When I Hit The Bottom (trigger warning)

I knew it was bad when I spoke to my husband and couldn’t bring myself to tell him I loved him. How could I say that to him when I was planning my suicide for that evening? I knew I was at rock bottom then, but I couldn’t tell anyone. What could they do about it? I needed a quick-fix, I needed to not feel this way for another day; and it was still three days till my appointment with my CPN.

The plan was fully formed in my head, and the wish to feel nothing was the strongest urge in my mind. I felt guilty, yes, but not so guilty that it was enough to discourage me from my plan. I tried to reason with myself, to think it through logically, but ended up frantic each time. The need I had to not exist tomorrow, to not have to face the office and my life, was overwhelmingly powerful.

That evening I walked home via the pharmacy and bought a pack of paracetamol. I wondered if the pharmacist could see in my eyes the pain I felt; I wished and prayed that she would recognise the look of desperation of someone who has reached the end of their tether. I even hoped she was somehow telepathic and could read my mind. She couldn’t.

It can seem somewhat contradictory that I was hoping for someone to stop me, yet hadn’t told anyone my plans. The thing about being so depressed is that you do not wish for death; you just wish to not exist, to not feel anything anymore. It doesn’t take away the guilt or the sadness over your actions. Death is still scary to someone planning suicide – it’s just that it’s less scary than facing another day of pain.

What can you say to someone in that state? All responses seem trite; ‘it gets better’ and ‘think of what you have to live for’ are meaningless words. I believed with every fibre of my soul that I was destined to spend the rest of my life in a real-world hell and chose to bet my life on death being the better option.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight I know that what I thought was the end of my world was just another episode in the illness I live with. An experience I hope I can learn from; but there’s no guarantee that the rot won’t set in again – no guarantee that I won’t find myself in the place where I resent the people who keep me safe. There is nothing worse than being angry at your other half because they called an ambulance and want you to live, when all you want is to end the torture of living.

I hope I never return to that dark place for the rest of my life. I hope that if I do end up back at the bottom I have the strength and presence of mind to ask for help. Overall I hope I remember that things do get better; yes, it takes time but life is worth it.

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When I Hit The Bottom (trigger warning)

The People Who Help

I wanted to write a little bit about the people in my life who have supported me over the last three years. Without them I believe I wouldn’t be here to tell my story.

The primary supporter in my life is my husband Luke. We’ve been together since we were in our late teens and got married in Dec 2011. When we first began getting serious (i.e. after about a month!) I explained my struggles with depression from my early teenage years and the anxiety that had gone along with it. He made a promise to always be there for me when I need him, and he’s gone above and beyond that time and time again in the years that followed.

It was Luke who first noticed my mental health deteriorating in early 2012. As you’ll hear a lot from people who have been psychotic especially, it’s those around them who notice it even before the sufferer. I was living in an alternate reality in which it was perfectly normal to be hearing voices, not sleeping and suffering paranoia over the people living next door. Amazingly, and thankfully, the paranoia did not extend to my husband. Although I’d visited the GP on my own to get help for the anxiety, the warning signs of mania and psychosis had not been picked up.

Luke has since stood by me through thick and thin. He has sat with me in the hospital following overdoses. He has accompanied me to appointments and talked to the mental health team on my behalf when I couldn’t speak for myself. He is my carer; I still struggle with being out in public without him if it’s not part of my routine, and he makes sure I take my medication morning and night. When I’ve been unwell he’s kept the house clean and us fed. The stress I have put him under is unbelievable and he is still his jolly, jokey self.

What do I owe him? Everything – and nothing. What he does for me comes from a place of true love. I couldn’t be more appreciative, and I have no idea how I can repay it all. But he tells me regularly that he did it because he loves me and couldn’t imagine being without me – that he’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

My family have also been there for me in an entirely supportive capacity. My mum has driven me to the hospital a few times, and never judged me for it. She is a lovely, warm and caring woman and I am so lucky that she’s supportive and understanding. Never one to shy away from anyone in need, she makes sure I know she’s there for me any time I need her; as she says, her kids come first.

I didn’t speak to my father for three years following an argument in the run up to my wedding. When we got back in touch early last year I debated with myself for a long time over whether to tell him everything or not. I decided that honesty was my best course of action and wrote him a letter that described what had been happening with my mental health. I was terrified that he would see me differently once he knew everything, but there was nothing to worry about. He told me he supported me.

Unfortunately there is so much stigma surrounding mental health issues that there’s no guarantee that people will be supportive of those who suffer. I used to feel ashamed of my diagnosis, that the important people in my life would somehow blame me for what I was going through. The fear of them taking it personally was huge; I was worried that my parents would wonder what they’d done to cause it, or that my husband would think my suicidal ideation was proof I wanted to leave him behind.

I am so thankful to those who have supported me over the last few tumultuous years. I have learned that I have nothing to feel guilty for; no guiltier than someone who’s suffered a heart attack feels. It is my hope that this blog is not just for those with mental illnesses, but that the people supporting them will read and understand that the best thing they can do is be there for their loved one.

The People Who Help

The Anxiety of Suicidal Ideation

First up – a definition. Suicidal ideation concerns thoughts about or an unusual preoccupation with suicide. The range of suicidal ideation varies greatly from fleeting thoughts, to extensive thoughts, to detailed planning, role playing (e.g., standing on a chair with a noose), and unsuccessful attempts [Wiki].

When my ideation was at its worst, I visited my GP (this being pre-involvement of secondary mental health services). I was agitated and restless, and I spilled the beans. I had been planning and fantasising about hanging myself. I’d also been having vivid mental images of doing it, kind of like acting it out in my mind. It was overwhelming and upsetting.

It was almost like a craving to act on the urges. It felt similar to the times when I wanted a cigarette but had only empty packets. The totality of my attention was fixed on obsessing and planning the act in great detail, and it made me incredibly anxious.

The anxiety was two-fold. In one aspect it was the frantic feeling of a need not being met. I felt trapped between my desire to carry out the fantasies and my fear of actually ending my life. It was hugely unsettling.

The other side to it was more of a guilty anxiety. I was beating myself up mentally; “How could you think these things? What about all the people who love you and care about you? Your family will be devastated. Your husband will never get over it.” and so on. I knew the rational case against suicide, but knowing things intellectually doesn’t often stop the mind from wandering off on its own path.

Since then, I’ve learned better coping skills to help take my mind off the thoughts. Meditation and mindfulness have taught me to observe my thoughts and then let them go. If I’m really struggling to deal with ideation I talk to my husband or an understanding friend. Most of all, I’ve learnt that I can forgive myself for having the thoughts and that’s taken away a lot of the panic from the experience.

The Anxiety of Suicidal Ideation