Despite popular belief, I don’t actually share every intricate detail of my life online. I realise my Instagram stories, in particular, might make you think otherwise, but there is a lot that you don’t know about me. It’s World Mental Health Day today and this year’s theme is suicide prevention and so I’d like to talk openly on that subject. If this is a subject that you find difficult or triggering, there are links at the end for support. Alternatively, I would encourage you not to read on if that is what will keep you safe and well.
I have written before about my experience in welfare to work, where I first came in to contact with people who had attempted, and were contemplating suicide. It was shocking at first, but soon became a subject that I was comfortable, (or as comfortable as you can be), talking about. What I haven’t discussed, with anyone, is my own suicidal ideation. World Mental Health Day is designed to get us talking. Its aim is to help end the stigma around mental ill-health and to encourage us all to manage our mental health effectively. I regularly post about anxiety, sometimes about depression but I haven’t discussed the times I have contemplated suicide. So, here goes. *Big gulp as the tears well up*
I was in Liverpool for work a couple of years ago. I had been travelling a lot, not eating well, not resting. The work/life balance was definitely off whack. I was isolated, which I now know is not a good thing for me. I had been feeling the black cloud of depression for a month or two. There wasn’t a particular event that triggered it. It was a culmination of circumstance along with memories, thoughts, and experiences that were blighting me.
I was taking an early evening walk, I think to pick up a meal-for-one before shutting myself in my hotel room for the night. I was walking along the Mersey and I stopped a while in a semi-daze looking at the water. I thought about how easy it would be to just jump in. There wasn’t really anyone around, there was a bit of traffic but I doubted anyone one would spot me in time. The water looked choppy and it was cold. I thought about how it would feel to jump in and sink under. It felt like a good idea.
I started to worry that the drop wasn’t far enough and that my natural survival instinct would kick in and I would swim. I decided it wouldn’t be the most efficient way to do it and carried on walking. It wasn’t something that I put more thought into once I dismissed the idea. I do remember it spurred me on to access counselling through work. I attended one session and didn’t feel connected to the counsellor so I never went back. The depression continued but the suicidal thoughts didn’t.
Recently, I don’t remember the exact date but certainly, within the last 3 months, I thought about suicide again. I had been drinking a lot and was pretty smashed. I tend to self-medicate with alcohol….that’s a whole other blog. I don’t remember where I had been or what I’d been doing that night but as I lay in bed off my face, I thought about slitting my throat. I pictured myself in the kitchen. I knew which knife I would take from the drawer and I imagined pushing the blade in and dragging it through my flesh. It was almost like there was a voice in my head goading me to do it. It must have lasted maybe 5 or 10 minutes before I passed out.
Now, I just want to clarify for any of my friends or family reading this who might be worried, I absolutely, categorically DO NOT want to die. Suicidal thoughts are a VERY long way from suicidal intent. I do not have any intention, plans or desire to end it. I have never cut myself, I have never got close to doing anything and the thoughts I had, have been fleeting.
BUT I think it’s important to let people know that I have experienced these episodes, it’s not uncommon and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. The most recent one did shake me because if I was slightly less or perhaps slightly more drunk, there is a risk that something could have happened. It shocked me because it was so extreme. I’ve literally never thought of that method. If anything, it would be pills. But the thought was there and it was strong. I have since found out that the link between alcohol and suicide is high. Well, it would be, alcohol is a depressant.
So, for now, I have stopped drinking, it’s easier that way. I told everyone it’s for sober October but actually, that’s bollocks. It’s something I’ve been thinking about since that night because it scared me so much and I’m worried about what I could do under the influence. I’m sure the risk is low. I’m not doing badly on the anxiety/depression scale. I have been FAR worse before, but something is telling me not to push my luck.
So there you go. I’m not sure how this will be received. Some people might think it wasn’t worth sharing, given that it was just a couple of fleeting thoughts. I understand that there are people who suffer far more than me and come a lot closer than I have. Perhaps others might find this difficult to believe given I’m always banging on about positivity and happiness, but you never really know what goes on behind closed doors. This post is not for attention or reassurance. It’s not a cry for help. I’m not in crisis. It’s just the facts, in an attempt to help one other person who might read this and feel less alone.