 (Papyrus)
It has taken me two months to write this post, but never has a time felt more right than now to publish it. Recently, two young people in my local community have committed suicide; one, an A-level student, and the other just starting her GCSEs. I can imagine that there have been many, many more. As those of you who have read my previous blogs will know, I don’t cushion the blow of the reality of mental health. I’ve found that people tend to view both eating disorders and depression as an untouchable subject; especially in the Jewish British community – it is not up for discussion because it doesn’t exist.
There is one subject that in my experience of mental health, I have not yet touched upon; suicide. This is an extremely hard topic for me to discuss, as I am still in the recovery period, and still have blips and relapses, however, this is a matter that needs to be talked about. This is my journey, how I’ve dealt and am dealing with the effects of suicide, and how suicide and suicidal thoughts can be noticed and dealt with. If any topic discussed brings on strong or unwanted feelings, please refer to the numbers and website above.
Exam time. Pressure. Running around like a headless chicken, testing your pens frantically, desperately reading, re-reading, re-re-reading your notes. ‘The worst time of your life.’ For some.
The worst time of my life was the day I tried to commit suicide.
I was careful, ever so careful. I had been planning it for months. A traumatic experience in my summer break (which I plan to talk about in a later post) had led me back to my old friend, Bulimia, but this relapse had brought with it the darkness of death. Well, of wishing for death. I began to think about death, about what would happen if I did, well, that. What my funeral would look like. If anyone would care about the fat, unloved girl from high school. If I was ever going to be worthy of those around me. If anyone even wanted me around. Thoughts filled my mind every day, desperate thoughts. I used to imagine all the different ways that I could die -and they were so, so detailed. Every little thing had been put into place, every scenario fool proof. At the time, the only thing I couldn’t imagine was acting on them. But this, ladies and gents, is where it all started. Thoughts. Thoughts which led to action.
A reoccurring dream of mine was that I would get a knife, a large one from the kitchen drawer, and I would cut every ounce of fat from my body. I imagined blood pouring from my open wounds, the sharp pain of the first incision, then release. Relief. At least, in death, I could be perfect. Another dream, the main dream, was pills. Easy. Purchase from different shops, then simply swallow. I was sure that I wouldn’t be an angel, but at least I would be remembered as skinny.
What about my family? My friends? The people I would leave behind? As I said, I never believed I would act on my thoughts. Yet, it was not a choice. It was never a choice. I was swept up in death’s loving arms, desperate to leave. To leave this life. To be honest, I truly believed that everyone would be better off without me.
It was just so hard. The trauma I had suffered had left me feeling totally worthless, a failure. The fact that I couldn’t recover from an eating disorder, that I was still so depressed. Then, I got ill. Ill as I was in between recovery and an eating disorder, ill as the stress of trauma, exams and being a teenager had got the better of me. I couldn’t hold it together anymore. It was too hard to care about anyone else. Too exhausting.
Then, the worst thing that could happen, did happen. I was holding out for a specific university offer. The promise of leaving home, of the future where I wouldn’t be known as the ‘girl with the eating disorder’, was my only hope. It was the only thing that kept me going – if I lost this one thing, the one light left to guide me down the tunnel which would lead to happiness, then I was done for. Only, I didn’t receive this offer. It broke me. It was the last straw, the last shitty thing that I could take. And then, everything happened.
I walked up and down Hendon High Street, in and out of each corner shop. Two packs of paracetamol from here, one pack of ibuprofen here. Altogether, I had eighty. Six packets. Sitting in Costa, coffee mixed with salty tears. Minutes turned into hours, hours were seconds. At the time, I remember being scared, but the fear was mingled with a sadness, despair, an exhaustion so huge that fear was not an option. I had written a list of things that needed returning; my library books, a little china bird (one of my prized possessions), borrowed money and who it should go to. No note. It felt too much like a movie cliché. I sent texts instead. Sitting in the Costa toilet, fear, happiness, and liberation ran down my cheeks in rivulets. I was finally going to achieve something so brave. For me, this was the only way in which I could ever be happy – if I was dead, I would no longer be a burden.
My best friend and I had created a pact; if I died, she would die too. We had been there for each other for so many years, what would stop us now? Apparently, me. I sent her a message saying that I would have to break our pact. I kept it short and sweet, just telling her I loved her. I couldn’t be talked out of my decision – if I heard her voice, I would have crumbled. Another text to my sisters, telling them how amazing they are, what good lives they would lead. The silent message; a better life without their crazy older sister who brought so much unwanted drama to their lives. And lastly, to my parents. The wonderful people who had put up with so much over the last year – but no more. Lucky them.
I then received 11 frantic calls from my best friend, begging me to answer. But I knew that if I picked up the phone, my plans would be ruined. Another failure to add to the list. I sent her a message, telling her I couldn’t talk. Eventually, I picked up. I don’t remember much; the whole day was so traumatic that I simply shut my memories off. So I am now relaying her memories. She got my message when she was in class – we were both doing our A – levels at the time – but didn’t see it until twenty minutes later. She tried to call, but the phone rang off. She sent messages, voice notes, but to no avail. I’m not sure what made me reply, but I did. A simple message, saying I couldn’t trust myself to talk. She then called more. Neither of us truly remember what got me to answer the phone, but it must have worked, because I’m here today. She asked me a ton of questions, but when my only response was that it didn’t matter, she became more and more resilient. She told me to meet her at Costa, however, she had to get permission to leave school, running around like a headless chicken to find one of our heads of year. Neither were in school. Shocker. After faking sick, she finally found me, crying alone into my coffee cup, in a total state. We talked for the next four hours, however, I was not in my right mind. I was totally psychotic. I wouldn’t let her touch me. I was drained, but still irrepressible. I wasn’t sad or depressed. I was cold, logical. Nothing had changed, and my life still needed to end. My mum then called – at least 7 times. When I finally answered, I immediately registered the panic in her voice – all she kept saying was ‘get yourself to the hospital’. I wouldn’t allow her to come to Costa, I simply couldn’t face her, face the disappointment. So I went to the hospital, and was saved.
I was ok. I was stopped. But what would have happened if someone would have realised before? If someone would have asked; checked on me? Anyone would have sufficed. I just needed to know someone cared. I needed that physical reassurance, because I had no mental clarity whatsoever. I didn’t get it, because no one knew to give it.
That day, sitting on a hospital chair with my mum crying, my sisters totally unaware of what was happening, was the worst day of my life. It was when I realised how selfish I was. If I had succeeded in killing myself, what would be left? A family who would never be whole? My dog, crying by my bed as she did whenever I left home? And what of me? I would never experience love, never go to uni, never travel, never have a baby, never get wrinkles or grey hair.
I was recently told, by a teacher of all people, that ‘not everyone who commits suicide has a mental issue.’ I was told this in front of the entire class, with total, blatant belief in his views. As someone who has been suicidal, who has nearly acted on those desperate thoughts, who was stopped, thankfully, this truly hit home. The class debate was on the topic of mental health, something which I thought was great. Mental health, suicide, depression and eating disorders are things that should be discussed, however, I believe that as a teacher, one should keep their own beliefs on the matter private. His ‘view’, his rash comments could have broken me. Could have broken anyone. Any person suffering from suicidal thoughts and feelings must have an irrational thought process – because there is no rational situation in which suicide is the answer.
Now, many people may disagree. “What, are you going to go and kill yourself because of something so stupid? Because of a dumb comment? Because of a teacher you didn’t even like?”
Once you are in that terrifying, mind-numbing situation, a school of thought and feeling which could last for days, for weeks, then yes. Anything even remotely triggering could set off another set of feelings and thoughts which could turn even the most stable person into someone they barely recognise.
As a society, we need to understand this. The stock mental image that most people have of suicide is a small girl with her knees wrapped up to her chest. It’s a romanticised, commercialised. Just recently, when browsing on a website I found a Halloween costume; a latex ‘razor blade suicide scar’ – two small stickable, red scars – worth £2.95. But suicide is more than just a scar or a memory. Suicide, for many, is a way of life. Even if your dreams of death could never become a reality, one little thing can change that. And many, far too many, succeed.
I have had many people ask me about my thoughts on a programme that has caused uproar; ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’. Schools have sent emails to parents, warning them of ‘obscene’ images, and the entire PTA are reeling. I, however, see differently. I think that this TV show is great. Talking about subjects that are not usually mentioned; rape, suicide; depression and the effects that words may have on our mental state presents a movement, a fight towards justice for those who suffered and are suffering still. Contrary to belief, it actually de-romanticises suicide. It presents it in a fashion which presents the effects of suicide on a community, on the people who loved the protagonist, and how she was not a ‘hero’; instead, it presents the carnage she created due to her actions, and how so many were affected. It also shows the effects of small actions on mental stability. Granted, the show covers many aspects of issues in a modern teenager’s everyday life. Problems that teachers and parents do not understand, because in ‘their day’, it was taboo.
There is one message that we, as a society, as a community of young people, and as a global movement can take from the horrific effects of suicide; that it has to be prevented. There is no way that this can go on. This year alone, 6,639 suicides have taken place; so many could have been avoided, if only the correct support was available.
So please, don’t ignore suicide, because if even one person recognises the stages, we can prevent it. Suicide is hard enough for the person experiencing it, so please, don’t make it any worse. Let’s prevent suicide, before it’s too late. Below, my friend and I have devised a list of possible signs that may show that a loved one is suicidal, or contemplating suicide.
1) Making comments about being hopeless, helpless or worthless. They may feel totally totally alone. In this situation, make sure that they are in a loving environment, even though they may feel totally helpless, constant reassurance is key. It may feel as if you’re are hitting a brick wall, but I promise, it may change everything for them.
2) Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends (for example, when I made my list of library books to be returned, etc). This sign may be extremely subtle, however, it is a major priority to someone who is suicidal. In this situation, there is little to do but be there for them; they may not appreciate it now, but it makes all the difference.
3) Excessively talking about suicide or death. This may seem harmless, but might lead to an attempt. Watch out for joking about how one might ‘do it’, or referring to possible scenarios.
4) Losing interest in activities they once used to care about. This is a key aspect of both suicide and depression, but keep trying. As a friend or parent, you must not give up. Keep inviting them out, make them feel special. They may lash out, however, remember it is not really them – the depression is simply taking over, changing them, making them into a different person entirely.
These key aspects of suicide may seem petty, and truthfully, there is little that family and friends can do for someone suffering. But, just as small things can trigger suicidal thoughts or attempts, small things can stop them. Just be there for the person struggling: they may not even achnowledge it now, but believe me, it may change everything for them, and then later, for you.
As the great Ellen Degeneres always said, “Be kind to one another”.