Today I saw a picture posted by a guy I used to work with. It was a picture of a motorway bridge and a laminated note next to it saying:
Suicide doesn’t take the pain away. It just passes it to someone else.
🙄 < my own eye roll was much larger than this.
I don’t know the origin of that photo, perhaps it was written by someone who was grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide. I also know the guy that re-posted it, and I’m sure he did it with good intentions. However, it’s a message which isn’t filled with compassion and support.
It’s a message loaded with guilt.
It says ‘I know you want to die, but if you do you’ll make someone else sad, so just keep going. Keep going with your pain, with your depression, with your memories and flashbacks of trauma. Keep living even though your own mind scares you and you don’t feel safe in your own body. Keep going even though you don’t know how you are going to feed yourself and your family. Keep going in your grief. Keep going with the pain that you feel cloaks every waking moment of your day, with the ruminating thoughts that don’t stop, with your diagnosis that you can’t get any tangible help for. Keep going with your guilt, and here is a little more to load on top of that. Keep suffering, but don’t make anyone else sad, ok?‘
Suicide isn’t a conscious choice. Suicide is an option that feels like the only remaining option when the pain of living becomes greater than the pain of dying.
People who contemplate suicide already feel like a burden. They know that people will be upset but their unwell mind will convince them that the sadness other people feel will be temporary and lesser than the upset, frustration and disappointment that they will endure should they continue to live their lives.
There is absolutely zero compassion within those words. There is no hope that in the future things might get better, there is no clue as to where to look for resources that might help. There is no inkling of the fact that if you are contemplating suicide you are very, very far from being alone.
There is just guilt. So, much, guilt.
People who feel like ending their lives and their suffering don’t need to be told things like this. They need to be reminded that the good days will one day come again. That there are people out there who will listen, and that the words that come out of their mouths don’t even have to make any sense. They need to be held – physically and emotionally. They need support, they need friends to sit with them in the silence when their mind is anything but. They need hand holds in the dark when it’s 4am and the tears won’t stop coming. They need governments that recognise how huge the scale of mental ill-health actually is and who are willing to put funding into supporting those who need it. They need financial support and they need appropriate treatment for their unique condition. They need to be reminded that none of this is their fault.
They need compassion, and understanding and for people to listen and begin to recognise just how complex and traumatic even the very thought of suicide is.
I have been a bit quiet and neglectful of both this blog and
my social media presence of late. I have had ideas about what to write and I’m
sure that those posts will make an appearance over the next few weeks, but this
one is perhaps like a bit of a stopgap.
I have been quiet because I haven’t been very well. My
depression and anxiety has been sneaking back in over the last couple of months
– at first I thought it was a blip, but it lasted, and was getting worse…
Last year I decided to come off of my medication – with the
help of my doctor. It was so that I could go onto a new medication that would
treat both my depression and my fibromyalgia. Anyway, once I was off of the old
one, I wanted to know what I was like without it – I had been taking this stuff
for 8 years. For months, I was fine – all throughout winter, this was a
success!! There were still hard days, but the nights were long, the mornings
dark and here I was being able to cope, to work, to socialise, to combat my
depressive thoughts with healthy behaviours…
Until I wasn’t any more.
It started off with a constant sense of being overwhelmed.
Now, I don’t have children, I don’t have anyone depending on me apart from my
dog (and my husband when he’s hungry), I work 23 hours a week, I have two days
off a week completely to myself. I have a therapist to talk to, I have
wonderful friends, a fantastic and very lovely husband… but everything, even
the smallest of things, was beginning to feel like it was too much.
I think something that people who haven’t suffered with
mental ill health struggle to realise, is that when the small things are hard –
the sleeping, the eating, the getting up and showered and dressed – everything
outside of that, seems insurmountable. These are things that other people take
for granted – going to work, going into town on your own for an appointment,
driving, getting public transport, planning things, deciding on things. And
then, then something happens out of the blue, something past the everyday
struggles, something past the tasks we have to do that feel insurmountable and
leave us exhausted, these are things on their own level – a family member gets
sick, your pet gets ill, work messes up your wages – and sometimes, all of
these three examples happen within the same week.
I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. All I wanted to do
was sleep. My concentration was fading fast – I couldn’t even find relaxation
in curling up with a book, I hated the thought that my depression was back and
so, still, I tried to push onwards. In therapy we were talking about bullying
and trauma, I was having intrusive thoughts, unwanted memories, feelings once
again of not being good enough, not clever enough, thin enough, smart enough,
adventurous enough, pretty enough, tough enough. I felt that I was letting everyone
down; my guilt was increasing by the day. I’d go to bed at night and think of
friends I had lost over the years, things I had said in arguments, and mistakes
I had made – which were long forgiven, by everyone but me. Holding conversations
was hard – trying to hear and focus over the voices in my head all talking over
each other and so I became quieter.
And the tears… I was crying at anything, if someone asked
me how I was, tears. If there was an advert with a doe-eyed animal on, tears.
If my brother sent me a picture of my beautiful baby nephew, tears. If I just
so much as thought of someone, in a
situation where they were being taken advantage of, or deceived -this is a very
strange kind of intrusive thought I have which proves quite hard to explain,
but yes, tears nonetheless. My mother’s voice on the phone, tears. The smell of
my dogs fur, tears. My beautiful friend April doing a tarot card reading for
me, after two cards, tears…
And when I cry, my words dry up. So I couldn’t tell anyone
any of the thoughts that were jumbled and overwhelming. They all felt
ridiculous to me anyway -my depression was hissing at me to not be such a baby,
to think of others that have it worse and realise how lucky I was.
I am meaner and harsher to myself than I would ever, ever be
to anyone else.
But it was all too much, all of it. I have self-harmed
before, over a long period of time, but I was even past the point of that.
Suicidal thoughts were becoming more and more frequent – there was a massive,
overriding part of me that knew this could get better and that knew I couldn’t
do that to my husband, or my friends, or my parents and family. But the
thoughts were still there, the need to just stop everything and drift away, was
still there. I felt that eventually, they would be better off without me, but
then I would remember small things – my husband’s laugh, or how he sings along
to whatever music is playing when he’s doing the dishwasher. I would think of
my friends – brave, inspiring and something I never thought I’d be lucky enough
to have. I’d think of visiting my parents and my Dad giving me some whisky as
we settle down to watch some TV, or my mum waking me up with a coffee in the
morning. My nephew, how proud I was of my brother and his wife. How the wind
feels on autumnal days, when that first bite of winters chill is in the air. I
thought of the sunrises and sunsets I’ve seen, I’d remember how everything is
cyclical, that pain and grief comes but it also goes and that’s when joy and
gratitude come to take its place. These thoughts would keep me going until I
slept, or until my husband came home from work. Just a few more thoughts, just
wait it out a bit longer…
But it wasn’t sustainable; I was scared of my own mind and
my own thoughts. This blip wasn’t going anywhere so I decided to go back to my
doctor and immediately he put me back onto the anti-depressants that I had
worked so hard to get off of 8 months previously, I was gutted.
There is no shame in taking medication and I know that if it
was anyone else, I would comfort them with the things we hear all the time
about taking medication for mental health issues; I’d tell them it was ok, that
sometimes we just need that helping hand and that depression is a chemical
imbalance and the medication helps to get things back on track, but I’m not so
great at turning that kindness inwards. Eleven days later and I know that it
was the right decision, aside from the initial side effects, my general mood
has improved – the depression is still there,
it just feels very numbed down. I am aware that I haven’t cried in eleven days,
which having cried so much beforehand is a very strange sensation. I’ve been
close, but it’s like the tears are just out of reach right now, even if at
times they would be a relief.
So, why am I telling you all of this?
It’s not for sympathy – I know some really lovely people
read my posts and I am very grateful for words of comfort ❤ However, it is
more for awareness. For the people who don’t
know what depression feels like; for employers, parents, friends, spouses,
siblings, work colleagues…
When someone has depression it can be very hard to know what they are going through because it can be very hard for them to try and explain it. For example, the word ‘suicide’ makes people panic, but just because we have those thoughts, doesn’t mean we have any plans or even a real desire to carry it out. However, the thoughts and idealisation are a symptom of being depressed and they can be unwanted and distressing. People with depression can very often feel overwhelmed by the smallest of things and they may suffer with disassociation – which, I’m sure is the minds way of trying to protect itself, but again it can be very unnerving and distressing.
I know that when I’m depressed, I’m very quiet – but this
does not mean my mind is. My thoughts are going too fast, getting too jumbled,
being too loud, contradicting themselves. With all of that going on inside my
head it becomes very hard to determine what
one thing is wrong – what do I tell
you, when even to me it makes no sense? When I have the logical answer but the
illogical thoughts are so loud that they drown it out?
Seeking help – even when we know it’s the right thing, can
be incredibly hard for a number of reasons. It can be hard on the very basic
level of getting a doctor’s appointment, but it can also be hard because we
know that once we are in the consulting room, we need to talk and that can
sometimes be a challenge in itself. We have to face up to what is happening,
and this may mean going onto medication or taking time off of work which may
impact on finances and career aspirations. Guilt is also a massive factor when
it comes to depression; I have always pushed on because I don’t want to let anyone down, whilst neglecting my needs in the
process. If you are an employer and a member of staff has called in sick with
depression – please, acknowledge that this was probably incredibly hard for
them to do.
There is a lot we don’t say, a lot you don’t see because we
feel that keeping it hidden will save others the discomfort – but depression
isn’t just a case of feeling sad. It
is a whole myriad of emotions, of symptoms and of discomfort. Its complex, and
its different for everyone – we rarely understand it ourselves and yet people
so often want answers from us.
But this is also how depression works – it isolates us, it
whispers in our ear that no-one really cares, that others have it worse, that
if we tell people the truth we will push them away. Depression lies – but it’s
So, if you know someone who is depressed, in the words of Stephen Fry – ‘please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through.’ – Because we don’t want you to fix us, scold us, push us or protect us from ourselves, we just want you to be there, and accept us.
Because knowing that you are there, without judgement, is perhaps the most helpful thing of all.
Zero Suicide Alliance – A free online course which takes all of about 20 minutes which offers some useful knowledge that will help if you think someone is suicidal or if someone confides in you that they are having suicidal thoughts.
Mind & Blurt – Two really great mental health charities offering great advice and support – for those suffering from depression and also for those who help support us ❤
Thank you for reading
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