Suicide, The Story We Seldom Tell

*Trigger warning: Suicide- description of feelings, attempt & method* 

Have you ever gone to sleep knowing it was for the last time?

Secure in the knowledge that soon you would take your final breath and there would be no more pain? I have.

I died my perfect death that day, after an intensity and panic akin to nothing I had ever experienced before, in a state of pure peace I lay my head back on the pillow, took time to remember each of the people and pets I had held dear, the places I had been and the good things I had done, grateful for the lessons I had learned along the way. Then I smiled to myself as I felt the drugs take hold of my body and I took a deep breath and let the blackness carry me away.

People don’t talk about suicide, it scares them because they don’t understand how we as living beings can choose to simply cease to exist, they don’t understand a pain so powerful that taking that final step seems the only way to end it, the only way to find peace.

That’s how I felt.

Only I didn’t die, I woke up four days later choking on a tube in the intensive care unit of the hospital, confused, embarrassed and unsure of where I was.

A lot had happened while I was sleeping, I had been found unconscious by the nurse at the mental health unit where I had been a patient and transferred from a country hospital to the big city by helicopter. My brother and sister had flown in from interstate and my husband had to break the news to my four children after receiving the worst phone call of his life.

The pills I had smuggled in to the unit should have killed me in my sleep and it was pure chance I was found when I was.

My depressions have almost always involved varying degrees of suicidal ideation. On this occasion I went into the hospital for dysphoric mania, I went in with the intention of trying to get better but with the hidden pills as a backup plan, in case it became too much – that way my family wouldn’t have to be the ones to find my body, some things you can’t un-see.

The saddest part of my failed suicide attempt was that I was forced to bare witness to the affect my actions had on the people around me. It turns out they had genuinely loved me the whole time and now I had hurt them unimaginably. My friends, my husband, my children and then there was the look of sadness and self-blame through the tears in my mother’s eyes.

Yes it’s hard to deal with the guilt of the fallout, let alone the fact that you are still the same person you were a moment before you chose to take your life. You are still held prisoner by your own mind and now there is more pressure as the people around either don’t trust you enough to leave the room or they expect you to just feel grateful for a second chance and excited to be alive when in reality that takes time, sometimes a lot of time.

Over a year on and the depression comes and goes as it always did, the new meds only muffled the mania and made me numb. I still have days and weeks when I wish I had died that night, times when I cry myself to sleep and curse my illness for grasping me so tightly in its clutches that I forget there is a different way to feel.

Death lures you with false promise, if you are looking for peace or relief it is not the answer you are simply existing in a state of sadness and fear and then you are gone. Nothing. Finished. Sadness was all you knew.

They say where there is life there is hope and I guess that is true, each day may seem harder than the last, problems may feel unsolvable but you really do still have a chance of finding some happiness, if you choose death there is 0 chance of happiness. So I try and remember on those long nights when the depression hits and I lie awake crying, no matter how hopeless I feel, I tell myself I do have a chance – even if it’s a little one.

Suicidal ideation might be a taboo topic but it is also a very, very real one and it’s not going away. Discussion leads to understanding and the realisation that we are not alone, it gives us the ability to share our stories, and as they say a problem shared is a problem halved. If you are going through a tough time reach out to someone, it doesn’t have to be a person in ‘real life’ if you are uncomfortable with that, some of my most validating friendships have come from people on the internet who are going through similar things to me.

Take care of yourselves, you are the one person you have to live with for the rest of your life so treat yourself with kindness and respect as you would to other people, your mind and body will thank you for it!

Have you or someone you loved struggled with suicidal ideation?

If you have been triggered by this topic or are experiencing suicidal feelings, in Australia please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or international readers please see our “Help In A Crisis” page

My Eating Disorder Story

ED Trigger Warning: Contains numbers

(From original blogspot site dated 31st August 2016)

A big portion (pardon the pun) of my day is spent thinking about, cursing, regretting, planning or eating food. I have had a poor relationship with food my whole life and an eating disorder since I was 14 years old.

I was an overweight child. Not grossly overweight by today’s standards but a heavy set, flubby tummied, wobbly thighed kind of overweight. I had started piling on the kilos when I was around 8 years old and worst of all, other kids quickly noticed.

I ate a LOT of junk food and drank a lot of soft drink. The chocolates and chips in my lunch box, ice creams and lollies from the school canteen, the Mc Donald’s treats after school on top of my mother’s delicious home cooked meals created a calorie overload.

I wasn’t an active child either, after school I would come home to my friend the television and eat one of my mums scrumptious freshly baked treats. I HATED sports at school and I was teased because I frankly wasn’t any good at them. I particularly detested running as it would quickly give me an asthma attack and my slowness was embarrassing.

One activity I did eventually get into was swimming and I was surprisingly good at it, I joined a squad team and won ribbons and medals at competitions but after Saturday morning training we would often go to Macca’s for breakfast and sadly Bacon & Egg Mc Muffins and Hot Cakes tended to negate any of the calories burned during the swim. All the other girls on the squad were slim and trim where as my thunder thighs felt exposed and my tummy rolls were visible through my swim suit.

As my body expanded my self-worth shrank, I was teased mercilessly about my size at school my best friend even stopped talking to me because she was being teased for hanging out with someone as fat as I was. I felt awful, I had no friends and I felt like I had ruined my old best friend’s life, ‘how could a worthless piece of shit like me get so fat that it was hurting my friends?” I would wonder, blaming myself for causing her such distress.

Eventually I found some friends that were new to my school but it didn’t stop the teasing and every time I looked in the mirror I would see what they saw, a fat, ugly, worthless piece of lard. Mum would take me out for coffee and cake or to Mc Donald’s to try and cheer me up and I would cry myself to sleep at night feeling fatter than ever. After a boy called me a “beached whale” at a swim meet, I stopped swimming too.

Fast forward to year 9 in high school, I had been through the ringer but had some solid friends at this point and was starting to experience mild ups and downs of what I now know was the beginnings of bipolar mood swings, when I wasn’t in a funky mood state I was pretty happy in general but I still had no self-esteem and I was still fat. I was also still getting teased on a daily basis about my size but being older and having more knowledge about why I was overweight I also knew how I could potentially lose weight.

When a hypomanic episode hit me and I found myself with incredible energy I went crazy goal setting, exercising and cutting down my meal portions, planning my life. I lost weight all right, it was falling off me but suddenly like a light switch my mood dropped into depression, I was still losing weight but I felt awful, I was still being teased, I felt like everybody hated me.

Months passed and the weight was still dropping off, terrified of gaining back any of my loss I forced myself out of the house to go for walks, I started throwing away my school lunches, putting some milk and a few cornflakes in the bottom of the bowl and putting it in the sink to make it look like I had eaten breakfast. I went to the local gym and did aerobics classes and cardio and started keeping a diary of everything that went into my mouth, I had become completely obsessed.

Over time I lost so much weight other people were worried about me, at 165cm I weighed 44kg. I would get a strange high from the feel of my hip bones jutting out and from the sense of power and control I felt over myself all the while ignoring the fact that my hair was falling out and my periods had stopped. I made my own dinners using the lowest calorie items I could find and made a rule that for every calorie I consumed I had to burn two, the thought of gaining weight was terrifying and I started to imagine that there were calories free floating in the air, scared to breathe in too deep in case I inhaled them.

I would eat anything prepared by anyone else in case they had contaminated it with calories, I trusted no one, everybody was trying to make me fat. My Mum took me to the doctor but knowing I would be weighed I drank nearly four litres of water before my appointment to make myself heavier, I felt like my bladder would burst as I feigned surprise that people were concerned about my weight and told the doctor what she wanted to hear “I guess I had better eat more if you think I should”.

Somehow I managed to avoid hospitalization as I was about two kilos over the “admission weight” for anorexia (thank you water loading). At 15 years old and in year 10 at high school, I carried on with my disordered eating and got a dog, a border collie named Bowie. I walked that poor dog to within an inch of his life. I also made a friend who was as fucked up as I was from an eating perspective and we (pardon the pun) fed off each other which was all fun and games until she ended up hospitalized.

That shook me up big time and I started to settle down a bit, don’t get me wrong I still hated myself and I was still scared of food but I was able to hide it better and function at home and at my part time job as long as my list of “rules” was adhered to.

Months passed and on a bit of a hypo manic surge I punched a girl at school who had been bullying me since primary school. God it felt good. That was to be my last day of school, I was done with all the bullshit and when they told me I would have to have mediation with this girl at 15yrs old I walked out of the building and never went back.

The pet shop where I held my part time job was looking for a full timer and after discussions between my boss and parents they decided earning money would be better for me than roaming the streets. Six months later my weight was stable on my strict regime and I left home to a place I will talk about another time, most importantly for me at the time it was where I could control all aspects of my food intake. I was free, or so I thought, but in fact I was far from it, I was trapped in a web that has entangled me to varying degrees ever since. Pregnancy, meds, holidays have all impacted my weight and relationship with my body.

My mood tends to directly tie into my food issues, the food issues are always there but the degree in which they impact me relates to my moods. For example if my mood is stable I hate my figure and am unhappy about my weight but don’t care enough to actually try and actively fix it or kill myself, when I am depressed I binge eat badly and my weight becomes “just another reason” why I should commit suicide.

When I am hypomanic I tend to take care of myself, I have more energy so I eat better and exercise more although I have to watch it doesn’t get out of control, I don’t allow myself to be weighed and I don’t allow myself to properly calorie count, my husband has also capped my exercise to 1hour daily.

As my hypomania increases my care about these rules flys out the window and I start weighing, counting and exercising in secret, not to mention the calories I burn off from not being able to sit still and jiggling constantly. If I progress to mania my eating disorder comes back in full force, probably because it is the only thing I can control. I stop eating more than a couple of hundred calories a day, I exercise compulsively and I am scared of Calories in the air making me fat again.  It sounds ridiculous now, but it is terrifying at the time.

Right now I am fairly stable erring on a bit depressed mood wise, I have been binge eating daily for months and have gained around 5kg judging by the way my clothes fit. My binges tend to be on healthier foods so that saves me somewhat but they are completely compulsive, it’s as though I am watching myself go to the fridge and I just can’t stop. I don’t throw up after – not for lack of trying unfortunately. I don’t seem to be able to make myself vomit no matter how hard I try and believe me I have given it my best. Really I should be thankful, bulimia is not something I need right now.

So that’s the rather long history of my eating disorder, at 31years old I cant believe that I still struggle with it and it saddens me to think I probably always will.  I could probably write about it for days if I got into all the emotions that go along with it. Feel free to ask questions though, I am happy to answer.

Do you struggle with food or weight issues?

Mirror, Mirror

My poor relationship with the mirror has been going on since I can remember. You could say we have had ups and downs over the years we have seen bullying, eating disorders and every end of the clothing size spectrum, we have shed many, many tears together and had very few laughs, I suppose when you really get to the crux of it – we have hated each other the whole time – and still do.

It loves to point out my flaws and I love to let it, the more unstable I am emotionally the more faults it reveals until I find myself confronted with an ugly dysmorphic reflection of my outsides and the unfortunate far more true reflection of my insides.

I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have looked in the mirror and thought “Okay, I look pretty good right now” no, it’s normally a sailor-mouthed, hate filled, barrage of negative self-talk regarding my fatness, stretch marks, ugliness, skin tone, wrinkles, weird shaped toes, depressing sagginess in that place where my breasts used to be before extreme weight-gain/loss and four children sucked the life out of them…. ughh… so many imperfections, so little time…

My eating disorder is manifesting itself through severe binge eating at the moment which is terrifying for me and the vindictive mirror is having a field day with my insecurities, so while I would like to say that I am currently working on my relationship with my reflection, the truth is I am giving it the silent treatment by simply avoiding eye contact with anything shiny in fear that it will suddenly reveal that terrible secret I was keeping from myself about eating a Litre of chocolate ice cream and a family sized hot chips while nobody was home today.

I don’t believe we can ever truly like each other but I hope one day I will be able to come to an arrangement with the mirror, where we can be in the same room without anxiety and fear and I know that for this to happen I must first work on my eating disorder, I have to learn to let go of the control aspects which scares the living daylights out of me because I don’t want to get fat. again. I don’t want to be ok with being fat either, which sounds ridiculous because if I was ok with it then I would be okay with it and by definition it wouldn’t matter.

I guess that I’m just frightened of myself as we are all frightened of things we don’t yet understand. Too many variables, too much change, no it feels much easier to stay in the abusive relationship I already have with myself than try stepping into the unknown world of potential care free happiness.

How do you get along with your reflection?

Charles Heath - Author

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