“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 I 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. I was invincible. I could survive like this. I 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