Suicide and Depression

“The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die”

Today I want to talk about suicide. I have spoken out a bit on Facebook about my suicide attempts, but I want to explain how and why people get to a point in their lives where they feel they cannot possibly go on.

One of the things I hate most about the stigma surrounding Depression and consequently suicidal ideation is when people take the moral high ground. I do not mean this is a sick or twisted way. What I mean is the fact some people automatically deem it as selfish. They say things like ‘How could they hurt their friends like that?’. ‘Why did they not care about the people they left behind?’.

These people never stop and think about how much pain a person must have been through to get to that stage in their lives. No-one ever stops to consider what the moments before a self inflicted and potentially lethal action are like. Speaking from experience, I can assure you I did not take those pills on a whim and I certainly did not cut my wrists for a laugh. I did not forget about the few people who would have been directly affected by my death. I did not underestimate the hurt I would cause.

So then, naturally, I guess it begs the question why? Why would you choose such a final action, particularly when you are so aware of the hurt you would cause? I cannot answer this question universally (because I could not possibly be naive enough to suggest that everyone’s experiences of severe Depression and subsequent suicidal thinking are the same) but I can attempt to explain how – in the mind of a sick young adult – one can justify such a decision.

Firstly I guess, like anything in life, you have to weigh things up. When you are at rock bottom and feel that nothing will ever get better. As if nothing no-one says or does will EVER make a difference to your life, to how you feel. When you cannot see a future for yourself and the black cloud descends, you create a picture in your head of how the world would look without you. You see the few people in your life that would be affected by your death – mourning you in the short term but you convince yourself that they’ll get over it. That they will soon realise that their lives will be improved without you. You tell yourself that they’ll be ok and that everything will eventually be ‘fixed’ without you there to ruin it. It is incredible how rational you can convince yourself you are being during the run up to perhaps the most irrational decision of your life. Secondly, and I think that this in particular was true for me, people underestimate the lack of self worth people who are suicidal tend to have. They do not see themselves as ‘lovable’, as ‘popular’, as ‘valued’. We feel worthless, a waste of space and most of us are so sick of ourselves we struggle to see how anyone can stand to be with us when we cannot even stand to be with ourselves.

Still not convinced? I ask you to read this. And then tell me that you still cannot possibly understand.

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Imagine a life with no pleasure, no happiness, no light. Nothing good. Everything is bad (or it seems like that). There is no joy. There are no good days and bad days. There are just bad days – and even worse days. Imagine a healthy persons sadness. Multiply that by 1000 then throw in anger, anxiety, guilt and every other negative emotion under the sun. Welcome to the world of Depression. It is a very bleak world. People do not understand why you are so negative. But that is not unusual. People rarely understand you. You see you are unlikable and the majority of people hate you. But you feel like you are a bad person and that you deserve the pain anyway. Besides, you cannot hurt anyone if you are alone. The way you feel affects the few friendships you have left – they try hard but you push them away. You convince yourself that they either feel sorry for you or they feel like they should make an effort. You like them but you are fed up of repeatedly hurting them so you keep your distance. You try and protect them.

Imagine feeling alone even when there are people around you. Imagine spending days in bed because you feel too ugly, too disgusting to be allowed out. Your life consists of appointments, medication and monitoring. Every few days you sit in front of a different professional who half listens while taking notes, nodding their heads and occasionally muttering a few ambiguous comments about what you should try and do. They may even say a few reassuring words, maybe they make some sense and you see a glimmer of hope but then you leave and you realise that they get to go home at the end of the day to their ‘normal’ lives. They don’t think about you. They care because it is their JOB to care. But it is their job to care for those 50 minutes when they must talk to you. After that you become another patient. Another file. Another name. You leave the building and suddenly you are back in this big terrifying world and you are on your own again – who are you kidding you are always on your own. You walk down the street and feel disconnect from every single person that walks past. It is like you are in a bubble or watching a film in slow motion. They are not part of your world. They are in this ‘promised land’. The place everyone keeps promising you exists if you ‘keep fighting’, ‘keep being brave’, ‘keep holding on’. You get the bus and watch everyone wondering what their life is like. You see people your age laughing, smiling, joking and you wonder why that can’t be you. Maybe you spend your evening getting drunk with people you barely know. Maybe you spend them drinking on your own attempting to inject some happiness into your tired soul. Maybe you sleep around simply trying to feel love. To feel good. Maybe you cut yourself in a desperate attempt to feel SOMETHING other than this black, numb pain or to perhaps to distract yourself from the emotional scars that lie embedded even deeper in you than the train-tracks lining your body.

That night you go to bed. God knows what time it is. Days feel like months. Weeks feel like years. You’re exhausted. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally. You wish you were happy. You wish you were better. But you have felt this way for so long you don’t even know what better is. People try and help but no-one knows what living like this is like. You toss and turn desperate to fall asleep because you want to be able to function as a human being when you wake up. It’d be nice to feel alive. You think about taking pills to either end everything or to just knock you out for a while so you don’t have to think. Its 3am and you scroll through the numbers on your phone of people you have been told to call whatever the time, it is for moments just like this. But all you see is names. All you see is people who do not deserve to be bothered by you. None of them deserve this to be put on them. These are good people. Happily sleeping. In any case what can they do? Nothing can save you now. You are past saving. It’s your own fault anyway. People say you are brave. You are sick of being brave. You don’t want to have to be brave. You want to be ok. But that’s not going to happen. No-ones ever asked you what you want. You try to think back to a time where everything was ok. But all you can see is black. You think ahead desperate to see some light at the end of this long tunnel. But nothing is there. It is black too. And you are blind.

Tell me now that you don’t understand why people give up. And tell me now that suicide is selfish.

xx

Mental Illness can kill

“There’s a light at each end of this tunnel, you shout, but you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out”

Having a mental illness should not be a death sentence. But sadly for many it is. And I must confess that, for me, there have been times when I have wondered whether I would survive my illnesses. I have been told straight to my face that if I continued starving myself I would be dead within weeks. More recently I have been told that I am likely to die from misadventure (i.e. by accident) if I do not stop self-harming behaviours.

It is funny how blind having a mental illness can make you. In the same way a smoker tells themselves that they will not get cancer, I told myself would not die from these illnesses.

As an Anorexic (with a critically low weight and poor bone density) I told myself that it would not be me. was invincible. I could survive like this.was not in danger. It hurts looking back now at just how poorly I was and I feel shock at how I did not realise how dangerous my position had become. I remember sitting in front of my therapist at the time and watching her get emotional because she could see me deteriorating in front of her eyes. But I was not worried. Everyone else was but I didn’t care. As long as I was thin it didn’t matter. I pretended to be blind to all concern. I came down to Edinburgh for my birthday and watched as my mother cried at the sight of me. I vaguely saw peoples looks of worry or glances to each other as I refused food. But it didn’t worry me. I wouldn’t die. However, as I became even deeper absorbed in the disease I began almost wishing it would kill me. When I began to realise that Anorexia was not the comfort blanket I always thought it to be, I hoped It would kill me. I remember thinking it was ok because I wouldn’t die fat. Eventually my doctor stepped in and got me the help I needed, but for those few months where death was coming closer I was completely blinded by my illness. And even when things started to go wrong and I realised I was no longer in control I then wanted to die.

It is easy to see now how Anorexia (and other Eating Disorders) take lives. Whether through complications relating to the Eating Disorder or suicide. Sufferers take their own lives because, like me, they could not see a way out. Or there was no help available. Or they kept getting refused help because services rely on BMI to determine how sick someone suffering is. They forget it is a MENTAL illness and if your weight is not low then there is often not enough funding to treat patients at a healthy weight even if mentally they are struggling.

But having depression can blind you too. It makes you feel awful, worthless and useless. It tears you down and forces you into a pit of despair. You struggle to do the most basic of things due to lack of motivation. Why bother? You are not important enough. Not smart enough. Not good enough. No-one will ever like you and your friends and colleagues are just pretending to like you. The negative thoughts come thick and fast and there is nothing you can do to stop them. That is when the idea of suicide infiltrates your brain. You believe people would be better off without you. You believe you would be doing the world a service if you died. And you believe so intrinsically that you do not belong in this world that death seems like a good option. Depression kills. And is responsible for the majority of male deaths under 50. I have speculated in past posts as to why this is, whether it is stigma or shame. But the truth is it does not really matter as the facts speak for themselves. Sometimes people go to the GP and they are not taken seriously which makes them reluctant to go back. This then means their depression goes untreated and undiagnosed. This is so dangerous and a key factor in why people commit suicide. Early intervention is so important. I was lucky and my GP diagnosed me straight away with depression at 14 and put me on anti-depressants. But others are not so lucky.

My Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder often means that I do not think of the consequences of my actions. Or if I do its because I’m planning something serious. 10% of people with EUPD die through suicide. The self harm which I engage in (which is a symptom of my illness)  has, at times, been life threatening. Some of the overdoses I have taken in order to hurt myself but not necessarily to die have resulted in me being in intensive care or I was in danger of seriously damaging my liver. And then there are the suicide attempts themselves. The reckless behaviour. The taking unnecessary risks. But I am blinded by my impulses. I do not see my behaviours for what they are until after the event. I just do what I feel like doing in the moment and often that is something very self-destructive. And even now when I am being told that I will only survive so many times until I accidentally kill myself, I continue to do it. Because my illness makes me believe that I am the exception. That I will not die. That I will not become a statistic. I know rationally that voice is wrong, but at the moment it doesn’t seem to shut up. But I’m fighting back and trying to reduce the severity of my self harm.

So you see, in all these diseases the mental illness can blind a person to the truth. Whether that be Anorexia, Depression or EUPD. There are, of course, many other Mental Illnesses but I have chosen to focus on these as they are the ones I am familiar with. People do not think it will be them. They convince themselves that, while it might happen to others, it will not happen to them. This is wrong. Anyone can die from an Eating Disorder or serious self harm. And even those who attempt suicide don’t always want to die they just don’t want to live. Yet even a half-hearted suicide attempt can kill. Mental Illnesses are dangerous and we must not forget that. People die from Mental Illnesses and that is the one thing I would like my readers to take away from this rather long winded post.

There should be access to help for EVERYONE no matter of their sex, age, ethnicity, postcode or social standing. And early intervention is key to recovery. A lot of people go to their GP out of desperation only to be told that they are not depressed enough, not anxious enough, not thin enough etc. This does not happen with any physical illnesses. When cancer is found the doctor does not tell you to wait to see if it gets worse before starting treatment. That would be negligence. However, with Mental Illness it seems to be a completely different story.

As always thank you for reading (medal if you got this far)

Take care guys

xx

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018

“There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore”

So it’s that time of year again. It is #eatingdisorderawarenessweek and this year we are asking the question, #whywait? It is estimated that people wait about 3 years between symptoms developing and getting help. This is ridiculous. No physical illness is treated like this. No-one waits that long for treatment. And there is proof to show that early intervention means people are much more likely to recover. I often wonder how much money the NHS would have saved had they treated me sooner.

When I first started developing symptoms I told my psychiatrist at the time and she did nothing. She watched me deteriorate in front of her eyes. It was not until I was given a new psychiatrist that I was finally diagnosed and even then I had to wait for treatment as I was not deemed ill enough. They waited until things got so bad for me before even attempting to treat me. This is shocking and sadly the case for most suffering from an eating disorder. A lot go undiagnosed and untreated for years before anyone steps in.

Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate among all Mental Illnesses. They are serious psychiatric diseases that need treatment, and fast. Stepping in sooner would see admissions to psychiatric and general hospitals fall and give sufferers a greater chance of recovery.

It is also important to remember that Eating Disorders and not just about weight. There is so much more too them. Yes, weight loss is often a physical side effect of Anorexia Nervosa, but in other eating disorders weight is often irrelevant. They are often about control and perfectionism. They are about not feeling like you deserve to take up space. They’re about body image and comparing yourself to others. And for me it was about not wanting to grow up and look like a woman.

Eating Disorders are hell and while I am quite far along in recovery I still have my struggles. 10 years on and I still suffer from an Eating Disorder. It took four years for me to be diagnosed. I was 18. Despite having suffered on my own since I was 14. I have now been in recovery for 6 years. It is a long battle, but I know it will be worth it in the end.

If you notice someone struggling around food, excessively exercising or having rules and rituals surrounding food and drink. Be brave. Ask them how they are. Tell them they matter and that they can beat this with the right support. Encourage them to get better because if you are not recovering from your Eating Disorder you are essentially dying. Your body can only take so much – something I learnt the hard way. Physically it can make you very unwell – whether that be from having a low weight, binging, purging, using laxatives to excess or over exercising. So please step in if you see a friend or family member struggling. I promise they will thank you for it.

And that concludes my essay on Eating Disorders. Thank you for reading this and I hope I have helped spread awareness of what are seriously misunderstood psychiatric conditions. Let us all continue to ask the question #whywait.

Take care guys

xx

Self Injury Awareness Day

“I hurt myself on the outside to kill the thing on the inside”

Today is self injury awareness day and I was not going to post. BUT losing Claire has sparked a fire in me. I am determined even more now to break down barriers surrounding Mental Health and to speak out to end the stigma.

So yes my name is Jenny and I self-harm through cutting. You do not know how hard it is to write those words down. Or even to say ‘I am a self-harmer’ out loud. But I am and have been since I was 14.

I did not really know what it was at first. I did not understand why I was doing this to myself. Punishment, for me, was a big part of why I started as it was also when my Anorexia first started to take over my life. I punished myself for eating. I punished myself for being ‘fat’. I punished myself for being me.

The negative thoughts bombarded me and I felt worthless, useless and a burden to others. It soon became my way of coping with day to day life. It gave me a release. The pain was a distraction from the internal pain I felt inside. It was not long before my friends found out and told a teacher. And it was probably the best thing that could have happened. I finally had someone to confide in and I could talk about my problems or what I was struggling with. It helped. She was by far one of the best teachers I ever had- and I am so happy to say I am still in touch with her today. She has seen me through some very dark places and continues to support me. I am eternally grateful for I do not know what I would have done without her support.

But unfortunately the self-harm continued. It became an addiction. It was soon out of my control. I have stopped for periods of time over the years. But usually when my eating disorder has been fully in control.

In the past few years my self-harm has gone from bad to worse. What started as a few scratches turned into deep cuts frequently requiring medical attention. I have even needed blood transfusions a few times.

HOWEVER, all self-harm should be taken seriously. I was lucky in the sense that the ‘minor’ self-harm I was engaging in at a young age was taken seriously by the school and I was referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). I received help and the school continued to give me on-going support all through my teenage years.

I would have liked to be able to end this by saying I no longer engage in self-harming behaviours. But the truth is I do. However, I do not give into the urges lightly any more. I fight them with all my might. I try my hardest to NOT cut. But when it’s the only coping mechanism you have it’s incredibly hard.

I really wish I never started. I wish I had never made that first cut. My arms are a mess now. And I am ashamed of them. I have to wear long sleeves all the time – even in hot weather. It is uncomfortable. I worry all the time that someone might see them and be disgusted. I’m scared I will be judged.

But I shouldn’t be afraid. I should not feel ashamed. They are a part of me and a part of my story and while I may hate having them and wish for clean arms again I am starting to accept them. Slowly, but surely. In the same way I tell everyone to love their bodies no matter if you have cellulite or stretch marks or any other problem, I want people to not be ashamed of their scars.

I also want people to know that there are many ways a person may self-harm. I personally cut but others burn or insert objects into their bodies.

If you suspect someone to be self-harming please please step in and offer them your support. Listen to them but do not judge. You will likely have no idea what they are going through. Self-harm is an addiction yes but like all addictions it can be overcome. And I have faith that the day will come when I do not feel the need to self-harm anymore and where I am content in myself. One day I want to not feel that deep desire to punish.

I hope I have opened your eyes into why people self-harm – it is not a phase or a trend. It usually comes with Depression, Eating Disorders or Personality Disorders. And is feature of them.

Take care guys

xx