⚠️ This blog post comes with a trigger warning ⚠️ It’s about suicide ideation ⚠️ Please keep yourself safe ⚠️
Did you know that you can feel suicidal without ever actually attempting to end your life? It can go on for a long time too. And it’s painful. Really painful. It’s called suicide ideation which is basically thinking about, considering or actually going as far as planning to end your life. I think about suicide a lot and it’s pretty fucking horrible.
You always see people posting about this kind of stuff on social media after a celebrity has died by suicide. And people mean well when they post that you can reach out to them if you’re depressed or suicidal. It’s nice to know there are people out there who care. But the truth is, when you’re fighting this dark internal demon, reaching out to people is genuinely one of the hardest things to do. You’re exposing this inner darkness, raw pain and vulnerability; all the parts you’ve been fighting so hard to hide from everyone and I hide mine well. By reaching out, you’re asking someone to help you to save your life and that’s a really difficult thing to ask someone. And what if they don’t understand, and what if they don’t believe you?
The first time I told my mum I wanted to kill myself, I could hear her fighting back to the tears on the phone. You know when someone’s voice cracks but they mask it with a big swallow before taking a deep breath to try again? She so desperately wanted to be strong for me but eventually she broke down, and through her tears she apologised to me for how I was feeling. Imagine that. She was telling me she was sorry for my pain. I know it can’t be easy to hear your child, someone you gave life to, telling you that they wanted to end it, but it’s more than that. When my mum was in her 30s, her mental health problems ran wildly out of control and she also wanted to die. Whenever I hear that someone has died because they ended their life, I feel a pain and a sadness that is quite overwhelming. I don’t know the person I’m reading about on the news or seeing on Facebook, but I still feel this real heart crushing, stomach twisting pain knowing that this person felt so sad that they didn’t see another way out. It’s because I’ve felt some of that pain. I’ve felt the sadness, the loneliness and the darkness and I’ve wanted so badly for it to end. So my mums on the other end of the phone, listening to my pain and knowing exactly how I feel.
Calling my mum that day was my first step towards recovery. She was dialling the number of the mental health crisis team within 0.2 seconds of hanging up the phone to me. She needed to know how to get me some help. She needed to know how to prevent her only daughter from killing herself. She was frantic when they said I had to call them myself. She needed to be sure I would and she was ready to leave work and come to me to make sure I did. And I did. It was difficult and it was embarrassing. I felt like I was lying because although I wanted to die and I knew how I would do it, I had no intention of following through with it because I knew it would kill my mum. I was safe.
I was told by the crisis team that I would receive a call back within 72 hours. 96 hours later I spoke to a mental health nurse. He was very nice and he asked the questions he needed to ask. At the end of that call he told me I didn’t sound like a depressed person. I was functioning. I believed him. You’re not depressed. Maybe you made it up. Maybe it’s normal to feel empty every minute of the day, maybe it’s normal to want to kill yourself most days, maybe it’s normal to feel removed from reality, maybe it’s normal to not shower for days on end, maybe it’s normal to stop having fun, maybe it’s normal to be constantly exhausted, maybe it’s normal to struggle so much to function every day… at least you’re functioning. You’re not depressed.
A few weeks later I got a letter from the mental health team to say that they’re referring me back to my GP. Opening that letter and reading it, I felt as if an elephant had placed its foot on my chest and gently pressed down on it, whilst my head filled with fuzzy cotton wool and my eyes filled with boiling hot tears that were constantly on the edge of spilling out. Why won’t they help me?! Don’t they understand? Don’t they believe me? It took a while to get over that rejection but with support, I put my brave girl pants on and I booked an appointment to see a psychiatric nurse who works in my doctors surgery. I wrote a list of all the things I needed him to know and with my mum sitting next to me, we sat for an hour and we went through everything I was experiencing now and everything I had experienced in the past. He understood. He believed me. You are depressed. The elephants foot eased up a bit. The fuzzy cotton wool shrunk by an inch. The hot tears cooled and retreated. He made a recommendation to my GP that I get seen by the mental health team. I need help. Somebody please help me.
At some point, I don’t remember when, but I was prescribed Sertraline and I had to go and get my prescription reviewed. The doctor who sat opposite me had not read my medical records and spoke to me about depression as if I hadn’t experienced it before, as if I wasn’t living it now. She looked at me sitting there wearing my work uniform and a bit of foundation on my face and said I must be doing well because I’m functioning and I’ve done my makeup. The panic!! The cotton wool started spinning in my head. She doesn’t understand! She doesn’t believe you. They won’t help you now, they think you’ve made it up. You have made it up. Depressed people don’t go to work. They don’t do their make up. As soon as I got into my car, the hot tears built back up and poured from my eyes, drenching my face and removing my make up. I contemplated driving into a tree, nobody is going to help you. You’re not depressed. You’re functioning.
After that appointment, I was convinced I wasn’t unwell enough to get help. I doubted myself and it was a constant battle with my own mind. You’re fine. You’re not fine. I remember waiting for my letter to say whether or not the mental health team had accepted my referral and I told my friend that if they rejected me I would attempt to kill myself. The future looked too dark without help. If I survived, they might help me, but if I died at least I would be free of the pain. Is that someone who isn’t depressed? You’re not fine.
I first called the crisis team in September last year. I saw the nurse psychiatrist in November. Its June and I’m only just starting my initial intervention. It’s been a long road to get to this point but it’s I’m making progress. Recovery is not linear. Sometimes people won’t understand. Sometimes they won’t believe you. They won’t see the pain you hide behind the smile that doesn’t ever quite reach your eyes, or the under the make up you paint on your skin to cover the dark circles and cracked skin. They won’t see you curled in a ball under your duvet, crying, hoping you don’t wake up tomorrow. But if you’re reading this and you’ve thought about giving up, please don’t. You have to keep trying. Someone will see you. Someone will understand. Someone will believe you. And then they’ll help you. You have to keep going. Keep fighting. Keep pushing. You can’t die. I can’t die. Please don’t die!
Look after your brain. Bella xx
Samaritans 116 123
999 if you’re in crisis and cannot keep yourself safe