TOO MANY LIVES LOST…
Unsurprisingly I guess, I’m hugely passionate about suicide prevention and the misconceptions that are generally held by the wider population.
Our brains tell us the most unhelpful things when depression takes hold
In my experience, most people who feel suicidal don’t actually want to die, they just can’t see any alternative way out of the ‘black hole’ they find themselves in, and if you’ve never experienced that black hole, I will try to describe it for you.
You wake up in the morning wondering why you weren’t afforded the gift of passing away peacefully in your sleep.
Then the list of things you have to do that day rushes into your head and the panic rises like a Tsunami, engulfing your entire body until you feel as though you’re drowning in a tidal wave of panic that is going to carry you so far into the black hole that you suffocate on the enormity of the tasks ahead.
Even pushing the duvet back and putting a foot on the floor is a task so enormous that it feels tantamount to climbing Everest. You finally manage to drag yourself out of bed, and if it’s not one of your worst days, you manage to drag on a hoody and sweat pants. Self care has gone out of the window, brushing your teeth and washing are just too much, so you manage to get down the stairs, one weary step after the other.
You have zero appetite and making a cup of tea is beyond you so you just flop, staring into mid-air trying to work out why you should even try to go on. Life has nothing left to offer you when you find it impossible to engage in even the smallest task. Talking, even to the ones you love the most, is too much to bear, taking a breath is like running a marathon and moving is out of the question unless nature calls and you just can’t hold it any longer…And then you crawl back to your safe place on the sofa…
You feel as though a tonne weight is bearing down on you and crushing the life out of you, but you’re paralysed, so moving out of the way is impossible, the weight keeps bearing down, the light turns to black, there is no future…
You can’t connect with anything, it’s as though there is an unbreakable wall of glass between you and the world, you can see what’s going on but no-one knows you’re there and no-one can hear your screams…..you feel invisible to the world, you want to join in with the game of life but the wall is too thick, the pain too intense and your body is too heavy to co-operate anyway.
There is no light, there is no hope, there is no future, you can’t feel the love of those around you, nothing inspires you…you’re just an empty shell.
And this horrific feeling can last for days, weeks or even years. So many people have told me that they would suffer the worst physical pain they’ve ever experienced rather than the debilitating numbness of depression, and I have to say, I totally agree with them.
When your brain shuts down to the extent that living is more torturous than the eternal nothingness of death, is it any wonder that people give in to those feelings of wanting to end it all?
IT TAKES A SPLIT SECOND TO BE SUCKED INTO THE BLACK HOLE
THE RIGHT KIND OF HELP?
I love the NHS but when I was under the care of their Mental Health team a few years ago, a group of us would sit in sessions designed to help us. That was great, but so much of it revolved around positive thinking and gratitude, both brilliant attributes, but let me explain how someone struggling with depression feels when asked to engage in these tasks.
We were asked to write down all of the things that were good in our lives, having food, a roof over our heads, family etc…and then focus our thinking on how fortunate we actually were.
This served one purpose for all of us, we then added even more guilt into the mix than we were already feeling and crashed even further down into the black hole. You see, depression isn’t the result of being ungrateful, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, we are still aware of how lucky we are compared to the majority of people on this planet, and we already feel guilty for not being able to be happy about it.
But being reminded of that by professionals makes us feel as though we are being ungrateful, that we should be able to ‘snap out of it’. By understanding that, and that the underlying insinuation feels as though we are being scolded for not being grateful for what we do have is totally counter productive, now a learned person with letters after their name has told us that we are very lucky to have what we have, so what’s wrong with us? Everything is amplified when you are depressed and the guilt is really too much to bear.
Sometimes the best thing for someone with mental health issues is the tiniest touch. I have been corresponding with a lady in Texas for the last 6 months, she is suicidal, her life is in tatters and she has nothing left to live for. She messaged me and I responded, just the fact that I took a couple of minutes out to answer her and treat her like a real person meant the world to her.. She’s watched our film ‘Kingdom of Us’ over a hundred times, for some reason it keeps her going but she told me that I was the only person she has reached out to that has given her any time. The tiniest task for me and she is still hanging on in there.
Sometimes, just knowing someone, somewhere cares enough to engage with you is sufficient to carry you through. Sometimes, that little act of kindness lets you know that people do actually think of you and value you enough to make the effort…and, sometimes, knowing that can be enough to enable us to feel just worthy enough to keep going and not give in to the hopelessness of living.
THINGS NEED TO CHANGE…AND FAST
Our mental health service is very well-meaning but, there are far more useful ways of helping people than the ‘uncomfortable’ appointments system we have now. Walking into a doctor’s office and having them ask us ‘how we are feeling’ when we actually have no idea just makes for a feeling of even greater worthlessness and lack of gratitude. At least you’re one of the lucky ones who is actually getting help…..enter more guilt because so many aren’t and you can’t make the most of the appointment because you’re brain refuses to co-operate, and what ARE ‘feelings’ anyway? They’re a dim distant memory of something you know you long for but cannot access however hard you try.
Our mental health services are well-meaning but I can’t help but feel that they are being organised and run by people who have absolutely no idea what it is to be depressed, experience bi-polar disorder etc…. We need real people who’ve been there and got the T-shirt to make the decisions on what’s best for the people struggling to cope in every area of mental health care…who agrees?
FILM: ‘KINGDOM OF US’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc8_spETMBY