Hello– before we get into this, today (10 September) is World Suicide Prevention Day. I just want to give you heads up that this article touches on suicidal thoughts, self harm and attempted suicide. If you need it, whether you read it or not, here’s a hug from me! We’re going to jump straight in and then come out of it real quick OK? Here we go.
There will only be a couple of handfuls of people in my life who knew me before my first suicide attempt. If you do know me in real life, it’s unlikely that you’re one of them.
I was 12 years old when I took my first overdose. I was still 12 when I took my second and third. I was 23 years old when I took my last. I was self-harming from the age of 11. I arguably continue to do so to this day. My last suicidal thought was about three months ago.
During my first hospital admission, I was kept on observation overnight and told that I would need to see a child psychologist before I could leave. I got up the next day and was taken to my appointment. As I walked in, my psychologist was there with each member of my immediate family, including my young brothers. My session involved the psychologist facilitated each of my family members telling me, one by one, how my actions made them feel. How I disappointed them. How selfish I was. I had no opportunity to respond or follow up. I was then released. This was after my second attempt on my life. My third came quickly after that – and remained a secret, like the first and like every attempt after that.
My fight with suicidal thoughts, self-harm and attempted suicides has been with me most of my life. On those very days, it has literally been a fight for my survival. A fight that I wasn’t always sure I wanted to win.
On most days, I’m great. Since I am lucky enough to be here to share my stories and have a platform to do so, I’m using it to say some of the things that someone else closer to home might be thinking, that they can’t vocalise themselves right now. Because I can, and because I care.
Because depression, especially to the point of suicide, is incredibly lonely. And as scary as hell. The feeling like everything is out of control can make anyone do things that they wouldn’t normally be capable of.
Each person reading this can save someone else from grief. Because these thoughts and actions do not happen in a vacuum. It’s not entirely all in a person’s head. Thoughts and beliefs are influenced by external behaviours. And vice versa.
If you believe the worst about yourself, and it’s reinforced by other people’s perceived behaviours around you, it does just that – it reinforces those thoughts and beliefs. If it’s been lived a long time, it becomes that person’s reality. And we all know how hard it is to change and challenge your beliefs. Suicidal thoughts and actions are built over years.
In my long road to recovery, there have been many people involved – directly or indirectly. My instinct of serving others has given me families who nurture, support and build me up. Where I’ve met adversity or someone taking advantage of my kindness, whether that’s another gamer in a relevant scenario or working with a competitive, self-serving colleague, my relationships with those I’ve nurtured and celebrated always stood by me. Even when I’m not there.
But you, yes you – you can change the trajectory of that person’s fate. Be the kindness that is missing. Be present in your interactions. Show others that it’s OK to slow down, take care and put your well-being first. Be honest about your feelings, needs and expectations. Be generous with your praise. Be constructive in your feedback. Build confidence and self-esteem in others. Be the advocate when they can’t represent themselves. Embrace uniqueness, community and diversity. Own your own sh*t, instead of projecting onto others.
But you do need to do it. Unless you’ve been through it, you’ll never really appreciate the impact that a well-timed cup of tea, or a statement of praise, or a surprise phone call can make. For me, each of these have saved my life at different points of my life.
So, to conclude – Mum, I love you. But you were wrong. My sensitivity isn’t my weakness. It is my strength. My superpower. Because now, after years of harnessing it, my vulnerability and honesty is what gives me the drive and power to help other people who are fighting for survival. Now and in the future.