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  • Writer's pictureWrenAves

Feed the cats..tick. Do the washing up..tick. Kill myself...

[Content Warning: It’s literally all about suicide]

I'm currently feeling intensely suicidal, struggling with the back and forths this state brings. I had an appointment today with my private therapist and poured out an oceans worth of pain to her, held safely by the knowledge that our updated contract directs her to keep these conversations to herself, and not ring my GP or mental health services with concerns. These private moments give me a space I have never had with mental health services, where mention of suicide instantly becomes a game of "how risky are you" - a game you have no choice but to play, and somehow always lose.

Due to an overzealous GP, I am once again being crushed in the mental health service vice, trying to appear well so they leave me alone, while feeling the immense pressure that sometime soon I will have to die for anyone to believe I was ever actually suicidal.

I've been thinking a lot about how misunderstood suicide is. It's one of those concepts and phenomena which are so widely discussed, experienced, campaigned about, utilised by media, etc., we think we understand it. But I think the exposure we have to a particular narrative or collection of stereotypes about suicide has sort of blinded us to reality - and that ignorance actively hurts those of us who live alongside suicide in various ways.

For me, one of the longest lasting harms I have ever experienced is being made to feel like a failure for not ending my life. I used to celebrate living through a crisis, but now I simply feel like a coward or a liar when I make it through each day alive. As if by not dying, I was never at risk of doing so, and hadn't truly been suffering. This is the direct result of years of interactions with NHS mental health services. Speaking to "professionals" who have declared over and over again that I am lying, playing games, seeking attention, being dramatic, capable of keeping myself safe, needing to take responsibility.. That because of this reason or that reason, it's clear I am not at risk. They push you into this place where it honestly feels like you have to die to be believed - as if people are only truly suicidal if they manage to kill themselves. They have never understood the mental agony of being suicidal. They have never understood what it is to live in that place.

My overwhelming experience of suicidality is one of pain, fear, and grief. There is almost always a level of ambivalence - a tiny part of me which has not let go or insists on showing me different scenarios on a loop. Sometimes it's loud, sometimes it's quiet, sometimes I do my best to pretend this little part doesn't exist, suppressing it, while other times I cling to it with everything I have. Right now it is flickering, and I am standing nearby, being tortured by conflicts. Ambivalence is not always protective, sometimes the torture is enough to tip the balance, helping make the decision for me.

Death is not easy, whether it's making the decision to die or the decision to try and live, it's not easy. With suicidal feelings, it doesn't actually feel like you're making a decision. It's like being pushed. When there are no options left, it is no longer appropriate to call it a true choice.

Right now, I feel trapped. As if I am suspended in agony over a gaping maw filled with gnashing teeth. My flame-scorched skin is sloughing off my body, dropping into the darkness below, and my bones are crumbling inside my flesh. I feel as if I should simply break apart and die from the pain and pressure of it, but I haven't, and I won't, so the responsibility is shifted to me. The only way it feels possible to end this pain, is to cut the line suspending me, and allow myself to fall. There is no other choice. It feels like a relief to imagine this pain simply killing me before I have to choose. To imagine being alive one moment and gone the next. I wish it were that easy. I wish someone or something else was in control.

Mental health services make out that organising your suicide is as simple as completing household chores on a to-do list. Feed the cats..tick. Do the washing up..tick. Kill myself..tick. They see us as isolated subjects, as if we don’t have thousands of strings running between us and the world. Every string needs to be cut, and to do so, every string needs to be held, and willingly severed. I am forced to grieve for the people I will be losing; the time I will miss with them; the potential for a happy life. I am forced to lie to them, to pretend I'm not planning on leaving them. I feel a gripping pain in my chest of unfairness that my life ended up taking this direction. I wonder, how did I end up here, and would I have reached this place had I not experienced so much trauma, so much violence, so much abuse? I want to scream at how unfair it feels. Maybe I would have been happy, maybe I could have had more time. I wish it was easier. I wish people understood. Being held in the grip of suicidality does not make a person less human. Mental health professionals seem to expect us to morph into emotionless efficient death machines, capable not only of instantly coming to terms with our death, but also seamlessly planning and executing a single well prepared, entirely secret suicide attempt, while holding at bay our love for our friends and family, our fear of the unknown, and the desire to talk about all of this. Even for a person not experiencing the effects of mental illness, trauma, or psychological distress, this would be quite the task.

I've tried to explain the tangled complexities of a head full of thoughts about leaving the people I love; how my family and friends will cope; what will happen to my animals; what will happen to my body; the violation of an autopsy; the loss of control over my secrets, my medical records, my diaries; the fear of 'what if I wasn't right about it being hopeless and actually my future could have been better'; the sadness of 'what if my family and friends hate me for doing this' .. and I have unfailingly been met with confused faces and multiple variations of "but it won't matter to you, because you'll be dead".. BUT I'M NOT DEAD NOW KAREN I want to shout. I'm not dead, so it does matter. Feeling suicidal is not like a switch flicking in the brain which turns off a person's humanity. I love people, and I know that people love me. People care for me. People rely on me. My life has been shaped by the suicide of others, in ways they couldn't possibly have known about or predicted. Will my death do that? Will I be responsible for further loss? Will I be taking away other people's futures? I am still alive, my brain is still working, so these are the thoughts which haunt me. I am also overwhelmed by thoughts of the practicalities of death. Actually managing to kill yourself is not easy. Humans have numerous physical and psychological defence mechanisms in place to keep us alive. Overcoming these is hard. I don't want to be in pain. I don't want to be afraid. That's what I am trying to end, I don't want to create more of it. The most comforting place to die would be my own home, but I don't want someone I love to find my body. Thinking about how that would be their last memory of me hurts so deep inside me I just want to curl up and scream. Leaving the house would be the solution but I'm also frightened of someone else finding me. What if I traumatise them? What if I haven't died yet and they hurt me? What if I go somewhere isolated, and die cold and alone... And what will happen to my body? I am in control of it now, but when I'm gone, other people will take control. Look at it, move it, touch it, cut it open, burn it, bury it. It might seem silly, but that loss of control makes me feel sick, it's like it's happening to me right now. It all feels too much to bear.

I think about my friends and family who have died by suicide. I want to speak to them, ask them what it was like to go ahead with an attempt and never return. Did it hurt? Were they frightened? Did it actually end their suffering or did all the bad stuff follow them to wherever they are now? I want them to hold my hand and tell me it’s ok. I want them to tell me it’s quick and painless. I want them to tell me somewhere warm, safe, and gentle exists on the other side… because really I am not ready to end. I just want an end to the reality I have found myself in. I want rest. A cessation of pain. A release from this nightmare which I never seem to fully wake from. But it's so hard to try and comprehend not existing. Blank. Nothing. Silent. The end of this existence simply leads me to think about existing somewhere else, but if that's not the case, I will simply cease to be. I will never be able to think "I've got this wrong", and undo my decision, because I will never be able to think again. That feels suffocatingly frightening. Like a nice interpretation of the Little Prince, I wish for the snakebite to kill my body, while my spirit is transported back to my rose. Existing in some form, somewhere. Just not here.

"There was nothing but a flash of yellow close to his ankle. He remained motionless for an instant. He did not cry out. He fell as gently as a tree falls. There was not even any sound."

I have been in situations where I feared for my life at the hands of another. The fear of death then didn't feel very different to the fear of death I've felt when taking steps to end my own life, other than being a little less protracted. From my experience, it says nothing about my intent. We do not all walk to our end filled with peace and light. Some of us do not actually want to die, and the feeling of grief for our own life can be unbearable. I feel it right now. I didn't see my family this Christmas, I haven't seen them for some time, and so while one part of me is celebrating that I am a little more isolated, making death just that little bit easier, another part is breaking open with the pain of wishing for one last hug from my Mum.

The cold, clinical tick boxes never indicate any kind of understanding of this.

When I'm asked "did you write a suicide note" to provide evidence of my apparent intent, I wonder, have you ever tried writing a note to someone you love, explaining your death? Explaining why you have chosen to abandon them in such a seemingly violent manner. I have written notes, but not always. It is exquisitely painful to write goodbye to someone you do not actually want to leave. The sharpness of the pain of knowing whatever words I choose will be the last bit of me they have, is like a knife to the throat. Knowing no matter how beautifully scripted, the words will be wholly inadequate. How many times can you write “I’m sorry” on one piece of paper? It can be too much. Too much to hold. Too much to even think about. So, no, I probably didn't write one. Stop asking.

If services had the ability to see into the future and knew exactly who would move from feeling suicidal to making an attempt, the people who are never going to make an attempt still deserve the same compassion, concern, and attention as those who will. It's not just about "risk", it's about requiring support for the torture of feeling suicidal. In practice, this means not using a prediction of the potential for death as a marker for whether the person is deserving of care. We all are. No-one should have to be forced to repeatedly confront their own mortality alone, over and over again, grappling with the horror of deciding how much more pain they can survive before it really is just too much. It’s been too much for so many of us for a long time now. We are being tortured. Don’t try and make us prove just how much it hurts, because one day we might just have to show you.

It hurts so much.

I’m so tired of how familiar this pain feels.

I don’t want to carry it any longer.

None of this is fair.

Whoever said we never get given more than we can handle was lying.

At some point we all break.


[N.B. This is not a suicide note. Don't report me to the fucking police again]

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1 Comment

3 days ago

thank you. this resonates deeply with me.

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