Often times on this blog, I try to keep things light-hearted and upbeat. Of course, I pride myself on tackling subjects like mental health, but I believe to tackle those really dark parts, we need a sense of gentle hope and optimism, too. Things might not feel too good right now, but sometimes, just the support of someone who has been there can help us pull through.
On Saturday, I tuned in to an episode of “Football, Prince William And Our Mental Health”. Hats off to the guy and to his beautiful wife, I think the work that William & Kate do and the acknowledgement that they give to our collective mental health is truly commendable. Each time I have heard them advocate fiercely for the impact that the Coronavirus lockdown has on our mental health, I have nothing but respect for them both. They are the people’s people. and they both do HRH Princess Diana extremely proud.
In Saturday’s programme, Prince William was joined by England football manager Gareth Southgate, Thierry Henry, Jermaine Jenas and Danny Rose for a brief talk about men’s mental health and some of the experiences they faced growing up. Afterwards, they met with four members of the public to talk about their own issues with mental health, and to have a friendly kick-about with the prince.
In the programme, the rate of suicide in men was emphasised and I commend them because the suicide rate in men is an ongoing problem. Unfortunately though, suicide rates and self-harm is a problem across the gender spectrum. Women are often perceived as being more emotive and more likely to self-harm, with silent suicides seen more as a problem among men. Regardless of gender, there have been numerous families torn apart by this silent killer.
I myself have experienced suicidal ideation at least three times in my life, and I have had several episodes of self harm. It’s important to note here that not everyone who self harms cuts themselves, as for me, I used to draw on myself to hide my imperfections, or scratch my arms until they bled. The one time I did think about cutting myself, I panicked and resisted because I knew what my brain was trying to get me to do, and cutting, in my mind, was wrong.
Suicidal ideation does not stem from your true desires but rather, from a sense of helplessness. Many suicidal people do not actually want to die and quite often there is an “if this then that” phrase that goes with these thoughts. If you listen carefully, sometimes you can detect the source of the problem. Some examples might include:
- “I don’t have enough money for this bill and I never will. I may as well kill myself, I’ll never be able to afford to live with this” (debt)
- “Everyone expects so much of me. I can’t do it anymore” (stress)
- “What if I jump in from this high place? Oh my goodness, the urge is so strong! What if I do it right now?” (anxiety)
- I just miss him so much. I just want us to be together again” (loss)
- “Nobody cares about me. If I disappeared, nobody would notice” (loneliness)
There are also some examples which may be more particular to young people, such as:
- “They’re so right about me! Look at me, I’m so ugly. I might as well kill myself” (bullying)
- “If I don’t start taking drugs, I’ll lose my friends. I don’t want to take drugs but I don’t want to lose my friends, either!” (peer pressure)
- “I love Mum and I love Dad, I just wish they’d stop arguing so we can all get along! Maybe they’re arguing over me? It’s my fault they’re breaking up” (marital issues)
Whatever the cause, the result is exactly the same. Regardless of the reason why, the sufferer believes that their problems are unsolvable, and the only answer to them is death. As someone who has been suicidal on at least three occasions, I want to share with you that that most certainly is not the case.
The first time I experienced suicidal urges was on honeymoon. Newly married, I felt an uncontrollable anxiety each time I was around railway tracks. The High-Speed Trains would whizz past and I would have the same thought, over and over again, “what if I jumped in front of that train? Okay, I didn’t.. maybe that one? Okay not that one, the next one?”, and so on. I was frozen to the platform, afraid to step forward in case I jumped and ended my life for good.
After months of suffering, I eventually braved the doctor. She referred me to a psychiarist who diagnosed my ongoing and ruminative thoughts as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, the “Pure O”, or purely obsessional variety. What this means is that the compulsions I have (like refusing to move in case I jump) are hidden. They aren’t the more obvious things like washing my hands, touching or tapping items several times.
Knowing that I have OCD and I was able to get some treatment helped me a great deal. I began to be able to manage my thoughts and get my confidence back and feel like that was behind me, until..
“Oh my god! I have the advent calendar to sew, the kitchen to clean, I need to make the bed, walk the dog, shower exercise.. whatever I do, if I win in one area, I’m falling apart in another. I can’t cope!”
This was me, the erratic housewife, always stressed and always overwhelmed. There was no end in sight to the abundance of chores that I had to get through. Each time I got one done, it would be undone again. It was relentless and neverending,
Prioritize and minimalize, they said. Okay, no problem – I got this.
It took opening up to my husband for him to understand how much I was really struggling with running our home. He now realises that helping with the housework doesn’t end at the dishwasher and he does all the laundry, too!
The thoughts didn’t go away right away, and even now, thoughts of hanging myself from the shower rail creep up from time to time. I understand now what causes them, and if I feel overwhelmed, I’m able to ask myself what’s really going on:
Have I got too much housework to do? What have I got that I don’t use, that I can get rid of? Time to unleash my inner Marie Kondo!
Am I lonely? How many people have I interacted with lately?
Am I tired? Hungry? There has to be something to cause the pesky feelings.
A Permanent Solution To A Temporary Problem
There are many, many things that cause suicidal thoughts, and I promise you that there is always a cause to the problem. Hunger, tiredness, loneliness, stress and overwhelm, financial difficulties, relationship problems, loss and grief, bullying.. the list goes on. If you’re having these thoughts and one of these rings true for you, please, please, remember..
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Everyday, thousands of people are experiencing suicidal thoughts, and thousands of people aren’t talking about it. Do you know what I’ve found since opening up and having that conversation? There are thousands of people like me, thousands of people who, with a quiet voice will readily admit “me too”. Why? Because it feels good to get our inner demons off of our chest. It feels good to feel understood and it feels good to realise that we aren’t alone. A problem shared is a problem halved, so they say, and opening up to just one person can mean two people, three people and so on. I know know two men who have come back from the abyss because they had the guts to open up and ask for help, one of them is now on medication and getting his life back on track, and the other one is debt-free. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and a problem that can be solved if we all just stick together, talk to one another and help one another through.
So please, don’t be afraid..
Say it, write it, post it as a picture from the internet. However you do it, if you’re feeling suicidal, just make sure you do. Open up to a sibling, a parent, a friend, anyone who is willing to listen. There are people who are here for you, who care about you, who are ready and willing to help.
Are You Feeling Suicidal?
If you’re feeling suicidal right now, please do all that you can to stay safe. Remove any blades, firearms and ligatures from your home or stay in a room which you are least likely to harm yourself in. Take a phone with you and call a family member or a friend for assistance urgently. If you need somebody to talk you, do be sure to check out a helpline (such as Samaritans in the UK, or the Suicide Prevention Helpline in the USA).
Your life matters, make sure you take good care of it.
Be Bold, Be Bright, Be Beautiful,