Ok so I had made a little pledge not to be too depressing on here, but this is important.
Today is World Suicide Prevention / awareness day. What do you know about suicide? About the numbers of people who take their own lives, about who they are, why they do it, how they do it, who they leave behind? Do you know anyone who has killed themself, tried, thought about it? Probably. Even if you don’t know it.
Sometimes, in conversations about mental health issues, I get the impression that people think they’re not really that serious. That it’s not so bad as a diagnosis of physical condition. You know, one that might kill you. People dont seem to get the connection with mental health problems and suicide. That it might be a planned or spontaneous event at your own hand, but it’s the illness you have suffered with for years that actually kills you. Some people will be helped by medication, or therapy, or exercise, but sometimes nothing works, or it stops working, or the person never gets help, and the illness wins.
I have suffered from depression since puberty. And since i was an early bloomer, that means 9 years old. I attempted suicide something like five times between the ages of 11 and 15. Looking back, I can say some of it was attention seeking, definitely a cry for help, (though a quite one as I barely told anyone),but it did also come from being so profoundly unhappy that I didnt really care about living. I wanted not to do it any more. It is only a matter of chance that I didn’t succeed. I know enough about it now to know I could easily have done. That I took the right dosage. That one time I probably nearly did, but just escaped. I hate thinking that. About what would have happened if I had. My poor parents would have been wrecked. I left no note, told no one. I just wouldn’t have woken up. And then they’d find out about the overdose, and the unanswerable questions would have begun, and never ended.
That’s what stops me. Because I can’t say I haven’t been suicidal since I was 15. In fact I have even to much deeper, crueller depths than I had back then. But I have better tools to cope with them than the younger me did, while she rode the waves of crazy teenage hormones. But perhaps also, I’m not so selfish. I don’t think at that age I ever really thought with great depth about my parents as emotional beings. About my role in their life. I didn’t think they liked me very much, certainly knew they didn’t approve of me, thought maybe they’d be better off without me. I don’t know. I was an only child. Prone to crushes and infatuations that were invariably unrequited. Or when they were requited, turned into deep and destructive love affairs. Too much too young as they say, but it was what it was and I am who I am because of it. Perhaps the (temporary) break up of my parents’ marriage started to show me them more as people than I’d understood before. Perhaps I started to see possibilities in life that I hadn’t before. Perhaps my hormones cooled down. But my depression didn’t disappear. It went into remission perhaps, the first up swing of many. And in later years, I did return to the brink.
But while I still experience “suicidal ideation” as they call it, I don’t think it’s a real risk. My depression disables me. I lie awake, terrified of death but not wanting to live, but thinking, if it were all just over… But it’s like window shopping for expensive shoes. I stare at them again and again, but I can’t have them. But equally, even if I could have them, could afford them, I wouldn’t buy them because I don’t agree with spending obscene amours of money on frivolous things. So I can look, as long as I like, because the shoes don’t really exist to me. I can’t thoil (good Yorkshire word) the cost of suicide. To others. I don’t deserve it. To put others through all that pain just to put me out of my misery? Nah. Plus, most importantly, I know things can and often do get better. I have been up and down like a whore’s knickers. It’s not much help, in the darkest days, but it is some help to know if I just grit my teeth and hold my breath, the sun will shine again.
But this is about prevention isn’t it? What would have prevented me from making those attempts, back in the day? Of course, I can’t ever know for sure. But I think – I needed more people to talk to. More close, intimate friends. I needed a closer relationship with my parents. I was too much a child to them for them to realise that just as my body developed early, so did my emotional life, and I needed help to understand that. I think there is too much of a tendency to dismiss depression in young people as them being “sulky teenagers”. Of course, that’s a part of life. But there will be some of those young people whose sulking is a bit more than that, and may be an early sign of a problem that will follow them through life. Other things would have helped, more interests to distract me, exercise to keep me fit, less homophobic attitudes at home and school. Most of all better self esteem. I felt like shit, but I felt like that’s all I deserved. I let the most absurd situations develop, because I had convinced myself that I didn’t deserve better. And I really did.we all do.
We need to be less British, and talk to each other. Be open. Tell people your troubles and secrets. Put your arms around a friend who is feeling down and just help them ride it out. Ask them how they’re feeling. Try to help if you can, or just be there if you can’t. We all of us have fascinating stories somewhere in us, take an interest, listen and share. The more people hear of other people’s hardships, they realise they are not alone, and of others can get through to the other side, then so might they. Love one another, be strong.