The comparison game

The comparison game almost took my life two years ago. In that sense, it’s probably too serious to be labelled a ‘game’. I was dealing with strong suicide ideation, and was bordering on taking action, when a comparison tipped me over the edge.

I thought of the people in the world at that moment who were lying in hospital beds, terribly ill, and desperately in need of organ transplants. That one, tiny, category within a world of those in need of something. I thought of the people who would give anything to have the chance at the life my lungs or kidneys or liver would give them. The people who would be disgusted that I could have a healthy life and not want it. Not make the most of it.

I thought of how happy they might feel if they could have my life, or part of it. I could see the smiles, and the relief, radiating out among families and friends.

My imagination conjured up a person right next to me, desperate to live, but losing the battle with their biology. I saw the pain they felt at all the things and people they would soon lose, and the helplessness of knowing it was going to hurt the people around them too. I stood facing them, carrying so many privileges and prizes, wanting none of them. Not even wanting my own existence. The hatred staring at me was piercing. Unrelenting. They knew what they would do if they could stand in my shoes, or have a handful of my chances – they’d make the most of them. They were bursting to have just one opportunity. Just one of the many I was so despicably ready to throw away.

Something clicked. It was obvious. I had no right to live. I didn’t deserve it.

An hour later I tried to take my life.

I’m sharing this now because these comparisons are re-emerging in my head, and I don’t know how to deal with them. I know that if I do have to make them, I should use it to motivate myself to make the most of life, but something’s stopping me, and that makes me feel like an awful, ungrateful person. If I carry on too far down that train of thought…well, it’s not pretty.

My mood is really low at the moment, as you may have guessed. Tomorrow brings my next round of ketamine-infusion therapy, and this time I’m hoping it takes me out of my head for a bit. I’m finding myself back in that place where even just existing moment to moment is hard. I sense that if the world works one way, my brain is working in the opposite direction.

Controversies

I’m definitely back in low-mood-country. I thought seeing Dr T this afternoon would help with that, but actually I think it made things worse; during the session a load of exam-related anxieties burst through and I’ve been trying to reign in the panic ever since.

And for the record, I hate this. I hate that everything is work related right now, and I wonder if my readers are as sick of reading about it as I am of writing it. I feel a sense of embarrassment that my work dictates my mood. But I’m trying to remind myself that it’s allowed, and that there are thousands, if not millions, of students going through exactly the same thing right now.

7 weeks and I’m done.

Once again I’m craving some space to breathe, so I’m telling myself that if I submit my dissertation by Friday, I’m allowed to go to the coast on Saturday. That’s a bit controversial as my go-to place is the same place where I had my first (aborted) suicide attempt, but I won’t go anywhere else because this town means something to me. I used to go there with my grandparents on holiday, and we sprinkled my Granddad’s ashes in the sea a little way off the beach. The trip isn’t controversial to me, because I know I won’t be doing anything *stupid* – just an innocent trip to feel unconstrained, if only for a few hours. But I won’t be telling anyone else.

What is unquestionably controversial is what I got up to last night; I have reliably, and cheaply, sourced something to knock me out. It isn’t illegal, although I wonder if it should be. And if times got really bad, it would work nicely as a ticket to Catch the Bus. To be clear, I don’t have any plans, and I haven’t placed an order yet, although the resident demon in my brain won’t stop arguing about that. If I’m honest I would like to try it as an alternative to doubling up the Nytol when I want some shut-down time, but this could very easily go wrong. I don’t know.

For now, my mood might be low, but I’m functioning. I’m going to try and block everything out, temptations included, until/unless that changes.

Suicide and Me: Part I

Today I received my first request for a blog post topic, asking me if I would talk a bit about my history of suicide ideation and subsequent suicide attempts. This is a HUGE topic, so I’ll post this story piece by piece. Here goes:

The idea of suicide first entered my head around three years ago, and it scared me, because it felt like these thoughts weren’t mine. Of course they were, but they were coming from a new, darker part of my brain. Initially this ideation was dampened as it was around this time that I entered the world of self-harming, but within a couple of months self-harming wasn’t enough. I wanted Out, with a capital O.

The suicide ideation plagued me for weeks. It was relentless, and quite hard to deal with while I was juggling a packed uni timetable. Then a friend of mine in a similar situation sat down with me, and I admitted what was going on in my head. I remember saying to her, ‘I wish I had some time to really think this through‘, and she recommended that I book myself a hotel and take a couple of days to do exactly that. In hindsight that was a dangerous and stupid suggestion, but I took it eagerly. Five minutes and £200 on a credit card later, I’d booked myself into a small B&B by the seaside for a week.

On day three of that little ‘holiday’, I decided to commit suicide. It seemed like a rational decision: I felt my depression had drained me, I didn’t see myself ever getting any better, and I believed I was an unacceptable drain on my friends and family. Suddenly determined, I wrote a goodbye note, and headed out into the night to sit at the end of a rock-pile that stretched out into the sea. The plan was to die of hypothermia, as I’d heard you fall asleep before you feel any pain (note to self: good luck not drowning first, idiot). Time passed, and I was soaking wet, increasingly cold, shaking, waiting and watching the scene…and the scene was beautiful. I wish I had a photo to show you – the lights of the town in the distance were reflecting on the sea and the clouds giving everything a golden tinge, and there were small waves rolling in round the rocks to gently wash up on the beach…wow. I’ll never forget it, and the sight calmed me down, giving my brain a chance to stop racing. And once my brain had slowed, I started to think about the immediate consequences of what I was doing. It occurred to me that this was going to be a massive pain to the B&B owners; a guest missing, her bill unpaid, and her belongings left in the room. This might sound silly, but the thought of this really bothered me. My Exit had to cause a little trouble as possible to those around me. I left the rocks and went back to the B&B, deciding to commit suicide in a week or so’s time, in a way that wouldn’t cause inconvenience like that.

When I got back to uni I had my last session with Dr T before the Easter holidays, and I was terrified. There were big gaps as I answered his questions about my week, and he sensed something was wrong. It was awful: I won’t lie to Dr T, but I knew it would be dangerous to be honest about my suicide plans. Well, as always, in the end Dr T squeezed the story of my little trip out of me, but his reaction was a big surprise. I gave a firm speech about how my Exit was my decision…and he agreed. For a moment he scared me by saying it occurred to him that maybe he ought to be bringing in a suicide-prevention thing over the holidays, but when I said no, he was fine with that. I left massively relieved that that discussion had gone so well, and I really respected Dr T for recognising I should be allowed to make my own choices.

I set an Exit date for about a week later when I would be living on my own, and began stockpiling paracetamol, but a couple of days before that date fate decided to intervene. This intervention took the form of physical pain behind my left eye, which was so bad I ended up in hospital. The Easter holidays literally zoomed past, filled with scans, neurologists, ENT specialists, pain medications, and I was stuck living with my parents to be in the vicinity of all these doctors, so there was nothing I could do on the suicide front (there was no way on earth I’d do it in my family home). And then my GP came back from some time off and called me in to see him after reviewing the various medical letters he’d received. I remember him very gently telling me that in his opinion this pain I was experiencing had more to do with my psyche than my neurology. The doctors were dismissed, and I had to try and get my head around the fact that I had somehow managed to bring this pain upon myself. And the fact that it had happened two days before my planned Exit date…

Coincidence?

To this day I honestly don’t know, but something in me said to give my GP this information. He was surprised, but not shocked, and immediately said I needed a lot more support, putting in a referral to our local psychiatric hospital. But my mood deteriorated before my first appointment with the psychiatrist, and there was some panicking behind the scenes when I refused to promise Dr T that I wouldn’t kill myself before our next session. Next thing I knew, I was summoned to see the Crisis team.

Continued in Part II

I don’t know how to process this

The most striking part of the weekend was visiting an old friend of mine, D. We were absolute best friends for around six or seven years, but we became distant when we headed to separate universities. At first we tried to maintain regular contact, but failed for two reasons. On my side, when my mental health deteriorated I didn’t feel like she appreciated how serious it was, despite numerous attempts to tell her. And on D’s side, she was soon to be married and would be moving abroad shortly after with her newly beloved. She knew what this would do to all her UK friendships, and slowly began to ease her way out.

Well, D’s life was then turned upside down, inside out, and torn to shreds. Six months after marriage, her husband died. A widow at 22. I was the first person in our friendship group to find out, as I stumbled upon a BBC article with D’s husband’s name. It took me days to even process it, and I can’t begin to imagine the pain it has caused D. I suddenly felt awful about having fallen out of touch with her, and very slowly tried to show her support.

Suddenly we had something in common: depression. Well, depression is a very complex and multi-formed disorder as many readers will be all too aware, but we certainly shared the label. D came over to my parent’s house on Saturday afternoon, and we spent a couple of hours sharing our more depressive frustrations. Interestingly, she felt a need to apologize for not ‘being there’ for me when things got rough this time last year. I still need to apologize for overreacting to her lack of understanding the year before that. 

On the surface D looks like she’s coping well with her life at the moment, but the truth is that this is only because she’s adopted a precarious coping strategy. She said she believes she hasn’t lost her husband; that he’s just abroad again, and she’ll see him soon. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. If this was a genuine belief I’d contest it, but at some level she does know that he’s dead. So I ended up thinking something along the lines of ‘If this is what you need to tell yourself to survive right now, fine. You do what you need to do‘. Maybe this is wrong; I don’t have the experience of having lost anyone particularly close to me so I don’t know. 

A little later on we were talking about me, and with some pushing and prodding the suicide attempt was revealed. Her reaction shocked me. When I told a different friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, she simply nodded and listened, and then once I’d assured her I wouldn’t try again we didn’t discuss it further. D initially was calm, but a few minutes later she started crying. And then she said the following:

I have to say this…and I know this is selfish of me to say, but…I can’t lose someone else. I couldn’t take that. So if you can’t think about your family, fine…think of me. I can’t lose you. When I’m gone, take as many pills as you like, stab yourself wherever, jump off a cliff, whatever you want…but not until I’m dead. The second you start thinking about suicide, think of what it would do to me. Please, I can’t lose you…’

And I was stunned. Absolutely stunned. This is still throwing me. This is the first time someone has said anything like this to me; my GP has asked me to ‘stay safe’, and my therapist has half-angrily urged me not to kill myself, but this is the first time someone I know has told me they care this much. Obviously part of the reason is that most of the people in my life don’t know. But some of them do. I don’t see this as a negative reflection on them; I thought that was normal. And overall I prefer neutrality; after all that makes suicidal thoughts easier to handle. 

I still can’t get my head around what D said.

It was suicide

I checked my internet history from Friday night.

I remember it until 9:05pm

At 9:17pm I began googling many variations of ‘sertraline 1.2g overdose’, ‘1g sertraline suicide’. I even read an e-book that mentioned it.

At 12:50am I start googling ‘1g zopiclone’.

I did try and kill myself on Friday.

I don’t even know what to say.