6. Emily: “Sometimes it is hard to notice when you’re sinking”.
I was about fifteen when I first noticed that I was struggling with my mental health; my depression and suicidal thoughts occurred unexpectedly. I’d never had experience with anyone close to me wanting to end their own life, and so when I first noticed these thoughts/this desire, I had no idea what to do.
At first, I was scared and very ashamed. I was so terrified to tell my parents. I remember thinking that they wouldn’t believe me, that maybe I was just imagining it or faking my feelings for attention. When I did admit to friends that I was struggling, they would just tell me that I couldn’t even know true sadness yet since I was just a kid. In the media I saw depression stereotyped as affecting middle aged people, so as a fifteen-year-old girl, feeling suicidal couldn’t be right.
But what I felt, and still feel, is real. It doesn’t matter how old I am.
At 16, I had my first suicide attempt. Before this, I was self-harming and my parents never even noticed because they were too focused on a messy divorce. At the time of the attempt, I felt completely alone. Luckily, I wasn’t successful in the attempt. It didn’t feel like luck at the time though and my parents were so angry at me for not telling them that I was struggling, which made me feel worse. Afterwards, I asked my mother to take me to therapy. I had been a few times as a child and was so hesitant to go back but knew that if I didn’t go, that I would end up in a dangerous situation again. I’ve been in therapy ever since — for many years now — and while sometimes it feels better, a lot of the time it doesn’t. It is a constant struggle for me, even now, but I did find other people who had been in the same situation, or had similar experiences, and the bond and shared understanding with them helps a lot.
Suicidal thoughts are never easy to deal with. The truth is, you really do need a game plan set in place BEFORE you’re in crisis for it to work. For me, that means:
- having a reliable support network (I find it so hard to have any motivation whatsoever, so it’s important to surround myself with people who care about me, who are willing to help me even when I am at my lowest point. These people can help to motivate me);
- removing all dangerous substances from my surroundings; and
- keeping my mind and my body busy whenever possible.
Sometimes when I am in crisis, there are a very limited number of things that can help take my mind off the pain. These might not work for everyone, but I really enjoy:
- the texture of soft, warm things if I’m facing really dark thoughts. I like fluffy blankets, heated wheat packs, and sometimes I take a bath;
- I find pets to be a very calming presence to have around, and whenever I’m sad I usually try to give them a cuddle or a pat;
- I also try to express my emotions in a creative way, rather than in a dangerous way, but this only works sometimes when I have the energy to push myself to create;
- Mostly, it helps having someone to talk to, whether that is a kind friend or a professional.
It isn’t always possible to prevent suicidal thoughts, but when they do hit, it is much easier to be prepared and have a plan in place. I want you to know that you aren’t ever alone. There are always people to reach out to, and always people that care about you. I hope my story helps you realise that there is always someone that knows where you’re coming from, even if they are hidden sometimes!