Life is considerably better when you’re not obsessed with desires to not be alive anymore. That is the change yesterday brought about. For the first time in 7 days I didn’t have an intense desire to no longer exist, with plans of how I may do it.
All crises have a turning point, and for me as much as I don’t wish this to be the case, my crises consistently and only begin to fade once I’ve hurt myself in a self injurious way of some particular description.
I am not advertising self injury out there as a wonderful coping mechanism. Of course it is better if any human can get by and cope without doing it. There is a tremendous amount of shame, both originated from within, and also from the externals of society and loved ones about self-injurious behaviour.
People do not like me for doing this. People do not approve. People do not understand. People who have never contemplated self-harming when severely distressed and in crisis think hurting ourselves is an absolutely nonsensicle act perpetrated by people who pretty much have a screw loose.
I know this isn’t the case, but I do try and understand why there is so much negativity surrounding self-harm and I don’t demonise anyone who judges. They haven’t walked in my shoes so how can they possibly view it through my frame of reference?
Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a friend who does not share my history but was open minded, curious and asking questions about my illness. I really like it when people ask questions in an open minded way. There is nothing wrong with asking innocent questions to someone who is a little different to you if they are asked in the spirit of genuine thoughtful curiosity. I am happy to speak about my illness if it aids understanding and boosts understanding in others. That is why I’m a Mind media volunteer, I believe mental illness SHOULD be discussed by the people who suffer with it to educate those that don’t and collectively boost our empathic capacity as a species.
The example given yesterday by my friend was homosexuality. It used to be so taboo and frowned upon, and guys or girls who came out were marginalised and bullied and told of their “wrongness”. Now (most of) society is quite happy to attend a gay wedding, recognising it is no different to a straight one. I hope attitudes shift similarly in a positive way towards mental illness and the people who live with it, including the more difficult to fathom and contentious attitudes aspects such as self-injurious behaviour.
I had my crisis on Facebook. My Facebook friends read my posts and messaged and kept in contact as my week-long crisis unfolded. I told them what triggered it, how I was feeling and what exactly I wanted to do at all times. I told them when I was waiting for the Samaritans to call. I told them about my frustration at the CMHT and their delayed and ultimately fairly rubbish telephone support. I told them about tearful conversations and some of the silly suggestions I received from trained mental health professionals.
I told some of that to you lot on my blog too; though you only just read a tiny percentage of what was going on. I wrote as much as I possibly could, in amongst feeling the crisis itself, which was emotionally OVERWHELMING and completely draining of everything I had.
I took to Facebook to write posts there rather than blogging. Why? Because this blog goes out to a lot more people than my Facebook friends number. I have nearly 750 followers on summerSHINES. I wondered if I wanted 750 plus people knowing how much I was completely melting down as it happened. I chose the relative privacy of Facebook to post. My close circle encircled me with love and helpful suggestions (better than the MH professionals in many cases), and I tolerated and endured the bastard crisis thing minute by minute, hour by hour; being unable to think more than a very short time ahead without having full blown panic attacks at the sheer terror of my looming future.
I wanted to die. I wanted to do it myself. In other words, I was suicidal. I wanted instant death, and anything other than instant death was hopelessly excruciating. I was aware I was getting a ton of support from those that care, but it was hard for me to be reached. The words were being registered, but my emotional state wasn’t shifting. In truth, I just wanted to be alone first, then dead second, but I knew being fully alone and cutting all social contact would have been extremely dangerous.
I kept talking my way through it, externalising everything and updating everyone, partly for my own benefit so I was forced to pause and notice mindfully where exactly I was at with my current death wish or self harming urges and partly to destigmatise mental illness.
As I said earlier, I am not advertising self-injury as a tremendously brilliant idea that everyone should go out and try. Don’t try this at home folks, especially vulnerable people out there reading this….BUT, I’ll be honest with you, this last crisis has taught me that (caveat- FOR ME AND I CAN ONLY SPEAK FOR ME) self-harm is actually a very effective means of halting a otherwise intolerable suicidal crisis.
You need to allow that statement to sink in for a few moments before you judge.
A crisis has to peak, then it subsides.
When I am in mental health crisis I cannot think, I cannot regulate my emotional state. I am panicky, overwhelmed, hurting like mad, scared as fuck, dreading every measly minute of existence in front of me, let alone the entirety of the rest of my life; and I am obsessing over cravings to end my life completely and planning which one specifically is the best way to do it.
I joked my way though my crisis, saying I thought maybe I should hang myself in Cath Kidston bunting, just so at least it was a cheerier polka dot-ish way to go. If I go, I wanna go pretty, wrapped in pretty vintage bunting…..that was the mood I was in.
I counted what medications I had and researched what levels of each drug were toxic on my favourite crisis search engine ‘Google’.
My last four google searches were as follows…. ‘How much seroxat does it take to kill you? How much pregabalin does it take to kill you? How much Diazepam does it take to kill you? and How much Naproxen does it take to kill you?’
I looked at the type of death you have with those ones, what the side effects of overdose were, and tried to weigh this up against my likelihood of being able to do the school run that afternoon at different dosing levels.
That is exactly where I was at – no filter.
Because I didn’t want my kids to lose their Mum, I thought I cannot do that so what can I do instead? to kill some of the pain, without killing myself?
My remedy came in the form of making some superficial cuts to my skin and taking two Diazapam and 4 Naproxen, not to overdose, just to numb. Yep, they are much larger quantities than I’d usually take, but they were not also overdoses. I skilfully calculated what amount I could get away with and still function, yet feel relief from my suffering, and I calculated it good. I cut. I swallowed those tablets. I felt a rush, then the calm. I rested. My body relaxed. I got drowsy. I escaped. I slept (whilst having an alarm for school pick up time). In truth, I felt way better than I’d done for 6 consecutive days of epic AWFULNESS.
What people don’t understand is people self-harm, in order to survive what is intolerable pain.
People self-harm because it is a minimally destructive way of preventing a very significant and potentially lethal suicide attempt.
I knew I couldn’t kill myself, no matter how much I wanted to, so I hurt myself instead, and sorry if this sounds in politically correct or wrong, but I AM GLAD I DID.
I hurt myself a little, and it prevented me hurting myself A LOT.
There was no need for Cath Kidston bunting or excess tablets or ambulances or medical treatment. I was not a burden to anyone. I just acted, I killed the thing inside that made me want to kill myself, and stayed alive……That to me is not cowardice or weakness or nonsensicle. Self-harm, in the context of strong crisis with suicidal cravings that were becoming plans, was actually bloody sensible.
Hurting myself gave me the release, I saw my pain leave me in the blood on the blade. I swallowed the beautifully sedative tablets and felt OK in my own skin, instead of like a terrified wounded shaking animal.
That was me, fixing myself, in the moment, so I could stick around in the world long enough to heal from my crisis, and that is what I did yesterday.
Yesterday I healed. I didn’t blog because I was too busy healing.
I ran a recovery run in the pouring rain. Every drop of rain merged with sweat was one drop of horrible emotion that I could feel leaving my system. I also ran to sweat out the toxins from the tablets I’d taken the day before. I showered with the jet on full pelt to wash all the crap down the drain, instead of washing my self down the drain by attempting to end my life.
I blow dried and straightened my hair, I applied makeup, and I completed my kickass complaint meeting with the NHS representative. It went brilliantly. I was heard. I was respected. I was listened to. I felt calm from the endorphins and stress relieving benefits of my run and pamper pre-meeting. I was fully in control emotionally. I didn’t cry or lose my composure at any time. I spoke my truth and was balanced, assertive yet fair.
I am fucking proud of myself. Proud for being alive. Proud for weathering the crisis (yet another bastard one).
I did it!
And the self harm was instrumental to my surviving what just happened. That is my truth.