TRIGGER WARNING – TALKS ABOUT SUICIDE IN A GRAPHIC AND DESCRIPTIVE WAY, PLEASE DO NOT READ IF THIS IS LIKELY TO TRIGGER YOU.
The night I tried to end my own life I was as calm as I had ever felt, I was sure that taking my own life was my only option. I had a new baby, a great husband, a well paid job and a home in a lovely village lined with blossom trees. You get where I am going with this? Suicidal thoughts are often, not exclusively, but often a symptom of mental illness and mental illness does not discriminate, it can affect anyone at any time. It affected me and it nearly cost me my life, my daughter her mother and my husband his wife.
Let me fill you in on how I got to that calm night because it wasn’t always such and easy decision and understanding when that changed may just save my life in the future. I had experienced periods of mood disturbance since my late teens and had periods whereby I was rather apathetic toward life but not what I would describe as suicidal thoughts at all, I had certainly not tried to end my life.
When I had our daughter in 2006 I very quickly became unwell, I spent the first five weeks after she was born racing around decorating and throwing daily dinner parties then boom depression hit and I didn’t just slow down, I stopped.
I had my first contact with mental health services at this point and was given a specialist perinatal CPN but my mood just kept dropping. When my daughter was 18 weeks old I was waiting for a train when I found myself right on the edge leaning forward as a freight train was hurtling toward the station thinking how easy it would be to end the pain of how I was feeling. Not even a step was needed just a little lean further forward and it would all be over. In a split second I stepped back onto the safety of the platform as the train shot through the station without stopping. I was struck by the noise of it, by the wind it generated as it flew past which I felt as a force against my face but mostly I was struck by the fear that I had come so close to dying at my own hands.
I presented to my GP the next day and told her what I had nearly done and fast forward a couple of weeks of crisis team involvement to when I was admitted to hospital, very fortunately with my daughter in a mother and baby unit. I understand now as a mental health nurse myself that the crisis team spent those couple of weeks assessing my risk of completing suicide. They asked me to go into hospital when they realised suicide no longer left me afraid. I was beginning to question whether there was another option, I was increasingly without hope. My little family was no longer what I now write in assessments I complete as ‘protective factors’, in actual fact I started to believe that my death would be the best thing for them.
When I was admitted to hospital I knew it was time to die and actually felt a sense of relief that professionals would find me rather than my family or member of the public. As a nurse I now know that walking in to find a person it is matter less who it is as that person will never forget what they have seen, not in the same way but it affects professionals more than I would have imagined at that time. My response was physical when I lost a person I was nursing to suicide and I hadn’t even been the person to find them yet I vomited into my hands and cried for over a week solidly not eating or sleeping.
Once on the ward I knew I just needed to choose my method and my time then it would all be over, I would be free. I felt let down and abandoned by everything especially my faith, this is the one time in my life I doubted God’s love for me, for a while I think I even doubted his existence.
I had chosen my evening but had a few things to do first; I sat writing out thank you notes for my daughters baptism gifts and then used the same note pad to write out my suicide notes. As I was on observation levels which meant someone checking on me every few minutes I calmly interacted with staff on a couple of occasions when they came to chat as I was writing my suicide notes. I went to my bedroom on the ward and put full make up on, I wanted my husband to see my body and remember the person he had fallen in love with not the shell I had become.
Nursing intuition led to the nightshift returning to my room before thy were due to and they caught me just as I actioned my plan. Next thing I was on the floor surrounded by people with an oxygen mask over my face, I fought with them. I was furious I was still alive.
They saved me from suicide that night but it was to take many weeks before they saved me from my suicidal thoughts. The cycle reversed following the same pattern it had developed, I became afraid of my thoughts to end my life again and in time those thoughts became less frequent as I began to recover.
I had a period of suicidal thoughts a few years later when I had a relapse but thankfully managed to challenge them. The most exhausting thing in the world is fighting a war in your head with no idea of an end date for the suffering and pain, succumbing to those thoughts, turning them into plans seemed so attractive at the time but I managed to choose life.
I do worry that I won’t necessarily always choose life in the future. As someone who is currently well I can tell you that my greatest fear in life is dying by my own hands. I am literally terrified that one day those thoughts will come back and I won’t manage to drown them out. I know that to keep myself safe I would need to share with others if the urge to end my life ever came back but I also know suicidal thoughts, for me, are accompanied with a sense of secrecy which does not come naturally to me. Today on 2016 World Suicide Prevention Day 2016 I chose life, tomorrow I hope I will choose life. That’s as much as I can promise.
I’m sharing this in the hope that maybe just someone reading it will glean just enough hope from reading just how desperate I was and now how blessed I feel to be alive. I was furious when my life was saved yet now I am thankful. This is just my story, everyone’s is different but I hope you choose life.