Suicide

It’s a horrible word, isn’t it?

Merriam Webster defines it as ‘the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally’ and It makes it sound so… benign. Like the choice is so easy, that it doesn’t come from a place of torment, pain and questioning.

Suicide is the only option left when every other conceivable idea becomes unbearable. Break that down – every. other. option.

Every single one, anything you can think of to make your life better, every realistic choice or possible decision, even if it seems far fetched. Talking to those you love and who love you, leaving your job, going into hermit mode for a while, selling your house and moving to the other side of the world, volunteering to help those in need, cutting off all of your hair, spending all of your savings on something ridiculous… I mean, if you are thinking of ending everything, these decisions don’t seem so extreme anymore.

But none of them will work. And you know why? Because they are all so overwhelming, they are all too much. Too much to think about, never mind do. Not that it would make a difference anyway – not when your depression doesn’t live in your workplace, or your home, or your hair.

Suicide comes when all other options have been exhausted or seem too overwhelming. It comes when the pain has become too heavy that you cannot carry it any longer. When you are locking yourself away in the bathroom and sobbing your heart out because you have done e v e r y t h i n g ‘right’; you’ve sought the help, taken the pills, gone to the therapy and it is still there. It comes when the pain of living seems worse than the pain of dying.

It isn’t a selfish act, it isn’t ‘attention seeking’, it isn’t something that is done to spite others. It’s not cowardice, it is not shameful to think about, it is not terrifying to talk about.

It is a symptom. A horrible, final symptom of a horrible, debilitating illness.

When suicide hits the headlines, we all talk about it. We all talk about the person, we all say what an awful shame and an awful shock it is. And it is a shock, it is always a shock. It’s a shock because we never think that they would do it – they who ‘didn’t seem depressed’, had spouse/children/a family/money/fame/a nice house/a good job/a bright future… but depression doesn’t live in your nice house. It lives within you, it’s in your mind, in your bones, it pumps its way around your body. It becomes all-consuming, deafening, insurmountable. It becomes something you feel that you need to escape from – but how do you escape from something that lives within you?

This writing is deliberately bleak, deliberately questioning – because that is what it feels like. I could tell you that there is help out there, that someone is always listening, that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I could urge you to talk to someone, to seek help and remind you that the good days will come again but you have to be here in order to see them. I could tell you that suicide isn’t, ever, the answer. And all of that would be true.

But that isn’t what it feels like.

There have been points where I have been suicidal, where I have just wanted to escape and switch the thoughts off. I have memories of things that I cannot bear to think about anymore, but that never stop replaying in my mind. I have felt hopeless, unbearably sad, a failure, weak, a letdown. I’ve convinced myself that once they get over their sadness people would be better off without me. But there are always two thoughts that stop me –

  1. Who would find me? My husband, my best friend… I couldn’t leave them with that. With the moments and hours and days after. They would move on eventually, I know that. But I couldn’t bear the thought of them questioning themselves and blaming themselves.
  2. Those moments between cause and effect. When its too late to take it back, when the result is inevitable but the thoughts still come.

I cling onto those reasons, literally for dear life at times.

And I know, things get better. It may be little glimmers of light that dance through leaves on a summer afternoon. It might be my husband’s laugh or my baby nephew’s grip around my finger. Its a hug from my best friend, or the smell of my mum’s kitchen. Hope comes in the wind that makes my hair dance upon the mountain top, or the icy cold water that licks at my feet on the shoreline.

If I was dead, these things would be gone.

Forever.

And forever is a long time.

So, please do talk. Please do reach out. It’s not easy – my god, I know it’s not easy. No-one expects it to make sense, because these things simply don’t. Stop trying to circle the square and cope with this on your own, please. Find meaning in the small things, find reasons not to in the harsh reality of what would really happen.

But please don’t die, not yet.

Safe Travels, Don’t Die

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World Mental Health Day

Last year, on World Mental Health Day, I was in the process of coming off of an anti-depressant that I had been on for eight years. I remember I woke up and scrolled through Facebook – the significance of the day dawning on me. The insightful and hopeful posts about talking, and sharing, and not giving in lighting up my screen. But I wasn’t a part of that, I didn’t have any hope or insight.

I posted something, a small paragraph about kindness and how it important it is – especially when it comes to giving it to ourselves and then I probably went back to sleep, or went and led in a hot bath, or cried… I don’t really remember.

This morning… I realised it was World Mental Health Day, again, as I was scrolling through Twitter in bed this morning. A lot has happened in the last year; I have had a course of Cognitive Analytical Therapy, I went back onto the medication I was trying to come off of, I’ve been able to put a name and a reason to some of my pain. I’ve stood up for myself, I quit a job that was making me miserable, I gained a new baby nephew, I lost my wonderful Great Aunt – and, I started this blog.

As a mental health blogger, there should be something insightful coming from my pages today, right? Yeah… probably. I thought about it all morning, I thought about it when I was exercising, when I was hanging the washing on the line. I thought about it whilst scrolling through Twitter and whilst in the shower. Nothing came to me, nothing but pressure.

But maybe that was because there are no beautiful and insightful words that will help when you are in the midst’s of depression, or feeling the effects of long-lasting and complex trauma. Maybe it’s because – like I found last year – if you are in that place, you can read them, but you can’t feel them.

When you are in that place, hope doesn’t apply because depression will snuff out any glimmer of hope before it can really shine. That’s what depression does. You begin to feel disconnected from it all, like you are not worthy of these words or this kindness, because that’s what depression does. You feel that you cannot go to any of those people who assure you that their door is open or they are willing to listen because you’d feel like a burden, or too sad, or guilty, or shameful… because that’s what depression does.

Depression is ugly, and dark. Its corrosive, sticky and toxic. Its complex, its deep rooted, it latches onto other mental and physical illnesses and makes them 10x worse, and 100x harder to fight. But it is also familiar. It lives within us and so it is at times scarily, and comfortingly familiar. Its twisted, its conniving… its not something we can sit here and write pretty words and breezy platitudes about. It’s a killer.

It can kill anyone, it’s not fussy. On the lunchtime news today I watched Lorraine Denman, the mother of the Team GB snowboarder Ellie Soutter talk about her daughters suicide last year. Ellie was 18, she was beautiful, talented, had a loving family and an amazingly bright future ahead of her – she showed no signs of being depressed, she was out with friends the night before….

Ellie Soutter
Photo credit: https://twitter.com/TeamGB

Depression doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care about hope, it doesn’t care about wealth, beauty, love or gender. It will latch on to anything remotely positive and twist it, swamp it with its darkness and its ugliness. It will take your words away, it will convince you that you are too much, too sad, too boring, too unworthy to get help or speak to those you love – and that love you – about what you are feeling. It will jumble your thoughts so that even if you could speak, you wouldn’t know how to make any of it make sense. It will make you so tired of fighting, so tired of having it within you that you will do anything to stop it.

But it doesn’t need to make sense. If you are able to talk to someone, it doesn’t need to come out in any order, it doesn’t have to come out well-described, or calmly, or like beautiful prose. It just needs to come out.

One thing that is important to remember, which I struggle to remember, is that when you do confide in someone – be it a friend, family member, spouse, boss, doctor… anyone – they are not in the same emotional space as you. They are not feeling what you are feeling. They may have their own mental health issues – but, if you are anything like me, it is always easier to hold someone else’s pain than it is your own. I have depression (amongst other things) but I would never want any of my friends to feel that they could not come to me, because I would much rather sit with them in their pain, than sit next to their hospital bed or their coffin.

So… this World Mental Health Day, lets still all vow to be there for each other, but lets also vow to stop treating Depression, PTSD, BPD, Anxiety, Addiction,Eating Disorders and the rest with platitudes. People don’t just suffer on one day, or one week, of the year. They aren’t just suffering when you see them ‘looking sad’, or when they are crying. People can be in emotional pain, even when they are smiling, even when they are holding down a job, or socialising, or recovering. They can still be suicidal when they are tipped to be an Olympic athlete with a bright future and the whole world ahead of them.

Let’s not forget that.

For Ellie x

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