8 – 14 May 2017 is Mental Health Awareness Week – 7 days – 7 blogs -7 Mental Health topics

Today – The Subject Of Suicide

I’ve written before about my own suicidal thoughts – I didn’t want to ignore the topic this week, so have gathered some opinions/experiences of Suicide, from differing viewpoints – all asked to be anonymous.

A guy in his 30’s has experienced the devastating lows of depression, and considered suicide –

Suicide is something I have battled with twice in my life and both times I meant for it to happen. Many people who have suffered in this way will understand what I mean when I say contrary to common opinion, that to take one’s own life is the bravest thing any person can contemplate and attempt. The reason in my opinion is that you consider every person in your life and the guilt you feel for putting others through your pain, you feel that you would be doing everyone a favour and taking yourself out of the picture becomes the only choice that seems to make sense.

Others who have not seen the same battle will find it hard to comprehend and understandably so, I personally would not wish this on any human being.

A Daughter whose Mum made several unsuccessful suicide attempts shares how she feels about her Mum’s decisions –

My Mum is a survivor. She’s the bravest woman I know. I never felt she was a coward or taking the easy way out when she attempted suicide. For her, living was just far more terrifying than dying. She was being chased by the most horrendous monsters her entire life and when she stood on the edge of cliffs, with bottles of pills, I didn’t blame her or see a weak person. I don’t know a single person who could have lived the life she had, without being destroyed by it.

Never judge someone who attempts or commits suicide as you never know what’s driven them to it and all too often, neither do they.

A family trying to carry on with their lives after the death of a loved one –

My niece committed suicide by hanging. She’d had a troubled marriage, left him and the children in the south of Scotland and went back home to live near her Mum in Glasgow. She had been down, depressed. Her Mum says she visited her and left her brighter and happier than she had been for quite a long time. No letter left behind, they found her the next day. All her family were devastated. Shock first then anger – how could she do this to them? – then sadness that they didn’t know how she was really feeling, despite them asking she didn’t tell them, why didn’t she tell them, were they so bad that she couldn’t, or did she think they wouldn’t understand?

 Her Mum was recovering from a double mastectomy at the time. She’s trying to live her life, but is haunted by her daughter’s suicide and her inability to prevent it. We’re a big family, reasonably close, so of course there’s many more than the immediate family affected. My sister in law (my brother’s dead) finds it hard not to constantly ask her grandsons to share any problems with her, she’s terrified that something will cause them to disappear from her life.

Losing a loved one and friends to suicide has caused a long lasting, devastating impact on someone left behind –

Suicide – What does it evoke inside you?

“Selfish” “selfish” “selfish”, “How could they leave everyone”, “How could they do that to their family”, “How could they leave their children”, “Did they not consider their loved ones left behind”, “How could they leave all this s*** behind”, “Why would they just leave & expect everyone to pick up the pieces?”

That’s what people think and that’s what I thought too every time ‘another’ person I loved or had been close to “decided” to leave this world.

The list of emotions that go alongside suicide are immense. There’s the part of me who hates them for leaving, the part of me who bears a grudge for making me depressed because of their actions. There’s a part of me that regrets every single day that I didn’t stop them, that I didn’t know they were that desperate. I feel guilty for not loving them enough. That if I’d have known I could have been there for them more, talked them out of it.

Then there’s the complete flip side of me that 99.9% understands why they did it. This world is s*** sometimes & I myself would quite like to leave it sometimes.

If I’m honest, from quite a young age I thought about suicide. From being bullied at school. I just thought “What’s the point in carrying on”, “No one will care”, “I’ll show those who are bullying me that they should have stopped”, “This will make them feel bad”.

BUT luckily for me I got into doing the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which opened my eyes up to the world…. a world that was a wonderful place & met some of the most amazing friends and so these thoughts quickly left me.

That was until people around me started dying, not just from suicide but dementia, cancer, old age, just everyday life illnesses.

Amongst these were the suicides. I remember when my best friend’s Dad died of cancer and I was devastated but do you know what the worst thing was… sometime later (everything merges into one big black hole so I have no recollection of time frames!) I had to tell my friend that my Uncle had taken his own life. The guilt I felt was huge, I apologised about the fact that her dear Dad would have done anything to stay in this world and then there was my uncle who so flippantly ended his….

So I then had 2 friends take their own lives as well as several more deaths from disease & illnesses & the depression escalated & I found myself on antidepressants & seeing a counsellor at Cruse Bereavement.

The outcome of all this…. I think about suicide possibly on a weekly basis, it used to be every day. I can’t figure out if I think about it because of all the people I miss who have committed this act or whether I myself am suicidal…. I don’t know. And this is what suicide does, it leaves a trail of confusion, guilt, sadness, hate, emptiness and worst of all the “what if’s”. I wouldn’t wish these feelings on anyone & worst of all I can’t talk to anyone….

Tragic events followed years of childhood abuse –

I am one of 5 siblings who suffered abuse from our father and a group of men he was acquainted with. Though some of us were removed from his custody and taken into care while we were very young, he still had regular access to us. Unfortunately we weren’t raised as siblings and I rarely saw many of my siblings but my father got me and my brother on the same weekend every month. We were both drugged and abused regularly on those weekends until I spoke out when I was 16, he was 15. Some of the abusers were prosecuted, but some walked free including my father. We had no contact with him after that.

My brother began abusing drugs soon after and by the time he was about 17 he was a heroin addict. I find it difficult to admit that because he wasn’t what people assume a heroin addict is. He had a lovely rented studio flat, his bills were always up to date, he was always immaculately dressed and clean, he was popular and law abiding, an amazing musician and he held down a good job… but he smoked heroin every day.

It didn’t seem to control his life at the time, he always seemed so ‘normal’. We had low times, we were diagnosed with C-PTSD and both had counselling etc, and despite his bouts of depression, he never appeared suicidal.

When I was 22 I got the news that he had taken a heroin overdose. I can’t begin to explain the grief. I thought it was an accident, but I found out not long after that he’d left a letter explaining that he just couldn’t cope with life any longer.

I was so angry, I thought it was the most selfish thing he could do to those that loved him.

In 2007 a very good friend hung himself after suffering years and years of depression, it was at this point that I realised that it wasn’t a selfish act, it was only selfish of me to expect him to live with his suffering. I saw him on some occasions crying and hitting himself in the head because he just couldn’t get a moments peace in his life. He didn’t want his children growing up watching him suffer, he saw no end to it.

It saddens me that my brother and my friend saw no light at the end of the tunnel, it saddens me to my very core that getting access to the right mental health services take so long… too long for those who feel suicide is their only option.

I know mental health awareness is getting better and in turn services are improving but there’s still a long way to go to remove the stigma and to get help to sufferers as and when it’s needed.

A Mother’s fight with depression has helped her Daughter to empathise with those struggling with Mental Illness –

When I was about 18, unknown to me my mum was on the brink of taking her own life.  She had felt that her life had gotten so far removed from what she wanted that suicide was the reasonable and only option.  I had called her that evening, as she was contemplating swallowing the numerous pills in her hand.  I had known she was struggling with depression and thought, in my naïve and uneducated way, that she just needed cheering up. 

So I upped my contact with her, sent her things in the post and generally made sure she knew she mattered to me. What I had inadvertently done, she explained years later, was throw her some metaphorical armbands that allowed her to keep her head above the tar of depression and to assert some changes and seek further help.

When she told me my first reaction was of anger, I am now pretty ashamed to say.  I couldn’t understand how she would even consider leaving me and my siblings.  How could anything be worse be so bad that you’d want to kill yourself and leave us to face a world without her?  It was a selfish horrible thing to consider putting us through and I was angry.  Then I was horrified that she had felt her life was so bad she’d consider leaving her four children and ending her life.  And then I was so sad that one of the people I loved most in the world was feeling so out of control and overwhelmed that ending her life was the option she had considered best, for everyone.  I was distraught that the worst thing I could possibly imagine – my mum killing herself, was what she had seriously considered doing, alone, sad, and out of options, that winter evening many, many years ago.

And then finally, I began to get clarity.  I didn’t need to understand her feelings and thoughts – I just needed to accept that was how she felt.  I didn’t have the right to judge whether it was the right decision because it wasn’t my decision to make.  What I needed to do was to unconditionally offer her my love and support. 

I have learned that suicide is not a dirty word.  I have found that people are utterly relived to have someone vocalise their darkest thoughts and to have someone react with compassion – not horror and fear.  I sincerely believe that the more we say ‘suicide’ and make it a normal part of our mental health conversations, the more people can explore their thoughts and feelings and hopefully identify a different path, because as much as I fully respected my mum’s right to choose whether or not to end her life, I never want her to leave me.

My mum’s journey with depression has had its dark day and its happier times, I am so grateful that it has never been so bad that she has had any further suicidal plans.  Suicidal thoughts have crept in from time to time, but she has recognised them as an indicator for intervention and for the most part her life is a happy one.

And finally, this paragraph has been written by an incredible friend who has helped me in the darkest of times and continues to make me smile with every text message –

I get f***** off when people talk about ‘someone doing something stupid’ – Don’t demean, trivialise and judge someone’s worst moments.  It makes someone vulnerable, feel stupid and therefore less likely to get help and talk truthfully.  Or ‘It’s just a cry for help’ like it’s a bad thing.  It’s a pretty big cry for help when someone attempts to take their own life! Stop judging and being scathing and help them.  Have some b***** compassion and empathy.

My enormous thanks and love to those who have been so brave to share their experiences with me to help raise awareness. I hope that in some small way that by speaking out and finding your voice, that a little of the pressure has been relieved.

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