Read these personal experiences of suicide, provided by people with a lived experience.
It started off just as any other day, the big black cloud looming over me, but this morning something exciting happened, my daughter gave birth to my 3rd grandchild. It should have been a magical moment and I was really happy for them, but depression does not let you have the pleasure of enjoying life. To me it is like cancer of the brain, it eats away at your happiness, joy and zest for life. It took me all my strength to go and meet him and behind the tears of joy at meeting him were tears of frustration and upset that I was living another day with this awful cloud as my constant companion.
I went home and cried, I cried so much that day. There is not one thing that you can say that makes things better or worse, it just is what it is. We don’t know why we sometimes wake up with a headache but we sometimes do, depression is much the same. We do not always know the answers, or even why things happen, but we accept that they do. Certainly not the joyous way it should be when a new grandchild is born.
That evening my depression was awful. I had the TV on and heard the Whitney Houston song, ‘I will always love you’ The words just rang so much in my head. My girls deserve to be free from looking after me, they deserve better than anything I can give them. I loved them enough to see them be free from the burden of looking after me. They need to have a nice mum that can care for them rather than them care for me. It was then that I decided I had to do something about it.
I took the packet of tablets and popped some into my hand, I took a drink and they were gone, nothing happened so I started to take some more, then more……… I woke up several hours later in hospital. I do not know how or why I was there, I shouldn’t have been there, but I was. My partner was sat at the side of my bed, he said ‘don’t you do that to me again’ I was so angry with myself that I had failed, I could not get anything right, and here I was upsetting my partner. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I think that’s the important thing to remember that it was the most selfless thing I thought I could do, the last thing that entered my head was that I was hurting my family, partner and friends.
It is weird looking back how I was thinking and feeling that day. How I thought I was thinking straight, how everything made perfect sense to me, how this was a solution to the problems that had blighted my life. I was almost euphoric that my illness was ending. I would finally be at peace with myself and the world. My girls deserved this. To those not affected by thoughts of suicide you will find this strange, but there are many people who can and do relate to the thoughts and feelings I was having that evening.
I was discharged and referred to yet more services, YAY! Just what I needed when I already felt a burden using the services I was already involved in. But I complied and agreed all the while still feeling like I wanted to end my suffering and there was only one way to do it. Nothing had changed from the previous day, my cloud was still there, my suffering was still there, and my life was still a burden to my girls, only now I had the guilt of knowing I had upset my friends, partner and family. I had to live with their feelings of guilt as well as the dark cloud still hovering. That made the situation so much worse. Everyone was running around trying to help and be there for me, it just made the guilt that I had failed so much worse. I didn’t want to go back to ‘normal’ because normal was awful, but I didn’t want to feel worse than I did before, but yet here I was feeling so much worse.
I think that’s the difficult thing for suicide survivors, they have to face the aftermath as well as the illness that is still there. Just because you were ‘saved’ does not mean it makes the illness easier or better to cope with. I remember overhearing a consultant say (about someone that had survived an overdose attempt) “makes you laugh how he was so pleased he didn’t have any long term effects from the tablets when he was trying to kill himself” he didn’t get that the man was trying to escape from his awful life and that by having any further issues would just make that awful life even worse to live with. I don’t think people realise how debilitating the illness is, that’s why I use the term cancer of the brain, because I want people to realise how serious the illness is and how bad the thoughts and feelings really are.
Sadly suicide effects many people, much more than those they think it will, but I thought I was helping others, I thought that my life (as awful as it was) was a real burden to everyone involved. I know now that others do not see it that way and no one thought I was a burden, but its how people feel that matters. You can tell people things but if they do not feel it then it becomes just words. I’m a firm believer in actions speak louder than words, and I recovered through those actions.
No one has a perfect life (not even celebrities) but your illness does not need to define you. Although I had lived with the illness for almost 40 years I have finally managed to find a way to deal with it. I still suffer with it (and yes I used the word suffer because that is what I feel it is) but I have found ways and means to deal with my illness. I speak openly about my mental health and the fact I am a suicide survivor, I want others to feel they can talk openly too about their journey. Everyone in life will be affected by depression whether that is in a personal, professional or social capacity, I want the world to know that it is ok not to be ok, and the more we talk about it, the easier life gets, not only for ourselves but for others too.
I often reflect back on when my father in law was dying of pancreatic cancer. He was in the hospice and got to the point where it was too unbearable to live. He wanted to be sedated so he didn’t feel the pain and suffering any more. I sat and listened to his final words to his wife, who he loved dearly, and often use this as reflection of what I thought was my final day. He did not want his wife to feel the pain of losing him, but the pain of living got too great that he felt he had no choice. That is what it feels like to think suicide is the answer. You feel you have no choice, the pain of living is too unbearable to continue. I told my partner it isn’t about you, its about me and my feelings and how I am suffering. That’s the thing with depression, whether diagnosed or not, it is utter suffering. It’s a hidden pain no one can see, no one else can feel and no one else really understands.
I send my love and thoughts to all those that have been affected by suicide. I have been affected by it several times myself (not just myself but losing friends and family) , it is awful. But people who reach that point are not of the same thinking as the rational self, but that does not mean we have to undermine what they are thinking, but respect it and try and get them to think differently. Suicide is not the only answer; suicide should not even be seen as an answer. But people are really suffering, and even if they never tell others they are suffering, they do it out of love, No one wants to hurt the ones they love.
Mental health is still an extremely uncomfortable subject to talk about and life would be so much easier for myself and fellow sufferers, if this wasn’t the case.
They say that one in four of us will have a mental health illness at some stage of our lives. The reality is it’s almost certainly much higher than this but sadly most people don’t seek help. Recently I was made aware of an alarming statistic that over 70% of people who commit suicide, haven’t attempted to get any medical support. Often the families are left totally shocked and bewildered by the tragic event, saying that they didn’t see it coming.
A smile can hide our true emotions. It fills me with sadness when I think of those people trapped in their own heads having to deal with unimaginable mental anguish and eventually losing their battle. Feeling alone in every sense of the word, right up until the end.
At the moment mental health topics are on the television every day, be it in expert phone ins or actors portraying depression on dramas and soaps. People are being made aware of all the helpful organisations that exist and are being encouraged to seek help from their GP’s for the first port of call. So why when the subject is at its most prevalent, do the majority of people, even in their darkest moments, still refuse to get help? I find the whole thing perplexing to say the least and an area that desperately needs challenging.
I grew up in a world where I was lead to believe that only weak-minded people could get a mental health illness and only a negative pessimistic person would end up getting depressed. Depression not even being recognised as a proper illness but something that people should just be able to snap out of! I wonder how many still share that view today. I now realise this is complete rubbish. Mental health is not a weakness and as for depression, I for one have always been a positive upbeat person who sees the bright side of life, but I still got it! I could give you several examples of strong level-headed people who end up completely pole axed and unable to function properly, all because of this illness. Telling people that I suffer from depression is a great way to kill a conversation! Either that or they say they understand as they get a bit down sometimes too. Clearly these people don’t get it and it infuriates me beyond belief. Having depression is not the same as feeling a bit down, just as having a mental health illness does not make you cuckoo or a fruitcake, or any other derogatory terms I’ve heard used. It does not mean that you’re stupid in anyway either. Look at Stephen Fry, one of the most intelligent people on the planet, but his illness has been well documented over the years.
The truth is it doesn’t matter who you are, rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful. Sure- a traumatic event might act as a trigger but often this isn’t the case and you might just be one of the unfortunate ones who happens to get it. Like any other debilitating illness, it affects people at random. No different to cancer or heart disease, mental health does not hand pick you. It has no favourites. But the facts are there, clear for everyone to see; suicide is the leading cause of death in young people aged 20-34. Just how many of these deaths could have been prevented?
I accept that society is becoming more open to talking about mental health, but there’s still a terrible stigma surrounding it, which prevents individuals from seeking help when they need it the most. I was nearly one of those people. Terrified by the prospect of asking for help, I didn’t think I was worthy of it and worst of all I couldn’t accept that I was in any way mentally ill!
The majority of people I have spoken to are of the opinion that suicide is a selfish act. This has been the same for as long as I can remember and growing up I shared the same view. It doesn’t help if you’ve been directly affected by it or know of a family who has. You’ve been witness to the horror and devastation left behind. It’s perfectly normal at this point to mainly sympathise with the family and not give a second thought to the victim and the horrible place they must have found themselves in. What you witness is a whole world of pain and suffering and you can’t help but feel an element of resentment towards the person who caused it. It’s a delicate subject, I know, but in my opinion to consider suicide as a selfish act is a huge misconception. Suicide is not a selfish act, suicide is an act of shear desperation by someone whose experiencing unimaginable amounts of inward torment. Someone who has lost all sense of hope and literally feel they have no other option.
In my case I was convinced that my family and friends would be much better off without me. I’d become a burden to them all, I’d become a burden on society. I longed for it all to be over, for the pain to finally stop. People’s lives would be so much easier without me dragging them down.
I knew there would likely be sadness right after my death, but this didn’t compare to the sadness and disruption I was going to cause by staying alive. I didn’t see myself ever recovering, you see, I was only going to get worse and cause further distress to my family.
I guessed that my closest friends would try to take on some of the responsibility and I hated the idea of them feeling in any way to blame. I therefore wrote letters to each of them in a vain attempt to explain my actions and try to reassure them that they had been amazing friends, explaining that this was my decision alone and nothing they could have said or done would have changed the outcome. I couldn’t possibly predict their emotions but I’d much rather they felt anger towards me, as opposed to guilt. These letters were extremely difficult to write. Would a selfish person have gone to all this trouble?
My next big concern was financial. I didn’t want to leave my family with any debts. In an ideal world I would have sold my house and paid off the excess mortgage. Previously it had tenants in but at this stage the house was vacant and had been up for sale for some time. Unfortunately, I’d had no luck, the economic climate being in a poor state. However, after doing extensive research I realised that the debt of the house would die with me and my mother would not be accountable for any of it. This came as a huge relief.
I made sure I had enough money in the bank to pay for the funeral and put all my account details in a file in my top drawer. Also, in this file I put any other important information my family would need, such as my birth certificate, national insurance number, mortgage details and all the numbers they’d need to contact after my death. I was trying my best to cover all angles and make the process as simple as possible for them. Does this sound like the actions of a selfish man?
I didn’t intend to tell anyone my plan to end my life but as the pressure valve increased I desperately needed some kind of release.
I chose to open up to my counsellor and in doing so I immediately felt a huge sense of relief. I didn’t hold back or spare any detail, I literally told her everything.
It wasn’t until a much later date when I was in a better headspace and had no intention of going through with the plan. Only then did I confide in my family and closest friends. My friends all responded in a similar manner, in complete shock. They said things like “How could you have done that to us? How could you have possibly done that to your family?” I couldn’t blame them for asking these questions and don’t get me wrong they have been amazing support to me ever since. But again, their initial reaction indicated that they believe suicide to be a selfish act.
It’s hardly surprising that people are so reluctant to talk about their mental health or admit to having suicidal thoughts. Yes, there’s many organisations out there offering great support, but we can’t expect the alarming statistics to go down any, unless people’s attitudes drastically change.
In my opinion people need educating from a young age. Physical health is well covered at school so why not put as much emphasis on mental health. Everyone is likely to be affected by it at some stage of their lives, either themselves or someone they’re close to. So why not get them talking about the subject as early as possible.
It needs to be accepted as a serious illness and I still have my doubts that people do. For those of you who claim that you do accept it in this way, ask yourself this – have you ever sent a ‘Get well’ or ‘Thinking about you’ card to someone with a long-term illness? The majority of us would say that we have. But when was the last time you sent one to someone with a mental health illness?
You can read more blogs by Shaun on his website:
TURNINGCORNERS – A mental health blog which focuses on living with anxiety anddepression