Sunday was World Suicide Prevention Day and awareness continues for the rest of the week, so to do my part I thought I’d share my experience of dealing with suicidal thoughts. This is exceptionally emotional and difficult for me to discuss, but I do find it’s both a sad and beautiful part of my story.
When I was at college it was a tough time for me, as you all know. In the early part of my second year I had a PTSD relapse and I felt for all the steps forward I had made, I had just taken a million steps back into some sort of depression abyss. At this time I really struggled with self harm which I used to try to feel in control of myself, then the thoughts of suicide started creeping in.
To put it blankly, knowing that I was on the same planet earth as the very person who was at the root of my illness was more than I could bear. I felt numb to the world but inside I was in so much pain, such inner turmoil and I started to become so desperate to be as far away from that person as I could – even if it meant taking myself off this world.
I really really wanted to drown. When I was stressed and panicking, going to the river Thames made me feel like I had space to be alone in my grief and for some reason the water soothed me. So it became and idealization of mine that I could just sink into the water and let the currents take me over, take away my pain, and take me away.
One dreadful day I was cycling home from college which meant I had to go on Hampton Court bridge over the Thames. I had left early to go home because I was so depressed, my dissociation was in full force and I had panicked. As I cycled up to the bridge my whole body felt this strong power pull me to the water. It was like a magnet, a compulsion, and it promised me a relief from the hell that I lived in. I wanted it, I didn’t have a choice anymore.
The only thing that stopped me from going in was a sudden flash of my family’s faces in my mind’s eye at the very last second. It hit me like a blow to my stomach as I saw their grief stricken faces.
I continued to cycle over the bridge telling myself, “Anna you are fine, just keep in control until you get home, Mummy is going to be home and she’ll know how to help”.
But she wasn’t home, the house was dark and I just lost myself. I screamed for help as I attacked myself with scissors but no one heard me. The monster in me wanted me to die so so badly I can’t even put it into words, it was like I’d been taken over by some dark force, just as my body felt compelled to jump into the river just 15 minutes before. As I screamed for help a friend happened to call, I answered the phone, still screaming for help from myself. He called me an ambulance.
That’s the sad part of the story in as much detail as I can bare to say. The beautiful part comes in the form of my friends and family who took actions to keep me safe afterwards.
- My dad told his work that he needed to start working from home as often as possible so he could be there for his daughter so that I was rarely in the house alone. Just knowing his presence was there gave me so much comfort and I felt safe from myself.
- My mum started cycling me into college everyday and made sure I got over that bridge safely. Some of my peers probably remember seeing her with me in her fluorescent cycling jacket!
- We increased the amount of therapy I was getting a week.
- We went to see the doctor to adjust my medication.
- My friends and family sent me text messages here and there, just to remind me they were always with me.
You never know what’s going on in people’s heads and it’s so difficult to start a conversation with someone about having suicidal thoughts. The result of that is:
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in 15-24 years of age.
- A person commits suicide every 40 seconds.
- Depression is the leading cause of disability world wide.
- Each suicide intimately affects at least 6 other people, which allows mental illnesses such as depression to spread.
- The rise of suicide in men has increased 90% since 2006 for ages 45-54 years, now the most likely age group for men to commit suicide.
Be there for a friend. Be there for a family member. There are a few small things you can do to help save a life:
- Encourage openness and honesty without judgment.
- Ask them how they are either face to face, by text or phone.
- Be yourself and let them know you are there for them to spend time with to do fun things.
- Reach out, don’t always expect them to come to you.As you should all know now, having a mental illness and being forthcoming about it isn’t easy or comfortable.
Depression kills, anxiety kills, mental illness kills. It is not a joke. It is not selfish.
You cannot judge someone who takes their life because they have been taken by an illness.
Who knows what would’ve happened that day if it wasn’t for my family and friends, people can make all the difference!
Here’s a song that I’ve been listening to for the last few months by Logic, I’m sure most of you have heard it by now. I’ve never felt so moved by a song before but it relates to me so deeply in my experience with having suicidal thoughts. The end verse with Khalid (3min30sec) makes me cry every time because it relates to who I am now, and reminds me where I’ve come from:
Share this story for suicide prevention week. Writing about it has made me relive the grief and pain I was in, but makes me appreciate every day and the people who are in my life.
Be there for friends and anyone who needs it. Just a phone call, a text, a hug or a smile can be a life saver.