Suicide: The Heartache, Horror and Hope.
Posted by PurpleMoonbeam
27th Sep 2012

This is the first of a three-part series on the subject of suicide. Part 1 is about my personal experience with suicidal thoughts and the lure of impending of death that plagued me for 4 years while being treated for mental illness. It is also about talking, sharing and the benefits of getting help, and the hope which that can bring.

The first time these thoughts occurred was just over three years ago when I sank into a deep major depressive episode. I was heading towards financial crisis, but I was too unwell and unable to make sense of the world around me so I couldnít do anything to help myself. I was sleeping for 14 hours a day, but continually felt exhausted. The slightest noise made me jump out of my skin and I found myself constantly bursting into tears for no reason. I was in mental distress and was experiencing an intense emotional pain inside me. A burning, searing pain. I was desperate to bring an end to that pain, and my death was the only solution that I could find. It was the only thing I could think about every day. Luckily, receiving good psychiatric care in a private hospital kept me on this side of the living.

A year later, I experienced intense suicidal impulses while I was an in-patient at the hospital. My symptoms had changed so I was started on new medication. But within days of starting an anti-depressant called Sertraline, I felt desperate to die. Sadly, it took two years for the connection to the medication to be realised. During those hellish two years, I had many periods of intense mental distress. I was having high levels of anxiety followed by sudden crashes into deep dark depression.

When I was in mental distress, a little self-destruct button used to appear in my head. It was goading me to press it, and at the time I thought it was the most obvious thing to do. It would end my pain and it would remove me from a world that I didnít really deserve to live in. Yes Ė that was how I thought Ė that I didnít deserve to be alive. Nothing anyone could say would convince me otherwise. The desire to press the button was overwhelming at times, and to be honest, I cannot believe that I didnít.

For those two hellish years, there was not a week went by that I didnít want to kill myself. But, as it happens, I had an anchor that kept me on this side of life. Every time I got to the point in which I was ready to die and desperately wanted to die, one of my two precious cats would jump onto my lap or into my thoughts if I was at work. They were my dependants. They needed me. They had unconditional love for me, and they were the most precious things in my life. My boys were wise old cats too. They always knew when I was in deep distress; they would be there with gentle purrs, a little nudge with a paw and a little rub of their head on my tear-stained cheek. Every time I wanted to execute the suicide plan, my boys managed to connect with me, and that stopped me every time.

Once it became apparent that my mental illness was taking the shape of bipolar disorder, so my medication was changed again. The sertraline was tapered down and immediately the suicidal thoughts stopped. Stopped dead in its tracks. No more thoughts. Just like that. It turns out that psychiatric medication can cause a paradoxical reaction, which is: ďthe exact opposite of the intended effect.Ē It can actually cause the very symptoms that it is meant to treat. In my case, it appears that I had lived through two hellish years with almost weekly episodes of so-called suicidal ideation that was caused or worsened by Sertraline. Bloody hell - I could have been dead a dozen times over if it wasnít for my precious cats.

At the beginning of 2012 I started experiencing more extreme symptoms on the bipolar spectrum and I was going through another medication change. Despite this, I started the year optimistically, but I didnít really grasp the enormity of the journey ahead of me. By February I was suffering so badly from the toxic effects of the medication and really struggling with rapid cycling mood extremes that I found it very difficult to cope with everyday living. Suddenly the old familiar self-destruct button reappeared out of the blue. This time however, I was faced with a dilemma: one of my cats had died and was now on the other side. Just as the suicidal thoughts started happening again, my anchor on this side of living had weakened.

As the bipolar symptoms continued to get worse, so did the suicidal thoughts. But now I was haunted by thoughts of taking my remaining cat with me, so we could join my other cat; we would all be reunited again. Despite those terrible thoughts, I could never bring myself to do anything to hurt my precious boy. He spent every moment by my side and brought great comfort to me. All the same, those thoughts were really distressing and made me feel even worse. My head was spinning with guilt, shame, depression and a strong urge to die. It felt like February 2012 was the worst month of my entire life and I couldnít tell anyone about it, not even my psychologist.

Then suddenly my entire world imploded without warning. I lost my daily structure, my security, my sense of belongingness, my friendship with work colleagues and my career - all at once in a sudden redundancy. The trauma of that sudden shock sent me flying into my first bipolar mixed state. It was a terrifying experience and desperate suicidal thoughts were spinning around so fast. I felt like my head was burning up as the racing, screaming thoughts spun me out of control. This time, I felt more than ever, completely ready to die.

I thought I no longer had a place in the world. There was no need to tolerate the living hell that was created by the bipolar highs and lows. So, I spent a very cold night sat on a railway bridge, waiting for a train that was never going to come. It turns out it was not a main line and I had missed the last train. ďMaybe it was fate,Ē said the policeman who was more than happy that I had climbed down and wanted to go home. The cold concrete and lack of a jacket was slowly bringing me back to reality, plus I had remembered by this point that I had my cat to feed and suddenly I felt horrendously guilty and sickened with shame.

I was admitted to hospital the next day through the sheer good fortune that I had to go for a psychology appointment. I was in a bipolar mixed state. The euphoric high had created the most amazing illusion Ė I thought my car could fly and I was certain that I had just flown to the hospital. After all, I had felt all the sensations and sights of flying Ė and it felt real and exhilarating! But at the same time I was in a deep distressed state and hysterical about the loss of my job. It didnít help that I had not slept or eaten for 24 hours. I was medicated to help me get out of the mixed state and kept in hospital for the week.

A month later my remaining cat took seriously ill in the night and had to be euthanized in the early hours of the morning. Another sudden and unexpected loss was too great for me to emotionally deal with, but I tried so hard to put on a brave face, as I didnít want to appear weak in the eyes of others.

In July I caught a sickness and diarrhoea bug that lasted for over a week. All it took was a few days without medication due to the vomiting, to completely unhinge me. I was robbed of reality and I had no reason to continue living; I had no job, I had lost my sense of identity and I had nothing dependent on me anymore, both my boys were gone. I had reached the lowest point I had ever been to, and I was ready more than ever to press the self-destruct button.

So why am I still here? Because I have a bloody amazing psychologist, thatís why! The most important message I can give to anyone is donít do what I did and bottle up suicidal thoughts and urges out of shame or guilt. Talk to someone; seek out the right people to talk to. Ask for help, you dam well deserve it! I eventually realised that my psychologist couldnít provide the help I needed if she didnít know what was going on inside this broken bipolar brain of mine.

By telling her how I felt and what experiences I was having when the urge to die was at its strongest, she was able to untangle the mess inside my mind and bring back some rational thought. My psychologist has taught me some coping skills for when the suicidal impulses are at their worst and she has helped me understand how the extreme bipolar mood swings affect my body and mind. She has helped me find a way of looking forward, even when all I can see is terror and rage.

Bipolar disorder is a disease and it is not curable, but many talented and creative people have managed to find ways of living with the illness - so perhaps I can too. My psychologist taught me, that in spite of the illness, or perhaps because of the illness, I have an extremely creative mind that DOES have something to give to the world.

I cannot say with any certainty that I will still be alive next week, next month, or even next year. But what I can say is that I am now committed to looking for ways in which I can meaningfully use the worst parts of my journey through mental illness, to help others who are suffering in a similar way. I would also like to help those who are friends or relatives of someone suffering; perhaps my words might help to understand the torture and pain that their loved one may be going through, and perhaps to understand them better.

I have talked frankly and openly about some really tough stuff in this blog and if you have made it to this point, then thank you for sticking with me, and well done - I know it wonít have been easy, as some of this may have caused you to feel uncomfortable. But hopefully it might help you to think about people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts in a different way.

The only thing that remains for me to do now is to share my personal message of hope that I wrote for myself after my last hospital stay in July. I read it aloud each morning; I suppose itís like making a promise to myself. Perhaps this might help somebody else who is struggling with the same thoughts as me:

ďJust for today, I promise to continue living. Tomorrow is another day.Ē

In part two of this three part series, I will attempt to challenge the myths surrounding suicide and bring real facts into the fore to help people fully understand what suicidal ideation is really all about, and how it affects so many lives. Part three will focus on challenging the stigma surrounding suicide and breaking the age-old taboo that accompanies it.

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