I’m aware there’s going to be a deluge of posts on this subject in the coming days because of a certain rock star. And part of me isn’t sure if adding my ten cents into the discussion is going to be of any use. But chances are that more than one of you who reads this has suffered with mental health problems at one point in your life. And I’m also willing to bet that at least a few of you still suffer with them. If not suffer, you still have them, know they’re not going away any time soon. Perhaps if you stopped your meds you’d fall straight into a black hole. Perhaps if you saw a YouTube video of a scene from a movie where someone kills themselves, it would make you want to do the same, if only for a split second. So if nobody else, I’m talking to you.
What I don’t want is for this post to be some cheesy, patronising, ‘You Can Get Through This Because I Did And That Means Anyone Can And Won’t You Look How Great Life Is’ speech. If I am talking to you right now and telling you you’re not alone because I’ve felt all those things you’re feeling too, then I need to be honest with you. That one blog post I put up for Mental Health Awareness Week where I spoke about my battle with self-harming and I said that I’d stopped years ago and that was all behind me? I lied. I was self-harming up until two months ago. And another thing? That whole blog post was lifted, and then heavily edited, from my second, mental health, blog that I am too ashamed to show anybody at all. The one where I detailed my journey through the self-loathing , self-harm and suicidal thoughts that I was battling all through the better half of 2016/17. There’s a lot of talk recently in the media from all these amazing mental health advocates that mental health is not something to be ashamed of, that is should be treated like a physical illness – and on paper, I believe them, I really do – but I am ashamed of my brain and my problems and I do not want ANYBODY to know about them. I have three friends that know what I suffered last winter.
But here I am, telling everybody in the hope that I can also tell you.
Part of me is jealous of the bloggers that can just call themselves a Mental Health Blogger and state that their brain is wired up wrong to the world. I cannot imagine doing that so publicly. This post will not be as advertised as my blog posts usually are across social media – I intend to ensure that nobody I know in the real world ever reads it (there we go again, look at how SECRET and SCARY mental health issues are, how much everyone would JUDGE me if they knew, right?)
I should probably state that I have no formal diagnosis. I have been to the doctors three times in my life about my mental health and I have refused medication on the first two of those occasions. The third time was the most recent, November last year. The doctor asked to see my self-harm scars to see if they were ‘serious’, and when I answered ‘No’ to a question of whether I had made an active plan or date to end my life, the appointment was wrapped up and I was sent away with just a leaflet for a local counselling service that it would make 6 weeks to get an appointment for, and they were technically for teenagers anyway (I’m 24, which I think should be old enough for adult services). But regardless, I was kept under too strict a leash at home to attend counselling anyhow, I wasn’t allowed to have time unaccounted for with my parents and I didn’t lie to them, which left me in a Catch-22. I have no idea how people can get weeks and weeks off of work for stress and I look a doctor in the eye and tell them I want to die and leave without a simple prescription. I admit, this took me aback. I psyched myself up for that appointment for MONTHS. To this day, I can’t see myself going back to a medical professional to ask for help for a long time. Even the Samaritans told me that it was my choice to die and maybe this was a choice I chose.
But don’t be Hannah Baker (13 Reasons Why reference), don’t wait for somebody to care, to stop you, to reach you. At the end of the day, your recovery is not in their hands, it is in yours. You choose to take pills, to go to work, to put the knife away, not to scream. And this works on the flipside too. For every person who tells you that mental health issues are for weak people or they’re not real, remember that this is your fight and your decision and your life. Also, try and find it in yourself to be happy for these people, tell them that they are lucky to feel that way, to never have known the opposite side of the story. That’s what I do. Politely and calmly tell them they are lucky that that is their view on the subject, then smile and change the subject.
So I’m doing a risky thing here. I’m telling you that if you feel alone, and you can’t tell your friends, or your family or your doctor that something is very wrong – you can still pull through. This road isn’t easy though, it’s hard and there are so, so many relapses and setbacks and you have to be so, so careful of yourself, but it is still possible. If you can, please do tell someone. I tried to tell a lot of people and perhaps on different days at different times they would have listened. I need you to promise me that you will TRY to talk about it. That you will ASK for help. But if you do find yourself like I was, completely cut off from a support network and spiralling down more and more vicious rabbit-holes, then I want to tell you what helped me in those moments when I could have ended my life, the reasons that I didn’t and how I’m here writing this today.
- People always talk about how suicide is ‘selfish’. And yes, it is. Because you are only thinking of things from your viewpoint in that moment. That’s all that selfish means. Being ‘concerned chiefly with one’s personal profit’. Google it. It’s not that you don’t care about other people. It’s that YOU THINK they wouldn’t care. Or YOU THINK they’re better off without you. You are only thinking your opinion. One thing I managed to do was to think of one person who I was sure would miss me, even a little when I was gone. I thought about it for a long time. Looking back now, it’s obvious that everyone close to me would have cared. A lot. But I thought of my 81 year old grandmother, who had lost two husbands already, and who dotes on me like I’m her own child. Who has to see me or call me every week. Amongst all the crap of depression, I could not and cannot deny that she loves me. And I saw this and I made a deal with myself. She is 81. I do not get to inflict the pain of my death on her when she is 81. I will have the whole rest of my life to consider suicide when she is no longer around. Very morbid, I know. And not even particularly a solution. But for me, this worked more than anything else. Think of that one person. Your mother, your best friend, your sister – and tell yourself that right now is not the time. Because it would hurt them and that does matter and you know it. And then we hope – both you and I – that not now becomes not ever.
- Read Matt Haig’s book, Reasons To Stay Alive. It’s a memoir of his recovery of a mental breakdown he suffered, seemingly out of the blue, more than a decade ago. There are short chapters, each dealing with one aspect of mental health, or his recovery. He, like me, beat his mental health without medication. He, like me, has to be careful with his brain because it has good days and bad days. It is not a ‘self help’ book but I do think it helped to save my life. I’ve re-read it many times since, and tomorrow I’m going to gift it to a friend who’s going through a bad time with their mental health.
- If you can’t talk about it, write about it. It’s what I did with my second blog when everything got really bad last November. When you read the posts back, which you should, you will see how dramatic they are. How emotional they are. How, if you picture how you would re-tell this post to a friend, you would leave out three quarters of the really dark stuff. It makes you see just how shit that little voice in your head really is. That voice will tell you that you are physically not capable of happiness, that you do not want to live without scars on your skin and that you do not deserve a recovery. But when those thoughts are put on paper, they looked that little bit more pantomime to me and that helped me re-wire my brain.
But please do try to talk. Keep trying. Keep asking, keep seeking for that escape. Because it happens, it’s out there. Hey, guess what? You Can Get Through This Because I Did And That Means Anyone Can And Won’t You Look How Great Life Is. Okay….maybe life isn’t great all the time, and all I did was get through ‘the worst’ and maybe I won the battle and not the war. But I’m here and I’m healthy and most of the time, I’m happy.
In the name of transparency, and the need for mental health to be talked about more, I’m going to link the three posts I did on that mental health blog *here* – I’m undecided whether I should carry it on or leave it as it – a strange window on a very dark time. They are feelings that I felt that I do not feel anymore, 9 days out of 10.
I also wrote this to show that mental health is invisible. I can guarantee that 99.9% of the people that knew me these past 365 days had no idea how much I daydreamed about my suicide and how often I cut myself. That if I had died, absolutely nobody would have seen it coming. And that is because I was ashamed to talk about it, though it devoured my every waking thought. We NEED to talk about mental health more. We NEED to tell people that we love them and we love them no matter what is in their mind or their heart. And we need to mean it. Mental health kills. And even when it doesn’t, it still feels like you’re drowning. Be kind and be understanding, you never know what somebody else is going through.