16 November 2018

LIFE AFTER A SUICIDE ATTEMPT - body damage, recovery and finally happiness


Today marks two years since I made the best failure of my life. Today marks two years since I attempted to take my own life. 

I want to first just give a trigger warning for this post. I’ll be talking about suicide so if anyone feels uncomfortable with the subject then I’d advise you read with caution. 

A year ago I published this post, talking about my suicide attempt, how it happened and how I was feeling at that time. I said I would follow it up the next week with what life is like after, but thinking and writing about it all can sometimes bring it back and be exhausting. It's taken me a while to get back into the mindset of wanting to write about it again and as the anniversary was coming up, I thought this would be an appropriate time. I’m at a very different place now to where I was just a year ago, let alone two. I want to share with you, whether you’re suffering from depression, know someone who is, or is simply interested in educating yourself on it, what it’s like post-suicide attempt and that life can, in fact, be so much more incredible.

This post may end up long so getting right into it, I’ll start the days and weeks following the attempt on the 16th of November 2016. On the 17th, my parents arrived at the hospital and after a few checks and talks with psych nurses and councillors, I was discharged and driven straight home to Cheltenham where I then stayed for three weeks. As soon as I arrived home I had to see a doctor at a local hospital to get signed off work. Something I've learnt from years of having depression is that, no matter how qualified, some people will just say the wrong thing despite meaning well. This doctor kept saying things like 'just try to cheer up love' and 'they obviously weren't right for you so just find someone else'. He genuinely didn't mean any harm, he was obviously just unsure of what to say when a 23-year-old girl was hysterically crying in front of him - which is fair enough I guess. I then had to get in touch with work which wasn’t exactly fun either - ‘Hi, so I’ve had to come home and get signed off work for three weeks because I was taken to the hospital because I tried to kill myself, cool, bye’.

Those next three weeks were horrific. Every single day, for 21 days I cried, slept, screamed, rocked, slept, was in physical pain, threw up, slept, struggled to breathe, talked to myself, had panic attacks and slept more. It was honestly like I was a character in a movie, but I just couldn't control it. Even thinking back to it now, I feel like it wasn’t me, like I was outside my body and there was something that had taken hold and I had no control over.  I wasn’t allowed to be left on my own in the house in case I tried again so I’d often have to go into uni with my mum. Sitting at either at her desk or in the cafe, I would watch whilst happy people walked past, desperately resenting them for feeling ok and wondering if I could ever feel like that again. I asked my mum to ensure none of her friends spoke to me from fear of my protective seal of silence being broken and the pain bursting through, setting me off all over again.

After the three weeks, I had calmed down enough to head back to Cornwall, carry on with my job and just about function as a human being. It wasn’t easy leaving my mum and the safety of my home, but sometimes you don’t have a choice when you need to earn money and try to recover. I had brilliant people around me in Cornwall, all who were understanding, caring and made me feel safe and loved. After a month or so, it was Christmas and I was able to return home for a few days. One key thing about this that is so important for people to understand, is how much social media can cover up and deceive people. We look at people’s Instagrams for example and marvel at how happy they look or how amazing their life is when, in reality, they could be struggling to even get out of bed in the morning. From their bed with unwashed bedding, moulding cups and plates around them and without having showered for a week, they can post a #throwbacktoamazingtimesinbali and you assume they must be fine. Whilst I was completely miserable after heading back to Cornwall, I posted on Instagram to try and keep up, posting pictures like the ones below. Changing the captions to what was actually in my head would have had a very different response I'm sure.




Similarly to the previous post I wrote, there are other people involved in this that I won’t mention or expand too much on as I don’t think it’s right to play the blame game (especially as everything now has been resolved and forgiven). So for a particular reason that I won’t mention, I couldn’t bring myself to stay in Cheltenham during the time back at home, so for a few days I went to my uncle's house. Two of those days were Christmas Eve and Christmas day which I spent without my parents (they had to stay home due to an unwell family member which I agreed was 100% necessary and that I was fine with). Despite being my choice, this in itself was enough to knock me back a few pegs and the suicide thoughts crept back. I didn’t act upon them and had no intention to in someone else’s home, but it didn’t stop them from consuming my mind. To add to all of that, on the evening of Christmas Eve I started to feel really physically unwell with stomach pains, throwing up blood and hot and cold flushes. At this point, I hadn’t told the family I was staying with about the overdose so they had no idea why this could be happening. I told my Grandma what had happened and how I was feeling (she lives with my uncle and I was with her when I started to feel unwell) and suggested we called 111 to see if it was serious. Fast forward a few hours, an ambulance is at the house and checking me over, informing me that I’d had a stomach bleed. This had happened due to the excess amount of pills I had taken during the suicide attempt, damaging my stomach and therefore causing a bleed. The paramedics said it had only just made me feel like this as everyone has a different amount of time they can cope with blood in their stomach (it’s not possible for blood to be digested) before the body rejects it (however that may be, in my case by throwing it up). As you can imagine, spending my Christmas Eve in bed whilst being poked and prodded by paramedics and being reminded constantly by the voice in my head ‘you’re suffering even more because you did this to yourself’ didn’t exactly make for the most festive and jolly evening.

After that, Christmas was had and not massively enjoyed (trying to be happy so you don’t ruin other people’s time is hard), my parents came to my uncle’s for a few days which made me feel a little better, I returned to Cheltenham and then to Cornwall, spending new years eve with work friends, and finally arriving at January 1st 2017 where something just switched. As cliché as it is, there’s something about fresh starts like Mondays, new jobs, new countries or in this case a new year that really sets me straight. On that day, I decided enough was enough. This was the new beginning that would start me off in the right direction, to sort out this depression once and for all. I was sick of dreading huge chunks of the year because I knew the winter blues would hit me hard. I was tired of trying my hardest to remember what it felt like to be genuinely happy. And I was so done with feeling like my happiness depended on others and my default to a lacking of that was to end my life. Of course, I still felt down but now I was on a mission to change how I felt rather than allowing it to consume me.

I didn’t get any help through counselling or therapy (and to this day am yet to see a professional about my depression). There are a few key things that I found helped me - the obvious being friends and family, trying to avoid certain people’s social media and of course throwing away the broken razor I used to use to cut myself was a good start. My main way, however, was less obvious. Being incredibly interested in psychology, how and why our minds work and the science of it all, I started to research about depression and suicidal thoughts. I looked at why they occur, what can cause them, what actual changes in our brain happen when we are like this. It really helped me to not only feel better as though it wasn’t actually me feeling like this, it was just something not quite aligned in my head, but also how I could essentially trick myself into recovering. I couldn’t afford therapy so took it upon myself to help myself. I’m literally living proof you can recover from wanting to kill yourself just through education.

Another after-effect of the attempt and in particular, sharing it on my blog so all my friends and family finally knew, was that you realise how many people you would upset despite thinking no one cares. I received messages from so many people, it made me realise that one person's existence doesn’t just affect a small handful of people directly around them. I received messages from family, friends, my Mum’s friends, ex-boyfriends, work colleagues, old friends (although one of these I feel was more of a way to clear their conscience rather than actually caring about how I was doing), people online that I’d never even met, people I’d met in passing once at uni or work, and more. If you’re feeling low and think no one cares about you, you’d honestly be surprised at how many people would feel hugely saddened by the loss of you.

https://www.instagram.com/alexmaceachern/
2017

The year following my attempt was the best year I had ever had. It’s hard to tell people ‘it will get better’ and they actually believe you or listen because I was there and I 100% know that you can't even fathom the idea of ever feeling better. But I am telling you, it does and it will. In 2017 I worked as a lecturer at the university I attended, I worked freelance in marketing and photography, I had an amazing, adventure-filled summer, I moved back to Cheltenham and absolutely loved being home, I started working at a new shop that I loved, I was back in touch with the best friend I had lost and I went the whole winter not on the maximum dose of antidepressants like I’d needed to every year for the past five years.

This year now is similar in terms of happiness and getting back to the life I wanted. Admittedly I did have my first depressed few days in a year and a half which was rough as I’d forgotten what it felt like. Something this year I found to really help when I felt low was writing poetry. It sounds so sickly and hipster but getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper made the most incredible difference. I figured that these thoughts were here and needed to exist somewhere, so instead of keeping them in my head where they constantly hurt me, I could write them down and put them away in a draw. Still existing but not upsetting me.

https://www.instagram.com/alexmaceachern/
2018

Another skill I learnt from getting to the lowest point in my life is that, because I never ever want to be there again, I am able to make rash, quick decisions to ensure I don’t start to sink into the hole again. Within those three days of feeling down this year, I decided to quit my job, look online for work abroad, signed on to an au pair website, was bombarded within the first day with messages and work offers, and had my first job booked in Italy the following week. Sometimes as scary as it is, you have to just say 'fuck it', quit your job and go into the unknown of what could turn out to be the best decision you make. I now live between Cheltenham where I work as a freelance photographer and videographer and the rest of the world where I travel to different countries to look after children. So far this year I’ve travelled to Portugal twice, Italy, Cyprus, Mallorca twice, Ibiza, Spain and Monaco, so I’d say my resolution this year of travelling more has been successful! I’ve also learnt how to make myself happy without relying on others (i.e. men) and have properly started to get over my ex (lol, only taken me about three years).

Naturally, I still have down days and I can’t pretend that they don’t terrify me. One of my biggest fears is to go back to that dark place, but having been there, done that and got the scars, I now know that there’s very little that could push me back and that I can never feel as bad as I did then. Each year since has been the best of my life and I'm working on it continuing that way. Please remember, if you’re feeling the same, it really, honestly, truly can be the same for you. Just keep holding on, you’ll have a moment like my 1st of January. 


Below I have put some links to places within the UK and ROI where you can go for help whether you’re someone with depression and suicidal thoughts or if you’re someone concerned about another person’s mental health. For other countries, search online for 'mental health help' followed by your country.

 LINKS

  • Samaritans (call 116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you're feeling, or if you're worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org (UK) or jo@samaritans.ie (ROI).
  • Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won't show up on your phone bill.
  • PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
  • Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It doesn't have a helpline but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information.
  • Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
  • Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.

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