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Two-thirds of students will consider suicide by the end of high school. Young people who attempt suicide or consider suicide as an option are more likely to disclose their suicidal thoughts to a peer rather than to an adult.

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Story 128

How did I survive my suicidal thoughts?

It was simple.

My GP’s nurse drove me to the ER, sat with me while I was admitted and I was then under very close observation until the drugs kicked in a few days later. But how I got to the point of being an imminent suicide and how I have been climbing out of that abyss has not been as simple.

I had never sought help, although due to my studies at university I knew that I fulfilled the criteria for major depression. I never thought that it was bad enough to warrant a visit to the doctor, and even if I did that they wouldn’t take me seriously or that they would reveal that this was all just my fault and the result of me being a bad and broken person. I have also been lucky enough to have kept a diary throughout many phases of my life and so can reflect on thoughts and actions during depressed times in my life in which I have such a bad memory that I would not be able to tell you if I was studying or working or even where I was living at the time.

My most recent journey into the depths of hell started mid last year, I knew what was happening because it had happened a few times before. I was stressed, I wasn’t sleeping through the night, I was starting to skip my periods, I was tired and didn’t see the point of doing anything social or fun. I had moved to a new city and transferred my degree to another university, something I was very happy about and looking forward to studying what I had always wanted to. I had received brilliant reviews from my lecturers, and my GPA had doubled in the last two years. I could finally see a future in the two careers I wanted - medicine or research. I also discovered a few friends from my early university days that lived in this city. I had found a nice place to live and one of my flat mates was great. While I was more isolated than I had ever been, I was also doing what I wanted. I was happy, energized, excited, stressed and refreshed. I was in a new city, when I was bored of the last one, I was doing what I really wanted, rather than study boring and irrelevant subjects for anther year. My family had also been having disagreements, nothing I was involved in directly, but stressful nonetheless.

I cannot pinpoint any precipitous event, just a little more stress and a little less support. But I was happy.

How and when I stopped being happy I don’t know. I know at one point I stopped being able to concentrate enough to read. I was struggling reading blogs, the newspaper. Readings and essays were beyond me. Time slipped past, I had spent a whole day in the library and had only read 10 pages. I thought I wasn’t smart enough and that is why I was struggling so hard with the work. I was stupid. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t ask for help with that, nothing could make me smarter, so nothing for me to do but push on and hope that I could at least scrape a pass. What finally caused me to see a doctor was my boyfriend who suggested that I see someone about it. He didn’t know it but I had already been down for some time before I met him, but he had certainly seen me drop further down while we had been together.

That first doctor’s visit was much easier than I had thought it would be. The doctor was kind, caring and understanding. I was started on antidepressants and these were increased over my next three visits. By this time I had recovered much of my mind and body. I was again able to think, to read and to move. I was eating and sleeping much more although nowhere near what I should have been. What did not change was my mood; I still felt down, I still could not respond to a cuddle from mum, a good night out, trips with friends, no typical exercise high, nothing. Only horrible pain superimposed on nothingness, I had no brain, I had no soul, I was an empty void.

My diary entries from a few months earlier included thoughts of death, about the same time I first saw the doctor. I was hoping and wishing for some deadly disease or cancer, so I could die without blame and causing others pain. I wished for some child’s disease so I could spare my parents a life of pain, and end my own. I had already thought much about methods to end my life in past episodes of depression, and so I started to prepare and work out the final details and to put my affairs in order.

I think the tipping point came in three phases; Christmas, when I had planned a 3 week holiday back in my home town, where all my friends from university and school would be back in town, and all my family would be back too. I had been looking forward to this holiday for months, but I ended up being so numb, so down, it made me feel worse. Not only could I not even enjoy myself with my friends, I had to pretend I was happy the whole time in front of my family. At least I had lost some weight that I had wanted to shift for months. All the girls wanted to know my secret.

The second point was that I wasn’t feeling better; my mood hadn’t lifted much at all. So I figured I must not have been depressed. If I had been, I should have been feeling better by then. I must just be a bad, crap, nothing, no-good of a person who felt bad because of all my failings, my lack of future, etc.  This was not depression, this was me and my failure at life. All the literature I had read said that exercise, diet, not isolating yourself and seeing friends, setting reasonable goals, incorporating pleasurable activities into your day would help. I began to fix up my lifestyle. I already did much of this on a daily basis, but I ramped it up. A walk in the sun every morning, work in the day, lunch with a workmate, gym session or team sport session after work, dinner with a friend, chill out time at home, meditation, a good book. No wine, no coffee, no tea, no chocolate, 5 serves of veggies, getting up at a set time each day, no tv or reading in bed, doing what I could for others and the community. Everything that I read and everything I could think of to help myself.

But none of it worked, nothing could touch me, nothing could lift me, not even a little.
It couldn’t be depression, it was me….... it was my failure at life. I couldn’t hide from it anymore, I couldn’t do it anymore, I was ashamed of myself, and I assumed others would be too.

The third point came at work one day, while I was thinking about suicide, and I realized that I could end my life that evening, I didn’t need to plan it anymore, I could do it, I could end my life that evening. I had everything in order, but I had set a date a few months in advance due to family circumstances: a sibling in another country wouldn’t be able to come back for my funeral as they were expecting their first baby and by not coming to my funeral (which I didn’t want, but knew my parents would do nonetheless) the rift between my sibling and my parents would become irrevocable, and I would be responsible for breaking up my family permanently. If I waited a few months this wouldn’t be an issue and they would be able to come back for the funeral, and the rift wouldn’t be enlarged due to my actions. But the problem was, I couldn’t hold on, I spent each day telling myself to wait another day, that I could hold off, that I needn’t do it that evening. I should at least say goodbye to my close friends and family.

The problem is they did that for me. Road trips were planned by all I wanted to say goodbye to, they drove to my house, spent a few days and I had enough time to let them all know how much I loved them, and how this would never change.

I am lucky I didn’t want to die before my sibling’s child was born. I had agreed to go back to my doctor late that month, so I made another appointment.  I was hoping for something to help me though the weeks ahead until I could end my life without hurting people.

THANK GOD for my GP.

I told him that I was feeling a lot better, but that I was still feeling down, and having a lot of trouble sleeping. I didn’t know what else to do. I told him that I wanted it to end, that I was over it all.

He asked me if I had been thinking of suicide.

I said that I needed help holding on for another day.

He asked a nurse to come in and sit with me, organized an emergency appointment at the hospital and the nurse soon drove me there. A massive dose increase of my antidepressants and less than a week later, I was feeling so very much better.
At this stage I had not told anyone about it, no one at all. But I had to call a friend to bring me some clothes. She told me to call my family, and when I didn’t, she called them for me.

How am I recovering?

It has been almost 18 months since this started, and around six since I was in hospital.
What do I think has helped me recover? I have to say that I think the drugs have played such a big role. The difference is amazing, I now feel better than I have for a very long time. I know many people do not agree, but for me, they have been crucial.
Close friends and family knowing about this, and their love and support has also been very important. While they do not entirely understand they still try, and they are there for me when ever and how ever I need.

I am also seeing a psychologist, doing CBT and partly just seeking reassurance for the horror of the past year. While I am no longer depressed, the thoughts that went through my head and the blame and self-hatred have left their mark. And each time depression happens I feel they are etched deeper and deeper, until they are reflex and I begin to believe them. When the depression is over the thoughts disappear, yet they leave behind a feeling in the gut, not verbal but the same sort of feelings of inadequacy. I am hoping that over time I can somehow erase these, and that I can rebuild my eroded self-esteem. 

I think maintaining a healthy lifestyle does play a part in leading a happy, healthy and successful life. I view these actions as more of a preventative, long-term measure as opposed to a recovery mechanism.

I would also like to raise the issue of stigma. I have encountered very little of this outside of the health industry, there is a profound lack of understanding, but everyone who knows has been very loving and supportive. I have personally encountered more negativity and stigma from the inside – the mental health professionals themselves.

Why do I want to go on living?

The only answer that I can think of is that I feel happy. I can feel happiness again.
And that is reason enough.

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